]As most of you already know, it is Christmas time and for children, this time of year is filled with food, festivities, fun and most importantly, family. Whenever family is around, this usually means presents, lots and lots of presents. When Christmas time comes round with my family, they seem to beg and beg until I make my very own version of a Christmas Cupcake.
There are two main elements that go into creating the perfect cupcake these are; the flavor and the appearance. Remember that if a cupcake does not look good, the odds are that it does not taste good and this can lead to negative thoughts about the cake before it has even been tasted. Christmas also means gifts and I have made my cupcakes so special, that I even present them to the family as gifts as well as a dessert on Christmas day. When thinking of Christmas cupcakes you should consider colours and shapes which can work well. I usually incorporate a range of whites, blues, reds, browns and greens. The white icing fondant is used to represent the snow and using individual snowflakes can create beautiful designs. The reds represent Father Christmas and his famous attire as well as holly berries. The browns represent the colour of gingerbread men, reindeers and the famous Christmas pudding. Finally, the greens are used to portray leaves and sprigs of holly. Using all of these designs at once can be quite challenging so I like to keep the cupcakes looking simple and elegant, maybe colouring the icing with pale blue colouring and using white icing to create small, simple snowflakes, which I have used like sprinkles. Deep blue colours are not always desirable when decorating cupcakes so make sure that the colour of the icing remains pale blue. I like to make chocolate Christmas cake which also brings the colour brown into the picture, creating a thoroughly Christmassy, chocolate Christmas cake cupcake.
Smells are exceptionally important when working with cake on christmas. When you wake up on christmas morning, the usual aromas which tingle your nose is; cinnamon, apple, mulled wine, turkey and basically all the elements which create the perfect christmas lunch. Spice is the main smell that used to permiate my bedroom in the morning, as it was the only time that my family woould make mulled wine. I love spiced mulled wine and that is why I have created these wonderful christmas cupcakes which have a hint of spice making them 100% christmassy.
Here is how I have done it
Ingredients for the cake base;
– 200g golden caster sugar
– 200g Stork margarine at room temperature
– 4 free range, organic eggs
– 140g plain flour, sifted
– Pinch of salt
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 60g cocoa powder
– 1tsp vanilla essence (NOT EXTRACT)
– ½ pinch of ground cloves
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon.
Ingredients for the simple vanilla butter cream;
– 500g Icing sugar
– 250g unsalted butter
– 2 tsp vanilla essence.
– 1 to tbsp Milk to loosen the mixture
– Blue food Colouring
Set you oven to 160 degrees celcius and line a cupcake tin with paper cupcake liners. Leave the cupcake tray to one side and place the stork margarine which has been left to get to room temperature, in a bowl and mix until light and fluffy in texture and light in colour. The colour of the stork should turn from yellow to pale cream/white, this should take around 5 minutes and is a really important stage so you must ensure that this is completed properly and not done half heartedly (it is Christmas after all!). The next step is to add the sugar and mix well, until the texture turns light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift the flour and the cocoa powder and mix, then add the cinnamon, ground cloves, baking powder and salt. You should be left with one mixture that is liquid – the butter and sugar, and one mixture that is dry- flour, salt, cinnamon, ground cloves and baking powder. Place the dry mix to one side and add the eggs to the wet mixture, one at a time, ensuring that each egg has been mixed in well, add the vanilla extract to this egg mixture. Then sift the dry mix into the wet mix, 1/3 at a time using a wooden spoon, folding the mixture, making sure that you do not get rid of the vital air bubbles which are needed to make the cake mix light and fluffy. Once all of the ingredients have been added, then carefully spoon the batter into the paper cupcake holders and place them in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. You must make sure that you do not leave your cupcakes, as there is a very fine line between having perfectly cooked cupcakes and burnt cupcakes, so make sure you do not go off to have a shower, thinking that you have enough time, because YOU DO NOT!
The number of times I have put a batch of cupcakes in the oven, thinking that 20 minutes is more than enough to clean the floors or have a shower, and 30 minutes later I can smell a faint smell of burning waft its way through the house. I always tell myself never to do it again but US women always feel like we just have too much to do and too little time to do it in, especially at Christmas! I have only been married for a couple of months and am not looking to start a family JUST yet so I can honestly say that I have less priorities then some women, especially over the festivities, but I can STILL never get everything done.
Any who…. Back to the cupcakes…
Once the cupcakes are cooked, you can test that they have been cooked all the way through, by inserting a skewer into the center to each cupcake, when you remove the skewer, if it is clean, then the cupcakes are ready. If the skewer comes out with the batter on it, the cupcakes need to be put back in the oven for a short amount of time. Another way to test and see if the cupcakes have been cooked all the way through is to gently push down on the centre of each cupcake, using your finger. If the cake springs back, then they are ready. Once they have been removed from the oven, do not take the cupcakes out of the baking tray just yet. Leave the cupcakes to set and cool down for 10 minutes and then you can remove each cupcake to cool down completely on a wire rack. Leave the cupcakes to cool to one side and now it is time to think about the icing.
Never start making the icing whilst the cupcakes are still in the oven, as the icing is extremely easy to make, meaning that you will have to leave the butter cream to stand whilst the cakes are cooling. This can cause the butter cream to solidify and become hard, losing its fresh appeal. Put the butter (which should be at room temperature) in a bowl and mix for 5 to 10 minutes until the butter turns pale. Add the icing sugar 1/3 at a time, mixing it by had before you put the electric mixer on, if you do not mix the icing sugar in first, and use the electric mixer, then this can cause your icing sugar to blow everywhere leaving a thick film of icing sugar not only all over yourself, but also all over your kitchen.
Once all of the icing has been incorporated into the mixture, you will begin to feel that the mixer slows down, this is because the butter cream has thickened and in order to produce a thick, creamy and air bubble free butter cream, you will need to add between 3 to 4 tsp of milk, to loosen up the mixture. Pipe the butter cream icing onto your cooled cakes and there you have it, perfect Christmas cupcakes. I always like to add pale blue food colouring to the butter cream finish the cakes off with some miniature snow flake sprinkles. These cakes are perfect for a center piece at your Christmas table or just a general mouth opener for dessert!
Have a very happy and healthy Christmas!