Birthday muffin madness

My fortieth birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted some suitably interesting cakes to take to work to celebrate with.

My first idea was to somehow produce 40 different flavours, either all in one cake, or spread between a few different cakes, but that was obviously a bit too ambitious. Instead, I baked 40 muffins, with 10 each of some interesting flavour combinations which I hoped my colleagues would appreciate, or at least, not be too horrified by.

Each of the recipes below makes 12 muffins, so I had a few extra to taste before inficting them on my workmates. All 40 of the muffins I took to work were eaten, and seemed to go down pretty well, with only one complaint (from someone who tried all 4 varieties, and liked 3 of them). I took a picture of the remaining muffins, but it spoils the surprise of the flavour combinations I picked, so it’s at the bottom of the page. Most of these recipes were based on those from Muffin Magic, by Susannah Blake, which I highly recommend.

Last year I made a banana and bacon cake, which didn’t turn out quite as well as I’d hoped, being far too dry, and barely tasting of either banana or bacon. It wasn’t a complete disaster though, so I chose that as my first flavour combination, and the changes I made improved the end result far above the original; they were fairly moist, and the banana flavour was pretty strong. The bacon was rather more subtle, but definitely detectable. Here’s the recipe I used:

  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 medium-large bananas, pureed (300-400g)
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 90ml milk
  • 60ml sunflower oil
  • 300g streaky bacon rashers
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour and baking soda
  3. Line grill pan with foil, to catch the grease (it gets used later), and grill the bacon until slightly crispy
  4. Chop the bacon into 12 postage stamp sized squares for decoration, and finely dice the rest
  5. In another bowl, stir sugar, egg, milk, oil, bacon grease and the diced bacon into the banana puree
  6. Pour the wet mixture into the dry, and stir together until no dry flour remains
  7. Spoon batter into muffin tins, and top with the decorative bacon pieces
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes, until tops are lightly browned. Leave to cool in tin for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack

Next up was something a bit more standard, though still slightly unusual; chocolate and chilli. When I tasted the first one, I was a bit disappointed, as I couldn’t really taste the chilli, but the big chunks of chocolate were fun. However, as soon as I swallowed the first mouthful, I got a great aftertaste from the chilli. An excellent result. I don’t have the chillies in front of me at the moment to be able to specify the exact variety, but I think they were finger chillies, about 1-2 inches long, one red and two green. Herewith the recipe:

  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped into large pea-sized chunks
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 250ml plain yoghurt
  • 2tbsp milk
  • 85g butter
  • 3 fresh finger chillies, very finely chopped, including seeds
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, cocoa and caster sugar into a large bowl. Add in the chocolate and about a third of the chillies, and mix roughly together.
  3. Melt the butter with the rest of the chillies, then mix in the egg, yoghurt and milk
  4. Pour the wet mixture into the dry, and stir until no dry flour remains, then spoon into muffin tins
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes, until risen and not quite firm to the touch.
  6. Leave to cool in tin for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack

The third batch was based on an ice cream I made last year as an experiment, which turned out really well, but I only got to eat half of it before I mistakenly put it back into the microwave rather than the freezer after the second helping. I hadn’t actually turned the microwave on, but it was in there long enough to completely melt before I realised my mistake. This was apple and cheese, which as an ice cream had both flavours strongly present. With the muffin version, I couldn’t ruin it by leaving them out of the freezer (or even by putting them in), but the cheese was almost completely undetectable. The apple came through pretty well, though. I think either more cheese or a more mature variety would improve this combination.

  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1/2tsp baking soda
  • tiny pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 200g cheddar, grated
  • 100ml milk
  • 115g soft brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 400g bramley apples, peeled (but keep the peel for decoration) and grated
  1. Preheat oven to 200°C
  2. Sift flour, baking soda and cinnamon into a large bowl, and mix roughly together
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, cheese, milk, sugar and oil, then stir in the apples
  4. Pour the wet mixture into the dry, and stir until no dry flour remains
  5. Spoon the mixture into muffin tins, and top with pieces of apple peel
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes, until risen and golden. Leave to cool in tin for a couple of minutes, before transferring to a wire rack

Those three were all well and good, but other people have thought of them before; I found plenty of similar recipes on the internet for those combinations. However, my fourth combination was something from my childhood which I was thankful to find apparently untested as a muffin by anyone else. There were already plenty of savoury muffin recipes using Marmite on the internet, but I know from experience that Marmite and honey on toast is a great combination, though it takes some getting used to, and you have to be very careful to avoid removing the skin from the roof of your mouth, as it is quite abrasive. So here’s my recipe for honey and Marmite muffins, which you should definitely try at least once. Unless you absolutely hate Marmite of course, but then again, this may be what changes your mind. The idea here is a subtle complement to the honey, rather than an out and out Marmite extravaganza; for that you may as well use one of the many Marmite, bacon and cheese savoury muffin recipes out there.

  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 225ml milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4tbsp clear honey
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 85g butter, melted
  • 2 “heaped” tsp Marmite, or more, depending how much you like it
  1. Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl, and roughly mix in the almonds
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, egg, honey and Marmite, and stir until the honey dissolves
  3. Pour wet mixture into dry, and stir until no dry flour remains
  4. Spoon batter into muffin tins. Optionally drizzle extra Marmite on the tops
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes, until risen and golden. Leave to cool in tin for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack

Mad muffins Here’s the picture of all four varieties that I promised – click on it for the full-size version.

On a related note, I’ve just been presented with this amazing birthday cake by my family. It’s sitting on a big pile of photos showing various embarrassing moments, and a few not so embarrassing moments, from my life so far. Thank you very much to all of you who had a hand in this. Click on the images to see the full-size versions:

Fabulous cake and photo montage Amazing cake, rear detail

An amazing cake

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One Response to Birthday muffin madness

  1. Pingback: Breakfast Burrito | One Wheel, No Brain

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