I’ve been trying to think of events which are coming up soon, which I can make cupcakes for. The obvious ones came to mind - Halloween, bonfire night, birthdays etc. Most of the cupcakes I make end up at work, mainly because I can’t eat a whole batch myself so if I want to try a new recipe I might as well take them in! This week, it’s the last day before one of the girls I work with, Laura, goes on maternity leave. This occurred to me at the weekend on the train home and I started thinking of loads of “baby” related cupcakes. However, this week has been really busy at work so I had no time to make any decorations in advance so I actually didn’t get to make any of the decorations I thought of I guess they’ll have to wait until the next person leaves to go on maternity leave!
I’m pretty new to blogging, but at the weekend I also came across AlphaBakes and thought it would make a good challenge to try it this month – basically, it involves baking something starting with the letter chosen alternatively each month by The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes . This month it’s hosted by The More than Occasional Baker and the letter is N. Not the easiest letter until I thought of Neapolitan ice cream – why not make a “Neapolitan” cupcakes: strawberry, chocolate and vanilla! Laura’s expecting a girl so even without any time to make decorations they would be girly enough!
However, I should have factored in that I would still be really busy at work and wouldn’t get home to start baking until about 8pm! For some reason, it seemed like making 3 flavours of cupcake and icing would be do-able – they turned out ok in the end but I was far too tired and made some mistakes… such as forgetting to add the butter to the strawberry buttercream!
In order to save time while making the cupcakes, I made the dry base mixture (flour, sugar, butter and baking powder) for all three flavours as one. I then divided it into three before adding the flavoured liquid. It worked pretty well. I wanted the cakes to be thirds of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry when looking at it from the top rather than layers since I like to eat my ice cream flavours separately rather than a bite of each together!! Since the mixture is fairly runny, the only way to do this is to pipe them all at the same time! If you want an easier option then you could do one flavour first, spoon it into the cases, then do the next one on top and then finish off with the third flavour. The end results should be the same, and it will probably be a lot less messy!
I did the icing in a similar way – three piping bags inside one big one with a nozzle. I should have added more milk to the icing to make them softer and easier to pipe. It was very hard to pipe the first few cupcakes but as soon as I’d got half way through they were really easy. So next time I’d also only half fill the bags and do it in two lots – it makes it much easier to hold and squeeze the piping bag!
Recipes are below if you want to attempt to make them/make a huge mess! Just don’t forget that buttercream contains butter…
Neapolitan Cupcakes (based on recipes from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days)
420g caster sugar
360g plain flour
120g unsalted butter
1.5 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
25g hot chocolate powder
25g Nesquik strawberry drink powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Line 2 muffin trays with 24 cases. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5.
Heat 120ml milk in the microwave and then stir in the hot chocolate powder until dissolved – leave to cool and then whisk in 1 egg.
Mix the sugar, flour, butter, baking powder and salt together in a stand mixer (or rub in with your hands) until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Weigh it and then divide into 3 – I found it weighed 915g so I divided it into 3 bowls with 305g of mixture in each.
Beat 120ml milk, 1 egg and the vanilla together in a jug and then gradually beat into the first portion of the dry ingredients until smooth (ensuring that you scrape down the sides of the bowls after each addition). Place this in a large piping bag.
Beat 120ml milk, 1 egg and the strawberry powder together in a jug and then gradually beat into the second portion of the dry ingredients until smooth (ensuring that you scrape down the sides of the bowls after each addition). Place this in a large piping bag.
Finally, gradually beat the chocolate milk into the last portion of the dry ingredients until smooth (ensuring that you scrape down the sides of the bowls after each addition). Place this in a large piping bag.
Take all three piping bags and place inside a forth piping bag. Cut the ends off so there is a fairly large opening and piping the mixture into the muffin cases until 2/3rds full.
Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes until they are lightly browned on top and spring back when pressed (and a skewer comes out clean). I usually check them and turn them around after 15 minutes.
Take out the tins immediately and leave to cool on a wire ready. Decorate once completely cool.
Neapolitan Buttercream (also adapted from Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days)
750g icing sugar
25g hot chocolate powder
25g Nesquik strawberry drink powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Beat 250g icing sugar and 80g butter together on a very slow speed until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. I always put a tea towel over the top of my KitchenAid to prevent icing sugar going everywhere! Then slowly add 25ml of the milk and the vanilla extract. Once it’s all been added increase the speed and beat on high for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Place in a piping bag.
Beat 250g icing sugar and 80g butter together on a very slow speed until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix the strawberry powder with 30ml of milk and then slowly this to the icing sugar and butter. Once it’s all been added increase the speed and beat on high for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Place in a piping bag.
Beat 250g icing sugar, the hot chocolate powder and 80g butter together on a very slow speed until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Then slowly add the remaining 30ml of milk. Once it’s all been added increase the speed and beat on high for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Place in a piping bag.
Place a nozzle inside a forth piping bag and then cut the ends off the three piping bags with the buttercream in and place inside the bag with the nozzle so that the ends of all three are inside the nozzle. Use this to pipe the buttercream in swirls on top of the cupcakes.