In which I share an Easter recipe, do some work for charidee and revisit David Sedaris...
Spring has fully sprung and Easter is nearly here. It was with regret that James and I were forced to cancel our Sycamore Seeds holiday sessions but I thought I would share the recipe for one of the seasonal treats we were going to make.
These little cakes are pretty easy as they’re made with oil rather than butter so don’t require any creaming. For me the eggs have to be Cadbury’s Mini Eggs as I find the smell completely irresistible but feel free to substitute your own favourite nest-fillers.
Easter Nest Cupcakes (Makes approx 18)
For the cakes
200g caster sugar
125 ml veg oil
1 courgette, grated
50g chopped, toasted hazelnuts
200g self raising flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
For the nests
300g milk chocolate
1 tsp vegetable oil
6 Shredded Wheat
54 (150g) Mini Eggs
Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a cupcake tray with cases. In a large bowl mix the eggs, sugar and oil. Add the courgette, nuts and raisins/sultanas then sift over the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Mix thoroughly but quickly then put a spoonful in each cupcake case. Only fill the cases about halfway up – the cakes will rise as they bake and we need to leave room for the nests to sit on top! Bake for 15-20 mins or until a skewer/knife comes out clean then leave to cool.
To make the nests, melt the chocolate either in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water or using short bursts in the microwave. Stir in the oil (this stops the nests setting quite so hard). Crumble the Shredded Wheat into strands and add it to the melted chocolate. Mix thoroughly with a spoon or spatula. Make sure every stand is coated. Put a spoonful of nest mixture on top of each cooled cupcake and use the back of the spoon or your fingers to shape it into a ring. It’s OK if you can see the top of the cupcake in the middle. Put three Mini Eggs in the middle of each nest and chill the cupcakes until the chocolate is set.
If Ifs And Ands Were Pots And Pans
Feel free to substitute any other nuts or dried fruit for the hazelnuts and raisins or to leave them out entirely.
You could also add spices or orange zest to the cakes.
I like the twig-like qualities of Shredded Wheat but Rice Krispies or similar would be tasty if less authentically nest-looking.
The one thing wouldn’t change is the courgette - something harder like a grated carrot won’t get soft during the relatively sort baking time.
Let me know if you try them!
I made the nests the other day with some kids at Jumping Beans, a holiday project run by Hackney-based charity Children With Voices. I’ve been volunteering with them for a year now, cooking lunches and leading occasional food-based workshops. All the kids were great and we had a lot of fun with the nests. I think my favourite reaction came from one little boy who started off by saying: “This might be the greatest thing I’ve ever done!” before getting a grump on because he wasn’t allowed to eat his nest.
He submitted this feedback whilst in the grump, initially claiming that he liked “nothing” and that “nothing” was fun. After I told him that he’d hurt my feelings he amended it and added a heartbreaking postscript about being disappointed that he’d let his team down. So sweet.
Last but not least, Easter always prompts me to revisit my favourite David Sedaris story, Jesus Shaves. If you haven’t read it, please do (or listen to him read it for This American Life). It’s not only very, very funny but educational too. It’s from this story that I learned that Easter eggs aren’t always delivered by a rabbit - in France they come courtesy of a giant bell that flies from Rome. No really!