Having been asked to provide cupcakes for kids at a wedding, I found myself in new territory as I had never made cupcakes before. The reason for this is twofold: on the one hand, I have always felt that cupcakes were a clear example of form over matter: they look great, and nobody really cares what they taste like. Secondly – and this might sound even more controversial – I have an issue, or rather two, with a lot of American-style baking: vegetable oil and salt.
It’s not a health issue: having grown up an a diet of butter and lard, I am often overpowered by the taste of vegetable fat in chocolates and sweets. Salt I think it is often used as a flavour enhancer, to be balanced out by more sugar, to the point that people have become used to the taste of it in sweets and cakes. Other people, that is.
Anyway, ready to make an effort to combat my stereotypes I began to look around for butter-based cupcake recipes that made me actually want to eat the cake, and not just admire the decoration. I came across the Hummingbird Bakery’s Home Sweet Home, which had the most amazing jam-filled treats: Jaffa Cake and Jammy Dodger flavour cupcakes. Not only did they look absolutely delicious and child-friendly, they also share the same basic recipe: I would be able to make 7 of each flavour in one go, making half the amount of the buttercream frosting – chocolate and vanilla – and filling the cupcakes with marmalade for the jaffa cake and strawberry jam for the jammy dodger cupcakes. Job done.
Batter (makes 14 cakes):
- 70g soft unsalted butter
- 210 plain flour
- 200g sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- a pinch or two of salt 😉
- 210ml milk
- 2 eggs
- 3 tsp vanilla sugar
Preheat the oven to 170C. Line the muffin tray with cases – as there are only 12 spaces you will need to find two more cups for the extra cakes. Don’t overfill or you’ll end up with muffin tops! That’s on the cupcakes – unless you decide to cut off the surplus and nibble it as you go along.
Ideally using an electric mixer, blend all the ingredients until you have a smooth batter. You might want to add only half the milk at first, pouring in the rest once your lump of butter have disappeared.
Fill the cases with the batter, ensuring they are no more than 2/3 full to avoid unsightly overspill. Bake for 25 minutes or until they are golden brown and bounce back when you touch them (I find silicone trays sometimes take a bit longer).
Using a small knife or an apple corer, make a hole in the middle of each of the cupcakes but avoid puncturing the bottom! Fill it with marmalade or jam before replacing the cut-out piece. You might have to trim it a bit depending on the amount of jam your used.
Chocolate frosting (for 7 cupcakes):
- 75g soft unsalted butter
- 225g icing sugar, sifted
- 30g cocoa powder, sifted
- 30ml milk
- mini Jaffa Cakes
Mix the ingredients together on a slow speed to avoid a ‘desert storm’ scenario. Once everything is coming together, increase the speed and whisk until the mix is light and fluffy. Spoon a good lump of the frosting on the cupcake and use a butter knife or palette knife to smooth it into a nice shape. Or simply pipe it on, using a big star-shaped nozzle. Decorate with the mini Jaffa Cakes or with a bit of sugared orange peel, for a more sophisticate take. But then you might also use a bit of Grand Marnier with the marmalade and send the kids off to bed…
- 100g soft unsalted butter
- 300g icing sugar, sifted
- 3 tsp vanilla sugar
- 30ml milk
- mini Jammy Dodgers (optional)
Mix the ingredients as for the chocolate frosting: first carefully, then with speed. Decorate as above or according to your needs or desires.
I have to say the experience widened my cultural horizon substantially and I am now feeling much more open to try out exotic recipes. If I can learn to enjoy cupcakes, what other stereotypes have prevented me from taking on new challenges? Watch this space for Japanese-style blowfish tartlets …