“We’re going to make some cupcakes tonight” I said.
“But I don’t want to make cupcakes,” she says. “I want to wear my spider-man costume and fight bandits!”
After a brief debate about the fact that we were using blueberries and not chocolate (“why didn’t you just buy SMARTIES?”) and then about wearing aforementioned spider-man costume whilst baking (“if it gets dirty you can just wash it for me tonight so I can wear it again tomorrow, yeah?”), we deduced that blueberries are actually poisonous to bandits and that we could trick them into being poisoned by putting blueberries in cakes and then we were all enthusiasm and excitement about our evening activities.
This recipe is really really great for kids. They can do pretty much every process themselves aside from taking the tray out of the oven. We had lots of fun doing it together, and the girl who claims to ABHOR blueberries was spotted pinching them out of the bowl when my back was turned.
Before I start listing ingredients and the method, it is very very important to read through the ENTIRE recipe before starting. It doesn’t apply to this recipe, but there could be something you have to do a few hours in advance, or even the night before. I’ve been caught out many a time with this. But I’m here to make the mistakes so you don’t have to. I’m kind like that.
80g unsalted butter, room temperature
220g self-raising flour, sifted
280g caster sugar
2 free range eggs (we favour duck’s eggs, you don’t have to use duck’s eggs but I will talk about why there are so fab in a minute)
180ml full fat milk
1 teaspoon of good quality vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
150g blueberries (I try when I can to buy from the local greengrocer)
500g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
20ml full fat milk
36 blueberries to decorate
12 hole deep muffin tray
12 cupcake cases
large bowl for mixing
smaller bowls for separating ingredients
electric hand whisk/freestanding electric mixer (or if you have neither of these, a good old-fashioned wooden spoon does the job perfectly)
piping bag with large star nozzle (you can pick them up from wilkinsons for £1)
Preheat your oven to 185 degrees celcius. Wash your hands with antibacterial soap.
When baking with little people, it’s always best to weigh out your ingredients and separate them into bowls first. Tegan likes doing it this way because she has easy access to them and finds it easier to add things as we’re going. She also likes being able to touch them and look at them and finds it amazing how the textures and appearances change when you add them all together. I find it gives her a better understanding of the science of baking.
Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat well until it’s smooth and creamy. Crack the eggs into a jug and beat them too until they’re light and frothy. This is very important because it adds air into the cakes and makes them rise.
Now, we use duck’s eggs in all of our baking. They’re much, much richer than hen’s eggs and give the cakes a totally different texture. I find that they keep the cakes fresh for a few extra days as well. We get ours from Westcroft eggs based in Burnam-on-Sea, but they sell them in Waitrose as well if that’s a bit of a trek. Of course, you absolutely don’t have to use duck’s eggs, hen’s eggs have been traditionally used in cakes for years and still give wonderful results, it’s just a case of personal preference.
Add the whisked eggs into the butter and sugar mixture and beat again until you have a smooth paste. Add the milk and vanilla extract and beat again.
Add your sifted flour a third at a time and mix on a low speed, making sure it is all combined before you add any more.
When all the flour is mixed in, chuck your blueberries in and give it a final stir.
Line your 12 hole muffin tray with 12 cupcake cases. Using the tablespoon, fill the cases until they are 2/3rds full. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Make sure you use oven gloves when taking them out of the oven. The cupcakes should have risen beautifully and will be a golden brown colour. The sponge should spring back at your touch. If you are unsure whether or not they are cooked, insert a skewer into the centre of one of the cakes. If it comes out clean, you’re good to go! Place on your wire cooling rack and leave to cool. This usually takes about 20 minutes.
Whilst your cakes are cooling, you can make up the frosting. In a large bowl mix together the butter, icing sugar and milk. Icing sugar has a tendency to fly everywhere – I am perpetually cleaning it off the knobs on my washing machine/my glasses/everything I own – and to avoid this you can place a tea towel over the bowl whilst you mix. Beat it for a minimum of 5 minutes. If it still seems too stiff, you can add a splash of milk. I mean it when I say a splash though, any more and it becomes runny and unusable.
Once your cakes have cooled, fill your piping bag with frosting. Twist the top so the frosting won’t escape and is all at the bottom of the bag. We use what Tegan has named the ‘three swirls’ method; start with a big swirl, continue it into a medium swirl then finish with a little swirl on top. Actually, frosting cupcakes is much much harder to describe than I anticipated. I hope this is making sense!
To finish, top the cupcakes with three blueberries on each one. Sadly, Grandad came to visit and was sent home with four cupcakes (“no Grandad, I INSIST! It doesn’t MATTER that you’re lack toast intolerant!”) so only eight of them made the final picture.
So that’s it! Easy peasey vanilla and blueberry cupcakes. Tegan wanted me to let you all know that the way the blueberries ‘explode’ in the sponge whilst they’re baking and turn purple is ‘INCREDIBLE’.
PS: No bandits were actually harmed in the making of these cupcakes