Quick and easy cupcakes with truffle icing

These are the kind of cupcakes I love. Butter icing is okay but it makes my teeth sort of itch and I always feel a bit like I'm in a Cath Kidston ad campaign when I eat a cupcake with pastel covered icing. These little beauties look dangerous rather than twee. I like the silver balls adorning the one on the right - it almost looks laden with ammunition.

My toddler son loves the silver balls and insists on picking off every last one until he's covered in truffley chocolate. He doesn't want the cake or the icing, just the ammo. That does mean however, that he's the only one in our close family who knows what the silver balls taste like. At present his vocab is limited to nanna, mummy, daddy, ball, baby, digger and bear so we don't know yet if they taste as good as they look though the toothy smile after the removal of the balls ceremony could be a good indication. I'm not going to question his judgement. The boy likes garlic dough balls, olives and Stilton so he's quite trusted in the tasting arena.

These are really easy to make, I can knock a batch up in about 5 minutes now, then let the cooker do the work. That's not me being a show off, they really are idiot proof. Best of all there's no tin lining to do which although it takes little time is such an annoying task. This recipe makes about 12 if you use the larger muffin tins, not the smaller fairy cake ones my Mum used to use for Yorkshire puddings.


- 125g margarine (I know everyone else says use butter but I honestly can't tell the difference when I use Stork, in fact, dare I say that I think they're lighter?)
- 125g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 125g plain flour (sieved, such a pain and I never used to do it, but it does make a difference if you can be bothered - oh, and I just buy the basics version rather than anything stone ground or branded in the flour arena)- Half a teaspoon bicarb of soda
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- Milk (any)
- Chocolate (milk or dark or a mixture)
- Double cream
- Silver balls, choc stars, anything else for decorating

Put the oven onto gas 6. Make sure that the shelves in the oven are placed at the top and in the middle with enough room for your cupcakes to rise into peaks. You need 2 x tins that hold 6 muffins each. Pop cupcake/muffin paper cases into each of the holes ready for filling with the cake mixture.

If you are using a mixer (I bought a Kenwood mixer as a present for myself for Christmas and am slightly in love with it still, if a little bigger from all the cakes) then throw all ingredients except the milk into the bowl and start to mix on a low speed. Once the flour is all combined then whack it up to a high speed to get as much air into it as possible, don't do it before then otherwise the dry ingredients fly everywhere. Stop after a few mins to scrape the sides, then pop back up to a high setting again before stopping and adding a slug of milk - about 2 tablespoons but you can always add more so err on the side of caution. Put the mixer on again on a low setting until the milk is combined. When you stop the machine the cake mixture should easily come off the beater and be lighter in colour than when you started. Cake books call it a 'dropping consistency' which seems sensible as it should be dropping.
Right, if you don't have a free standing mixer then you need to use either a hand held electric one of work up a sweat and grab a wooden spoon. Principles the same as above though the cakes might not be quite as light if hand mixing though your arms will be more defined than us lazy free standing mixer users.

Spoon the cake mixture into the muffin cases until it reaches about 1cm from the top. You don't need to level it, in fact peaks are quite nice. Pop one tin on the top shelf of the oven, in the middle so that it doesn't touch the sides or the back, and the other one on the middle shelf in the middle again. Leave for 20 mins and try not to look unless your cooker has a habit of burning things.

Check by touching the cakes on the top - they should feel springy. Take out the top ones and leave the ones on the middle shelf in for a little longer if needed. If you have a wire rack then take the cupcakes out of the tins and place on it. If not then just leave them on a cool plate.

Now make the icing whilst the cakes cool completely. Take an equal quantity of chocolate to cream. I use 150 mls of double cream to 150 grams of mixed dark and milk choc for mine. You can add in some spirits if you like - like Cointreau for a choc orange taste or some Malibu for coconut. Baileys is good too, whatever takes your fancy. Just a small dash though - about a tablespoon. Otherwise the consistency is too runny.

Put both choc and double cream into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring very gently until the choc is dissolved. Put the pan in the fridge and wait until it solidifies into a truffle like consistency. Then you can either eat it straight out of the pan or use to decorate your cooled cakes. We tend to decorate the cakes first and leave extra in the pan to eat before the washing up. If you find your icing has split and there's an oily film on the top it just means it's been heated too long. Don't worry, just carry on and pop it in the fridge. It will be fine once it solidifies. You just need to mix it up before you ice the cake.

I use about a teaspoon on each cake and spread using the back of the spoon. You could pipe the icing but I can never be bothered. Then add the silver balls and stars whilst still wet. Chopped nuts might be nice too or cherries if you like them. Though I've noticed cherries seem to polarise people somewhat. These keep okay for 3 - 4 days but they never last that long in our house. They're great if you ever get asked to do any charity baking as they're quick, easy, quite cheap and won't get left unsold which let's be honest is the anxiety of all public baking.
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