Walk on the wild side

Nick Makrides is on a mission to inspire people to get creative with their baking. Photo: supplied
Nick Makrides is on a mission to inspire people to get creative with their baking. Photo: supplied

Nick Makrides is on a mission to inspire people to bake, but more importantly to get creative and make something only they can make.

''Sugar Rebels is a rebellion against what everyone else is doing with desserts.''

Sugar Rebels, by Nick Makrides, published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $36.99
Sugar Rebels, by Nick Makrides, published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $36.99

It is not a rebellion against eating less sugar.

''We should definitely eat less sugar than we do now. Too much of anything is not good for you, especially sugar.''

Makrides, an Australian, spent time in the navy and trained as a graphic designer before trying his hand as a pastry chef.

He now mixes talents as a pastry chef with his love of graphic design and food photography in The Scran Line (scran means food in the Royal Australian Navy) - a food channel where he creates video tutorials to inspire people to get into the kitchen and bake.

''I want you guys to learn a bunch of different techniques from my recipes so that you can then begin creating your own designs based on things that inspire you.''

Sugar Rebels is designed so that given one of the ''basic'' cake and icing recipes in the first chapter, bakers can then adapt them to make one of his creations - from cupcakes and layer cakes to freakshakes and macaroons, all decorated in creative ways from a gold chocolate skull on a Halloween cake to a spiky cactus.

These are not quick and easy recipes, but more a way to enjoy an afternoon in the kitchen - perfect for rainy winter days.


Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied
Mint choc-chip cupcakes

I get a tweet from Yolanda Gampp one day saying: ''Hey Nick, let's collab.'' So, naturally, I pee myself a little from excitement and then reply, ''Yes!''

First thing I do is start sketching. That's the first step for all my desserts. Yo's fave flavour is mint choc-chip, so I knew it had to be that flavour. This particular cupcake was all about freakshakes, which were trending at the time. Once it was sketched, I sent the design to Yo. She loved it.

The next step was to bake it and test it out. Now, when I sketch my desserts, more often than not they come out looking exactly the same as the sketch on the first try, with some minor adjustments. I know! I'm still just as surprised as you are that that actually happens.

This particular cupcake looked nothing like the original sketch. It was a disaster on the first try, but I had all the elements there in front of me, so I played around with some different shapes and styles and it turned out absolutely amazing in the end.

Yo loved it, she caked it, cos, you know, that's what Yo does. And here we are today: the most viewed video on my channel and the most iconic Scran Line cupcake next to the Bubblepop electric cupcake.

Makes 10 cupcakes

Ingredients
10 white cupcake cases

Cupcakes and doughnuts
430g plain (all-purpose) flour
265g caster (superfine) sugar
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp fine salt
125g (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
375ml (1½ cups) full-cream (whole) milk
125ml (½ cup) vegetable oil
2 Tbsp Greek yoghurt (or sour cream)
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
2 drops leaf green food-gel colouring
2 drops sky blue food-gel colouring
1 tsp peppermint extract
250g mini dark chocolate chips

Frosting
700g dark or milk chocolate buttons
100g unsalted butter
250ml (1 cup) thick (double/heavy) cream

Chocolate sauce
100g good-quality dark chocolate buttons
250g (1 cup) unsalted butter
250g brown sugar
75ml thickened (whipping) cream

Decorations
200g crushed mints
10 mint-chocolate ball candies
200g pink fairy floss (cotton candy)
20 mini paper straws, to decorate (optional)

Method

Cupcakes and doughnuts
Preheat a fan-forced oven to 140degC or a conventional oven to 160degC . Line a cupcake tin with the cupcake cases. Spray a doughnut tin with oil and use a paper towel to wipe away any excess. Set aside.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix with a hand mixer until well combined.

Next, add the softened butter and mix on low speed until the mixture reaches a crumbly, sand-like texture.

Add the eggs, milk, oil, yoghurt and vanilla, and mix on low speed until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Scrape down the side of the bowl, add the food gels and peppermint extract to the wet ingredients and mix for a final 20 seconds.

Now the batter is ready, fold in the mini chocolate chips using a spatula.

Transfer the batter to a piping bag and snip o. the end, ensuring that the hole is big enough to allow the chocolate chips through.

Pipe the batter into the doughnut baking tin, filling the moulds halfway. Give the tin a gentle tap to help any air bubbles at the bottom rise to the top.

Fill each cupcake case three-quarters of the way. Bake the doughnuts for 15 minutes and the cupcakes for 40 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool.

To get the doughnuts out of the hot doughnut tin, place a wire rack directly on top of the tin. Grip the tin and the rack with two tea towels (dish towels) and flip it over. Gently tap the base of the doughnut tin. This will allow the doughnuts to fall out easily without them tearing. Its best to do this as soon as they come out of the oven to stop them from cooking any further as the tin cools.

Chocolate sauce
For the chocolate sauce, add all the ingredients to a large, microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high, for 20 seconds at a time, mixing well between each interval until smooth.

To thin out your sauce for things like drizzling on cupcakes and cakes, simply microwave for 10 seconds at a time, stirring between each interval until its thin enough to drizzle.

Frosting
Combine the chocolate, butter and cream in a large, microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high, for 20 seconds at a time, mixing between each interval until smooth.

Once fully melted, cover with plastic wrap and leave to set. Alternatively, you can use the doubleboiler method. Fill a large saucepan one-third of the way with water and bring to the boil.

Place the chocolate, butter and cream in a large glass or metal mixing bowl and set it over the pan, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesnt touch the water. Gently stir the mixture until it is completely melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and leave to set at room temperature.

To soften the ganache to spreading or piping consistency, microwave on high for 10 seconds at a time, mixing well between each interval, until it becomes soft enough to spread easily but firm enough to hold its shape. If you soften it too much, don't panic - just let it sit at room temperature again until it firms up enough to use.

To use it in its whipped state after it has set, add it to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and start by whipping on low speed. Once it has softened a little and looks slightly paler, turn the mixer up to high and whip for 5-6 minutes until it becomes light, fluffy and pale in colour.

Assembly
Dip the top of each cupcake into the chocolate sauce, letting any excess drip off. Hold the cupcake on its side and sprinkle the top with crushed mint candy.

Core the centre of each cupcake with an apple corer (stop about 1cm from the bottom) and fill with chocolate sauce. Let the cupcakes sit for 10 minutes to allow the sauce to set a little before you start the frosting.

Fit the end of a piping bag with a large round tip, fill with chocolate ganache and frost your cupcakes in a double-doughnut swirl.

Push a cake doughnut into the ganache, upright, and drizzle over some more chocolate sauce, allowing it to drip down the side of the cupcakes. Carefully drizzle some chocolate sauce on top of the doughnut as well.

To finish your cupcakes, place a choc-mint candy ball in front of the doughnut and add a tuft of fairy floss right before serving. I also like to add little paper straws to the frosting to make it feel more like a freakshake.

Note: If its a warm day, your frosting may not be firm enough to hold the doughnut. Try adding a paper straw behind your doughnut to stop it from tipping backwards, or secure the doughnut to the cake with a toothpick to help hold it in place.

If you do use a toothpick, make sure your guests know there's a spear in the middle of their cupcake, otherwise there'll be trips to the emergency room!


Tiramisu cupcakes

The first time I had tiramisu (that wasn't my mum's) was in Italy. If you ever go to Italy (shout-out to my Italian followers), there are several things you should eat while you are there: pizza, pasta and tiramisu.

The first time I ever went to Italy I was about 12 and my mum's dream was to go to Venice. As soon as we touched down in Rome, we lost her at the airport. An hour later, she came back with pizza for all of us. It was delicious.

I visited Italy for the second time when I was 24. I spent the last day in Florence. I suddenly remembered the promise I had made myself: to try real Italian tiramisu. I've been a fan ever since.

The combination of vanilla cake, strong coffee and rich mascarpone cream-cheese frosting with a hint of chocolate will give you some serious food-coma vibes. This is my second favourite cupcake flavour of all time after red velvet.

Makes 20 cupcakes

Ingredients
20 white cupcake cases

Frosting
250g (1 cup) full-fat cream cheese blocks (not spreadable), chilled
3 Tbsp mascarpone cheese
250g (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
350g icing (confectioner's) sugar
150g (1½ cups) powdered milk (skim or full-fat)
3 tsp vanilla bean paste

Coffee mixture
3 Tbsp instant coffee
125ml (3 cup) boiling water

Cupcakes
430g plain (all-purpose) flour
265g caster (superfine) sugar
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp fine salt
125g (½cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
375ml (1½ cups) full-cream (whole) milk
125ml (½ cup) vegetable oil
2 Tbsp Greek yoghurt (or sour cream)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Chocolate sauce
100g good-quality dark chocolate buttons
250g (1 cup) unsalted butter
250g brown sugar
75ml thickened (whipping) cream

Decorations
1 batch chocolate sauce (see above)
40g sweetened cocoa powder

Method

Frosting
To prepare the frosting, place the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Alternatively, you can use a hand mixer. Mix on low speed to begin with, to help break up the cream cheese a little, then increase the speed to high for a couple of minutes to help combine the cream cheese and butter.

After a couple of minutes, stop your mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl with a spatula. Add the icing sugar, powdered milk and vanilla. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, then bring the speed back up to high. Continue beating on high speed until your frosting is fluffy and turns pale in colour.

Coffee mixture
Mix the instant coffee and boiling water in a small bowl until the coffee has dissolved.

Cupcakes
Preheat a fan-forced oven to 140degC or a conventional oven to 160degC. Line two cupcake tins with the cupcake cases.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix with a hand mixer until well combined.

Next, add the softened butter and mix on low speed until the mixture reaches a crumbly, sand-like texture.

Add the eggs, milk, oil, yoghurt and vanilla, and mix on low speed until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Scrape down the side of the bowl and mix for a final 20 seconds. Its at this point that you can add any flavourings or food-gel colourings to the batter.

Fill each case three-quarters of the way. Using an ice-cream scoop to transfer the batter to the cupcake cases makes this a quick and easy process and ensures each case contains exactly the same amount of batter so that the cupcakes bake evenly.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Once the cupcakes are baked and cooled, dip the tops into the coffee mixture, allowing it to soak in and drip down the sides. Take care not to soak them too much, otherwise the cupcake cases could separate from the cakes.

Chocolate sauce
Add all the ingredients to a large, microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high, for 20 seconds at a time, mixing well between each interval until smooth.

To thin out your sauce for things like drizzling on cupcakes and cakes, simply microwave for 10 seconds at a time, stirring between each interval until its thin enough to drizzle.

Assembly
Core the centre of each cupcake with an apple corer (stop about 1cm from the bottom) and fill it with chocolate sauce.

Fit the end of a piping bag with a Wilton 1M tip, fill it with frosting and pipe a swirl of frosting on top of each cake. Finish with a dusting of cocoa powder.


Vegan cookies cupcakes

Guys, I don't mess around when it comes to cookies-and-cream flavours.

I'm usually not a fan of cookies and cream-flavoured cakes. It's because whoever makes them doesn't add enough cookies to be able to actually taste the cookie. Not in my recipe!

Mine may as well just be a cup of cookies, but then it wouldn't be a cupcake! These cupcakes won't disappoint if you're like me and want something to actually taste like the thing it says it is.

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients
12 white cupcake cases

Vegan frosting
200g butter-flavoured Crisco shortening
100g dairy-free/vegan margarine
350g icing (confectioner's) sugar
200g (1 cup) crushed Oreo cookies

Cupcakes
160g plain (all-purpose) flour
170g (¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
40g (⅓ cup) unsweetened (Dutch) cocoa powder
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp fine salt
250ml (1 cup) coconut milk
175ml canola oil
1½ tsp apple-cider vinegar

Decorations
200g (1 cup) roughly chopped Oreo cookies
200g dairy-free or vegan chocolate, melted

Method

Frosting
Add the shortening and margarine to a large mixing bowl and whip for five minutes until it turns pale in colour. Using a stand mixer makes this process easier, but you can use a hand mixer too.

Add the icing sugar and crushed Oreos and mix on low speed until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated. Turn the mixer back up to high speed and whip for 10 minutes.

Cupcakes

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 140degC or a conventional oven to 160degC. Line a cupcake tin with white cupcake cases.

Add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix well using a hand mixer.

Next, add the coconut milk, canola oil and apple-cider vinegar. Mix on low speed until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated. Scrape down the side of the bowl and mix on low speed for a final 20 seconds.

Fill each cupcake case three-quarters of the way with mixture. Using an ice-cream scoop to transfer the batter to the cases makes this a quick and easy process and ensures the cupcakes are the same size so they bake evenly. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean.

I bake my cupcakes slowly on a low temperature. This ensures they don't colour and crack on top. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Assembly
To finish, fit a piping bag with a large round tip, fill with the frosting and pipe a large bulb on top of each cupcake. Place some roughly chopped Oreos on top and drizzle with the melted chocolate.

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