After a week dedicated to transforming clothes pins into giraffes and plastic bottles into lions, making plain cupcakes seemed a little boring. Inspired by the adorable lion project that the kids put together in this week’s Saturday workshop, we decided to make LION CUPCAKES!
FunLab Mom hint: Cupcakes are the universal favorite of most American kids. They are basically a single serving of cake for little ones. We decided to make a really simple vanilla cupcake and buttercream frosting and jazz them up with lion faces made out of candy. We have suggestions on how to decorate the cupcakes but remember that any candy can be turned into a decoration! If you try the recipe at home, let us know how it turns out!
You will need:
1/2 cup (113 g) room temperature butter
2/3 cup (130 g) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
zest from one lemon
1 1/2 cup (195 g) flour
1 1/2 (7,5 g) baking powder*
1/4 teaspoon salt (a scant coffee spoon full)
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
1. Blend together butter and sugar using a mixer until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Add vanilla and lemon zest.
2. Mix together flour and baking powder.
3. Add 1/2 of the flour mixture and beat until blended. Add milk and beat until blended. Add remaining flour and completely incorporate, scraping down the bowl sides.
4. Spoon batter into 12 muffin tins lined with paper liners. Cook for 17 to 20 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK OR THE CUPCAKES WILL BE DRY. A good way to determine if the cupcakes are done is that they should be golden brown and a toothpick inserted should come out clean. Let cool completely.
5. Make frosting by beating butter (1/2 cup or 113 g) until creamy. Add powdered sugar (2 cups or 230g) and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla (1 teaspoon or 5 ml) and milk (2 tablespoons or 30 ml). Beat until creamy and light. Frost cupcakes with a generous layer of buttermilk frosting.
Now for the fun! Add candies to make the lion faces. We had a blast! To make things easier, we put all the candy types in different small bowls. Then the kids could pick what they wanted to add and individualize their lions.
We used small soft fruit candies cut in half for the mane, M&Ms for the eyes, a soft fruit candy cut into a triangle for the nose and licorice for the whiskers. For the licorice, we used wheels that we unrolled and cut into whisker sized pieces.
This was the kid’s favorite: M&Ms everywhere! The rest stays the same.
* For those of you who are familiar with American recipes, you can skip this explanation. American cookies and cakes usually use one of two chemical leaveners: baking soda or baking powder. Baking soda is easy to come by in Italy in that it is bicarbonato. As a general rule it is used in recipes that contain an acidic ingredient such chocolate and it starts to leaven as soon as it comes in contact with the batter meaning that these recipes should be baked immediately. Baking soda is around three times stronger than baking powder.
Baking powder is a little bit more complicated in that it is a composition made out of baking soda, cream of tartar and cornstarch. The leavening occurs in two phases: the first is activated immediately upon addition to the batter and second phase requires heat and occurs during baking. Baking powder tends to be used in heavy batters that require an extra boost of carbon dioxide gas to leaven correctly and do not contain an acidic ingredient. In Italy, baking powder can be found in most international and bio markets. You can also make it at home by combining 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 grams) baking soda plus 1/2 cup (120 ml) of an acidic ingredient (buttermilk, sour milk or yogurt) to have the equivalent to 1 teaspoon of commercial baking powder. Remember that this homemade baking powder does not have the heat activated phase and the batter should be baked immediately. We used commercial baking powder.
Inpiration: the Joy of Baking. Check out the site it is really beautiful.