The year is already 8 weeks old! Where does the time go?!
When I was a child I used to bake fairy cakes with my mum. These were sponge cupcakes, mum would slice the top off, cover in whipped cream and then put the top back on like little fairy wings. Then we’d dust them with icing sugar. They were delicious and very pretty.
In recent years cupcakes have taken on a whole new life. They are so cleverly decorated that they make my childhood fairy cakes look neanderthal. In fact, today’s cupcakes sometimes bear no relation to cake at all … and I’m talking taste here as well as looks. To my mind, it’s important that whatever you are baking first and foremost tastes delicious. What is the point in building the perfect cake in this season’s ‘in’ colours if the thing is barely edible.
So in this first of two cupcake blogs we’ll bake some basic cupcakes. Cakes that look and taste delicious and are simple to make.
The recipes are taken from The Hummingbird Bakery Cupcakes and Muffins.
Basic Cupcakes Ingredients
80g unsalted butter
280g caster sugar
240g plain flour 1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
240 ml whole milk
2 large eggs
1. put all of the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, baking powder, salt) into your food processor/mixer.
2. cut the softened (ie not straight from the fridge) butter into cubes and put that in the bowl too. Blitz them together until you have something that looks like breadcrumbs. You want the butter to be well and truly broken down and mixed in with the dry ingredients. Make sure you take a few minutes, and it will be just a few minutes, to get this right.
3. put the eggs and milk in a jug or bowl and beat them together. Add to the ‘breadcrumb’ mixture and beat or process well until you have a smooth batter.
And that’s it! Pour the mixture into your cupcake cases – you’ll get a dozen to 14 of the big muffin sized cases or 2 dozen of the smaller ‘fairy’ cake size.
Pop in the oven at 190 (gas 5) for about 15-20 minutes. The cakes should be solid enough for you to touch them and have them ‘spring’ back from pressure, and of course you’ll be able to put a skewer in and have it come out clean when they are done.
To make Chocolate Cupcakes just substitute 60g of the flour with good quality cocoa powder. So you’ll be using 180g plain flour and 60g cocoa powder.
Decoration is key to a good cupcake. A cupcake without decoration, let’s face it, is just a little sponge; there’s nothing wrong with a little sponge, but it’s not nearly so satisfying as a little sponge piled high with cream cheese frosting, or whipped cream. There are some fantastic tips for decoration at the Humming Bird Bakery Blog
Cream Cheese Frosting (enough to decorate the cakes you’ve just baked!) 300g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter (room temp, cut into cubes)
125g cream cheese (cold, Philadelphia full fat is best)
Put the butter and icing sugar into your processor or mixer and beat on medium speed until the two are well mixed together – you don’t want to have any butter lumps. Now add in your cream cheese and blast for a few minutes until you have a light and fluffy frosting. It’ll probably take a good 3-5 minutes to get the texture you’re looking for. And there you have it.
You can either use a piping bag and nozzle to top, or just put on with a knife (that’s what I usually do). If you want to you can top with hundreds and thousands, chocolate sprinkles, nuts … whatever takes your fancy. If you want your frosting to be a particular colour then add a couple of drops of food colouring and beat in well. If you want a chocolate frosting then replace 2 tablespoons of icing sugar with the same of cocoa powder. It couldn’t be easier!
Next week I’ll be taking the basic cupcake and showing you how with a little bit of imagination you can make cupcakes with the wow factor!