It’s always such a lovely feeling when people show faith in you. I was particularly touched when my good friend Tom Forman asked me to bake cupcakes for his wedding to Miss Amanda Goodwin. Me? cake? I think not. The rather public nature of the ask did however take the decision out of my hands..
I hate to admit it, but I don’t even like cake! Bread is a bit of a hobby for me, but there’s just something about baking and all things sweet that doesn’t float my boat.
Scared? Yes. Up for a challenge? Always.
I had about a year to master the cupcake, so naturally I waited a good ten months or so before giving it any thought.
Sure I’ve made cupcakes before: once or twice a few years ago for my wife’s colleagues in Australia. I even bought a ‘Bake & Take’ for her to ferry our 24 treats to her office. Producing 120 perfectly formed and beautifully presented cakes for someone’s special day is however a slightly different level of pressure.
Where to start? The internet and trial & error of course. Man I hate faffing with the mess of baking! Too late to back out?
Luckily, I have a colleague who qualified as a pastry chef at Le Cordon Bleu in London. Apparently the success to such cakes is in the weighing of the eggs. This I can assure you is paramount. Breaking it down and contemplating the science certainly focuses my mind and provides clarity within any problem space.
Maybe I could get into this baking malarkey? My first attempt at piping looked like the aftermath of a playschool food fight, but a few YouTube videos, new nozzles and disposable piping bags soon fixed that. I might even go as far as to say it’s quite good fun and somewhat satisfying.
The next great tip: ‘Quatre quarts’ – This literally translates from French as ‘Four Fourths’. Weigh your eggs (in their shells as their weight is negligible) and then weigh out your flour, butter and sugar to match.
Magically simple; happy days. It must be time for another curve-ball. Tiffany Blue..
A little research reveals that the US colour trademark prevents anyone producing the required food colouring. Sigh.
So the trial & error process begins once more, much to the delight of my trusty taste-testers. Matching against a genuine Tiffany & Co. jewellery box, I’ve concluded that a mix of 2 parts Wilton Teal to 1 part Sky Blue is ideal. The gels are incredibly potent and you literally only need to use a cocktail stick to transfer the colour to your frosting mix.
French butter makes all the difference, and given they’re for a wedding, it would be rude not to go free-range and organic too. #TheyAreWorthIt
I swear that the lady on the till in Waitrose thought that I had some form of butter addiction.
Here’s a thought: how exactly am I going to bake and frost 120 cupcakes, and then safely transport them to the wedding…?
A combination of disposable cardboard cupcake boxes, the loan of a KitchenAid stand mixer, and a day off work did the trick. A word of warning – some of the boxes you can buy aren’t spaced very well and won’t fit larger decorated cupcakes.
The stand mixer was a godsend for which I am eternally grateful. They take some getting used to as you can’t ‘feel’ the consistency of the mix, but they save you so much time.
I baked a batch of 12 cupcakes every 15 minutes whilst prepping the next batch to maintain control of the mix. My tip for making sure they’re all exactly the same is to pipe the cupcake mixture into the cases on a set of scales. 50g makes for a generous cake that’s just proud of the case.
All of the cakes were boxed up after cooling and then frosted with the Tiffany Blue buttercream in one go to guarantee a consistent colour.
These delicate little filigree cases added the final touch for the big day. They’re not cheap, but they do make the finished product that bit more professional.
(for 12 cupcakes)
- 180g Eggs
- 180g Self-Raising Flour
- 180g Unsalted French Butter (room temperature)
- 180g Caster Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract (or other flavouring)
- 140g Unsalted French Butter (room temperature)
- 280g Icing Sugar
- Splash of Milk
- Food Colouring of your choice (optional)
- ½ tsp Vanilla Extract (or other flavouring)
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs one by one. Add the vanilla and then carefully fold in the sifted flour. Pipe the mix into cupcake cases. Bake at 160°C (fan) for 15 minutes and cool on a wire rack.
For the frosting, beat the butter until soft and then mix in the icing sugar, a little at a time. Add the flavouring, colour and a splash of milk to thin the mixture if required. Pipe onto the cupcakes once they have cooled.
I’m really grateful for this experience; I’ve learnt lots of new skills and have an almighty appreciation for baking. I’m still not a fan of eating cake though!
Finally, congratulations to the happy couple and thank you for letting us share your special day with you. We wish you happiness and joy for your future together.