All throughout placement year my weeks were spent baking away with my housemate (also a baker extraordinaire) until the late hours of the evening. We would kill ourselves at spin class and body pump after work in order to earn those nights of eating cookie dough and cake batter, sitting by the oven waiting for our creations to take form. Heck, most of the time we doubled our recipes so there was plenty to munch on (raw, obvs, tastes way better) before giving out at work the next day. But that is most probably a terrible thing to admit (and it’s a wonder we haven’t given ourselves early-onset diabetes).
Luckily for me, at my current place of work there are plenty of other sugar loving souls who share my interest in wooden spoons and aprons. When I suggested holding a charity Bake Off it was met with wonder and glee from practically everyone, oh-so-surprisingly including my own manager, who is bravely attempting a Banana and Walnut Loaf. My little chosen lovelies are Hummingbird Bakery’s Salted Caramel Cupcakes, with a hidden caramel centre, and I chose to add an extra sprinkling of fudge chunks for a bit of chewiness. Don’t they look splendid?!
Ingredients (makes 16 cupcakes)
- 170g plain flour
- 250g caster sugar
- 50g cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 70g butter
- 210ml milk
- 2 large eggs
- 340g icing sugar
- 100g butter
- 35ml milk
- 30g tinned caramel or dulce de leche
- pinch of sea salt
Filling and Decoration
- the rest of your caramel or dulce de leche
- pinch of sea salt
Preheat your oven to 170°C and line a muffin tin with paper cases. To make the sponge, sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl, add the butter and mix together until it has a sandy consistency. In a small bowl, whisk together your eggs and milk. Pour half the wet mixture into the dry, and mix thoroughly until combined.
At this point I find it best to transfer the batter into a jug for easy pouring ability, rather than spooning the batter into the cases. Use whichever way you find easiest (or even better, use a 50ml ice-cream scoop like Hummingbird suggests, but we don’t all have that luxury) until the cases are half to two thirds full.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until a sharp knife inserted to the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Leave them to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Now for the fun part. Take a sharp knife to make a hollow in the centre of each cupcake, approximately two centimetres across and three centimetres deep. Spoon a teaspoon of caramel into the hollow, and replace the cut out piece of sponge, pressing down gently to ensure the surprise is safely sealed inside.
To make the buttercream, sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the butter. Whisk until combined with no lumps remaining. Pour in the milk, add the caramel and a pinch of sea salt, and mix thoroughly. Keep beating the mixture until it is light and fluffy, ready to be piped.
At this stage it is completely up to you how to ice the cakes. Hummingbird tells you to spoon generous amounts of the frosting onto each cupcake, gently smoothing with a palette knife, making a swirl at the top if you wish. I chose to use a piping bag and a large star nozzle, purely because it’s brand spanking new and I’ve been wanting to try it out. Considering I halved the icing ingredients, wouldn’t you say there is sufficient icing per cupcake?! There was even some leftover, but don’t you worry, it wasn’t put to waste (it was put to my waist, in fact).
To finish, pop some fudge chunks into the icing and spoon about a teaspoon of warmed caramel on the top of each frosted cupcake. (I found microwaving it in a small bowl for 10 seconds helped make it a pouring rather than dolloping consistency).
Now for the all important judgement day, Friday 10th October. Considering I organised the whole shabang and helped choose the prizes (bottle of wine and an M&S voucher for the winner, a wooden spoon with a ribbon on it for the poor soul with the least votes), if I went and won the thing it would be rather embarrassing and seem like a fix. So maybe I’ll do the noble thing and let someone else take the crown…Come back tomorrow to see the best (and worst) of our Bake Off, and to find out the all important results!
Wish me luck, I’ll knead it.