Chocolate Chip & Vanilla Buttercream Cupcakes

I love cupcakes. The perfect serving size, the perfect amount of icing & the prospect of silly decorations. I restrained myself here with pink sprinkles. I sometimes find it a bit of a challenge to make nice moist cupcakes – this particular batch was a little dry but I’m fairly sure that’s because I mis-measured the butter. Oops.

ingredients:

180g butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup choc bits (either white, dark or a mixture of both)

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line your muffin pans if you must, but I usually don’t bother until right before I’m putting them into the oven. I want to get onto the fun mixing bit.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together in a bowl, either with electric beaters or laboriously with a spoon. Add the eggs, beating away until it’s all combined.

Sift in the flour and baking powder over the mixture, sprinkle over the choc bits and gently fold it all in to combine. Try not to overmix, this will keep the cupcakes fluffy and divine. Spoon out the mixture into the muffin pan, and pop the tray into the oven for about 30 minutes.

I used the quick vanilla buttercream icing recipe from Baking Bites – that recipe makes more than enough for 24 cupcakes, and the above recipe only makes 12, so double or halve away as you see fit.

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Vampire Cupcakes

I saw these cupcakes at Baking Bites, and couldn’t resist them – the fabulous bleeding vampire bites in the soft white icing. They were rather fiddly (as you might guess from the long list of instructions), especially making a big batch, and the icing takes quite some time. Admittedly, it’s all time spent standing still holding an electric beater, so it’s not overly taxing, but I spent it fretting that the icing wouldn’t solidify, which made it seem rather longer.

for the cupcakes:

2 cups cake flour (I actually found a flour specifically for cakes at the supermarket, which I’ve never seen before – not sure how much difference it made over normal flour though)
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
(about 125g)
2 large egg whites
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
(I skipped this)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F (350F is probably more like 175C, I think, but 180C works fine). Pop your paper liners in muffin tins.

Nicole at Baking Bites says to sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together into the bowl of a food processor, but I’m lazy and didn’t bother. I hate sifting. If you’re following my method, dump those dry ingredients into the food processor (with some sort of plastic paddle-like attachment) and give them a whiz. Add the sugar, and blend again. (Or just mix it all up in a bowl by hand, I suppose).

Cut the butter into chunks, and drop it into the food processor – mix on low speed until it looks sandy and no large chunks of butter remain (for about 1-2 minutes).

Put the egg whites, buttermilk (or milk soured with a little light vinegar), vanilla and almond extracts into a bowl, and whisk together. Pour roughly half of the liquid mixture (or about 1 cup) into the food processor, turn it up to medium and beat for about 1 ½ minutes. Reduce the speed to low, and pour in the rest of the liquid, beating for about 30 seconds until it’s all well incorporated.

Divide evenly into prepared muffin tins – I overfilled some of mine, and have decided that about three quarters full is best, as they will then rise evenly to the top of the muffin case.

Bake for 16-20 minutes, until cupcakes are light golden and a toothpick inserted into their centers comes out clean. (Mine needed longer, because of said over-filling). The cake should spring back when lightly pressed. Turn cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 18 cupcakes. (I actually made a double batch, and ended up with about 20 – but I think if you’re a bit more careful with filling the muffin tin you’d get 18 out of the single recipe. Maybe. Just.)

for the filling (and adapted for Australia where canned cherry pie filling does not exist):

1 can cherries in syrup
1 small jar of thick cherry jam

Puree a mix in a blender of mostly cherries, a splosh of the syrup, and a few tablespoons of jam. You should get quite a liquid mixture that has a bit of body (how vague!).

Baking Bites has a nice photo how-to of the assembly method, and I’ll steal her description. “Take a cooled cupcake and, using a small pairing knife, cut a cone of cake (1-inch across by 1-inch deep) out of the top. Trim off the pointy end of the cone, leaving a flat circle of cake. Set aside and repeat this process for all the cupcakes.  Take the cherry filling and spoon about tablespoon or so into each cupcake cavity, filling it almost to the top with filling. Top off with the flat circle of cake you just removed to seal the hole and hold the “blood” filling in place.”

for the icing:

1 ½ cups caster sugar
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/3 cup water
2 tsp golden syrup
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk sugar, egg whites, water, golden syrup, and cream of tartar in a large metal bowl. Set the bowl over a small saucepan of barely simmering water (so that the bottom of bowl doesn’t touch the water). Using handheld electric beaters, beat on medium speed until mixture resembles soft marshmallow fluff, about 5-7 minutes. (This feels like forever, and you wonder if it’s ever going to thicken. It does.) Increase mixer speed to high and beat until mixture is very smooth and thick, about 3 minutes longer. Remove bowl from over the saucepan. Add vanilla extract and continue beating until marshmallow icing is completely cool, about 5-7 minutes longer. It should be fairly thick, a nice spreadable consistency.

Ice each cupcake with a layer of the cooled marshmallow icing by swirling it about with a thick knife. Dip a wooden skewer into some leftover filling and poke two fang-holes in the frosting on one side of the cupcake. Dribble a little extra filling from the holes for effect. Repeat until all cupcakes are iced and decorated. I had heaps of icing left over and quite a lot of filling, probably plenty for another batch of cupcakes.

Awww, cute bite marks!

Strawberry Cupcakes

Calling these “Strawberry Cupcakes” is a little misleading – they’re actually a plain butter cake, with strawberry flavoured icing. Much tastier than the lemon version below, and much prettier as well. (Soon I’m going to try and make a cupcake that looks more sophisticated, but I’m rather attached to the childish versions at the moment.)

1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 cups self raising flour
3/4 cup milk
red food dye

icing:
2 cups icing sugar
water
red food dye
strawberry essence flavouring

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla essence and eggs together until light and fluffy. Add the flour and milk alternately, beating until you have a smooth batter.

Drip some red food dye into the mixture, and stir delicately, creating swirls of pink in the mixture.

Spoon into a muffin pan, into paper cases – about 1 big dessert spoonful in each case. Makes 12.

Bake for 20 minutes.

For the icing, mix together the sugar, food dye, a few splashes of flavouring and enough water for a fairly stiff icing. When the cakes have cooled a little, spoon the icing over them, and if you like, add some hundreds and thousands as soon as you’ve put the icing on, otherwise they won’t stick. Regress to childhood, and eat several, licking the icing off your fingers afterwards.

Lemon Cupcakes

This wasn’t the most attractive or successful cupcake experiment. Not only did I go completely overboard with the icing (doesn’t it remind you of those little crabs at the beach that leave behind swirls of sand?), but the cake itself wasn’t enormously appetising – I grated the lemon rind too roughly, so that each cake was studded with chunky pieces of lemon peel. I’m putting the recipe up here anyway, as I thought the cakes looked rather amusing, and I’m sure it’d be a good basic recipe if the lemon is more finely grated.

1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup castor sugar
2 eggs, beaten
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 tsp lemon juice
2 1/4 cups self raising flour
3/4 cup milk

icing:
1/2 cup butter
4 cups icing sugar
lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in the eggs, then add the lemon rind and juice. Mix in the flour alternately with the milk.

Spoon into muffin tins (filled with paper cases) – about one big dessert spoonful per cup. Makes 12.

Bake for 20 minutes.

While the cakes are cooling, beat the butter with the icing sugar, and add lemon juice until you get the texture you want. I made mine quite thick, and piped it onto the cupcakes. If you’re not into mountains of icing, I’d reduce the butter, and cut down the sugar by a cup. I dyed my icing with yellow food colouring, although it was quite a pretty pale yellow from the butter originally.

Chocolate Cupcakes

I’d never made cupcakes before, but I love the concept of little decorated cakes. Aren’t these cute? Next time I’m going to go for a slightly more adult colour – a deep red, or purple. I got the inspiration for this recipe from this, but changed the recipe to cater to the ingredients I had available. I think any good chocolate cake recipe would work well, though.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 cups milk

for the icing:
1/2 cup softened butter
4 cups icing sugar
roughly 1/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the vanilla, eggs and milk until you have a nicely smooth mixture. In fact, the original recipe was done entirely in a food processor, but I couldn’t be bothered getting mine out and then washing it up.

Gradually add the flour, cocoa and baking soda, stirring throughout to remove lumps.

Place paper patty cake cases into two muffin tins, and put about 2 big dessert spoonfuls of mixture in each one – this made about 18 cupcakes. Bake for about 30 minutes.

For the icing, begin beating together the softened butter and icing sugar, gradually adding milk as you go along. Stop adding milk when you get a fairly stiff texture – I made my icing a bit soft, and instead of defined swirls of icing (which was what I was aiming for) it all collapsed into a smooth topping.

These were delicious – extremely sweet, and very cute.