It’s 11 December, and the blogosphere is full of red and white striped candy canes, red and green sprinkles, and warming spices and orange. But the start of advent isn’t the only special thing that’s happened recently… on 1 December, my best friend had her first baby, the gorgeous Amelia Rose.
Welcome to the world, baby Millie!
I know it’s a long time before Millie will eat a cupcake, but in the meantime, we are celebrating her arrival in all kinds of fashions…and this is my small tribute to her. Pretty pink, soft and fluffy, vanilla scented, fabulously adorned cupcakes, for a little cupcake.
Of course, not everything for Millie should be pink. This is 2014 and gender stereotypes are so last century, dahling. Pink is welcome, but it’s not the exclusive colour for baby girls, is it? At least, that’s what half my brain says. The other half says: Wheeee! It’s a girl!! Piiiiink!!! Hence the colour of the creamy vanilla-bean speckled buttercream atop these cupcakes.
But I must apologise to Millie/her parents/you for the Barbie shade, and the OTT dragees, gold stars and pearlescent sugar balls. I had in mind a tasteful, pale pastel shade for the buttercream, and a just few casually sprinkled toppings for some sparkle. Then I got over excited and this happened. Ah well. It came from a good place.
These cupcakes are egg-free, because Millie’s dad doesn’t do egg. And these cupcakes are for everyone.
Making a good eggless cake can be a challenge sometimes, because eggs have a series of important jobs in a cake. The yolks provide moisture, and richness and flavour from the fat which they contain. And as the combined yolk and white heats up in the oven, it ‘sets’ like a little rubber wall around air bubbles in the mixture (which you’ve either put there from beating air in, or which have resulted from a bubbling chemical reaction from leavening agents in the mixture, like baking powder or baking soda). The air inside these ‘balls’ expands as it heats in the oven, making the cake rise. The air bubbles are all held together by the network of stretchy gluten from the flour. The cake rises and rises…until it reaches its limit and the gluten can stretch no more…and you pull a stable and fluffy baked cake from the oven.
But egg is not necessary to achieve this risen effect, even if it is ideal. To compensate for having no egg, this recipe uses a slightly larger quantity of baking powder than one would usually find in a cupcake mixture. This baking powder reacts with the acidic ingredients (the buttermilk and vinegar) to create plenty of air bubbles, which are held in place by the oil in the mixture, and by the gluten in the flour. The buttermilk replaces the moisture and flavour that may be lacking through the lack of egg.
I can’t lie, eggless cake isn’t quite the same as cake with egg – the texture and flavour is somewhat different. But these are still so good… sweet, vanilla scented and light as a feather. So you can afford a huge heap of vanilla buttercream on top!
The buttercream is a simple all-butter icing, just unsalted butter, icing sugar, a pinch of salt, vanilla essence and paste, and pink food colouring. Pipe it onto the cupcakes with a large star-tipped nozzle, and pile it up! Then decorate as your heart desires.
I look forward to eating cupcakes with you, Millie! xoxo
***Recipe: Pink Vanilla Celebration Cupcakes***
For the cupcakes
255g self raising flour (I used self raising ‘cake flour’)
175g caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
75ml sunflower (or vegetable) oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3 teaspoons white vinegar
For the buttercream icing
250g unsalted butter (room temperature)
500g icing sugar (sifted)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence (or to taste)
Milk, or single or double cream – around 4 tablespoons though more may be required
Pinch of salt
Pink/red food colouring (optional)
For the cupcakes
1. Line cupcake baking tray(s) with 12 paper cupcake liners (I actually use the what are called ‘muffin’ paper liners) and pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees celcius.
2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
3. Mix the wet ingredients together in a measuring jug or bowl.
4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ones, and using a whisk, combine the ingredients together. Don’t beat at the ingredients, just stir until there are no streaks of flour left and all the ingredients are incorporated into the mixture.
5. Fill each paper liner 2/3rds full with cake mixture.
6. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes (mine took 23 minutes) until the cupcakes are well risen, and golden brown on the top.
7. Remove from the oven and leave the cupcakes to cool completely.
For the buttercream
1. Put the butter into a bowl and beat it until it is soft, creamy and pale.
2. Add the icing sugar gradually, so as to avoid a sugar cloud. Beat the sugar and butter for a few minutes until completely combined.
3. Add the vanilla, colouring if using, and 2 tablespoons of cream or milk to loosen the texture.
4. Add more milk or cream, in small increments, if you would like your buttercream to be softer.
To assemble the finished cupcake
1. Scoop the buttercream out of the bowl into a piping bag, into which you have fitted an appropriately shaped nozzle. I like star-tipped. Pipe a dot of buttercream in the centre of your cooled cupcakes, and then pipe around the dot and round and round, up into a Mr Whippy-style point.
2. Scatter dragees, edible glitter, sprinkles or any combination of them all over the cupcakes and serve.
3. Store any leftover cupcakes in an airtight container, in a cool place – do not refrigerate. These cupcakes are best eaten on the day of baking but will still be fine the next day. I wouldn’t recommend leaving them longer than that, as they get a bit dry as time goes on.