Monday, 10 August 2009


What a weekend! I'm so exhausted but it was well worth the effort. I hosted my friend Laura's birthday party, with an Alice in Wonderland theme. We lucked out with the weather (as it's been utterly miserable in the UK this summer) and it was held in the garden, which was full of hanging lanterns and playing card bunting. We made items to dot about the garden to represent some of the main characters, so there was a smile hung in one of the trees, a hookah pipe and the mad hatter's hat. Our neighbour's cat even decided to join us!

The food was an afternoon tea, so cucumber sandwiches (in the shape of tea pots! too cute) and jam tarts, as well as the birthday girl's cake...

I’m definitely no master of cupcakes – sugar craft isn’t really my thing as I just don’t have the patience – but I love how a bit of piping and a cute flower can make a simple sponge simply irresistible. And on that note, I always used to use a classic sponge recipe for cupcakes but found them slightly greasy. So I turned to the good ol’ US of A for inspiration and, more specifically, Magnolia Bakery. Where else? This is their recipe and I have to say I infinitely prefer this recipe to a classic sponge. I used their icing for the Christening cupcakes (shown below) and it was very good. For the Alice in Wonderland cupcakes I attempted a swiss meringue buttercream - it turned out well but after tasting it, I decided that I couldn't eat a large amount of it so switched to my fail safe recipe shown below. I think the swiss meringue buttercream would work well on a large cake but I just couldn't imagine it on a cupcake.
As always with baking, have all your ingredients at room temperature and don't open the oven for as long as you can resist!
Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted from Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
345g Plain Flour
3 tsp Baking Powder
pinch salt
230g Unsalted butter at room temperature
400g Caster sugar
4 eggs at room temperature
240ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F/170C.
Line two 12-cup tins with cupcake papers.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. This timing will vary depending on the size of cupcakes you opt for. Mine only took about 12-15 mins (alothough I don't have a timer so don't hold me to that!) as I was using mini cases.
Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
For the icing, simply use twice the weight of icing sugar to unsalted butter (I used 230g butter and 460g icing sugar). Beat them thoroughly with a pinch of salt and a good teaspoon of vanilla, plus a tablespoon of milk. Colour as desired and pipe onto the tops of the cakes.
For the decoration, I cut out flowers from sugarpaste and shaped them using the contours of an egg box. I cut out little discs and piped 'eat me' onto them, made little toadstools and white roses. Then, for added Alice in Wonderland reference, I half painted the white roses red. Almost too pretty to eat! These ones were for Lydia's christening. I used the same sized flower cutter and piped an L on little white discs. Very easy but effective!

Rosy xx

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