Friday, 30 March 2012

Birthday Baking

I wasn't allowed any closer!
The Tiddlers
 So spring has sprung, the main lambing season  is in full swing and the cacophony of tractors, Sheep in labour and bleating lambs fills the air. The countryside is anything but peaceful on a sheep farm during lambing. The beautiful daytime weather and chilled nights we have recently enjoyed are causing problems for some of the labouring sheep and their newly delivered woolly offspring. The animals cannot adjust their inner temperature gauges and they develop pneumonia. The  poor sleep deprived farmer has been running around vaccinating sheep at every turn. He explained all this when us townies went to coo over the new babies. (I try hard not to think about where they will end up in only a few months time!)

 As spring has marched along it has brought with it an eagerly awaited event: Young Master Vander-Cave's Birthday. Unfortunately for him it was a school day which somewhat dampens the celebrations as far as he is concerned. To help make the school day festive  his school allow children to bring in cake or sweets for the whole class. Of course we can't send in sweets it just has to be cake. Master Vander-Cave had already requested Chocolate fudge cake as his birthday cake and "cakes with chocolate sprinkles for the class cake"  To try and keep the workload to a minimum I decided cupcakes were probably the best option. What I didn't realise was that 34 cupcakes were required! Clearly the Kenwood would have to take the strain, again!

My new favourite The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook had just the recipe I needed. Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla frosting which I could then decorate with the requested chocolate sprinkles.

Hummingbird Vanilla cupcakes

makes 12 cakes
120g plain flour

140g caster sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120ml whole milk
1 egg
¼tsp vanilla extract

For the vanilla frosting:
250g icing sugar, sifted
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
25ml whole milk
a couple of drops of vanilla extract

Line a 12 hole cupcake tray with 12 cupcake cases.

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.
Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
 Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.

Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula).

Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched.
A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting:
Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.

Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed.

Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.

Spoon or pipe the frosting onto the cold cupcakes.

For my decorations I piped the letters of my son's name and happy birthday onto giant Chocolate buttons and placed a chocolate button on each cake. I used White cooking  chocolate which I placed into a plastic disposable piping bag. I microwaved the chocolate in 20 second bursts on medium power until the chocolate  had melted. I then snipped just the very tip of the icing bag off which gave me a perfect piping hole to pipe the letter onto the chocolate buttons. I was also able to re-melt the chocolate in the bag when it started to solidify by popping it back into the microwave for another 20 seconds.

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