If recent alarming press reports are to be believed, the all-conquering cupcake might finally be on its way out. Ever since the Sex and the City girls clattered their Manolo Blahniks into New York’s Magnolia Bakery over a decade ago, cupcakes have been every modern girl’s sweet treat of choice, preferably with icing to match her pashmina. Martha Stewart has written a book about them, hundreds of blogs are devoted to them and in some towns you can’t move for cupcakeries serving ever more outlandish flavours—Strawberry Daiquiri or chocolate-covered potato chip cupcakes anyone?
London’s Yummy Mummies are taking time out from investment banking to set up home delivery services charging up to £5 (around Rs340) for one cupcake; Kate Middleton, possible future Queen of England, is rumoured to be looking to open an upmarket cupcake shop; and there’s even a website devoted to “dudes with beards eating cupcakes”.
Now, however, the backlash is in full swing. Newspaper columnists are branding cupcakes “infantile” and “sickly”, and “so over”; the San Francisco-based AntiCupcake Company is producing mugs with the slogan “Down With Cupcakes” and even Steve Abrams, the founder of Magnolia, has conceded that the whole cupcake thing has got a bit out of hand.
For me, though, there will always be a small, or perhaps not so small, corner of the kitchen that is forever cupcake. They’re easy to make, lovely to look at and they always make people smile. They’re summery and I mean that in a “yippee we’re having lunch on the lawn” way rather than a “damn we’re in an air-conditioned cell from now till November” way. Oh, and they slip down a treat.
This week’s recipe is a variation on one of my favourites, a cupcake I’ve been making since my children were tiny tots. Because of the sour cream and extra egg, it’s a more substantial and pudding-y cupcake than most, perfect for dessert, picnics and afternoon tea.
Click here for a step by step slideshow on how to bake cupcakes
I usually make them with crushed strawberries, which are also in season at the moment, but last weekend I had a delivery of two huge baskets of mulberries. After we’d all gorged on handfuls of the luscious fruit, I still had about a kilo left. I made some into a smooth compote to eat with yogurt and cover a cheesecake and decided to crush the rest into icing sugar for cupcake icing. And let me tell you, there is nothing passé about these babies.
Small treats: Cupcakes are easy to make and good to look at. Priyanka Parashar / Mint
Crushed Mulberry Cupcakes
225g plain flour mixed with 2 level teaspoons of baking powder
A pinch of salt
125g unsalted butter
175g vanilla sugar (sugar in which a couple of vanilla pods have been stored—much nicer than nasty synthetic vanilla essence)
200ml soured cream
Finely grated zest of one lemon
2 egg yolks
250g icing sugar, sifted
Handful of fresh purple mulberries, hulled
A squeeze or two of lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases (you’ll have to make two batches to use up all the mixture).
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Beat together the vanilla sugar and butter until pale and fluffy, either with a spoon or electric mixer. In another bowl, beat together the soured cream, lemon zest, egg, egg yolks and milk until well mixed.
Gradually add the egg and cream mixture to the butter and sugar. When the mixture is completely smooth, carefully fold in the flour. When all the ingredients are combined, spoon the mixture into the muffin cases to about three-quarters full—you need to leave room for the icing.
Bake for about 20 minutes. These cupcakes don’t brown on top but they’re done when you press the sponge and it springs back.
While the cupcakes are in the oven, make the icing. Carefully hull the mulberries—you don’t want any traces of stalk to interfere with the luscious soft berryness. Thoroughly sift the icing sugar into a bowl, spritz with a little lemon juice and then, with a fork, crush in a couple of mulberries at a time. Go slowly, you don’t want this icing to be too runny. Leave the cupcakes to cool in the tin, then top with generous teaspoonfuls of icing to about 4mm thick.
Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. Click here to read her blog
Write to Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org