So last Monday we held a Cupcake Day morning tea at work to raise money for the RSPCA. Check out this cute video:
There's no way either of my two doggies would be so restrained.

So back to Cupcake Day. I checked out some ideas on the Internet and came up with these cupcake prototypes:
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And here's how' you make them...

To make the base you will need:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup SR flour
100mL milk

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a 12 cupcake tin with paper cases.

2. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time.

3. Beat in a little of the flour and the all of the vanilla essence. Then beat in the rest of the flour.

4. Add the milk and mix well.

5. Fill each cupcake case about 3/4 full. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until cooked in the centre.

6. Put on a rack to cool after 5 minutes.

To make the decorations, you will need:

250g cream cheese
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
large chocolate buttons
yellow, orange, brown and green chocolate M&Ms
biscotti
Fru-chocs
Black icing pen
spaghetti or noodle strands, cut into 4cm lengths

1. Beat the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla essence with electric beaters until smooth.

2. When cupcakes are completely cool, spread a generous layer of icing on each cupcake.

3. To make a dog cupcake, place a chocolate button in the eye position. Affix a yellow or orange M&M on top of the chocolate button for the pupil. Put a small dot of black icing in the centre of the M&M to make the pupil. Add a matching M&M and dot of black icing for the other eye. Put a Fru-choc in the nose position. Draw in the mouth with the black icing pen. Finally, affix two biscotti for the ears, using a dab of icing mixture to hold each ear in place,

4. To make a cat cupcake, place two orange or green M&Ms in the eye position. Pen in a vertical line of black icing on each M&M to create the cat's pupil. Cut two large chocolate buttons so as to make two triangles. Position the triangles in the ear position. Next, put a brown M&M in the centre of the cupcake for the nose. Pen in the mouth using the black icing pen. Finally, add some spaghetti or noodle lengths for whiskers.

Anyway, so on the big day, I went in to work early to get a head-start on icing the cupcakes. I was a bit nervous about the whole thing (I think I had a case of cupcake performance anxiety.) I shouldn't have worried, though, because Birgit helped me decorate the cupcakes and others brought in their own nice, yummy cupcakes:
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Lynda made these groovy green grass cupcakes...
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Lis made these decadent dark chocolate cupcakes...


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And Jemima made some delicious apple muffins.

While not as many people came as I had hoped for, we did end up raising $113.75 (thanks to some very generous donations). All in all, not a bad effort.
 
No sooner had I posted a blog announcing the temporary suspension of Random Acts of Cupcake due to the soaring summer temperatures than it started raining, virtually non-stop.

Lovely cupcake making weather! While it's cold and miserable outside, the kitchen is wonderfully warm. This, along with a toasty inner glow I experienced simply anticipating the arrival of a new batch of cupcakes, made for feelings of mushy mellowness.

Given that I was feeling all warm and squishy, it seemed that a marshmallow-based cupcake would be most appropriate.  So I consulted my new cupcake recipe tome, The Australian Women's Weekly Classic Cupcakes: wedding, birthday and baby cakes, which a friend ingeniously gave me as a present earlier on in the year. I'm always on the look-out for new cupcake recipes and ideas, so this recipe book is certain to shake up my baking groove in nothing but a good way. Thanks Chris!

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Here is how you make them:

Ingredients:
215g softened butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
110g caster sugar
2 eggs
150g sifted SR flour
4 tbsp milk
240g icing sugar
1 bag marshmallows
1 small handful of dessicated coconut

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Put about 10 cupcake liners in a cupcake tray.

2. Beat 90g of the butter, the vanilla essence, sugar, eggs, flour and 2 tbsp of the milk with electric beaters on low speed. When combined increase speed to high and beat until mixture is paler.

3. Drop 1/4 cups of the mixture into the cupcake liners. Bake for 20 minutes. Let them cool in the cupcake tray for 5 minutes before putting them on a rack to cool.

4. While the cupcakes are cooling, cut the marshmallows into small pieces using a pair of scissors.

5. Make the butter cream topping by beating the icing sugar and the remaining butter and milk until as pale as possible. When the cupcakes are completely cool, spread a thick layer of the butter cream icing on each one. Top with the marshmallows.

6. Fry the dessicated coconut in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until golden brown. When cool, sprinkle over the cupcakes.


And the random recipients are...

...my family, friends and neighbours! It's much too wet to go wandering.

And so that's it for now. Until our next random reunion, may you enjoy everything that the universe flings your way.
 
...it's time to go on holiday!

With temperatures often pushing the high thirties lately here in the red centre of Oz, I've decided to temporarily suspend Random Acts of Cupcakes over the summer.

While baking in this heat is not much fun, it's even worse having to then pound the scorching pavements in search of random recipients.

I'll be back in true Terminator style when the weather becomes more clement.

In the meantime, embrace all the randomness the universe has to throw at you.
 
OK. So I'm writing this with a feeling that any second now it's quite likely I'm going to hurl. Basically, I've been free-loading at events around town these last few days on account of all the free food on offer. Today's event involved this discussion panel thingy on alcohol in the Alice (which was kind of interesting, by the way), but really, the main reason I was there was the free food. Granted, I had to wait for about 2 and a half hours before I was allowed to gorge, but it was worth the wait, let me tell you. The only problem was that I hadn't eaten since brekky, so by the time the thing wrapped up at around 4.30pm, my inner labrador was well and truly off the leash. What followed was just a blurred feeding frenzy. I'm just grateful I didn't end up with a twisted intestine and an emergency dash to the vet.

But I digress. It was at this event that I came across this week's random recipient.  
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This is Melissa. I actually know her from book club, so she's not a stranger. And before anyone starts to complain about that, I just want to say that it's hard work exposing yourself to the possibility of rejection week after week and this week I was just feeling shy and vulnerable and a bit fragile. OK. With that said though, I should point out that Melissa was actually the first person I came across at this event at which I was free-loading, so technically speaking, she was randomly selected. Oh yeah, and she also said that she's always wanted to be a random recipient. I bet when Melissa woke up this morning she would never have even come close to guessing that her dream would be fulfilled before day's end. So that's a nice little random thing for her. So there, I say to all you nay saying individuals.

Anyway, thank you, Melissa for accepting my cupcake. And thanks for giving it the thumbs up.
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OK, so the recipe. I took it from Cupcakes: a fine selection of sweet treats but did some experimentation. For example, instead of using cream cheese, I decided I wanted something a little less dense so I used buttermilk instead. I also messed with the icing. The results were quite acceptable.

Ingredients:
185g softened unsalted butter
170g sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs
150ml buttermilk
pulp of about 3 passion fruits
125g SR flour
30g plain flour
fresh whipped cream

Method:
1. Pre-heat the over to 180 degrees C. Put about 16 cupcake liners in a cupcake tin.

2. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla essence. Add the eggs one at a time and mix in well.

3. Add the buttermilk and 1 tablespoon of passion fruit pulp and combine.

4. Sift the flour into the mixture and mix together well.

5. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Wait a few minutes before putting the cupcakes on a rack to cool further.

6. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Put into a piping bag and pipe a rosette onto each cupcake. Finish by pouring a teaspoon of passion fruit pulp on each rosette.

Et voila...

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Well, that's me done for another week, as far as the random cupcake thing goes. As far as being able to face food, that's going to take a bit longer.  Now I know how those anacondas feel immediately after gulping down a year's supply of goat.

Until next time, dear readers, embrace the randomness.
 
Hallowe'en is nigh and what better way to celebrate some serious spookiness than with my very own...

Pus-filled Eyeball Cupcakes

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To create these oozing ocular orbs, you will need:

2 cups SR flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tbs rose pink food colouring
100g softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
100g lemon curd
250g cream cheese
100g icing sugar
blue and green smarties
black icing pen
red icing pen

What you do:
1. Preheat the over to 160 degrees C and put 15 cupcake liners in a cupcake tin.

2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl.

3. In another bowl, cream the sugar and butter and vanilla. Slowly add the eggs, one by one. Then add the buttermilk and the food colouring and mix together well.

4. In a big bowl, alternately add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing well with each addition.

5. Spoon a little of the mixture into each cupcake liner. Add a teaspoon of lemon curd on top. Cover each cupcake with another layer of cupcake mixture.

6. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from over and after a few minutes put the cupcakes on a rack to cool.

7. To make the icing, beat the cream cheese, icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence until smooth.

8. When the cupcakes are completely cook, smooth the icing over each cupcake.

9. Put a blue or green smartie on top for the iris. Pipe a small blob of black icing onto the centre of each smartie to make the pupil. Pipe red lines from the centre to make veins.  

And so the witching hour has struck and it's time to hunt down my prey. Who will this week's random victim...I mean...recipient be? [Cue evil laughter]

The next morning...

OK, so this morning I toddled along to a family triathlon event to cheer on my hubby and friends, whereupon I came across this week's special Hallowe'en random recipient.
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Alison was the triathlon tattoo artist, whose job  was to brand each competitor on an arm or leg with a number in big fat texta. Interesting job. Anyway, so I sidled up to her when there was a lull in human traffic and asked her if she'd like to be this week's random recipient. Without any hesitation, Alison kindly agreed, and even posed with her cupcake for the photo above.  Because it's a Hallowe'en special, I entombed the cupcake in its very own see-through coffin and wrapped it up in black ribbon. Fabulously funereal, if I do say so myself.

As far as I know, Hallowe'en isn't really a big thing in Australia, but here in the Alice it does get a nod, mostly due to the U.S. ex-pat population living here. The supermarket attempts to flog off outrageously over-priced pumpkins for the purposes of jack-o-lantern carving and kids hit the streets of the more affluent suburbs at dusk for trick-or-treating. I don't know why Australia doesn't celebrate it more widely when it is a pretty big deal for our close cultural relatives, the U.S. and the U.K.

In fact, the first time I ever really had anything to do with Hallowe'en was soon after I'd arrived in England. I was living in a dreary block of flats in a grim little town populated by toddlers reared exclusively on a diet of crisps and cola by their perpetually cussing teenage parents.

I'd no idea it was Hallowe'en night, until I answered the door to a young lad of about 10 or so.

"Trick or treat," the unsmiling, scabby-faced boy said to me, with a just- detectable hint of malice in his voice.

Caught completely off-guard, and without any treats to hand, I rushed to the kitchen, grabbed some chocolate-coated digestive biscuits from the cupboard and ran back to the front door, thrusting them into the boy's hands.

The boy regarded my donation with a look of sheer disdain, then snarled,
"What's this, yer tight cunt?"

Before I could recover from the shock of the insult hurled at me by this malignant little delinquent of a garden gnome, he was swaggering off across the road towards the desolate little park. Probably to torture the squirrels.

So this is Hallowe'en? I thought to myself as I flicked the deadlock on the door. Forget the waking dead, it's the ones with a pulse you've gotta watch out for.

And on that note, I'm signing off to batten down the hatches. The front gate has been locked, the curtains are firmly drawn and I stand ready to release the hounds of hell on any young miscreant who dares come trick-or-terrorising.

Until next time, stay random.

P.S. For the ultimate in Hallowe'en cupcakes, check out these wicked creations, courtesy of the world's first 18+ cake shop. 
 
OK, so I really wasn't planning on performing a Random Act of Cupcake today, but  somehow it kind of just spontaneously, organically, cosmically, magically came together.

 
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Apple and sultana cupcake. Yum Yum. OK, so after I'd baked the cakes, I decamped to the front yard to watch aforementioned hubby work in the garden.

It was while I was sitting there, feeling all sorrowful after a hard day at work when I thought why not spread a little joy instead and do a random act of cupcake thingy? So I toddled inside, packed up a cupcake and grabbed my camera.

It didn't take long for these peeps to come ambling by...
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So there I was wallowing in my misery, when Aaron (the dude on the right) remarked how lovely my dog was (who was furiously barking and snarling at him and his mates through the fence.) That's when I decided that he had good random recipient potential written all over him. So I scooted over and offered him a free cupcake. I got talking to him and his mates, Rob and Tara, and discovered that they lived in the neighbourhood, maybe half a minute's walk up the road from me.  Aaron had moved up from Melbourne three months ago and reckoned my hubby and I were the first neighbours he'd met.  How cool! It was nice chatting to these guys and making the acquaintance of some neighburritos. The only regret I had was that there wasn't time to invite them in for a cuppa, as I had to head off to a social gathering, where the rest of the batch of cupcakes I baked were to be consumed.

Anyway, thank you Aaron, Tara and Rob for being such gracious random cupcake recipients and not telling me to go frack myself. I hope to see you all again around in the 'hood sometime soon.

And now for the recipe:

BTW, this is pretty random.

Sift a bunch of flour. Melt some brown sugar and butter in a saucepan. Add the butter mixture to the flour. Chuck in a granny smith apple, chopped into little bits and a handful of sultanas. Oh yeah, and throw in some eggs. Three will do. Mix it all together until you get a gooey mess. Spoon gooey mess into cupcake liners.  Bake in a moderate oven for 15 mins or until golden brown. Put them on a rack to cool. Then get a big pile of natural yoghurt and a spoonful of brown sugar and mix together. Put a spoonful on each cupcake. Then sit in your front yard and wait for a random stranger to come by .

OK, so that's all from me for now. May your respective weeks be filled with exciting randomness. Toodles.
 
I have to admit that I wasn't feeling particularly revved up to do Random Acts of Cupcake today. Even though I'd made the cupcakes, I was wondering whether or not I could be bothered enough to pound the pavements in search of a random recipient, especially after my four rejections last week (a Random Acts of Cupcake record).

Nevertheless, I got my act together and got out there, which turned out to only be no further than a couple of steps outside my front gate because this time, my random recipient greeted me.
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This is Gregory. I've actually known him for a few years now, so he's not a stranger. However, he was the first person I came across today in my quest to perform a Random Act of Cupcake.

I used to teach Gregory's wife, a lovely sweet lady called Noel. I don't see Noel very often, as she spends a lot of time at home painting. But it's not unusual to bump into Gregory around town, so I figured he should be this week's random recipient.

Gregory was pretty happy with the random cupcake thing and cheerfully posed for the photo. He said he'd give the cake to Noel, but if it were me, my resolve wouldn't last and I'd end up scoffing it down, because these bad boys are seriously yummy.
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These are pistachio and cardamom cupcakes. I've actually made them for a previous Random Act of Cupcake (for more details, see The humble pistachio, 24 March 2010), so I'm not going to bother with the recipe here.

The reason for the repeat performance (apart from the fact that they are my all-time favourite cupcakes and never fail to win accolades from my cupcake-consuming friends) is that the book club I go to is having a Turkish theme tonight, to tie in with one of the books we've read recently, The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk. The person hosting the meeting (who happens to be a most awesome caterer) asked if one of us could bring baklava.  I don't think it can be procured in my town, or rather, I don't think I can be bothered tracking it down and I certainly can't be bothered with faffing about with all that pastry etc. So instead, I've come up with the next best thing, a slightly toned-down baklava flavoured cupcake. And boy are they lezzetli (that's Turkish for delicious, apparently).

Anyway, on that random linguistic note, I'll bid you hoşçakal. And I hope you have a wonderfully perfect random week ahead of you.

 
There's a recipe I've been dying to try out and yesterday I had the perfect excuse to crack it open and give it a go. The excuse came in the form a friend's request for, and I quote, "black fashionista/couture/avante garde cupcakes" for his up-coming birthday party this weekend.

What could be more jus-jus than Champagne Jelly Cupcakes, I thought, as I eagerly thumbed my way through that sacred cupcake tome, Cupcakes: a fine selection of sweet treats. My friend doesn't drink, so I substituted the booze with a very satisfactory alcohol-removed sparkling cuvee by the name of Edenvale (available from Woolies supermarket for the princely sum of $7.99).

I must say that the results were pleasingly pleasing. Although, while the couture criteria has been satisfied, they're patently not black. I thought about a sprinkling of black caviar on top, but I don't think my budget can stretch that far, at least, not to the required 31 cupcakes. But it's an intriguing concept, no?

So, as an alternative, and also because I cannot find black food colouring ANYWHERE (and I don't want to mess around with mixing red, blue and yellow because I'll probably end up with blecchhh as opposed to black), I'm going to experiment a little over the next couple of days with making cola jelly. Wish me luck.

Anyway, here's how you make non-alcoholic champagne jelly cupcakes.

For the cupcakes you will need:
150g chopped, unsalted butter (softened)
115g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
185g SR flour, sifted
35g ground almonds
125ml milk
130g frozen blackberries

For the champagne jelly you will need:
750ml sparkling wine (I used non-alcoholic bubbles)
2 tbsp powdered gelatine
165g sugar
blackberries for decoration

This is what you do:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line your cupcake tines with about 25 cases.

2. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla essence until light and creamy.  The add the eggs, one at a time.

3. Fold in the sifted flour and ground almonds alternately with the milk and blackberries.

4. Fill each case only halfway full with the mixture. Don't put too much in, or else there won't be enough room for the champagne jelly.

5. Bake for about 12 minutes or so. Leave in the tins to cool.

6. To make the jelly, put 500ml of the sparkling wine in a bowl and allow the bubbles to settle. Then sprinkle the gelatine over the top.

7. Put the rest of the sparkling wine in a saucepan along with the sugar. Stir over a low heat until the sugar crystals are dissolved.

8. Take off the heat. Add the gelatine mixture and stir until all of the gelatine is dissolved.

9. Put the jelly mixture in the fridge until it is set. Leaving overnight is ideal,

10. Decorate the cupcakes with the jelly and the blackberries.


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I know, I know. They're not blackberries on top. I ran out, so I used frozen cherries instead.

Now the question is, I wonder who will be game to try one? Time to hit the streets in search of a random recipient.

Some time later...

And the answer is not many takers. The first person I approached, a young, dread-locked fellow, looked as though he held good random recipient potential, but alas, when I offered him the cupcake he shifted about as uncomfortably as one with ants in one's pants. To give him credit though, he did offer up his co-worker as a guinea pig. However, said co-worker also refused. At this point, I offered the cupcake to two groundscrew workers standing nearby having a smoke break. They declined saying that they'd just finished their smoko (hmmm, I don't think so, otherwise they wouldn't be standing around still smoking and chatting now, would they?),

So I sighed and then sighed again (known in random parlance as "sigh, double sigh") and wandered off in the direction of the mall, pretty sure that I'd be spending a fair bit of time off-loading this week's random cupcake.

Luckily, though, I came across this bloke.
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Meet Colin. He's from Alice Springs originally, but lives in Port Augusta. At the moment, he's in town visiting family. Colin seemed like a nice, affable bloke. He accepted my cupcake without so much as a squirm, politely thanked me and then asked if I did the random cupcake thing every day. I told him that it was a random thing, so no, unfortunately I didn't. But it did get me thinking how cool it would be if everyone took it in turns to give random cupcakes away. That way, there would be a random act of cupcake being performed somewhere in the world to somebody, every single day. And wouldn't that make the world a better place.

So with that thought, I'll bid you au revoir. Until we meet again in the blogosphere, may you randomly give and receive.
  
 
It's been a somewhat extended hiatus from Random Acts of Cupcakes, thanks to a month-long holiday in China. Maybe holiday is the wrong word for the experience I just had. Because China is not really the kind of place one goes if one is looking for a restful time away. Not wanting to reduce the place to a stereotype (but I will anyway), it's loud, it's crowded and the skies are seriously, scarily polluted. However, if what you're seeking is a random adventure, then you've hit Random HQ. Weird and wonderful (and icky) things can and do happen and that's one of the reasons why this country has found a special place in my soul, not unlike a parasitic nematode burrowing into its host's heart.

China made me realise just how deliciously exciting randomness can be and just how much I miss that feeling of being simultaneously bewildered, bemused and begrossed-out. 

So it was nice to get back on the random horse again a la Random Acts of Cupcake. I have to admit, I didn't strictly go random - I chose this week's recipient because he had a kind and friendly look about him.
 
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This is Nick. He's a Territorian (note hat), but oddly doesn't possess the bushy beard which seems to be the requisite accessory for many Territorian gentlemen. I suspect Nick is an original fellow. In fact, I know he is an original, given the fantastic poem he posted on this blog about our random act of cupcake exchange (see comment on previous blog A lemon a day...), and which I've reproduced here:

Cupcakes

While strolling through the Alice one day
Without a thought of malice I say

When much to my surprise
A girl with lovely eyes

Came up and had just this to say

“My name is Alex and I ain’t no sloven
I’ve baked a cup cake its straight from the oven

Flour and sugar and butter and cream
Just take one bite it will taste like a dream

There’s a catch though I need a photo
For this strange event

This ain’t no illusion forgive my intrusion your
Happiness is my intent.”

I can't say that's exactly what I said, but for now I'm more than happy to go with Nick's poetic license!

Despite what people say, Alice really is a good place, especially if two strangers can have a nice chat over a random act of cupcake event like Nick and I did. I doubt that would happen in the big smoke. Thank you, Nick, for taking the time to chat with me. And a big thank you for your most excellent poem. It really has made my day!

And now, here's this week's random cupcake: Orange and Poppy Seed:  
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And here's the recipe (adapted from Cupcakes: a fine selection of sweet treats).

For the cupcake base you will need:
40g poppy seeds
125ml warm milk
150g softened butter
3 tsp orange zest
2 eggs
185g sifted SR flour

For the icing you will need:
250g cream cheese
150g sifted icing sugar
1 tsp orange zest
3 tsp orange juice
poppy seeds for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Put cupcake liners in cupcake tin.

2. Soak the poppy seeds in the warm milk. Set aside for 15 minutes.

3. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, orange zest and poppy seed milk mixture in a large bowl. Beat with electric beaters until the batter is cream and light coloured.

4. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners. Bake for 15 minutes.

5. Put on a rack to cool.

6. To make the icing, combine the cream cheese, icing sugar, orange juice and zest using electric beaters. Beat until smooth.

7. Spread some icing over each cupcake. Sprinkle poppy seeds on top for decoration.

Makes about 18.

Well, that's all from me for now. It's nice to be back and I truly hope you enjoy whatever randomness comes your way this week!
 
Yesterday, as I was munching on a piece of toast smothered with lashings and lashings of lemon curd, I decided it would be nice to make some lemony cupcakes. Here's my recipe for Lovely Lemony Cupcakes.

For the cupcake base you will need:
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar
150g plain flour, sifted
150 ml milk
finely grated lemon zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the topping you will need:
200 g cream cheese
100g icing sugar
2 tbsp lemon curd
finely grated lemon zest of 1 lemon

This is what you do:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a cupcake tin with 12 paper cases.

2. Cream the butter and sugar. Then add the sugar and lemon zest. When the mixture is creamy and fluffy, add the eggs.

3. Add the flour and baking powder and gently fold in.

4. Finally, add the milk to make the batter less stiff.

5. Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases and bake for about 15 minutes. Put the cupcakes on a wire rack to cool.

6. To make the topping, beat the cream cheese, icing sugar, lemon curd and lemon zest with electric beaters. Leave a little lemon zest aside as garnish.

7. Spread the topping over each cupcake. Decorate with a pinch of lemon zest.

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So today's random recipient is actually a group of people, namely, the most excellent staff working in the emergency department at the local hospital. So to all the doctors, nurses, PSAs and ward clerks in emergency, I hope you liked my cupcakes and that they gave you a bit of zing to help you get through yet another hectic day (and/or night).

Pictured here is Ronelle, who accepted my Random Act of Cupcake on behalf of the emergency department staff. Keep up the good work, Nurse Ronelle!