Cupcakes for Nicky
February and March are big birthday months for us...it feels like practically everyone we know was born in these two months. We did 3 in Feb, and we're about to do another 4 in March. So, apart from spending a lot of money on cards, we also eat a lot of cake, which is no bad thing I tell thee! (I figure the more I say it, the more my waistline will listen...so far its not working, but I'll keep you posted).
One of my (3 - Hi Mandi! Hi Kirsty!) BFF's Nicky made her way to this earth 28 years ago on the 28th of February, and the world is a much better place for it. I love that girl more than John Locke loves the island. I love her more than my one pair of Christian Louboutain wedding shoes. I love her more than cupcakes. She is my little half pint solid rock of kindness. She's a teensy tiny dark horse brimming with fun. She exudes calmness at all times, but homegirl knows how to get wild with the best of us. She was so helpful the night before my wedding when I felt like my head was about to start spinning and careen off my body at any second. She kept me calm by being calm. She and I love a lot of the same things, but we love different things too and thats one of the best things about being friends with her. Though, one thing we ALWAYS agree on is food. She and I have a 'More Food is Always Better' policy for life. We both require feeding every 2.5 hours, and we are both terribly unpleasant to be around should we not be fed within the specified time period. She is my chocolate buddy, and I can always count on her to share some with me. Only problem? She stays teensy tiny, while my ass jiggles more and more each day, but one could never hold it against her, she's just too lovely.
In the nearly ten years we have been friends, I'm not sure we had ever spent her actual birthday day together...we had spent mine together a few times, but I think this was the first of hers. So being an extra special occasion, I set out to make some extra special cake for her. For my last birthday she gave me this book, because that's the kind of friend she is. And for her birthday, I made her the Hummingbird's signature cupcakes, because that's the kind of friend I am.
For those of you who may not know, The Hummingbird Bakery is to London what the Magnolia Bakery is to New York. Their cupcakes are like, ridiculously good. And even better than the their New York counterpart, you don't have to wait in a line around the block to get your greedy little mitts on one. And to top off the whole experience at Hummingbird, they serve them in a wee cupcake sized Chinese take-out box! Cute. Overload.
They are everything you could want in a cupcake, and more. Soft as air cake, huge piles of pastel-colored fluffy frosting, and sprinkles. On her birthday, Nicky and I ate more than I am willing to put in writing here. Nuff said.
And if you're wondering what the lovely Nicky looks like...when asking her permission to write about her here, she said..."Of course you may write about me! But no pictures." I'll keep working on her...or next time, I just won't ask permission. Love you Nixon. xoxo
Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting aka Nickycakes
Adapted, barely, from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
*there are many variations on the Hummingbird cupcake, and they can be flavoured many ways...this particular one is a devil's food cake and Jamie actually said this when eating it: "This is the best cake you have ever made. Keep making cakes like this." So if you are looking for a great basic chocolate cake this is your new go-to recipe, I guarantee it.
- For the cupcakes:
- 1 cup / 100g plain flour
- 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon / 20g cocoa powder (at least 70% cocoa solids)
- 3/4 cup / 140g superfine granulated (caster) sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup / 40g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup / 120 ml milk
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the vanilla frosting:
- scant 2 cups / 250g confectioner's (icing) sugar, sifted
- 1/2 cup / 80g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 2/3 Tablespoons / 25ml milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 325f / 170c.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Add the butter and using an electric mixer beat on slow speed until you get a sand-like consistency. This took me about 3-4 minutes, but the butter really must be room temperature or you will have problems here.
In a separate small bowl or jug, whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla extract. Add about half of this to the dry ingredients and beat to combine. Turn the mixer up to high if you have any lumps at this point. Next, turn the mixer down to low and slowly add the rest of the milk mixture, and again mix on slow speed until just combined. Scrape any bits off the side of the bowl with a spatula and give it a few turns by hand. For the love of soft cake, don't overmix it here. I implore you.
OK, this recipe says it yields 12 cupcakes. And here's where the recipe says spoon the mix into paper cases until about 2/3 full. I clearly do not know what 2/3 full looks like...I did what I thought was about 2/3 and got 8 hugemongous cupcakes (not a travesty) But should you really want 12 I suggest you fill them to just over half which is a measurement that makes more sense to me. My 2/3 is more like 3/4, so learn from my mistakes people.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. My generously filled cakes took about 23 minutes total. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave them alone, for like an hour. Don't even think about frosting these until they are completely cool.
To make the frosting:
In a large bowl, beat the icing sugar and the butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until it comes together and is combined. If you do not want to be covered in a cloud of icing sugar, I suggest you put a towel or some other barrier between yourself and the bowl.
Combine the milk and the vanilla extract in a small bowl, then add to the butter mixture about a tablespoon at a time while mixing. Once all the milk has gone in and been fully incorporated, whack the speed up to high and mix away happily for 5 more minutes or until you have the fluffiness you want. The longer you beat it, the fluffier it gets.
You may add a few drops of whatever food colouring you like during the mixing stage.
The Hummingbird bakery have this way of frosting their cupcakes which creates a lovely little circular puddle-like swirly dip thing in the middle of their frosting which is just perfect for holding sprinkles. My frosting technique will need a bit more practice before its just like theirs, but I can say with confidence that a pallet knife is the only way to get even close.
This makes 12 cupcakes, or 8 as the case may be. And makes enough frosting for one batch. Both recipes can be doubled to make a 3-tier, 8 inch / 20cm cake, which I shall be doing for the next celebration...