My favourite dessert in individual cake form.
I used to cupcake a lot pre little people, sometimes with pretty little sugarpaste flowers and butterflies, more often loaded with cream cheese frosting and chocolate. Any work birthday or event was punctuated by a new flavour or used as a guinea pig for a different recipe. Slowly, between home and kids, the novelty wore off. Too fiddly, too sweet, too time consuming and demanding when it came to ideas. A cake, on the other hand, is (usually) in the oven in 5 minutes, frosting made while it’s baking and decorated when the boys have gone to bed. Recently I’ve taken to piling on whatever chocolate or sweets I have in the pantry on top and calling it an overload cake to cover my lazy tracks. But there are occasions where cupcakes are the way to go for ease of serving and flourish and this weekend brought a charity bake sale, so out came the cupcake courier and on with the apron.
The carrier holds 3 dozen so I figured a dozen classic lemon, a dozen black bottom (my favourite) and a dozen….hmm something new? So I dug out my Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book, which I haven’t used since making pecan-pie for Thanksgiving and – with leftover Quality Street in mind – flicked through until I found this one: sticky toffee cupcakes. Do you ever stumble upon a recipe and wonder how you’ve never made it before? Sticky toffee pudding is easily my favourite dessert; regardless of the time of year, place, or how full I might be. It’s got to have dates, but still be light, be treacly but moist, not too dense. A quick scan of the ingredients said I was good to go, and once I had the more frequent flyers in the oven, I set about the newbies.
When I had to chop and soak the dates I started to think they might be a bit of a faff, but the rest of the recipe was fine – cream butter and sugar, add the eggs, dry ingredients and finally mix in the dates and vanilla, so no big effort at all. As with a lot of Hummingbird recipes, it made 15 cupcakes rather than the dozen, so be careful not to overfill or you’ll end up having to cut the tops off to frost them – although that means you can eat the offcuts, so maybe no bad thing. I went for the lower baking time of 15 minutes to start with and the buns were springy and cake tester came out clean, so I’d definitely keep an eye on them so they don’t overcook. The sponge itself is the colour of sticky toffee pudding, which panicked me at first when I thought I’d burnt them, until I remembered.
I have to be honest, the frosting asked for 100g of dulce de leche, and it pains me to open something when I have no plans for all of it, so I made the standard Hummingbird vanilla buttercream frosting and added some toffee drizzling sauce, which gave it a caramel hue and scent. I find the Hummingbird swirl tricky and time-consuming – I’ve practised for a long time now, but piping with a chunky round nozzle works best for me, so with the buns frosted, I chopped up some leftover toffee penny sweets and drizzled with toffee sauce and job done. They looked good, smelt delicious (unsurprisingly exactly like their namesake pudding) and thank goodness for those extra few the recipe produced so I could keep a few to myself. These cupcakes do not disappoint; the sponge is moist and tender, with a honey sweetness. Depending on your taste, the frosting could be a step too far, in which case I’m sure you could serve them warm with good vanilla ice cream and a caramel or toffee sauce – homemade or otherwise. I’ll definitely make them again, for the next cupcake occasion; and maybe I won’t leave it so long before I cupcake up again.