A student's guide to baking

Posts tagged ‘Buttercream’

Rainbow Cupcakes


Ingredients (makes 12):

The cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Food colouring/dye

The icing:

  • 100g butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence


  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
  • Mix together the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time, and sieve in the flour.
  • Add the milk and vanilla essence and stir until the mixture is smooth and consistent.
  • Ideally you want 6 different colours for this recipe: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. If you only have red, yellow and blue, you can mix as necessary to make up the remaining colours, but be careful not to use too much.
  • Split the mixture evenly into 6 separate bowls and add a little of the food dye or colouring to the respective bowls to make the various colours.
  • Divide the purple mixture up between the 12 cupcake cases, using a teaspoon if needs be to ensure that the mixture spreads evenly and covers the base of the cupcake case.
  • Repeat with the other colours, working backwards through the rainbow to end up with red on top.
  • Bake the cupcakes at 180ºC for 12-15 minutes. When done, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool.
  • Make the buttercream icing by beating the butter until soft, and then adding in the icing sugar and mixing. Add in the vanilla essence and continue mixing until pale and fluffy. Use the buttercream to decorate the cakes.

(Recipe adapted from: http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/13653/rainbow-coloured-cupcakes.aspx)

Today’s post is a bit of a #throwbackthursday. These cupcakes were one of my first forays into the world of baking. At the time I’d just started my second year at university, and my room this time around had access to a kitchen, which I didn’t have in my first year. I decided to christen the kitchen by baking some cakes for my flatmates to try and make unpacking and 0th week work seem a bit more bearable.

And so, in a bid to put off the effort of unpacking for an extra half an hour or so, I decided to make the cupcakes rainbow coloured, seeing as I had various different food colours with me. I must’ve had them for quite some time though, as the purple, whilst still perfectly fine for human consumption, had changed colour to a dark green, so the rainbow effect didn’t quite work. The lesson here is that if the mixture goes green when you add the purple food colouring, then baking it is not going to effect a miraculous change and render the result purple after all. Also, whilst I wouldn’t advocate pouring in half a bottle of food colouring, feel free to add a little more than you would normally to make sure that you get a nice bright colour.

Our kitchen was called K9, hence the decorations.

Our kitchen was called K9, hence the decorations.


Melt-in-the-middle Chocolate and Raspberry Cupcakes

Melt-in-the-middle chocolate and raspberry cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 12):

The cake:

  • 35g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 130g plain flour
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of sode
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 185ml milk
  • 12 squares dark chocolate

The frosting:

  • 170g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 500g fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a muffin tray with 12 cupcake cases.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs and stir in the vanilla.
  • Sieve in the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.
  • Pour in the milk and mix well.
  • Half fill the cupcake cases and then put one square of chocolate on top. Top up the cupcakes with the remaining mixture, being careful not to overfill the cases, as they’ll rise in the oven.
  • Bake for around 15 minutes, or until they pass the knife test.
  • Once the cakes have finished baking, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool on a wire rack.

Whilst they’re in the oven, you can make a start on the frosting:

  • Beat the butter in a mixing bowl until soft.
  • Sieve in the icing sugar and mix carefully and thoroughly until peaks start to form.
  • Add in the vanilla extract and the raspberries, saving some for decoration. I tend to go for 2 raspberries per cupcake, so put 24 to one side, and mix in the rest with the buttercream.
  • Using either a palette knife or a piping bag, apply the icing to the top of the cooled cakes.

(Recipes from: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/24811/chocolate-melt-cupcakes.aspx (cake) and http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/dark-chocolate-cupcakes-with-raspberry-buttercream-frosting/ (frosting))


My girlfriend, Ele, is another avid baker, so when she ended up getting a lot of raspberries on offer at the end of the market one day, using them to make some form of cake seemed the most logical thing for us to do.

One of my flatmates from last year, Jennifer, regularly made melt-in-the-middle chocolate muffins during term, so naturally I was eager to try the idea too.

The result of these two ideas was therefore what you see here: melt-in-the-middle chocolate cupcakes with a hearty topping of raspberry buttercream icing. I was so taken by it, in fact, that I ended up using the idea for my Carnation cupcakes.

Normally I bake for an occasion, or at least I find an occasion to bake a certain recipe that I want to try, but that wasn’t really the case here. Instead, this was baking for necessity, in order to try and use up some of the raspberries quickly. It did prove useful in that I got to have a go at making melt-in-the-middle cupcakes and get an idea for the kind of consistency I wanted, but even so, there wasn’t a particular occasion that the cakes were intended for. As you’d expect though, we weren’t short of people to help us eat them.

They say that money can’t buy you happiness, but money can buy ingredients with which you can bake. If baking doesn’t make you happy, then I’m not sure what will. One of my main plans for meeting new people and making new friends when I’m on my Year Abroad next year is genuinely to bake and bribe people into being my friends through the use of baked goods. You may laugh at me from your moral high ground, but when the cakes come out of the oven and are just sitting ready on the side, there are few who can resist. Me included.

Victoria Sandwich

Victoria sandwich


The cake:

  • 200g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

The filling and icing:

  • 100g butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 340g strawberry jam
  • 200g strawberries, chopped
  • 400g fondant icing
  • Icing sugar for rolling


  • As always, start by preheating your oven to 180ºC, and grease two 10” cake tins.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Add in the eggs, one at a time, and sieve in the flour and baking powder. Normally you wouldn’t use baking powder if you’re already using self-raising flour, but here it helps the cake to rise that bit more and give it a particularly light texture.
  • Pour in 2 tbsp of milk and mix until smooth. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for about 20 minutes until golden and the cake springs back when pressed, or until it passes the knife test.
  • Leave the cake to cool and make a start on the icing by beating the butter until smooth and soft.
  • Sieve in the icing sugar. My other recipes usually work with a ratio of 1:2 for butter to icing sugar, but here you don’t need something as stiff and strong as you would for decoration or holding a cake together.
  • Add the vanilla extract to the buttercream for extra taste and leave to cool in the fridge.
  • Once the cakes have cooled, take the bottom layer and spread a generous amount of strawberry jam over the top.
  • Next spread the chopped strawberries evenly over the strawberry jam, making sure that they don’t go over the sides.
  • Spread the buttercream over the bottom of the remaining layer and carefully place it over the strawberries.
  • For working with the fondant icing, dust a work surface with icing sugar just as you would use flour otherwise. Work the fondant icing sugar with your hands and then a rolling pin to make it more pliable until you have a large thin layer.
  • Carefully lift the fondant icing off the work surface, draping it over the rolling pin to help carry it. Lay it gently over the cake, making sure that there are no tears in the surface.
  • Using a sharp knife, gently neaten up the edges, using the natural shape of the icing to help guide any curves you want. It’s up to you how much of the side you show, but I think it’s nice to leave some gaps to make it look like the icing has been poured on and so that you can see the strawberries inside.

(Recipe adapted from: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1997/classic-victoria-sandwich)


With the return of the Great British Bake Off to our screens, it seemed appropriate to write about this one. The recipe for this is very similar to my other Victoria sandwich recipe (see here), but presentation and structure are a little different, and the measurements vary too.

The first time I made this cake was for a college charity event, where we gathered in the common room to watch the final of the Great British Bake Off last year and there was a bake sale at the same time too. There was even a competition going for who could make the most money with their cake, where the winner would win the official Great British Bake Off cookbook. Sadly I ended up coming 2nd, losing out due to a limited quantity, even though I managed to sell out first. The event went really well and we managed to raise a lot for charity!


The state of the bake sale after half an hour... The GBBO Final hadn't even started by this point.

The state of the bake sale after half an hour… The GBBO Final hadn’t even started by this point.

The inspiration for this cake came from Series 4’s Glenn, who came up with the idea and the design of using whole strawberries and icing over the top. For the charity event it was suggested that we’d get bonus points for recreating one of the bakes from earlier in the series, so I naturally turned to cake and found Glenn’s recipe, which seemed elegant and yet not too complicated.

I also made this cake several months later for my friend Tess’ birthday. The only slight difference there was that I kept 2 small strawberries back at the end, and used them as decoration on the top of the icing. Unfortunately, I don’t think there was time between finishing it and presenting to her for me to get a photo without spoiling the surprise for her, so I don’t have a picture of that particular cake!

When I first made this, it was as I was just starting out with baking, so I can certainly recommend it as a fairly simple recipe that looks good and gets you into thinking about presentation as well.



Ginger Cupcakes with Buttercream and Lemon Syrup

Ginger and lemon cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 12):

The cake:

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 120g butter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 85 honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 120g sour cream

Lemon syrup:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 lemon (juice)
  • 60g butter
  • 115g caster sugar


  • 200g butter
  • 400g icing sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a muffin tray with 12 cupcake cases.
  • Beat together the butter and brown sugar in a bowl.
  • Add the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and continue to mix.
  • Pour in the honey and beat in the eggs.
  • Mix in the sour cream until smooth.
  • Split the mixture between the paper cases and bake for 30 minutes or until they pass the knife test.

With a thicker cupcake mixture, it tends to end up like this rather than flat when adding the mixture to the cases.


If you stir the mix gently with a teaspoon, you get a swirled effect that will make for a flatter, more even cupcake when baked.











While the cakes are in the oven, you can start making the syrup and buttercream.

  • Beat one egg in a small pan.
  • Add in the lemon juice, butter and sugar and stir whilst heating until the mixture thickens.
  • For the buttercream, beat butter until it softens.
  • Sieve in the icing sugar and beat gently until the mixture becomes pale and forms stiff peaks.
  • Once the cakes are cool to the touch, use a knife to apply the buttercream and finish by pouring the lemon syrup over the top.

(Recipe adapted from http://mingmakescupcakes.yolasite.com)


This was the last of my baking for the Lichfield Festival. Just over a week after the Festival itself had ended, there were debrief meetings to review how the Festival had gone and what we could improve on in future. So, seeing as we were having a meeting (or in the case of the ladies in the office, 4 meetings), we agreed that we ought to have cake as well. Now that I wasn’t working at the Cathedral for the Festival for most of my waking hours, I had time enough to bake again and spend a little longer on presentation.

With the other cakes I’d baked for the Festival, I went with my standard trio of flavours: vanilla, chocolate and lemon. Of course, I added the gin cake after I came across the recipe and saw it as a way of maintaining that holiest of traditions at the Festival. So when it came to the last round of baking, I did ask in the least macabre way possible, whether any of the staff had any last requests.

Jen, our wonderful Festival Manager, said she had a particular liking for ginger cake, so thankfully I had a good starting point with that. My only worry was that I tend to associate ginger and other spices like nutmeg and cinnamon with winter and Christmas, and given that this was the middle of July, I was wary of trying to make it still a more summery cake.

Normally with flavourings in cake, I’ll tend to verge on the generous side when it comes to helpings of the main ingredient, just to avoid creating a rather bland and nondescript cake. However, with this one, I decided instead to err on the side of caution and didn’t go overboard on the ginger. I decided to use the usual pairing of ginger and honey in the cake, and adding that helped to keep the taste as well as the texture lighter. The addition of the lemon helped too, and the syrup seeped into the cake and the buttercream to give the whole thing a consistent flavour. The only downside was that it did leave many people with sticky fingers at the end, so be prepared!