We may not have dancing dogs or shadow dance troupes (yet!), but Zipcar’s definitely got talent. So we’re continuing our celebration of the team’s awesome abilities: this week I’ve been chatting to Adrienne S: HR co-ordinator and baker extraordinaire. So Adrienne, tell us what you can do.
AS: I bake. A little bit of everything but I particularly love decorating so I like to take on some fairly ambitious (sometimes much too ambitious) projects.
DMK: Mmm… that’s a pretty delicious sounding talent. So, when did you learn to bake such incredible cakes?
AS: I come from a family of amazing and creative bakers in New Zealand so I picked up bits and pieces from them over the years. I’ve only really gotten into doing my own things in the last three years. In that time I’ve had some raging successes, but also some pretty spectacular flops. On more than one occasion, I’ve been found in the kitchen at some daft hour, weeping and covered in frosting, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. It’s all part of the fun.
DMK: What is your favourite thing to bake?
AS: Anything? I prefer making simple things, so making old family recipes is always relaxing. Although, to be honest, I’m also a massive show-off so anything that will make people ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ is fun to test out.
DMK: I’ve been lucky enough to scoff down a few of your cakes you’ve been kind enough to bring into the office, but what has been the most popular of the cakes you’ve brought into Zipcar?
AS: Cupcakes seem to go down best in the office- chocolate cupcakes with mint frosting have received the best reviews to date.
DMK: I’m very tempted to put on my apron and whip up some cakes at home now. So, what is your top baking tip for a complete beginner like me?
AS: Just one? Use good recipes- the internet especially is full of cowboy recipes. Don’t be fooled by beautiful photos, or delicious-sounding names, stick to ones from reputable people with lots of reviews, or ones that you have seen the results of. Personally, my biggest mistake is always thinking I know better than the recipe and changing the method, ingredients or measurements. This has worked in my favour maybe twice, and worked against me maybe 1,000 times. Find a good recipe and stick to it.
DMK: Thanks Adrienne. Are you able to share a reputable recipe then for one of your delicious cakes?
AS: Absolutely. Here’s my recipe for the chocolate cupcakes with mint frosting that were so popular in the Zipcar office.
1⅓ cups of plain flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
113g unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
113g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
Green food colouring (optional)
1. Mix the coffee with ½ cup of hot water, set aside to cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 175⁰C. Line a standard-size muffin or cupcake tin with paper liners (try to find good thick ones).
3. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and set aside.
4. Beat the butter and both sugars together with an electric whisk on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, coffee mixture and vanilla.
5. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the coffee mixture, ending with the flour mixture. Fold it together gently by hand as you want to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
6. Fill your cupcake liners ⅔ full and bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
For the frosting:
1. Beat the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping once to scrape the sides of the bowl.
2. Slow the mixer to low and add the icing sugar a little at a time. Once all of the icing sugar has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to medium-high and whip until fluffy, about a minute or two. You may need to add the milk at this stage if your frosting is too firm, add as much or as little as you need to get a light, workable consistency.
3. Add the peppermint essence a few drops at a time until you are happy with the taste, do the same with the colouring.
4. Pipe or spread onto the cooled cupcakes, and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.