Ever since Nigella introduced us to her glamorous lavender-topped version the cupcake has become an acceptable end to even the fanciest of dinners. Just choose from the selection of chic ideas below, and your guests will be utterly charmed.
Vanilla Cupcake Peach Melba Sundae
Last time you went to theirs they produced a tower of out-of-this-world chocolate profiteroles. It’s time to bring out the big guns. This cupcake sundae can be piled in an enormous glass dish, or arranged elegantly in individual portions. Make 12 vanilla cupcakes (see the Cupcakes section), cut off the tops and put thin slices of peach beneath. Drizzle with fresh raspberry puree (made by simmering washed raspberries with a sprinkle of icing sugar and a splash of water, then sieved) and serve with Homemade Vanilla Ice-cream.
These after-dinner muffins will go down especially well with the girls at your party! Serve with shots of Baileys or steaming liqueur coffee.
Blend 6oz self-raising flour, 175g (6oz) caster sugar, and 110g (4oz) margarine in a food processor, or with an electric whisk. Add 2 beaten eggs, 1tsp vanilla extract, and 60ml (4tbsp) milk. Fold in 50g (2oz) white chocolate chips and divide the mixture between 12 cake cases. Bake at 180ºC for around 20 minutes.
To Make the Baileys icing:
Beat 50g (2oz) butter with 30ml (2tbsp) Baileys, and slowly add up to 175g (6oz) icing sugar, beating until smooth and creamy. Spread the icing roughly over the cakes, and sprinkle with whatever edible goodies you can find at the supermarket or online.
Miniature White Chocolate Cheesecakes
These individual Cheesecakes have oodles of wow-factor. Dress with fresh raspberries and strawberries when they’re in season – or dark chocolate curls when they’re not.
- Crush 1 packet of dark chocolate digestives. Combine them with 50g (2oz) melted butter, and press the mixture into the bases of a greased, 12-hole patty tin, or use greased, oven-proof ramekins. Pop into the freezer to set while you prepare the filling.
- In a food processor (or using an electric whisk), blend 500g (1lb 2oz) of cream cheese (like Philadelphia), 3 eggs, 120ml (4floz) double cream, and 1tsp vanilla extract.
- Melt 225g (8oz) white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Don’t let any water touch the chocolate, or it will seize up. Allow it to cool ever so slightly.
- Fold the melted chocolate into the cheese. Spoon the cheesecake mixture into the tins. Bake at 150ºC for 40-50 minutes.
Top squares of classic chocolate sponge with a coffee-and-Tia-Maria icing for a gorgeous dinner party treat.
- For the chocolate sponge, cream together 225g (8oz) margarine with 225g (8oz) caster sugar
- Beat 4 eggs and then add them to the marg.
- Weigh out 225g (8oz) self-raising flour, then take out 2tbsp and put back in the packet. Add 2tbsp good cocoa (Green & Black’s is great), and 2tsp baking powder.
- Sift the flour mixture over the butter and egg mixture, and fold it all together very gently with a metal spoon.
- Dollop the batter into a greased 8”x12” (20x30cm) tin, and bake for 30 minutes on a medium heat.
- Make the icing: beat 50g (2oz) butter with 1tbsp warm espresso and 1tbsp Tia Maria, then fold in up to 175g (6oz) icing sugar, until it reaches a thick, smooth consistency.
- Spread icing all over the cake, and cut into squares once cool.
Quick Strawberry Tarts
In summer, turn a ready-rolled pack of Shortcrust Pastry and a punnet of strawberries into something that transports dinner guests to summer paradise!
- Unwrap 1 block of ready-rolled shortcrust, and cut out rounds to fit a 12-hole patty tin. Line with little circles of greaseproof paper, and baking beans, then bake in a hot oven (check packet for timings).
- Measure your strawberries out in a pint glass – you’ll need about 2 pints for 6 guests.
- Reserve 12 small berries for decoration. Roughly chop the rest.
- Put the strawberries into a saucepan with 2tbsp butter, 2tbsp cornflour, 150g (5oz) caster sugar, and the juice of half a lemon. Simmer for about 10 minutes, pressing the strawberries with the back of a spoon to speed up the crushing, then leave to cool.
- Use the strawberry puree to fill the tart cases, then arrange the rest of the strawberries on the tops. Serve with white chocolate ice-cream for a really decadent dessert!
Serve any of these miniatures on small plates and surround with a drizzle of chocolate or raspberry sauce. Bring a cafetiere of steaming coffee, a bottle of liqueur, or a jug of sparkling, home-made lemonade to the table, too. If it’s summer, you can decorate the cheesecakes or strawberry tarts with frosted rose petals – see the Icing section for more pretty ideas!