As we all know, there’s another fabulous FAVA Cake Day coming up at the English department in less than a week. Like most people reading this (or so I assume!), I too have all-too-fond memories of the Kafistübli tables covered in sweet delicacies, not to mention of eating them in class (sneakily or openly, depending on the lecturer’s lenience) afterwards because I spent the entire break debating which yummy slice to pick! When I read the announcement, my immediate reaction was “Cake Day! Whoop!”, followed instantly by “Oh bummer, I’m not there!” Consequently, I decided to have my very own cake day here – to absolutely no objections from my husband, I might add :D
So, since you can never have too much cake, and you might want something to nibble on while reading our newest contributions or that particularly intriguing book for this term’s literature class, here’s a little Cupcake 101!
There are several reasons why cupcakes have become so popular: Not only do they have the perfect size – bigger than just a cookie, but not big enough to induce guilt (that is unless you go for this one) – but they are also easy to bake and can look amazing with very little effort and equipment. This is what you need to start out:
- A non-stick or silicone cupcake pan, ideally with cups for 12 cupcakes. Many recipes are designed to make a dozen, and the tray stacks away easily, especially if it’s bendy silicone.
- Paper baking cups or cupcake wrappers. While baking cups are used with the tray for (surprise!) baking and can be bought everywhere for very little money and in an insane variety of designs, cupcake wrappers are mainly for decoration purposes (they are wrapped around the baked and decorated cupcakes) and a bit more pricey. If you’re serving your cupcakes at home and don’t need to transport them, however, you really need neither baking cups nor wrappers – just make sure you use a non-stick tray!
- For the frosting: Piping bags and a piping nozzle. You can either get disposable plastic bags or go green with a washable nylon or cotton bag. As for the piping nozzle, there are tons of variations out there, both in plastic and stainless steel. This is the one I use, but any open star nozzle will do fine. Many manufacturers sell nozzle adapters that are useful if you want to change your nozzles halfway through the bag, but if you’re not into all that fancy stuff you don’t need adapters – just cut off a suitable bit of the decorating bag, slide the nozzle tip in firmly and you’re good to go!
Now what would a cupcake post be without a recipe? Again, there are tons and tons of cupcake recipes on the net, so just google your favourite flavour! Mine happens to be chocolate, and this is the recipe I mostly use, put together after several trial and error runs :D It makes for 12 big, deliciously moist cupcakes.
270 g wholemeal flour
220 g butter or margarine
230 g brown sugar
200 g dark chocolate
30 g milk chocolate
4 eggs (of the smallish variety)
- Pre-heat your oven to 175 °C.
- Slowly melt the butter/margarine and chocolate in a small pan on low heat; set aside to cool a bit.
- Mix the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk until frothy.
- Add the flour to the egg mixture.
- Add the chocolate mix, stir until everything is well combined.
- Fill the mixture directly into your cupcake tray, or place baking cups in the tray moulds first if you want to use them (the tray supports the cups – this mixture is quite heavy and can bend baking cups standing by themselves out of shape). The moulds or baking cups should be filled between 3/4 and 4/5.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes.
As I love the combination of chocolate and raspberry, I went on the lookout for a raspberry frosting and found this. The blog author explains it nicely, and it’s a great way to get a marvellously fruity, no-food-colouring-required frosting! Just make sure you use proper powdered sugar and not the finely granulated stuff – I made that mistake the first time I made frosting, and it just doesn’t give you the stiffness you get from powdered sugar (the British don’t call it “icing sugar” for nothing, after all).
When both your cupcakes and your frosting have cooled, here’s how to decorate your treats – don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds!
- Get your piping bag and nozzle ready. If you’re using disposable bags, just cut the tip off and shove the nozzle down securely; if you’re using a nylon/cotton bag, it probably comes with an adapter where you put the basic part inside the bag and screw the actual nozzle on outside.
- Fill the bag with your frosting. For easy handling it should be between 1/2 and 3/4 full.
- Twist the bag closed with no air between the frosting and the twist. It’s easiest to pipe with one of your hands guiding the nozzle while the other one holds onto the twisted bag end exerting light pressure (moving the icing downwards steadily).
- Starting at the outside, slowly pipe a spiral on top of each of your cupcakes. Make sure you don’t leave any uncovered spaces. When you’ve reached the very middle of the cupcake, stop piping, lightly push into the centre and slowly lift off your nozzle. If you want (and if you really like your frosting), you can pipe another, tighter spiral on top of the first one.
Now there’s only one thing left to do, and I hardly need to tell you what that is, do I? ;) Enjoy!