We grow up being mesmerized by fascinating creatures and when I was little, hummingbirds fascinated me the most. My mom once told me that this tiny little bird could even fly backwards. She described the way it would hover and draw out the nectar from flowers and it captured my attention forever. I have yet to see one but there is also another hummingbird that caught my attention while I was eating my way through London..The Hummingbird Bakery! I will come back to the bakery just now but first I want to share a few special messages that come from the mystical world of this bird. Ancient folk law has many myths about hummingbirds but mostly they remind us of how to live a happier life.
It’s called ‘the bird of the impossible’ – it can fly backwards which not only means that you can achieve the impossible, but it also symbolizes that we should re-visit our past but not dwell in it. While we fight to move forward in our lives, sometimes the answers can be found in our past. Take the lessons from the past, learn from the mistakes so you can move forward joyfully. Far too often we are encouraged to sweep things under the rug, box them and move on without processing it. We are pushed into believing that it is what we must do, but surely not what we should be doing? When the past remains unresolved, we carry the baggage forever, and forever is such a long time!
These tiny birds are able to fly thousands of kilometers during migration. They have the tiniest wings that make no aerodynamic sense at all! Take a closer look at your life and chose how you wish to spend your energy. We have limited resources and places and goals we wish to reach. Are we making the right choices or wasting our energy on things and people that don’t matter? From my own experiences, most of my energy was spent on fearing the unknown, worrying about issues and the worst of it is the people that seem to drain positivity out of your life. What will be, will be and the reality is that you will have to face it. The impending dread of dealing with a problem is far more agonizing than the problem itself. Take a beat, catch your breath and deal with the issue in your own time.
The hummingbird hovers over flowers for most of the day, tirelessly gathering up the nectar, but it never damages the plant. Sharing is not the issue, but we live in a society that takes until there is nothing left and too much damage is done. If you want something, do you need to harm the giver to get it? Do we take until there is nothing left? The greed that consumes us is what destroys our lives and the people around us. The hummingbird takes what it needs, not more! I have come across givers and takers, and things do swing in roundabouts…sometimes there are more givers, sometimes more takers but I changed so much about my life to ensure that although my circle is smaller, it is occupied by precious people. We experience joy in different ways and there is no right or wrong…so whether you are closing huge deals worth millions or collecting books for kids, it makes no difference. It’s your happiness! For many years one of my ways of experiencing joy is by sharing my generosity and love for food with my friends and family. I have learnt that not everyone values this gift. True generosity of spirit is my way of celebrating the successes and failures in my life.
On a recent visit to London, I just had to stop in at the Hummingbird Bakery for a cupcake quick fix. I had first come across this amazing bakery while indulging in my penchant for recipe books. The first cook book was a collection of delicious, easy to make, home style cupcakes but it was the pictures that got my attention first. You see, I read my recipe books at bed time just as any person would read a novel. I pore over the pictures taking in every last bit of deliciousness. Most of the time, it’s this sort of food watching that leads to me raiding the refrigerator for midnight snacks. Life is full of little pleasures, isn’t it?
I popped in at the store while visiting the Portobello Market in Notting Hill…yes, I had the whole Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts moment! Well, a short corny moment anyway. The store is tiny by South African standards…and the cupcakes delicious. I would be fibbing if I said I remembered how much the cupcakes cost, but a slice of cake is about 4 to 5 pounds….I was trying not to convert, it was way too depressing! I have been planning to write this blog for a while and thinking of a great cupcake recipe I can share with you….so here is my black forest cupcake recipe! There are a few steps to it but they are super delicious and worth the effort! A word on these…it’s my version – it is not authentic but being tired of commercial black forest cake with mass produced pie filling. This is a great way to use up strawberries that are over-ripe…remember the riper they are, the better the flavour. You can make up the jam or use a good quality store bought version to cut out a few steps.
While I was in London, I was much like the hummingbird….hovering from one deliciously happy experience to the other…enjoying every moment…savouring every experience! Thanks to my lovelies that entertained me and spoilt me rotten! Before I launch into the recipe, I urge you to become the hummingbird…stay joyful, take all of life’s nectar with out hurting or destroying and most importantly to spend your time wisely with people that really matter! Wishing you all of life’s sweetness and joy!
Black Forest Style Cupcakes
Makes 16 – 18
100g soft butter
50g cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
15ml baking powder
7ml vanilla essence
250ml full cream milk, at room temperature
For the filling:
300g strawberries, hulled and quartered
Juice of 1 lime
5ml vanilla paste
1 cinnamon stick
1 x 400g tinned black cherries, drained and chopped
250ml double thick cream
125ml single cream
Drop of vanilla essence
20g chocolate, grated
Maraschino cherries, to garnish
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Line a cupcake pan with cases.
Place the butter, sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Process the ingredients on a low speed until it resembles fine bread crumbs.
Combine the eggs, vanilla essence and milk – beat lightly and gradually pour this into the mixer.
Beat until the mixture is smooth and lump free – do not over mix the batter.
Scoop the mixture into the paper cases.
Bake for 18 – 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when the cakes are tested.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
For the filling….this can be prepared a few hours in advance.
Leave the sliced strawberries in the refrigerator to dry out.
Place the strawberries in an 28cm AMC Chef’s Pan and add the sugar.
Stir well to coat the strawberries in the sugar – the sugar crystals start to turn pink.
Gently heat the pan, stirring from time time while the sugar melts.
Once the sugar melts, add the vanilla, cinnamon stick and lime juice.
When the mixture starts to boil, skim the surface to remove the foam.
Simmer the strawberries until they break down and the mixture thickens.
Add the chopped cherries, water and kirsch.
Simmer again until the cherries break down and thicken the jam like filling.
Pour the filling into a sterilized glass jar and leave to cool – this can be kept in the refrigerator and also used as a topping for crumpets etc.
For the cream…
Place the double thick cream and single cream into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and vanilla essence and whip until soft peaks form. Leave in the refrigerator until needed.
Use a paring knife to hollow out about 2 teaspoons of each cupcake, taking care not to cut through them.
Fill each cupcake with the strawberry and cherry filling.
Top the cupcakes with a scoop of cream and grate over a little dark chocolate.
Decorate with a maraschino cherry and enjoy!