This is the third incarnation of my baking blog but this time I feel more determined and more committed, so much so that I went the extra mile to buy the .com domain name rather than be content with the basic WordPress address. Clearly, I mean business this time.
And to really prove to myself that I meant I business, I did something I had joked about since the early days of The Teacup Café* …. I signed up to an agricultural show, specifically the Tullow Agricultural Show. First held in 1946, the event is a showcase of local agriculture, food (aka baking competitions) and crafts and welcomes almost 10,000 people across the day. For a city dweller like myself, it’s a different world that almost seems trapped in time, where our traditions are not only still fondly remembered but are also still used and valued. The word ‘agog’ probably best describes how I spent the day.
But here I was, making my first tentative steps in the world of amateur competitive baking. And it wasn’t long before I realised that there was very little amateur about it. These bakers were pros, hardy perennials of such shows who clearly relish the chance to once again go head to head with each other for the title of is year’s best soda bread or most well dispersed cherries in a cherry cake.
After a few flashes of my newcomer status I quickly got to grips with the set-up of the show tent and it wasn’t long before my entries into the ‘Best 3 Decorated Cupcakes’ and ‘4 Chocolate Biscuit Cake Squares’ classes were being heavily scrutinised by the trained senses of the judging panel… well every sense except for taste. Apparently in a baking competition, the sampling of creations is unnecessary in all instances other than as a tiebreaker. If only I’d known that before coring each cupcake and carefully filling with my delicious homemade lime curd. Oh well, lesson learned.
Two hours later and the judges were finished deliberating. The drapes of the tent were pulled back and the winners of each of the classes were revealed. As I stepped back into the tent, I was nervous, anxious and excited; I was practically a GBBO contestant awaiting their weekly fate. Unfortunately, this quickly turned to disappointment when I realised that my cupcakes had failed to win a coveted card-type rosette. As for the biscuit cake… well let’s not mention the biscuit cake… I knew that was a lost cause from the moment I left it into the fridge to set.
Despite not picking up any prizes, it’s safe to say I’m hooked. I wasn’t long through the door that evening before I was already looking up upcoming shows (Clonaslee here I come). You wouldn’t think I was competitive person, would you?
For the batter
160g caster sugar
140g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
140ml coconut milk
3-4tbsp dessicated coconut
For the curd
120g caster sugar
2 large eggs
Juice of 2 lime and zest of 1
For the buttercream
250g icing sugar
2 tbsp lime zest
2 tbsp whole milk
Set your oven to 180C and prepare your tin with cupcake cases. To ensure a nice and clean base, put a spoonful of rise in each hole before placing the cases.
To make the batter, cream the butter and sugar and beat in the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt until combined.
Separately, stir the vanilla extract into the coconut milk before adding to the dry ingredients. Then add the egg and beat until you have a nice smooth, relatively runny batter. Finally, stir in the dessicated coconut, more or less depending on your feelings towards coconutty flavours…. the more the merrier I say.
Next, fill the cupcake cases until they are ¾ full. Pop them in the oven and be sure to set your timer for between 20 and 25 minutes.
While the cake is in the oven, move onto the curd. Curds can be tricky, particularly if using the whole egg rather than just the yoke as the white will also cook at a lower temperature. Low and slow is the best way here. Cook the sugar, butter, eggs and lime juice over a low heat and whisk frequently. After about 12 – 15 minutes it should be thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Sieve the curd, stir in the zest and leave to cool.
For the buttercream, cream the butter and beat together with the icing sugar. On a slow speed, pour in the milk and when combined, increase to a high speed. Add the lemon zest and continue beat the mixture on a high speed for a few more minutes. 5 is the target. The longer you beat the mixture, the fluffier it will be.
Assuming you’ve taken out the cupcakes at the correct time … and believe me I’ve been known to completely forget about them…. allow them to fully cool before coring them using an apple corer, or knife if that’s all you have. Make sure to leave a bit top of what you core out to pop back on after you’ve filled it with the curd.
Next, using a spoon, knife or palette knife, spread on the buttercream. It doesn’t have to be too neat as it will be covered with sugarpaste.
Now for the fun part. Roll out some sugarpaste (about 150-200g), any colour you like. Using the smooth side of a circular cutter (or a glass), cut out a circle of the sugarpaste.
For the cake lace, I used the Claire Bowman Pearlised White Cake Lace and a cake lace mat from Decobake. Spread onto the mat until all the gaps in the design are completely filled. Using a low temperature on the oven … and it will depend on your oven, I go with 100C … cook for approximately 10 minutes, until the lace is almost coming away from the mat. Allow to cool and the peel away the mat, revealing your amazingly intricate, yet simple to make cake lace designs.
Using a few drops of edible glue, attach the cake lace to your sugarpaste circles. Place on top of the cupcakes and smooth into place. The buttercream will hold it in place. To finish it off, stick some chocolate pearls onto the lace using the glue.
*The prequel blog to Bake Hill