Last December my husband and I went to the SPCA looking for a dog to adopt.
However, a timid, cinnamon bark-coloured tortie cat took our eye.
Within minutes of arriving home she disappeared but eventually, after several hours of angst, she was discovered sleeping behind the printer in my office.
She - Cinnamon - survived being fussed over by seven family members visiting during the Christmas holidays and has slowly settled in to become the most loving "cupcake" we've ever owned. The SPCA cares for hundreds of cats and dogs.
This month it is encouraging us to bake cupcakes and sell them to our friends, and then donate the proceeds to the SPCA to help save our furry amigos.
Monday, August 27, is Cupcake Day - check out the details and enrol as a cupcake baker at www.spcacupcakeday.co.nz; there are also loads of prizes to be won.
Selling to friends is not the only way to raise money.
An acquaintance has just made $50 peddling her cupcake creations to her office colleagues - she topped the cakes with swirls of chocolate icing and garnished them with mini white marshmallows.
It's also great creative exercise for art students or junior cooks at schools.
Cupcakes have become very popular with Kiwis as a special occasion treat rather than an everyday nibble with coffee.
In the US, where almost every city has at least one store dedicated to these sweet treats, cupcakes are usually 70 per cent decoration and 30 per cent cake.
We're as extreme in our tastes but decorating is definitely part of the pleasure.
Cupcakes took their name from a time when the little cakes were cooked in cups.
In England they were called fairy cakes. Our old-fashioned butterfly cake is a variation on these.
I topped these cupcakes with melted chocolate and chocolate hail, then garnished them with small icing dog heads purchased from the local speciality confectionary store. Supermarkets also have a good range of decorations.
4 large eggs, separated
2 tsp finely grated orange rind
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 cups finely grated carrot
2 cups ground almonds
1/2 cup self-raising flour or gluten-free baking mix
Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 12-hole cupcake pan or line with paper cases.
Beat egg yolks, orange rind and caster sugar together with an electric beater, until thick.
Stir in carrot, almonds and sifted flour.
Whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into carrot mixture. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool then coat with chocolate topping. Makes 12.
1 cup chocolate melts
2 tsp Kremelta
2 tbsp chocolate hail
Melt chocolate and Kremelta together. Allow to cool a little. Spread over the top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle with hail as soon as the chocolate is applied - and add dog heads if using - so they adhere to the chocolate.
CHOCOLATE ALMOND CUPCAKES
6 tbsp each: cocoa powder, hot water, caster sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee
2 tbsp hot water, extra
100g (1 cup) ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, well beaten
Preheat oven to 180C. Line a nine-hole cupcake pan with paper cases.
Combine cocoa powder with hot water in a large bowl. Stir, until smooth. Add caster sugar. Dissolve instant coffee in the two tablespoons of hot water. Add to cocoa with almonds, baking powder and eggs. Mix well.
Spoon into the paper cases. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and then spread with chocolate icing. Makes 9.
75g butter, softened
1 & 3/4 cups icing sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2-3 tbsp milk
Cream butter, until smooth. Sift in combined icing sugar and cocoa powder. Mix well. Add a little milk if too stiff. Using a knife dipped into hot water, spread icing over cooled chocolate almond cupcakes.
BERRY BUTTERFLY CAKES
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 & 1/4 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup raspberries or sliced strawberries, pureed
1/2 cup cream, whipped
Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases. Cream butter, caster sugar and lemon rind, until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour until just combined. Mix in sour cream and berry puree. Spoon into paper cases. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Using a teaspoon, scoop out a circle from the top of the cakes. Cut each circle in half.
Fill hollows with whipped cream and insert the half rounds into the cream to form "wings". May be garnished with a raspberry or a slice of strawberry or sprinkled with red jelly crystals. Makes 12.
1 & 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
125g butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 12-hole cupcake or muffin tray or line with paper cases.
Sift flour and cinnamon.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until combined. Beat in flour mixture and milk alternately.
Spoon batter into paper cases.
Bake for 20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Pipe with the cinnamon icing. Makes 12.
2 & 1/4 cups of icing sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
125g butter, softened
1 tbsp each: honey, milk
Sift icing sugar and cinnamon into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Beat with an electric mixer, until smooth.
Using a round piping nozzle, pipe icing on to cooled cinnamon cupcakes.
Can be dusted with coffee crystals or cinnamon sugar to garnish.