It’s a day for leisure wear today after a most uncharacteristic child-free, out-of-the-house evening yesterday, courtesy of a gorgeous – lunatic – friend, who volunteered to have both little badgers overnight. We were home practically before dusk fell and festivities were very tame in nature, but it doesn’t take much these days to leave me a tadge lacklustre.
I’ve had more opportunities than usual for feeling slightly jaded of a Sunday since a few weeks ago – a mere ten years after I turned 30 – I celebrated another milestone birthday. I am pretty much fine about a new decade – about being the kind of age I always imagine people’s mothers, including my own, are – but I’ve been milking the festivities to take the sting out of it, nevertheless.
The major celebration was a party at home; lots of my favourite people were able to drop by and it was lovely. The sun shone – in February – to such an extent that I shunned tights. Bubbles flowed, many cakes were consumed, children played in the garden, friends sunned themselves (well, kind of) on the patio, Luna strutted round in a distinctly proprietorial manner. I loved every moment and it made me think that we really should have parties very much more often.
People were gratifyingly kind about the bazillion cakes I had made for the occasion, but some were clearly in higher demand. Here is the recipe for one that flew off the cake stand, looked pretty good (remember, I have the same fine motor skills as the average Labrador) and was actually very little trouble to make.
If you’re not mad on the idea of inviting hordes round for cake – and really, why would you be? – these would make a good, slightly-fancy-very-easy-made-in-advance pudding option. The sponges are essentially the Hummingbird Bakery variety, I have just adapted it over time to use more cocoa and less sugar; I find it minimal faff and very reliable. Their book Cake Days is full of winners.
Black forest cupcakes
- 80g unsalted butter, at room temp/Stork straight from the fridge
- 190g plain flour
- 50g cocoa powder
- 240g caster sugar
- 3 tsp baking powder
- a generous pinch of salt
- 240ml milk (room temp is best – I usually whizz in the microwave for 20 secs)
- 2 large eggs – (at room temp – pop them in some bath-warm water if you’re pressed for time)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and like a cupcake tin with cake cakes.
- Put butter/Stork, plain flour, cocoa powder, caster sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and mix with a hand whisk or free-standing mixer until it looks uniform and breadcrumb-like.
- Mix the milk, eggs and vanilla extract together and pour about half the mixture into the dry ingredients, whilst whisking. It will combine into a sort of chocolatey paste.
- Once smooth, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in the rest of the milk mixture and whizz until smooth.
The batter is rather runny, so it might be a good idea to transfer the mix to a jug to pour more neatly into the cake cases. Or spoon carefully. (I have a batter dispenser similar to this but you’d want to be making a lot of cakes to justify it taking up room in your cupboards)
- Half fill the cupcake cases – I find this makes about 16 cakes, but see how it goes. Expect between 12-18, depending on the size of your cases – you don’t want them overfilled.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when you press lightly on the top and the cake springs back without leaving a dent.
- Move the cakes to a rack to cool completely.
To finish the cakes:
- Cherry jam (I used Bonne Maman Black Cherry Conserve)
- 300 ml double/whipping cream (thoroughly chilled)
- Punnet of cherries
- Once completely cold, remove the centre of each. I have a cupcake corer, which I appreciate is a little too specialised a piece of equipment for some to consider making a home for. Alternatively, use a sharp knife to cut out a well – approx. 1.5cm wide and as deep as you can make it without going through the bottom.
- Fill each hole with a teaspoon of cherry jam.
- Whip the cream until it is pretty firm and will hold its shape. If it goes too far, you can try adding a splash of milk and whisking it in.
- Apply cream to cake: I used a piping bag and a large nozzle similar to this for my cakes, but spooning or spatula-ing it on would be dandy.
- Finish with a jaunty cherry and a grazing of choc, if you’re feeling swish.
They’re nicest served straight away, but if you keep them in the fridge, I bet you’ll find people are happy to eat them for as long as the cream is fresh.