|The perfect, je pense, small celebration cake.|
I first came up against the possibility of making a ‘celebration cake’ when my eldest was baptised at eleven months. I’d seen (and heard) of heroic cake making efforts by other mothers. It usually involved icing. And I’m no good at icing. Not that fancy pants icing that is all super smooth and then you make little characters to stick on the top.
This isn’t me being coy. I’m pretty fucking fantastic at cooking (look, I’ve long said: there is no immodesty in the truth), and baking in particular. But I know my limits, and mine don’t reach to the royal icing aisle (I don’t really even know what royal icing is, please don’t try to tell me either, I’m not listening).
I knew that I could make some pretty good cakes but they weren’t really up to ‘celebration standard’. So I decided to make lots of little cakes instead, figuring that if a few got spoiled, it wouldn’t really matter. I guess the same thought goes behind laying carpet tiles, the wretched things. So, for the baptism, I made some fairy cakes with fondant icing and iced my daughter’s initial atop each one. And, for extra flourish, put a silver ball – those tiny things that break your teeth- on top. I say this, contained in a cuppla sentences, but the reality of it involved several packets of icing sugar, a neighbour’s flat (thanks Sarah) and lots of beads of sweat on the forehead. Fairy cakes tend to cook to a peak – no good for a smooth finish. So each fairy cake had to be beheaded. This involved lots of eating of the remnants. Anyway, the important thing – of course! – is that they looked spectacular all piled up. People could eat one or two or FOUR (that was my brother in law).
They were an enormous, runaway, apron-lifting-in-triumph success.
Ever since then, for big gatherings, I’ve made lots of little cakes. As my eldest got older, and I acquired cake stands, I started buying things to go atop the cakes, like little roses. By the time my second was born, and baptised, I was on a roll. For that, I made the same cakes you see here, but with a brown paper cases, which worked really well – not least you can’t see the drips of icing, not that you get many with this glorious icing.
This is a Nigella recipe, hidden in the depths of one of her books, there is no picture to accompany it so you may have missed it. Now is its moment.
Nigella says this makes 12. I say it makes 14 and it’s better to make 14 as you don’t want them too high up in their cases (see later). However, because most bun trays come in 12s, this means you have to make the last two separately. You decide if you can be bothered…
The little cakes
110g unsalted butter
155g dark muscovado sugar (the original asks for 225g)
1 large egg, preferably from your own chicken (arf arf)
half a teaspoon of vanilla extract
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), melted and cooled
100g plain flour
half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
125ml boiling water
175g dark chocolate
75g milk chocolate
200ml double cream
half a teaspoon of vanilla extract
Note: in my experience of making these cakes, which is extensive…this makes far too much ganache.
But that’s okay because you can chill the extra and use it to make Chocolate Ganache Hot Chocolate.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line your (deep) bun case with 12 muffin cases.
Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg and vanilla, Fold in the melted/cooled chocolate, alternate flour and bicarb with water. By that I mean, put the bicarb in the flour, then put a spoon of that into the cake mixture, stir, then add water, then more flour etc. Do not over beat them. I don’t know why, I’ve never dared trying to overbeat them.
|This is the ideal height for the cooled cake, so that you can slap on a good layer of chocolate ganache.|
This is a fluid mixture, like a batter. Carefully spoon mixture into the cases. I’ve found that it’s best to fill to about 2/3 full which is why you might find you could easily make 14. It’s up to you. If you make 14, you fill them up less, and this leaves more room for the icing. However it’s a faff to leave some mixture and then have to put in 2 extra. So up to you. The icing still works beautifully with a fuller cupcake.
Cook for 30 mins, leave to cool.
You make the icing by shoving all the ingredients into a bowl atop a saucepan of simmering water, melt then whisk til thick (it’s pretty thick anyway, so the whisking is almost unncessary). When the cupcakes are quite, quite cold, take one in a quivering hand and take a spoon, dip it into the icing and spread over the top as thick as you can get away with. Leave to cool, but don’t put in the fridge.
Eat as soon as possible, and that’s an order..
|Here they are all lined up, ready to perform.|