Every time I see these cupcakes, I have to forcibly restrain myself from breaking into song (specifically, from breaking into Rogers & Hammerstein’s “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” from Carousel). There are a number of things making that restraint somewhat easier – it’s not June, the song’s about summer when clearly these cupcakes scream springtime, and people outside of the Glee universe tend to frown upon (or, if I’m being honest, laugh unkindly at) impromptu musical renditions of show tunes.
However, these cupcakes are seriously bustin’ out all over. These are not ‘whip up in an hour for an after-school treat’ cupcakes. These are plan-ahead cupcakes, like a fabulous but high-maintenance friend who is coming to stay with you for the weekend – you know it’ll be a lot of work, you’ll probably have a headache on Monday, but you do it because you love her and DAMN it’s fun when she comes to town! There’s two types of icing, three if you count the fondant – there’s rolling, chilling, cutting out, baking, cooling, piping, trimming bamboo skewers, and don’t even get me started on transporting these from one place to another … but they are worth it! They are gorgeous and if you bring them some place people will be IMPRESSED. People will love them. And it’s not so much work if you do it in small doses. As my grandfather used to say, you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.
Recipes and instructions after the jump.
Blooming Marvellous Cupcakes
I’ve given the recipes below in the order in which the cupcakes are finally assembled, but have also let you know storage options if you want to do this in a different order. Whenever instructions are to bring something back to room temperature, do this by leaving it (wrapped or in its container) out on the counter (NOT IN THE MICROWAVE!)
- 225g butter, room temperature
- 450g sugar
- 4 eggs
- 375g self-raising flour
- 250ml buttermilk
- 1 tbsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Prepare 2 cupcake tins with paper liners (You’ll be making 24 cupcakes all up).
Cream butter and sugar together until very fluffy (about 5 minutes).
Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl and beating well after each addition.
Add the flour and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with flour and beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
Divide batter evenly between cupcake liners (I find it helped to use a 1/3 cup scoop to get the quantities even).
Bake for 15-17 minutes until lightly browned on top. Check for done-ness by inserting a skewer into a cupcake – if it comes out clean, they’re done.
Cool on a rack until no longer warm to the touch. Store, well wrapped in gladwrap, in the freezer until ready to assemble. Bring back to room temperature before using.
Chocolate Cloud Icing ‘Mud’
- 110g unsalted butter, softened
- 95g icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 60g chocolate, melted and cooled slightly (2 x 20 second bursts in the microwave, stirring in between, should suffice)
- 1/2 tbsp milk
Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine. Add the chocolate and beat to combine. Add the milk and mix until smooth.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge, bring to room temperature before using (if necessary mix with beaters to get the consistency right).
Swiss Meringue Buttercream ‘Grass’
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 200g sugar
- 270g butter, cubed and at room temperature
- 1/2 tbsp vanilla
- Green food colouring
In a clean, dry, large mixing bowl (I used the bowl of a stand mixer to save on washing-up), whisk to combine the eggwhites and the sugar. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 60 degrees celcius, or until the sugar has totally dissolved.
Transfer the bowl back to your mixer and with the whisk attachment, whip on low and then medium speed until the meringue is thick and glossy, and the bowl is no longer warm to the touch.
Switch from your whisk attachment to the paddle attachment and mix on slow speed. Add your butter one cube at a time and continue mixing until smooth and combined. Towards the end of this process, the mixture may look curdled, but this just means it is all coming together as it should. Keep mixing! Once it’s totally smooth, add your vanilla and food colouring (start with a small amount, because you can always add more but you can’t take it out) and mix to combine.
If you aren’t using the buttercream straight away, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer, just make sure you bring it back to room temperature before using it. You may need to whip it a little to get it back to the correct consistency – I didn’t find this necessary.
Blitz 1/2 packet of oreos in the food processor until it looks like dirt. How easy was that! This will make more than you need – keep the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge or eat them with a spoon – I won’t judge you.
Sugar Cookie Flower Pops
- 170g butter, at room temperature
- 200g white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 310 g flour
- 5 g baking powder
- Bamboo skewers, trimmed to about 10cm long (make sure you trim the very pointy end off – you would hate for someone to stab themselves in the mouth!)
- Marshmallow Fondant Flowers (recipe below)
Cream together butter and sugar until very fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl and beating well after each addition.
Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
Add the flour and baking powder and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
Separate dough into two discs, wrap well with gladwrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.
Roll the dough out between two pieces of baking paper to about 1/2 a centimetre thick (I had run out of baking paper so used gladwrap, which worked fine). I found my dough warmed up really quickly, making it sticky and difficult to work with. I had to keep sticking it back in the fridge until it firmed up enough to carry on, but it turned out well in the end.
Cut out flower shapes using a biscuit cutter and transfer very carefully to a baking sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and immediately stick skewers into hot cookies (be careful not to burn your fingers).
Transfer the cookies to a rack. As the cookies cool, they will harden around the skewers.
Once cookies are completely cool, decorate with marshmallow fondant flowers (recipe and directions below).
The cookies will keep, stored in an airtight container, for a few days.
Marshmallow Fondant Flowers
- 100g marshmallows (I used 1/2 a packet of Pascal ‘Vanilla & Raspberry’ marshmallows – I only used the pink ones as it meant I did not need to add any additional food colouring)
- 200g icing sugar
- 1 tsp water
- Food colouring (optional)
- 2 tbsp raspberry jam
In a large heatproof bowl, microwave marshmallows together with water for 1 minute until puffy and expanded.
Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. If you are using white marshmallows and want to tint your fondant, add a teeny tiny little bit of food colouring now – and I really mean just the tiniest little bit – you can always add more colour later, but you can’t take it out once it’s in!
Add the icing sugar and stir to combine. When the mixture becomes too stiff to stir, turn out onto a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and knead until smooth and soft. If you want to add more food colouring, flatten the fondant into a disc, add a little food colouring to the middle, fold the edges in and knead until no streaks remain and the colour is totally incorporated.
If you are not rolling out your fondant immediately, you can store it, well-wrapped in glad wrap, in the fridge for a few days. I would not recommend that you roll & cut out your fondant until you are ready to use it. Before using, bring fondant back to room temperature. If at room temperature it is still too stiff to roll out, zap in the microwave in 20 second bursts until warm and pliable.
Roll out the fondant between two sheets of baking paper (or gladwrap) until thin (about 2.5 mm). Using the same size cookie cutter you used for the sugar cookies, cut out flowers. I then used smaller cookie cutters, pressing lightly, to make decorative indentations on the shapes, but you could just as easily leave them plain.
In a small cup or saucer, microwave the raspberry jam for 30-45 seconds until very liquid.
Using a pastry brush, brush a little melted jam onto a sugar cookie, then place the fondant flower on top, pressing lightly to make sure it is securely attached. Do this until you have at least 24 sugar cookie flower pops.
Assembling your cupcakes:
Ensure all your ‘alaments’ (thanks George) are at room temperature before you start.
Spread each cupcake with chocolate cloud icing.
Using a Wilton #233 tip (or other hair/grass tip – I recommend
Iced Affair in Camperdown for specialty cake supplies such as piping tips – they have a great range and are very helpful), pipe green swiss meringue around the outside of each cupcake for ‘grass’. As you work, the swiss meringue may become a little warmer. You may need to periodically pop it back in the fridge so it cools back to piping consistency.
Using a teaspoon (I actually used a baby food spoon as they are a little smaller), sprinkle oreo ‘dirt’ on top of the chocolate icing. Try not to get any ‘dirt’ on the ‘grass’.
At this point, if you are not serving the cupcakes right away, you can store them in the fridge (uncovered) for up to a day.
Right before serving, stick a sugar cookie flower pop into the middle of each cupcake.