I am officially the world's worst sick person. I now fully understand my grandmother's frustration when she isn't allowed to help around the kitchen on Christmas Day. It was at the gym this morning with tissues shoved down my sports bra whilst coughing up interesting green gunk that I decided that I probably shouldn't be bouncing away on a cross trainer. The whole not being able to breathe thing was also a great sign nor were the flourish of ulcers that lined my mouth. Mainly it was my friends who told me get the hell out and a fear that they would fully restrain me and delivery me home if I refused. So after texting my manager, buying some kiwifruit, milk and a new tooth brush I made my way home.
I decided a nap was a good idea. An hour and a half later I woke up feeling refreshed. The colourful array of pills seem to have kicked in. The red one stops the running, the blue one loosens it all up and the white ones just make everything else better. I can barely remember what time I took all of them. I swear its like being in the Matrix. If I don't wake up tomorrow we all know why..
So by now you must realise that I am a firm believer in medication. Why suffer and ooze viscous fluids if you don't have to right? People who insist on just taking concrete pills are missing out on all the fun.
So once I had woken up I started getting restless. Cabin fever had set in. I am not good at lying around and doing nothing. Someone really should have confiscated my entire kitchen because I proceeded to go and make everything under the sun. I made three layers of cake to freeze for later in the week. I made a tray of colourful meringues. I also made a wee batch of cupcakes to take into work tomorrow.
Cupcakes were like my original thing to make. I always made cupcakes no matter the occasion. Then I think everyone got a little over them. I remember a notable food personality in Auckland referred to cupcakes as passe. I thought that was rather snobby. You can't label a little girl classic passe. Who did she think she was?
She was right though, cupcakes did lose their place in the limelight just a tad. Macarons took over, then meringues and now towering layer cakes covered in all sorts of chaos. Bakery trends really are quite fickle.
Cupcakes though are perfect for gatherings. Coming from someone who has had the responsibility of cutting some mighty hefty cakes, the individual nature of the cupcake has great appeal. The icing to cake ratio of prime and there is zero need for plates, forks or napkins.
While there are oodles of recipes out there involving complex toppings providing more height than the cake itself I feel like homage needs to be paid to the original classic. You can' go wrong with s a good vanilla cupcake. When the buttercream ratios are on point, the sweet, creamy and cloud-like experience is unbeatable.
The sponge recipe I use is from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. What is great about it is that the sponge uses almost no butter so these are reasonably cheap to make. I remember in my second year of uni uses the mini PCU containers of butter from the hostel kitchen to make these. 8g of butter per container, emptying the wee foil packets got a little tedious. While low on the butter front we shall ignore the fact that these have an atrocious amount of sugar in them...
Oddly enough this only makes 9 cupcakes.. They say 12 in the book but I have never made more than 10. That's fine though, 9 is the perfect number to fit into my Tupperware.
Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
For the sponge:
40g butter, softened
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
For the buttercream:
120g butter, softened
320g icing sugar, sieved
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Couple of tablespoons of milk
Food colouring of your choice
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees on bake and line a muffin tray cupcake cases.
Beat together your butter and sugar until the butter has been evenly broken up and dispersed throughout the sugar. Add in the flour and baking powder and continue to beat until a fine sandy consistency is achieved. Whisk together the vanilla, milk and eggs. Gently pour this mixture slowly into the dry mixture and beat on high until a smooth, thick batter forms.
Spoon the butter into cases so that they are two thirds of the way full. Bake for 13-15 minutes until the tops of the cakes are golden and the sponge bounces back when gently pressed. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the buttercream, cream the butter and vanilla until it pales in colour then slowly add in half the sieved icing sugar, beat on slow while it gets roughly mixed in to stop a cloud of sugar forming. Add in the rest of the icing sugar, beat on low again and add in a splash of milk to help loosen the buttercream but not too much or else it will be too sloppy, you can always add more later. Crank the beater up to a high speed and let the buttercream grow in volume and smooth out for about 3-4 minutes. At this point the buttercream should be spreadable but still stiff enough to hold a peak. Add a little milk if not spreadable enough. Colour as desired.
Spoon a couple of tablespoons of buttercream onto each cupcake and spread it evenly over the top. Watch this video here if you want some buttercream piping inspiration :) Finish off each cupcake with a sprinkle of sprinkles!