Friday 15 November 2013

Recipe: Boston cream cupcakes

Recipe: Boston cream cupcakes
The Hummingbird Bakery: Cake days – Tarek Malouf and the Hummingbird Bakers (Collins, 2012)

It was my nephew’s birthday party last weekend and I was asked to bake something American for it. As much as I would have loved to have made something containing peanut butter, my ‘poor’ family have had to put up with a lot of that over the last couple of years, so I decided to try something completely new.

On flicking through our Hummingbird recipe book, I came across a recipe for Boston cream cupcakes (it can also be found online here) which seemed a bit different whilst being relatively safe and sticking to the American theme. The fact I’d never had Boston cream pie before was irrelevant and Hummingbird’s description certainly sounded good to me – ‘a moist vanilla sponge filled with custard and topped with a rich chocolate frosting’.

The recipe usually makes 12–16 cupcakes but I increased the quantities by half to ensure I had enough cakes for the party. Aside from that, the only thing I did differently was using vanilla extract instead of vanilla essence.

The sponge was really simple to make but it did take a long time to neatly spoon it into the muffin cases since it was such a dribbly mixture. I loved the tip at the back of the recipe book about using an ice cream scoop to do this, though, as it did result in perfectly sized cupcakes. I used two scoops per case and ended up with 26 cupcakes – two more than expected so I had to grab a couple of spare silicone cases as an emergency! You’ll be pleased to know that the raw batter tasted delicious too.

This was the first time I’d ever made custard from scratch and I wrongly expected it to be runny so I was a bit worried when it ended up being wobbly – why I didn’t make the connection about it being an egg custard, I don’t know!

I decided to try my own method for filling the cupcakes and used an apple corer to remove the centre of each cake and a teaspoon handle to poke in the filling. I found this worked well and allowed the ‘core’ to be reinserted afterwards, but I did find I couldn’t fit much custard in despite the measurements being similar to the ones in the instructions. As a result, about half the custard was left over (as the picture shows), although my Mum had no complaints in helping me eat this – tasty! I had been dreading the filling stage of the recipe but, on the whole, it was easy.

Before you go getting your hopes up, I’ll confess now that I usually avoid recipes like this as I’m not at all artistic and am, therefore, rubbish at any kind of icing. However, I decided to take the plunge with this recipe on the basis that I could always fall back on the grated chocolate decoration if I made a complete mess of the frosting.

The icing itself was simple to make and I decided to try the step-by-step guide for applying it with a pallet knife that was given in the back of the Cake days book. Needless to say, I couldn’t get the hang of it, so I did my own thing based on it instead! The recipe made a lot of this frosting so I actually ended up icing each cake twice to try and use it all up. I pretty much finished it but my volunteers did manage to scrape quite a lot out of the bowl afterwards (I’d given up eating it myself by this point as it was incredibly rich!).

My plan was to grate a whole 100g bar of dark chocolate to finish the cupcakes but I ended up having a fight with the grater after it decided to take two chunks out of my thumb (I’m still recovering!) so I only ended up using half and eating the other to console myself. As it turned out, this was more than enough.

Since the cakes I made in the silicone cases were additional, I used these as my sample ones prior to the party. Unfortunately, though, they got a bit stuck and so the picture of the inside of the cake is very messy. However, it does do the job of showing how pale the custard filling was (barely noticeable, in fact!).

I thought the sponge was lovely and moist, the vanilla flavour was noticeable, and the chocolate was deliciously rich. However, I’m my own worst critic so, whilst I did enjoy these cakes, I didn’t think they were amazing. 

Everyone else seemed to love them, though! I was told they were ‘superb’, ‘wonderful’, and even received a text later on that evening that said: ‘Yum yum yum that cake was lovely!’. There were a lot of comments on the moist sponge, which was nice, but I did find that not everyone noticed the custard so I definitely would put more in in future, if there was an easier way to do so.

Due to just how chocolatey the frosting was, I thought I may have defeated the whole point of the cupcakes and made something too rich for the children. However, they were a big hit. Understandably, due to the size, they didn’t eat the whole thing, but the icing was their favourite bit, with one nephew licking it off and another one scraping it off with his finger. The latter, aged two, ran up to me afterwards just to give me a thank you hug! When asked what his favourite bit had been, the response was instant: the chocolate.

So I’m a bit torn with this one. The recipe wasn’t that technically difficult but it took me four hours! I admit that I’m pretty slow in the kitchen, and this was obviously a slightly bigger batch than normal, but it just seemed like an awful lot of effort for something that I didn’t personally think was sensational. I’ve seen online that other people have used shop-bought custard, so maybe this would help, and obviously practice makes perfect so it may not take as long in future, but I just didn’t feel that these were worth the amount of time they took. 

They did make a lot of people happy, though, so never say ‘never’! 

Ease of recipe: 7/10
Finished product:
Overall score:
Bake again?
Probably not

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