Christmas! Christmas Christmas Christmas! Did you have a good one? Did you get lovely presents? More importantly, have you eaten bloody loads? We had a slow build up to Christmas (a few biscuits, chocolates and a gingercake), then BOOM, Christmas Eve, time to eat your face off. Non-stop. For the next week. So we’re mid-eating season at the moment and I’ve managed to stuff in loads. Christmas Eve we had a huge meatball lasagne (recipe coming soon) followed by some deep dish chocolate chip cookie puddings (recipe coming when I manage to take a photo before scoffing it. This hasn’t happened yet.). Christmas Day involved the usual massive fry-up mid-morning, followed by constant chocolate eating until the big roast dinner. And now it’s Boxing Day!
On Boxing Day we always have leftovers for lunch and a buffet for tea. This year, I made two cakes for the buffet: apple cake with toffee sauce (another recipe coming soon) and these chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing. Look! They look like Christmas trees and Santa hats! Some of the hats look a little like Santa had too much to drink. Don’t judge. He just delivered all your presents.
This reindeer kept photo bombing all my pictures, so I took a photo of him to keep him happy. Here it is.
I should also point out my mum put the sugar pearl baubles on the Christmas trees. Didn’t she do them nicely?
Now, on the food colouring front, I feel like I should share what I learnt today when using red food colouring. I’m fairly new to the food colouring game, so forgive me if everyone knows this except me: when you add red food colouring to icing, it gets much redder about 10 minutes after you added it. I added some and it went dark pink. I added more and it stayed dark pink. I added even more and it did nothing. Still pink. Having resigned myself to the fact that Santa was going to have a pink hat, I iced the cupcakes. By the time I’d finished, all the hats were red. I do not understand this, but it happened. And now they taste kind of food colouring-y. So hold off on the food colouring once it gets to dark pink. It’ll redden up, promise!
Also, when making the cupcake sponge, do NOT wear a cream jumper. I did. When I had finished whisking the cocoa powder and flour with the butter, I had cocoa powder all down my front. It did not just brush out.
Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream
Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days by Tarek Malouf
Makes 12-16 (I got 15 out of the mixture)
For the cupcakes:
80g/3 oz butter
280g/10 oz caster (superfine) sugar
200g/7 oz plain (all-purpose) flour
40g/1.5oz cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
240ml/8.5fl oz milk
2 large eggs
For the icing:
500g/1lb 2 oz icing (confectioner’s) sugar
160g/5.5 oz butter, softened
50ml/1.75fl oz milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
green, red and white food colouring (I used Americolor)
red, gold and whatever other colour you’d like sugar pearls
Wilton 1M tip for the Christmas trees
Plain wide nozzle for the Santa hats
Preheat the oven to 170C (340F) fan oven/190C (375F) conventional oven and line one or two 12-hole muffin trays with cupcake cases (I got 15 cupcakes out of the mixture).
Using an electric handwhisk, whisk together the butter, sugar, flour, cocoa powder and baking powder in a large bowl until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then beat in the milk. Divide between the cupcake cases and bake for 18-20 minutes (mine took 18 minutes in a 170C fan oven), until the tops are springy and firm.
Remove the cupcakes from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool.
To make the icing, beat together the icing sugar and butter (I used an electric handwhisk and it went everywhere. Maybe start off with a wooden spoon). When it is well combined, beat in the milk and vanilla extract. The icing is now ready to use if you’re not going to be making trees and Santa hats!
I did 8 trees and 7 Santa hats. I did the icing as follows.
I used about 270g of the icing mixture for the trees, tinted with a mixture of Holly Green by Sugarflair and Bitter Lemon/Lime by Sugarflair. I then piped this onto the cupcakes using a 1M tip, working from the outside towards the centre and piling it up a bit more than usual on the top. Decorate with sugar pearls for baubles.
For the Santa hats, I then divided the remaining mixture roughly 60%/40%, tinting the 60% using Xmas Red by Americolor and the 40% using White by Americolor. I first used a wide nozzle plain tip to pipe a circle outline of white for the base of the hats. I didn’t fill this in. I then piped just inside/on top of this circle with red, working inwards and upwards. I then used an icing bag with just the very end snipped off to pipe the white balls on top. I left my hats swirly but you could smooth the icing if you like.