Sunday, 7 March 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla & Rose

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and rose fondantI was giving a dinner party recently and wanted to be all thoroughly planned and organised. But in my more typical style it wasn't until a couple of days before that I got a chance to sit down and plan the menu. I quickly settled on the starter and main course but couldn't make up my mind about dessert until I stumbled upon Maison Cupcake's recipe for Chocolate & Raspberry Trifle: it sounded perfect as it could be prepared in advance thereby taking the pressure off on the day itself. The other big bonus was that the base of the trifle required chocolate sponge. I had an old friend coming for tea that day and hadn't made anything yet - chocolate cupcakes would offer a double whammy of delight!

For the cupcake bases I decided to use a recipe that had been a big hit at Christmas but I decided to try something different for the toppings: I covered half with a vanilla buttercream; and the other half with a rose-fondant icing. I was really pleased with the way they turned out and it was a great way to make one cupcake base into two completely different cupcake experiences.

Chocolate cupcake vanilla buttercreamWhen you read my recipe you may be surprised to see that I make the cupcakes themselves with margarine rather that butter. When I was told this tip on my cupcake course I hated the sound of it, yucky old marg instead of lovely organic butter? But now I am a convert. There are a number of reasons but the most important is that with marg your cupcakes will not dome in the same way as they do with butter. I've tried most recipes both ways and the ones made with marg are much easier to ice - especially if you're going for a flat fondant finish. On top of that I genuinely cannot tell the difference in taste. I wouldn't dream of using marg for a topping but once it's mixed in with all that sugar, flavouring - in this case chocolate - baked and slathered in sweet topping it really does taste the same. My teacher on the course told me that professional cake bakers rarely use butter in their sponge bases. Of course there's the added bonus that it's also much cheaper. Anyway, here are the recipes:

Chocolate Cupcakes (makes about 18)
100g good quality chocolate (I use 70% Green & Blacks)
125g margarine
225g sugar
4 eggs
100g plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
large pinch of salt
  • Preheat the oven to 170º fan/180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4
  • Break up the chocolate and place it, with the margarine, in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water until melted and well combined
  • Take off the heat, stir in the sugar & then set aside
  • Once mixture has cooled (after about 10 minutes) beat with an electric mixer for 2 or 3 minutes
  • Add eggs one at a time continuing to beat for around 10 seconds between each
  • Sift the rest of the ingredients (flour, cocoa powder & baking powder) into the mixture and beat until well blended
  • Spoon or pipe mixture into lined cupcake tins until each case is between one third and one half full
  • Bake in the oven for 25 minutes - I turn my tray 180º after 15 minutes to compensate for hot-spots in my oven. They are ready when a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean
  • Place on a rack and let them cool. Do not attempt to ice until fully cooled
Chocolate cupcake vanilla buttercream sugar leafVanilla Buttercream (enough to generously cover 8-10 cupcakes)
125g butter
250g icing sugar
5 ml vanilla extract
1 tbsp of water if required
  • If the butter is not already at room temperature beat with an electric whisk until fluffy
  • Add sifted icing sugar, vanilla extract and, if necessary, a little water
  • Mix until light and fluffy
Chocolate cupcake rose fondant icing
Rose Fondant Icing (enough for 8-10 cupcakes)
250g fondant icing sugar (ignore packet instructions)
Few drops of rose water
Few drops of pink food colouring
A little water
  • In a heatproof bowl very carefully add rose water (a little goes a long way) & food colouring to the fondant icing sugar. Then add water a few drops at a time - go slowly with this as the paste needs to be very stiff, almost too stiff to stir
  • Heat gently over a pan of simmering water until about body temperature by which time it will be more runny
  • Remove from the heat and spoon fondant onto cupcakes one at a time
  • Tip & shake cupcakes from side-to-side to get fondant up to edge of case. When completely covered used a sterilised pin to prick out any air bubbles (this will ensure a nice smooth finish)
  • As icing starts to cool and stiffen return it to the heat until it reaches body temperature. Continue like this until cupcakes are all iced
When doing a mixture of fondant & buttercream iced cupcakes it obviously makes sense to use the flatter cupcakes for the fondant icing. Ideally there should be a few millimetres between the top of the cupcake and the edge of the cupcake case to enable you to get a really perfect finish.

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla and rose Finally, I decorated my cupcakes with a variety of purple & white flowers (using piped stiff royal icing as glue on the fondant icing) and green sparkly spring leaves (I'm ever hopeful). I have to admit I thought they were pretty good - and I didn't get any complaints from anyone else either. However you decide to decorate them, this chocolate cupcake recipe is a real winner.


  1. Great looking cupcakes Natalie. I'm like you, I could never imagine using marg in my baking but my cake class teacher said he uses half butter adnd half marg in the cakes for decorating not only becasue it makes the mixture easy to work together but becasue the marg stops the cake from cracking when its cooking. It is taking me sometime to get my head around the concept though hehehe

  2. I know Chele. It doesn't feel right does it? But every time I use butter they do dome & crack and that just doesn't work with fondant icing... Glad my cupcake teacher wasn't alone in her recommendation!

  3. Marg? Who knew? Thanks for the tip I shall definitely give it a whirl!

  4. Thanks for the shout out with the trifles, glad you liked them. The flowers on these cupcakes look pretty, I have not had the patience to master doing these yet.
    I agree about using marg in cupcakes instead of butter, I have not noticed a difference in taste and yes they are less likely to have volcanic eruptions.
    Incidentally, this week I did my cupcakes on the bottom shelf on a notch lower and it completely avoided the cracked exploding top even with margerine. Also you can blitz margerine in the food processor straight from fridge (although I nuke my butter for 10 seconds in microwave to bring up to room temp!!)

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  6. Thanks for the tip on margarine. I don't even keep it in the house but I will definitely get some for my next batch of cupcakes. Your cakes look so pretty and very delicious!

    Best wishes,

  7. Thanks Natasha. I was in exactly the same situation until I did that course. Now I always have a block in my fridge just in case the cupcake mood takes me.