What would a baker's blog be without mentioning classic cupcake?
In recent years, the humble cupcake has taken over the culinary world, evolving from being a kids birthday party staple, to getting a glamorous makeover in the form of stylish wedding cakes, cute baby shower favours, romantic treats and show-stopping centrepieces. The reason for this revolution, in my opinion, is because a) they're super-cheap to make 2) they're far easier to decorate then big cakes 3) they look super-effective when piled up together 4) less waste - you want a piece of cake, have a cupcake to yourself instead to butchering a beautiful big cake and worrying about it drying out afterwards 5) they appeal to kids and adults alike
But to create such works of art, we need to start with the basics. Here's a super easy, tried and tested cupcake recipe. After trying many recipes (since I make a lot of cupcakes) this works the best, especially when baking in bulk. I love it because it's a one-bowl recipe. If you're lucky enough to own a stand-alone mixer such as a Kenwood or a Kitchen Aid, take it out, plop the ingredients in and get on with something else.
Some tips (and then I promise to stop babbling and get to the recipe) use the best ingredients that your budget allows. It makes a huge difference. For example, use real butter instead of margarine. Use vanilla extract if you can, the one that's thicker than the essence where you can see the beautiful tiny vanilla beans. Make sure your eggs are fresh, as well as your milk! These little checks will even make a simple cupcake more 'wow'.
Baking for my baby shower with my neice Aliyah, in chef's garb.
250g unsalted butter, softened*
250g caster sugar**
250g self raising flour
4 tablespoons milk
2 tsp vanilla essence, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 x 12 hole muffin tins, lined with paper cases
* If you can't find unsalted butter, or if you just want to use up your normal butter in the fridge, that fine, just omit the pinch of salt.
** I only say caster sugar because it's dissolves that much faster than ordinary granulated sugar. It really does make a difference. If you can't be bothered to make a special trip to the shops to buy the stuff, use ordinary granulated sugar but take care to beat it with the butter well so that it all dissolves. Or you can blitz it in a food processor to make it more fine.
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees.
Soften your butter slightly by beating it in a bowl, either manually or with your mixer on a slow speed.
Add sugar, beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides so all sugar granules are incorporated and dissolved (this ensures a smooth and soft top to the finished product, instead of the dreaded hard crust)
Add the eggs, then gradually add the flour, and pour the milk in gradually to to make a smooth, but not runny, dropping consistency.
Spoon the mixture into the cases, leaving each paper case about 3/4 full.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Note that each oven is different, so get to know your own oven. If you're unsure how fast or slow your oven bakes, keep an eye on your cupcakes. Crucially, don't open your oven door until they are about 70 per cent baked (as a guideline the tops should be looking more firm and not looking like batter). If you're baking them on different shelves, this is the time to quickly whip them out and swap shelves so both batches are baked evenly. Please don't burn your hands, as I have done many, many times.
They should be golden brown when they're ready to be taken out. Poke it lightly with the flat of your finger. If it springs up without leaving an indentation, it's done. If not, bake it a little longer, and maybe turn your heat down.
Take them out and smile with pride before deciding how to decorate your blank canvas!
Aliyah displays our handiwork.
Note: for chocolate cupcakes, omit 2 tablespoons of flour and replace with 2 tablespoons of cocoa. Don't omit the vanilla essence, but you can also add a tsp of chocolate essence with it to make the flavour richer. I also favour a teaspoon of good quality instant coffee dissolved in a few drops of hot water added to my chocolate cupcake batter, but that's up to you.