8 September 2010


Earlier this summer, I was much inspired by and somewhat in awe of Jack's cupcakes. So I decided that whilst on holiday I would have a go at making some of my own.

In reality, cupcakes are really just buns. I have made zillions of these in the past (although not so many lately). Butterfly buns, currant buns and so on. Cupcakes are basically buns with attitude. In other words, lots of icing.

I invested in some basic equipment; an icing nozzle, some icing bags, a huge box of icing sugar and a variety of decorations. Then I enlisted help.

The cupcake experts, Amélie and Isabella.

I cheated slightly by buying cake mix for the basic cupcakes. I know this is not the done thing but .... I did it anyway. Just out of interest, the McDougalls mix was far superior to the Sainsbury's own brand. I know this because, having made a total of 30 cakes, I tried a couple for myself, just in case they were inedible. They were OK but the McD one was best.

I bought a variety of decorations; gummy bears, Rolos, wafer daisies, chopped nuts, fudge and marshmallow pieces, glimmer sugar, edible glitter and blackberries collected from behind the château.

Amélie helped to sift the icing sugar. This involved tipping lots of sugar into a sieve and then shaking the sieve violently until most of the sugar settled into a bowl. After the icing sugar fog in the kitchen had cleared, we could then get on with the decorating of the buns (sorry, cupcakes!).

I made some buttercream icing and flavoured half of it with cocoa powder to make chocolate icing. The two experts took it in turns to pipe the icing on the cakes and add the decorations. The results were spectacular.

We produced 28 cupcakes (having sacrificed two for quality control previously) and they were all different.

Isabella and Amélie selected the two they thought the best to present to my neighbour, Mme André. She was delighted with them. (Who wouldn't be?)

The rest were demolished by me and Nick, Alex and Nicole, Barrie, and of course Isabella and Amélie. All washed down with some Loire Valley bubbly. A perfect evening.


  1. Good job! It is always great to have the little ones in the kitchen.
    (I have had few days off from work
    and have been enjoying DVDs of "Masterpiece theater". Such wonderful shows!).

  2. I can vouch for the deliciousness of the cakes and the talent of the decorators :-) We enjoyed the two we got very much.

    BTW, buns must be a ?northern English term for cakes like this. I've never heard them called buns before. I would say a bun is a cakelike bread ie the rising agent is yeast. Where I come from they are always cupcakes, or very often, fairy cakes.

  3. Susan - I'm glad you enjoyed them!!

    Re: buns. We have always called small cakes "buns". There are lots of recipes in my favourite book, the Bero book, for various buns made by creaming or rubbing in the mixture. But we also use the term for yeast-dough sweet buns.

  4. It's such a lovely way to get kids interested in cooking. I can't understand this current vogue for cupcakes in the UK. People are paying vast amounts for these minute concoctions - give me a large stodgy muffin any day.

  5. I keep seeing mention of cupcakes everywhere...
    I thought that it was an American expression for what I'd call a fairy cake.

    They do look super, though....perhaps you'd better send your kitchen staff up here!

  6. FF and FITW - cupcakes do seem to have become fashionable and they are sometimes outrageously expensive when they are really just little fancy fairy cakes (or buns). But, having a sweet tooth myself, and being all for home baking, it's a fashion I approve of. I hope it keeps going for a while longer, long enough for me to join in the fun anyway.

  7. Not so long ago 'cupcakes' were the ones you bought from Mr. Kipling, chocolate or lemon...I loved them and still do. They were flat on top, like a cup filled to the brim. Suddenly cupcakes became rounded and covered with all manner of toppings... yes it's strange how they've taken off so much, is it just that they look so very pretty?


  8. Marlene - you're right. That's exactly what I understood a cupcake to be, long before these little mountains of icing started appearing on top of the cakes.

    I wonder if it's the timing - a little indulgence combined with comfort food and something pretty to make us feel better. Maybe the economic climate has made the world ready for the cupcake revolution !! Baking them certainly cheered me up !!

  9. The cupcakes look wonderful!
    One of my pupils last year made me some just like them as an thank you present. They were a delicious alternative to the usual wine/chocolates/smellies (although these are often delicious too, and I am always very touched by the kindness of pupils and their parents in these difficult economic times).
    Sorry I got the dates wrong in the summer and hope to catch up with you in France soon, Jean.

  10. MMMMmmmmm.... cupcakes, fairy cakes, buns, yeast based buns, buttery based buns, what does it matter as long as they are delicious. It matters not from where we are. North, south, east, west, the ideas are the same with different names and perhaps some twists on the recipes. It's a long time since I made 'fairy cakes' as opposed to muffins (a glorified American cupcake without topping) ... woops now I will be corrected ..... ! I think you have been privileged to find some willing, young participants who can enjoy the fruits of the labour making a tea-party. I am waiting for my grand daughter to enjoy the decoration part. At the age of 2 she can stir the mixture, help me spoon it into the cases and eat the results.

  11. Sweetpea - having never had children therefore no grandchildren, this was an absolute first for me. It was the most enjoyable but exhausting fun. I was positively cream-crackered afterwards. It was wonderful.
    The kitchen was, however, under a fine film of icing sugar afterwards and there was glitter everywhere; upstairs, in my hair, on the plants. Everywhere. Is this normal ??

  12. Never, never, give up your love of life in Derbyshire, but do maintain thy juxtaposing 'd'esprit' with France. Travel here and there by your dearest Harley Davidson (avec d ou sans????) and enjoy the double life or the life in two parts....as you are younger than I...

    C'est la vie... C'est ma recommandation.

    Peut-etre nous faisons une rdv?????

  13. Trop tard...pas trop tard?

    Yup I have just stumbled on this post...and had to say what a good time I & A had....the glitter I am sure still lives on, and having seen then in these Sept pics I can't wait for the sunshine to kiss their skin and they (and we!) shed our grey winter pallour. TTFN, not too long til you are back!

    PS I reckon the curved tops of fairy cakes are those made at home versus the MrKipling variety of factory control ensuring flat tops for packaging consistency....vive the dome tops homemade variety with or without the assistance of McD!