Thursday, 28 January 2016

200 Recipes! Strawberry Fairy Cakes (with Meringue Buttercream)

Happy 200th Recipe!!

Today marks the 200th recipe (technically the 201st post, but the first post I ever wrote was an introductory one), so I thought I'd do something that I've always wanted to do but have actually never done: strawberry cupcakes.

When I was in college, the canteen served these super cute pink-iced fairy cakes. They had tooth-achingly sweet buttercream, flavoured with strawberry and coloured pink, and were decorated with little pink and white heart shaped sprinkles (like the ones I buy from Lidl; I think you've been rumbled, catering company!). The cake was just simple vanilla sponge. There's something wonderful about synthetic strawberry flavour: it conjures up images of childhood, and even as an adult who knows it's cheap and nasty I just can't help but love it.

I know you're all thinking, how can you have been running a bakery blog for nearly 3 years and never have done a simple strawberry cupcakes recipe? Unfortunately, here in Ireland strawberry essence is hard to come by, and usually very expensive, so I just forgot about it for quite some time.

However, the other day I was catching up on my YouTube channel subscriptions, and saw a woman making icing using strawberry milkshake powder, and I suddenly felt like a bit of an idiot: that stuff is super cheap and easy to come by, and I actually had used it once to make icing when I was a teenager.

So, I went to the shop to buy some, and inspected the ingredients: it's pretty much all sugar, except for less than one-percent strawberry powder, and some flavouring. This makes it easy to swap out for sugar in icing recipes.

This is my first foray into meringue buttercream, and I will say, it's harder than it looks. I based my creation on this recipe, halving the butter and adding it in in thin slices instead of chunks, and increasing the sugar. It made some delicious icing, but the making of it was quite complicated. I will in the future be tampering with it and trying to find a way to make it easier: I found that it kept collapsing and I had to refrigerate it to make it whip-able.

I also decided to chance putting some jam into the middle of each cake before baking, but the jam was heavier than the cake misture, so it sank to the bottom. It still tasted nice, though!

For 12 large cupcakes
  • 6 ounces (170 grammes) white spelt flour
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) cornflour
  • 1½ teaspoons (7 millilitres) baking powder
  • 6 ounces (170 grammes) caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) butter, or block margarine
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) vanilla essence
  • 3 tablespoons (45 millilitres) strawberry jam, sieved

For the meringue buttercream (EXPERIMENTAL; correct recipe to follow)
  • 2 medium egg whites
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) strawberry milkshake powder
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) white caster sugar
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) butter at room temperature, cut into thin slices


To make the cakes,
  • Line a 12 hole muffin tin with large paper cases, and preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F, Gas Mk.4, or moderate).
  • Make the cake mixture following this recipe (leaving out the jam). Divide equally between the 12 cases: they should be about three-quarters full. Swirl half a teaspoon of strawberry jam in each cake, and tap the pan off the work surface to release all the bubbles.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until well mounded and springy to the touch. Take out of the oven, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing,
  • Put the strawberry milkshake powder, caster sugar, and egg whites in a large heatproof mixing bowl. Heat over a saucepan containing about an inch (2 centimetres) of simmering water. Stir until hot to the touch, and when you rub the mixture between your fingertips you can feel no grains of sugar.
  • Take off the heat, and beat with an electric whisk until you have a super fluffy, big, soft meringue that is completely cold; it should have at least tripled in size. This can take anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes, depending on the strength and quality of your whisk.
  • With the whisk still running, add in a slice of butter at a time; each slice should be no more than half an ounce (15 grammes). Once the first slice is completely beaten in, add the next one, and so on. Take it slowly: otherwise it might collapse.
  • If it does collapse, no worries: finish adding the butter, then refrigerate for about 20 to 30 minutes and beat again, and it should be lovely and fluffsome.
  • Put into a piping bag fitted with a close star nozzle, and pipe onto the cooled cakes as you please. Decorate with sprinkles of your choice!

As you can see in this picture, I also made some chocolate ones, which were fabulous. The meringue buttercream is much lighter and creamier than traditional buttercream, so I actually prefer it, however I need to work on my technique. Watch this space...

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