Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The story of 131 Little Pink Sparkly Cakes. Never underestimate a professional!

I'm not a buttercream swirler. I've mentioned this before. I've dabbled, I've played, I've bought the nozzles, but it's just not me. I'm more rustic, a slap bang wallop kinda girl (just ask hubby - ahem). But when Cancer Research asked me to make some pink cakes to raise awareness for Race For Life (which, incidentally has fewer runners this year than ever before), I couldn't, wouldn't say no. Donating time is something I love to do and the ingredients never cost the earth. And I love to cook (ya think!?) and this is a great excuse, so said 'of course, when for? How many?'. The reply came 'Thursday (two days away) and 500'. Blimey! I couldn't do 500, I work full time, but my employers allow us to work from home, so I agreed to 100, getting them baked at lunchtime (2 x 24 hole tins and I'd be, and was, done in an hour) and iced at night (a big batch of buttercream and quick piping, I'll be done in an hour). HA!

So, feeling altogether altruistic, I baked my cakes, finished my work and got down to the task of making the buttercream. A doddle. 

Now, it's been a while since I made buttercream and it conveniently slipped my mind how icing sugar gets everwhere. Everywhere. Floor, ceiling, hair, eyes, nails, nose, toaster, cats. Really. However, I took a deep breath (choking on the stuff at the time), cracked on and whizzed my way to a perfectly smooth, creamy, bright pink, strawberry flavoured cream. Nozzle in, piping bag at the ready and I created my first swirl. Wrong nozzle. Buttercream and nozzle out, new nozzle in. Buttercream off original cake, ready to start again, I thought this was a good time to make some more to get ready. Clever girl I am, didn't wash the bowl out in between, new buttercream goes lumpy. Didn't realise, squeezed the bag of new, lumpy buttercream onto cake, lump of sugar stuck in nozzle, pink buttercream goes flying off in all directions. Hair, cupboards, shepherds pie ready to go in over for dinner, other cat, all covered in pink buttercream (cat likes it by the way).

Rant on twitter.

(Quick note. I have an open plan kitchen with a dining room. Cat was in dining room under a chair at the time. How? I mean.... how?).

So, start again with the buttercream, it goes well and I select the correct nozzle.  At last, we're away, 131 cakes creamed up with a sprinkling of edible glitter. What fun.  What pain.  

And then, the dilemma.  How to transport 131 tiny cakes to work, to be picked up from the lady at Cancer Research.  A quick question on Twitter, and I'm advised egg boxes will do the trick and my local deli obliged.  They look very quirky in their little egg box holes.

I now, after the trauma of this evening, have a new found respect for professional cupcake bakers, actually, for the decorators to be precise; the lady who normally does this for Cancer Research makes 500 at a time!  I'd be at my wits end swirling 500 times over - nuff respect!

Those shrewd mathematics amongst you will realise that 24 does not go into 131. Now, you see, I assigned myself as chief quality tester; we don't want to be putting people off running the Race for Life, so ate I 12 to make sure - I'm proud of my reserved nature (and threw one at the wall in frustration. This is now in the bin. And I have pink buttercream up the wall. Good thing hubby is out late tonight).

They tasted great. So good, that I've given the recipe for vanilla cupcakes from The Hummingbird Bakery below. The best recipe I've found, and because it only uses 1 egg and 40g butter, it's cheaper than most. The buttercream recipe is adapted slightly. The only downside to these cakes is that they don't come away cleanly from the cases, but they are so good that I'll forgive them this little misgiving.

Now back to cleaning the dining room carpet....

Vanilla Cupcakes with a simple Strawberry Buttercream topping

131 little treats for the people of Liverpool.  Yummy.
Not a great picture, but carting them into natural light now may be the end of me.

Makes enough for 12 cupcakes or 24 mini cupcakes.

  • 120g plain flour
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 120ml whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the Buttercream
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 85g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • Strawberry flavouring (couple of drops to taste, or other flavouring)
  • Pink gel food colouring (or other colouring)

1. Line the tins with cupcake cases and Pre-heat your oven to 180.

2. Using the paddle attachment on your mixer, combine the flour, sugar, butter, baking powder and salt on a low speed until it is a rubbly, crumbly texture.

3. Add half of the milk with the mixer still running.

4. In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the milk with the egg and vanilla. Once the flour mixture and milk is combined, add the egg mixture and mix on a medium speed until combined and smooth. Do not over mix of your cake will be heavy.

5. Bake for 20-25 mins for cupcakes, or 10-12 mins for mini cupcakes.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

7. Whilst your cakes are cooling, make the buttercream. Sift the icing sugar into a mixer and, using the paddle attachment on a very low speed, mix with the butter until combined. Prepared to be covered.

8. Add the milk and flavouring and whizz on a high speed for 5 minutes to ensure you get light and fluffy buttercream. Add a little colouring half way through, adding more as you go for higher intensity of colour (taste here too to see if you need more flavouring).

9. Spread, swirl, swipe or slip your buttercream onto your cakes.


P.S - Thanks to Laura's Little Bakery for the opportunity to do this.


  1. Ha! Laughing at this. Brings back memories of when I made 100 cupcakes for a friend's birthday - absolutely nightmare! Big up to the cupcake bakers I say.

  2. You're braver than me! Yet somehow I'm tempted to try and make some of these cupcakes (with blue buttercream topping) for JW's 1st birthday in two weeks time :) x

  3. Happy Birthday JW! You should, they really are lovely little cakes. I made some blue buttercream cakes with a white 'J' on top for a little boys Christening - very cute

    English Mum - definitely big up the bakers, I'm with you there.

    Thanks so much for your comments :)