Dark chocolate cupcakes with whipped whiskey ganache

Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate and whiskey ganache.

This week’s recipe comes from a feature I put together for Cheers Magazine last month in which whiskey and sherry were the heroes. I have to be honest and say that sipping spirits has never been my thing, I am more of a wine gal myself! But I do keep a small stash of tipple tucked away for culinary purposes. A splash of brandy here, a dash of sherry there… they certainly add a deep richness to the dishes they are added to. These easy dark chocolate cupcakes are proof that whiskey is not only good for sipping but also has its place in the kitchen (and that cupcakes aren’t just for the kiddies!).

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Lemon loaf cake with saffron syrup

Lemon loaf cake with saffron syrup.
A few weeks ago I was given a pack of gorgeous saffron to try out at home. I have only ever used saffron in savoury dishes in the past (this saffron chicken dish is one of my favourites) and wanted to try it in a sweet recipe this time around.

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Caramel sponge pudding

Caramel sponge pudding
If ever there was an excuse to indulge in some comfort cooking, the chilly winter season is most definitely it. This latest recipe, which was featured in the May/June issue of Cheers magazine, has comfort food written all over it – a classic (dare I say old-fashioned) dessert that you can easily make at home on those cold days.

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How to make easy rainbow meringues (and a rainbow cake!)

Chocolate cake topped with meringues.


Crisp, white meringues are one my favourite things to make, but a few weeks ago I tried something a little different by adding some colours to the mix! The reason? I wanted to top my daughter’s rainbow birthday cake with rainbow meringues. I had so many party guests (well, the parents) asking me for the recipe that I have decided to pop it on the blog this week along with my go-to meringue recipe. I am also sharing a few tips for making your own rainbow cake. 



How to make rainbow meringues.



Firstly, rainbows – I think this has been my favourite kiddie party theme so far! There is just so much you can do. To be honest I was completely swamped in the run up to the party, but thanks to a few simple ideas from Pinterest I was able to pull it all together in a short amount of time. In terms of decor I made colourful paper chains (too easy), tissue paper pom-poms in various colours and popped glasses filled with colourful water and sunflowers on the table. Some of the food also took on the rainbow theme, with the most popular snack by far being pretzel sticks that were dipped in white chocolate and then 100’s and 1000’s. Rather than going for a sugar laden party bag each little guest received a rainbow ribbon wand as a thank you gift. 



Rainbow birthday party ideas.



You can’t have a rainbow party without a rainbow cake right? This cake took an entire day to bake and assemble, but I think it was worth it. Six layers of vanilla cake in all the colours of the rainbow all covered in vanilla buttercream and chocolate ganache and topped with rainbow meringues, flowers and glitter. Here are a few tips if you are thinking of making one too:

  • I mixed a few drops of gel food colouring into vanilla cake batter to make the rainbow layers. I find these give a brighter colour than the supermarket liquid colours. 
  • I baked the layers separately (yes, it took ages!) in a 20cm straight sided cake tin.
  • When icing the cake I started with a very thin, smooth layer of icing all over the cake, often called the crumb coat. I then popped the entire cake in the deep freeze for about thirty minutes to set and harden before icing it. This made it much easier and neater! 
  • I used this chocolate ganache recipe to go on top of the vanilla buttercream icing. Remember to let it cool before pouring it over the cake. 


How to make a rainbow birthday cake.
Birthday cake with rainbow layers.


Drip cake topped with meringues.



I will be taking a little break next week while the kids are still on holiday but will be back in May with some lip smackingly delicious Italian inspired recipes, don’t miss those! 

Cook’s notes for the meringues:

  • I used a plastic disposable piping bag for this messy meringue mixture. I have also included a picture below of the nozzle that I used. 

Meringue piping nozzle.
  • You can use as many colours as you like but I would use 2-4. I used red, yellow and blue for the meringues on top of the birthday cake.
  • Use 2 drops of gel food colouring per colour for bold, bright meringues or a single drop per colour for a lighter more subtle colour. I used two drops for the meringues in these pictures.


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RAINBOW MERINGUES


Makes 15 medium sized meringues


Rainbow meringue tutorial.



2 large egg whites, room temperature
100g castor sugar
small pinch of fine salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
gel food colouring

Step 1.) Preheat your oven to 120°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. 

Step 2.) Place the egg whites in a large bowl. Whisk until stiff peaks form when the beater is lifted. Add the castor sugar one tablespoonful at a time, whisking well between each addition. The mixture should have a smooth texture, not grainy. Whisk in the salt and vanilla extract

Step 3.) Place a drop or two (see cook’s notes above) of gel food colouring inside the piping bag near the nozzle. Use a skewer to scrape the drop up the side of the piping bag, i.e. the bag should have streaks of colour running up the sides. Spoon the meringue into the bag. 

Step 4.) Pipe the meringues onto the tray, allowing some space between for spreading. Bake for 1 hour. Switch the oven off, keep the oven closed and leave the meringues for a further hour. 

Step 5.) Allow the meringues to cool. Store in an airtight container. 





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Competition Time!

Delicious baked treats


Those of you who follow me on Instagram will have seen me raving about my latest favourite account – @josieluvslocal. Her passion for local products is inspiring! Jo and I are both crazy about Cape Town and supporting our local producers and have decided to team up for a fun (and delicious) giveaway for our Capetonian followers! 

One lucky follower will be spoiled with their choice of treats from CupcakesandCouscous.com, yum! Keep an eye on the @josieluvslocal Instagram account where every day this week she will be posting another delicious treat. Give us a follow, tag your friends and you could be our winner. Too easy y’all. 

So remember, local is lekker… and good luck! 


The T’s and C’s: 

  • Competition starts Monday 27 March and closes midnight on Friday 31 March. 
  • Entrants must be Cape Town residents (our treats probably won’t fare well in the post!). 
  • Prize will be hand delivered to the winner on an agreed date. 
  • The winner may choose one treat from the nine that are featured on Instagram during the course of the competition. 
  • The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Saturday 1 April.
Tasty tea time treats

Semolina, coconut and marmalade cakes

 Semolina, coconut and marmalade mini cakes.

I could not resist this recipe when I came across it – the title alone has me dreaming of soft cake drenched in sticky citrus deliciousness. It is adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi from their book Jerusalem. I also happen to have an excess of marmalade in my fridge and adore anything with coconut in it so this one had my name written all over it!

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A Train Party

Train cake with buttercream icing and fondant.
October was a rather hectic but very exciting month here at Cupcakes and Couscous HQ. Chaos continued to reign on the home front as renovations went on (we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, hooray!), my sister visited us from the U.K (double hooray!) and we had a couple of special family birthdays – my Dad, and my youngest James who turned two. He is completely obsessed with all things train related and so it was a no brainer as to what his party theme would be. I thought that this week I would share a few snaps from the day, perhaps they will give you a few ideas if you have a train party coming up.

Platform 2 birthday crossing sign.


The decor was heavily inspired by a couple of pics I saw on good old Pinterest. There were tons of train party related pins as you can imagine, such fantastic ideas that I probably would not have thought of myself. I went for a blue and green colour scheme and chose the following ideas:
  • the snacks were served in a train. I painted disposable foil oven trays with blue and green craft paint, stuck black paper circles on the sides for wheels and strung them together with twine. I then used old cardboard boxes to make a train to go at the front (decorated in blue and green of course), lined the carriages with blue and green tissue paper and filled them up with delicious eats. 
  • a cardboard “birthday crossing” sign with paper lights underneath, and another sign that said “Platform 2”. 
  • “Thanks for chugging by” party packs displayed in an open suitcase marked “Baggage Claim”. 
  • the children played pass-the-parcel with train songs as the music. 
  • A train craft where the children could glue their own train pictures using shapes that I had pre-cut and cotton wool. (Apologies for the terrible photo!)

Food and decor ideas for a train party.


For the food I served a selection of nibbles – fruit and bran muffins, pretzels, crudités, train shaped sugar cookies, fresh fruit, cheese and train crossing biscuits made out of wafer biscuits. It looked rather sweet served up in the train carriages.


Cookie ideas for a train party.
Cookie ideas for a train party.


The main event of course, was the cake. I decided to make a simple round cake decorated with fondant cut outs and topped with a fondant train cake topper. It worked out great as I was able to make all of the fondant goodies a few days ahead of the party (less stress on the day!). I baked the cakes the day before the party, then on the morning of the big day I simply whipped up a batch of icing, iced the cake and popped all the decorations on.


How to make a fondant train cake topper.

Easy fondant train cake topper.


Here are a few more details on how I put the cake together:
  • I baked two 22cm vanilla cakes. I levelled off the bottom cake to make it easier to stack the other on on top, but I left the top one rounded to give it a “hilly” appearance. 
  • The cake was iced with a thin layer of pale blue buttercream icing. 
  • When it came to making the fondant train I referred to this easy tutorial, adding my own touches here and there. 
  • I also used fondant to make the train tracks (I used a sharp knife to score lines into them to give them a more woody look), clouds, “tunnels” with rocks around them, apple trees and hills. 
  • I finished the cake off by piping a little bit of green buttercream icing around the base to look like grass. 

Train cake.


If you have a train party planned for your little one then hopefully this has given you a bit of inspiration. If you have hosted a train party lately I would love to hear about it! 

Snacks for a train party.

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