Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Orange and Vanilla Cupcakes

The fiancĂ© has been having a rough week and a half.  This section of his work rota has him working 10 days in a row, which probably isn't so bad when he's working his regular hours.  But he's taken extra shifts, since it's very busy during the summer, and consequently is doing an extra 35 hours on top of his normal 40.  This has not been helped by his bicycle getting a flat tyre, falling off his scooter when it skidded out from under him in the rain and the general frustration of his actual job.  Plus they've forgotten to schedule breaks in for him on over half the 10 days.  Not good.  So when his Dundee friends mentioned that their mutual friend from England would be up visiting, he was initially disheartened by the fact that all the extra work would mean he wouldn't be able to see him.  That is until I pointed out that since he would finish work at 4pm on Saturday he could hop on a train and spend the evening with them.  I practically insisted he go because he was so miserable at this point that he really needed something fun, even though it meant I was completely alone all of Saturday and I hate being alone.  (I am invited to go but I'm horribly shy and didn't want to.)

And of course, I offered to make cakes because that is what I do and it would provide some entertainment for me whilst he was at work.  Since it is summer (not that the weather thinks so any more) I wanted to make a light cake.  I wasn't making the mistake of doing chocolate again.  Light usually seems to go with fruity and it had been a while since I'd baked with orange extract.  I'd also seen a lot of things about 'orange creamsicles' around recently so decided to add a bit of vanilla to the mix.  Plus it was a great excuse to finally try out my Duo Icing Kit from Lakeland (it worked really well and was easy to use, after I figured out how to piece it together).

The cake recipe is based off one for lemonade cakes, just to help me get a decent balance for the ingredients.  I tweaked a few things obviously and made the decision to add an orange syrup after baking to make them extra moist and orangey.  My main challenge was getting the vanilla buttercream to look white.  The butter I use is yellow and I don't have clear extract so my basic vanilla buttercream always comes out a pale yellow colour.  This is fine in most cases but I really wanted a much paler, whiter colour to contrast with the orange.  Apparently the main way to achieve whiter buttercream is to use white butter or vegetable shortening.  I don't buy either of those though.  Stork is what I have in my fridge.  I then read that beating the living daylights out of the butter makes it paler so figured it was worth a shot.  And I had white food gel to lighten it up even more.  It worked out rather well in the end.  Not perfectly white but certainly much paler and stood out against the orange.  

They were certainly a light cake and very citrusy.  The fiancĂ© also said they were moreish due to their lightness.  It was easy just to eat another and then another.  The vanilla is subtle but still obviously there and provides a nice accompaniment to the orange.  All in all a very yummy cake.

Recipe - makes 12

Cakes - inspired by The Hummingbird Bakery: Cake Days:
  • 60g/2oz butter
  • 210g/7.5oz caster sugar
  • 180g/6.5oz plain flour
  • 3/4 tbsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200ml/7fl.oz milk
  • 2 tsp orange extract
  • 2 medium eggs
Orange Syrup:
  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar 
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5 and line a 12 hole muffin tray with muffin cases. 
  2. Mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and there are no large lumps of butter.
  3. Put the milk in a jug and mix in the orange extract.  
  4. Add the eggs to the milk and beat until combined. 
  5. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients, along with the red and yellow food colouring, if using (use more yellow than red) and beat until combined and smooth, and you have a colour you are happy with.
  6. Divide the mixture evenly amongst the cases, filling about two thirds full, and then bake for 20-25 minutes, until risen and springy or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  7. Whilst the cakes bake, make the orange syrup by combining the caster sugar with the orange juice in a small bowl.  Mix together.
  8. When cakes are removed from the oven, leave in their tray and poke 5 holes in each cake with a skewer.
  9. Pour about 1 tsp orange syrup over each cake then allow to rest in the tray for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Vanilla Buttercream:
  • 85g/3oz butter
  • 170g/6oz icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • White food gel (optional)
Orange Buttercream:
  • 85g/3oz butter
  • 170/6oz icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • Red and yellow food colouring 
  1. Make the vanilla buttercream first.  Put the butter in a bowl and beat for several minutes until very creamy and pale.
  2. Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract (and white colouring if using) and beat until combined and smooth.
  3. Make the orange buttercream the same way.  First beat the butter until creamy.
  4. Add the icing sugar and orange extract, plus the food colouring.  Use more yellow than you do red to get a nice, orange colour.
  5. Put the two buttercreams into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle, with the orange down one side and the vanilla down the other (to make life easier, I use the Lakeland Duo Colour Icing Kit).
  6. Pipe a swirl on top of each cake, starting from the outside and moving towards the centre.
  7. Top each swirl with a chewy orange sweet or other decoration of your choosing if you wish.

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