Dainty, delicious and fun to bake, the cupcake is perfect for any the occasion - so if you’re looking for baking inspiration, try these three recipes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Sarah Rainey and Emily & Annabel Lui.
It was the year that we were all glued to Glee, posting Facebook statuses every hour and singing along to Tik Tok by Kesha. But whatever you were up to in 2010, chances are you were probably munching on a cupcake while doing it.
Thanks in large part to Carrie Bradshaw announcing her crush on Aidan while eating a Magnolia cupcake in Sex And The City, and the rise of American bakery giants like Crumbs, the 2000s were undoubtedly the decade where the world fell hard for cupcakes. Before we knew it, gourmet cupcake shops were on the corner of every high street, their windows filled with fancy, pastel-coloured confections.
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But somewhere in the early 2010s, our attention was caught by newer, more complicated baking trends (cronut, anyone?), and cupcakes fell off our radar. Which is a shame, because these bite-sized delights remain as satisfying as ever to make (and eat). Whether you’re looking for an easy-to-bake treat for dessert, a WFH pick-me-up with a 4pm cup of tea, or even a portable treat for your socially-distanced picnic, cupcakes are the ideal all-rounder.
So if you’ve already mastered brownies, cookies and cinnamon buns, we suggest adding cupcakes to your quarantine baking list. While plain vanilla sponge is a classic, there’s something about exotic flavours that elevate the cupcake-scoffing experience. Ready to get re-acquainted? Find three easy-but-extravagant recipes below. (Even better: two are vegan.)
Vegan toffee apple cupcake recipe
Emily and Annabel Lui say: “We make little loaf cake versions of these cupcakes for our customers at Cutter & Squidge and they go down a storm. There is no giveaway that these are vegan: the tartness of the fresh apple jam centre balances out the toffee-smothered moist sponge.”
Prep time: 50 minutes
Bake time: 25 minutes
For the vegan vanilla sponge:
- 490g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 450g caster sugar
- 160ml vegetable oil
- 35ml apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the vegan caramel:
- 300g soft light brown sugar
- 300ml coconut milk
For the apple jam (makes about 350g):
- 2 large Bramley apples (300g) or other cooking apples that break down easily, peeled, cored and chopped
- 100g soft light brown sugar
- 1 x batch apple jam
- 1 tart green eating apple, such as Granny Smith
- freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
- 12 large cupcake cases 12-hole cupcake pan
Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C (375°F) Gas 5.
For the vegan sponge, sift all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir together. Mix all the wet ingredients together with 300 ml/11⁄4 cups water and slowly add to the dry ingredients, mixing in until combined.
Divide the mixture between the 12 cupcake cases in the cupcake pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes until the sponges are risen and set. Leave to cool.
For the vegan caramel, put the soft light brown sugar into a saucepan over a low-medium heat. Heat for a few minutes, stirring, until half melted. Add the coconut milk and boil for 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Leave to cool.
Halve and core the apple for the decoration and slice it as thinly as possible into half-moon shapes, then slice again into small triangles. Toss in the lemon juice to stop any browning and set aside.
To assemble, use a small, sharp knife to cut small circular holes out of the middle of the cupcakes, keeping the little circles of sponge that you cut out. Fill the holes in the cupcakes with a spoonful of the apple jam, followed by a generous spoonful of the vegan caramel; it’s fine if it spills out of the tops.
Place the cut-out cake pieces back on top of the cakes and stick an apple slice into the caramel to decorate.
For the apple jam, stir together all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over a low-medium heat for 10 minutes until the apples are mushy and the jam is thick. Leave to cool. It will keep in the fridge for up to 2–3 weeks.
From Afternoon Tea at the Cutter & Squidge Bakery by Emily & Annabel Lui (£16.99, Ryland Peters & Small), out now
Pimm’s cupcake recipe
Sarah Rainey says: “A bite of these fluffy, fruity cupcakes is like a mouthful of summer. The bubbles in the Pimm’s act as a raising agent, working together with the self-raising flour to make the sponge light and airy like a fairy cake – the perfect post-BBQ treat for grown-ups.”
Makes 12 cupcakes
- 125g unsalted butter, softened
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 60ml ready-mixed Pimm’s
- zest of 1 lemon
- zest of 1 orange
- 150g self-raising ﬂour, sifted
For the icing/decoration:
- 30g unsalted butter, softened
- 200g icing sugar
- 25ml ready-mixed Pimm’s
- 6 strawberries, halved
- 12 sprigs of fresh mint
You’ll need twelve silicone cupcake moulds (better than paper as they hold their shape when cooking) and a flat, microwaveable plate to bake them on. An electric whisk is good, if you have one, and a piping bag or sandwich bag with a small hole (approx. 1cm) snipped in one corner is needed for icing the cupcakes.
Beat the butter and sugar together, using the whisk.
In a separate bowl, loosely beat the eggs with the Pimm’s and citrus zest.
Add half the egg mixture along with half the ﬂour to the butter and sugar, and combine fully before adding the other half.
Divide half the batter between six cupcake cases, spaced out on the microwave-proof plate. Don’t ﬁll them too much – a heaped tablespoon in each is enough – or they’ll overﬂow as they bake.
Bake for 2 minutes on high, then repeat with the other six. The cakes should rise in domes to the tops of the cases and turn golden when they’re done.
While the cupcakes bake, make the icing. Whisk the butter, icing sugar and Pimm’s together to make a light, ﬂuffy buttercream. Allow the cakes to cool slightly before piping mounds of buttercream on top of each and ﬁnishing with half a strawberry and a sprig of mint.
Serve immediately – with a tall glass of Pimm’s (you don’t want any going to waste, after all). They’ll keep for 2 to 3 days in an airtight container.
From Six-Minute Showstoppers by Sarah Rainey (£14.99, Michael Joseph), out now
Vegan strawberry lemonade cupcake recipe
Isa Chandra Moskowitz says: “These cupcakes are like when it’s summer and you want something cold and refreshing, but you eat a cupcake instead! The cake is a bright burst of lemon, and the buttercream is only four ingredients and so strawberry-forward. Picture a million strawberry and lemon emojis here.”
Makes 12 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
- 150g granulated sugar
- 240ml rice milk, at room temperature (or favourite nondairy milk)
- 120ml refined coconut oil, melted
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 120ml fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 190g all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the strawberry buttercream:
- 165g fresh strawberries, chopped, stems removed
- 180ml refined coconut oil, softened at room temperature
- 410g confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 strawberries, halved, for decorating
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 175°C and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
Vigorously beat together sugar, milk, and coconut oil until it resembles applesauce. Mix in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
Sift in about half the flour, all the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt. Mix until relatively smooth. Add the remaining flour and mix until smooth and no large lumps remain.
Lightly spray the liners with nonstick cooking spray and pour batter into the liners, about three-quarters full. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Make the buttercream: in a food processor, puree the strawberries. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and beat with the coconut oil using an electric mixer. Gradually add the confec¬tioners’ sugar, scraping the bowl as you go. Add the vanilla and mix until smooth and creamy. If the buttercream seems loose, place in the refrigerator to set a bit, then fluff with a fork.
Spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes using the back of a spoon (or your preferred method). Top each cupcake with a strawberry half!
From I Can Cook Vegan by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (£22.99, Abrams Books), out now
Photography: Claire Winfield, Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.