Back-seat Baking: Chocolate Ginger Cupcakes

Last week I decided that I wanted to actually make something for Sarge for Valentine’s Day.  Or at least watch someone else do it.  Because the last time I tried to make something, the red stuff wasn’t food-colouring.  But it was iron- enriched.

Anyway, I’m looking up baking ideas, and my PA suggests Martha Stewart.  Now, we have a saying in my family that goes something like this:  Molly was Martha Stewart before Martha was Martha Stewart.

Molly was my Nana, and she was an all around amazing baker, cook, beader, knitter, quilter, home-decorator, general ideas woman and creative. Dinner was not complete without six courses, a sweater not ready to wear without beads on the collar.  And everywhere else.

Nana did everything from scratch.  And I watch people make cupcakes from a box.  Maybe it was Nana’s inspiration that made me add stem ginger to the cupcakes that my PA made and froze last week, and iced this morning.

I added ginger because I don’t like it.  And I wanted these especially for Sarge, who does.

If they were coffee cupcakes, that would have been a present for both of us.  Maybe next week.

Photographic evidence:

Behold the butter-cream icing!
Sarge approves!

Our aforementioned sugar-faces stuck to the plate and couldn’t be added to the cupcakes.  CJ ate them instead.

Back-seat Baking: Chocolate Maple Syrup Brownies

I got Sarge a slow-cooker for Christmas.  It was not used in the making of these brownies.  Recipe adapted from another found on the internet.


  • ½ stick unsalted butter
  • 1 large bar (100g) of dark chocolate (we used Green and Black’s 70% cocoa, because it’s tasty.)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon 100% cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch cinnamon powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix the butter and chocolate together in a pan at low heat, stir a bunch.  Set aside to cool once melted.

Pre-heat the oven to oven to 160°C.

Put the eggs into a mixing bowl, and beat.  This is the part I get Michael Jackson’s Beat It running through my head.

Mix the salt, sugar, maple syrup, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and cinnamon in, whisk until mixed, then mix some more.  And then mix in the butter/chocolate and vanilla.  Chopped nuts could be added, but I am a brownie purist.

Pour the thoroughly mixed mixture into a greased baking tray, and then another when you discover the first one’s not big enough. Put that one the oven for approx 45 minutes, with optional white sugar at the top, which should melt into a glaze.

Photographic evidence:

As taste-tester and reporter, I must say that this has been the most successful Back-seat Baking experiment yet!  They actually look like brownies!

Back-seat Baking: Cider Doughnuts

There is Christmas shopping to be done, but I didn’t want to go out on Saturday.  Strange, me not wanting to go out.  I embraced this feeling and spent time reading books and poems, sometimes aloud.

Sarge went out and came home with a haircut and a bottle of Kahlúa.  And ingredients for a Backseat Baking Adventure: Cider Doughnuts.

This is our own spin on the recipe, which I found via the lovely Emily Drinking Tea .

For our own spin, read: the use of alcoholic apple cider (Magner’s Irish Cider).

Sarge went out again at 7.30 at night to buy an electric mixer, as per the recipe.

What follows is a run-down of what your favourite couple did next:

Sarge:  Reduced generous cup (mug) of cider and gave the rest of the bottle to the writer in the house.  Left on hob for half an hour.

Sarge:  Followed recipe, whisked ingredients.   Waved whisk at girlfriend as proof of posh kitchen utensil ownership.

Lorna:  Ducked and dodged bits of batter.

Sarge:  Used electric mixer.  Spent extra time mixing because new mixer isn’t very good.  Worried slightly about burning smell from said mixer.

Sarge:  Added a pinch of cocoa the mix.

Sarge:  Rolled out dough on baking tray.  Then realised tray was too big for freezer.  Lost equivalent of one doughnut to bottom of freezer while trying to jam tray in.

Sarge:  Transferred dough to giant ice-cream tub and hoped that worked, too.  It did.

Lorna:  Hummed U Can’t Touch This for no apparent reason.

Sarge:  Made White Russians (Kahlúa over ice, with added vodka and fresh milk, finished with cinnamon.)  Turned pint glass into doughnut cutter.  Prepared to fry doughnuts in wok by making doughnut holes with spirit measurer, previously used in making of White Russians.

Lorna: Took pictures.  Hummed the theme to The Odd Couple, for a possibly apparent reason.

Sarge:  Filled the wok with oil and guestimated temperature.  Finally fried doughnuts.

Lorna and Sarge:  Watched The Big Lebowski with The Big White Russians while eating some of The Big Doughnuts.

Photographic Evidence:

I realise I didn’t do much except record the whole thing for posterity and provide the random soundtrack.

Good team-work again!

And the doughnuts were delicious!

Back-seat Baking: Adventures in Chocolate

Remember when I said I didn’t bake?  Well, I’ve decided I’ll watch other people do it, and record the process/results.  I’ll call the series Back-seat Baking, and I thank Sarge for the name suggestion.

And so.

Sarge brought home a box of cookie mix and a bag of marshmallows yesterday.

‘Do you mind if I put these together?’

‘Um, no.  Rocky Road!’

I asked if I could take notes on this experiment, and he said to scribble away.

‘OK.  Don’t do anything note-worthy until I go to the bathroom.’  This could be a preface to anything, but that’s another post.

I got back from the bathroom, and he’d heated the oven and was meticulously chopping up a ‘silly amount’ of marshmallows.  Actually 7.  Or 4.

He put the mix in an actual mixing-bowl, adding a teaspoon of cocoa and a ‘liberally measured’ ounce of softened butter.  He mixed in the marshmallows, with a ‘tiny bit’ of water.  And then some more water.  And some more water.  And honey.  And more water.

He mixed and mixed and mixed and flattened four cookie-shaped things on some kitchen-foil.  The kitchen-foil proved to be a bad idea, but they were still tasty.

He shoved them into the oven (190° C/ 374° F) and set our kettle-shaped timer for 7 minutes, after which he turned them over.

I nabbed some actual cookie-dough and he put them in for another 7 minutes.

After checking them and deciding they were ‘squidgy’, they went in for a ‘wee bit longer.’

We then enjoyed them.  With hot chocolate and left-over marshmallows.  And Father Ted.


Photographic Evidence:






They tasted better than they looked.  Perfect with coffee this afternoon!

Let me know if you try them!  Or if you have any recipes I could watch other people try to make!



I Am Not a Cook

I just finished a rather lovely dinner that Sarge made.  I eat, but I don’t cook.  Last night, while watching Life Is Beautiful for the first time (what took me so long?), I ate another meal Sarge made.  And I cried.  Twice.  But that was the film, and had nothing to do with his cooking.  When it’s my turn to cook, we get take-out, which is probably safer for all involved.

I have tried to cook.  I have the burn scars and some unforgettable stories to prove it.  At Uni, I dumped a whole pot of soup in my lap.  I had my back turned and nobody could understand why I’d suddenly lost the power of speech.  One Thanksgiving, I volunteered to slice some carrots.  The carrots ended up fortified with iron.  From all my blood.  The blood that was spilled when I sliced my fingers as well as the carrots.  I threw out the bloody carrots, despite all those extra healthy minerals.

The first time I made popcorn, I burnt it.  I discovered I like it that way.  Now I burn it on purpose, and hope that the smoke detectors don’t go off when I do.

I pay people to help me cook now.  This is a good thing.  When I think I might try something, I always find something else I’d rather be doing.  I go to the movies.  Or the library.  Sometimes even the gym.  Or I stay home and sort out my filing cabinet.  My Italian Grandmother would turn in her grave if she knew I’d rather organise my bills than make gravy.  To freeze for later, of course.

It’s not that I hate cooking.  If there were no cooking there would be no eating.  I even like baking.  The best brownies are the ones I haven’t made myself.  In school, when we had to bring in something that we’d made ourselves; I’d always go in via the grocery store.  Entenmann’s made those A-plus muffins, not me.

Even though I may write on here very occasionally about the aftermath of my experiments with cooking and baking, it isn’t how I express myself.    If I write about it afterwards, from this very room, that just means we’re not living in a hotel because I’ve burnt a hole in the kitchen wall.

Saying that, I have nothing against people who choose to express themselves by decorating cakes, for example.  We have already established that I like baked goods.

It’s just that if I wrote on cake, I’d run out of room very quickly.