Just when you thought this blog was dead, here I come again. Apologies for the long silence, some major (positive) changes are happening in my life and I needed some time to adjust. Also, the week or so after you have come back from holiday is always a bit traumatic. Thing is, we tend to get so comfortable and accustomed to being on holiday that the return to a dull and grey (weather reference here) reality is very hard to deal with.
This is a weird and innovative recipe I decided to pretty much make as I went. It has had mixed reviews, but I decided to post it anyway because I believe it is a very important part of my discovery and development as a baker. Also, I thought the frosting was delicious! The little story behind it is that, long before I went on holiday, I bought one of those small basil plants you find in supermarkets. Thanks to the wonderful and sunny weather we had back in July, the plant grew so much I had to find a bigger vase to keep it in. I also made quite a lot of pesto, but the leaves kept on popping up. Unfortunately, upon my return after my holidays, the plant had lost some of its oomph and had started to slowly wither. Blame the lack of sunshine (basil plants need a lot to survive) or the fact the plant was destined to die eventually (my partner’s take), but it was time for me to part from my vegetable friend.
So what best way than to use the leaves in a frosting? This is not your conventional butter cream made of butter and icing sugar or of a meringue to which you add some butter. Rather, this is like a custard which then gets beaten over very high speed, incorporating butter as you go in order to give it structure. I strongly adapted the original recipe because it asked for 430g (eek!) of butter, which I thought was excessive. I don’t want to get a stroke, thank you very much. The cupcake are made following one of the Hummingbird Bakery’s recipe, except I amended some of the quantities and added some very ripe and juicy British plums.
Ingredients (for the cupcakes)
- 70g unsalted butter, softened
- 210g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 200g caster sugar
- 210ml whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 small plums (about 150-200g), chopped
Ingredients (for the icing)
- 355ml whole milk
- 75ml double cream
- about 100g fresh basil leaves
- 300g caster sugar
- 40g plain flour
- 150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- green food colouring, optional
- To make the butter cream, start the night before. Pour the milk and double cream into a saucepan, then heat over medium heat until simmer point. Wash the basil leaves, then plunge them into the hot liquid. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature. Transfer the liquid with the basil leaves into a heatproof bowl and leave to rest for at least a couple of hours, but better overnight, in the fridge. Needless to say, the longer the steeping goes on, the stronger the flavour.
- The day you are making the cupcakes, line a 12-hole muffin tin with cases, then pre-heat the oven to 170C.
- To make the cupcakes, mix the butter, flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in the bowl of a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment. You are looking for a crumb-like consistency.
- In a jug, mix together the milk, vanilla extract and eggs. With the mixer on low speed, gradually pour half of the liquid ingredients into the dry ones, then mix until thoroughly combined. Increase the speed to medium to get rid of any lumps, then turn it back down to low again and add the rest of the liquid ingredients. Scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula, then increase the speed once more to combine it all.
- Add the plum pieces by hand, then divide the mixture among the 12 cupcake cases. Bake for about 25-30 minutes and check with a skewer whether the small cakes are cooked in the middle. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
- To finish the butter cream, whisk the flour and sugar together in a saucepan. Strain the content of the bowl with the basil leaves into the saucepan, ensuring to squeeze as many juices from the basil leaves as you can. Cook over medium heat until thickened, which will take about 10 minutes.
- Now, you can either decant the ‘custard’ to a shallow container and let it cool or you can pour it into the bowl of a freestanding mixer and beat it over medium speed with the paddle attachment until the bowl is cool to the touch.
- Add the green food colouring, then slowly add the butter, little by little and mixing on medium speed to ensure it all gets incorporated. If you see your butter cream is still very liquid, transfer the bowl to the fridge for about 30 minutes (or to the freezer for slightly less), then continue beating and adding butter. You need to whip the butter cream into shape, so to speak, so when you see the consistency is good enough, give it a last go on high speed, then transfer it to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle.
- To decorate your cupcakes, pipe a good sized swirl on each one. This recipe makes more butter cream than you will need, so you can eat the rest as it is! Enjoy!