Friday, 6 March 2015

Swirly Vanilla and Jam Cupcakes

Cupcakes are how I got into baking. It crept up on me - my parents bought me a cupcake recipe book and all of a sudden I was "the girl who makes all the cakes". That became my thing.

An afternoon on a cupcake decorating course and I was unstoppable. I made coffee cupcakes, vanilla cupcakes, chocolate and mint cupcakes, even banoffee cupcakes. And then, suddenly, I hit a wall.

If you're an athlete, you might know how it feels. You feel that you can't go on. Your legs are leaden, your muscles are jelly. You simply cannot lift another whisk or fill another piping bag.

I'm exaggerating. A bit. But I was sick of the sight of cupcakes, sick of the taste of buttercream and most of all, sick of baking them.

Luckily, by now I was into all things baking, so I turned my attention to bread and other things for a while. By the time I returned to cupcakes, I was able to make them without totally freaking out and crying because I'd run out of icing sugar. I still don't eat them very often because they are very very sweet and sometimes make me feel sick and give me a cake headache. It feels much like a hangover.

But cupcakes are trendy, cupcakes are pretty and they are not that difficult either. Put them in a white cardboard box (easily obtainable from eBay), tie some colourful ribbon around and they make a perfect present.

I've been dying to use my duo icing set (thank you, Lakeland) so a friend's birthday gave me the perfect opportunity to crack out my cupcake skills to make something both tasty and decorative.

It's easy, you can do it to. Come on, I'll show you how. This recipe makes a batch of 12 jam-filled vanilla cupcakes.

You will need:

For the cakes:
250g caster sugar
250g butter
250g plain flour
3 medium eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 jar seedless jam in your favourite flavour (fruit curd would also work)
12 cupcake cases
12-hole cupcake or muffin tray

For the icing:
3 large egg whites
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g softened butter
1 tbsp jam or fruit curd from the jar you are using for the cakes
duo icing set (optional)
normal piping bag fitted with star nozzle
palette knife or baking spatula

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and put the cupcake cases in the baking tray. Beat together the butter and caster sugar for the cakes until light and fluffy.

2. Weigh out the flour for the cakes and beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tbsp of flour with each one to ensure the mixture does not curdle.

3. Add the vanilla, baking powder and mix in, then fold in the rest of the flour.

4. Distribute the mixture evenly between the cases and bake for 10-15 minutes until risen and golden brown. Take out of the baking tray and leave to cool.

5. Prepare the icing by setting a large bowl above a pan of barely simmering water and whisking the egg whites and caster sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk to stiff peaks (I often use a handheld electric whisk or even my standing mixer to do this).

6. Add the softened butter, a bit at a time to the bowl whilst continuing to whisk. When the mixture reaches a point of being stiff enough to pipe, stop and if you're using a duo icing set, divide icing into two equal halves.

7. If you are using a duo icing set add a tbsp of jam to one half of the icing and beat until uniform in colour. Then fill your icing bag with the jammy icing on one side and normal on the other. If you are not using a duo icing set add a tbsp of jam to the icing and swirl through so the mixture is streaky rather than uniform in colour. Then put in your icing bag.

8. When your cupcakes have cooled, cut a hole in the middle with an apple corer or small, sharp knife. Warm the remainder of your jam gently in the microwave or in a saucepan over a low heat until it is runnier in consistency. Spoon jam into the holes in your cupcakes with a teaspoon until they are all filled.

9. When the jam in your cupcakes has cooled and set, pipe a little splodge of icing in the middle. Then, starting from the inner edge of your cupcake case, pipe a spiral of icing. You should pipe inwards and upwards and just lower your nozzle slightly before lifting it away from the peak of the cake to break the icing away from the nozzle.

You're done! Step 10 is to have a nice sit down and bask in the reflected glory of your cupcakes.

Mmm, glory.

More baking soon,


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