Our formula for birthday success this year has been one part outdoor playground time, plus one part cake scoffing time. So far, we’ve had two very happy girls so I think we’re onto something! Perhaps a formula for world peace? Sigh. If it were only that simple…
Anyhow, as promised here are the recipes for the two cakes served this week. I must admit for whatever reason (I’m now blaming the cream cheese) I struggled to make a lump-free cream cheese frosting this year. The first batch unfortunately went straight in the bin, it was just not salvageable. Finally after a few Google searches, some creative problem solving and a helping of patience I did end up with a beautifully smooth, delicious frosting; though it was not the one I had originally intended. Let that be a metaphor for life I guess… perseverance, a little bit of creativity and acceptance of just getting on with it and working with what you got.
In the (frustrating) process I did learn a few practical and helpful tips for making cream cheese frosting. As cream cheese frosting is my absolute favourite, I’ll be keeping these things in mind for next time.
1. Bring the butter AND the cream cheese up to room temperature.
2. If you run into lumps after combining (before adding the sugar) a good 15 seconds in the microwave, a whisking through, and some time chilling it back down in the fridge will smooth things out.
3. The sugar is what gives the icing its stiffness. If you want to cut back on the amount of sugar you are using be aware you may risk a softer frosting. To combat this if you can use the brick cream cheese (almost impossible to find in the UK for whatever reason), it’s much thicker and better for icing than the kind from the tub.
4. As a general rule think equal parts butter and cream cheese, then enough sugar until you get the thickness you desire.
5. Sift your sugar first! Don’t shortcut it unless you are going for that ultra photogenic ‘tapioca-style’ icing look.
Banana & Chocolate Chip Cupcakes slightly adapted from BBC Good Food
*Makes 12 cupcakes
100g caster sugar
100g butter, softened
140g self-raising flour or plain flour w/ 2tsp baking powder whisked in
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 very ripe banana
1 just ripened banana, sliced to use as topping
1 handful semisweet or plain chocolate chips
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/360F
Line a 12- hole muffin tin with fairy cake cases.
Put the sugar, butter, flour, eggs, vanilla and banana in a big bowl together. Beat with an electric whisk until banana is mashed and everything is well. Add your chocolate chips in and give a few last stirs.
Divide between the cases and bake for 20-22 minutes until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
Frost as desired (see my above tips for cream cheese frosting).
Strawberry and Cream Cupcakes – also slightly adapted from BBC Good Food
Makes 12 cupcakes
200g/7oz unsalted butter, softened
200g/7oz caster sugar
4 free-range eggs
200g/7oz self-raising flour or all purpose flour + 2 tsp baking powder
4-5 tbsp good-quality strawberry jam
250ml/9fl oz lightly whipped double cream
strawberries for topping
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Line one 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases.
Cream the butter and sugar together, preferably with an electric whisk, in a large bowl until the mixture is light and fluffy. (This can take 5-7 minutes, so this stage should not be rushed.)
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. (If the mixture looks like it is curdling add a spoonful of the flour.) Fold in the remaining flour with a metal spoon until you have a soft, smooth mixture.
Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until half full, add a generous half teaspoon of jam and then cover with the remaining cake mixture. The finished cake case should be about three-quarters full. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the cakes are pale golden-brown and spring back when pressed gently with a finger. Remove the cakes from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack.
Just before serving cover with whipped cream and top with strawberries.