This beautiful little cupcake perfectly captures the spirit of St Valentine’s Day, all gooey and sweet with a cherry on top! If you are a romantic at heart, then this is the Valentine’s treat for you. Celebrate your love of cupcakes and your love for your Valentine and get baking!
MON CHERRY AMOUR CUPCAKES
This has got to be the Valentine’s Day cupcake, for both couples and sweet-toothed singletons. The Kirsch adds a hint of liquorice to the buttercream. What better way to celebrate your love of cupcakes?
12 glacé/candied cherries
Vanilla cupcake mixture
½ vanilla bean
150 g/1 cup icing/confectioners’ sugar
150 g/1 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain/all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
150 g/1 stick plus 3 tablespoons butter, melted
50 g/½ cup finely chopped pistachios, plus extra to decorate
180 g/1½ sticks butter, at room temperature
320 g/2¼ cups icing/confectioners’ sugar
50 ml/3½ tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pistachio paste*
1 tablespoon Kirsch cherry liqueur
green food colouring (optional)
cupcake pan, lined with 12 cupcake cases
piping bag, fitted with a star-shaped nozzle/tip
To make the vanilla cupcake mixture, start the day before you want to bake the cupcakes. Split the vanilla bean lengthways and scrape the seeds out into a bowl. Add the eggs and sugar and beat with an electric whisk until tripled in volume and the beaters leave a thick ribbon trail when you lift them out of the mixture.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and whisk lightly. Add the melted butter and chopped pistachios and fold in gently with a large metal spoon. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
The next day, preheat the oven to 160˚C (325˚F) Gas 3.
Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases and bake in the preheated oven for about 15–20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
To make the pistachio buttercream, put the butter, sugar, milk, vanilla extract, pistachio paste and Kirsch in a bowl and beat with an electric whisk or by hand with a wooden spoon until you get a light, fluffy texture. Stir in drops of the food colouring until you get the desired shade of pistachio green, if you like.
Fill the piping bag with the buttercream and pipe on top of the cold cupcakes. Balance a glacé/candied cherry on top and sprinkle extra chopped pistachios around the edge.
*To make your own pistachio paste, roast 125 g/1 cup pistachios on a baking sheet in a preheated oven at 160˚C (325˚F) Gas 3 for 10 minutes, taking care not to let them burn. Transfer to a bowl. Put 175 ml/⅔ cup water and 60 g/⅓ cup (caster) sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. When the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is boiling, cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Carefully pour this syrup into a food processor with the roasted pistachios and 30 g/⅓ cup ground almonds and pulse until you get a smooth paste.
If all that makes you feel a little green about the gills, then never fear, Harold Speculex to the rescue! Marty Allen’s creation from Sock Puppet Madness is the perfect gift for the wickedly humoured Valentine in your life. Make your own sock puppet and let Harold Speculex melt a few hearts this Valentine’s Day!
Harold is one of the three Super Speculex Bros, all so different but with a mutual love of, and dependence upon, glasses. Harold is also an amateur scientist (holding patents in applied flying burrito technologies and experimental aeronautics). His eyeglasses expertise encompasses the complex science of spectacles as well as the science behind eyes and perception. Ladies fall for him like bricks off a bridge, and he’s left a trail of broken hearts longer than a line at the post office.
Harold Speculex is the consummate sock puppet with eyeglasses. His techniques apply across a wide array of styles, demonstrating how the eyeball is not always attached right to the head, a notion that isn’t obvious…
Templates on page 120
Black sticky felt
Squares of white and blue craft foam
Two small blue craft pompoms
Small piece of paper
1 If you want to use templates, copy the ones on page 120, then prep the sock utilizing the “cardboard mouth” technique (see pp. 17–18). I recommend a MEDIUM oval. Once the sock is reversed, add the oval of blue sticky felt for the mouth interior, cut to be slightly smaller than the cardboard oval, and put a large amount of head fluff in the top for structure.
2 EYEGLASSES: From blue craft foam, cut out two 1 in (2.5 cm) circles and “hollow” out ¾ in (2 cm) openings (see pattern). Edge the interior and exterior with a slight “edge in.” Cut out two small circles of white paper, sized to fit the hollowed-out openings. Carefully glue each white circle inside the hollowed-out openings. Using a black marker, add a black dot to the center of each eyeball. Using the same blue craft foam, cut out a very small ½ in (13 mm) long glasses bridge and edge the sides and a touch in. Again using blue craft foam, following the pattern, cut out the 2 in (5cm) glasses arms, also edging slightly. Glue the two main eyeholes via the small bridge. Glue the glasses arms so that they point toward the back of the head, applying just a drop of glue and holding in place. Glue the full glasses/eyes so that the bottom of the lenses sit just atop the mouth.
3 TEETH: Harold is nothing without his goofy grin. From white craft foam, cut out two ½ in (13 mm) long by ¾ in (2 cm) wide front buckteeth and two slightly smaller teeth. Glue them about ¼ in (1 cm) apart along the top edge of the mouth.
4 HAIR: Harold is, like several other sock puppets, proud to be bald. Glue each blue pompom about 1½ in (3 cm) behind the glasses and 1½ in (3 cm) apart.
Le Cookie by Mickael Benichou is published by Ryland Peters & Small on 14th February
Sock Puppet Madness by Marty Allen is published by Cico Books on 14th February
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