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The Icing on the cake

HOW TO BE
A CUPCAKE
QUEEN

There isn’t much Great British Bake Off winner Frances Quinn doesn’t know about cake, so who better to show us three sweet ways to top this classic treat?

Frances is a self-confessed Percy addict, so it’s unsurprising our favourite pig and the whole family make an appearance in this hidden-centre recipe.

 

I love cupcakes. It’s the creative potential you get from having lots of small cakes to play around with; different colours and textures that might be riskier on a large cake.

“People often have difficulty with the word cupcakes, as it implies a mountain of overly sugary buttercream with a cursory bit of cake underneath, but if you replace a lot of the rich toppings with lighter mascarpone or fresh fruit, you have a tasty, portable bake that makes a great present.

“That’s what I’ve tried to do with these three toppings, which are all easy to make and don’t need fancy baking kit, but use contrasting textures and flavours to make interesting little mouthfuls. Using Percy Pigs for one was an obvious choice for me because I love them, and the fact that they have natural flavourings and colourings is a huge bonus for me.

“There’s something so wonderfully nostalgic about shortcake and strawberries, which is where my idea for a cupcake topped with smooth mascarpone and filled with strawberry jam came from – they’d be perfect for a cream tea with a difference. I’ve also fallen for the new dark chocolate and coconut popcorn that features on one of my cake toppings – it’s dangerously addictive!

“I used a classic recipe from my cookbook, Quintessential Baking, to make my cupcakes before topping them, but any standard fairy cake recipe would do, so why not make a batch for National Cupcake Week and mix and match the flavours until you find your favourite?”

 

 

Strawberry shortcake cupcakes

“If you love cake and biscuits, here you can have both in one flavourful cupcake! Covered with a creamy mascarpone topping and decorated with strawberries and buttery shortbread, these cupcakes have the added bonus of a hidden jam and strawberry centre.”

 

Makes enough to decorate six cupcakes

Ingredients
For the sweetened mascarpone
250ml mascarpone cheese
100ml double cream
50g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract


For the hidden strawberry centres
50g strawberry jam
Six strawberries


To decorate
A few M&S shortbread biscuits,
crumbled up
Six strawberries

Place the mascarpone and double cream in a bowl and sift over the icing sugar. Add in the vanilla extract and whip the mixture until soft with an electric hand whisk, adding more double cream to help slacken if necessary. Set aside, either in the fridge or at room temperature. You want the sweetened cream to be a soft spreadable consistency to cover your cupcakes.

To assemble your cakes, use a knife, cookie cutter, plunger or the wide end of a sharp metal piping nozzle to cut out and remove the ‘core’ of your cupcakes. The ideal diameter of the cut piece is 3.5cm. Don’t go right through to the base, but extract about 2.5cm of cake. Keep these cut-out pieces.

Spoon some of the strawberry jam into the hole in each cupcake and place a fresh strawberry with its top sliced off into each one. Return the cut-out pieces to the cakes, on top of the strawberries. Each piece will now protrude slightly above the surface of the cake.

Smooth about two tablespoons of the mascarpone mixture on top of each cupcake, using a small palette knife to spread, creating a smooth yet rustic finish.

Decorate with a scattering of crumbled shortbread biscuits and finish off with a fresh strawberry.

 

Dark chocolate and toasted
coconut cupcakes

“Championing the flavours in M&S’s new dark chocolate and toasted coconut popcorn, these cupcakes taste as good as they look. Also, the ganache is dairy free and vegan.”

 

Makes enough to decorate six cupcakes

Ingredients
For the ganache
160ml coconut cream
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g dark chocolate, chopped


To decorate
M&S dark chocolate and toasted coconut popcorn
1 tbsp desiccated coconut, lightly toasted
50g dark chocolate, chopped


To make the coconut cream ganache, gently heat the coconut cream, golden syrup and vanilla extract in a small saucepan over a medium heat. When it’s just coming to the boil, remove the pan from the heat and add in the chopped chocolate. Stir gently until smooth and shiny and transfer into a bowl. Leave to cool, either in the fridge or at room temperature, until it’s soft and spreadable.

Prepare your melted chocolate to pipe over the finished cupcakes. The easiest and quickest way to do this is to put the chopped chocolate pieces into a small disposable piping bag and twist the end closed. Pour some boiling water into a tall glass or jug and put the piping bag into it. Leave the chocolate to melt inside the bag.

While your chocolate is melting, smooth around two tablespoons of the ganache on the top of each cupcake and use a small palette knife to spread. Sprinkle over some of your toasted desiccated coconut, before topping with pieces of popcorn.

Once your chocolate has melted, remove the bag and wipe dry with a tea towel. Snip the very tip off the piping bag off with a sharp pair of scissors and drizzle over the popcorn.

 

Percy Pig piñata cupcakes

“Who doesn’t love Percy? Here, he’s quite literally piggy in the middle. Nestled inside each cupcake are three little Percy piglets, creating your very own Percy piñata effect when you bite in.”

 

Makes enough to decorate six cupcakes

Ingredients
For the fresh raspberry buttercream
100g raspberries
100g butter, softened
250g icing sugar, sifted
Squeeze of lemon juice


For the hidden Percy centres
18 Percy Piglets


To decorate
Six Percy Pigs


To make the fresh raspberry buttercream, blitz the raspberries in a mini food processor into a purée. Pour the contents into a bowl and then sift back into the food processor to remove the seeds – you can save the seeded pulp to use in smoothies.

Add in the butter and icing sugar, plus a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and blend together for a few minutes until fully combined and turned a soft, creamy pink colour.

Transfer to a bowl and place in the fridge to firm up slightly for a soft, spreadable consistency.

To assemble your cakes, use a knife, cookie cutter, plunger or the wide end of a sharp metal piping nozzle to cut out and remove the ‘core’ of your cupcakes. The ideal diameter of the cut piece is 3.5cm. Don’t go right through to the base, but extract about 2.5cm of cake. Keep these cut-out pieces.

Place three Percy piglets into the hole of each cupcake and replace the cut-out piece of cake on top, covering up the three little piglets. Each piece will now protrude slightly above the surface of the cake. You can add a blob of jam here too, if you fancy.

Transfer and divide the raspberry buttercream, using about two tablespoons for each cupcake, and spread with a small palette knife. Finish by topping with a Percy Pig.


SHOP THE LOOK

Photographs and recipes: Frances Quinn / Editor: Emma Sleight

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