The time of year to think about birthday cakes has rolled around again. I know cupcakes have been all the rage ever since Sarah Jessica Parker visited the Magnolia Bakery in NYC in an episode of Sex and the City almost ten years ago - cupcake boutique bakeries have been springing up in every major city the world over - so I though I'd better embrace this trend before it was over (bound to be any day soon now).
In my internet researches I had bookmarked this recipe for Chocolate Mint Cupcakes - it looked fairly straightforward yet utterly tempting so I thought I'd give it a bash. Chocolate and mint are two of my favourite things. And I love combining them.
Here are the ingredients. All impeccably free range, organic, fair trade etc etc etc. I decided to take Nigella's advice on using 00 grade flour and I think it did make a big difference.
Basically, you sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. In another bowl, you whisk the eggs, sugar and peppermint extract. Melt the chocolate, butter and mix with cocoa. Then combine all the ingredients and spoon into cupcake cases.
The cake dough seemed far more fudgy in texture than I'm used to (but tasted divine). It was difficult to get an even loading in the cases, so I left the blobs pretty au naturel. But they rose spectacularly well - I would class this as the best result I have had from this oven (for some reason i really battle with baking in my oven - roasting meats though it takes in its stride, so I don't quite understand the problem. It may well lie on the other side of the apron).
Cupcake display is crucial to achieve the right elegantly twee retro 50's teatime effect. Alas, storage considerations in Hedgie Towers preclude the use of a cake stand, but last winter I spotted a brilliantly improvised one in the windows of Zeitgeist on the Pavement, Clapham Old Town. You balance plates on wineglasses - and I have just the right decoratively shaped glasses! Hoorah!
I frosted the cakes with ordinary buttercream icing flavoured with peppermint extract. This was delicious. Prue Leith has a recipe for Crème au beurre meringue icing, where you beat egg whites with icing sugar over a simmering pan before adding soft butter and the flavourings. This icing gives a superlative result and if I made these again and I would try that.
I do recommend these cakes as they are easy, slightly unusual and very good. Lesley said they reminded her of eating an After Eight mint chocolate, so if you like those, you're bound to love these!
Last year's birthday cake: Chocolate Nemesis.