January 26, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes – Hummingbird Bakery

Hummingbird Choc Cupcakes iced




I bought the Hummingbird Bakery book when I visited the BBC Good Food Show in London back in November, as it was a bargain at only £4.99 from The Book People. But I have been reluctant to try any of the recipes because I’d read so many bad reviews about the book. Lots of people said that the recipes had been badly converted from the quantities that the bakery uses and that the recipes hadn’t been properly tested.


But then other people had raved about the book and I like to set myself a challenge in the kitchen, so I wanted to see if I could get at least one recipe from the book to work!

I decided to start with one of the cupcake recipes as that is what Hummingbird Bakery are famous for and from my baking experience the quantity of the ingredients in the recipe looked in proportion.


However, I was intrigued that so little butter was necessary for these cupcakes and I tried to convince myself that they were therefore a bit healthier than other cupcakes I’ve made in the past! Never mind that they’re full of sugar and slathered with icing!


The recipe says you can use a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment. I chose to use the latter as I thought it would do a better job at mixing, as it has more speed settings than my ancient electric whisk, so I’d have better control. Plus an online friend told me that to get really fluffy icing it’s best to use an electric mixer, so it was worth digging it out from the back of the cupboard.


The method in the recipe was a bit alien to me as it tells you to beat the dry ingredients with the butter and sugar, then add the wet ingredients. I am used to creaming the butter and sugar first, then adding eggs and then adding the dry ingredients. But I followed the recipe exactly and everything went smoothly.


The recipe says it makes 12 cupcakes and it specifically says to use muffin paper cases. But I only managed to get 7 cupcakes from the mixture and I have read other people had the same experience. If you used normal fairy cake paper cases then you could easily make 12, but there’s no way you could make 12 muffin sized ones!


I checked my cupcakes after 20 minutes, but I had to bake them for about 30 minutes (but our gas oven isn’t that great) and I was a bit worried when they came out of the oven. They had sunk a little and didn’t look too pretty! But I guess that is what icing was invented for! I only made half a batch of icing because I didn’t have as many cupcakes and this was plenty.


Hummingbird Choc Cupcakes



Well the cupcakes went down a storm with Steve’s family! They were really light and moist and Steve’s Mum said they were the best cupcakes I’ve made so far! So she now has a new favourite! Steve really liked the slightly chewy top of the cupcake, which he said reminded him of brownies.


I was really surprised they were so well received, but it has given me more confidence to try out more recipes from the book. I am also very curious as to what the real cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery are like and if mine were the same.


  • Makes: 12 (if using small paper cases) or 7 muffin sized cupcakes
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 3/325°F/170°C
  • You will need: a cupcake tray lined with paper cases



  • 100g plain flour, sifted
  • 20g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • a pinch of salt (I omitted this as I used salted butter)
  • 40g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120ml whole milk (I used semi-skimmed)
  • 1 egg (I used a large one)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract



  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 3/325°F/170°C.
  2. Put the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  3. Whisk the milk, egg and vanilla extract together in a jug, then slowly pour about half into the flour mixture, beat to combine and turn the mixer up to high speed to get rid of any lumps.
  4. Turn the mixer down to a slower speed and slowly pour in the remaining milk mixture (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. When the cupcakes are cool, spoon the icing on top and decorate if you like.


Half a batch of Chocolate Icing:

Beat 150g sifted icing sugar, 50g soft butter and 20g sifted cocoa in an electric mixer on medium-slow until the mixture comes together and is well mixed (for this small quantity of icing you may need to add a dribble of the milk to help it come together). Then turn the mixer down to slow and add 20ml milk gradually and keep mixing until it has been fully incorporated. Then turn the mixer up to a high speed and beat for about 5 minutes until the icing is light and fluffy.


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