While T and the boys went to the Wintersun festival on Saturday, I stayed home. Ostensibly to rest my broken toe, however I ended up spending most of the afternoon in the kitchen cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, as I was looking forward to using my new madeleine tray as well as the new Nordic Ware dinosaur muffin pan I had purchased from Peter’s of Kensington. I also wanted to surprise the boys with dinosaur cakes on their return and I also wanted to make something more to my liking, hence the heart shaped cupcakes.
Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, icing the dinosaur cupcakes proved a long and difficult process, and the end result was not something that looked as good as I hoped. In fact I was quite disappointed. I think the mould was too intricate and sadly the detail does not work well with single colour icing (I iced the dinosaurs in green), so unfortunately I won’t be posting photos of the dinosaur cakes. They were, however, well received by the boys and met with comments of “Cool” and quickly gobbled down over the course of the long weekend.
These Vanilla Strawberry heart shaped cupcakes were much easier to work with, and in the sweet pink and chocolate Donna Hay cupcake papers they looked so cute.
Vanilla beans are the fruit of the Vanilla Orchid (Vanilla planifolia) and are the second most expensive spice in the world (after saffron). This recipe uses 2 vanilla beans (hence the calling them Very Vanilla cupcakes), and whilst you can substitute with vanilla paste, I find it doesn’t provide the same result. Fresh vanilla is just the most amazingly exotic flavour that you can’t truly understand until you taste something with real vanilla in it. I think most people who think of vanilla as a boring flavour is based on the fact they’ve never actually eaten something with real vanilla in it and it simply has vanilla “flavouring”. If you haven’t had something with real vanilla you are missing out.
The addition of the strawberry jam in the center of the cupcakes adds to the already moist cake and provides a surprise flavour explosion when discovered upon biting into it.
Very Vanilla Strawberry Cupcakes
Makes 12 to 14 cupcakes depending on the size of cupcake/muffin tin.
1 1/2 cups of self raising flour
110 grams of butter
1 cup of caster sugar
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup of strawberry jam (or jam of your choice)
2 vanilla beans
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease a muffin/cupcake tin or line with paper cases. I prefer to use paper cases as they stop the cakes sticking to the pan and also double up as a great way to present the cupcakes.
2. Cut the vanilla beans open (I prefer to use scissors to do this as it’s much easier than using a knife) and scrape the seeds into the milk. Once you’ve scraped all the seeds out add the beans to the milk to further infuse their vanilla flavour while you make the cake batter.
3. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to your mixer bowl along with the caster sugar and beat until light and fluffy and the sugar crystals have all disolved.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition.
5. Sift in the flour and add the milk (remember to take out the beans) and sour cream and mix until combined.
6. 3/4 fill the cupcake cases and then, making a little well in the center, add a teaspoon of the jam before covering with more of the cake batter. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
1 cup of icing sugar
3 teaspoons of milk
Red food colouring
1. Combin the icing sugar and milk in a bowl until smooth (add more milk if necessary).
2. Add red food colouring until you reach your desired colour intensity.
3. Spread the icing on top of the cupcakes using a spatula and leave to set.