Friday, 20 August 2010

How Will You Eat Yours?

Well iced cupcakes are a little like Cadbury's Creme Eggs - everyone eats them differently.

Personally, I prefer one of my new and very cute little cake forks so I don't get my fingers sticky. M naturally just dives in to what ever you give her and then proceeds to either offer some back to you, or if you're really lucky, rubs it as hard as she possibly can into the carpet. L ate his in only  few mouthfuls while A picked a crumb off at a time, apparently savouring hers. Someone else in the room, who will remain nameless, quietly licked all of the buttercream off the top before starting on the cake itself.

Sometimes, all it takes is seeing a new or limited edition item in a shop to inspire a tasty treat. Realising I needed some more teabags, I turned into the appropriate aisle in the supermarket and looked for something interesting and on offer. Tight, aren't I? Nestled in amongst the Twinings boxes were two new varieties. 'Rose Garden', which I have yet to try and am slightly nervous to - the scent of the box evoked the image of a little old lady; and 'Blossom Earl Grey', which is delicious with an orange blossom flavour to compliment the bergamot flavour of Earl Grey.

I have been deliberating whether or not to prepare a few cupcakes for sister A, to have on her 18th birthday when we visit for a cup of tea and some gift giving - later in the week I will be making a cake for her to have at her party. With the box of teabags in hand and a realisation that I had some strawberries to use up, I decided to make Earl Grey cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss meringue butter icing.
Lemon icing would work equally well here, seeing as a slice of lemon is the traditional accompaniment to a cup of Earl Grey. I however, wanted to give everyone a sort of English cream tea in cupcake form.

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream (makes 12)

110g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
225g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3 Earl Grey teabags
120ml milk

Heat the milk in a small pan and place one of the teabags in to infuse. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 and line a cupcake tray with 12 cupcake paper cases.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, with a tablespoon of the flour and beat until well incorporated.
Add the rest of the flour, along with the baking powder and salt. Split open the last two teabags and add the crushed tea leaves to the bowl. Mix well.
Finally, remove and squeeze the tea bag out of the milk and beat into the cake batter.
Use a dessert spoon to divide the mixture amongst the paper cases and place into the oven for 20mins until golden brown and springy to the touch.
Leave to cool on a cooling rack before decorating.

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1 large egg white
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch salt
60g strawberries, pureed and sieved with...
1 dessert spoon Monin strawberry syrup (optional)

Place the egg white and sugar into a glass bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. To test, put two fingers into the egg and rub together to check there are no sugar grains left.
Transfer the egg whites to be whisked for about 10mins in a freestanding mixer until they are glossy and have stiff peaks.
Cut the butter into squares and add it a piece at a time with the pinch of salt, whisking all the while until each is incorporated into the icing and it is smooth.
Switch to the paddle attachment and add the pureed strawberries and Monin syrup, if using. Beat for a further 4mins until smooth.
Carefully transfer to a piping bag with the desired nozzle and decorate your cakes as you wish.

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