I have just come back from a trip to Marrakech.
It is an amazing city, the perfect combination of bustling, crazy, extremely fast paced souks and serene, beautiful, ancient palaces. We were staying right in the centre of the Medina, very very close to Jamaa el-Fna, the main square, which made for an eye-opening, though not entirely relaxing visit. We were woken up in the early hours of every morning by a very vocal donkey braying and a chorus of roosters.
As soon as we stepped out of the front door, we were in the midst of the souk, trying to avoid being run over by the mopeds that zoom through the tiny streets, yelling at pedestrians to jump out of their way and donkeys pulling over-loaded carts. Everywhere people shout at you, trying to attract you to look and and buy their wares.
It is impossible not to buy anything. We came home with rugs, lamps, jewellery and stacks of bowls and plates, all beautifully hand painted- I was in heaven, being an absolute crockery lover.
It is not just the thousands of plates hanging in the souks that are a thing of beauty. Every building you go into, from the riad we were staying in, to the palaces that date from the sixteenth century, is adorned with the most ornate decoration. Marrakech is famous for its tiles, and rightly so.
However, the palaces were also decorated with amazing relief carving, of both wood and stone, creating complex archways and eye catching details, even in the great heights of the vaulted ceilings. It is impossible not to be stunned by the beauty of these places, but also the craftsmanship that went into their creation.
These cupcakes are my little homage to Marrakech, playing on the shapes and designs of the city, and of course, henna, which is not only something I love but also something that is very quintessentially Marrakechian.
They are full of the flavours of the Marrakech, mainly cinnamon, which is used in both sweet and savoury Moroccan dishes.
There is also something very similar about icing a cupcake and applying henna…
‘Henna Cupcakes’- Chocolate Spiced Cupcakes with Cinnamon Icing
for the cupcakes:
240g plain flour
240g brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
Begin by melting the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once it has melted, take it off the heat. It has to be completely cool before you can use it.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix together the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until they resemble sand. Then add the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
In a jug, whisk together the milk and eggs. Add about 2/3 of this mixture to the flour mixture and beat to combine. When it is well mixed, add the rest.
When the chocolate is really cool, stir it in.
Spoon the batter into cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes are firm to the touch with a slight spring.
for the icing:
400g icing sugar
splash of milk, if needed
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
Beat the icing sugar and butter together really well until it is completely combined. Add a splash of milk if needed to make it a silky, icing consistency. But you don’t want it too runny if you are going to pipe it, so go easy on the milk!
Put about 1/4 of the icing into a separate bowl and add the cinnamon. You want it to be a nice brown colour. Mine wasn’t really brown enough to stand out well, so if you think it needs to be a darker colour, add more. Be careful though- you don’t want the cinnamon to be way too strong! Keep tasting as you add it. You can always add a splash of brown food colouring if the cinnamon just isn’t dark enough.
Put the icing into a piping bag with a small nozzle and pipe your favourite henna patterns!