Image by Holly Bell
Summer's on the way and it's time to make the most of our beautiful strawberries. I'm not going to suggest you serve them with black pepper. I'm not going to suggest you drizzle them in balsamic. I'm just not in approval of going in that direction.
I'm pushing for strawberry jam, with vanilla, in a cake. That's it. Simple. Perfect. If you wish you may serve fresh strawberries on the side, but none of this funny business by adding pepper and vinegar, okay?
For the cakes:
- 150g soft salted butter
- 150g castor sugar
- 150g self raising flour
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 tbsp milk
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
For the topping:
- 175g soft salted butter
- 350g icing sugar
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract
- A dot of red food colouring, gel variety like this
- 12 teaspoons of good quality strawberry jam - I adore St Dalfour which I think isn't officially a jam due to sugar content.
- Pink and white sprinkles like these
Cupcakes fit for Strawberry Shortcake take a little time. Let's get going.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 and line a 12 hole cupcake tray with cases. Beat together all of the cupcake ingredients either using an electric mixer or by hand. This should take about 4 minutes with a mixer or about double the time with a wooden spoon. When it's ready, the mixture will be lighter than when you started, and look a little like whipped double cream. It will also easily drop off a metal spoon if held from a height. Divide the mixture equally between the cases and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until the cakes are light brown, feel springy and a toothpick inserted into the middle cake comes out clean. Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack.
Make the buttercream by beating the butter until soft then adding the icing sugar a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition - then add the extract and beat again. To get really easy to pipe buttercream you need to beat the whole mixture for an extra 7 minutes once all the icing sugar has been added. I do this with a stand mixer to achieve a mousse like consistency that's flecked with air. You can try and do this by hand but beware it is hard work! Remove half the icing and place in a bowl, then to the remaining icing add a dot of the food colouring and beat until you have the pink colour you want.
Take a Wilton 1M nozzle and place into a disposable icing bag with the end just snipped off to expose the points of the nozzle. Place the bag into a pint glass or large jug and bend the rim of the bag over the top of the glass/jug to secure it and make it easier to add the icing. Then take it in turns to spoon the icing into the bag, one pink spoon, then one white one, and so on. Once you have filled the icing bag half way hold the bag up and let gravity push the icing to the nozzle. Give the bag a little squish all over to mix the colours up a little and also try and remove any air bubbles. (You can often see these when you hold the bag to the light - pinch the little suckers!)
To pipe the cupcakes place the cakes onto a tea towel to keep them from skidding about. Then pipe a swirl of icing around the perimeter of the cake by holding the bag with one hand, at a right angle to the cake (so straight up right - not in any way to the side so you can see what you're doing) about 1.5cm from the cake surface, pushing from the top of the bag with the other hand to smoothly push the icing out. As you reach the beginning of the swirl release the pressure - ie/ just stop pushing the icing out. That way you will have a nice tapered point. Then add a spoon of jam to the middle of the cake and add sprinkles. There are videos of me icing cupcakes here and here if you wish to see a general icing technique too.
NB: Add more icing to the bag if you need to, but be sure to push every last drop out first (can be straight into the bowl for reusing). It's better to fill an icing bag twice than overfill it and have a nightmare pushing such a heavy amount of icing through a piping bag.
Holly blogs at Recipes from a Normal Mum
Her first book is out now, also called Recipes from a Normal Mum