Baking cupcakes is most people's first introduction to cooking in general and often conjures up childhood memories of baking with mums and grandmas. These are happy little cakes that can be produced at the drop of a hat or the hint of an unexpected visitor. They should always be eaten fresh within a day of being baked and never frozen as they are everything home baking represents and should be light, fluffy little mouthfuls preferably still warm out of the oven.
Many high street eateries use a factory mix to produce large quantities of cupcakes with long shelf lives but they have lost the true essence of what a cupcake should be, the lightness of our old fashioned fairy cakes but larger. Heaven.
With this fail proof recipe and simple tips you need never waste your money on sub standard cakey treats again.
Self Raising Flour - 120g
Caster Sugar - 120g
Soft Unsalted Butter/Margarine - 120g
Eggs - 120g (without shells)
Vanilla Extract - half teaspoon
Baking Powder - 3g
These measurements are a guide only, the important issue is having equal amounts of each ingredient. I recommend weighing your eggs first and matching the remaining ingredients to that weight. This amount is based around 2 large eggs and makes about 10/11 cupcakes.
Microwave the butter on defrost until it is super soft but not runny. This is really important as it means less mixing is required and so the gluten in the flour is not stretched from over mixing as this produces a dense heavy texture. Great for bread but not good for light sponges.
Carefully weigh out all the ingredients into one bowl.
On a low speed mix the ingredients until they are all combined.
Turn the mixer to a medium speed and continue to mix until the batter turns a paler creamy colour and is smooth in texture. This indicates the mixture is aerated.
Do not keep mixing once the colour change has occurred as it will make your cakes dense and heavy.
The first image is the combined mixture using the lowest speed.
The second image is the aerated mixture using a medium speed.
Slightly paler and a smoother mixture indicating it is ready to bake.
Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases.
I always weigh out the mixture into each case in order to have totally uniform cakes that are the exact height for each particular decorating method.
40-43g is about right for standard cupcake cases, but do experiment until you have the perfect amount for your particular cases and decorating needs.
Place in the centre of a preheated oven around 180°C-160°C for about 20-25 minutes until firm to the touch and just starting to colour.
The absolute key to baking is finding the correct oven temperature.
Every oven is different and so telling you a particular temperature on which to bake your cupcakes is pointless.
The best way to find your oven's baking temperature is to make a single batch of cupcakes, put 3 or 4 in a cupcake tray and bake.
If they come out of the oven with a peaked top then the oven is too hot. The outside batter cooks too fast, becomes hard and then squeezes the inside batter upwards, volcano style.
So turn your oven down, put in another few cupcakes and keep doing this until you have a perfectly flat topped batch of cakes.
Whatever the oven temperature is for this batch of cupcakes that's your oven's baking temperature.
My oven bakes best at 120°C which seems crazy low but it produces beautifully soft, light and moist cupcakes every time.
Better to bake for longer at a lower temperature than hot and fast.
When my new oven arrived I did exactly as described above.
These cupcakes are all made from the same batch of mixture.
For the first batch the oven was far too high and produced the crusty peaked cupcake at the back right hand side in the photo.
I turned down the oven and the second batch came out much flatter but not quite the usual rise and a little uneven in both colour and shape at the back left hand side in the photo.
I turned the oven down again and the third batch produced the completely even, flat topped, soft cupcake at the front of the photo.
This is perfect for any type of decoration from buttercream swirls to poured fondant.
The most frequently asked question by class attendees is how to prevent cupcake paper cases from peeling away from the cake.
There are many potential causes.
The main culprit is poor quality cases. There are a lot of them on sale and they are usually the exquisitely pretty cases that you just cannot resist and then you wish you had as they sag away from your cakes and look a total mess. I always use foil cases as they are more guaranteed to stay in place, also they keep the cakes fresher for longer.
Other reasons for peeling cases are:
* Not enough mixture in the cases
* Undercooked cakes
* Very wet mixture
* Keeping cakes in an airtight container
* Leaving the cakes in the baking tin.
Always remove the cupcakes from the tin as soon as they are out of the oven (Asbestos fingers help with this) otherwise condensation builds up between the tin and the cakes and the papers absorb this moisture and sag away.
Once you have mastered the oven temperature all that's required is to pop your perfect cupcake in your mouth and enjoy!