Monday, August 16, 2010

Tasting life through rose-flavoured cupcakes

I have come to the conclusion that tasting life through rose coloured cupcakes is a lot better than looking at life through rose tinted glasses.

For one, rose flavoured cupcakes are every bit as light, fluffy and utterly delectable as you imagine they are going to be, whereas we all know the perils of rose-tinted glasses.

Lets just say it's recently led to me receiving a call from a guy I was dating mistakenly thinking I was another girl. He then proceeded to ask her to set him up with her sister for a date. Harumph. I knew he was an idiot and a little bit slow, but the rose tinted glasses told me to ignore that and left me unable to forsee him catching himself out quite so spectacularly. Epic fail.

I digress. The big news is my sister is going to be giving birth to a beautiful baby next month. I'm so proud of her and excited that I am going to be an aunty. When she announced that she would be having a baby shower, I immediately began to agonise over what I should bring. What would a young cool aunty bring? (This is the role I intend to play in this poor child's life, for better or for worse).

Should it be something for the baby or for the mother? What if I bought something she already had? What if she didnt like it (we have a rather different taste in things, as I'm sure she'll agree). What if I bought stuff in the wrong size. Oh the stress.

One thing I knew I was going to bring was some insane cupcake action. But, again, more questions mainly revolving around the theme of flavour... Vanilla I've done to death, lemon ditto, strawberry just seemed so mainstream. I don't like chocolate and am selfish enough to want to eat anything I bring to a party.

Twitter, of course, came to the rescue. What about lavender cupcakes? Ding! An idea was born. It would be an adaptation from the one found in the Hummingbird Cafe book - yes! But I commited a schoolgirl error: becoming so confident in the idea that I forgot about the practicalities of the execution. Which is why the day before the big event found me frantically running around Brixton looking for some kind of lavender essence or dried petals with no luck.

Like The Lord of the Rings, it was in this moment of blackest despair that my saviour idea came to me - rose cupcakes. Only the day before my flatmates and I had been gabbing about how gorgeous the roses in our mini mini terrace were looking. Plus, some of them were pretty much full blown and were going to fall off soon, so why shouldn't I put them to good use?

Though I'm not blessed with much common sense sometimes, I was alert enough to figure out that chopping up the petals and dropping them into the cake batter wasn't quite going to cut it, so I steeped them in milk on a very low fire for an hour until ta-dah I had rose milk. I wont lie and say this was the tastiest of things on its own but, having dipped my spoon in and found the milk to be sufficiently rosy, I removed the petals and then pretty much went about my cupcake-making as usual: using the rosemilk in the batter and in the icing for a aromatically fragrant but not overwhelming finished product.

The smell of those babies in the oven is certainly something to write home about and it took a lot more willpower than I would have been willing to bet I had not to scoff all twelve of them there and then. Instead, I dutifully let them cool, iced them, let them set (whilst taking a few photos) and put them in the cake box ready to bring as the edible part of my gift...

And they went down a treat. Although, to be fair, so did the millions of fairy cakes and huge cakes my sister had baked herself without telling me (she is a truly brilliant baker of cakes, always a good trait in a mother to be). And there was everything there should be at a baby shower - presents galore closely followed by gossip galore and lashings of cake and other pink edible stuff.

So, I dedicate this recipe to my sister. Who can be a bit thorny and scary if she tries but is such a beautiful rose at heart. This coming from a person who would normally pull her tongue out than compare someone to a rose. Nuff said.

Rose Cupcakes

For the cakes
- 120ml whole milk
- One rose's worth of petals
- 275g self raising flour
- 200g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 110g unsalted butter

For the icing
- 500g icing sugar
- 35ml whole milk
- 100g unsalted butter
- A few drops of red food colouring
- Decorations as you see fit

An hour before you want to start on the rest of the cupcakes, take the milk for both the cakes and the icing and put on a fire on a very low heat with the (washed) rose petals. After at least an hour, remove the petals and drain excess milk then split the milk into the required amounts for cake and icing again.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius. Line a tray with cupcake cases.

Cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is very pale but not completely liquid. Add one egg, beat for a few minutes then add the second egg before beating again.

Add one third of the flour, then one third of the 'cake rosemilk', beating for a few minutes or so after each addition. Repeat until both have been used up.

Spoon the mixture into 12 cupcake cases in the tray. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until firm to the touch and cooked through. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile beat the butter and rosemilk whilst adding the icing sugar gradually. Drop in the food colouring - remember a little goes a long, long way.

Ice the cupcakes as soon as they are cool and the icing is ready. Sprinkle with decorations as you prefer.

So proud of the finished product, here's another piccie