Missing out on family celebrations is never much fun, especially when you belong to a family which always honours special occasions with plenty of booze and good food. I love enjoying special meals with my loved ones, be it at home or in a restaurant, and washing down the food with a cocktail or two. Cosmopolitans are one of my mum’s favourite cocktails. I remember drinking them in a Broadway theatre with my brother when we went on holiday to New York; I remember a couple of Christmases ago when the central heating stopped working and we huddled in front of the heater with Comsopolitans, boozing away the afternoon.
So, in honour of my mother’s birthday later this week, here are the cupcakes I would be treating her to, were I not many miles away. They’re the first thing I’ve made from my new Peggy Porschen book, which is more complicated (presentation-wise, certainly) than other baking books I own, but I feel ready for more challenges. There are a couple of tweaks I would make next time, noted below, but by and large they were really tasty little cakes (and received the coveted 10/10 score from my boyfriend!). With a bit of sparkle on top, they are ideal for celebrating birthdays. In this case, another year older, but never any wiser!
Makes about 16 (I quartered the recipe and got 4), from Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen
125g dried cranberries
Cointreau, for soaking
200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
pinch of salt
zest of 2 oranges
4 medium eggs, beaten
200g self-raising flour
200g full-fat cream cheese
200g butter, softened
500g icing sugar, sifted
zest 2 oranges
dash of Cointreau, to taste
150ml freshly squeezed orange juice
150g caster sugar
50ml reserved Cointreau, from soaking the cranberries
1. Place the cranberries in a bowl, cover generously with Cointreau, cover with clingfilm and leave overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 175C and line muffin trays with paper cases.
3. Cream together the butter, sugar, salt and orange zest until pale and fluffy.
4. Gradually whisk in the eggs.
5. Sift in the flour and stir until just combined.
6. Following the original recipe, you should fill the paper cases two-thirds full with the batter, then drain the cranberries, reserving the liquid for the sugar syrup, and drop them into the cupcakes. However, to get a better distribution, next time I plan to fill the case sone third full, scatter in the cranberries, then top up the batter to two thirds full.
7. Bake for 12-15 minutes (mine took a few minutes longer, so do test them before taking them out of the oven) until golden brown and springy to touch. Stand in the tins for 10 minutes after baking.
8. While the cupcakes are baking, make the sugar syrup: in a small pan, bring the orange juice and caster sugar to the boil and simmer until all the sugar crystals are dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly. Flavour with the reserved Cointreau to taste – 50ml should be enough.
9. While the cakes are still in the tins, pour 1/2 a teaspoon of the sugar syrup over each one. (The recipe calls on you to simply brush them with it, but for me the booze didn’t come through strongly enough, so this should do the trick if you also favour a boozier bite.) Then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.
10. To make the icing, beat the cream cheese until smooth. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter, icing sugar and orange zest. Add the cream cheese a little at a time, mixing with an electric mixer until combined. Add a splash of Cointreau, or any leftover from the cranberry-soaking. I imagine a bit of bright pink food colouring wouldn’t go amiss either.
11. Ice the cakes and make them look suitably pretty!