“Babinko” cupcakes

Baby showers are an interesting phenomenon – each of my friends who have one seem to find the idea uncomfortable and feel self conscious about a) being the centre of attention and b) receiving gifts. On the other hand, the guests (aka me) look forward to it with excitement – I love the opportunity to go shopping for baby stuff! So my theory about baby showers is that they are not really for the mum and bub, but rather for people like myself who want an excuse to venture into the children’s department of the shop and fawn over the cute little dresses and booties.

For the most recent shower, I was asked to bring a cake. Aside from knowing that I wanted to integrate salted caramel (current obsession) into the cake somehow, I turned to Google for inspiration and came across the baby cupcakes on the Planet Cake website – Baby-faced cupcakes can’t be too hard to do right? To be honest, the whole thing was poorly thought out. The salted-caramel needs to be put into the cupcakes the day it is to be eaten as refrigerating them makes the hard like toffees – so because I had committed myself to these without reading the instructions – it meant that I was assembling them the morning of the party. In retrospect, I should have picked a basic cupcake that could be iced the night before. Though the cupcakes turned out okay – the icing was very soft and easily mangled in transport (which then became ‘scary baby faces’). None-the-less, still a pretty cute idea – I especially like the crying babies… which my pregnant friend has dubbed the ‘Euroasian babinko’.

Chocolate Salted-Caramel Cupcake
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s “Cupcakes”, the recipe is for mini-cupcakes but I opted for normal sized ones instead for ease of decorating.

Chocolate Cake
1 and 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 and 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp sea salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup warm water
sea salt for garnish

Salted Caramel:
2 and 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tbsp liquid glucose
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 and 1/2 tsp sea salt

Dark Chocolate Frosting:
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp boiling water
375g unsalted butter
1/2 cup sifted icing sugar
pinch salt
450g semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Making the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Line muffin tins with patty cases (I got 20 cupcakes out of this recipe). In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and the water. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

2. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes until the cupcake springs back to the touch. Remove from the oven and rest for 10 minutes before turning out onto wire racks.  According to the recipe you can store these at room temperature over night or frozen up to 1 month in airtight containers.

3. Using a paring knife, cut out a cone-shaped piece from the centre of each cupcake – this is where you put the salted caramel. Discard the cone-shaped pieces (or in my case, eat them).

4. Making the salted caramel: Heat sugar with the water and glucose in a heavy saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear. Bring to a boil (you may wish to brush down the sides with a wet pastry brush every now and then), swirl occasionally, until the mixture turns a toffee colour – remove from heat (take care not to burn the caramel which is easy to do!). Slowly pour the cream and stir with a wooden spoon (be careful as it will splutter) until smooth. Stir in sea salt. Spoon immediately into the hollows in the cupcakes. If the caramel begins to harden, reheat gently to soften.

5. Making the frosting: Combine the cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved. With an electric mixer beat butter on medium-high speed. Add icing sugar and salt. Beat until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add the melted (and cooled) chocolate, beating until combined. Beat in the cocoa mixture. According to Martha the frosting can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to a month in an airtight container. Though it needs to be at room temperature before use.

6. Sprinkle sea salt over the caramel-filled cupcakes, then spread some icing over the top of the cupcake.

Decorating the cakes
I decided to decorate these with plastic icing which can be purchased at any cake decorating shop. Armed with 500g of white plastic icing and wilton gel colours ivory and peach (for the skin), red, black, yellow and green (a gender neutral colour) – I pre-shaped the bows, hair, eyes, tongue and mouth bits and pieces the night before as I wanted them to be a little firm. So essentially, I coloured portions of the white icing with the wilton gels and created the shapes in the photos below.

To create the faces, I used a round pastry cutter (measured against the size of the cupcakes) to cut out the flesh coloured icing, and placed these on the iced cupcakes. Then stuck on the pieces with water and added the nose and some ears (made by rolling bits of icing into balls) etc. You will also want to get some pink dust for the rosy cheeks – I didn’t have this and tried to make some, unsuccessfully, out of icing sugar and food colouring – and an edible pen to draw on the eyebrows, mouth and eyes as needed.

What cuties!

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