Morning or Afternoon Tea, Super Easy, Sweet

Walking By Starlight / Triple Chocolate & Coconut Lime Cupcakes

“When a dove begins to associate with crows its feathers remain white but its heart grows black” German proverb

I’ve been woken each morning this week by the Dark Crow that once had a permanent place at the foot of my bed. Patient and dangerous, it snuck through unguarded shadows to taunt me once more.

“I’m glad you’re awake,” says the Crow, “we have a problem. No, I can’t wait for you to open your eyes, you have many things to listen to, it’s all bad I’m afraid… Remember that girl who wanted to have coffee? You know the one, she’s pretty and slim, so already better than you? Yup, you messed that up, here’s a flashback of the conversation at the exact moment you were an idiot. And remember that call with your friend when she was too busy to meet up? She’s not, you talk too much so she doesn’t want to see you, you’ve lost another one. And then yesterday when you…”

And that’s just the first millisecond as it warms up to the really good stuff.

I heard the Crow’s stories for so many years they became an indelible stain on my brain. So soaked into the fabric of my thoughts that the Crow could start half way through a monologue, knowing I already had the rest of my imagined failures embroidered into my soul.

TIK - Base flavours for Triple Chocolate, Lime & Coconut Cupcakes

It’s not the best start to a day. It’s not the best start to a life. I was about eight years old when I first heard the Crow, I didn’t know that it was something to be fought until I was 25. I didn’t know how to fight for 2 years after that. For 19 years the Crow was my bed companion, greeting me in the morning and talking me to sleep each night.

Today, my heart breaks for that child who knew no different, who didn’t even know it was unusual to listen to such things. If it had been a person outside my head, rather than a voice inside, it’d be classified as chronic emotional abuse. If anyone spoke to my son that way I’d happily hack out their tongue with a blunt spoon. And yet, I never thought to treat myself as I would anyone else. I never knew to be disgusted and horrified on my own behalf.

And today I speak with scores of people who live with their own Dark Crows, maybe you have one too.

I changed quite suddenly. About 8 years ago I woke up, the Crow opened its beak to start pontificating on my life failures and, Matrix style, I gripped its beak shut and thought, “Stop”. I looked deeply into the part of my mind that housed the Crow and said, “I will not be spoken to like that any more. It’s over. You’re finished.”

TIK - Finnish Proverb Lime & Coconut Frosting

From that moment, every time my Crow would arc up I’d firmly and gently stop it from saying any more. At first I’d catch it halfway through the monologue, I was so used to its noise it took some time to recognise. Gradually, I caught the chatter earlier. My mind became quieter. At the same time I began the work of challenging all the thoughts it’d been crowing at me, while actively focussing on the good in my world. When given a choice I would look for joy, peace and love. Even today it feels silly and naive at times, like I’m not being realistic trusting the light of the stars when the night sky is so dark. But I’d firmly decided on that first day that I’d rather be stupid than broken. And for the most part today, I’m neither.

But this week, my visitor smuggled the dark back into my mind. And today, my two year old son wore some of its hatred. He woke up in a challenging mood and we’d been at loggerheads all morning, I was unable to see anything past the Crow again and, frustrated with him and filled with self, I yelled primal fury into his little face. He immediately crawled under the table, weeping, and repeating over and over, “I’m so sorry Mummy, I’m so sorry.”

Is there anything more devastating than terrifying your child into tears? If there is I haven’t found it yet. The guilt, remorse and self-hatred were immediate and soul-crippling. The Crow won that round and so had more powerful material for future monologues.

I paused, as I’ve been taught to do, and pushed my self-absorbed self-loathing to one side, before creeping under the table next to my son and whispering “I’m sorry. Mummy’s having a bad day and that’s clashed with your bad day. It was very wrong that Mummy scared you and it’s never okay to shout like that. I’m so sorry I scared you.”

TIK - Triple Chocolate Cupcake tower

He immediately crawled onto my lap and we were friends again. Moments later he’s pelting me with ping-pong balls and laughing uproariously. His forgiveness is fast and complete. I’ll take longer to forgive myself for the monster breaking free around my son.

But if I don’t forgive myself the Crow wins, and I’ve made a silent commitment to all those who come into any contact with me that the Crow isn’t going to win any more. I’m starting the only way I know how and walking by starlight again. Because today I know that although the world is full of pain and tears and terrifying cruelty, it is also full of wonder and inspiration and heroes. And at the end of it all, I know which side I want to fall on.

Bloody hell… I need glitter, laughter and jazzy hands coming from my oven after this week. It’s a no brainer in this mood, it’s got to be the most frivolous of all bakes, cupcakes. I’ve a fabulous and super-easy chocolate cake recipe from Nigella Lawson that I’ve adapted for these cupcakes; dark, heavy and a good representation of my crow. I’ve then lightened and lifted the darkness with a liberal addition of a sweet, creamy and sharp coconut and lime frosting. I’ve topped everything off with sparkly bits to cheer myself up, feel free to ignore that addition if you’re already sparkly enough.



Click here to print this recipe

For the cake

  • 200g plain flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g cocoa powder + extra to dredge the cupcake tins
  • 275g caster sugar
  • 175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbl sp vanilla extract
  • 80ml sour cream
  • 125ml boiling water
  • 175g dark chocolate chips

For the syrup

  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 125ml water
  • 100g caster sugar

For the frosting

  • 1 can of coconut milk (about 400ml)
  • 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 315g icing (powdered) sugar
  • Zest from 2-4 limes
  • 1-3 tsp coconut extract
  • Optional topping of your choice (sprinkles? Lime zest and coconut shavings? Shavings of dark chocolate?)

Preheat the oven to 170°C / 325ºF

Thoroughly grease two 12 hole cupcake tins and completely cover each one with about a teaspoon of cocoa powder (I put a the cocoa in the bottom of each hole and shake the tin around until each hole is entirely covered). Once finished, tip the tin upside-down and tap lightly on a surface to get rid of the excess cocoa

Put the flour, bicarb, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream into the processor and blitz till a smooth, satiny brown batter. Scrape down with a rubber spatula and process again while pouring the boiling water down the funnel. Switch it off then remove the lid and the well-scraped double-bladed knife and, still using your rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips

Fill each cupcake hole about half way up before sliding into the oven, cooking for 20 to 25 minutes. When it’s ready, the cupcakes will be risen and a cake-tester, or a fine skewer, will pretty well come out clean. But this is a damp cake so don’t be alarmed at a bit of stickiness in evidence

Five minutes before you take the cupcakes from the oven, put the syrup ingredients of cocoa, water and sugar into a small saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. You may find it needs a little longer: what you want is a reduced liquid, that’s to say a syrup, though I often take it a little further, so that the sugar caramelises and the syrup has a really dark, smokey chocolate intensity

Take the cupcakes out of the oven and sit them on a cooling rack and, still in the tin, pierce each a few times with a cake tester. Then run a small knife around the outside of each cupcake to make sure they can come away easily before pouring a teaspoon or so of syrup over the surface of each cupcake

Let the cupcakes cool and then slip them out of the tin ready for frosting

To make the frosting, bring the coconut milk to boil in large deep saucepan over a medium-high heat (coconut milk will boil up high in pan). Reduce heat to medium-low and boil, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes until reduced by about two thirds. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Transfer to small bowl. Cover and chill. (This can be made 2 days ahead and kept in the fridge)

Using an electric whisk, beat the butter in large bowl until smooth. Add the sugar, zest from 2 limes, 1 teaspoon of coconut extract and 80ml of the reduced coconut milk and beat until light and fluffy. Once fully fluffed, check the coconut and lime flavours are speaking your language loudly enough, if they’re not, keeping adding in each little by little until you have the flavour exactly as you want.

Using pastry bag fitted with large star tip, pipe frosting onto the cupcakes

Eat these at dawn, at dusk and amongst the stars

And, quickly, a big thank you to Michelle at King of States and the rest of the group at Blogging 201 this week. Anyone who thinks blogging isn’t a community effort hasn’t spent time surfing the loving halls of WordPress.


24 thoughts on “Walking By Starlight / Triple Chocolate & Coconut Lime Cupcakes

  1. Love these cupcakes. Chocolate and lime, mmmm.. The Black Crow is similar to what we have called the Black Dog in our family. I have been in that dark place where rage takes over in a parenting moment. I believe that acknowledging it’s not the way to roll, seeking help if it’s needed and the ability to say sorry, are vital to being (as my wise mum says) a ‘good enough’ parent. As you would say, an ‘imperfect’ parent but still a loving, learning and growing one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We call it the Black Dog in my family as well, but I love dogs so didn’t want to saddle them with the darkness! Your mum does sound wise, my mother always quotes Roseanne Barr “I feel that if the kids are alive when my husband gets home from work, then hey, I’ve done my job” – it never fails to make me laugh. Thanks for taking time to comment.


      • Have to say I love dogs too so the Black Crow is more apt. Your Ma is wise too, love that Roseanne Barr comment. Parenthood is the best job I have ever had but is also the bloody hardest job I have ever had. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • I am very well at the moment, but I have suffered with depression and anxiety since I was fifteen. I am now thirty-two. It will always be a part of my life unfortunately. You have to remember that when the crow is beating you up it is the illness talking. You are clearly very talented at lots of different things – photography and writing just being two of them. But I know exactly how hard it is to not believe what the crow says when you are in that place. Have you read Ruby Wax’s Sane New World about CBT mindfulness? It is very funny and a great read. Emma xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • I love your courage and openness Emma. Illness of the mind has such a funny stigma attached to it, even though it makes perfect sense to me that the most complex organ in the human body would get sick if other, simpler organs can. I was extremely lucky to find a path out from my illness about a decade ago and, apart from short lapses like the one above, I’m generally comfortable and at ease today. I work a form of CBT, along with mindfulness and meditation each day. And, of course, walking in starlight! You’re right, we’re never cured, but I truly believe we can recover and live good lives. Most of the time I’m living proof of this, and the rest of the time I’m proof that it’s wobbly progress not perfection! Sx

        Liked by 1 person

    • You are right, it does take courage to talk about illness of the mind. However I believe the only way to break down the stigma is by being open. My personal experience of MH even led me to train as an occupational therapist. Even though I now specialise in Autism, I still do voluntry work with a charity that provides horticultural placements and training for people with mental health difficulties. I also agree depression does tend to follow creative people around. What do you mean by walking in starlight? Sounds interesting!


    • It does seem that writers (and maybe artists in general) have darker companions of the mind than others. I like the cloud analogy, it can definitely feel like that sometimes. Monkeys terrify me so that one’s all yours! I forgot to write in the post that laughter is fabulous medicine for the cloud, your blog was a provider of that this week, loved it!


  2. This is a wonderfully powerful piece–and a necessary one. I think there are so many people who will connect with your thinking and writing–and good heavens, who wouldn’t connect with your cooking? But the struggles, the weighty and dark battles that hit periodically, or the everyday skirmishes, they are all present in varying degrees in most of us. It takes some terrific strength to open up and share your vulnerability with others, but I think this is one of the most healing ways we find more strength to carry on.
    Cheers to you.


    • Thank you for such a thoughtful and kind comment Shelley, I agree completely that these experiences are a part of the human condition and not necessarily unique to those of us writing about it. I’m relieved to say I don’t know any mother who hasn’t had at least one of these gasket-blown moments! By the way, I absolutely loved your post this week, giggled all the way through.


      • I think I’ve had more than my fair share of gasket-blowing moments these last few weeks. All in the name of science. It’s nearly a swear word to me at this point. But we mothers must carry on! 😛


  3. It’s funny how a shake of sparkles on your food can lift everything just that tiny bit isn’t it…Sparkles on the kids dinner potatoes after a tough day at school? Hell why not.
    (and beautifully written personal post…thank you.)


  4. Every one has their own “dark crow”. At times they are intimidating and at others you put up a fight and show the world how resilient you are and that signals the end of the “dark crow.”
    Loved the icing on the cupcakes!


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