September and autumn in general are the perfect time to enjoy wild berries. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and the like (gooseberries too!) are at their best and plentiful. Look for local produce when you are buying them, the UK is renowned for importing about 40% of its produce, sometimes with less than perfect results. If you buy your fruit and veg from a supermarket, don’t be afraid to smell the packets. Usually, the berry ones have small holes to allow the fruits to ‘breathe’. If you can smell the scent of ripe berries, then go ahead. Otherwise, they are very likely to be frozen or refrigerated and have probably lost all of their flavour. If you still don’t believe me, try a simple test. Buy a local punnet of berries and an imported one (from Spain, Italy or wherever). Then, once you’re at home, leave them out of the fridge for a good hour for them to come to room temperature and taste them. I can guarantee you the local ones will be much better – and will have probably cost you less.
These cupcakes are very easy to make. The recipe started in the BBC Good Food magazine as red velvet cakes with blackberries added to it. However, seeing as you don’t need to add food colouring to the icing to make it a deep purple (the blackberries will seek to that), I don’t see the point in adding it to an already dark sponge. You don’t get a red/purple hue anyway and the less chemical stuff we eat, the better. If you’re a purist and don’t like bits of blackberries in your cupcakes, then feel free to substitute them with blueberries, which you can crush to a real pulp. I fear raspberries would be too delicate to work with this, but please try if you’re that way inclined.
Ingredients (for the cupcakes)
- 300g blackberries, plus 12 extra for decoration
- 100g butter
- 100g milk chocolate, broken into chunks
- 220g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 175g golden caster sugar
- 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 2 large eggs
Ingredients (for the icing)
- 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 400g icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Using a fork, slightly crush half the blackberries in a small bowl. You want the juices to be runny, but try to retain some chunks. Gently melt the butter and the milk chocolate in a saucepan. Set aside to cool, then whisk in the eggs.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
- Mix the flour, raising agents, sugar, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Put the kettle on.
- Scrape the egg and chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients, then add the crushed berries and 100ml recently boiled water. Mix together until smooth, then divide between the muffin cases and bake for 15 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Whizz the remaining 150g blackberries to a puree. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, beat the butter until smooth, then slowly add the icing sugar (I found it best to add it in two batches). Add the vanilla extract, then beat until pale and fluffy, for about 5 minutes. Sieve the blackberry purée and gently fold it into the icing. Spoon it into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle.
- When the cupcakes are cold, pipe a generous amount of icing onto each one, then top with one of the 12 reserved blackberries. Enjoy!