Friday, 31 May 2013

Apple and Blackcurrant Cupcakes

So I've become rather enamoured with the idea of using jelly powder to flavour things since using it to make the strawberry and cream fudge.  Hence I bought a few different flavours of jelly in my last weekly shop to have on hand for various things.  When Sunday rolled around and I was considering what to make for the Dundee lot, I decided I wanted to use one of the powders in the buttercream: namely the blackcurrant one.  

When deciding what type of cake to make to go with the buttercream, I tried to think of what flavour combinations I was aware of that include blackcurrant.  The first one that came to mind was apple, since the fruit squash we drink is apple and blackcurrant flavoured and very nice.  This was then followed by lemon since lemon seems to go with pretty much anything.  Not sure which to go with, I asked the fiancé what he wanted.  He said whilst he loves lemon, I've made plenty of lemon cakes and that apple and blackcurrant sounds really nice.  So apple it was.

I did not have any cooking apples when I made this decision though, so the fiancé volunteered to go out to the supermarket to get some for me.  At the last minute I added blackcurrant jam to the list because I thought it would make a nice addition to the cake if it was running through the centre of it.  Now, I made a very silly decision regarding the apples.  In many recipes where it has called for two cooking apples, I've only ever ended up needing one because they're so big.  I've always bought two but always ended up with one left over with nothing to do with it.  So this time I told the fiancé to just get me one because I was certain it would be enough.  You can probably see where I'm going with this.  Whilst the apple itself did weigh the amount I needed to include in the recipe, once it had gone through the cooking process with the cinnamon its weight had reduced by half!  Not good.  I had to quickly cook up some regular eating apples to make up the difference.  In future I'm just going to play it safe and buy the two.

Speaking of cooking apples, it is such a pain!  Mainly because the bases of my saucepans ended up black and stained.  I've managed to clean one but am still trying to shift a large amount of the stuff off the base of the other one.  I think putting the apple and cinnamon into the saucepan as two separate things was a mistake, since a lot of the cinnamon ended up on the bottom of the pan and adhered to it when it got hot.  I'm thinking it would be better to toss the apple slices in the cinnamon first and then put them in the pan.  That would hopefully stop quite so much burning on the base.

The other bane of my existence with these cakes was the decoration.  I didn't want just buttercream on top.  I like adding a little extra flare.  In the first place I really wanted to try my hands at making apple roses.  It didn't seem like it would be very hard: make a syrup; sit apple slices in it for extended period of time; wrap into spirals around each other to make roses.  Well, I made the syrup easily enough and I soaked my apples until the syrup had cooled but I could not get them to stay wrapped around each other.  I think my slices were too thick.  I made them as thin as my cutting ability would allow but I probably need an incredibly sharp knife to get the wafer thin slices I actually need.  So with that proving to be a disaster I had to think of something else.  Then I had a brainwave.  Why not just use my little flower cookie cutter and make tiny apple flowers.  They could be apple blossoms!  And since they had been soaking in the syrup, they would not brown whilst sitting on the cake.  Hence I punched tiny flower shapes out of all my apple slices.  They made quite a cute decoration in the end.  I'll probably use that idea again in future, maybe with different shapes like stars and hearts.  I bet it would work with some other fruit too. Strawberry flowers anyone?

These cakes went down very well.  The fiancé loves the buttercream.  So do I actually.  It tastes very like a blackcurrant drink.  He says the cakes have a texture like apple crumble.  They're not the moistest of cakes but that's made up for with the buttercream and the jam running through it.  It is definitely a more blackcurrant flavour but the apple and cinnamon are there in the background and everyone agreed that if they weren't there it would take something away from the overall taste of the cake.

Recipe - makes 14

Apple Blossom Decoration - inspired by Martha Stewart:
  • 125ml/4fl.oz water
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 50g/1.7oz caster sugar
  • 1 eating apple
  1. Put the water, lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil then remove from the heat and cover.
  2. Cut a circle of greaseproof paper about an inch bigger than the pan.
  3. Peel and core the apple.  Cut into slices cross-wise about 0.5cm/0.25inch thick and then use a small flower plunger (like these on Amazon) to cut out small flowers.
  4. Put the flowers in the syrup, cover with the greaseproof paper circle and leave to cool completely (about 40 minutes).

Cakes - adapted from Cox Cookies & Cake:
  • 500g/16oz cooking apples (or 250g/8oz cooking apples, 250g/8oz eating apples)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g/3.5oz butter
  • 200g/7oz dark brown sugar
  • 350g/11.5oz self-raising flour
  • 6 tbsp seedless blackcurrant jam (about half a jar of Hartley's)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and line three 6 hole muffin tins with 14 muffin cases.
  2. Peel, core and chop the apples into small pieces.
  3. Put into a small bowl with the cinnamon and mix until all the apple is coated in the cinnamon.
  4. Transfer into a saucepan and cook over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until it turns to mush.  Then remove from the heat and allow the cool.  Strain off any excess liquid through a sieve and weigh out 250g/8oz of apple into a bowl.
  5. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the apple and mix together.
  6. In a separate, large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until smooth and creamy.
  7. Add the eggs and mix in until incorporated.
  8. Add half the flour and fold in.  Then fold in half the apple.  Fold in the rest of the flour and then the rest of the apple.
  9. Divide the mixture across the cases and then bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cakes should be risen and slightly springy to the touch.  A skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  11. Put the jam into a saucepan and heat gently to liquefy it slightly, stirring as you do.
  12. Use an apple corer or a knife to cut a core out the centre of the cake.  Keep the core.
  13. Fill the hole with jam and then put the cores back into the cakes.
  • 155g/5.5oz butter
  • 310g/11oz icing sugar
  • 1 x 23g packet of blackcurrant jelly powder
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • Violet food colouring gel (optional)
  • Apple blossom decoration (optional)
  1. Cream the butter in a large bowl until it is smooth.
  2. Add the icing sugar and milk and beat until smooth.
  3. Add the jelly powder and stir until evenly incorporated.
  4. If using, add a bit of violet food gel and beat in until the colour is evenly distributed.
  5. Put into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe swirls on top of each cake.
  6. Remove the apple blossoms from the syrup and place on top of the buttercream.


  1. They look delicious! I love the purple :-)

    1. Thank you. They were actually much more purple in real life. My camera has a habit of washing out certain colours.