For some unknown reason, cupcakes are suddenly de rigueur for all occasions, from humble to sophisticated birthdays to high teas to picnics and barbeques. Once considered the domain of kids treats, they have become an art form within themselves, to the extent of having entire recipe books written about them. It is hard to pick up a food or lifestyle magazine at the moment that doesn’t have a recipe for cupcakes in it.
In a way it is understandable – they are by their very size ‘portion controlled’, are low mess and easy to make, as they don’t entail the amount of work that general cakemaking entails. They are easy to decorate, as a smear of icing over the top is the everyday ideal.However, with the advent of more adventurous cake decorations in both specialty stores and supermarkets, including silver and gold cachous, tiny dried icing flowers and buds, decorating gels, and the availability of items like sugared violets, and dried lavender flowers and rosebuds from places like ‘Herbies’ in Rozelle a whole new world of exuberent decoration is now available to everyone. However, if you wish to adhere to childhood traditions, hundreds ‘n thousand are still available, along with a whole other world of coloured ‘sprinkle’ decorations. Patty cake papers are still available, and come in the conventional or mini cupcake sizes.
So break out your best silver, wash the 3-tier cake stand and get ready to impress you mother-in-law with a fantastic high tea this weekend with a selection of the following tiny morsels.
Medjool Date Cupcakes:
(Fresh medjool dates are available from most good greengrocers, and from the fresh food sections of supermarkets)
400g fresh medjooldates, derseeded and roughly chopped
¾ cup water
2 teapoons instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
75g butter, softened
¾ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups self-raising flour, sifted
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease 12 x ½ cup muffin pans or line with paper patty cases.
Combine dates, water and coffee powder in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally over medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until dates are soft and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and using a wooden spoon stir in bicarb soda and butter. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
Transfer date mixture to a large mixing bowl. Beat in caster sugar and vanilla until well combined. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions.
Gently fold in flour until combined. Spoon mixture into prepared pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until dark golden and cooked through when tested. Stand in pans for 5 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool. Once cold, ice with coffee icing or dust with icing sugar.
1½ cups icing sugar mixture
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
2-3 tablespoons boiling water
Sift icing sugar mixture into a bowl. Combine coffee and boiling water. Stir coffee mixture into icing sugar mixture until smooth and at a desired consistency.
Chocolate Fruit Cupcakes:
With Christmas approaching, these are a great festive treat.
1 x 375g packet raisins, chopped coursely
1 x 300g packet currants
1 x 250g packet pitted prunes, chopped
160ml (⅔ cup) Kahlua liqueur
155g (¾ cup) firmly packed brown sugar
150g (1 cup) plain flour
75g (½ cup) self-raising flour
50g (½ cup) cocoa powder
250g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Cachous, to decorate
3 egg whites
530g (3½ cups) icing sugar mixture
Combine the raisins, currants, sultanas, prunes and Kahlua in a large bowl. Cover and set aside, stirring occasionally, for 6 hours to macerate.
Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 24 x 80ml (⅓ cup) capacity muffin pans with 2 layers of paper patty cases.
Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the combined flours and cocoa powder. Stir in the raisin mixture and chocolate. Spoon into pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until cooked when tested. Set aside for 1 hour to cool.
To make frosting use and electric beater to whisk the egg whites in a bowl until soft peaks form. Add icing sugar and whisk to combine. Spread cakes with frosting and sprinkle over the cachous.
Chocolate Lamington Baby Cakes:
1 cup caster sugar
125g plain flour, sifted
1 tablspoon cocao powder, sifted
1 tablespoon butter, melted
CHOCOLATE COCONUT COATING
150g quality dark chocolate
100g copha (near butter in supermarket dairy case)
100g desiccated coconut
Preheat oven to 180°C. Greae and flour 12 individual or muffin tins.
Put sugar and eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk for 5 minutes until mixture is light and fluffy.
Very gently fold the flour and cocao powder through the mixture quickly, followed by the butter.
Pour into prepared pans and bake for 10 minutes, or until they spring back when pressed in the centre.
Melt chocolate and copha together in a double boiler (or a bowl over simmering water) or microwave for 2 minutes. Stir until smooth.
Using a fork or skewer, dip each sponge into liquid chocolate and then roll in coconut. Leave to set on a wire rack.
195g unsalted butter, softened
125g (⅔ cup) soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon coffee & chicory essence (with coffee & tea in supermarket)
155g (1¼ cups) self-raising flour
100ml buttermilk (in milk section of supermarket)
125g (1 cup) icing sugar
Preheat oven to 150°C. Line 2 x 50ml 12-hole cupcake pans with paper patty cases.
Beat 185g of the butter and the brown sugar with electric beaters intil loight and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in 3 teaspoons of the coffee and chicory essence.
Fold the flour and a pinch of salt alternately with the buttermilk into the creamed mixture until well combined. Spoon evenly into the patty cases and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until just spongy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tray.
To make the icing, combine the remaining butter, remaining essence, the icing sugar and 1½ tablespoons boiling water in a small bowl. Spread a little icing overeach cupcake with a palette knife until evenly covered. If desired, decorate with chocolate-coated coffee beans.
Individual Milk Chocolate Cupcakes:
75g unsalted butter
75g milk chocolate, chopped
80g (⅓ cup) firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
60g (½ cup) self-raising flour
80g milk chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons thick (double) cream
Preheat oven to 160°C. Line a flat-bottomed 12-hole cupcake tray with paper patty cases.
Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproofbowl, and melt over a saucepan of simmering water, ensuring the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Stir until melted and combined. Remove the bowl from the heat, add the sugar and eggs and mix. Stir in flour.
Transfer the mixture to a measuring jug and pour into the patty cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked. Leavein the tins for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To make the ganache, place the chocolate and cream into a heatproof bowl and melt and mix as above. Once the chocolate has almost melted, remove from the heat and continue to stir until melted and smooth. Allow to cool for about 8 minutes or until thickened slightly. Return the cakes to the pans to keep them
stable while you spread one heaped teaspoon of the ganache over the top. If desired, decorate with gold cachous.
120g unsalted butter, softened
180g (¾ cup)caster sugar
185g (1½ cups) self-raising flour
125ml (½ cup) milk
125ml (½ cup) thick (double) cream
1½ tablespoons strawberry jam
Icing sugar, to dust
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a flat-bottomed 12-hole cupcake pan with paper patty cases.
Beat the butter, sugar, flour milk and eggs with electric beaters on low speed, increase the speed and beat until pale and smooth. Divide evenly among the cases and bake for 30 minutes, or until cooked and golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Cut shallow rounds from the centre of each cake using the point of a sharp knife, then cut in half. Spoon 2 teaspoons of cream into each cavity, top with 1 teaspoon jam and position two halves of the cake tops in the jam to resemble butterfly wings. Dust with icing sugar.
•When crumbing chicken, veal or pork schnitzels, add ¼ cup grated parmesan to the breadcrumbs to give a really delicious flavour.
•If you have large amounts of herbs left over thatyou don’t want to throw out, chop them to desired consistecy and make ice cubes using them. This gives you individual portions when you need them, which can be made useable by placing in a fine seive and holding under warm water until melted – or if making a stew or casserole, just throw the whole ice cube in the mixture.
•Make your own muesli with 2 cups All-Bran, 1 cup rolled oats and ½ cup dried cranberries. Add other fried fruits if desired.
•To make a delicious bircher muesli, soak 1 cup rolled oats, ½ cup unsweetened apple juice and 1 cup natural skim-milk yoghurt in a bowl overnight. Before eating, grate a Granny Smith apple and add to the mixture with ½ teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ cup dried cranberries.