Monday, 12 September 2011

Stem Ginger Cupcakes

I warned you that there would be cake. As explained in my previous post, over the weekend I took a break from the neverending administrative burden of moving house to have a go at using up the contents of the cupboard in baked goods. Not the most conventional approach to packing, I grant, but what can I say? It made sense to me.

First for the chop was an almost full jar of sticky stem ginger - too full to throw away, too sticky to even consider moving to another fridge. Hey presto, the Hummingbird Bakery book showed me the way and it was metamorphosed into a batch of chunky, warmly spiced cupcakes. Very autumnal, with a nice heat from the ginger, this is the kind of packing that I can really get behind.

The Hummingbird Bakery method for making cakes is mental, by the way. You combine the butter with all the dry ingredients (as if you're making crumble), then add in the wet stuff to make a really sloppy mixture. I decided to trust them blindly and just went with it, and my faith was rewarded - the cakes did turn out really well. It still feels weird to me though. I'm a child of the classic, cream-the-butter-and-sugar, Delia and Mary Berry tradition. 

Talking of Mary Berry, is anyone else watching the Great British Bake Off? I love it. I love everything about it, from the kind and knowledgeable judging to the Union Jack bunting and oh so shabby chic, Cath Kidston decor. I love Mel and Sue, treading the line between tongue in cheek and actually taking it seriously, and the wonder of Mary Berry (I want to be her when I'm 76). I even like Paul Hollywood, incredibly tanned and obviously quite arrogant "Master Baker" (ahem). Everyone is terribly polite, and the height of dramatic tension is someone dropping a cake. It's the televisual equivalent of wrapping yourself in a warm towel after a hot bubble bath. I love it.

Anyway, I'm sure Paul would have quibbled that my cakes weren't all exactly uniform, but I think Mary would have appreciated how I matched the yellow paper cases to the colour of the ginger. More importantly, that's one more ingredient used up and not needing to be packed! Hoo-bloody-rah. Now for the rest of the cupboard.

Stem Ginger Cupcakes
From the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook
Makes 12

- 120g plain flour
- 140g caster sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- quarter of a teaspoon of ground allspice
- pinch of salt
- 40g soft unsalted butter
- 120ml whole milk
- 1 egg
- quarter of a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
- 200g stem ginger in syrup - finely chop the ginger, don't chuck away the syrup. 

Preheat the oven to 170C and line a fairy cake tin with paper cases. In a big bowl or KitchenAid if you have one (jealous!), mix all the dry ingredients plus the butter until you've got a sandy consistency. Pour in half the milk and beat until just mixed, then add the egg and vanilla to the remaining milk, whisk together quickly and pour the whole lot in. Mix it all together for a few minutes until smooth, scraping down the side of the bowl to catch any lumps of flour, then stir in the chopped ginger (saving a few bits to decorate the cakes at the end). 

Divide it among the paper cases so that each one is about two-thirds full - the mixture is really sloppy so don't fret if you drip it everywhere, I certainly did. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and springy to the touch. 

Once it comes out of the oven, pour about half a teaspoon of the reserved stem ginger syrup over each cake. The book tells you to go through some complicated fandango with adding water to the syrup, then reducing it down again, but I couldn't see the point so just used it straight from the jar. Anyway, once you've anointed each cupcake, give them a few minutes to settle in the tin then lift them out onto a wire rack to cool.

I didn't use the icing they suggest, because I was making other cakes as well and wanted my icing to multitask (come on, I was not making two different types of buttercream). I went for the classic, which was...

Vanilla Icing
From the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook
They say this amount ices 12 cakes, I used it to ice 24 (and not too skimpily, either). Let your greed guide you.

- 250g icing sugar
- 80g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 25ml milk
- half a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste

Start by either sifting the icing sugar, or just blitzing it with your electric beaters to get rid of any lumps (I went for the latter option). Then add the butter and beat together on a slow speed. The cookbook says to do this "until the mixture comes together and is well mixed", but there seemed to be far too much sugar in this sugar:butter ratio for it to turn into a "mixture", so I just did it until it looked like fine, even, pale yellow crumbs with no lumps of butter. 

Add the milk and vanilla, a few spoonsfuls at a time. Then turn the beaters up high and keep whisking it until light and fluffy - the book says to whisk it for at least five minutes, saying reproachfully "the longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes". That's all very well, but I kept an eye on the clock and let me tell you, five minutes is a looooong time to stand with an electric whisk in your hand. After the five minutes was up, I turned the beaters off pretty damn quick and didn't give it any longer.

As I've said, the Hummingbird Bakery says to use this quantity of icing for 12 cakes - I found it easily iced 24. For the ginger ones, I mixed a final few spoonfuls of ginger syrup into the icing, then swirled it on each one, topping with the saved chunks of stem ginger and a bit of grated lemon zest. Ta-dah! Gingerrific.

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