Hummingbird Bakery black bottom cupcakes – Humming disaster!

I chose to make these after flicking through the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. They looked pretty tasty and promised a chocolate cupcake with a spoonful of cheesecake baked into it. How delicious does that sound?! Beware though! What you see is not what you get!

Black bottom cupcakes
My finished black bottom cupcakes

The recipe is as follows:

Chocolate sponge base
190g plain flour
120g caster sugar
40g cocoa powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
40ml sunflower oil
1½ tsp white vinegar
½ tsp vanilla extract

Cheesecake filling
140g cream cheese
60g caster sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
100g milk chocolate chips

Cream cheese frosting
300g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter
125g cold cream cheese
Dusting of cocoa powder

I’m afraid to report that this recipe is deeply flawed. Firstly, the sponge mix was so stiff when I mixed all the ingredients together that I knew something definitely amiss. The instructions tell you to add 125ml water but I had to add a little more, just to incorporate all the dry ingredients.

The batter was more like a sticky, brownie type mix. I’ve never seen a sponge recipe as draconian as this. Water and oil? No butter or eggs. Only ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda? I should really have known this wouldn’t turn out right but if anybody knows how to make cupcakes, it’s surely those people at Hummingbird. Isn’t it?!

Once the batter was finished, the next disaster was the cheesecake filling. When you mix the ingredients together, you get a thin, runny, custard type consistency. There’s no way this was going to be ‘scooped’ on top of the sponge mix.

Nevertheless, I poured on the cheesecake mix and baked for 20 minutes. As you can see, the cheesecake part turned out to just be a coating.

Black bottom cupcakes (pre-topping)
Black bottom cupcakes (pre-topping)

Once frosted, they looked great. I had basically made a very dense, chocolate cupcake. The cheesecake part was a waste of time and effort, not to mention ingredients. The layer is so thin that the cheesecake flavour is not discernible at all.

Let’s face it, there are serious mistakes in this recipe. Perhaps it is a case of it being untested in a domestic kitchen? Or are there other reasons?

I think the sponge part could be greatly improved by using butter instead of oil, a couple of eggs instead of the water and substituting plain flour with self-raising to create a light, chocolate sponge.

The cheesecake filling needs to be less like a liquid so I would recommend using an egg yolk only instead of the whole egg.

Hummingbird CookbookSo far, I haven’t tried these amendments but would say to anyone who wants to follow the original recipe – don’t! It will not turn out like it does in their pictures. This was a major disappointment to me as it was the first time I’ve used the book so I’m disgruntled to say the least. If all the recipes are going to be this bad, it makes me wonder if I should just bin it!

I now really, really wish that I’d bought Mary Berry’s cookbook instead but I was seduced by the Hummingbird photography and apparent accessibility of their recipes.

Have a look at this 2010 blog post from Cake/Off to see how others have fared when making these cupcakes. Unfortunately we only found this after the event! If this recipe was found to be flawed in 2010, I wonder why it still appears in the latest edition.

If anybody has had a similar experience, or would like to let us know what they think about any of the other recipes in this book, please let us know.

Original recipe: Click Here

Please also check out this thread:

About Lisa C

Lisa C
Lisa is very much the culinary brains behind LondonPiggy. She grew up in north London and her love of food is matched by her passion for travel. She's already visited every continent, with the exception of Antarctica. C She's currently working on an exciting new project, visit

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  1. Avatar

    So strange! I have made these cupcakes twice and never had a problem, they came out really good actually. Ki

    • Lisa C

      As you can see, you’re only the second person to comment to that effect. Did you make any changes to recipe? If so perhaps you could let me know and I’ll update on the post. I just don’t see how the ‘cheesecake’ can remain separate as the recipe suggests.

  2. Avatar

    I am so relieved other have had these problems with the black bottom cupcakes (which I renamed ugly cupcakes). I had one in the Hummingbird Bakery in London and it was AMAZING!!! i then tried to make them for a friend who was doing a charity bake sale, they were so dreadful I told her to bin them rather than try and sell them (I didn’t even bother to ice them they were so dry). I am so disappointed with the recipe, it really needs a rethink by the Hummingbird team as I doubt they even tried it out before publishing! A 0 out of 10 from me :@(

    • Lisa C

      Totally agree with you! I’d me more than happy for someone from Hummingbird to come over to my place and make the cupcakes using the published recipe (and domestic equipment). Please get in touch if interested –

    • Avatar

      The exact same happened to me!!! I thought i read the recipe wrong! They just came out of the oven and look exactly like yours pictured. I am going to try them and if theyre not good, to the bin they go. It’s surprising Since the red velvet recipe in this book was perfect

  3. Avatar

    Hmm. I’ve not tried this recipe, but I’ve cooked most of this cookbook’s recipes and few from Cake Days, and they’ve all turned out fantastically well. I’m no expert, so I’m not sure what has happened with these cupcakes, but I really love their stuff. Only problem is how to stop covering the kitchen with icing sugar when I make the frosting!

  4. Avatar

    Thank goodness I thought it was just me!! Have never had any problems with their other cupcake recipes though, so maybe they were having a bad day when they wrote this one lol!! x

  5. Avatar

    Just read all your comments on the disaster that is baking in my oven as i write this.

    I agree with all the comments the cheesecake filling is so runny as anything and i added more oil and water after reading all your comments so fingers crossed.

    I was going to buy this book, the one im using is from the library will have to think again i think


  6. Avatar

    Last sunday I try with this recipe…and it was a complete disaster…nothing was good. The chocolate sponge was very dry and too dense…I bought these book on december..and these was the first and last recipe that i try…its a fraud… 🙁

  7. Avatar

    I thought the recipe is amazing and I am just about to make them again. The cream cheese filling complements the drier chocolate muffin part. It is stodgy like a brownie mixture but done correctly they taste amazing!!

  8. Avatar

    I wish I had read your article before proceeding to this exact recipe. I have just finished baking and can’t stop thinking at how greatly flawed this recipe was. You are right,the chocolate sponge batter was dry and dense,so i had to add more liquid. After googling other recipes, I figured the flour to liquid ratio is way off. Check out the recipe at joyofbaking, which makes more sense. I’ve made vegan chocolate cupcakes(no butter) before that turned out beautiful & moist, so I think butter isn’t the problem here.
    I’d like to add that I made their cheese n spinach muffin recipe and ended in disaster too! The batter was too dense n won’t rise. I just bought this book lat month, I assume it’s the latest edition. It’s a sign that i shall not try out more recipes from this book. Cant stop thinking how I think I just got screwed by the hummingbird bakery.

    • London Piggy

      Hi Cindy. I totally agree with you! I don’t know how they justify having these mistakes in the more recent editions. I’ve seen some comments from 2010 where people have had the same problems. Thanks, Piggy 🙂

  9. Avatar

    I currently have mine in the oven due to.come out in 7 mins. I had all the same problems as you did but just went along anyways. I hope they are at least edible in the end! 🙁

  10. Avatar

    Oh my God! I just put these into my oven and i’m reading ur review while waiting these cupcakes baked. Poor me i know it would turn out really bad as soon as i saw the batter :(:(:(

    • The London Piggy

      Hi Audrey,

      If it makes you feel any better, we still ate ours and they tasted okay :). One day I might try to work out how to actually make a cheesecake/cupcake… maybe!

      Thanks, Piggy.

  11. Avatar

    I have just made these – after always having success from humming bird was shocked at how poorly these turne out! Not like the black bottomed ive had from the shop! Reassuring someone has had the same experience! Thought it was going to jam my hand mixer!

    • The London Piggy

      Hi Laura,

      I know exactly what you mean, I even had to add more water to the mix. The most disappointing thing was that they sounded so good! To be honest, it’s put me off making anything else in the book.

      Thanks, Piggy.

  12. Avatar

    Hi I have the Hummingbird bakery cake days book. I have only made a couple occasional the recipes in this book so far and unfortunately have had problem. I made a double chocolate cupcake recipe and on the final mix i knew it wasn’t right it was stiff and looked like chocolate mousse. I don’t know whether it was something i did or not but I don’t have any problem when baking a normal cake using butter sugar self raising four. A lot of new recipes use unsalted butter, plain flour and baking powder and I can’t seem to get them to work. Why is that?

    • The London Piggy

      Hi Kirsteen,

      Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of Cake Days. I’ve looked online for the recipe, but to no avail. As you can probably tell from my original post, I have had problems with some Hummingbird recipes too and find that you sometimes need to make amendments. If the mixture is too stiff, perhaps you could add more wet ingredients, but doing that really does make it a case of trial and error. I prefer a lot of Ottolenghi’s cake recipes and there’s one for chocolate cupcakes too. I’ll try to make some and write a post sometime soon.


      The Piggy