29 Apr 2011

Hestia's....Royal Wedding cupcakes

'An expensive mixer does not a brilliant baker make' - Hestia
I was determined that THIS baking project would go off without a hitch.

I made sure that I had everything bought in - union flag cupcake holders, union flag sugar discs, red white and blue sugar beads, lemon icing sugar, opalescent edible glitter....even patriotic whirly gigs.  I even factored in my usual 6 hour baking shift.  What I didn't factor in was just how dreadfully bad I am at baking.

Yesterday afternoon, at 1pm I began to mix my cupcake mixture.  The butter was supposed to be soft, but this old house is always cold and the butter wasn't as soft as it needed to be.  I whizzed on the kitchenaid and gazed balefully at the pile of sugary butter stones at the bottom of the mixer.  Even with my limited baking experience, I knew that the pile of yellow rabbit-droppings before me was not cake batter.

I ended up taking the mixing bowl and sitting it in the sun in the lounge to soften the mixture up a bit.

Twenty minutes later, another whizz ensured the rudiments of sponge.

Now for the three eggs and flour, added in dribs and drabs to avoid the mixture splitting.  I don't know what splitting is, except that it's undesirable in a cake mix.  I peered into the bowl, it looked like proper cake mix to me.  My God, this was going to work!

I ripped open the newly delivered Royal Wedding Cake Set that I'd ordered last Friday in a fit of patriotic fervor.  I hauled out the cake cases from the package.  They were minute.  Not as in TIME, but as in TINY.

I had assumed that they would be sort of big fairy cake sized.  They weren't.  Worse than that, I didn't have cake tins that they would fit.  I dug around under the oven and produced a tiny muffin tray that my mother had bought me.  I popped in a few of the cake cases.  They didn't actually touch the bottom of the little pans, but at least the sides were held in place.

So off I went.  The mixture was pretty stiff and didn't so much as 'pour' into the cake cases but rather 'stickily dolloped' into them.

How high up the cake case did you fill a cupcake.  The recipe said nothing. I filled them nearly to the top and slammed the tray of 12 into the oven.  I'd rather a wedding cake was over-filled than under-filled.

Twelve wasn't going to go far amongst the ladies of the Royal Wedding Tea Party, so I decided to make another load.  The mixture was made more smoothly than the first lot, but my cake tray was in the oven. What was I going to make this lot in?  I bet you Nigella doesn't have these dilemmas.

I produced my proper muffin tin and lined it with plain white muffin cases.  Since the mixture only made 12 tiny cakes, I reckoned that it might do about 9 standard muffins. I was correct.  I started to feel a bit Delia Smith.

As the first lot cooled on the wire rack, the second lot went in.

The tiny cakes did not stand straight.  The cake cases that had not touched the bottom of the mould had pillowed out as the mixture expanded.  They looked the right colour, but had bottoms like Weebles.  How did I fix this problem, just by leaning on them until the little bottoms went flat.  Very Nigella. Not.

At this point I am starting to feel terribly domesticated and organised and Hestia-like - complete with my very own Hestia's Larder apron that I made myself. Well, I put the stickers on, myself.  I didn't sew the apron. if I had to sew the apron I'd be typing to you now from casualty.

Anyhoo - I decide to make up the lemon icing.  I make it up and realise that it will never cover the 12 tiny fairy cakes, never mind the 9 big cakes too.  And this is where it goes wrong, dear reader.  I decided to augment my icing mixture with some of my own ancient icing sugar.

Thoughtlessly, I tipped the packet into the mixing bowl and heard the tell-tale rattle of a million rock hard little bits of icing battering their way around the beater.  I tasted it.  Like lemon icing with additional gravel.  I scraped it all into the bin.

I now had no icing at all worth using.

Sonshine sauntered in from school and I begged him on bended knee to get his bike out and go get me some icing sugar.  'For a fee', he brokered.  Frantically, I agreed.  I was now £1 down.

He returned a short while later and I recommenced icing operations.  Things looked ok until I realised that I now only had enough butter left to ice up 12, not 24.  Panic-stricken, I ask Sonshine to mount up again and return to the supermarket.  This time the journey sets me back £2.

Time to find the new piping bag, purchased for this very event.

Have you ever tried to fill a piping bag. I'm sure there must be technique to it.  But I haven't got it.  Icing smeared up my arms, over the work surfaces and eventually into the little bag.  What a mess.  I squeezed out a little trial dollop.  At this point I realise that my piping nozzle is much too tiny to do the nice thick worms of butter icing that a cupcake warrants.  Unperturbed I set off on the first step of my icing journey.

The swirls are shaky and very mean-looking.  'I may have to say that you iced these,' I warn Sonshine as I struggle my way around the batch of 24.

'Please don't mum.  It's too awful even for me,' he said, sticking his finger into the remnants of lemon icing and licking happily.  'Please don't eat the icing that's left,' I begged, my hands shaking from the exhertion of squeezing the damned icing through the tiny nozzle. 'I don't think I've got enough.'

Sonshine rebelliously stuck his finger back into the bowl. 'I am not cycling to the Co-op again today,' he warned good naturedly as he drifted back to the TV.

After much scraping of the bowl, shaky icing attempts, heroic sticking on of little patriotic balls and glittery sugar. They were done.

Here they are:

I really, really hope that you have your impressed face on.

I went upstairs to bed, leaving the kitchen looking like Clydebank after the Blitz.

Tidying up was for another day.....the wedding day.

Come on - tell me, what have you baked!


  1. Those look a veritable success: my impressed face is definitely on ;-) Hell, I'd be prepared to pay for such a specimen, if I still ate sweets...

    Hope you enjoy your Royal Wedding event. Here in London, I'm locked away with my computer ignoring the whole thing - sorry, not patriotic.

  2. I think you did very well because you actually did something without going out and buying some stuff. Its the thought that counts.

  3. They look fab and yummy. Though I was waiting at the end for you to say you'd got up this morning to find Sonshine had scoffed half of them ;)

  4. Trashsparkle - oh no - we didn't scoff them. I think we had sickened ourselves with raw cakemix and couldn't be bothered eating them!

    Had one at the teaparty though and it was ok. A bit sticky. I just need to practise a bit more.

    Mystica - yes, people had made sandwiches but most of the cakes were, I think, purchased. And no wonder, it's a lot of hassle baking!

    Inner Whispers - Chloe - she was beautiful and it somehow didn't feel like a massive wedding. Lots of close up shots, so quite intimate in feel. I thought.

    Ali x

  5. I baked loads (pics up on the blog)but thankfully I was only catering for two, so it was all small quantities. No faffing around with icing and piping either - life is far too short for that malarkey as far as I'm concerned! Your cakes do look fab though.

  6. Impressed face on! Also, I envy your mixer.

  7. Awww I'm super impressed, they ook fabulous & very patriotic indeed. My cupcakes were a bit dry but nicely iced by my friend in red & blue icing but then the strawberry slices on the top made the icing run all over the table!! oh and my pre-prepared Victoria sponge baked the night before went horribly wrong when I forgot to add the baking powder :( Made good sponge for the trifle though ha ha. i really shouldn't bother.

  8. Butterfly - mine were a bit sticky inside. I did exactly the same as you re Vikki Sponge with some pancakes last week. They were the palest flatest most pathetic looking things - I'd used plain flour and not self-raising.

    Implausible Yarn - it's totally gorgeous, the mixer. At the moment, the break-back price per cupcake is £20 per cupcake. So quite a lot of baking to do before it pays for itself, lol!

    Alex - your baking was VERY impressive. As was your hat :-D

    Ali x

  9. There's a saying that goes something like, "Would you tell a photographer, 'your cupcakes are brilliant, what oven do you use?'" (This has a second part of a story that makes a connection to photographers and their cameras). But your quote under the stand mixer reminded me of it...

    So, practice makes perfect with baking. Just keep trying!


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