Wednesday, 28 January 2009

My BEST VANILLA CUPCAKE Recipe.... ever! ~ ( Special Fairycake Sponge Recipe )

Delicious, step-by-step *RECIPE* further down page.

My cake decoration skills, at this early stage in my baking journey, may leave a lot to be desired, but i assure you, after countless trials with differing proportions of the basic vanilla sponge ingredients i feel this recipe delivers the best balance of flavours and texture for the perfect Vanilla Cupcake (in my humble opinion of course, for what it's worth! ~ I may not be a seasoned professional baker, but i am a highly experienced cake eater, and i know what i likes!).

I began my quest for the perfect Cupcakes, starting with the Classic Victoria Sponge recipe, comprising equal quantities of Butter, Sugar and Flour (6oz Unsalted Butter, 6oz Caster Sugar, 6oz SR Flour, 3 Eggs + Vanilla Extract). I've always had success with this recipe for larger layered sandwich cakes, such as the Victoria Sponge, and whilst the resulting Cupcakes from this mixture certainly did taste delicious, i felt they would benefit hugely from a slight tweaking of the recipe.

The beauty of a good cupcake sponge, for me, is the balance between it's angelic whispery lightness, and a perfect heavenly richness: gently creamy and slightly sweet, without being so dense as to be overpowered by its sinful partnering with the delectibly rich Buttercream Frosting.

I found, to my surprise, that the Cupcakes i prepared with the basic victoria sponge recipe, once enrobed in their delicious buttercream, seemed to taste too rich, and almost slightly 'greasy', which is not a word i would normally ever use for a beautifully rich vanilla sponge, but with the addition of the frosting i felt that the buttery taste was actually emphasised a little too much.

So, after experimenting with different proportions of the sponge ingredients, trying various fat equivalents (marge, salted butter etc), sugar equivalents, different quantities of egg, oven temps, cooking times, etc etc... here is my divinely delicious........


6 oz Self Raising Flour (sifted for extra lightness),

1 very heaped teaspoon Baking Powder,

4 oz Unsalted Butter (softened),

4 oz Caster Sugar,

2 oz Light Brown Soft Sugar (or just 6oz of caster ~ i find this small amount of light brown sugar enhances the taste/colour/texture), (NOTE: You can use less sugar, eg 5oz if desired)

Few grains of salt,

4 medium Eggs (room temperature),

Vanilla Pod and/or pure Vanilla Extract.


Preheat oven to 150C (for my hot fan oven) and line a large cupcake tray with cupcake cases.

* Split the vanilla pod in half, if using, and scrape out the seeds with the edge of a knife.

* Place the softened butter into a large bowl, along with the vanilla seeds, and beat with an electric handwhisk for a few seconds.

* Now add the caster and soft brown sugars to the butter and whisk until creamed, for a minute or so.

* Add your vanilla extract (anywhere from 1tsp to 1 dessertspoon... personally i'm very generous with the vanilla, adding both extract and seeds on some occassions, as i feel the cupcakes really benefit from a definite vanilla-y flavour).

* Seperate the eggs and add the yolks, a little at a time, to the butter and sugar. Keep whisking until all the egg yolks are incorporated and the mixture is paler and creamier than when you 1st added the yolks.

(NB. If your eggs and butter are at room temperature your wet mixture shouldnt split at all; if it does however, dont worry too much ~ when you add the dry ingredients the mixture should become smooth again and the cakes will be fine).

* Sift the flour, baking powder and few grains of salt into thebutter, sugar and eggs mixture and gently fold in with a metal spoon.

* Now, in a very clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with an electric handwhisk until they form stiff peaks.

* With a metal knife fold 1 spoonful of the egg whites into the cake mixture, then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites.

* Spoon the mixture evenly and carefully into the cupcake cases, (tap the tray once firmly before placing in the oven, to free the mixture of any very large air bubbles which would cause the cakes to sink after baking).

* Bake for approx 30-45 mins. (I like to bake my cupcakes slower and lower in temp than a lot of people, because i love the delicately soft, light, slightly moist texture it creates by setting the mixture slowly. If you prefer a cupcake with a slightly dryer, crispier golden crust, try raising the oven temp a little and reducing the baking time).

Following very soon.... My BEST VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING Recipe.... ever!!.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

ALMOND MACAROON SLICES by 'Sweet, Pink and Vanilla' recipe blog

(Full, easy to follow RECIPE 3/4 way towards bottom of page).

I'm sitting here now, munching on my 1st ever homemade Macaroon, whilst writing my 1st ever blog entry.
Granted, my Macaroons didn't turn out the way the recipe (or I) intended them to, and certainly they arent nearly as pretty or refined in appearance as i'd envisaged, BUT (and this is a big but!) they have the most amazing texture and a simply heavenly taste, (which is fairly rare for me to state of my own baking, as i'm genuinely tediously self-critical!).

I think my artistic license paid off with these delicious Almond Macaroon Slices: as i made too much mixture for just 1 of my small swiss-roll sized baking trays which i'd already lined with edible rice paper, and due to my macaroon mixture being slightly looser than needed to form a neat macaroon shaped biscuit (due to my adding a little extra whipped egg white! tut tut!), i decided to fill the swiss-roll tin as i would for a swiss-roll or shortbread, (rather than use 2 tins and add more of the dry ingredients to make a stiffer batter, which was probably the most sensible way to go, but it was late, i was tired etc etc, so being sensible took a back seat on this occassion;). I wasn't too sure whether baking the macaroon mixture in one piece, to be cut into fingers later, would affect the beautiful combination of textures in a good almond macaroon, with the surface area being reduced and the mixture baked quite thickly, but i had a good feeling about this particular gamble!

They took a little longer to bake this way of course but after cutting, and anxiously waiting for my Macaroon fingers to cool, the heady scent of almond teasing my senses, i finally brought a slice to my lips and from that moment i was in total bliss! ~ Mmmm!, the light, crisp, slightly glossy exterior, gently cracking under my teeth, quickly crumbling and simmultaneously melting as i bite down deeper into the moist, springy, slightly chewy and oh-so-almondy centre, leaving a kiss of melted almond-scented sweetness on my lips. I paused my pleasuresome tasting session just long enough to pour a glass of cold semi-skimmed milk from the fridge and i resumed my tasting duties with relish, this time dipping a Macaroon Slice into the cool, creamy milk, quickly popping it into my mouth to enjoy the tastes and sensations of it melting away on my tongue.

Taste-wise i wouldnt change a thing, but there are a few little improvements i'd like to make next time i bake my Almond Macaroon Slices, mainly being the presentation, which was 'Rustic' if not just fairly poor this time round!: I rather messed up the appearance of the slices by using a knife which wasnt sharp enough, and i waited a little too long to cut them, as i've heard biscuits should always be cut whilst still warm from the oven for a clean cut, before they cool and crisp up, causing jagged slices (like mine!).

I'd also like to place some blanched almonds on top of the macaroon mixture before baking next time, for a more macaroon-y look.

This recipe is perfect for Mums to make with their kids as it has a short ingredients list, is very straightforward to make, with no need for piping or decorative skills and is quick to prepare for anyone needing some home-baked heaven in a hurry.

*RECIPE* for Almond Macaroon Slices:


3 Egg Whites,

200g Caster Sugar,

125g Ground Almonds,

1tsp Almond Extract,

1-2 heaped tsp Plain Flour (depending on size of eggs ~ to make a dropping batter consistency),

Rice Paper,

Blanched Almonds for decoration (optional).


* Firstly, heat oven to 160C and line a clean swiss-roll tin with edible rice paper. (If you only have a larger baking tray with fairly deep sides, you will need to increase the recipe by approximately double.)

* Weigh the caster sugar and ground almonds and place in a mixing bowl along with the almond extract and 1 heaped tsp of the plain flour. Mix together.

* Now seperate your eggs and place the 3 egg whites in a large clean bowl, being careful not to let any of the yolk mix with the whites as the fat will cause the whites not to whisk up sufficiently.

* With an electric hand whisk beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and the bowl can be turned upside down without the mixture falling out (careful! lol).

* Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the dry ingredients being careful not to beat the air out of the mixture as this is what gives the macaroons their beautiful light, chewy texture.

* If the mixture looks ridiculously runny, due to extra large eggs perhaps, sprinkle an extra heaped teaspoon of plain flour over the mixture and very gently fold in until the desired consistency is reached. The mixture will be runnier than regular Macaroon biscuits and wont hold it's own shape, but dont worry!

* Carefully pour the macaroon mixture into the swiss-roll tin lined with rice paper.

* Pop into the oven for approx 40 minutes, depending on your oven. (Check after 25-30mins).

* Optional: If you like your macaroons topped with blanched almonds i suggest waiting until the mixture has started to set in the oven before adding them, so that they do not sink and spoil the delicate unbaked mixture.

Et Voila! I hope you enjoy your Almond Macaroon Slices as much as we did. They're so much quicker and easier to make than individual macaroon biscuits and in our opinion these actually beat regular macaroons on the texture front... lots more of the gorgeous chewy interior per bite! Enjoy! xx

(Well there goes my 1st ever blog post. I'm just starting out so pleeease bear with me and i'll try to improve my content and writing style as we go along.
It's wonderful to be able to share my 1st baking steps with you! I'll be learning, analysing and sharing some good basic baking recipes with you, and as I (and maybe you too!) gain skills and confidence i'll start attempting some more complex recipes. Any requests please dont hesitate to let me know. )