Spring, as far as London is concerned, has Sprung.
And there’s something about sunshine, short sleeves, and hay fever that says Kitschy Little Cakes, isn’t there. What? Come on, you get people moaning all year round about how cupcakes are for little kids, then at the first sign of daffodils in bloom, those same people are chasing after the Mr Whippy van, tripping up said little kids in order to be the first to get their distinctly over-thirty jaws round an ice lolly. Same goes for the queues at various bespoke boutique bakeries of the cutesy cupcake variety. Fact.
So! Spring time + People (of any age) = Cupcakes.
Spring time also means London’s various jumble sales can get a lot more interesting, moving out of the confines of their designated pubs and spilling out into the beer gardens – which may or may not have the facilities for barbecues.
The jumble sale relevant to this post most certainly does have such facilities, and it’s almost a year to the day that, after sixteen years of vegetarianism, I gave in to the call of the carnivore and started devouring dead things like the tiny T Rex (not the band) I secretly am. A lot of my renewed T Rex-ing was done at this pub, in this beer garden, surrounded by the bustle of this jumble sale.
(For your benefit, some Jumble Sale Bustle…)
To this pub, these folks, that barbecue, and this bustling jumble sale, I decided to say thank you - and perhaps make a few quid – with cupcakes.
Yet another Spring thing is the combination of strawberries and cream, so for this batch, I thought I’d kill a few birds with the same proverbial stone (there’s a lot of carnage in this post, I do apologise) and a) have another bash at cream cheese frosting that is not runny, b) redeem myself from the sin of using artificial berry flavouring in my last batch of cakes, and c) test it as a potential flavour for a potential project that may potentially have some potential… more on that may be revealed in due course.
That wasn’t cryptic at all, was it.
Spring time. Cupcakes. Let’s get on with it, folks!
The Strawberry Issue: A punnet of fresh strawberries is pretty expensive in your bog-standard grocery chain, and they often taste of nothing. I’m hoping I can find a reasonably priced box at one of the local, independent grocers, though strawberries seem thin on the ground in this part of Hackney… Stay there a second, I’m just popping down to Broadway Market – it’s not big on fruit, but there are are some very handy shops at the top of the road and I could swear I’ve seen………….
Score. I even tried one and it tastes like fruit. I think, my friends, we are ready to rock and, indeed, roll.
Strawberry Cupcakes (pinched from gas.tron.o.my)
- 2/3 cup Whole fresh strawberries
- 1 1/2 cups Sifted plain flour
- 1 tsp Baking powder
- 1/4 cup Full fat milk, room temperature (I used buttermilk. It works.)
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup Unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup Caster sugar
- 1 Large egg and 2 large egg whites, room temperature
Preheat oven to 180C.
Put strawberries in a small food processor and whizz until pureed. This should give you about 1/3 cup of puree.
In a bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder.
In a separate bowl, mix the milk, vanilla extract, and strawberry puree.
In yet another bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Gradually add the egg and egg whites until just blended.
On a low speed, slowly add half the flour mixture and mix until just blended.
Add all the milk mixture and mix until just blended.
Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, until just blended.
Divide the batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
Yes… The frosting issue. We’ve established how I feel about cream cheese frosting and I’ve no doubt that my previously tried recipes failed on two fronts: not enough sugar and I definitely over-mixed. Still, why not try another recipe – this one, as I recall from my encounters with the Hummingbird’s red velvet cakes, is thick and creamy and just a leeeeetle bit too sweet. Next to a cake made of tart berries, that might not be such a problem.
I like the word ‘tart’.
Cream Cheese Frosting
(nicked from the Hummingbird Bakery)
- 300g icing sugar, sifted
- 50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 125g cream cheese, cold
Beat the icing sugar and butter together on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. (Because of the butter:sugar ratio, ‘comes together’ just means when you don’t see any chunks of butter in your heaving bowl of powdery sugar – it won’t look remotely like frosting)
Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated.
Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 mins.
Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.
Now, me being me (as opposed to that other person), I decided to Foolishly Attempt something, that being to get a swirl of strawberry-ish cream cheese frosting in with the plain frosting. Mainly because I didn’t want to leave it all plain and, while drizzling could have been pretty, my pureed strawberry drizzling technique is abysmal. Also because I thought a swirly stripe would look cool. Unfortunately, adding some strawberry puree made the frosting too runny so I settled for using a blob of the stuff to (sort of) hold the fresh strawberry topper in place.
Disclaimer: My general frosting technique is not far behind my drizzling technique in the abysmalness queue.
Verdict: The cakes were moist, with a subtle hint of berry and the frosting was a total success. It’s too sweet for my taste, but it’s still pretty bloody delish. This is a definite go-to for the time being.
And – YES – while I was doing all of the above, I also discovered two – TWO – new go-to frosting recipes (hint is in the cupcake group photo). And of course I’ll let you in on them. Soon.