Why I hate cupcakes (but made them anyway)Monday, 10 September 2012
Just looking at that picture makes me feel a little ill.
I've never understood the obsession with cupcakes. All I can remember is that one day, Carrie ate one in Sex and the City and the next minute, BAM. A million cupcake shops open all over the place, charging £3 for a little bun that's mostly sugary butter.
Even now, however many years after the trend started, there are STILL endless queues outside the Hummingbird Bakery on Portobello Road. Girls go giddy over them. Forgive my sexism, but it does seem to be an incredibly girly thing. I've yet to see a guy have the same reaction.
Charlie Brooker had a great whinge about them back in January in the Guardian.
Cupcakes used to be known as fairy cakes, until something happened a few years ago. I don't know what the thing was, because I wasn't paying attention. All I know is that suddenly middle-class tosspoles everywhere were holding artisan cupcakes aloft and looking at them and pointing and making cooing sounds and going on and bloody on about how much they loved them. I wouldn't mind, but cupcakes are bullshit. And everyone knows it. A cupcake is just a muffin with clown puke topping. And once you've got through the clown puke there's nothing but a fistful of quotidian sponge nestling in a depressing, soggy "cup" that feels like a pair of paper knickers a fat man has been sitting in throughout a long, hot coach journey between two disappointing market towns. Actual slices of cake are infinitely superior, as are moist chocolate brownies, warm chocolate-chip cookies and virtually any other dessert you can think of. Cupcakes are for people who can't handle reality.
I can't say it any better than that, really.
Despite all of my moaning, I did end up making some last week. My friend's kid was starting school, and I feel like you need some kid of treat on a day like that. Plus, I really wanted to eat some icing sugar with a spoon.
Now, I'm a pretty spectacular cook, but when it comes to baking, everything goes a little wrong. My donuts turn out somehow raw and uncooked, and my cakes never, ever bloody rise.
I made a cake a few months ago that did work, and I think it was because I used my friend's oven instead of my Aga (which is difficult to control temperatures in). Also, you know the part of the recipe where you're supposed to cream the butter and the sugar together, until it's white and fluffy? I actually did that, with a mixer, instead of attacking it with a wooden spoon and giving up straight away.
Despite that success, I didn't bother with any of that this time. Which means my little cakes were kind of dense... in a very rocky, wooden kind of way.
I made some butter icing, which I despise. I only like butter when it's melted, I can't abide it when it's not, so the thought of eating a big pile of it on top of a cake makes me shudder. You see how selfless this baking experience was?
When I creamed the butter and icing sugar together, I smashed in a few raspberries and blackcurrants, to give it a bit of flavour and colour. I usually do this with normal icing, and it works a treat. It worked OK in the buttercream, I guess... but all I could taste was butter. And it was pale pink. So I chucked in a good few drops of red food colouring as well, which stained my hands for days.
I googled around for cupcake decorating tips, rolled my eyes about 73 times, and then just plonked it all on any which way. I'd been trying to see if you can decorate them with just a fork instead of a piping bag, but nothing really came up. I wasn't about to make a piping bag just to get that dog turd effect, so I just smothered it on. It also meant that I didn't use an obscene amount, as other cupcakists seem to do. Even though the cakes were quite dense, they did rise in the middle, to form a pre-made icing mountain.
So there you go. Next time, I'm making mars bar cake. You can't go wrong melting mars bars into rice krispies, I swear.