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Cape Town - Who said that foodies were fickle? With cupcakes still hovering near the top of the trendoid list after several years, it shows that a popular bake will always stay in vogue. Which is another way of describing a classic.
It’s a given that children’s birthday parties should have cupcakes on the menu, iced and decorated to the nth degree. But cupcakes continue to dominate adult menus as well, starring in circular towers as alternative wedding cakes, on the carts of high tea at five-star venues and making perfect finger finales for picnics and lunch boxes.
They also make great gifts. Pack them in a layer with tissue paper around them to prevent them moving while being transported.
In the quartet below we follow a classic vanilla cupcake with a couple of more original ideas for inspiration while, for sophisticated after-six fare, the adults-only baked cocktail really – sorry – takes the cake.
True love cupcakes
Valentine’s Day may have passed, but love is not limited to certain dates, it can be expressed on every day of the year. These cupcakes are decorated with handmade hearts, but use bought decorations if preferred. This is a good basic recipe for a dozen cupcakes, from Cupcakes by Sue McMahon, published by New Holland. Swiss meringue buttercream uses castor sugar dissolved in egg whites, followed by butter, which makes a very smooth rich icing – make conventional icing if preferred.
125g butter, softened
125g castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free-range
125g self-raising flour
30ml (2Tbs) milk
125g sugarpaste, coloured red
90g sugarpaste, coloured pink
Swiss meringue buttercream
Preheat oven to 190ºC. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, flour and milk and beat until mixture is smooth.
Divide the mixture between 12 paper cases placed in a muffin tin and bake in the centre of the oven until cakes have risen and are just firm to the touch in the centre, about 12 – 15 minutes. Transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool.
To make the hearts, roll out the red sugarpaste on a surface dusted with icing sugar. Use a cutter to cut out 12 hearts. Leave on a board lined with baking paper so they don’t stick. Roll out the pink sugarpaste and use a smaller cutter to cut out 12 hearts.
Brush a little water on the back of each pink heart and stick them on to the red hearts.
Leave to dry, preferably overnight.
Pipe a swirl of buttercream on to the top of each cupcake and stick a heart into each.
Fresh berries add a luxurious touch to these classic cupcakes, but could be replaced by slices of mango or peach, glacé cherries or even chocolate sprinkles. Vanilla extract is superior to the artificial essence, but also costs a lot more. The recipe comes from Bill Granger’s Best of Bill, published by Murdoch Books.
125g unsalted butter, softened
230g (1 cup) castor sugar
1½ tsp (7ml) vanilla extract
185g (1½ cups) cake flour
5ml (1 tsp) baking powder
2ml (½ tsp) salt
185ml (¾ cup) milk
60g (half cup) icing sugar, sifted
2-3 tsp hot water
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases. Combine the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and gradually fold into the mixture, alternating with the milk, until it has a soft dropping consistency. Spoon into the cases and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes in the tin. Make the icing by combining icing sugar with the hot water and adding a few drops of vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Turn cakes out and ice when cold and top with the berries.
Pina Colada cupcakes
This exotic cocktail-in-a-cake presents flavours of coconut and pineapple along with rum, a tropical island treat for adults, that comes from Cupcakes by Sue McMahon, published by New Holland.
90g butter, softened
125g castor sugar
125ml (½ cup) coconut cream
2 Tbs coconut-flavoured rum
150g self-raising flour
100g glacé pineapple, chopped
300g icing sugar, sieved
1Tbs coconut-flavoured rum
About 100ml of coconut cream
12 pieces glacé pineapple
12 glacé or maraschino cherries
Preheat the oven to 190°C. For the cupcakes, beat the butter and sugar together until well mixed, then add the coconut cream, eggs, rum and flour and beat until mixture is smooth. Stir in the pineapple.
Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake paper cases, place in a muffin tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 12-15 minutes or until cakes have risen and are just firm to the touch in the centre. Transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool.
For the topping, place the icing sugar in a bowl, add the rum and enough coconut cream to make a thick glossy icing. Spread some over the top of each cupcake. Thread a pineapple piece and a cherry on to each of 12 cocktail umbrellas and press one on to each cupcake. Leave icing to set before serving.
Chocolate cheesecake muffins
This hybrid is a marbled delight, a combination of a cupcake and a cheesecake with a muffin texture. Perfect for that morning coffee party, this recipe can be found in 500 Chocolate Delights, by Lauren Floodgate, published by New Holland.
200g self-raising flour, sifted
225g castor sugar
55g good quality cocoa powder
15ml (1Tbs) baking powder
60ml (4Tbs) vegetable oil
55g butter, melted
2 eggs, preferably free-range
5ml (1tsp) vanilla extract or essence
85g plain chocolate chips
200g low-fat cream cheese (or creamed cottage cheese)
55g flaked almonds
Preheat oven to 190°C. Line muffin tins with 16 paper baking cases.
Combine flour, 150g of the castor sugar, cocoa and baking powder in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat together the buttermilk, oil, butter, 1 egg and ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Add this to the flour mixture and stir well. Stir in the chocolate chips and divide the mixture between the paper cases.
Beat the cream cheese, remaining sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the almonds and spoon mixture over the chocolate mixture in the cases. Swirl together lightly. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.
Makes 16. - Cape Argus