I like a bit of cake at teatime, it's the way I was brought up. My mother ran a tight ship where meals were concerned and you could set your watch by her schedule for afternoon tea. When my siblings and I were very young, we had proper tea: sandwiches first - or perhaps boiled egg and soldiers (fingers of bread and butter) - then fruit or jelly (if we were lucky) and, finally, cake. Always, always, homemade. My maternal grandfather was a baker by trade and, when we went to visit, he would make the most beautiful fairy cakes for us; I particularly remember a plate of cupcakes iced with tiny swans - and I don't mean drawn on; they swam in 3D formation across the tops of the little cakes. How totally cool is that?
My cupcakes are nowhere near so spectacular but I still believe they should look tempting. With lingering thoughts of the cupcake mountain from the Regent Street Festival, I decided to make cupcakes rather than a whole cake. Half these cupcakes were swirled with coffee buttercream and sprinkled with chocolate strands (above) and the other half were reserved for my Secret Surprise.
The recipe is what is known as a basic 4, 4, 4 and 2. (Experienced bakers will immediately recognise this as a classic Victoria sponge cake mixture).
Secret Surprise Cupcakes
(makes 12 in a Muffin tin. Use Muffin sized cases.)
4 ounces butter; 4 ounces caster (fine) sugar; 2 eggs at room temperature (UK medium size); 4 ounces flour (Self Raising, sieved).
Also 1 teaspoon Baking Powder and 1 teaspoon good quality Vanilla Extract.
Milk to loosen if mixture is not 'dropping' consistency at the end - add as needed but go easy and start with 1 Tablespoon.
Preheat oven to 180C. Mix softened butter and sugar together until very pale and creamy. Add eggs plus a couple of tablespoons of flour to stop any tendency for the eggs to curdle. Mix. Use a metal spoon to fold in the rest of the flour (with baking powder added). This keeps the air in the mixture. Add the vanilla extract. Test consistency of mixture. If it feels thick, add a little milk.
Two-thirds fill each muffin case. (Any leftover can be shared between the cases.) Bake for 15 minutes. Then test by patting the top with your finger. If the cake resists, they're done. If not, give them another 3 or 4 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack.
Here's the surprise:
When cool, slice out a cone shape from the top. Add a dollop of strawberry jam in the hole (preferably homemade) and a spoon of whipped or thickened cream. Replace the cone of cake, push down slightly and dust with icing sugar. Secret Victoria Sponge (cup)Cake! And, to my mind, utterly delish - and a fair reward after a day's gardening.
Cupcake revealed …