Making cute cupcakes is easy, although you need to understand the principles of cooking individual cakes before you begin.
While the Classic Method of creaming cakes is to mix the butter and sugar – beating fast until they become light and fluffy, then add the beaten egg mixture, blending thoroughly before folding in the flour – for small cakes you can achieve equally good results by simply putting all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beating together. You can also use a food mixer or processor to create the sponge. This works because the surface area of each cake is very small so there’s almost no chance of them sinking in the middle. For larger cakes you have to take greater care to incorporate air into the mixture to avoid sinkage.
If your cakes have added fruit or other ingredients classed as ‘dry’ like nuts or chocolate chips, add them by hand at the end of the sponge creation process and fold them in gently, using a figure of eight movement with your spoon or blending tool.
There are two potential small cake sizes in the UK, fairy cake sized, or Muffin sized. In America the only cake cases available are muffin sized and that’s the traditional size for cupcakes, which are like a larger version of the classic British fairy cake. Whichever size you use, never fill the case more than two-thirds full with the uncooked cake mix as it will rise as it cooks.
The usual oven temperature for cooking cupcakes is 190ºC, 375ºF or Gas Mark 5 although if you have a fan assisted oven, you need to reduce the temperature appropriately – finally, fifteen minutes should be the right cooking time, but you do need to keep an eye on little cakes as they can overbake very swiftly.
Vanilla and White Chocolate Cupcakes
These little cakes are simple to make and very tasty – they are an ideal starting point for learning how to bake cupcakes. They take fifteen minutes to prepare and fifteen minutes to bake. Makes twelve individual cupcakes or make produce up to eighteen fairy cakes.
- 100 grams softened butter or baking margarine (don’t use low fat spreads as they don’t have enough fat content to bake well)
- 110g (4oz) caster sugar
- 110g (4oz) self-raising flour
- 2 eggs – lightly beaten
- ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
- Preheat the oven to 160°C or Gas 5. Set 12 muffin cases or 18 fairy cake cases in a tin.
- Using the method described above, mix the fat, sugar, eggs and flour together, then add the vanilla essence, folding it through the rest of the mixture. You’re aiming for a soft dropping consistency so if your mixture seems a little dry at this point, add a teaspoon of lukewarm water and fold in.
- Bake for between ten and twenty minutes, checking at the ten minute point by inserting a cocktail stick into the highest part of one of the cupcakes. If it comes out clean, the cakes are cooked but if it has wet mixture along it, then the cakes need a few minutes more.
- When cooked, lift the cakes, in their cases, out of the tin and leave on a wire rack.
White Chocolate Icing
The key to having Perfectly Decorated Cupcakes is to allow them to cool completely before you start to ice them. Even little cakes can hold onto their inner heat for a long time so it’s best to allow at least four hours after baking before starting to ice cupcakes. Even better is to let them stand overnight.
- 110g (4oz) white chocolate
- 140g (5oz) unsalted butter
- 140g (5oz) icing sugar
Begin by melting the chocolate in a glass bowl over a pan of gently boiling water, or by placing it in a microwave safe bowl and heating it on High for 1½ minutes giving it a good stir at the halfway point. Remember that white chocolate has a lower heating temperature than milk or plain so it scorches very easily. Leave it to cool.
While it’s cooling, beat together butter and icing sugar in a large bowl until creamy and light. You can do this is a food processor if you prefer as it’s quite a long task. Then fold in the chocolate. This icing can be kept for up to two weeks if covered and chilled in the fridge, but if you’re chilling it, you need to bring it back to room temperature before icing the cakes.
When the cakes are fully cold, spread or pipe the room temperature icing over them and decorate with white chocolate buttons or edible glitter.