A student's guide to baking

Posts tagged ‘Cupcakes’

Carnation Cupcakes


Ingredients (makes 36 total, 12 of each colour):


The cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 lemon, zest

The icing:

  • 125g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice


The cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 12 squares of dark chocolate
  • 12 raspberries

The icing:

  • 125g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 12 raspberries


The cake:

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

The icing:

  • 125g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Red food dye/colouring

Carnation cupcakes 2


  • Preheat your oven to 180ºC and line 3 muffin tins with cupcake cases. If you don’t have 3 trays, you can make them one colour at a time, remembering to wash and dry the tray after each round.

Each of these cupcakes starts with the same basic recipe:

  • 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 stir until the mixture is smooth and consistent.
  • For the white cupcake, stir in the lemon zest until it’s evenly spread throughout the mixture. Split the mixture between the cupcake cases.
  • For the pink cupcake, sieve in the cocoa powder after adding the flour. Fill each cupcake case half full with the mixture, then place a square of chocolate and a raspberry in the middle of each before pouring the remaining mixture on top.
  • For the red cupcake, add in the vanilla essence before dividing the mixture between the cases.
  • All of the cakes should be baked for 15-18 minutes at 180ºC. Remember to use the knife test to check before removing them from the oven. If you don’t have room in the oven for all 3 colours at once or are only using 1 muffin tray, place them in the centre of the oven to bake.
  • When the cakes are done, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool.

Set a timer so that you don’t lose track of time, and then you can start making the icings. Again, the icing for each different cake starts with the same basic recipe:

  • Beat butter until soft. Sieve in the icing sugar and mix together until the buttercream is pale and forms stiff peaks. As you’re going to be piping and you want the design to hold it’s shape, continue beating the mixture until it’s stiff and holds its shape well.
  • For the white icing, stir in the lemon juice and beat thoroughly.
  • For the pink icing, add in the raspberries and beat thoroughly. The mixture should turn a light pink colour.
  • For the red icing, add in the red food dye or colouring, following the instructions as to how much to use. The icing should turn a bright red colour.
  • Leave the icing to cool in the fridge briefly whilst you’re waiting for the cakes to cool.
  • Once the cakes are cool, you can start icing. Do make sure that the cakes are at room temperature before you begin, or else the icing will melt and start to run.
  • Use a piping bag with a cross-headed nozzle, preferable with one point being slightly longer than the others. Pipe small circular ‘petals’ in a clockwise direction, spiralling inwards to the centre.
  • Once the cakes are iced, leave them in the fridge to allow the icing to set fully.


One of the many Oxford traditions when it comes to exams is wearing a carnation to mark your progression through your exam period. You start with a white carnation for your first exam, then a pink carnation for all of your middle exams, and you finish with a red one to mark your final exam. It’s a popular tradition in Oxford in May and June, and it’s rather lovely when you get congratulations on the street from people who see you wearing your red carnation.

Part of the tradition is that someone else has to buy your carnations for you, as its apparently bad luck to buy them for yourself. In some ways though, it’s just nice to find flowers in your pigeon hole when you’re otherwise surrounded by revision, even if those flowers do remind you of the upcoming ordeal.

In addition to the carnations, many people also give each other chocolate and sweets as kind little gestures around this time. To those of you worrying about the state of pre-exam nutrition, most colleges also offer a Fruit for Finalists scheme, where you can also get fruit rather than living off a diet of Dairy Milk and Lindt. I particularly like this culture of giving and gestures of goodwill around the time of exams, so I came up with these carnation cupcakes as a way to combine both aspects.

When it came to posting the cakes to various people’s pigeon holes, I put each set into resealable airtight sandwich bags to stop them from drying out, and I wrote a little note, wishing them good luck for their exams and explaining what the flavours were in each cake.

Naturally of course, I couldn’t just do vanilla cupcakes with different coloured icing on top, so I decided to have different flavours for each cupcake. I’ve always been a fan of lemon flavours in cake, and it also lent itself well to keeping the colour a light creamy white, so I went with that the for the first one.

As I’ve mentioned in my melt-in-the-middle chocolate and raspberry cupcakes, I really liked the concept as a cake in itself, and using the raspberries helped not only to create a contrast with the dark chocolate and lighten the taste, but also to create a naturally pink icing for the cake. I also liked the added ‘middleness’ of the cake, in that there was a nice surprise in the middle with the melted chocolate and raspberry as an extra boost, as well as it being the middle cake and carnation of the three. I decided to keep the final cupcake simple, sticking with a reliable vanilla cupcake, and using food dye to achieve the red colour.

Another advantage of using vanilla for the last one is that it would last better than the other two cakes, as there wasn’t any fresh fruit in the cake. As someone who had to have 2 pink carnation flowers to last them through the exam period in first year because the first one was in danger of withering before I reached the final exam, I was aware that exams can end up being spread over some time, and I wanted people to still have the option of eating each cake as they donned the matching coloured carnation.

For those of you who may be wondering what I did about my own carnations and arguably more importantly, my exams, I thankfully didn’t have any. At undergraduate level, the arts subjects only have exams at the end of the first year and at the end of the final year, so I spent last term as I did any other: writing essays, doing translations, and reading. However, many of my friends had exams, whether they were 2nd year science subject exams, first year Prelims or fourth year linguist Finals, so I spent a lot of last term baking these too!

Carnation cupcakes


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.

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!


Pimm’s Cupcakes

The perfect treat for a summer evening!

The perfect treat for a summer evening!

Ingredients (makes 12):

The cake:

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 20g cornflour
  • 115g butter
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 120ml buttermilk (see recipe for alternative)
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 100ml orange juice

Pimm’s strawberry jelly filling:

  • 200g strawberries
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp Pimm’s

Cucumber and mint syrup:

  • 1 handful of mint, chopped
  • 12 thin slices of cucumber
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp water


  • 120g butter
  • 240g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence


  • Preheat the oven to 160ºC and line a muffin tray with 12 cupcake cases.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, followed by the orange zest and orange juice, and mix gently.
  • Sieve in the flour and cornflour, and then add the buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own by adding 1
  • and a half teaspoons of lemon juice to 120ml of regular milk.
  • Beat your mix well to ensure an even consistency. It should be a fairly runny mix, so don’t worry if it seems a bit thinner than normal cupcakes.
  • Split the mix between the paper cases and bake for 30 minutes, or until they have turned a golden colour and pass the knife test.

Once the cakes are in the oven, you can make a start with the filling.

  • Blend the strawberries in a food processor and pour into a small pan through a fine sieve to remove the pips. It’ll still work if you don’t sieve it, but using one will make it much smoother.
  • Add the sugar, cornflour, and Pimm’s to the pan and heat gently.
  • Stir the mix regularly with a whisk until it becomes thick and jelly-like.
  • Leave to cool.

The syrup also requires heating in a pan, so you can make this at the same time as the Pimm’s strawberry filling.

  • Add the chopped mint and cucumber slices to a small pan. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water.
  • Heat until the water starts to bubble, then turn off the heat. Allow it to cool slightly before straining the syrup into a glass to cool fully.

For the buttercream:

  • Beat the butter first to soften it, before sieving in the icing sugar.
  • Once peaks are starting to form, add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and continue beating until the mixture is strong and stiff.
Coring the cupcakes to add the Pimm's strawberry filling.

Coring the cupcakes to add the Pimm’s strawberry filling.

Once you’ve finished making the various components, it’s time to assemble the final cakes.

  • Using a knife or corer if you have one, remove a hole from the middle of each of the cupcakes, saving the removed piece. (see below)
  • Add one teaspoon of the Pimm’s strawberry filling to the hole in each cupcake. Using the removed piece, cover the top of the hole.
  • Using a piping bag if you have one, ice the cupcakes with the buttercream.
  • Drizzle the cucumber and mint syrup over the cupcakes.
  • Decorate with sliced fresh strawberries, orange, cucumber and mint.
For decorating the finished cupcake.

For decoration to give that real Pimm’s feel to it!

The finished cupcake.

The finished cupcake!

(Recipe adapted from http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/535447/pimms-cupcakes)


After my recent endeavours with gin-flavoured cake, I thought it was time for another summery alcoholic cake!

This weekend, I went over to a friend’s house for a night of cocktails and catching up with the three of us. It’d been several months since I’d seen either of them, so it was lovely seeing them again and I decided to bake for the occasion! Off the back of recent inspiration and practice at making drinks, our wonderful hostess suggested a gin-based cocktail evening, and of course we didn’t have any objections.

Given that we were going to be drinking anyway, I thought it best to keep away from the gin drizzle cake recipe. Those who have tasted it will be able to certify that it’s rather boozy!

So instead I opted for another alcohol-inspired cake, but one that’s traditionally a little bit less alcoholic yet still associated with summer – Pimm’s. My love for Pimm’s rivals my feelings towards the mighty G&T. In my book, no summer is truly complete unless you’ve had at least a glass of Pimm’s.

Naturally then, my main worry with this cake was doing justice to the drink, particularly in balancing the various flavours, but I think this works. The different tastes sit well alongside each other and you’re left to sample serenely each of the flavours that goes into the wondrous concoction that is a glass of Pimm’s.

So relax, sit back in the summer sun and enjoy a light fruity cupcake! Cheers!



From another round of Pimm's cupcakes.

From another round of Pimm’s cupcakes.