Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The Cupcake Challenge


This week I took up the cupcake challenge. I entered a competition for a novel cupcake recipe. My first experiences in the kitchen all involved baking. My Mum’s baking skills are unrivalled (and I’m not just saying that for fear of not having fresh rolls and cakes to bring back to university when I visit home – she and my Aunt used to sell birthday cakes for good money, until us little ones came along). So baking feels like home to me.
The first recipe I tried was my Strawberry and Basil cupcake. It sounds weird, and it is! But it works. It bought me at least six friends at university when I brought a batch to my halls of residence, and my friends have some of the most particular palates I have ever come across – to put it politely! The unusually sweet and savoury flavour of basil makes a beautiful vivid green icing which matches perfectly with the fruity strawberry sponge. It is certainly something different, and tastes surprisingly good!

Strawberry and Basil cupcakes (Makes about 12)


For the cupcakes:
250g self raising flour
125g margarine
210mls boiled milk, cooled
150g caster sugar
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g strawberries, chopped finely
1tbsp balsamic vinegar

For the buttercream icing:
200g unsalted butter, softened
400g icing sugar
25g fresh basil leaves, chopped super fine

Start by making the sponge. Cream the butter and sugar. Once light and fluffy pour in the cooled milk and keep mixing. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into the mix. Combine thoroughly. Finally add the chopped strawberries and balsamic vinegar. (It sounds strange, but the savoury tones of the vinegar works really well with the basil, and don’t worry the icing ensures the cakes taste as sweet as any other. If you want to be really daring, try adding a pinch of black pepper.)

Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases, filling up to ¾ of the way to ensure the cakes don’t spill over. Cook in a preheated oven at 180ºc, for about 20 minutes. To check the cakes are done, insert a skewer in the centre of the cake, and if it comes out clean, they’re done.   


To make the icing, simply cream the butter and sugar together. It may appear to form a sandy texture at first, but persevere and it will transform into buttercream. Add in the basil and watch it turn a beautiful green.
Once the cakes are cooled, pipe the buttercream in whatever form takes your fancy over the cakes.


I also tried slightly more luxurious flavoured cupcakes containing the most expensive ingredient on the planet: Saffron and Pistachio cupcakes. These take their inspiration from Middle Eastern flavours. The combination is very much tried and tested in many Middle Eastern recipes, so I figured it’s a cupcake winner.

Saffron and Pistachio cupcakes (Makes about 12)

For the cupcakes:
250g self raising flour
125g margarine
210mls boiled milk, cooled
150g caster sugar
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp crushed saffron strands
½ tsp crushed cardamom seeds
¼ nutmeg

For the buttercream icing:
200g unsalted butter, softened
400g icing sugar
1 tsp pistachio essence
Crushed pistachios to decorate
Gold edible glitter (if you want that extra kitsch factor, I mean, why not!)

Make the cake in the same way as before. Cream the butter and sugar. Once light and fluffy pour in the cooled milk and keep mixing. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into the mix. Combine thoroughly. Finally add the saffron, cardamom and nutmeg. Mix until well combined.
Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases, filling up to ¾ of the way to ensure the cakes don’t spill over. Cook in a preheated oven at 180ºc, for about 20 minutes. To check the cakes are done, insert a skewer in the centre of the cake, and if it comes out clean, they’re done.

To make the icing, simply cream the butter and sugar together. It may appear to form a sandy texture at first, but persevere and it will transform into buttercream. Finally add in the pistachio essence.

Once the cakes are cooled, pipe the buttercream in whatever form takes your fancy over the cakes. Sprinkle liberally with crushed pistachio nuts and gold edible glitter.


I decided to submit the Saffron and Pistachio cupcakes for the competition. Fingers crossed, but there was definitely some stiff competition. Whatever the result these cupcakes are definitely worth a try for a simple and delicious twist on the ordinary cupcake.


Until next time...

No comments:

Post a comment