Friday, April 6, 2012

Cookbook Review ~ The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days - Tarek Malouf

It was only a matter of time before I reviewed this book - The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days....For those of you that regularly follow my blog you will know that the recipe for my Cupcakes is courtesy of the first book by Tarek Malouf – The Hummingbird Bakery (which was the first book I ever reviewed). I can't say enough how much I love the recipe – it never fails me and every time I make Cupcakes I end up with beautifully moist, melt in your mouth cakes that disappear far too quickly! So as I said, it was literally only a matter of time before I gave in and book number two was used and reviewed!

This book varies slightly from the first (in addition to the obvious fact that it's about 3 times as big!) in that the chapters are divided into occasions instead of specific cakes, such as Valentine's Day; Spring Weekend Bakes; Mother's and Father's Day; Birthdays and Celebrations and Rainy Day Treats to name a few. I happen to love this – it makes searching for a recipe for a special occasion so much easier. The rest of the book however is on the same par as the first, filled with mouthwatering pictures of delicious cakes that you just want to devour and the accompanying recipes don't disappoint. Now as much as I was desperate to review this book it was a little trickier for me than any other book I review as generally we don't eat a lot of baking in this house – unless of course it's a special occasion! Not because we don't enjoy it, but more so that with just being the 3 of us (and really Wee One has only recently started eating cookies and cakes and is definitely limited to special treats!) we just don't eat enough to justify me making a giant cake. I would love to – really I would, but my jeans and expanding waistline wouldn't, so I had to tread with caution for this review! Thankfully I chose to review it when Mum was out visiting so that we had at least one extra person in the house to help enjoy the results! I did however decide to only review 3 recipes for the time being but there are so many amazing looking treats and delights that I will certainly be trying a lot more in the future and will try and update here when possible!

So what were the 3 recipes I tested for this review? It was a tough choice but eventually with a few suggestions from Mum I baked the following.....

  • Maple And Pecan Layer Cake
  • Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes
  • Pea, Ham and Feta Cheese Muffins

First on the chopping block (or perhaps more accurately in the baking tin!) was the Maple and Pecan Layer Cake which I made for Mum's Birthday. I had narrowed down a few large cakes for her to choose from and this is the one she went for! It turned out to be a great choice as despite a few worries along the way that it wasn't going to work, it did and was beautiful! The giant 3-layered cake was moist and full of flavour including of course maple syrup and chopped pecans. It was a hit with everyone but most importantly the Birthday girl! The only difference I had from the recipe was that I did have to bake the cakes for a little longer than specified but I blame that on my oven and not the recipe! Both Mum and I agreed that we would definitely make this cake again so all in all it was a good start to the review process!

Next up were the Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes. Being a lover of Earl Grey this recipe was an obvious choice for me as I always have plenty of Earl Grey tea bags in the house and what can be better to enjoy with a cup of Earl Grey than an Earl Grey Cupcake!? Again I made them when I knew I had people coming round to the house so that I wasn't tempted by a whole batch of them! The recipe was quite different from the classic vanilla cupcake recipe that I always use and it made more than normal. The recipe says it makes 12-16 cupcakes but I got 19 and some were too big so I could have easily got 20 – even more to have in the house(!), but in seriousness it would have been good to have more accurate quantities so I knew what I was making. The oven temperature is also higher and the cooking time therefore less. They were slightly more coloured (golden) than my usual cupcakes but they were still really light and moist. Unfortunately if truth be told (which is what I'm here to do!) I couldn't really taste the Earl Grey in the sponge - it was more prominent in the icing but still quite subtle. I think next time I would definitely try adding a little more of the tea infusion to both the cakes and the icing. Despite that though they were absolutely delicious and another success! I've included the recipe for these below so if you give them a go let me know what you think.

Last up and I decided to opt for a savoury recipe and made the Pea, Ham & Feta Cheese Muffins. I was really excited about these as the photograph in the book looked amazing and I thought they would be perfect for lunch with a nice big bowl of soup. The recipe was straightforward enough although I did find it almost a little elastic and had to work a little to fold the peas, ham and feta into the mixture. I got there though and all was fine! I used my standard cupcake/muffin tins and again as with the Earl Grey Cupcakes I ended up with quite a few more than stated. Once cooked I couldn't resist trying one while they were still warm and fresh out of the oven and unfortunately I was a little disappointed....They certainly weren't bad but they weren't quite what I was expecting! To be honest they were muffins and not scones (or biscuits) which for some reason I was imagining them to be like so again my fault – not the recipe as they were called muffins. The muffin itself was super light and moist so really no complaints there – it just almost tasted wrong to have the savoury ingredients and not something sweet mixed in. That being said the following day I had my sister-in-law round for lunch and after heating them up in the oven for 5 minutes and having them with a little butter then were much better and I did enjoy them and think that I will possibly try making them again.

Overall based on the three recipes I tried (which isn't much considering there are over 100 within this book) I would have to say that in future I will probably keep this book for sweet cakes and not so much the savoury options, as sweet is obviously where their forte is! It's a beautiful book full of new recipes and ideas and I really do love how they have divided and arranged it. It definitely gets my stamp of approval and I think it would make a lovely gift if you know someone that loves baking as it is such a beautiful book packed with so many different recipes. I can't wait to try more.....I just need to give my waistline a bit of a break!

When I do get a chance to do some more baking here are some of the recipes that I bookmarked and are top of my list to try.....

  • Caramel Cupcakes
  • Chocolate Fondant Cupcakes
  • Carrot and Ginger Cake
  • Lemon and Poppy Seed Loaf
  • Sweet and Salty Chocolate Cake

In fact keep your eyes open as I have a feeling the Chocolate Fondant Cupcakes might make an appearance pretty quickly – or at least part of them! Until then why not try the Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes and see what you think....

Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes

{from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days}

Makes 12-16 cupcakes (I got 18!)

3 Earl Grey teabags
3 tbsp just-boiled water
80g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened
280g (10oz) caster sugar
240g (8 ½oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
200ml (7fl oz) milk
2 large eggs

For the Icing:
50ml milk
500g (1lb 2oz) icing sugar
160g (5 ½oz) unsalted butter, softened

Pop the teabags in a small bowl with the just-boiled water then set aside and leave to steep for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F/ 190C and line 2 muffin tins with cases (as I said I got roughly 18 cupcakes from memory – maybe even 19!).

Place the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a KitchenAid (or other freestanding mixer) and using the paddle attachment mix slowly until everything is combined and you have a sandy consistency (if you don't have a KitchenAid use a hand-held electric beater).

In a jug measure out the milk then add the eggs and whisk together. Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the tea bags then add the tea to the milk and eggs. Set aside the teabags for the icing.

While the mixer is running, slowly pour in three-quarters of the milk and mix until it's just incorporated, then increase the speed a little and mix until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the remaining milk mixture and beat until everything is properly mixed but be careful not to over beat the mixture.

Evenly spoon the cake mixture into the cupcake cases and bake for 18-20 minutes until the sponge bounces back when touched and a skewer comes out clean when put into the center of the cake. Leave to cool for a few minutes then transfer the cupcakes onto a wire rack.

While the cakes are baking put the 3 teabags into a small bowl and add the milk then leave to infuse for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the teabags from the bowl again squeezing out as much of the tea as you can.

Once the cupcakes have finished baking and are cooling make the icing. Sift the icing sugar into the bowl of a free-standing mixture or large bowl, then add the butter and beat on a low setting until it comes together. Turn the speed up a little and continue beating until it is well mixed and there are no lumps. Turn it back down to low then add the tea-infused milk. Mix until it is well combined and smooth, then turn up to a higher setting and beat for roughly 5 minutes until the icing is light and fluffy.

Once the cakes have completely cooled ice them with the butter cream icing. I couldn't resist and finished mine off with a small sprinkling of a fantastic crystal sugar I received as a Christmas present from my brother and sister-in-law but that is a totally optional extra and not in the original recipe! Either way you will end up with some delicious delicate and subtly perfumed cupcakes.


Cooking the Books in April

The books that I have chosen (with your help!) for April are.......


  1. Oh Lynds that maple & pecan cake sounds amazing... I've been sorely disappointed with the savoury muffins in the first book. I suppose it could just be a taste & texture combination I'm really not used to... but ewwww... lol The cakes are to die for tho :-)

    1. It was and it didn't take long for it to disappear! It's funny cause after I made the muffins I remembered that you had said you made something savoury from the first book and they didn't turn out....I think you are totally right - savoury taste but with the texture you feel like eating a cake which is strange! Cakes however....oh my - amazing! : )

  2. Terrible confession coming up...I have had that book for about 6 months and never made a single cupcake. I need to revisit the book. Love the look of your Earl Grey cupcakes.

  3. Ha ha! It's easy to do! That being said, I think you might just have found your book for this month's Random Recipes challenge!! ; )

  4. These cupcakes are GORGEOUS! I can only imagine them with that sweet taste of earl gray added!

  5. Mmm, I love this recipe! It looks subtle and fantastic :)

  6. I must try these! They look very tempting!

  7. I stumbled across this on FoodGawker, and these cupcakes look delicious! What is the second ingredient under the icing though? 500g of... what?


    1. Wow - sorry about that!! It is icing sugar...Thank you so much for pointing that out to me : )

  8. Yum - I love tea flavored desserts!

  9. thanks for sharing.

  10. Hmm, I don't think I'll make these again. I don't know if I did something wrong but they turned out kind of sticky and chewy. I also found them too mild (you can't taste the tea) even though I used 3 teabags and steeped two teabags in the milk.

    1. That's too bad that they turned out sticky and chewy.... I'm not sure what would have caused that - perhaps over mixing? Not sure though but I know what you mean about the mild flavour - totally agree with you. On the review I did just above the recipe I noted the same thing, you just don't get the flavour but I'm going to make them again soon and will 'up' the quantity of Earl Grey and let you know if it makes a difference. Thanks for sharing how you got on though and I'm sorry they didn't work out for you.


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