February 15, 2009
Impromptu Valentine's Day cupcakes shouldn't be time-consuming or precious. I like this Donna Hay recipe for a white chocolate cake because it's fast and easy: you melt the liquid ingredients together (no softening butter), add them to the dry ingredients, and that's basically all. It tastes sweetly of white chocolate, in a fudgy, almost mud-cake way, but isn't too sweet or overpowering. The quality of white chocolate you use will make a difference because the flavour is strong, but this also isn't a time to use the very best quality.
The truly important thing about these cupcakes is their icing, which adorned every birthday cake of my childhood and comes from a Women's Weekly children's cake cookbook that was owned by all the families I knew. Australian children in the 1980s would go to each other's houses and seek out this cookbook, with its luridly coloured train cake on the cover. With fond familiarity, with the most piercing nostalgia, we'd flip through the book to point out the cakes our mothers had made for us: the piano cake with licorice black keys (my brother dropped this cake; my heart breaks, retroactively, for my mother); the plastic doll a-swim in the green jelly-filled swimming pool cake; the robot cake, somehow so touchingly Cold War; the oven cake, which had a small pan of eggs frying on the hot plate.
No matter the shape of the cake, it was covered in this Vienna Cream Frosting. The name is important because Australians don't use the term frosting - we call it icing. I don't know how "frosting" entered the culinary bible of Australian childhood; I also don't know how, having made its way there, the term didn't instantly pass into orthodoxy. When I started making this icing (really just a buttercream frosting) for myself, it didn't taste like my childhood. Then I realised that was because I was using unsalted butter. Was all Australian butter slighty salted in the 80s?
When I was a child, I told my mother that when I grew up I would make an entire bowlful of this frosting in order to eat it all on its own, without any cake. She told me that when I was grown up, I wouldn't want to. That isn't true.
Easy White Chocolate Cake
by Donna Hay
185g butter, chopped
1 cup milk
1.5 cups caster sugar
150g white chocolate
2 cups plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius (320 degrees fahrenheit). Place the butter, milk, sugar and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Place the flour, baking powder, vanilla and eggs in a bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 22cm round cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper*. Bake for 50 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool in the tin. Ice the cake when cooled. Serves 8-10.
* Or, divide among approximately 10 large cupcake papers.
Vienna Cream Frosting
125g (4 oz) butter, softened
1.5 cups icing (confectioner's) sugar
2 tbsp milk
Beat butter until as white as possible. Gradually add half the icing sugar, beating constantly. Add milk, then gradually beat in the remaining icing sugar. Mixture should be smooth and easy to spread.
For chocolate Vienna Cream Frosting, add 1 tsp of sifted cocoa. The frosting will turn a lovely soft brown shade and taste even better.