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Cupcake double: Apple and salted caramel / Ginger with lemon and basil

When my workplace recently initiated a “bake off” competition to raise money for Comic Relief, I readied myself for a battle – after all, the vernacular said it all: WI pleasantries this was not – this was a baking war! In the days that followed, an almost agonising sift through recipes and ideas commenced. I went through some of the superb recipes of one of my favourite bloggers, petit4chocolatier, as well as the pages of the ultimate in London’s foremost foodies, lady-aga. I looked through past triumphs (and mistakes) and considered new angles. In the end, I decided to be innovative. To think of old favourites and build on them with new hither untried flavour combinations.

My first thought was apple – and then toffee apple – and then I thought: Apple cupcakes with a salted caramel frosting, fudge pieces, and a little gold leaf. But then one lot of cupcakes wasn’t enough. Inspired by some of the rosemary and lavender combinations I have seen ingeniously used on petit4chocolatier, I started thinking herbs. Being as the scent of basil drives me almost crazy with Mediterranean happiness, it just had to feature, possibly with another of my med favourites – lemons. And from there, I wanted a sponge which contrasted with the freshness that the lemon and basil combination could provide – and I had it: Spiced ginger cupcakes with a lemon and basil frosting.

And here are the finished results.


Apple cupcakes with salted caramel frosting


Ginger cupcakes with lemon and basil frosting

Apple cupcakes with a salted caramel frosting, fudge pieces and edible gold leaf

To make the apple and salted caramel cupcakes, you need to start off by peeling and finely grating 4 Granny Smith apples (although I suspect other apples will do), keeping any juice which comes out in the process. Then, take 250g of granulated sugar and 80g of salted butter, add 150g of apple sauce (from a jar) and preferably with a hand mixer, beat together well until light and fluffy (about a minute). Then it’s time to add two large eggs, beating one in at a time, followed by a tablespoon of vanilla essence and two of lemon juice. Next you need to add your dry ingredients, sifting them into the butter mix – 300g of plain flour, 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder, 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. Mix the ingredients well and then fold in your grated apple as well as any juice which you may have collected.

Spoon your mixture into 12 or so cupcake cases, filling each just over half way, and bake at 180C (350 F). Check that the cakes are cooked by inserting a knife and ensure it comes out clean.

For the frosting, take 125g of caster sugar and dissolve in a pan over a moderate heat in 4 tablespoons of water. Once dissolved, turn the heat up to high, allowing the sugar to boil vigorously until it starts to turn golden. Be careful here – don’t let it burn or go too dark. Once it’s a nice golden colour, remove from the heat immediately and pour in 80ml of double cream, stirring in instantly – and like magic, you’ll have caramel. Leave this to cool completely.

Then, in a different bowl, cream together 200g of icing sugar with 160g of salted butter, and whisk for around 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Once the caramel has cooled, stir it into the butter mix and you have the most delicious frosting you could possibly imagine. Pipe onto your cooled apple cupcakes and sprinkle with a little coarse salt crystals for that ultimate salted-caramel hit (I used little pink crystals straight from Hawaii – thanks Mackenna!). You can also embellish your cakes with extra flourishes – I made some more caramel and drizzled it on top, and also sprinkled little fudge pieces and a tiny bit of gold leaf.

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Lightly spiced ginger cupcakes with a lemon and basil frosting

For the ginger cakes, cream together 200g of golden caster sugar and 140g of unsalted butter. Whisk into that two eggs and in addition two egg yolks, 60g of black treacle and 60g of golden syrup. Then sift in your dried ingredients, half at a time – 300g of plain flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Having mixed in half of the dried ingredients, beat in 120ml of warmed milk, followed by the other half of the dried ingredients. Follow this with a further 120ml of warm milk (so thats 240ml of milk in total). Again, fill around 12 cases just over half full and bake in the oven at 180C (350 F).

For the frosting, take 250g icing sugar and 80g of unsalted butter, whipping these up for 5-10 minutes until very light. Add to this around 1 tablespoons of lemon juice and the rind of one lemon, finely grated. But be careful – on my first attempt I put in too much lemon juice and the mix started to curdle. I salvaged this by starting off another small mix of butter and icing sugar, and adding the curdled mix spoon by spoon, creating a lovely smooth frosting again. To this add around a handful of basil leaves which have been finely chopped in a food processor. And there you have it – pipe onto your ginger cupcakes and maybe embellish with a little caramelised lemon rind and some extra basil leaves, or maybe even some crystallised ginger.

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Happy Baking!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. millie #

    Wow Nick, i’m slightly blown away by how stunning these look! I just love the colours and texture of the basil/lemon ones. Please tell us you won the bake off!!

    March 16, 2013
    • Thank you dearest Millie! However…I didn’t even make the top 5! I’m making no comment…

      March 17, 2013
  2. Zoe Hope #

    I loved the ginger and basil cup cakes and they blew my diet out of the window. I think the judge has rather conservative taste in cake (and other food) and your fantastic creations were just a bit too exciting for AI!

    March 16, 2013
    • Indeed… which is why they probably should have had a panel of at least 3 judges so that the contest was not dependent on the tastes of one person. I’ll suggest it for next time! Glad you liked the basil creation 🙂

      March 17, 2013
  3. maru clavier #

    They look great!

    March 16, 2013

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