I have mixed feelings about St. Valentine's Day. If done right it can be a sweet love celebration, a ray of sunshine when life is cold and grey and spring a distant hope. On the other hand, it has always seemed an unfair and prejudiced celebration, catering as it does only to couples. I know some amazing folk who through no fault of their own haven't met the person they want to be with yet. Why should they miss out on the fun of the day just because they're single? Taken from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, these cupcakes are for everyone, whether in love or not, a heavenly recipe to bring us all a little idle joy. Just halve or quarter the quantities if you're planning these as a solitary pleasure.
Makes 12 medium sized cupcakes
Adapted from the lovely recipe by the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. Buy the book on Amazon here. Or you can see the recipe online at www.goodtoknow.co.uk here
for the base:
150g golden caster sugar
60g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 free range egg, room temperature
10g cocoa powder
red colour tint, or 20ml red food colouring liquid
half a teaspoon vanilla extract
120ml buttermilk (or 60ml milk & 60ml runny natural yoghurt)
150g plain flour
half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half a teaspoon salt
1 and a half teaspoons white wine vinegar
1. Turn the oven to 170C (150C fan ovens) and place medium sized cupcake papers in a 12 cupcake baking tin.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar for at least 3 minutes until fluffy.
3. Add the egg, and beat well until combined and smooth.
4. Meanwhile in a second, smaller, bowl, stir the cocoa powder, red colouring and vanilla extract together.
5. Mix these 3 ingredients into the batter. It will turn a bright red, which will come out darker once baked.
6. If you can't find any buttermilk in the shops, you can make your own as I did by mixing the milk and natural yoghurt, which works just as well.
When it's ready to use, add half the buttermilk or milk and yoghurt combination to the batter, before throwing in half the flour and mixing thoroughly.
7. Next add the rest of the buttermilk and the rest of the flour, beating again until smooth.
8. Carefully stir in the salt, bicarb of soda and vinegar, and then beat the mixture on a high speed for a few more minutes.
9. Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases, filling until three quarters full.
10. Bake in the oven for 20- 25 minutes. You'll know the cakes are done when the tops bounce back under your finger and a skewer comes out clean.
11. Transfer the cupcakes in their cases to a wire rack or plate and leave to cool completely.
for the cream cheese icing:
50g unsalted butter, room temperature
300g icing sugar
1 drop vanilla extract
125g cream cheese, cold
12. To make the icing, beat the icing sugar and butter together thoroughly.
13. Next add the cream cheese, and continue to mix well.
14. Add the drop of vanilla extract, then beat the icing hard for 5 minutes until fluffy and ready to pipe.
15. To pipe the icing, get a pint glass. Place a piping bag with a nozzle inside the glass, so that the nozzle is on the bottom of the glass. Fold the piping bag edges over the glass rim. Spoon the paste into the piping bag, then carefully take the bag out of the glass and twist the end of the bag so that the icing is well contained.
These cupcakes were idly baked while listening to Jarvis Cocker interview Leonard Cohen on BBC Radio 6 Music.