When it comes to children’s birthday parties, there’s nothing more entertaining than a giant piñata! This year, as a friend and I joined forces for a combined 4rth birthday bash for our daughters, the piñata had to withstand not only hordes of kids, but also an equally eager gaggle of parents who wanted a go. Fortunately for them, we kind of overdid the structural side of things, just to be on the safe side (German engineering and all that) so that it took us several rounds to burst the balloon…
The principle of a piñata cake is simple: make two sponge bases (I used my fail-safe Sachertorte base for an extra chocolate oomph), cut one of them vertically into two equal slices, then cut out a hole out of the second base and stick them all together using jam (apricot jam works brilliantly with a chocolate base).
It’s great fun to see your little guests’ faces when you cut the cake into slices and the chocolates appear, as if out of nowhere!
To make them just that little bit more concerned-parent-friendly, I used wholewheat flour – and not any wholewheat flour, but the new ‘Golden Wholegrain,’ which our local flour mill, Maggiages Millers in Essex, had kindly sent me to try. Their claim that it’s sweeter and lighter in colour than your normal wholegrain flour had to be put to the test – ideally by a bunch of white-bread-and-cake-lovers of the 3-7 age bracket.
As a second measure to appease parents I used whipped cream instead of the recular icing – it looks brilliant and tastes just as great, but comes at a fraction of the sugar and fat. To keep it ship-shape for longer, I used Suzanne’s ingenious recipe for whipped cream frosting, which she had posted on Food52. I have to say, this recipe has been a real game-changer for me as although I love the look of it, I am not too keen on the sickly sweetness of traditional frosting.
Piñata Cupcakes (makes 24 – after all, it’s for a party!)
For the sponge:
- 220g plain wholemeal flour
- 220g caster sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla sugar
- 3 generous tsp baking powder
- 80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- a pinch of salt
- 240ml whole milk
- 3 eggs
- 50g chocolate buttons or similar
Preheat the oven to 170C / 325F and line two muffin trays with paper cases.
Mix the flour, sugars, baking powder, butter and salt until you get an even consistency. Add half the milk, beating the mix to distribute it evenly.
Using a fork, beat the eggs with the remaining milk before adding it to the mix. Keep beating until you get a smooth mixture.
Distribute the mixture evenly among the cases and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden. Leave them to cool a bit before removing the cupcakes from the tray.
For the Whipped Cream Frosting:
- 600ml / 2 1/2 cups whipping cream
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
You’ll need to get this started the moment you are putting the cupcakes into the oven as the cornstarch mix needs to cool down before you can whip the cream. Begin by placing a metal bowl and a balloon whisk or wire beater in the freezer to chill.
In a small pan mix the icing sugar and the cornstarch, then whisk in 1/2 cup of the whipping cream until smooth. Place it on medium heat and keep stirring until the mixture thickens and almost comes to a boil. Remove it from the heat and ideally transfer the mix to a bowl, which will help it to cool down a bit quicker. Set aside, stirring occasionally until it reaches room temperature. Don’t attempt to use it until it is completely cool.
Once the cupcakes have cooled down, hollow them out with an apple corer or similar, then fill them with chocolates.
Using the chilled bowl, start beating the remaining cream using the chilled whisk. You can use an electric whisk until the cream starts to hold its shape, but I’d switch to manual once you start adding the cornstarch and sugar mix, a little at a time. You want to avoid ovebeating the cream! Keep adding the mix until you get to the right consistency: spreadable, almost like cream frosting.
Spread the whipped cream on top of your cupcakes and decorate using the remaining chocolates. Keep the decorated cupcakes in the fridge until you need them – and don’t worry: the frosting will hold its shape unless it gets eaten! What was the old tagline again? It melts in the mouth, not under your eyes.
And the end result? Nobody noticed the use of wholegrain flour, which gave the cupcakes a lovely texture and an almost malty sweetness. I used the same frosting on an ‘adult’ version of the cupcakes, which I’ll post in the next days. Several parents commented on the lightness of the frosting, asking me for the recipe. Surely that’s some endorsement!
Disclaimer: Marriage’s Millers kindly sent me two packs of their new flour to review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.