Cookie Monster Cupcakes

To trot out an old adage, "Time waits for no man".  My twelve-year-old self has awoken to yet another day when I find myself trapped in the body of a thirty-*ahem*-something and having to pretend daily that I am a competent Project Manager, mother and Domestic Goddess.  To the outside world, I'm quite good at faking it.

Since finishing my last blog, the one question I keep getting asked is "How did you find the time to do it all?" People who don't know me assume that I don't work or have a retinue of helpers to free me up some time to cook and blog.

But the honest answer is either "I just don't know" or "If you really want to do something, you make time".  Which is why I'm sat here at just after 6am on a Saturday about to waffle on about some cupcakes I made a few weeks ago.  I've always been a poor sleeper and regularly join the lovely HelsWats in the #twoamclub on Twitter.  This morning is no different and so faced with the choice of further decluttering of my life or writing about cake, the cake won.

It's also why my blogging antics will be much less frequent now.  The 366 Recipe Challenge was, quite frankly, exhausting.  For a year, every spare moment was spent thinking about food, eating food or writing about food.  Or thinking about writing about food.  It paid off because the blog has now had over 60,000 page views which is awesome.  But besides neglecting the housework, I also had to let many other things in my life slide away.  Most importantly spending time with people that I love and doing the things that I love.

Before anyone goes running off to ring ChildLine, of course I didn't neglect Miss A.  Hopefully the blog is testimony to my intent and her involvement in it.  But I have recently had someone who had the temerity to imply that I was a bad mother for putting her into nursery so I could work hard to keep a roof over her head.  I really must stop being so sensitive on this issue.  My life is ruled by a happy, healthy, loving, well rounded child.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.

But in order to have a happy, healthy, well-rounded child, she needs to have a role model to emulate.  This is something I've only recently realised.  How can she grow up to form healthy relationships if she sees a mother who has no life of her own.  As a child growing up with a single mother, my mum never went out anywhere.  Yes, she had friends and interests and her own business, and maybe it is a sign of the times we lived in then, but I don't remember her going out for an evening out until I was ten.  

Consequently, as an adult, I have spent years fighting a fear of new places and people.  Situations like this fill me with fear and I have been known in the past to even eschew nights out with some of my oldest friends because I'm just too plain nervous of the situation.

One of the best things to come out of my blogging year was biting the bullet and going to cake club.  It made me realise that actually, I'm missing out on a lot of enjoyment in life by hiding away each evening, writing a blog.  Even when I run, I'm too much of a wuss to go to running club in case 'nobody speaks to me' (a favourite childhood excuse for not going to dance class or swimming club) so I run by myself at 5am, making the excuse that it's the only time I can fit it in to my busy life.

But I don't want my daughter to grow up with this same insecurity and so I'm pushing my own boundaries to try and find a healthy balance and become a role model.  A happy toddler needs a happy mummy.  And this personal challenge is turning out to be quite a pleasant mouthful of elephant to swallow.

Anyway, what has this got to do with Cookie Monster cupcakes, I hear you ask?  A few weeks ago, I went on a night out with work.  This is something that would ordinarily have me running for the hills, or at the very least making the excuse that "I'm washing my hair that night".  But I decided it was time to bite the bullet and go out.  Even if it meant I was the only female in a group of 16.  And an enjoyable night it was too. If a little messy.  

The barman lining up the now infamous cocktails
After a fair bit of alcohol was consumed, we had a couple of rounds of the now legendary Cookie Monster shots.  For the uninitiated, these consist of Kahlua, Chambord and Baileys.  And if you happen to drink at SevenShed in Bristol, you get a flaming Sambucca in the saucer as well.  Lethal!  When I finally got over my hangover (about a week later - the perils of being over thirty) I remembered that Cookie Monster cupcakes were on my to-do-list for the 366 Recipe Challenge, but I'd never found the time to do them.  And so it seemed to be the right time to give them a go.

There are many different methods for making them on the interweb, but I couldn't find one that appealed so just made up my own recipe.  And the two chief taste-testers (Miss A and my boss) gave them the thumbs up.

I started with a basic pound cake recipe for the cupcakes, substituting 40g of flour for cocoa and baked this into cupcakes.  The domed head was then created from cake-pop mixture - a combination of crumbled cake and cream cheese.  They need to be solid to hold the cookies.

Some recipes then use dyed coconut for the fur but as I was road-testing these for my godson who can't eat coconut, I went for a buttercream topping, piped using my grass nozzle.  Finally, because I was a total numpty and forgot to buy cookies, I had to make an emergency batch of cookies to complete the cakes.  Luckily, as part of the old blog, I tried the best ever cookie recipe by Sadia, one of my lovely Twitter friends.  You can find her recipe here.  I used half the quantities and made them the size of an old 50p piece (for those of you old enough to remember).  This left me with plenty of spares.  For....erm...quality assurance purposes.

Et voila.  Cookie Monster cupcakes!

For the cakes - makes 6-8 depending on the size of your cases

Pre-decoration.  They could work as frogs too.

  • 250g softened butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of table salt
  • 210g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 40g cocoa powder

For the topping

  • 50g full fat cream cheese
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 80g softened butter
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • blue gel food colouring
  • black icing (I used a tube of premade icing I had lurking in the cupboard) or black gel food colouring
  • giant white chocolate buttons
  • mini cookies
  1. Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan.  Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cases.  You will need about twelve to sixteen cakes.  Half are used to make the domes for the heads.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Incorporate the eggs one at a time.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Sift in the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder and then mix until you have a nice even batter.
  3. Half fill the muffin cases.  You may need to bake in two batches if you only have one tray.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and springy to the touch.  Leave to go completely cold.
  4. Pick the worst looking cupcakes (about half of mine would normally be classed as disasters) and crumble them into a clean bowl.  Mix in the cream cheese until you have a stiff, mouldable mixture.  Divide into six to eight pieces (depending on how many cakes you kept) then shape into domes the same size as the cake.  Place on a plate and chill for thirty minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, make the buttercream by mixing the butter and icing sugar together with an electric mixer until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the milk and vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy.  Tint with enough blue gel food colouring (the liquid stuff is no good as it makes it runny) until you have your desired shade.  
  6. To assemble, place one of the domes on top of each cupcake.  Create two slits near the back of the dome and place a chocolate button in each.  Add eye detail with the black icing.  Cut a slit in the front of the dome to make the mouth shape.  It needs to be big enough to hold a cookie, but not so big that the cookie falls out.
  7. Using the blue buttercream and a piping bag fitted with a grass nozzle, pipe fur on to the cake then finish with a cookie in the slit for the mouth.

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