I made these to celebrate the birth of my colleague Mr B’s first baby, a baby boy. I kind of regret going with the blue theme in a way, it’s so old fashioned, but once I thought of the combination of blueberry and lavender I couldn’t help myself, they had to be made. I did cupcakes for us to share at work and then a tiny cake for Mr B to take home and share with Mrs B. Probably the baby didn’t get any of it, he’s only a few weeks old. I’ll wait a month or so before trying to hook him on sugar. Here are photos of the tiny cake at various stages of assembly.
These were easy cupcakes to make, though I did give myself some extra work with some little royal icing hats to put on them. They were supposed to be flowers but they came out distinctly hatty. I used fruit sugar to make the cakes, as I’ve never used it before and was interested to experiment with it. I also used soy milk, which I am coming to love more and more for baking as it adds a lovely sweet and slightly nutty taste. The cupcakes were wheat free, and could easily be made dairy free by using vegan margarine. To make them vegan, though, you’d have to use an egg substitute, and this is something I have absolutely no experience in – perhaps someone can give me hints or tips on where to begin?
Blueberry Swirl Cupcakes – makes 24:
- 110g blueberries, washed and picked over
- 1 tbsp fruit sugar
- 225g rice flour
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 160g fruit sugar
- 225g margarine
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup soy milk
The first thing I did was to make the blueberry purée, which almost became instant blueberry jam. In fact, some of the purée really was thick enough to use as jam in the tiny cake. To make the purée I simply put all the blueberries in the blender with the tablespoon of fruit sugar and processed until smooth. The colour was amazing – I’ve tried to catch it as it changed from a bright pinkish-purple to a rich indigo but it was hard to get the lighting right. It darkened right in front of my eyes, it really was remarkable. These amounts made about twice as much purée as I really needed, so another time I might use half the blueberries in the purée and keep the other half for decoration.
Once the purée was made, I made the cupcakes, employing that old favourite, the all in one method. I put all the ingredients, with the exception of the fruit purée, in a bowl and mixed until just combined. Then I added 1/4 cup of the blueberry purée and stirred two or three times, enough to swirl the batter but definitely not enough to mix it. The thing to remember is that you will continue to mix it a little as you scoop it out and into the paper cases, so you definitely want to under-mix at first.
I scooped out an even amount into 24 paper cases – mostly blue ones, but with a few yellow after I ran out – and smoothed off the surfaces with the back of a teaspoon. Even with three eggs and half a cup of milk, the wheat free batter was thick and didn’t settle into the cases like normal cake mix would. I baked the cupcakes at 180C for seven minutes, before rotating the sheets and baking for a further five. I think it’s even more important not to over cook wheat free baking, as it already has a leaning towards being dry, so I kept a close eye on them. The cakes were just golden brown on top and very springy to touch. I let them cool completely before icing them.
While the cakes were cooling, I made (attempted to make) royal icing flowers… These amounts make a whole sheet full of the things, only 33 of which got used. It was better to have too many though as it let me experiment with forming them and then choose the most perfect ones from the bunch, rather than having to get every one right first time. I tried putting little blue dragees in the middle of some to make them more flowery but I preferred the smurf hats in the end.
- 1 egg white
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp glycerine
- 175g icing sugar
- one capful blue food dye
Firstly, before I made the icing, I greased a sheet of baking paper with coconut oil. Any oil or butter would do but coconut oil is my favourite, because it’s so mild and easy to work with. I sat the baking paper on an upside down baking sheet, to give a flat surface with no edges. Then, I combined the first three ingredients with a hand held mixer, and gradually added the sugar until it formed a stiff paste. I added the colouring and mixed well, then it was ready to pipe. I poured it (very awkwardly, I should add) into a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle, then went to it. I tried different methods of piping and found that the best thing was to keep the tip of the nozzle quite far away from the paper, to preserve the swirl shape, and use a gentle turning motion to get the right look. If I put the nozzle too close if would flatten the shape out totally, and if I turned too quickly the shape was stretched.
I would encourage anyone trying to make royal icing shapes to be sure that the royal icing is very stiff and almost dry, this will make the process a lot easier. In my case the icing was a little too soft and took ages to set. The humid weather played a part this, too – in the end I had to scrape the icing shapes of the paper with a thin knife and try to place them on the cakes without breaking them, which was another reason I was glad to have so many to choose from.
When the cakes were cool, I made the lavender icing. It was basically a simple white icing, made by mixing icing sugar with boiling water a tiny bit at a time, until the icing was thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. The only difference was that I swapped some of the icing sugar for lavender infused icing sugar, processed so that the lavender flowers were broken into tiny specks. I used 40g of lavender icing sugar, 160g of normal icing sugar and one tablespoon of boiling water.
I think you’ll agree that the cakes are pretty once all the elements are put together. As ever, I don’t consider them perfect, but I was pleased with them, and pleased with the moistness of the cakes and the balance between the blueberry and lavender – neither was too strong, which is always a worry where lavender is concerned. Here are a final few pictures for your contemplation. Once again I’m sorry for the varying quality – baking in the evening does have its drawbacks, mainly the lack of light for good photos!