It’s happy hour here at Rock Salt, and when I say hour I mean week, and when I say happy I mean Mad Men Cupcakes. Last weekend I made a batch of cupcakes inspired 60s style cocktails, a la Mad Men, and now I want to share them with the world! Or at least the section of the world which reads my blog. I’ll start with a post that explains the concept and has a few photos, then I’ll follow up with more detailed posts on the individual cakes. They were the subject of much thought, much inspiration hunting and, I’m pleased to say, worked out almost exactly as I hoped they would. Now, without further ado…
(Edit: To make this post more useful, here are the links to the posts that followed, for more information on how I flavoured and prepared each cocktail cupcake: Brandy Alexanders, Tom Collinses and Old Fashioneds.
Also, here is my post which gives recipes for twelve of each cake, in case you want to make one batch of one flavour: Mad Men Cupcakes )
I’d been invited to a Mad Men themed birthday party, and a few days before the event, it struck me that I hadn’t planned a cake. It was ony a small step from there to realising that the only sensible thing to do would be to make cocktail-themed cakes, in keeping with the tone of the party, and I headed straight to Mad Men website to see what cocktail recipes they had to offer.
I browsed through their 1960s cocktail guide, looking for cocktails that would work in cake form. I knew I wanted to make a total of 24 cakes, which I could then present in the excellent cupcake box I bought on Amazon – such a good way to transport cakes, and it makes them look very professional, much more than trying to stack them up in several Tupperware boxes without bashing any of the icing. Rather than making all one flavour, I wanted to make three different kinds, eight of each; variety is the spice of life, and I’m an incorrigible show-off, apparently.
I decided to draw inspiration from the Brandy Alexander, Old Fashioned and Tom Collins cocktails. They seemed pretty classic (though I will admit to never having heard of a Brandy Alexander before) and had good strong flavours that would translate well. They also each used a different spirit as a base, which was helpful in my goal of making three very distinctly flavoured cakes, and not just cakes that looked a bit different but tasted the same when you took a bite. I wanted substance as well as style, you know.
I made my life a little easier by making one big batch of a basic sponge, then splitting it into three and adding ingredients as appropriate for each cocktail. The basic recipe to make 24 cakes is as follows:
- 350g golden caster sugar
- 350g margarine
- 350g plain flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp milk
- 4 eggs
I used dairy free margarine and soy milk, but you can go ahead and use whatever you have to hand. I relied on that great stalwart of the baking world, the all in one method, to produce low-effort but high quality sponge, and it didn’t let me down. If you’re not familiar with the all in one method, it means this:
- Put all the above ingredients in a big bowl.
- Mix them until they are mixed.
- You are done.
I weighed the finished batter, then split into three equal portions. Once I’d added the cocktail ingredients to each separate batch, I baked them at 180C for twenty minutes, rotating the baking sheets after ten to make sure they baked evenly. I let them cool before piping the corresponding icing on in big extravagant swirls and decorating.
Above photos, left to right: Tom Collins, Old Fashioned and Brandy Alexander.
I took the same ‘make-my-life-easier’ approach with the icing, making one big batch and splitting into three. I mixed 500g dairy free margarine with about 1500g icing sugar. I know, 1500g – that’s 1.5kg. That sounds even worse. If I’d used real butter, the sugar count would have been lower, around 1kg. Still a hefty dose of sugar, I think you’ll agree. In fact, this amount of icing ended up being too much for 24 cakes, but then again it’s really difficult to work with exactly the right amount of icing when you’re piping icing swirls; the very last one will always suffer from you having to force the last dregs of icing out of the bag. It’s not only the cake that will suffer; I’ve seen myself needing a time out after trying to ice the same cupcake a dozen times, with an amount of icing that wasn’t quite enough in the first place and is becoming decreasingly fit for use. It’s better to have too much, you can always freeze any extra. Or eat it with a spoon, arms liberally dusted with icing sugar and a streak of buttercream in your hair, eyes shut and a blissful smile on your face. It’s up to you…
That’s the basic premise of these cakes – but wait! There’s more! Details on the flavours and methods for the indivicual cocktail cakes is coming up through the week. There’s even an extra post on Thursday, to fit it all in. MOAR I say!