It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lady on the receiving end of unprovoked histrionics must be in want of some Random Acts of Cupcake therapy.

And so it was today, after receiving reproaches of the most iniquitous and unjust kind, that I sallied forth bearing alms for my fellow villagers in the guise of dainty, delicious and positively delectable cupcakes.

OK, so I can't keep up this Jane Austen schtick any longer. I guess you've figured out what prompted this week's random act. And I must confess something, dear reader, this was not a random act in the purest sense of the phrase. I'd actually visited David and several other of his elderly neighbours in their units around the corner from me several weeks earlier. Some friends who run youth groups around town had asked me to show some teenagers how to make cupcakes with a view to distributing the finished product to some older folk living nearby. Sort of like a fun community service activity. Anyway, that experience gave me the opportunity to meet some great older people, and it got me thinking that maybe I'd found some regular cupcake recipients to add to my exclusive VIP list of regular, non-random recipients.
So after work today, I loaded up my cupcake box and went round to see if David, one of the residents, was home. He was indeed, having a chat on his front landing with his mate Bob, also a resident. They both seemed delighted to receive the cupcakes (I gave away six this time, instead of my usual one). David did admit, however, that the first time he'd been on the receiving end, he'd worried it was possibly a scam. as he'd been the victim of a scam once before and it had since made him very wary of strangers.
Bob asked me: "So what's in it for you?" which is a good question. I told him that it gave me a good feeling to perform a random act of cupcake and that it was just a simple gesture to try and help build more trust in our neighbourhood and help kindle a spirit of community. And that's the honest truth. Many people in my neighbourhood live in corrugated iron- clad fortresses, rarely if ever spending time getting to know their neighbours. Until recently, I was one of those people. But not anymore.

I have to admit, though, that Random Acts of Cupcake is not altruistic. If I was motivated by pure altruism, I certainly wouldn't be publishing my exploits in blog or any other forum. What I didn't mention to Bob was that  performing random acts of kindness can be good for your health. For more information, check out this page on the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website. And I have to say that after copping unfair flack at work today, this random act of cupcake really buoyed my spirits. The tension headache that had been looming for the greater part of the day lifted and I felt light and good and calm.

By the way, in case you're wondering why there is no photo of Bob and David, I decided not to ask them for one. All I wanted to do today was to give them cupcakes in return for absolutely nothing. And it felt good.

I have, however, included a photo of the cupcake for your edification.
This week, I went random by creating my own recipe.

Chocolate and ginger cupcakes with honey and yoghurt

What you need:
225g self raising flour
225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
125g glace ginger
2 eggs
40g unsweetened cocoa powder
100ml milk
200g natural yoghurt
2 tbsp honey

What you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Put about 20 cupcake cases in your cupcake tin.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat in.

3. In another bowl, combine the flour with the cocoa powder.

4. Add the dry mixture to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix well. Gradually mix in the milk.

5. Add the ginger pieces and mix thoroughly.

6. Spoon the batter into the paper cases. Bake for about 20 minutes. Put on a rack to cool.

7. To make the topping, mix the natural yoghurt and honey. Spoon a dollop onto each cupcake.

And so it is with a saddened heart that I bid you adieu for now, dear reader. It is, however, with much joy and cheer that I remain yours in randomness.
A word to the wise: don't attempt a random act of cupcake in the centre of town, even if you live in a sleepy little hollow like I do. Urban centres are simply giant rat mazes and the people are really just rodents scurrying about in the maze, focused solely on getting the cheese whilst avoiding the electric shock. I have to admit that I was one of those people, as I'd decided to swing by town in order to pick up some kangaroo tails from the butcher (the reason for which I am unable to reveal due to the interests of maintaining state security). I thought I'd kill two roos with one pellet by picking up the tails as well as performing my random act of cupcake. There would be tons of random recipients from which to choose, I reasoned.

As soon as I arrived in town I went into random mode and approached the first person I saw, a youngish to middle aged lady walking in the central car park.  "Not today, thank you," she said when I'd delivered my spiel and then nervously scurried away from me as fast as she could.

No problem, I thought to myself. I've been rejected before on previous random acts. I'll just find myself another random recipient as there are plenty around. So I approached the next person I spotted, a youngish middle-aged man who reminded me somewhat of a weasel. After I briefly explained my blog project to him, he said in a North American accent, "No thank you. I'm not into cupcakes." 
"Really? You don't maybe know someone who is?" I replied, not only realising that I was about to be rejected twice in a row (something I've never once experienced on a random act of cupcake mission), but also that I'd just met someone who didn't like cupcakes.
"Yes, I'm not esurient right now," the cupcake refuse-nik said.
"You're not a whatta?" I asked, by now completely baffled.
"I'm not hungry," Mr Weasel replied, as though he was talking to a five year old with a learning difficulty. And with that, he too scurried off in search of cheese. Or whatever it is that weasels eat. Certainly not cupcakes.

Oh for fig's sake!" I thought to myself as I crossed the road. Please don't tell me that I'm going to be spending the afternoon trying to convince people to accept a free cupcake. Any one of these people wouldn't think twice about BUYING a figgin' cupcake bursting at the seams with E numbers and preservatives and about 36 other unpronounceable ingredients from a supermarket or chain bakery. But accepting a freshly-baked cupcake containing flour, sugar, eggs, butter etc from an individual for FREE? You've got to be outta your mind, sister.

 Luckily, I struck lucky on the next try. A lady called Nada who is a local. She looked kind of busy and I was feeling kind of frazzled, so I didn't try to chat with her. Such is life in the rat maze.

Anyway, so Nada, if you liked the cupcake, then good for you and I'm glad. But if you chucked it straight in the bin, thinking that surely I was crazy and surely it had to be laced with strychnine or laxatives or whatever, then you missed out on this:

Sour Cream and Fig Cupcakes. Fan-figgin-tastic!

Yes, time to focus on the cupcakes because they make me happy and besides, my aggressive tone is probably not doing anything good for my blog. 

This week's recipe is Sour Cream and Fig. The recipe comes from a lovely little cupcake blog which a friend referred me to. It's called Ming Makes Cupcakes and is an exquisite, understated jewel when it comes to cupcake blogs.

Please note: while the original measurements are U.S., Australian metric units work fine.

For the base you will need:
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 stick of unsalted butter (110g)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup sour cream
fig jam

For the topping you will need:
250g cream cheese
100g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

This is what you do:
1. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Put 10 cupcake paper cases in a cupcake tin.

1. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

2. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy.
Add the vanilla essence and egg. Then stir in the sour cream.

3. Add the dry mixture. If the batter seems a bit too stiff or thick, just add a dash of milk.

4. Put a bit of batter in each cupcake case. Put a teaspoon of fig jam on top. Cover with another layer of batter.

5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. When cooked, put on a rack to cool.

6. To make the topping, mix the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla essence until smooth.

7. Spread the topping on each cupcake. Add half a fig to each for decoration.

Well, that's all from me for this week. Hope your day is random and if you're lucky enough to have someone offer you a free cupcake, then figgin' well say YES!
Well, I've just returned from performing my weekly Random Act of Cupcake and what a lovely, lovely recipient I came across, (for which I am truly grateful, as I wasn't particularly in the mood for endlessly traipsing around the neighbourhood imploring possibly apathetic or even hostile citizens to accept my random baked goods).

I knew I was going on an all-day training course today, so in order to get ready for my random act this afternoon, I stayed up late last night after my ceramics class baking cupcakes.

And so it came to be that I was feeling a little weary by the time I set foot outside my house in search of my random recipient. A quick glance up and down the street revealed a lady walking towards me, but on the opposite side. I immediately scurried across the street, too tired to even contemplate or worry about the prospect of rejection. 

Luckily, my target turned out to be Jonnie, who has such a lovely smile and warmth about her that I immediately felt at ease as I launched into my introductory spiel. She really seemed happy to accept my cupcake and that kind of made me feel good too. While I've only experienced rejection three times so far during this project, each time does leave me feeling slightly foolish and questioning why I am doing Random Acts of Cupcake, which, coincidentally was Jonnie's question to me.

It's a good question. Initially, I think it started out as a kind of ill-defined social experiment. I thought it would be kind of interesting and possibly confronting to see what happened if I offered food to random strangers I met on the street, imagining I could write a treatise on the nature of trust between strangers. Yeah, right. As if I could write a treatise. Anyway, over time, this thing has taken on a life of its own and all I really want is for there to be one less stranger in my world. Whether or not it works, we'll have to wait and see.

So, back to Jonnie. We had a little chat and she told me that she was up from Melbourne, visiting her son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. She reckoned that the cupcake would go down a treat with the kids. Jonnie, if you're reading this, I hope they enjoyed it! And I hope you enjoy your time with the family.
Grandmothers are great, aren't they? My mother's mother lived in Ireland and I only met her once when I was about five years old, but I still cherish the memory of holding her hand on walks on her farm as we looked for snowdrops and snuggling up to her on those cold mornings during my stay. My father's mother I knew better as she lived in Australia. She was a very kind lady who used to help out her neighbours a lot. Every Christmas, she always sent my brother and I a big box of presents. My favourite gift from her, a glass bluebird, sits on my dressing table and whenever I look at it I think of her (and the incredible roast dinners she used to make).   

Jeez, I'm getting a bit teary. Must be because I'm feeling a bit tired.
Anyway, enough reminiscing. Here's how you make Carrot and Walnut Cupcakes.

Cupcake ingredients:
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
225g SR flour
4 eggs
1 tsp mixed spice
100g chopped walnuts
150g grated carrot
2 tbsp sultanas

Icing ingredients:
220g cream cheese
175 icing sugar, sieved
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla essence
walnuts for decoration

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C and line a cupcake tin with paper cases.

2. Mix the butter, sugar, eggs and flour in a big bowl with electric beaters until nice and smooth. Stir in the mixed spice, walnuts, carrot and sultanas.

3. Spoon the batter into the paper cases. Bake for 20 minutes. Then put on a rack to cool.

4. To make the icing, beat the cream cheese and icing sugar until soft and creamy. Add the lemon juice and vanilla essence and mix well.

5. Spread the icing onto the cupcakes when cool and decorate with the walnuts.

Makes about 20.
Carrot and walnut cupcakes, nestling on a plate that once was my grandmother's.
At a local cafe today I bumped into one of my former random recipients. It was Ronya, the candy girl (see Random Acts of Cupcake blog entry: The Candy Girl Can, 13 May 2010), who appeared to be doing a double act as a waitress. We recognised each other straight away; I said "Hi candy girl!", to which she responded "Hi cupcake lady!" and it gave me a little spring in my step. One less stranger in my world! 

So this afternoon as I was about to start making the latest batch of random cupcakes, another lovely bit of randomness occurred. I got a phone call from another one of my random recipients, You Young (see Random Acts of Cupcake blog entry: The Spice of Life, 21 April 2010).

We'd been playing phone tag for the last week or so, trying to find a mutually convenient time to meet up and have a hot beverage together.  Young phoned to see if I was busy and I told her that I was about to start making cupcakes but she was welcome to drop by my place anyway. I gave her my address (by a random piece of luck, it turns out we live in the same neighbourhood) and started baking.

A couple of hours later, the last batch of cupcakes were about ready to come out of the oven and all I had to do was add the glaze. Young hadn't showed up and I was thinking that I'd been a bit naive inviting someone I hardly know to just drop by my place for a spot of afternoon tea and if it were me in her shoes then of course I wouldn't show up either. There are, after all, axe-wielding loonies in this world. 

However, Young did eventually turn up. And she had very sweetly brought a Korean dish (the name for which she tried patiently to teach me but eventually gave up), which was made of beef, onion and cabbage. I've just tried some now and it's delicious - sort of sweet and meaty at the same time.

Anyway, so Young, my husband and I sat in the kitchen, chatting and eating the freshly-baked  cupcakes. Afterwards, I showed her around our house, introduced her to the dogs and took her around the garden. She was pretty excited to see that I had a trampoline and immediately pounced on it, squealing with delight as she jumped up and down. I remember thinking to myself, anyone who digs trampolining as much as me is quite possibly going to be a friend for life.

So I'm really glad Young took the plunge and dropped by. And thanks to Random Acts of Cupcake, we're no longer strangers anymore.

And the recipe this week? Blueberry and Lime. Here's the recipe (thanks to 500 Cupcakes by Fergal Connolly):

For the base you will need:
115g cooking margarine
225g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
115 ml low-fat milk
225g SR flour
1 tsp baking powder
115g blueberries (I used frozen.)
1 tbsp grated lime zest

For the glaze you will need:
115g caster sugar
2 tbsp grated lime zest
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp boiling water

This is what you do:
1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Line a cupcake tin with paper cases.

2. Cream the margarine and sugar with an electric beater. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well.

3. Add the vanilla essence and milk. Then add the sifted flour and baking powder and stir until just combined. Finally, stir in the blueberries and lime zest.

4. Spoon the batter into the paper casings and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the cupcakes on a rack to cool.

5. Make the glaze by putting the sugar, lime juice, lime zest abd boiling water in a saucepan and simmering for 5 minutes. Wait for the glaze to cool slightly before spooning over the cupcakes.

Makes about 18.
Anyway, dear reader, this is me signing off for now. I hope that you enjoyed this week's blog and that the coming week brings you lovely coincidences of the random variety.
Just back from my random mission. Goal: find a random cupcake recipient. And I'm happy to report mission accomplished. I spotted Bruce standing on a busy road, looking as though he was waiting for someone. So I approached him, introduced myself and told him about my blog project. Bruce accepted the cupcake and we proceeded to have a little chat. I had assumed that Bruce was a local because he was wearing what looked like work clothes (either that or he was just a big fan of a particular brand of funky vacuum cleaner, I thought). It turns out that he's actually visiting from Newcastle. He's been a bus driver for 40-odd years and had come to town for work. Anyway, he was waiting for his wife to pick him up and I only wished that I'd packed an extra cupcake for her. But that's the beauty of the Random Acts of Cupcake, I suppose. You never know who you're going to meet and how many cupcakes you're going to need.

Bruce seemed like a nice, friendly sort of bloke and it was cool chatting to him.

Anyway, if you and your wife happen to be reading this, Bruce, I truly hope that you enjoyed your cupcake and that the rest of your time here is great!  And remember, if you stick around until you see the usually dry river flow three times, you're a local for life! (Just thought I'd remind you as it looks like it could rain today.)
And now on to the intricate workings at the Random Cupcake Kitchen aka Random HQ. This week's recipe was Jaffa. I love Jaffa, don't you? The combination of sweet chocolate and  tangy orange flavours just makes my taste buds sing. It also brings back fond memories of scoffing packets of the sweets in the cinema when I was younger and my metabolism could take that kind of hammering. Please note: I, unlike many other youngsters at the cinema, refrained from that time-honoured Aussie tradition of rolling Jaffas down the aisle. For crying out loud, what a waste!

But I digress. Here's how you make Jaffa Cupcakes. The recipe has been purloined (and then adapted) from Cupcakes: a fine selection of sweet treats, which is a cupcake cookbook par excellence.

Here we go.

For the base you will need:
165g SR flour
30g cocoa powder
110g sugar (I halved the amount in the original recipe)
2 eggs
170 ml milk
125g unsalted butter, melted
grated zest of one orange

For the icing you will need:
200g icing sugar, sifted
60g butter, softened
2 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp orange juice

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

2. Sift the flour and cocoa into a big bowl. Stir in the sugar.

3. Add the eggs, milk, melted butter and zest and beat with electric beaters until you get a nice smooth, soft batter.

4. Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases and bake for 20 minutes. Put on a rack to cool.

5. To make the icing, put about half the icing sugar in a bowl with the butter, zest and orange juice. Beat with electric beaters and add a little of the rest of the icing sugar until you get the consistency you want.

6. Put the icing in a piping bag and pipe just a little blob onto the top of each cupcake.

7. Enjoy with a nice cuppa tea or coffee. Marvellous!
Well, that's it from me this week. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog entry as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'm off to sample one of my cupcakes.

May your week be filled with strange, wondrous and random happenings.
After a two-week holiday-inspired hiatus from Random Acts of Cupcake, I have to admit I was finding it hard to get back into the swing of things. As I was cooking, the usual worries started to cross my mind. Would I be rejected ? Would someone think I was a crazy lady? And would I end up feeling a bit silly about this whole cupcake-give-away caper and go home and scoff all my cupcakes home alone?

However, when I walked into a local movie/snacks event this evening, I spotted my random recipient right away and just KNEW that I had the right person. She was a young woman, dressed in red from head to toe and just looked kind of really interesting. Anyway, when I explained my project and offered her a cupcake, the delight on her face made me wonder why I keep on having reservations about Random Acts of Cupcake.

Ronya (I hope I have spelt that right) was delighted to be this week's random recipient and ate the cupcake on the spot, as this photo attests: 
No umming and ahhing, no asking if I'd laced the cupcake with laxatives, no "she's a crazy lady who's clearly off her meds" looks. No, Ronya, brave and open soul that she is, simply tucked in and gobbled down that cupcake.

So we had a wee chat and my hunch that I'd chosen an interesting random recipient turned out to be right. At the event, she was doing a tour of duty as a candy girl. I would love love LOVE to be a candy girl. I guess in a way, I kind of already am, but in a somewhat strange, random and unofficial way.  OK, enough about me and back to Ronya. She's about to hold an exhibition of her paintings and soon she's trotting off to the UK to spend quality time with her granny. When she returns, she plans to study to be a primary school teacher. I'm sure, Ronya, that you will be every kid's favourite teacher.  

Okeedokee. So on to the cupcakes. This week I made Plum and Ricotta cupcakes, the recipe for which I swiped from Gourmet Traveller  magazine and adpated slightly. The original recipe calls for a layer of crumble on top. I ended up ditching the crumble because I ran out of baking time (was running late for a very important lunch date with an amiga). Anyway, so here's the recipe:

Plum and ricotta cupcakes

90g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
1/2 orange rind, grated
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
50ml milk
100g plain flour
80g hazelnut meal
1 tsp baking powder
350g ricotta
6 stewed plums

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line cupcake tray with pretty silver cupcake cases.

2. Beat 180g of the sugar, all of the butter and the orange rind until pale and creamy. Then add the eggs one at a time. Add the milk and mix well.

3. Stir in the flour, hazelnut meal and baking powder and combine.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake cases. Smooth the tops and put aside.

5. Put the ricotta, the rest of the sugar (40g) in a blender and hit the disco button. You should end up with a lovely, smooth mixture.

6. Pour the ricotta mixture on the top of each cupcake. Top with slices of stewed plum.

7. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Don't worry if they overflow the cases and start to look scary. It's all part of the fun.

8. Remove from oven and allow to cool. The ricotta will set and they'll end up looking great. Promise.
Well, that's all for now. Thanks for tuning in. And until next time, may there be a little bit of randomness in every one of your days!
This week's recipe comes from that most excellent tome, 500 Cupcakes by Fergal Connolly. The recipe appealed to me because not only is it simple, but it yields cupcakes that are deliciously fragrant and zesty.

OK, so get ready to make Spiced Sour Cream Cupcakes! (Please note, the original recipe uses pecans instead of almonds and orange instead of lemon. I changed it because I didn't have those things lying around my kitchen today. Oh yeah, and I also added the mixed peel, just to give the recipe a bit more zing.)

For the base you will need:

190g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
175g brown sugar
175 ml sour cream
2 eggs
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
1 handful of sultanas
1/2 handful of chopped almonds
1/2 handful of mixed peel

For the topping you will need:

250g cream cheese
50g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice

What you do:

1. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C and line a cupcake tray with paper liners.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice into a large bowl and set aside.

3. Crack the eggs into another large bowl and add the sour cream. Whisk. Beat in the brown sugar.

4. Add the dry mixture a little at a time and mix until smooth. Fold in the sultanas, mixed peel and almonds. Mix well.

5. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners. Bake for 20 minutes.
Put the cupcakes on a rack to cool.

6. To make the icing, mix the cream cheese, icing sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice until smooth.

7. Spread onto the completely cooled cupcakes. Dust with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

8. Go forth and find a random stranger to share your cupcakes with. Alternatively, scoff the lot on your own.

And the eighth random recipient is...


...You Young from South Korea!

I met You Young as I was walking in to town this morning. Even though it was pretty hot, I had decided that I was going to take my time selecting my random recipient. I walked around for quite a while because I wasn't really getting the right vibe from anyone. That is, until I came across You Young.

At first, I wasn't sure if she understood what I was raving on about, but it turns out she comprendez-ed moi just fine. I think that maybe she was just a bit surprised by my act of cupcake randomness (which, I have to admit is most people's initial reaction). When I explained my mission to her, she laughed and accepted my cupcake. We ended up chatting for a little while - it turns out that You Young is a newly graduated teacher back in Seoul, but is on a bit of a working holiday in Oz. By the way, she said she was looking for some volunteer teaching work , so if anyone reading this can help her out, just leave a comment on this blog.

You Young seemed like she really dug her random cupcake and that made me feel happy and at peace with the world. If you're reading this, You Young, thank you for being open to my random act of cupcake. I hope you enjoyed it and that you have a great time in Australia.

Until next time, my friends, keep smiling and most importantly, be random!

I've been feeling a bit frazzled lately, so this post is going to be uber-short. OK, so this morning I divined this week's cupcake recipe by doing the eenie-menie-minie-mo thing on the index page of the cupcake recipe book. My finger landed on Citrus Yoghurt Cupcakes, which was a relief because it is such a super-simple recipe.

This is what you need:

200g plain flour
175g caster sugar
1 tbsp lime zest
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
225 ml natural yoghurt
115 ml sunflower oil
1 egg

This is what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Line a cupcake tin with paper cases.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, citrus zests, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

3. In another large bowl, combine the yoghurt, oil and egg.

4. Add the dry mixture to the wet. Mix until just combined.

5. Spoon batter into the cupcake cases and bake for 20 minutes.

6. Serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt.

7. Eat and enjoy with a nice cuppa chai.

De-frazzle with a lovely afternoon tea
I'm so frazzled, I almost settled down for a cuppa and a nana nap after I took the above photo.
Better hit the road before I slip into a coma.

Mission accomplished.

So frazzled was I that I decided to loiter outside my abode for my random stranger. After five minutes or so, an old geezer dressed in ridiculous camo gear, like he was on safari in the Congo, walked by. I summoned up every ounce of niceness in my body and asked him if he would like to receive a free cupcake as part of my blog project, to which the rude mofo replied by waving his arms at me as though I was some pesky insect in need of swotting.

I have to say that so far the elderly are NOT acquitting themselves well in this social experiment of mine.

Anyway, so after that, I decided to take a stroll down the road to chill out. Not long after, I came across this fella. 
Meet Russell. He's a gardener and he looked like he was coming home after a hard day's yakka. When I told him my spiel about the cupcakes, he was good enough to say Alright, why not? and accepted my cupcake in the spirit of openness and friendliness in which I endeavoured to give it. Good on you, Russell, and I hope the rest of your day is awesome.
Unless you've been hiding out in a cave in Afghanistan lately, you would have noticed that a cupcake tsunami has been sweeping the world. Just google the term cupcakes, randomly choose a site and you will invariably find yourself ogling the pint-sized supermodels of the baking world. These mini confections primp, pout and pose for the camera, smug in the knowledge that they are the 'it' girls on the recipe runway. Unlike their human super-model counterparts, though, these girls are positively brimming with calories. Just take the sickly-sweet super-blobs of icing that commonly adorn the tops of cupcakes now. These sugary augmentations are the wonder bras of the cupcake world - seductive, but when you get down to business, ultimately disappointing.

So this week, I've chosen a simple recipe called Simple Vanilla and Agave Cupcakes. Agave is a spiky plant from Mexico which yields a nectar that can be used as a sugar substitute in cooking. This recipe comes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I've ended up de-veganising it by using cow's milk instead of soy milk and adding a cream cheese topping.

Special thanks to my nice friend Chris, who kindly gave me a bottle of agave syrup to experiment with.

For the base you will need:

2/3 cup milk (soy or cow's)
2/3 cup agave syrup
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil (veggie oil is also OK)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/3 cups plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

For the topping you will need:

150g light cream cheese
2 tsp agave syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

This is what you do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Line a cupcake tine with paper cases.

2. Mix the milk and vinegar in a large bowl. Set aside for a few minutes so that the milk curdles.

3. Beat in the agave syrup, oil and vanilla and almond extracts. Then sift in the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix until smooth. Don't worry if the batter seems runny. Have faith in the force, Luke.

4. Pour the batter into the paper cases. Fill each one 2/3 of the way.

5. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and put cupcakes on rack to cool.

6. To make the topping, beat the softened cream cheese, agave syrup and vanilla essence until smooth.

7. Spread a modest amount of icing on each cupcake. Remember, we want humble - not whoreish.

Makes 11 or 12 cupcakes.

Simple, not showy.

Later that day...

So I just got back from pounding the pavements in search of a random recipient. And boy, is it hot out there today. Anyway, I came across a young fella directing traffic around a construction site. I ran the spiel by him and he said yay to the cupcake, but nay to having his photo taken. I can respect that. Anonymity is a rare thing these days. Anyway anonymous Ash, if you're reading this, I hope you enjoyed the random cupcake. If I'd known how hot it was outside today, I would have also brought along some random buckets of icy cold water. Keep up the good work, mate, and I hope the days get a lot cooler for you.

So, that's all until next week, friends. In the meantime, stay random!
Easter is just about here. I know because the supermarkets have been telling me ever since they took the Christmas decorations down and started stuffing the aisles with chocolate eggs. Also, there's a large white marshmallow bunny hiding in the fridge. So in celebration of the season, I decided that this week I would make Hot Cross Bun Cupcakes. Here's the recipe, courtesy of that most esteemed of publications, Cupcakes: a fine selection of sweet treats (Murdoch Books).

For the base, you will need:
250g SR flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
125g chopped unsalted butter, softened
125g sultanas
45g mixed peel
170g caster sugar
185 ml milk
2 eggs

For the topping, you will need:
2 tsp pectin
2 tbsp caster sugar
60g icing sugar
lemon juice

This is what you do:
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and line your cupcake tins with paper cases.

2. Sift the flour and cinnamon into a big bowl. Add the soft chopped butter and rub until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.

3. Add the sultanas, mixed peel and sugar. Make a well in the centre.

4. Whisk the milk and eggs together and then pour the mixture into the well.

5. Mix together until just combined. It should look a bit lumpy.

6. Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases and put in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

7. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the glaze. Put the pectin powder, sugar and a couple of teaspoons of water into a suacepan. Cook over the heat until dissolved.

8. Brush the glaze over the cupcakes and allow to cool.

9. To make the icing, mix the icing sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Spoon the icing into an icing bag and pipe a cross on each cupcake.

Makes about 20 cupcakes.

So I've been doing a little bit of research on Easter and something that caught my attention was this reading from Corinthians: Get rid of the old yeast so that you may be a new batch without yeast - as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed.

Apparently, (according to Wikipedia, anyway), this is a reference to not allowing yeast in the house for Passover. I was reading somewhere else (a celebrity e-newsletter I subscribe to - yes I know my sources aren't great), that leavened bread represents our selfish ego, that thing which rises up, all overblown and proud, and overshadows the needs of others. By removing the yeast from our bread, we have a chance to decide what puffed-up, self-important stuff we want to remove from our lives.

I guess this reading from Corinthians struck a chord with me, not only because of the baking analogy, but because it made me realise that there's been a fair bit of yeast in my life lately. I'm obviously talking metaphorically here, and not about candida. OK, so that clarified, I hereby pledge that I am going to try to unleaven my life so that I may be a new batch, as I really am. 

Just a random thought here - someone needs to send a memo to Coles and Woolies about their hot cross buns. Those bad boys look like they have so much yeast in them they might pop as soon as you glance sideways at them.

And the random recipient is...

OK, so just to set the scene, I was attending this workshop today on how to relate to people who are grieving and other pastoral care stuff like that. This workshop was put on by the hospital for their volunteers and the speaker was the hospital chaplain.

Originally, my plan had been to hit the pavement after the workshop and find my random recipient on the street. But during the workshop, the thought occurred to me, what better person could there be to receive my random cupcake than the chaplain lady herself? I know she wasn't a random stranger, per se, although it has to be pointed out that prior to the workshop, I had never met her before. So I think she meets the criteria (which I haven't written down anywhere, but whatever). Anyway, her name is Stephanie and she's very un-chaplain like. I always imagine hospital chaplains to be crusty old dudes with lots of liver spots and thinning hair, crouched over in black robes, kind of like a cross between a vulture and the Mr Burns character in The Simpsons (but a bit less Macchiavellian). OK OK, so I'm clearly exaggerating here, but you get my drift.

When I told Stephanie about my random cupcake gig she laughed and said "God bless you!", which is kind of nice because even though I'm an agnostic, it's always good to have some spiritual insurance. She also said that I'd made her day, which is good to hear. I like that I helped make someone else's day.

Anyway, so here's Stephanie, my fifth random recipient! Happy Easter to you, Stephanie, and to anyone out there who is reading this little blog.