Friday, March 25, 2011

From Valerie's Kitchen: Think Spring with Flowery Cupcakes

For weeks and weeks now I've been wanting to make cupcakes. With all the commotion at our house lately, setting aside enough time to make dinner, let alone cupcakes, has been challenging. Well, that all changed on Wednesday! Wednesday was the first of two food-focused days for me, filled with making comfort food and necessity baking. I made two loaves of whole wheat bread and a batch of English muffins to restock our pantry, and for dinner I made a batch of fried chicken and cast iron skillet corn bread (with salads on the side for a bit of green). Thursday's baking, however, was all about pleasure. And what is more pleasurable then a pretty pink cupcake with a flower on top? (Answer: a cupcake with a cup of coffee, a sunny spot in the house and the sound of the radio, Bodie laughing, and Harper chewing on a bone drifting through the background!)

Even though our general mood has been sad at home, lately, I've been trying to cheer everyone up the best way I know how ... through food. Baking these cupcakes provided me with a couple hours of escape from my normal worries. And the smiles on everyone's faces as they received their cupcake made baking them worth all the effort!

Recipe courtesy Nigella Lawson, (Copyright 2004, Feast, Hyperion, All Rights Reserved)

Ingredients for Cupcakes
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon soft butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
Ingredients for Royal Icing:
  • 2 large egg whites 
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice


  1. Take everything you need out of the fridge in time to get to room temperature - and this makes a huge difference to the lightness of the cupcakes later - and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Put all of the ingredients for the cupcakes except for the milk into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pulse while adding the milk down the funnel, to make a smooth dropping consistency.
  3. Divide the mixture between a 12-bun muffin tin lined with muffin papers, and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. They should have risen and be golden on top. Let them cool a little in their tins on a rack, and then take them carefully out of the tin to cool in their papers, still on the wire rack.
  4. While cupcakes are baking, prepare royal icing.

Royal Icing 

Yield: sufficient to generously ice 12 cupcakes

  1. Combine the egg whites and confectioners' sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium speed until opaque and shiny, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the lemon juice, this will thin out the icing. Beat for another couple of minutes until you reach the right spreading consistency for the cupcakes.

***  Up until this point, this has all been Nigella’s idea ... now, here’s my special addition.  ***

Royal icing daffodils and pink icing to decorate your cupcakes ...

I divided my icing into 3 unequal portions: I put approximately two tablespoons into a 12 oz squeeze bootle; another two tablespoons were placed in a bowl with four drops of yellow food coloring, mixed, then put into a second 12 oz squeeze bottle; to the remaining icing in the original bowl I added five or six drops of red food coloring to make a large quatity of pink icing, then put icing into a 12-14” pastry bag fitted with a large, round tube. Now that you have three colors of icing, you’re ready to assemble flowers with which to top your iced cupcakes, as well as being ready to ice your cupcakes. 
Place a piece of waxed paper on a cookie sheet. Using your yellow icing, make 12-15 circles on the waxed paper, approximately 1/2” wide and spaced 1-2” apart (I made a couple of extras in case one broke). Then, using your white icing, squeeze five white pedals around the yellow circle, making sure they touch the yellow icing (we want everything to stick together as it sets). Place entire tray in fridge to speed along setting process, and leave in fridge at least an hour or until icing has become firm on the outside.

Once set, remove the icing flowers from the fridge. Using a small, tapered spatula remove the flowers from the waxed paper by slowly running the spatula under the flower. Allow to sit loosly on waxed paper.

Now, pipe pink icing onto cooled cupcakes I started at the edge and slowly worked my way around the top of the cupcake, spiraling into the center. Place a flower on top of pink icing. Allow cupcakes to cool another hour to allow pink icing to set (putting cupcakes in fridge if you need the icing to set faster).
I hope these cupcakes cheer you up as much as they have me!