Courgette Cupcakes

This was... an adventure. As I'm attempting to save up for a deposit on a house, I'm making/baking birthday presents for my friends this year. This, as you might imagine, generally leads to some pretty calorific gifts. At this time of year, a lot of people are if not trying to lose the Christmas binge weight, at least trying not to put more on. A pile of cream, butter and sugar is not necessarily going to be highly appreciated.

I wanted to try to make my friend something a bit healthier for her birthday than the vegan truffles I made for someone else, or the little bags of death I put together for work Christmas gifts.

Hello, courgette cake. Or as you'll find most recipes online referring to it; zucchini cake. Americans might do a lot wrong with food (sorry, American friends, but your fast food has ruined most economically wealthy nations), but baking they do superbly. I'm not talking the fancy pants stuff France is fond of. No high end, decades to master techniques. No, just good old, what your grandmother would bake, with twists, baking. Hence the zucchini innovations.

Courgettes are high in fibre. Win. But also starchy sugars. These sugars are different to the white stuff we usually put in cakes. They, apparently, work with the body and keep blood sugar and insulin levels down, thus helping to combat the onset of type 1 diabetes. Clever.

The healthy living obsessed, MomsNet end of the interwebs is infatuated with courgette cakes. And why not? Carrot cake is a household name, and there are World War II recipes using potatoes, parsnips and beetroots (I also want to give Swedish turnip a go in cakes).

Soooo, I found a recipe with rave reviews in the comments that forwent the usual high levels of oil and sugar found in most courgette cake recipes. Lots of the commenters had altered it, switching out various ingredients to make something more bready, or a vegan friendly version. It sounded pretty versatile.

Uhhuh. This is where another gripe I have with American food comes in; measuring ingredients by volume. Eugh. Move into the 21st, no, the 20th century already! Get some bloody kitchen scales. And it's not just me, I'm glad to say.

Yeah, I am totally blaming the failed batches on the volume measurements. As someone mentioned in the comments on that article, way back in 2007; different countries use different sized cups. I have two cup measures, both measuring a slightly different amount for a "cup". There's also the matter of packing, where something like sugar can sit loosely in a cup, or get packed in, even accidentally, thus rendering every cup measured slightly different.

My cupcakes using the first recipe would not cook. Not at all. 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour... just about cooked on the inside, though that "sinks while cooling" stage, but kind of dry and crispy on the outside. The only thing I did differently to the recipe was blitzed my courgettes rather than grated.

Fatal. Mistake. I did not take into account the "packing". Of COURSE a cup of pulped courgette is going to be more courgette than a cup of grated. Eejit.

Okay, so the failure was partly my fault for not taking this into account. Wouldn't have been an issue at all with weights though, would it?! Unless I was making them in space, but I wasn't. My kitchen isn't much above sea level.

Enough griping. The batter did make excellent little drop scones, and if I had added more dry ingredients to balance it out they probably would have made (masses) of perfectly good cupcakes. Instead of faffing with all of that I made my own recipe up, on the fly.

I've been making basic sponge cakes practically the same way since before I can remember. My nan taught me a very simple recipe;

~ For every egg, use 2oz of your chosen fat (Stork, butter, margarine, whatever), 2oz of sugar, and 2.5oz of flour.
~ Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
~ Add one egg at a time and give it a good mix.
~ Fold in 2.5oz of flour at a time.
~ Throw in your flavourings, chocolate etc.
~ Gas mark 4 (160c/150c fan assisted) for 15-25 minutes.

The only thing I do differently now is weigh the eggs and use the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. It doesn't make a whole lot of difference, really. Oh, and add a little flour with each egg. It helps everything bind and not split into that weird, curdled milk consistency.

To adjust for a healthier, courgette infused recipe I did the following;

~ Weighed the eggs, used half that amount of butter and sugar, an equal amount of courgette and... er, some whole wheat flour, 1/4tsp bicarb (baking soda) and 1/4 baking powder per egg.
~ Mixed in the eggs one at a time with a sprinkle of whole wheat flour.
~ Folded in the finely grated courgette (I couldn't be bothered getting the smoothie machine out again, but blitzed should work exactly the same).
~ Folded in the rest of the whole wheat flour and raising agents until it looked like my normal cake consistency. This was probably half the weight of the eggs' worth of flour but I couldn't swear to it.
~ Lots of cocoa powder, probably 1.5tbsp and a small handful of 70% chocolate chips per egg.

I gave them 15 minutes at 160c (I have an oven thermometer as my oven is cranky as Hell), then another 10.

They did not rise very much, but they were moist and fudge-y, a little like brownie, with a distinctly chocolate bitterness to them that I balanced out with a good dollop of chocolate cream cheese icing; full fat cream cheese, lots of icing sugar or same equal parts butter and cream cheese and less icing sugar**, cocoa powder... go wild. I cut them in half and put the icing in the middle, making them easier to pack in a clear bag with a pretty ribbon. No pic as I was in a rush.

I thought they were great. I was not there for the consuming by the birthday girl and guy (and their dinky toddler), but I think they went down well.

I will experiment more. For now I have a whole bunch of flat, but tasty enough, fairy cakes to get through... I already ate all of the drop scones.

**Cream cheese melts when it comes into contact with icing sugar (powdered/confectioner's sugar). I have no idea why and Google won't tell me. Due to this issue pure cream cheese icing needs SO MUCH SUGAR, or balancing out with some butter. Either way makes for calorific greatness.
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