Friday, October 14, 2011

One is the loneliest number...

No cupcake was safe...

...except it would seem if you are turning one year old and then it is quite the opposite.
My niece had her first birthday recently and aside from having almost her entire extended family fly over from Brisbane to help celebrate, was showered with more gifts than she could (literally) climb over. So not wanting to add to the pile (and, dare I say, take any of the joy of spoiling the child away from her grandparents) I baked her a cake instead, well one big cake and 36 little ones. Having consulted with her mum I was informed that Amy was partial to pinks, blues, oranges and purples and having consulted with Amy by choice of  which cupcake papers she chose to take from the shelf and chew on, polka dots it was!

I find lemon cupcakes always go down a treat and aren't too 'weird' for picky children. I have a delightfully moist recipe I use from the Primrose Bakery's cupcake book (recommended reading!)  only I have upped the lemon content and mix half yogurt half milk  to add to the tang.  You might notice that I always seem to be adding yogurt to my cakes,  besides it's colouring heightening abilities I like the way it helps to keep the cake crumb soft and moist (Always an issue with cupcakes!). It's much like the idea of adding buttermilk really, only I'm more likely to have plain yogurt in my fridge.

Delightfully zingy lemon cakes require delightfully zingy icing. So for these cakes I tried a new recipe which was the hybrid of a couple I'd  read about and found it to be quite delightful and crust forming for making perfectly smooth surfaces:

 125g softened butter
125g softened vegetable shortening (check it's trans fat free!!)  
250g cream cheese (at room temperature)
1/4 cup lemon juice
5 cups icing sugar (give or take)

Using  a stand mixer start with the vegetable shortening (use all butter if you prefere but icing won't be white so colours will be off slightly) make sure it's soft and whip for around 4 minutes until it's looking very white, then add the butter slowly so that they incorporate well. The worst thing you can do here is add it too quickly and end up with little lumps of white vegi fat (eww). Once it's well incorporated start adding the cream cheese, again avoiding lumps. Next introduce some of the icing sugar, blend a bit and add lemon juice. Keep adding icing sugar until you get a good working constancy. I like to leave it a bit runnier than I would like for piping - put it in the fridge for a while and it will harden up. If you are going to be serving the cakes on a warm day you'll need to add more icing sugar for stability but this will compromise on taste.  I think the less sugar you add the better so if you can serve your cakes from the fridge or there about then do! This is also the icing I used for the rainbow cake only I used coconut cream instead of lemon, and I erred on the side of less sugar and more fridge time for it.

As for decorations I used pre-made fondant icing mixed with gel colours (these are better than cheap liquid ones as the icing contains glycerine which absorbs water and makes the icing too sticky to work with). Sandwiching the icing between baking paper helps stop it sticking too. I then used little blossom cutter to make little flowers which I dried in a half pipe to give them shape, dotting the centre with a little royal icing in contrasting colour. They were very cute when added to the cupcakes and given a little sprinkle of edible glitter.