Double Marzipan (simnel-style) Cupcakes

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A lightly spiced, currant and nut-stuffed fluffy cupcake, with a layer of marzipan on top and in the middle. 

I’ll tell the truth– I had no idea my usual Saturday baking experiment was really of traditional substance. All I knew was that I needed to use the marzipan which called my name out sadly every time I opened the little pantry door, as well as the currants I kept for but never used over the Christmas break. So I diddle-daddled, thumb-twiddled, and decided to make these 2-layer marzipan currant cupcakes, only to realise after a bit of research later that these babies are already a thing, and what adorable, moreish things they looked right there on my screen. And so I made them, with heavy tweaks. And loved them.

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This cupcake is truly a thing of beauty– the crumb is of unbeatable lightness, yet the crumbs adhere just the right amount to each other so the cake itself is not too forgiving; the top and bottom bits of the middle layer of marzipan ooze into the adjacent airy crevices a tad, sweet goo cemented to buttery crumb, like little cilia on epithelia (is that too far).

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The amount of eggs used in this recipe is almost double what I expected, but all at the right cost, for that volume provided the perfect amount of moisture, lightness and bind. I substituted the oil with melted butter because I didn’t have any oil on hand, and used almonds and yoghurt as extra additions. Another thing I love is that the use of mostly liquid ingredients here lessens the workload and time needed to make these (by the way, the perfect cook time here is ~25 minutes, tried and tested).

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Once out of the oven, the flat top so characteristic of cupcakes as well as the sides boast an almost-firm, sugary crust, which is why I highly recommend eating these straightaway or at least the same day, for the following day that outer texture will be much less pronounced.

That belly goo, though.

Double Marzipan (simnel) Cupcakes (makes 12, heavily adapted from BBC Food)

Ingredients

450g marzipan

275g white caster sugar

115g (one stick or a half cup) butter, microwaved until softened (melted is fine too)

4 eggs

3 heaping tbsp (50g) honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

200g plain all-purpose flour, plus some extra for rolling out marzipan.

2 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

60g (1/4 cup) cream cheese, at room temperature (I microwaved mine to quicken the warming process)

60ml (1/4 cup) yoghurt

150g raisins or currants, or use a mix of both

100g chopped/flaked almonds

 

Directions

Line your cupcake tin with 12 liners, and preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Roll the marzipan out on a surface lightly floured, or lightly dusted with some icing sugar. Cut out 24 discs– 12 that are 6cm wide, and 12 that are 5cm wide. All should be 3mm thick, as specified in the original recipe (lesson learnt: using an actual ruler beats doing this by eye by a mile).

In a medium bowl, briefly whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, chopped almonds, and currants/raisins. In another, larger bowl, whisk together the sugar, melted butter, cream cheese, yoghurt, honey, vanilla and eggs.

Tip in the dry mix and mix until everything is well incorporated.

How easy was that.

Spoon a tablespoonful of batter into the first liner. Place a 5cm-wide circle of marzipan on top, then fill the liner with batter until it’s 3/4 full. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Check with a skewer to see if it comes out clean.

Once the cupcakes are out, top each with the 6cm-wide marzipan circles. It’s important, as the recipe states, to do this while the cupcakes are still warm, for this helps seal the top bits of marzipans to the cupcakes, forming a nice and even (and aesthetically pleasing) layer.

For reasons mentioned above, try your best to consume these the same day. Nevertheless, these may be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

 

Lemon Curd Muffins

If there’s anything I’m a true sucker for, it’s lemon anything. No really. I love chocolate and a lot of other sweet things, but when it comes to citrus-based desserts, my salivary glands go haywire and my head fills with buttercups and sunshine.

Fluffy, white lemon muffins with a lemon curd belly, topped with a lemon curd-sugar coating

What do I like about these muffins? Well. You mix the wet ingredients together, you mix the dry ingredients together, pour one into the other and voila, you have perfect golden muffins in a matter of 15 minutes or less. I mean it’s really not any harder than perusing the morning paper or making a cup of coffee. If you can tie your shoelaces, these are a piece of cake (got that). Wake up, make your coffee, work, take a half-hour break, and maybe during that time you can make these without breaking a sweat. There is just no excuse now.

I had to satisfy the lemon fiend in me a couple of days ago, and did so well with these muffins. I had an incredibly hard time labelling this either a muffin or cupcake, because although this one ticks the boxes for all things which make a muffin, well, a muffin, the insides reminded me more of a cupcake than anything– light as air, pale, tender and not as dense as any muffin you might come across. It’s 80% muffin and 20% cupcake in technique, but 100% cupcake in texture. The crumb is neither robust or rigid, but holds up enough to provide the perfect amount of bite. Add this to the mix of half-molten lemon curd centre and sugar-crusted, sharp-tongued top and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Just for general info, muffins generally:

  • have a domed top (as is evident above)
  • a denser crumb
  • little if any frosting (usually a sugar coating such as this one)
  • require the wet and dry ingredients to be mixed separately before one is added to the other, instead of the typical creaming method utilised in the making of cupcakes.

Therefore, I present to you the cuffin.

Delight is a synonym for that wonderful lemon curd-sugar topping, which once again couldn’t be easier. Delight is also a synonym for the feeling you get when you bite into a soft, white, lemony bit of cake, rounded off with the sharp notes of homemade (or store-bought, that’s good too) lemon curd. Sharp on soft. White and black. It’s meant to be.

Lemon Curd Cupcakes (makes 10-12 cupcakes, adapted from here)

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

200g self-raising flour

100g white castor sugar

pinch salt

1 egg

75ml vegetable oil (canola/sunflower is good here)

zest of one lemon

juice of half a lemon

120ml whole milk

60ml (1/4 cup) lemon curd, homemade or store-bought

For the lemon curd topping:

60ml (1/4 cup) lemon curd

70g white sugar (granulated/castor)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 190C (375F) and grease a cupcake or muffin tin. In a large bowl  whisk together the whole milk, egg, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. In a medium bowl, briefly whisk together the self-raising flour, sugar and salt. Pour the dry into the wet mix and mix everything together until just combined with a wooden spoon. Using a tablespoon, half fill a mould in the tin with some batter, then use 2 teaspoons to put a small dollop of lemon curd in the centre, then fill to the 3/4-mark of the mould or case with more batter. Repeat for the rest of the cupcake moulds. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes (mine took 13 minutes exactly). Check at the 12-minute mark; a wooden skewer inserted into the side (because the centre has lemon curd) of one should emerge clean. They should be nicely domed with a golden top, and no cracking on the surface.

Whilst these are baking, make the topping (YUM). In a small bowl, microwave the lemon curd until warm but not totally liquidy. Put the white sugar in a shallow dish and set these two aside until the cupcakes are done baking. Once they are fully baked, leave to cool for 5 minutes before rolling the tops in the lemon curd, then rolling again in sugar.

Devour, and know that life is good.

Nut Butter Stuffed Matcha Cupcakes (updated)

I include two different nut butter options here– pistachio and almond. Oh yes, and two special frostings. I guess you have to read on if you want to know the specifics *annoying seductive winky face*.

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almond butter stuffed; topped with salted caramel cream cheese frosting and speculoos biscuit
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pistachio butter stuffed; topped with matcha buttercream and chopped pistachios

The first time I made these cupcakes, I relied purely on instinct and an old, old recipe found deep in the recesses of my dusty and grainy mental archives. The second time round, I modified a recipe from Cupcake Jemma, and they turned out absolutely perfect. No really. I hate these sorts of exaggerations, all the ‘reallys’ and ‘trulys’, so I’m officially going against personal principle for the sake of emphasis and honesty. These are the lightest, fluffiest little things, and I adore how the flavour of green tea is pronounced, and not hidden like some odd side element.

Anyways, it was a lucky shot. I always start a baking experiment with some wild or novel idea, but the initial framework always ends up being littered with side details and spontaneous ‘wait, I should use this instead of that!’ moments. They speckle the total perfection, so whatever I end up with is never what I meant it to be. Take this, for instance. I’ve recently been on a slight matcha roll (note to self: try out matcha rolls) because of its subtle green tea flavour. The bitter aftertaste lingers on the back of your tongue, never quite overwhelming it, making whatever you’re tasting just that much more sophisticated. Almost healthful, and no, not just because of that deceiving light green hue. I could list all the healthy characteristics of a teaspoon of matcha powder, but let’s face it, we’re talking about cupcakes here. I guess it’s further redeemed by the soft, oozing, rich dollop of almond butter right in the centre, but I haven’t gotten on to the frosting yet. Life is about balance. This is balance.

I was a little afraid of making cupcakes for two reasons.

1. I’ve made them (well, everyone makes them a lot) so many times that I was afraid the repetition bug would strike out against me and unleash a sudden curse on my beauties. Call me deranged.

2. They could very well and most likely be sub-par cupcakes. People want astounding, not average things.

That second point got me thinking. So if I made a good cupcake, it has to be made even better by some novel pairing or ingredient.. we’ve all been down the red/blue/green velvet path at least once, or maybe tried that wonderful chocolate or vanilla buttercream frosting to up the ante a bit, but something an inch more atypical would work better. That’s when I thought of matcha and almond (not quite novel just yet)… topped with salted caramel cream cheese frosting, topped with crushed speculoos biscuits (Lotus biscuits as everyone knows them here) and drizzled with more salted caramel. Think soft matcha sponge encasing a large dollop of creamy, rich nut butter, topped with lightly salted caramel cream cheese swirls and light, cookie-based crunch on top, or, in another case, delicate swirls of thick and fluffy matcha buttercream. The crumb is soft and firm, and the best part of these cupcakes is that post-baking, you get this wonderful sugar-crusted, crumbly top, which breaks away easily when you want to stuff the little holes with nut butter. I do love this matcha and almond/pistachio pairing, the upper-class rigidity of the flavours totally offset by the playful done-it-before frosting options.

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Nut Butter Stuffed Matcha Cupcakes 

For the cupcakes (makes 10-12, adapted from Cupcake Jemma):

125g self-raising flour

135g soft, unsalted butter

125g white sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch salt

quarter teaspoon bicarb soda

1 teaspoon matcha powder

Option 1: Matcha buttercream

270g icing sugar

150g softened, unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 teaspoon matcha powder, dissolved in a splash of whole milk

Option 2: Salted caramel cream cheese frosting (after many personal trial and error stints):

170g cream cheese, at room temperature

150g brown sugar

75g icing sugar

75g butter, softened

1 tbsp salted caramel sauce (store-bought or homemade)

for the topping: crushed speculoos biscuits and extra salted caramel sauce for drizzling

Preheat your oven to 170C (350F) and spray a muffin tin. In a large bowl and with a normal or electrical whisk, beat the butter and sugar together on high until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. In another smaller bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients- flour, bicarb, matcha powder and salt. Using a spatula, fold the flour and matcha mixture into the wet mixture.

Place the cupcake tin into the preheated oven and bake for 20-22 minutes. I took mine out at the 21-minute mark. Leave them to cool on a wire rack. The tops will be crusty and a light golden, and will look relatively flat. Leave to cool on a wire rack before removing to dig holes and stuff them silly.

Salted caramel cream cheese frosting:

Whilst they cool, make the frosting. Beat the brown sugar and butter together using a handheld electrical whisk, then beat in the cream cheese, icing sugar and salted caramel sauce. This is my favourite salted caramel cream cheese frosting which uses more brown rather than icing sugar, so it’s handy when you’re running low on icing sugar. Put the mix into the fridge until ready to use.

Matcha buttercream:

In a large bowl, beat together the icing sugar, softened butter, teaspoon of vanilla, and matcha/milk mix. Beat until visibly light, thick and fluffy. Stuff a piping bag with the mix and leave in a cool place (I put mine in the fridge overnight and let thaw for around 15 minutes the next morning) until ready to use.

When the cupcakes are mostly cool (around 15-20 minutes post-baking), take a teaspoon and dig right into the heart of the cupcake, before scooping out some cake. This part is mostly up to you; if you want more nut butter per mouthful (you lovely hedonists) then go ahead and dig deep, but if not, a teaspoonful of cake will suffice. Using another teaspoon, spoon in a heaped (or however much you want) of nut butter into the hole. I used homemade almond and pistachio butter; my mum makes batches in the kitchen all the time and it’s the most divine thing in the world. Using a large spoon or piping bag, frost the cupcakes with the salted caramel frosting or matcha buttercream. For the former, add crushed speculoos biscuits and more salted caramel drizzled on top. For the matcha buttercream, pipe the buttercream on top, whizz up some pistachios in a food processor and sprinkle on top. I also added salted caramel to this version because, well, why the heck not.