The ‘Stop to Smell the Roses’ Cake

Not that a chocolate or an orange flavoured cake doesn’t entice me substantially, but that winter morning demanded a distraction from the familiar. I was fortunate Sumayya Usmani’s ‘Mountain Berries and Dessert Spices’ had sailed from it’s confines of the store and landed amid the cozy comforts of my living room. The author is driven by authenticity and her recipes are brimming with tradition. She paints the book with dishes showcasing the magic of rose petals, cardamom, berries, pistachios and other produce native to her homeland.

The love for baking isn’t new. You know that. Let’s just say this cake is a product of inspiration, madness and wild curiosity. For the sake of nostalgia, accompany me on a trip down memory lane, will you?
In Kannada, there is a phrase – ‘MaTa MaTa MaDHyana’. It refers to blazing afternoons when the sun is at it’s peak, the air warm, the roads desolate and the atmosphere blanketed by laziness. These breezy summer afternoons in the 80’s and early 90’s meant mom-made orange candy set in little ice cube trays or mom-made lemonade with pungent hints of cardamom and a tinge of salt. They were special treats stored away for school breaks only. These drinks were rarely(I mean, really rarely) punctuated with a rose drink that many of you are familiar with, RoohAfza. The cool hit from the floral notes of rose intertwined with sugar and hued in a deep fuschia-red was nothing short of a celebration on lackadaisical Banglaorean afternoons. Then there was also the coveted, ‘Rose Milk’. Another blush toned concoction that got the tastebuds singing.
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Finally one morning , in the present day, I wondered why I have absentmindedly ignored this mellifluous flavour. If anything, my cakes deserve to feel special! The previous evening was spent scouring for rose petals. A Chinese market bottled thousands of tiny rose buds meant to be steeped in tea. I bought a handful and chalked up a simple recipe.
This egg free cake is entangled with rose petals and mildly laced with cardamom. Dousing the cake, is a simple sugary rose glaze. Bear in mind, this cake is brimming with the rose flavour. Like an opera singer’s high pitched chorus. Beautiful, at the same time, strong. Hence, I suggest you to feel free to play around with the Rose water measurements. We were happy with the outcome but take it down a notch if you like.
This cake takes me back to a simpler time and parallelly transports me to an ethereal one. One that my taste buds are familiar with and yet oddly, not. I hope you like this as much as we did!
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RECIPE FOR : The ‘Stop to smell the roses’ CAKE (for a 6 inch EGGFREE cake)
INGREDIENTS
For the Cake
3/4th cup Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup of Granulated sugar
2-3 green cardamoms powdered with a pinch of sugar
1 tsp Rose water
3 tbsp Oil (I used canola)
1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp Vinegar
1/ 2 cup Milk
Dried organic Rose Petals (Optional)

For the Glaze
2-2.5 tsp of water/milk
3/4 cup of icing sugar
1 tsp of Rose water(optional)
A drop of Pink food colouring (optional)
For the Garnish(Optional)
Chopped Pistachios
Dried organic Rose Petals

METHOD
1. Preheat the oven to 350F
2. Cut a round piece of parchment the size of the base of the cake pan and keep aside. Grease the entire cake pan and place the parchment to cover the floor of the pan. Then dust the sides with the flour.
3. In a medium sized bowl, bring together the dry ingredients and give it a whisk.(Self        Raising Flour, Baking Soda, Granulated Sugar & Powdered Cardamom)
4. To the dry ingredient mix, add, Oil, Rose water and 1/2 tbsp of vinegar.
5. In a small bowl make buttermilk by mixing milk with 1/2 tsp of vinegar. Once it curdles, add it to the remaining ingredients.
6. Mix well to ensure there are no lumps.
7. Add rose petals(optional)and gently fold it in and pour into the prepared cake an.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
9. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by mixing together, icing sugar, rose water(optional)    and milk/water. Add a drop of pink food colouring if you like and keep aside.
10. Once the cake is out of the oven, keep it on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Gently slide a        knife along the sides to loosen it from the pan.Then carefully turn the pan upside down onto a tray to make sure it comes out in one piece.
11. Once completely cool, pour the glaze on the cake and garnish with rose petals & pistachios.

I hope you like this cake as much as we did: )
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Masala Chai Cupcakes, served with a bout of nostalgia…

Let’s take a break from the Italian adventures. I promise not for long. Today, I invite you on a different kind of journey, a trip down memory lane, as I dive deep into the depths of many memories back home. Come, travel with me as I make short stops and immerse in chunks of my past…

♦While the smoldering sun seeped through iron-grilled window panes, the kitchen is ridden with the rattle of pots & pans and infused & bursting with the scent of aromatic spices. It’s 4 pm & amma needs her usual cup of Chai. Dried tea leaves are brewed in hot water & enriched with Ginger, Cardamom, Tulasi, Star Anise & Cloves. The heat leaches out all the goodness in these spices & although subtle they wind up revamping it into royalty.Then comes the milk that our milk-man has delivered fresh in the morning. Boiled again for good measure, strained and served. But for her, Masala Chai is more than just tea-time. It’s a time to immerse in herself, albeit for a few minutes. A time to wash away monotonous responsibilities( although I highly doubt a mother’s heart lends her permission to do that), a time to submerge in calm & forget the challenges of life or at the least keep them aside for a short while. I like to think it’s a rudimentary nectar she takes assistance from to keep herself sane from the obligations & madness that perpetually surround her.

♦Maybe I should share with you my earliest memory of drinking Chai. It was the time when I metamorphosised into a night owl owing to the pressures of student life. Yes, dentistry changed me plenty and that can occupy a whole new blogpost in itself but gulping cups of warm milk-tea was a routine confined only to certain nightmares called internals. I say “drinking” because it was certainly not something I relished. Never an indulgence, just an infaliable drug that I yielded to in order to pull an all nighter.

♦Like my father, I have failed to fantasize tea in this form, unable to dwell in it’s glories & rhapsodize it’s greatness. However, I still label myself a teophile because I happen to admire it in it’s simplest attire. Black or green with a squeeze of lemon or orange. Maybe some mint, seldom a shred of chocolate or ginger! The husband unlike me is enraptured by the kick, power & sweetness of Masala Chai. He is beyond devoted. Those rare days when my parents visited us, mother & son-in-law were able to toss out awkward formalities, all over a warm cup of Masala Chai.

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My tea collection at home

♦I realise I still haven’t made a mention of the 6 foot, 22 year old baby we had with us over weekends while in Bangalore, my youngest brother. He like my mother considers this drink an essential, a staple. I remember nudging him to get to his books whilst tempting with a cup of Chocolate Chai. Worked like a charm, every time.
His passion extends beyond the seclusion of home. Like when he excitedly told us about bustling mornings in Old Hyderabad where he woke up to Chai, Bun & Osmania biscuits. Or when he suggested I try an Iced Chai Spice Latte with condensed milk & whole spices after religiously learning it from a You Tube video.

While I sing songs of nostalgia, I hate to admit that I’m still learning & compelling my tastebuds to render itself to it’s grandeur. Let me clarify, that doesn’t mean I lack appreciation. I do and a special one at that when the Rain Gods pay a visit! Despite the little detests, I am thankful & Masala Chai has invariably become a big part of my life. This recipe is an homage to this warm beverage, an attempt to fall in love with the magic it exudes. Because we all know, if there’s one drink that stands in equal might with Filter Kaapi, it’s this!

My Masala Chai Cupcakes are dedicated to people like me who prefer desserts to pretty much anything else. To people like me who don’t particularly love Chai but are open to similar flavour profiles.
To the ones who’ve already proclaimed their love for Masala Chai because every bite of this rich cupcake is synonymous with a sweet, fragrant sip of warmth. 
And lastly to the brave ones who are willing to experiment & surrender to something new.
Whoever you are and whatever category you find yourself in, I urge you to try these cupcakes, you will not be disappointed.
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As always these cupcakes are egg free, and suffused with freshly ground lavanga (cloves), elaichi (cardamom), Chakra Moggu (Star anise) & freshly grated ginger. They remain the true stars of this show. As the mortar & pestle did their bit, it was almost calming to drink in whiffs of these magical spices and not to forget, redolent of many special times.Tea decoction is added in good measure as well and topped with a generous amount of Chai infused buttercream.
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RECIPE FOR EGGLESS MASALA CHAI CUPCAKES (Makes 6)

INGREDIENTS
MASALA CHAI CUPCAKES:
3/4th  cup All Purpose Flour + 1 tbsp

1/2 cup Granulated sugar
1/2  tsp Baking Soda
3 tbsp oil
1/2 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 cup milk + 1 tsp white vinegar to make buttermilk
2-3 tbsp of Tea Decoction ( I used Tetley tea bags.)
1.5 tsp of Chai Spice- 

2 cloves
4-5 Elaichi/Green Cardamom pods
2-3 small pods of Star Anise

1- tsp of Fresh grated Ginger
1/4 tsp of powdered Ginger

CHAI SPICE BUTTERCREAM:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/2 cup of Icing sugar
4 tsp of heavy cream/milk
A pinch of salt
1- 1.5 tsp of Chai Spice

Others:
Crumbled cookies or biscuits

METHOD:
MASALA CHAI CUPCAKES
◊ Make the Chai Spice by grinding Cardamom, Cloves, Star Anise. Add powdered ginger as well.
◊ Preheat oven to 350 F and place cupcake liners in the tray.
◊Make Tea Decoction by boiling 1/4 cup of water and immersing 2 tea bags. Allow it to brew.
I used Tetley bags but tea leaves can be used too. The Cardamom peel can be added to this decoction as it brews.

◊Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl .(All purpose flour, Granulated Sugar, Baking Soda, Chai Spice)
◊Incorporate the wet ingredients-Oil, White vinegar & Grated ginger
◊Make buttermilk by incorporating 1 tsp white vinegar into 1/2 cup milk. Add this to the remaining ingredients. Whisk well to ensure there are no lumps.
◊ Add 2 tbsp of tea decoction and stir it into the batter.
◊ Next, taste! And I consider this the most important step because if the batter needs any extra spice or tea, then it’s important to add it at this point. The batter should taste like Masala chai

◊ Bake for 17-22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
◊ Cool completely.

CHAI SPICE BUTTERCREAM
◊ Beat softened butter and heavy cream for a minute until creamy.
◊ Add the icing sugar in parts and beat well.
◊ Incorporate the Chai Spice according to taste. I added a teaspoon.

TO ASSEMBLE-
Frost the completely cooled cupcakes with the Chai Spice Buttercream and top with a dollop (or more!).
Crumble Almond Biscotti or any cookie/rusk on top.
NOTE:
1) Don’t restrict yourself to just these ingredients. Cinnamon, Tulasi etc can be added too. Experiment with individual proportions as well.

2)The quantity of chai spice in the cupcakes & the buttercream can be varied depending on your taste buds.
3) If you’re curious about the flower deco – It’s a buttercream blossom made using Wilton tip #104
4) I apologize for this very , very long post!

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Ode to an Indian Summer – Wholewheat Eggless Elaichi Cupcakes with Mango Custard & Shrikhand Frosting

I read somewhere that..”An empty stomach and a full mind do not let you sleep” or in the likes of it. Obsession, Passion, whatever you choose to call it, the mind refuses to believe in logic and the results are insomnia and groggy mornings. You must wonder how this is pertinent in an article regarding cupcakes & frosting, let me clarify. It is when the sun hides in the horizon, paints the sky with a dark navy blue and the night is saturated with silence, that my brain ostensibly decides to plug the switch on. Ideas flash like light bulbs, sometimes riveting, sometimes not and refuse to abate until appeased. If not for my husband who is constantly wary of my whereabouts in the kitchen or my art table, I wouldn’t  make the effort to sleep for 8 hrs a day. I’ve always been in my opinion that 24 hrs is far too less….why spend prized moments in dreamland when you can paint a prettier picture with reality.

Just a brief halt before we get on to today’s food journey, I’m happy & humbled to share with you all that I’m now officially a Cake Decorating Instructor (Wilton Method Instructor)! What excites me most is that this is synonymous with the few things I love aka Art, Baking & Teaching! Although I have been teaching art & craft for about 3 years now this is a new arena for me to explore and I’m beyond excited…Here are some of my creations….
An official website is on the way but please do check out my page on INSTAGRAM
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Now, we go back to this summer recipe!IMG_1779
It was on one such night when my mind was hovering around my caking obsession,  that it dawned upon me make these cupcakes. I’m all for chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut & oreos but a large part me & my food come from a land where every flavour is infused with the richness of spices. Be it a savory or a sweet dish, we are almost lost without them!  Therefore,  I decided to stick to my roots & conjure up something that included my love for baking with an Indian twist. The result….Elaichi Cupcakes with Mango Custard and a Shrikhand Frosting aka a recipe that screams an Indian Summer! Let me elaborate…
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Elaichi/ Cardamom with it’s sweet, pungent taste is a mandatory in most Indian desserts and nothing can contest a piping hot cup of Elaichi tea/chai after a tiring day at work. They work up their magic in these cupcakes too and the entire kitchen is suffused with the aroma they emanate.
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Mangoes are a part & parcel of Indian summers. Grandmothers pickle the raw ones while the ripe ones are demolished by the grandchildren! My mom erased the boredom out of regular humdrum dinners by indulging us in a particularly decadent yet simple dessert…she squeezes out pulps of the raw mangoes and mixes it with a little milk, sugar & Elaichi to eat with chapatis/rotis & summer dinners suddenly became exciting! The Mango Custard I’ve used in this recipe is inspired from that and it makes for a delicious filling in these elaichi cupcakes.
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Shrikhand is a creamy, delicious dessert made with hung yogurt & sugar and risen into added vigor with the addition of Saffron! Now, Saffron,…reputed to be rather expensive but, aside from bringing in a natural “golden like the rising sun” tinge to the food, the aroma it exudes is beyond ordinary. It’s no surprise that my mom always insists that I incorporate saffron in the sweet dishes I offer to the Gods! The BEST accompaniment with Shrikhand has to be Pooris ( very bluntly, deep fried rotis) and weekend breakfasts with my grandma were synonymous with this but I’ve used it to dress up these cupcakes!
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Like Helen Keller said, “Alone you can do so little, together we can do so much.”
The union of Elaichi, Mango & the Shrikhand is divine but I take no credit because the discovery goes back ages to my forefathers and all I can is that I’m beyond grateful. I’m thankful for the inspiration and the chance to experiment with creative diversity.
Also I’ve used wholewheat in this recipe given it’s health benefits and as always it’s eggless too. Not to worry about the cakes being dense and all. They are super moist, spongy and the golden yellow luscious custard and the creamy aromatic frosting make this a perfect dessert to indulge in.
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I’m going to stop my chitchatting and get on with the recipe….I do hope you try this dessert and do let me know if you liked it!


RECIPE FOR EGGLESS WHOLEWHEAT ELAICHI CUPCAKES WITH MANGO CUSTARD AND SHRIKHAND FROSTING(Makes 8 regular sized cupcakes)

INGREDIENTS
FOR ELAICHI CUPCAKES
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp oil
1/2 white vinegar + 1/2 tsp
1/2 cup milk( I used skim)
4 green elaichis/cardamoms + a pinch of sugar
FOR MANGO CUSTARD
2 tbsp vanilla custard powder
4 tbsp milk + 1 cup milk
2.5 – 3 tbsp mango puree
1 tbsp sugar + 1 tbsp sugar
FOR SHRIKHAND
2 cups thick curd ( I used 3%) hung overnight in a cheese cloth
1-1.5 tbsp granulated sugar
1 green cardamom+ a pinch of sugar
a good pinch of saffron strandsMETHOD
To make Elaichi Cupcakes
1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line the tray with cupcake liners.
2. Preparing the elaichi powder – Remove the seeds from the elaichi pods. Add them to a mortar & pestle along with a pinch of sugar and crush them into a fine powder.
3. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients- wholewheat flour, sugar, baking soda and elaichi powder.
4. Make buttermilk by adding 1/2 tsp vinegar to the milk. Add this to the large bowl (with the dry ingredients)along with oil and vinegar. Mix well and ensure there are no lumps.
5. Fill 2/3 rds of the cupcake liners with the batter and bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Cool Completely.
 To make Mango Custard- 
1. Heat 1 cup of milk with 1 tbsp sugar over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a small cup, mix the custard powder with 4 tablespoons of cold milk.
2. Once the milk is boiling, put off the stove. Add the custard-milk mixture to the hot milk while whisking in one hand. Make sure there are no lumps. Let it cool.
3. Add the mango puree to the cooled custard along with 1 tbsp sugar and blitz using a hand blender.(SEE NOTES BELOW)
4. Transfer to a piping bag and keep it ready. If the mixture is too thin, just keep it in the freezer for 5 minutes.
To make Shrikhand- 
1.Transfer the hung curd from the cheesecloth to a medium sized bowl.
2. Make elaichi powder with 1 elaichi as explained above.
3. Prepare the saffron- In a tiny cup, heat 1 tsp of milk or add a tsp of hot milk and add a good pinch of lightly crushed saffron strands. ( You can lightly crush them using your fingers as you add them into the cup). Let it sit for a minute or 2 and you will see a beautiful yellow-orange colour imparted to the milk.
3. Add this milk to the hung curd along with sugar and elaichi powder. Fold them into the hung curd very gently for a minute.
4. Transfer to a piping bag and keep in the freezer for 5-10 minutes so that it firms up a little.
TO ASSEMBLE CUPCAKES
1. Using a large piping tip, just core out the centre of the cupcakes. ( I used my piping tips to do that)
2. Fill with the Mango custard.
3. Frost the cupcakes with the creamy Shrikhand and garnish with elaichi powder and saffron strands. ( I’ve use a Wilton 2D to pipe the rosettes).
NOTES:
1. Instead of homemade Cardamom/elaichi powder you can use readymade cardamom powder too.

2.The amount of sugar in the custard can be increased if you like. I have used only 1 tablespoon. Taste it and if you feel it’s less, add more.
3. Again, I’ve added a tbsp of sugar to the mango puree as well because the mangoes I used were a little sour. Depending on the sweetness of the mango, you can reduce or increase the sugar.
4. Readymade mango puree can be used as well. I just squeezed the pulp of the mango into a bowl and used it.

 

#Raspberry Yogurt Cake with White Chocolate Ganache- Eggless

“There is only one happiness in life. To love & be loved.”
– George Sand
I’m drifting from my NYC series to indulge you all in a decadent, fit-for-the-Gods dessert. So, my 31st happened to be a special one….we had landed in a new country just hours before we rang in my birthday. Still jet lagged from a 22 hour flight, I dozed off putting aside the brimming excitement that normally accompanies me before a birthday.  My husband woke me at 12 AM with a broad smile & the most sinful Raspberry White chocolate cake blanketed in little white chocolate curls. A surprise indeed and the sweet, romantic guy that he is, he managed to scour the city he’s never been in before, at midnight, to find this cake. I’m not sure if it was the jet lag or the enthusiasm to begin new adventures or just that the cake was plain & simple, delicious but it made me forget all about being a year older!
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That was my first tryst with a raspberry-white chocolate combination and on most celebratory occasions, we run to the same store to get one. I would tell myself to make an eggless version at home but kept putting it off for no particular reason.  A few days back, fed up with my procrastination, I decided to heed to my heart’s calling & make a Raspberry cake with a silky, luscious, white chocolate ganache on top. Although I generally use buttermilk to make the cake, I decided to opt for yogurt this time. It’s ultra moist , infused with the freshness of lemon zest, sweet & delicious! I personally crave for a ganache that’s ooey gooey flowy & floods the delicate sponge rather than one that’s more like a slather of frosting.
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A friend who is new to the concept of eggless cakes was eager to try mine & I decided this cake would be perfect for a dinner party at my place “I don’t miss the egg” she said with the first bite and the remaining cake went home with her in my tupperware.
I do hope you try this cake & as always I love me a feedback! Thanks!

RECIPE FOR EGGLESS RASPBERRY YOGURT CAKE WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE CAKE (for a 6″ cake)
INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup of Self raising flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp Baking soda
3 tbsp oil ( I use sunflower)
1/2 cup plain skim yogurt ( store bought)
1/2 tbsp white vinegar
2 – 3 tbsp of hot water
1.5 cups of fresh raspberries (1 cup halved for the batter and remaining to top)
1 tsp lemon zest  + extra for topping
FOR WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE
170 gms of Baking white chocolate, chopped
75 ml of Heavy cream 

METHOD
1. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease and flour a 6″ cake pan.
2. In a large bowl, add the dry ingredients( flour, baking soda and sugar ) and mix well.
3. Then add, vinegar, oil, yogurt and whisk to ensure there are no lumps.
4. Add hot water and mix.
5. Fold in chopped raspberries and lemon zest gently.
6. Bake for 30- 35 min or until toothpick comes out clean.
7. Cool completely.
8. To make the white chocolate ganache,
-Chop the white chocolate into tiny pieces or grate and place in a bowl.
-Add the cream into a small vessel and heat it on a stove on medium heat until you see a boil. Put off the stove and add the heavy cream to the bowl of white chocolate. Cover with a lid and let it sit for 2-3 minutes. Then stir with a whisk to ensure there are no lumps. (Alternatively, you can heat the cream in the microwave for a minute)
9. Immediately refrigerate for about 1o minutes to cool. Place the cake on a wired rack and pour the ganache on top of the cooled cake.
10. Place some more fresh raspberries on top and sprinkle caster sugar.

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#CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE – Eggless

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”
-Mae West

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“Some days are meant to be counted, some days are meant to be weighed.”
-Elizabeth Gilbert
Admittedly, my affair with the cheesecake has been rocky. The explanation is simple- Back when we were in NYC, I devoured slice after slice every so often that slowly I couldn’t help but drift away. Let me clarify, that didn’t stop me from baking them in my kitchen….the husband, the brothers & the students were duly pampered and rightfully indulged. It’s been a while now and after a prolonged break, I’m more than ready to begin my journey for the second time, with this decadent Chocolate Cheesecake. Continue reading “#CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE – Eggless”

#Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting- Eggless

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Is it humanly possible to not love a red velvet cupcake with it’s smooth & rich cream cheese frosting? The husband and me don’t think so. When we first entered the land of abundance, USA in 2010, it was mid October and coming from a place like Bangalore in India, the crisp breeze of the fall almost felt like winter . I wasn’t well equipped either and was intently observing people on the streets trying to make some sense of the boots & jackets. I was cold and prefered staying snuggled in the comforts of my blanket rather than explore a new place which unlike me, my husband was eager to do.

Continue reading “#Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting- Eggless”

#Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting-Eggless

In the words of the famous cartoonist Charles m Schulz, “All you need is love. But, a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt”.
So you know how chocolate makes everything better…well it does for me & my husband! We love it, eat it & never regret it!
These cupcakes are brimming with the goodness of sweet pumpkin & chocolate chips. The chocolate melts into the subtle flavours of the pumpkin and & makes it glorious. Slather them with some glossy & gooey chocolate cream cheese frosting…Needless to say, I was in heaven! So here present a recipe that’ll hopefully steal your hearts too:) Continue reading “#Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting-Eggless”