Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Cupcakes

There's nothing about these cupcakes which is historically authentic in terms of traditional Easter baking, but sometimes it’s far too easy to be excessively rigid about such matters. The only thing that makes these ‘Easter’ cupcakes is the fact that I have plonked a few mini, sugar-coated chocolate eggs on top. The cupcakes don’t even include any chocolate which appears to be a mandatory ingredient in foods for modern Easter celebrations. However, these are really simple cakes to bake and children and adults alike just love them; they can be rustled up in no time at all and use basic store-cupboard ingredients, so as far as I am concerned they are a winner!

So many commercially produced cupcakes don’t use butter in the buttercream icing. I realise why this is; margarines and vegetable based fats are a cheaper ingredient. However, I firmly believe that this is a false economy as nothing beats butter for flavour. I also hate the almost greasy film that margarines leave in the mouth, especially when used in icings and buttercreams. Despite having experimented extensively with many alternatives, I always come back to butter because it just tastes the best. I have said it before and I am proud to say it again… I think that we have the best butter in the world, available to us here in Ireland!
 
These cupcakes can be varied to suit the particular occasion.  I have labelled these Easter Cupcakes by virtue of the fact that I have topped them with mini Easter eggs, but they could also be topped with sugar flowers, or other sweets and edible decorations and served at birthdays and other celebrations.
 
Cupcakes are hugely popular and are so much more over-the-top than the traditional queen cakes and fairy cakes that I was brought up on. Both these are also individual sponge cakes or buns but they are far smaller in scale than their American cupcake cousins. Both queen cakes and fairy cakes can be unadorned but they are also often topped with a thin layer of chocolate or glacé icing. I am really fond of them and they hold a certain nostalgia for me, reminding me of school cake-sales and birthday parties when I was a child.

Cupcakes on the other hand are larger and tend to be covered in thick swirls of buttercream icing, which some people find a little too much, but I do love them despite these characteristics. There’s something very kitsch and a little vulgar about a cupcake compared to the restrained simplicity of fairy and queen cakes. Here’s my recipe.

Ingredients:

175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla paste/extract
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
175g self-raising flour, sifted
Buttercream:
100g butter, softened
200g icing sugar, sifted
1tsp vanilla extract/paste
1 drop of pink food colouring
Mini candy-covered Easter eggs to decorate

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Place 9 paper cupcake cases in a cupcake/muffin tin and set aside.
2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla paste/extract and beat again to fully incorporate.
3. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add the sifted flour and fold into the creamed mixture. Once all the flour has been added and incorporated, spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, distributing it equally. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes until the cakes are golden brown, cooked through and well risen.
4. Remove from oven and allow to cool for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. The cakes can then be decorated with buttercream icing.
Buttercream:
5. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and beat together until light and fluffy using a hand-held electric mixer. Place the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe generous swirls of buttercream on top of each cupcake. Press two or three mini eggs on top of the icing on each cupcake.
 
Makes 9 cupcakes.