For Sarah’s birthday recently, I was set the challenge of supplying her office with some sweet treats and given it was her birthday, she got to choose. What she chose was rainbow icing cupcakes, which wasn’t something I’d done before – well the rainbow part at least.
There are tonnes of recipes out there for cupcakes and plenty of ways to cook them. I don’t think I’ve seen the same method repeated anywhere. However, keeping with the Martha Collinson theme, I was inspired by the reverse creaming method she uses – butter is rubbed into the dry ingredients and then milk & eggs being added, rather than the other way round. It is a lot simpler than most recipes, with fewer steps and easier to get a cupcake with lighter textures and less possibility of having an uneven sponge.
To make 12 of these, you’ll need to take note of the ingredients below. Because 12 cupcakes in an ocean of a business is a little bit skimpy, I made a lot more by trebling the ingredients…
- 175g plain flour
- 200g caster sugar (I used a mix of golden and white)
- 75g of unsalted butter
- 2 eggs at room temperature
- 90ml whole milk, also at room temperature
- 1tsp of vanilla bean paste (you can use essence, but it doesn’t have the rich flavour, or the seeds running through the mixture)
So, pre-heat the oven to 180C / 160C fan. Then you want to line your cupcake tin with cupcake cases for later. Always spend a little bit more to get something of quality and a little out of the ordinary, there’s nothing worse than having the case stick to the cake as you wrestle it from the case!
Now, combine the flour, sugar, butter and baking powder in a large bowl. You can either do this the old fashioned way, which always has me thinking of my Nan, Winnie, or you can use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. I’ve done it both ways and the results are broadly the same without the obvious elbow grease, this time I did it with the KitchenAid as I knew I had to make the icing after the cakes and was limited a little on time.
Then, in a small jug, use a fork to blend the eggs, milk and vanilla bean paste together until well mixed.
You want to add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients a little at a time with the stand mixer on a medium speed.
Until you get a mixture which is smooth and doesn’t have any lumps and bumps.
And as in other recipes, since discovering piping bags, spoon the mixture into the bag ready to be piped into the cases. For me it makes it much easier to control the amount of liquid in each case and creates less mess than using a spoon, however a spoon is fine if you don’t have piping bags.
As the mixture will rise into lovely mounds of deliciousness, you don’t want to fill any more than about 2/3 into each case.
Bake the cupcakes in the pre-heated oven for approximately 16-18 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. You can buy these skewers/cake testers from kitchen shops everywhere and they are invaluable to ensure that your cakes are not runny inside, but at the same time are dry like bullets!
Once you’ve left to cool in the tin for a few minutes, decant the cakes onto a wire cooling rack and allow to cool before you ice your cupcakes. Luckily making rainbow icing doesn’t happen immediately!
Now comes some technique – the rainbow icing. Now after you’ve done it once, it is pretty easy to create some some beautiful results. You can use butter cream, cream cheese icing, or fondant icing for this and you can use various piping nozzles for different designs. I chose a simple fondant icing with three different colours – ivory, yellow and pink with no nozzle. That’s actually not quite true, I tried with a couple of open star nozzles, but because I was using basic and thin ones, they got blocked quickly, which was annoying but good learning – I’ve now purchased some professional nozzles from Lakeland.
For the fondant icing, the easiest way is to buy shop bought pre-made blocks of fondant icing (regal, or royal icing is also fine) and adding a bit of water to each batch of colour, along with the chosen colours. The base colour of the icing I chose was ivory, which ticked the box for the first colour and the other two colours I used coloured gel.
Once each colour is made and using a piping bag you want to load them up in turn into the bag. The idea is to put each colour on a different side of the bag and then once ready push the bag together in order to get the rainbow.
You want to pipe the mixture for a little bit in order for the colours to come together, the initial pipe will be a single colour (the one you added on the first side). Once the rainbow starts to come through, you can then ice your cupcakes.
I think I’ll try next time with a cream cheese icing and see how I get on. Let me know how you get on and what combinations you use.