My first success from the Primrose Bakery cookbook are their scrumptious vanilla cupcakes. My neighbour fed me a lovely fruity muffin that she made and then showed me the cookbook she made them from and thus set me on the path to cupcake heaven. She then let me know she frequently freezes them and warms them in the microwave at a later date - very handy. This was my first introduction to the pretty and user friendly world of cookery books. Up to that point my experience had been of complicated, convoluted recipes that required ingredients you spent a fortune on and then never used again (lets just say Gary Rhodes, not a good starter book to buy someone).
This delicious little book introduced me to butter cream icing and there has been no holding me back. My grandma baked, but the sort of plain home made fruit cake or jam tarts you got in the post war era. Icing did not feature. My mum believed in a very healthy diet, so any treats were to be had at Grandma's. So I made it to 34 before I made butter cream icing. I've now made all sorts of flavours and colours and they have all been super. With the exception of the honey and granola cupcakes - they were too crunchy and escaped their cases messily. Here is my all time favourite, the all occasion vanilla cupcake. The icing cake be easily gently coloured to give a visual array of treats and the decorating options are endless.
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g (8oz) caster sugar, preferably golden
2 large eggs, free-range or organic
150g (5½oz) self-raising flour, sifted
125g (4½oz) plain flour, sifted
120ml (4fl oz) semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
1tsp good-quality vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C (fan)/gas 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tray or 3 x 12-hole mini muffin trays with cupcake cases.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition.
In a separate bowl, combine the two flours. Put the milk into a jug and add the vanilla extract. Add one third of the flour to the creamed mixture and beat well. Pour in one third of the milk and beat again. Repeat these steps until all the flour and milk have been added.
Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling them to about two thirds full. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes (regular size) or 15 minutes (mini size) until slightly raised and golden brown. To check they are cooked, insert a skewer in the centre of one of the cakes - it should come out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool. Then ice the cupcakes with a glace icing made with 200g (7oz) of icing sugar and a few tablespoons of water, until it just reaches a pouring consistency.
Add a few drops of food colouring for your desired colour. For a fluffier icing, try the buttercream version below.
Vanilla buttercream icing
Makes enough to ice 15-20 regular cupcakes or about 60 mini cupcakes.
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature60ml (2fl oz) semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
1tsp good-quality vanilla extract
500g (18fl oz) icing sugar, sifted
Few drops of food colouring (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, milk, vanilla extract and half the icing sugar until smooth. Gradually add the remainder of the icing sugar and beat until the buttercream is smooth and creamy.
If you want to colour your buttercream, always start with one drop of colouring and beat. This will be all you need to achieve a very pale pastel hue. Add carefully, drop by drop, and beat after each addition to build up to your desired shade.
How to ice a cupcake
To keep the consistency as smooth as possible, beat the icing with an electric hand beater before starting. Between icing each cupcake, use a knife to stir the icing.
Start by scooping up the most buttercream you can in one go with a palette knife and place it in the centre of the cupcake. Keeping the knife angled, so that its flat side remains in contact with the buttercream, work the icing to one edge of the cupcake by gently pushing it using small strokes with the knife.
Take another scoop of buttercream icing and repeat step 3, this time pushing the icing out to the opposite edge of the cupcake. Add one more scoop of icing to the cupcake to bring the edges together, while making a central peak with the remaining icing. Dip the end of the knife into the centre of the iced cupcake and, in an anti-clockwise direction, drag the knife in a circular motion to create a swirl effect. Decorate the cupcake. Make sure to put any sprinkles onto the cupcakes as quickly as possible, otherwise the icing will set a little, making it hard for any decoration to stick.
Link to recipe online here.