Cupcake Diaries: Saturday Morning

Most of the baking needs to be completed today, as tomorrow we decorate.


Starting to clean up the utensils used yesterday evening.  There’s going to be lots of dishes to do today as I only have one set of most things, so will have to clean while each batch of cupcakes is baking.


Got completely distracted by my email and computer.  I was supposed to be looking up the Sticky Toffee cupcake recipe.  Marty is still sleeping.  Now that the shops are open I need to go and buy eggs.  I’ve managed to run out of the one ingredient that appears to be in every cupcake.


Marty is finally awake.  He appeared bleary-eyed about 30 minutes ago wondering why I hadn’t woken him.  I thought it was better for him to sleep as a sleep-deprived husband doesn’t handle a stressed-out wife very well.

Cupcake count: 18

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcake

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcake

Cupcake Diaries: Saturday Evening

I really want to get all the cupcakes baked before I go to bed.  I’m not looking forward to decorating them tomorrow morning, but I’m hoping that Marty is better at decorating than I am.


I’m sure that I had a plan to take a break.  But instead I decided to make the ginger cupcakes.  After that I will have to stop as I don’t have all the ingredients for the final three flavours.  We’ve ordered dinner from the local Chinese restaurant as the thought of cooking makes me went to go to bed now.


Carrot cake cupcake attempt two is a failure.  I used the correct type of flour but the fruit was too heavy and has made them sink.  I used fresh pineapple tonight, as I can’t get the American tinned variety, and I drained the excess liquid.  But still the buns are a sticky mess.  I will name them Titanic Cupcakes and throw them in the bin. Let’s hope the apple cupcakes currently in the oven don’t share their fate.


Finished the apple, tiramisu, and chocolate strawberry cupcakes.  The final set, the cheesecake cupcakes, are now in the oven.  Soon I’ll go to bed.

Cupcake count: 117

2 Responses to “Cupcake Diaries: Saturday Evening”

  1. Andrew Noble Says:

    I do hope you realise that next time you are over here I want cup cakes!

  2. karen Says:

    I’ll have to bring a recipe with me for the chocolate chip ones made with carrots. They are probably my favourite.

Cupcake Diaries: Saturday Afternoon

I survived the morning and I am still in a good mood.  The afternoon may change that, but I’m going to try to keep this baking experience as stress-free as possible.


Grating vegetables is boring.  Marty is making it more interesting by occasionally throwing carrot across the room.  He claims this is accidental.  Actually he’s decided that after grating just one carrot and two aubergines that there must be a way to get the food processor to do this for him.


Marty found a way to get the food processor to finely grate the carrots.  Well, he says finely grated but really it’s mush.  And since mush is not the texture I require for all my cakes he’s still having to do some grating by hand.  He’s happy enough as he gets to eat the parts of the carrot that won’t grate.

Tested the strawberry cupcakes and so far so good.  The jam in them works well and you can’t taste the aubergine.  (I’m still concerned that my desserts will come out tasting like dinner.)


Amused that the orange flavoured cupcakes are also orange coloured as they are made with Japanese eggs, that tend to have dark orangey yokes, and carrots. Marty won’t let me test the chocolate chip cupcakes. I suppose he has a point, I made these during the week and know that they taste good, but surely it’s better to be safe than sorry?


Getting tired.  I managed to push the eject button on my electric whisk while whisking eggs.  I now have cupcake batter in my hair.

A chocolate chip cupcake escaped from the muffin tin and landed on the floor, but I’m still not allowed to try these.  We did try one of the fairy cakes.  Marty complained that they were heavy, but I pointed out that they need to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes when they come out of the fridge.  He agreed that was the problem and then continued to eat the rest of the cake.


Losing my will to bake.  I’m going to take a break for a couple of hours.

Cupcake count: 77

Cupcake Diaries: Friday Evening

It’s the weekend of my cupcake party.  I’m scared.  I was insane to think that we could bake 100 cupcakes and decorate them all before 4pm on Sunday.  But, armed with an oven that can hold up to 12 cupcakes and a spreadsheet to manage the ingredients required to make 10 different flavours of cupcakes, I’m going to give it a go.


The carrot cake cupcakes have failed.  I was using an American recipe and mistakenly used the wrong type of flour.  They taste like soda carrot cakes.  They are also a bit damp.  It could be that my cup of pineapple contained more liquid than was imagined in the recipe.  (I hate using cups as a measure.)


Marty has arrived home from work and has declared that the carrot cake cupcakes make his top three list.  He doesn’t care that they taste like soda bread, he thinks that’s a bonus.  I’m still not going to use them for the party.  I’ll make another batch tomorrow using the correct flour.


I’ve started to put together the dry ingredients needed for the chocolate chip cupcakes.  I must remember to label these as I plan to make cake mixes for more than one type of cupcake.


The vanilla cupcakes have risen into little mountains.  They are supposed to be for fairy cakes, but Marty has declared them troll cakes.  Actually one looks awfully like that mashed potato sculpture from Close Encounters of a Third Kind.


I need to go to bed.  Marty is dyeing marzipan red to make apples to put on top of the toffee apple cupcakes.  The food colouring looks like blood and it’s dripping. I need to breathe deeply.

Afternoon Tea

Last weekend Marty decided to take me away for a belated birthday celebration.  I ended up in the Four Seasons eating afternoon tea while dressed in ripped jeans and a faded conference t-shirt.  I was adequately dressed for the walk we took in a Japanese garden but in no way prepared for dining amongst ladies who lunch.  There were even people wearing traditional kimonos, though I imagine they were part of the many weddings taking place in the grounds of the hotel.

My sister asked me today if they put us in a corner.  She was right, we were seated in a corner and hidden from the view of passers by.  It hadn’t thought about it but it had happened to her when she visited an expensive tea house in Tokyo.  But then not only was she wearing casual clothing, she had also managed to cover herself in mud after falling in the gardens.  I wasn’t covered in mud, but I was rather hot and sticky.

Once the afternoon tea arrived my concerns about my outfit were quickly forgotten.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Mini Cupcakes

I don’t know much about pumpkins and squash.  (I can’t even work out if the plural of squash should be squashes.) Today I saw a vegetable in the supermarket called “kabocha” that looked like a pumpkin.  It was cut into pieces and had dark green skin with a bright orange centre.  I have a recipe for mini chocolate cupcakes that is supposed to be made with butternut squash.  I was fairly sure that “kabocha” wasn’t a butternut squash but I bought it anyway as I imagined that I could make the cupcakes even if the squash was different.

The cakes are moist and the change of squash hasn’t caused a problem.  They are a little too bitter and I think that next time I need to use chocolate the isn’t quite as dark.  I also need to even out the cakes before I put them in the oven as they came out in odd shapes.  I was expecting them to melt and become smooth, but I was wrong.

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes

YAPC::Asia - Call for Papers

I noticed today that the call for papers for YAPC::Asia is open.  I need to decide if I am going to submit a talk. The conference is taking place in Tokyo, 13-15 October.  I will be at home in October so I plan to go even if I’m not going to speak.  I’m looking forward to hearing Ricardo Signes, who is one of the guest speakers. Actually one of things I like about YAPC::Asia is that I get to hear a lot more talks. When I’m at YAPC::NA or YAPC::EU there are a lot of people that I want to speak to and the hallway tracks are very beneficial to me. But I do a lot less chatting at YAPC::Asia and as a consequence go and hear more talks.

I only got round to submitting a talk for YAPC::EU last week.  I’m not very organised this year, but I have flights to Europe and I do plan to arrive in Riga a couple of days before the conference starts.  I really don’t want a repeat of last year’s travel disasters that meant I missed more than half the conference.

Healthy Cakes

I like to bake but I need to be careful not to eat too much.  I have been trying to find ways to make cakes that are both healthy and tasty.  I have discovered that some low-fat or low-calorie recipes rely on bad food substitutions that I want to avoid.  I wouldn’t consider replacing butter with margarine – but I will replace it with apples or even aubergines.

Baking with fruit and vegetables is time consuming.  There is a lot more grating, beating, and whisking than I would like.  So far though the results have been worth the extra effort.  This week I have been experimenting with recipes from “Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache“.

I made “Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes” with carrots and ground almonds.  I also used rice flour for the first time.  I will admit that the cake mixture looked all wrong in the bowl.  It was gloopier than I expected and I was worried that it was too heavy.  But the cakes were beautiful.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

At the minute the room smells of toasted coconut as I am making coconut cupcakes. This time I have used aubergine instead of butter. I didn’t like the consistency of the cake mixture and I thought that grated aubergine looked quite yucky, but I suppose the proof with be in the eating.

Coconut Cupcake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

Coconut Cupcake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

The cupcakes are good. Marty is now eating his third one. I can’t taste the aubergine and I’m impressed with how moist the cake is. The frosting was based on a Jamie Oliver recipe for lime cream cheese frosting, I simply replaced the zest with coconut and the lime juice with coconut milk.

2 Responses to “Healthy Cakes”

  1. Norwin Says:

    I’m not sure that I’d want to clean out a bowl of aubergine mix…

  2. karen Says:

    Oh I imagine if you had been here that you would have tried it. And the cakes tasted really good, so the mix probably wasn’t that bad. Though it did look a wee bit strange.

Weather Obsession

There is no doubt that discussing the weather is an important part of Japanese culture.  Every summer conversation starts with, “It’s hot today, isn’t it?”.  Even email conversations start with the weather and then move on.

But it is incredibly hard to ignore.  I was born in Northern Ireland. I’m used to the weather being mildly annoying.  The sort of weather than means you don’t really want to plan a picnic in summer because it could be a bit damp or a bit cold.  But you make the plan anyway because, as my grandmother would say, a drop of rain won’t kill you.

Then we have Japan where weather is not mildly annoying, in say the way that an insect can be, but is much more like the giant stomping monsters that the Japanese love dearly.  My lunch plans today were cancelled because it might rain.  The airlines are also cancelling flights for the same reason but then this isn’t Northern Irish style rain.  This is due to the arrival of  Typhoon Ma-on which is expected to cause flooding and damage to areas of the city at some point today.  This is weather so powerfully destructive that it gets to have its own name.

And it’s not just the storms that kill.  So far this summer 26 people have died because of the heat and 54,000 people have been treated in hospital.  I no longer just glance out the window to see what the weather is doing.  Now I plan in advance.  I read the extreme high temperature forecast and the weather warnings and advisories.  Today I get to hope that the worst thing said about the weather is, “It’s wet today, isn’t it?”.

Acushla Mine

My sister was chatting to me about my grandmother just the other night.  I live far away from my family and I haven’t found a good way to keep in touch with people who don’t use computers.  I can easily chat to my sisters on Facebook, or my dad on Skype, but my grandmother doesn’t use a computer.  Using a phone also hasn’t worked as conversations usually consist of repeated phrases like, “Is that you Karen…”, “What are you saying…”.  We say words, but we aren’t communicating.

My sister Christine and I spent hours walking with my grandmother when we were children.  We also used to sing silly songs about rainbows, dragons, and puffymelons.  It was only when my mum sang similar songs to my baby sister that I discovered that “puffymelons” are not the gnome-like little men my childhood self imagined should work at a train station but were really a mispronunciation of “pufferbellies”.

Not all the songs were childish as my grandmother also taught me to sing “Acushla Mine”.  I used to think that was a place in Ireland but I now know it’s term of endearment so I recorded it for my grandmother.

Acushla Mine



I’m back in Tokyo after my trip to America.  I’m told that it’s no hotter here than where I was staying in America but the high humidity makes a lot of difference to how comfortable you feel.  I liked the weather in Asheville.  It did get hot during the day but the cooler mornings and evenings were beautiful.  Here I get to spend the day dripping with sweat.  There is no breeze and the evenings are as hot a mid-afternoon.  At least the sun goes down early so I can stop stressing about my sunblock sweating off in the evenings.

I’ve been trying to sort some things out in the apartment but after washing the dishes I looked and felt as if I had been working out for an hour.  I’m sticky and disgusting and I have been since I arrived back.  We are supposed to be limiting our electricity usage so I have the doors open instead of using the air conditioner.  We will be using the air conditioners at night as sleeping in this heat is difficult.  It is possible, once you get really tired, but I wake up feeling ill.  I’m not even back 24 hours and I’m already dreaming of leaving.