Easter weekend and then my birthday have conspired to throw my posting timetable a little off track… Hoping to resume normal service this Sunday!  In the meantime, feast your eyes on these seriously cute cupcakes that Hubby rustled up to celebrate (or commiserate) me turning another year older 🙂

Being a savoury tooth rather than sweet, I prefer my cake-age to be of the unfussy variety.  It took me forever to persuade Hubby that a Victoria sponge really was my idea of a good time, whilst death by multiple varieties of chocolate really wasn’t!  So this year I woke up to the smell of these baking, and they were utterly divine.  The perfect balance of buttercream and strawberry jam in the middle allowed the simple tastiness of the sponge to shine through.  Just perfect with a nice cup of tea…

Thank you, Hubby, for spoiling me so.  Again.   <3

And now it’s over to Hubby for the recipe!

Simple Sponge Cupcakes: Victoria & Lemon versions
Yields 12
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For the Victoria Sponge version
  1. 220g caster sugar
  2. 200g Stork (the tub, not the block), or margarine. Don’t be tempted to use butter. Just don’t. If you want a perfect sponge, go Stork.
  3. 240g self-raising flour
  4. 4 large eggs
  5. 1tsp good quality vanilla extract (I use a variety with vanilla seeds in, it’s lovely)
  6. (And, if you’re making the Victoria Sponges here and not just cupcakes, a jar of your favourite jam)
Cook!
  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F.
  2. Begin by creaming the Stork margarine using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or the electric mixer. Do this until the margarine is very soft and pale in colour, it should take a minute or two.
  3. Once the Stork is nice and soft, simply tip the rest of your ingredients into the mixer’s bowl or a mixing bowl and mix until everything is incorporated, starting on a low speed to minimise the mess. That’s really all there is too it, there’s no need to separate your wet and dry ingredients, or fold anything, it’s just that simple.
  4. As a note, don’t be tempted to over mix the ingredients, you really just want them blended, with no visible lumps. Too much mixing will result in a tougher batter, and you’ll end up with dense cakes that aren't light and fluffy. We don’t want that!
  5. After everything’s blended, just spoon the batter into the muffin cups – this recipe makes about 12 good-sized cupcakes, and set the tray into the oven, on the middle shelf. You don’t want to get the tin too close to the top or the tops of the cupcakes will brown over-much.
  6. Now, here’s the only really fiddly part. Since you’re baking on a low heat, you’ll need to keep an eye on the cupcakes. The recipe guideline states about 15 minutes cooking time, but I find that this is a good starting point for when you should first check their progress. I find around 20-22 minutes to be more accurate. You can tell they’re done when, if you insert a toothpick into the centre of one, it comes out clean. If not, just add a few more minutes at a time, and monitor them until they’re set.
  7. Once they’re ready, remove the tin from the oven, and allow them to sit for about 30 minutes before you remove them to your sheet of aluminium foil or greaseproof paper to continue cooling. This can take an hour or more, so be patient.
  8. While it’s cooling, you can prepare the buttercream frosting. As a note, I find that frosting is a very subjective area. Some people like a little, some people like a lot. The recipe below makes enough for, on average, about twice the amount of cupcakes you’ll be making, so you can easily halve the recipe. I've tried it, and found that I was panicking about running out of frosting on the last few cupcakes. Too much is always better than not enough!
Buttercream Frosting
  1. As with the cupcakes above, this is a great “basic” frosting that’s very easy to add other flavours to. The version here is vanilla.
You’ll need
  1. 500g (one box) icing sugar
  2. 250g (one block) unsalted butter
  3. 1tsp vanilla extra
Mix!
  1. The most important thing in getting an excellent buttercream is having the butter be very, very soft. Ideally you can leave it out overnight, or take it out first thing in the morning for making later. If you forget, you can soften it in the microwave, on the lowest setting, running it for about 10 seconds at a time.
  2. It needs to be soft, but NOT melted. Any melting and your buttercream won’t turn out right, so be very careful if you’re using this method.
  3. To begin, beat the butter until soft and pale, for about a minute or so. Then, add your icing sugar; batches of a third at a time seem about right. This will be messy, so be prepared to accept that. Cleaning up is all part of the fun, right? Right! After all of the sugar is blended, add the vanilla and beat until fluffy. This will probably take longer than you think, but about five minutes is a good guide.
  4. You’ll know that it’s set when you can spoon a bit up and it’s firm, yet fluffy. Be aware that the sugar and fats in the butter will firm up once it settles and make a really pleasing firm outer layer with a soft, fluffy icing beneath.
Assemble!
  1. Now that your cupcakes have cooled, and the frosting is ready to go, it’s time to assemble. If you’re making them as in the picture, just cut them in half, about halfway up or a little higher (they’re easier to stack if you cut about a 1/3 of the way from the top).
  2. Spread the bottom half with a layer of your jam of choice. I used strawberry in my version. Now, spread a good layer of buttercream frosting on the underside of the top half, and then simply sandwich the two halves together.
  3. Once you’ve assembled them all, set them back on your cooling sheet, and dust the tops with a good dusting of icing sugar. Voila!
The Lemon version
  1. For the sponge, add a few teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest to the batter, along with about a teaspoon of lemon extract (in addition to the vanilla). I prefer a nice, natural, Sicilian Lemon Extract for an authentic lemony goodness.
  2. To the frosting, add another teaspoon of the vanilla extract (in addition to the vanilla), and a few drops of yellow food colouring at the end. You’ll want to use this sparingly, as a pale yellow is generally more pleasing than a bright, glaring version.
  3. That’s all there is to it, and the lemon cupcakes turn out light, fluffy, and as Summery-fresh as you could hope for. Enjoy!
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