Friday, 6 May 2011

Macaroon disasters and emergency fairy cake substitutes

It was a good friend's birthday, and following the reasonable success (which may have possibly gone to my head) of the chocolate macaroons I made the other week, I decided to make my friend some raspberry macaroons as a present. This decision was supported by a timely recipe for raspberry macaroons by Edd from The Great British Bake Off  in this month's Good Food magazine. Easy peasy I thought.

 How wrong could one person be?

Very. They were, as Craig Revell-Horwood would say of Ann Widdecombe's dancing in 'Strictly Come Dancing' *:

'an absolute disss-arrrhh-sstarr darling'.

I even tried them twice to see if they would work. A whole bunch of egg, the entire local shop's supply of ground almonds and a very, very messy kitchen later, my postmortem on the macaroons revealed that:

a) When, during the first batch I made, my electric handmixer started making an awful clunking noise, followed by smelling strongly of smoke and then, indeed, billowing black smoke, I should have, erm, stopped. Gallantly continuing with the first batch, and then the second, with the rather pathetic strength of my right arm and a non-electric whisk was not terribly successful.

b) Rather than simply guessing what 118 C feels like ('oww, that is very hot') I should have probably invested in a sugar thermometer

c) Crossing my fingers, sending a prayer up to the Gods of Baking and hoping for the best as I shoved a baking sheet full of congealed pink liquid into the oven most definately doesn't work

So, a bit like John Sergeant in the aforementioned Strictly, after one too many failed attempts, I finally gave up.

However, being rather a stubborn sort-of-so-and-so I am rather determined to attempt raspberry macaroons once again. Indeed, I stated quite clearly to the failed macaroons: 'I WILL NOT BE BEATEN BY YOU MACAROON! I WILL BE BACK!'. They didn't respond.

The tale sort of has a happy ending. Lacking a present for my friend, I turned to one of the new baking books I'd received for my birthday, the quite brilliant 'Peyton and Byrne: British Baking' and, raiding my emergency chocolate stash, made their double chocolate fairy cakes instead:

Peyton and Byrne Chocolate Fairy Cakes


100g good quality dark chocolate
110g unsalted butter at room temperature
100g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
2 eggs
140g plain flour
half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
100ml buttermilk

For the chocolate fudge icing

60g good quality dark chocolate
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp boiling water
90g unsalted butter
250g icing sugar
half a teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3 and line a 12 hole bun tine with paper cases
2. Melt the chocolate in a pyrex bowl over a small pan of boiling water, then set aside
3. Cream the sugars and butter together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well.
4. Fold in the melted chocolate
5. Sift the flour and bicarb and gently fold into the creamed butter mix until well combined
6. Add the vanilla and buttermilk until just well combined
7. Fill the cases three quarters full and bake for 15 minutes or until they spring back to touch. Cool on a wired rack
8. To make the icing: melt the chocolate in a pyrex glass bowl over a small pan of boiling water
9. In a jug dissolve the cocoa powder into the boiling water, then add the melted chocolate and stir
10. Cream the softened butter, add the icing sugar, vanilla, salt and chocolate mixture and beat for about another two minutes until soft and creamy
11. Spoon, spread or pipe the icing on top of the cakes. Decorate.

Baker's notes...

  • I actually only had enough ingredients to make half the icing and I found this sufficient to cover almost all the cakes (I'd already eaten a 'test' one before giving the rest to my friends)
  • These were decorated with little white chocolate stars. As you can probably see. 
  • The cakes will last you 2-3 days in an airtight container. If there are any left after the first day that is.

* I adore this show and feel totally bereft between the months of January to September when it isn't on my screen every Saturday night.


  1. I made macaroons when I started my blog about a year ago under the strict supervision of my chef mother and they turned out great (strange that!)....I tried making them on my own a few weeks back 4 times and they they were a complete disaster each time but I will try again!!!

  2. Kate, I feel for you regarding the macarons; I had three trays of similar looking ones a couple of weeks ago and it was so annoying having to bin them all. The fairy cakes look amazing :)

  3. Thank you both so much for making me feel not too alone in my failed macaroon baking experiences! It was so sad and frustrating, you're right Nic to be throwing away all the mixture and sheets upon sheets of congealed pink mess.
    Sam, I've just been reading about your beautiful rose and pistachio macaroons- once I conquered these bloomin' raspberry ones I shall aim for the great sounding rose and pistachio macaroons!

  4. I made some macaroons on Tuesday llolololl

  5. Do let the macaroons defeat you!!!!!!!

  6. Good recovery - the cupcakes look great. Sad demise for the macarons - don't give up!

  7. I've tried Edd's recipe three times. Twice they were perfect and once (for reasons I really can't understand) they were an absolute disaster. Or disss-arrrrssss-taaahhhrrr :) Who would have thought that such tiny little things could be so bloody tricky? The cupcakes look awesome though!

  8. I am SOOO pleased that you made fairy cakes and not cupcakes, I DO love cup cakes but I am worried that our little fairy cakes will disappear soon! LOL!
    GREAT cakes!
    Karen @ Lavender and Lovage


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