Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Sheep cupcakes (apple and cinnamon)

12 Sheep cupcakes - cinnamon cupcakes filled with apple puree and topped with maple syrup buttercream and mini marshmallows

Bake number two for the Welsh hen do! Having done a quick skim through Pinterest for Welsh-themed cupcakes, I decided that marshmallow-topped sheep cupcakes were definitely the way forward!

Having chosen lemon and blueberry mini loaf cakes as my other bake, I decided to make apple and cinnamon  flavoured cupcakes, using some apple puree left in the freezer from last Autumn’s glut of Bramley apples. I made apple and cinnamon cupcakes about a year ago, but the texture of the cakes didn’t turn out quite right (although they tasted fab!). This time, I decided to make cinnamon cupcakes and fill them with apple purée. The cinnamon cupcakes were an adaptation of the Primrose Bakery vanilla cupcakes –simply with the addition of two teaspoons of cinnamon. I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract as this helps to soften the cinnamon and give a more rounded flavour. The apple puree was added to the cooked cupcakes as a filling. I’ve recently discovered the joy of American pancakes with maple syrup and, inspired by these, decided to make a maple syrup buttercream to top these cupcakes.

To create the sheep, I made the black sheep heads out of fondant icing the night before making the cakes. This takes quite a while so it is better done in advance. However, having made them all in advance – I managed to lose one! I didn’t have the time or inclination to make another, but fortunately, EHH came to the rescue with a fab suggestion – I rolled four small thin sausages of black fondant and turned them into feet – creating an upside-down sheep!  Pushing the marshmallows into the buttercream was easy but took longer than expected – so allow plenty of time!

Once complete, I was fairly happy with these cupcakes – they tasted great and looked pretty good! The bride-to-be loved them too! The maple buttercream worked really well with the apple and cinnamon – definitely a good combination!

Cinnamon cupcakes with apple purée and maple syrup buttercream
12 Sheep cupcakes - cinnamon cupcakes filled with apple puree and topped with maple syrup buttercream and mini marshmallows

  1. 110g butter, at room temperature
  2. 225g golden castor sugar
  3. 2 large eggs
  4. 150g self-raising flour, sifted
  5. 125g plain flour, sifted
  6. 120ml semi-skimmed milk
  7. 2 tsp cinnamon
  8. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  9. 2 large / 3 small Bramley apples
  10. ½ - 1 tblsp soft brown sugar
  1. 115g butter, at room temperature
  2. 500g icing sugar, sifted
  3. 2 tblsp maple syrup
  4. 2 tblsp milk 

To decorate
  1. Mini marshmallows
  2. Black fondant icing
  3. White fondant icing
  4. Black writing icing (optional)

To make the sheep heads:
(These can be made ahead of time and stored in a cool dry place until they are needed).
  1. Knead the black fondant until pliable.
  2. Make 12 teardrop shaped lumps of icing (approximately the size of the top segment of your index finger)
  3. Use a small ball tool to make indents on either side of the rounded end of each teardrop.
  4. Use the same tool to make indents for the eyes.
  5. Roll 24 small lumps of black fondant for the ears.
  6. Roll 24 small balls of white fondant for the eyes.
  7. Use a paintbrush to dampen the indents with water.
  8. Push the eyes and ears into place.
  9. Use the writing icing (or tiny balls of black fondant – but this will be very fiddly!) to add pupils to each eye. 
  10. Use a skewer to add two nostrils to each head.
  11. Set aside to dry.

For the cakes:
  1. Peel and chop the Bramley apples.
  2. Place the chopped apples in a saucepan with two tablespoons of water and half a tablespoon of soft brown sugar.
  3. Cook over a low heat until softened and mostly pureed ( a few small lumps is fine).
  4. Taste and add extra brown sugar as required.
  5. Place to one side to cool.
  6. Preheat oven to 160C.
  7. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  8. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (this will take at least 5 minutes with an electric hand /stand mixer – don’t rush this stage).
  9. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition. It should result in a lovely light mousse-like mixture.
  10. Combine the two flours and the cinnamon in a separate bowl.
  11. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a jug.
  12. Add one third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and stir gently to combine.
  13. Pour in one third of the milk mixture and stir gently.
  14. Continue to add flours and then milk mixture alternately, stirring gently after each addition, until all have been added.
  15. Spoon mixture into the cupcake cases, filling to about 2/3 full.
  16. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until lightly golden brown. The cakes will spring back lightly when touched, if cooked.
  17. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in tin for about 10 minutes, before carefully placing on a wire rack to finish cooling.

While the cakes are in the oven, make up the buttercream:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, maple syrup and half of the icing sugar until smooth.
  2. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add milk (if needed to bring the buttercream to a piping consistency) and beat again.
  4. Put buttercream into a piping bag with a large round nozzle.

Once cakes are cooked and cooled:
  1. Use a tea spoon to cut a cone out from the centre of the cakes.
  2. Cut the top disk off each cone and retain.
  3. Fill the hole in each cake with a teaspoon of pureed apple and then replace a cake disk onto each cake to seal the hole.
  4. Pipe the butter cream into a small flat swirl on each cupcake.
  5. Push the mini marshmallows into the buttercream, leaving space for the heads.
  6. Push the heads into place.  

Monday, 21 April 2014

Mini lemon and blueberry loaf cakes

Mini lemon and blueberry loaf cake

What do you make for an afternoon tea in a Medieval manor house? As part of an action-packed hen weekend in Wales (which also included The Crystal Maze, a Medieval Banquet, crazy golf and a 1930s Paris-themed evening), Saturday afternoon was dedicated to a moment of calm in the form of a vintage afternoon tea, complete with tea dresses and scrumptious delicacies prepared by the hens.  Victoria sponge, Welsh cakes, scones, banana cupcakes, chocolate brownies, blondies and macaroons were all on the menu already so I needed to come up with something different for my contribution.

I’d already decided that sheep cupcakes were a definite (surely an essential for a hen do in Wales, with a very Welsh hen?!): these were going to take quite a bit of effort and so, for my second contribution, I decided to make some mini lemon and blueberry loaf cakes: they’re delicious, quick and easy to make and you can’t have an afternoon tea without lemon cake!

The recipe is almost identical to the mini lemon loaf cakes from the Lakeland website that I made in February, except this time, I used the juice of two lemons rather than also adding milk. This upped the intensity of the lemon in the cakes and had no impact on the texture of the cake. Blueberries are one of my favourite fruit and they go beautifully in these lemon cakes – think that I’ll have to make these for my mum!

As with the mini lemon loaf cakes, this recipe uses medium eggs – which I never buy! If, like me, you only have large eggs, just break the eggs into a bowl, whisk and weigh out 160g of the whisked egg to add to the cake mix, discarding any left over.

Mini lemon and blueberry loaf cakes

  1. 200g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease
  2. 175g golden caster sugar
  3. 3 unwaxed lemons
  4. 3 medium eggs, beaten
  5. 200g plain flour
  6. 2 level tsps baking powder
  7. Pinch of salt
  8. 50g ground almonds
  9. 100g blueberries
  10. 150g icing sugar, sifted 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
  2. Lightly grease the mini loaf tin (ideally, spray with cake release spray).
  3. Cream together the butter and caster sugar until pale, light and fluffy.
  4. Grate the zest from two of the lemons and add to the mixture.
  5. Gradually add the beaten eggs, mixing well between each addition.
  6. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  7. Fold these dry ingredients into the cake mixture.
  8. Fold in the ground almonds.
  9. Add the juice from two lemons and mix until smooth.
  10. Mix in the blueberries.
  11. Divide the mixture between the tin holes and level with a teaspoon.
  12. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and springy, turning the tin after about 18 minutes to ensure that the cakes bake evenly.  
  13. Leave the cakes to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then ease out onto a wire rack and leave until completely cool.
  14. Meanwhile, zest and squeeze the juice from the remaining lemon.
  15. Mix the lemon juice into the icing sugar a little at a time, until the icing is smooth and runny and will coat the back of a spoon (it will need to be thicker – about the consistency of toothpaste – if you want to pipe the icing).
  16. Drizzle the icing over the cakes and sprinkle with the remaining zest.