University of Birmingham graduate with a passion for food & cooking as part of a healthy lifestyle

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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Cupcake inspiration and frosting recipes

I LOVE baking cupcakes and decorating them. I am going to invest in some new piping bags and nozels so I can pipe my butter-cream properly though, because it never turns out as good as I want! This post will provide you with some inspiration through my pictures (above), and some ideas and top tips of what to decorate your cupcakes with.

1. Firstly, use some cute cupcakes cases - I have so many different designs (not many actually shown in the pictures above, sorry) that I love to use. Plain white always looks good and simple as well though (see first 2 pictures). You can also use cupcake moulds for a more interesting shape, for example I have heart and star moulds, which is perfect for occasions such as valentines day or birthdays.

2. Colour schemes - one of the best things about cupcakes aside from the taste is that they look good. I like to decorate half a batch with plain vanilla butter-cream, and the other half with chocolate butter-cream, it makes them look really luxurious; well, I think so anyway haha...

3. What icing shall I use?
I nearly always use butter-cream (butter, icing sugar, milk, flavourings) because it is fairly simple and tastes divine! I will post my butter-cream recipe at the bottom of this post.

4. What other types of icing are there?
- I also quite like just melted chocolate drizzled on to the cupcake which then solidifies; this makes a nice change in texture as it will be crunchy, but the chocolate can crack so be careful.
- GlacĂ© icing is also simple (icing sugar and water) and usually has a nice sheen to it. I used this in the last picture - the christmas pudding cupcake.
- Cream cheese frosting - this is, hence the name, a much creamier frosting.
- Chocolate fudge icing - mmmm, the dark chocolate and egg makes this frosting really rich and glossy!
(I will put recipes for each of these at the bottom)

5. What can I add to icing to make it more interesting?
Food colourings, melted chocolate or cocoa powder, flavourings like vanilla, strawberry, peppermint or lemon, coffee, orange or lemon zest, chopped nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, jam etc.

6. How do I put the frosting on the cupcake?
- Use a piping bag and nozel. Experiment with the different nozels and decide which you like best. Most commonly is just piping in swirls (see the first 2 pictures) but you can also make flower patterns (see the 3rd picture) - this is perfect for mother's day!
- Spread it on using a palette knife (see the vanilla butter-cream in picture 4). This is a better technique for runnier icing like chocolate fudge icing.
- Glace icing and melted chocolate can simply just be drizzled on with a spoon - it should spread the surface of the cupcake on its own.

7. What can I top the frosting with?
- Grated chocolate (see chocolate mousse cupcake recipe - check sidebar)
- Pre-bought cupcake decorations from the supermarket - chocolate balls, white chocolate stars, silver balls, sugar flowers, chocolate letters, sprinkles or anything like that.
- Any sweets like jelly tots or chocolate buttons
- Royal icing (see christmas pudding cupcake picture above) - you can make all sorts of shapes with this icing, which you can buy in the shops.
- Crystalised flowers or leaves. This is what I did on the other christmas pudding cupcake. It looks really delicate and shimmery - so pretty.
- Dried fruit, chopped nuts etc.
- Chocolate lattice - see mocha cupcake recipe - check sidebar
- Dust with icing sugar or coca powder depending on the colour of the icing
- Inedible decorations like plastic/tin/cardboard hearts or stars or balloons on cocktail sticks. You can hand-make things like this or buy them in specialised cake shops - see picture at the bottom of this post!
- I have this edible shimmer spray in a clear/silver colour which gives icing a beautiful, but subtle, sheen. See picture of star cupcake at the bottom of this post.

Ta-daaaaaa! You now have some beautiful cupcakes :)
Hope you enjoy - read on for the frosting recipes that I use...

Vanilla butter-cream:
- 150g unsalted butter
- 225g icing sugar
- 2 tbsp hot milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- flavourings & colourings of your choice

Beat the butter until light and fluffy, beat in the icing sugar, milk and vanilla.

Chocolate fudge icing:
- 125g dark chocolate
- 50g unsalted butter
- 1 medium egg, beaten
- 175g icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter and chocolate, whisk in the egg with the icing sugar and vanilla until smooth and glossy - leave to cool and thicken before spreading.

Cream cheese frosting:
- 50g unsalted butter
- 300g icing sugar
- 125g full-fat cream cheese
- flavourings & colourings of your choice

Beat the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy, add the flavourings/colourings if necessary, whisk in the cream cheese.

GlacĂ© icing:
- 225g icing sugar
- 2-3 tbsp boiling water
- flavourings & colourings of your choice

Sift the icing sugar and gradually stir in the water until the right consistency. 

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