How to make the cutest comfort food

22:37, Aug 20 2014

Earlier this week I posted about giving cake decorating with fondant a go.

For a professional finish and some pretty cool effects, fondant is the go-to icing for proper cake decorators. 

I am less exacting in my approach. I definitely admire amazing cakes covered in perfectly finished fondant, but when it comes to presentation, I go rustic. 

For me, rustic is all about making the cake or cupcakes look as edible as possible. My favourite cafe, Little and Friday (sorry, it's in Auckland) does an amazing job of this, and my copy of their latest cookbook is speckled with spots of drool. They just make everything look so damn tasty! 

It's this look I like to replicate at home. My friends and family will tell you that most of my baking is pretty laid-back. It's approachable and probably tends to be pretty rather than perfect. 

This weekend is baking weekend. The weather is terrible and some cute comfort food is the order of the day.


I've included a cupcake recipe below you can get stuck into. Beware of the icing. You will eat it by the spoonful straight from the bowl until you feel sick. Then you'll eat some more. It's that good. 

Before you bake, try and visualise how you want your finished product to look. 

I love to use fun cupcake cases. If you buy the stiff-sided ones (like in the photo), you won't need muffins trays because they are self-supporting.

A little tip: these cute cases are sold for a small fortune at cooking and cake shops, or even the supermarket. Pop down to your local 123 or $2 shop, and you'll pick them up for $2-$3 for 25. They're just as good - I have tested them many times so you've nothing to fear by saving a few dollars. 

They come in all sorts of colours, but for these chocolate and fresh orange cupcakes I chose classic black and white - brown icing doesn't really go with many colours. 

Now for the icing - the best bit. You want a really decent whack of icing on each cupcake. No-one wants frugal cupcakes. I like to do two different ways of icing. 

First, the one in this photo above. Cut the end off a piping bag and fill it with icing. Use the bag to swirl icing onto the cupcake (this is much easier than doing it with a spoon or knife). Once you have a spiral cone of icing on each, use the back of a teaspoon to rough it up.

You could also use a star-shaped icing nozzle on the end of your piping bag. You get a crisp, fancy look with this method. 

[Tip: Instead of buying proper disposable icing bags, or even re-usable ones, buy sandwich bags from the supermarket and just snip off one of the corner. Cheap and no mess.]

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I like to use real flowers. Get some cheap ones from a cut-price flower shop, or pick them from the garden or around your neighbourhood (be stealthy, or ask permission). 

If you're bothered by flower stalks touching the icing, just wrap each stalk in a little gladwrap, but honestly I wouldn't bother. You can't taste it and you won't die from a pin-prick of plant sap. 

Try a sprig of lavender with a blueberry, or half a strawberry with a little rosebud. You could also just use a bigger flower by itself. 

If you want to glam up your cupcakes, you can pick up edible glitter at places like Divine Cakes. 

Try this recipe below. If you don't like chocolate and fresh orange, swap all orange-related ingredients for lemon and make normal cream cheese icing.

Fresh Orange and Chocolate Cupcakes


- 250g soft butter

- 400g caster sugar

- 3 eggs

- 250g plain flour

- 2 tsp baking powder

- Zest and juice of 3 medium oranges


Beat butter and 250g of the sugar until pale and soft. Add eggs, flour, zest of two oranges and juice of 1 orange, and fold to just combine. Don't over mix!

Divide into cupcake cases. Makes about 16 of the stiff-sided ones. Fill cases halfway up - no further or they overflow.

Bake at 160 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes or so, until a skewer comes out clean.

While they're in the oven, dissolve the remaining 150g sugar into the juice of 2 oranges and zest of 1 orange in a pot on the stove. Stir in. Just dissolve, don't reduce. 

When cupcakes come out of the oven, use a skewer to poke holes in them and pour the syrup over each cupcake. The holes allow it to soak right in. Just divide equally among all. Cool. 


- 250g cream cheese

- 3 tbsp soft butter

- 3 cups icing sugar, sifted

- 3 tbsp strong cocoa

Beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add cocoa and beat in. Then gradually add the icing sugar, beating as you go, until smooth and at the consistency you prefer. Add a few drops of hot water if it's too stiff. 

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