Unfortunately my cookery skills are limited to savoury dishes and I lack the lightness of touch, precision (and patience) required to excel with the sweet stuff.
Last Valentine’s Day I had planned the perfect three course meal for the other half. The chorizo starter and chicken, bacon and leek pie which followed turned out really well, but I had to withdraw my lemon and ginger cheesecake from the menu when the mixture curdled.
I wasn’t aware cheesecake topping could curdle but apparently over whisking will do just that.
Thankfully my sister Louise is the baker of the family and regularly provides us with the sweet fix we need.
This is her recipe for Christmas cupcakes so embrace your inner artist and give this festive decorating a go during the holiday season. The cupcake recipe is cross seasonal and can be used any time.
Cupcakes (makes 24)
- 275g/10oz butter or margarine softened at room temperature
- 275g/4oz caster sugar
- 5 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 275g/10oz self-raising flour
- 2-3 tablespoons of milk
- 350g/13oz butter, softened
- 700g/10oz icing sugar (extra for sprinkling)
- 2-3 tablespoons of milk
- 2-3 drops of green, red and food colouring
- Green glitter
- Fondant icing
- Star and holly shaped cutters
- Chocolate covered sweets or decorations
Making the cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line two 12-hole muffin tins with paper cases.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until the mixture is pale. Beat in the eggs a little at a time and stir in the vanilla extract.
Fold the flour into the mixture using a large metal spoon, adding milk gradually until the mixture has a dropping consistency and is falling from the spoon.
Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until they are half full.
Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the cupcakes are golden brown on top. Insert a skewer into the centre of one cupcake and when it comes out clean they are ready.
Set the cupcakes aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
Once the cupcakes have cooled dust the top of each one with icing sugar.
The icing on the cakes
To make the buttercream icing, beat the butter in a large bowl until it is soft. Add half the icing sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth.
Add the remaining icing sugar with one tablespoon of milk, keep adding milk a little at a time until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Divide the buttercream icing between two bowls and add a few drops of green food colouring to one bowl and mix.
Spoon the icing into two separate piping bags with star nozzles and pipe the icing on to the cupcakes using a swirling motion.
For the green iced cupcakes make the swirl higher and more to the centre of the cupcake (you want it to look like a Christmas tree).
You should now have 12 cupcakes with white icing and 12 with green.
If you want to be really fancy try making stars, holly and berries for decoration.
To do this cut three rectangular pieces of fondant icing. Dye one piece with yellow food colouring, the second red and the third green.
Knead each piece of icing to absorb the colouring and roll out.
How much you will need depends on how decorative you want to be (and it may take a few attempts to get this right).
Using the cutters make stars from the yellow icing, one for each Christmas tree cupcake and holly leaves with the green icing, two per holly cupcake. Break the red icing into small pieces and roll into balls to make the berries.
To finish place two holly leaves and two berries on the white iced cupcakes and sprinkle with green glitter. Add a star to the top of the green cupcakes and five or six chocolate coloured balls around the sides to create a Christmas tree effect.