Sunday, March 8, 2015

Comic Relief Cupcakes for Red Nose Day

Friday 13th doesn't all have to be doom and gloom, especially this year, when it's time to get your bake on for Red Nose Day.  I picked up a great cupcake kit in Sainsburys last week for £2.50, with half of the proceeds going directly to Comic Relief who fund thousands of projects helping millions of people worldwide. There's nothing more appropriate for a cupcake than a Red Velvet Sponge and I ramped it up by adding some Raspberry flavouring to my basic cake batter for a moist chocolate raspberry sponge with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream icing. Lucy has volunteered to eat all of the cupcakes herself and she might even donate some pocket money too.  She's a generous soul...

So, are you planning to bake cakes or make your face funny for money?  Tell me all about it!

Comic Relief Cupcakes for Red Nose Day

Comic Relief Cupcakes

100g Butter, softened
200g Caster Sugar
2 Eggs, separated
1 pinch of Salt
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
175ml Buttermilk
1/4 tsp Red gel food colouring
5-6 drops Raspberry extract (I got mine in Lakeland)
175g Plain Flour
25g Cornflour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tbsp Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tsp White Vinegar

Preheat your oven to 180c/Gas Mark 5 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Beat the butter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract.  Now sift in the flour, cornflour, baking powder & cocoa powder. Mix the buttermilk with the red gel colour & raspberry extract and pour into the mixing bowl. Mix well until all the ingredients are well combined.

In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt together until firm. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the cake mixture to loosen it up, and then add the rest in two batches.  Now mix the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in a little bowl, whisking well and fold into the cake mixture.

Fill each paper case about 2/3 full with the cake mixture and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.  Wait at least an hour before you attempt to ice them - warm cake means runny icing...

Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMB for short)

10 Egg Whites (or 300g of Pasteurised Egg Whites in a Carton)
500g Sugar
675g Butter, cut into cubes & halfway between fridge cold & room temperature
25ml Vanilla Extract

Boil a kettle of water and put about 2 inches worth into your biggest pot. Place on the hob & turn the heat down to the lowest simmer. Make sure your food mixer bowl is spotlessly clean - if in doubt, give it a wipe with some kitchen paper and vinegar or lemon juice - and place into the pot to form a bain marie,

Add the egg whites and sugar and whisk gently but continuously for about 5 minutes until all of the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove the bowl from the water & wipe the outside with a teatowel, so you don't get your food mixer wet.

Using the balloon whisk, beat on a slow speed (2-3) until the meringue is glossy, very thick and the base of the bowl is slightly warm. How quickly this happens depends on your bowl : if it's plastic, about 10 minutes but up to 30 minutes for metal. This is when you will fall on your knees and give thanks that you're using a machine and not doing this by hand!

Once the bowl has cooled, swap the balloon whisk for the paddle beater and start adding the cubes of butter, one at a time. Don't try to add more and beat faster... it doesn't work like that & this will take about 10-15 minutes. Once all the butter has been incorporated, add the vanilla extract and beat for another minute. If you want it to look very vanilla-y, use vanilla bean paste. Also, if you want to colour or flavour the SMB, now is the time to add gel colours or fruit puree/melted chocolate.

The finished SMB pipes beautifully, goes on smoothly with a spatula and is really quite the most perfect cupcake icing in existence. If you're serving them in warm weather or prefer a firmer icing, give them 30 minutes in the fridge.  If you've any leftover SMB, put it into a sealed container and stick it in the freezer - it's fine for 2-3 months. Just thaw it & give it a good whisk before you use it.

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