To celebrate National Cupcake week, Betta Living have challenged bloggers to get their creative hats on and come up with a a cupcake recipe for the #BettaBakeOff challenge. You can find out the details about it here.
A quick bit of background before we get stuck into the recipe I've invented...
Regular readers will know that I had never even attempted baking any kind of cake (nope not even cupcakes) until I had kids when my motherly duty kicked in and I thought I ought to be able to bake birthday cakes for my kids.
It turned out that we have kids that have somehow, from somewhere (not from either of us) have inherited a real talent and absolute passion for cookery. So much so that, at 6 years old, D started his own blog, The Brilliant Chef, because of his love of cooking. Miss T, although only 2, loves cooking more than anything else in the world too.
Inspired by the kids, I have found myself in the kitchen a lot more over the past couple of years and have found myself really enjoying learning to cook and come up with recipes. This year we've enjoyed watching bake off together as a family and then trying out some of the recipes. Miss T has helped to make amazing things like Florentine's, Cherry cake, and Swiss Roll for the first time ever. And seeing ourselves able to make these things has encouraged us even more to get in the kitchen and have a go at even more things.
I love seeing the fusion cooking that various contestants have brought to the GBBO show each year. For example, this year we are loving Chetna's fusion of flavours that she uses in her bakes.
On last week's 'Extra Slice' spin off show we saw Iranian comedienne Shappy Khorsandi explaining that Iranians don't really bake much and desserts tend to only come out at funerals.
Having an Iranian background myself (my mum was Iranian), it made me think just what shame it was that all those incredible flavours used in Iranian cooking don't get translated into baking.
I personally believe that whilst cooking from many other cultures and countries has come to the fore in recent years, Iranian food has not yet had it's moment. There are a few Persian restaurants dotted around in the UK but there are none that I'm aware of that really bring a modern and vibrant twist to classic Persian dishes. Perhaps that might be part of The Brilliant Chef's destiny when he is older?
Sadly I never got to learn to cook from my mum before she passed away, but with the fusion idea in mind I was determined to make some Iranian-inspired Cupcakes bringing together carrot cake with the fabulous flavours of pistachio, cardamom and saffron. These are then topped with Rose icing and there's a special creative twist for adding a little extra texture (and lots of extra fun!) at the end.
That might sound like a lot of flavour for a little cupcake, but you'll have to trust me...It really works. The saffron and cardamom infuse the milk that is used in the cake and so don't overpower and the carrot and pistachio work beautifully together giving a gorgeous texture.
These really are a tasty treat bringing together my Iranian heritage with the current cupcake trend to make my Fusion Flavours Cupcakes.
Here's the recipe to make 12 cupcakes
Ingredients for the cupcakes:
100g unsalted butter
220g caster sugar
2 large eggs
150g self-raising flour
125g plain flour
120ml semi-skimmed milk
1-2 carrots, grated
50g pistachios (unsalted)
a pinch of saffron
6 whole cardamom pods
Ingredients for the icing:
115g unsalted butter
70ml semi-skimmed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
500g icing sugar
half a teaspoon of rose water
For the surprise straw toppings:
dried rose petals
freeze dried raspberry or strawberry pieces
sprinkles of your choice e.g. hundreds and thousands, confetti sprinkles etc
These ingredients can be found in the baking aisle of good supermarkets.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C (or 160C for fan ovens). Line a 12 hole muffin tray with cupcake cases.
2. Pour the milk into a small pan and place on a low heat on the hob. Add a pinch of saffron and the 6 whole cardamom pods. Leave on a low heat to infuse the milk. Turn off and allow to cool after a few minutes.
Warning: the infused milk will make your kitchen smell divine!
3. Either by hand or using a mixer, beat together the sugar and butter. Then add the eggs and continue to beat.
4. Sift both types of flour together and then add around half to the sugar/butter/egg mixture. Beat again. Once your infused milk has begun to cool down, carefully remove the cardamom pods using a spoon and dispose of them. Do not use a sieve as you want to keep those beautiful saffron strands in the milk. Pour around half the infused milk in and mix again. Then add in the rest of the flour and mix it in until well combined, followed by the rest of the infused milk. Mix again until everything is thoroughly combined.
5. Now add in the grated carrot and mix.
6. Shell the pistachios, and using a pestle and mortar crush them into pieces. You still want them a little chunky to give some 'bite' so take care not to crush them to a powder. Add to the mixture and stir in.
7. Dollop the mixture into the cake cases and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. You can use the skewer test to check when they are cooked through by inserting a skewer and if it comes out clean without cake batter on it, they should be done. Use your instincts too to check that they look risen and slightly golden on top too.
8. Leave to cool.
9. Make the icing by combining all the icing ingredients together in a mixer. Leave the butter to get to room temperature first to make it easier. It also helps to mix in half the icing sugar first with all the other ingredients and then adding the second half of the icing sugar. Don't be too heavy handed with the rose water. You want a subtle hint of rose which will really complement the cupcake flavours rather than it tasting like granny's perfume!
10. Whilst your cakes are cooling, you can make a quirky little fun twist that the kids (and big kids!) will enjoy. Using straws (try to get hold of slightly wider straws), you can make little sticks holding different toppings so your guests can add their own sprinkles and toppings to their cupcakes to make them lots of fun!
Here's how to make them.
Cut each straw in half. Make a small fold at one end and staple to form a sealed end. Fill with one type of topping. Then seal the other end with a fold and staple. You can staple on a ribbon at this point to tie a label onto if you wish - or you could leave them unlabelled as 'surprise' toppings. Retro paper straws or clear straws would also look great.
Continue to make more of these, each filled with a different topping. We used flavours that would complement the fusion cake flavours so things like poppy seeds, more crushed pistachios, and dried rose petals all work really well. The kids also appreciate 'regular' sprinkles like hundreds and thousands, sugar strands and confetti sprinkles.
11. To ice the cupcakes, I piped some icing swirling from the outside towards the centre and for others I piped some from the centre outwards to make a rose-like appearance on the icing.
12. If you are going to let your guests have the fun of adding the toppings, now is the time to do it. If you leave it too long then the icing will start to harden and the sprinkly bits won't stick on. Remember you can always make the cakes in advance and whizz up a batch of icing in advance and then do the piping just before serving.
13. Here's another cool trick if like me you don't own a cake stand (sad face and strong birthday hint here for hubby!!!)
You can put together your own by using two plates (one smaller than the other ideally), and an upside down cup in between them. Et voila...a beautiful cake stand to display your fabulous cupcakes.
This is my entry into Betta Living's Bake a Cupcake Competition. You can find out more about it here.