Lemon Sunflower Cupcakes

Originally posted 14/06/2013

I made these lovely summery cupcakes for Sunday Baking Club’s (@SundayBakeClub on Twitter – go follow them for fabulous baking fun!) ‘Citrus Zing’ themed competition and they received a lot of compliments from other entrants 🙂 The pretty sunflower design also provoked much cooing in admiration when I took them into work! I’d never used lemon extract before but my mum and I were given a free bottle when we went to the Good Food show back in November and I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised by the delicate citrus flavour it gave to the buttercream without making it taste at all synthetic. Both my dad and brother said that they were not fans of lemon but that these cakes were delicious and not too overwhelmingly ‘citrussy’. You could of course use real lemon juice, though!

The icing technique is a heck of a lot simpler and quicker than it looks – in fact, I personally find it much easier to do than regular swirly piping. Chocolate buttons are a simple and yummy way of creating the centre of the sunflower but you could also add black/chocolate icing using the same piping technique as the petals for a more textured look. The ladybirds were a last minute addition but they make a nice colourful finishing touch and are so easy to create!

I also made some diddy versions using a miniature silicone muffin tin 🙂

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 15-18

For the cakes:

  • 170g/6 oz self-raising flour
  • 170g/6 oz caster/granulated sugar
  • 170g/6 oz margarine/butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp lemon extract

For the icing/flower centres/ladybirds:

  • 280g/10 oz icing sugar
  • 140g/5 oz butter (unsalted if preferred)
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 tsp yellow food colouring
  • 15-18 large milk chocolate buttons
  • A few red Smarties or M&Ms
  • Small tube of dark chocolate or black writing icing

METHOD

For the cakes:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line two baking trays with 18 paper cake cases.
  2. Whisk the margarine/butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until pale then whisk in the eggs.
  3. Fold in the flour, baking powder and lemon extract until a batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  4. Drop the mixture into all of the cake cases until they’re each about three quarters full.
  5. Pop the cupcakes into the oven for about 12-15 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponge comes out clean.
  6. When baked, place on a wire rack and leave to cool. At this stage the cakes can be frozen for decorating at a later stage if you wish.

For the icing, flower centres & ladybirds:

  1. Place the butter, lemon extract and food colouring into a bowl and whisk while gradually adding the icing sugar until a thick, fluffy mixture has formed. If the icing is too pale, add a little more colouring.
  2. Spoon the icing into a piping bag with a rope or star nozzle attachment and pipe little rosettes in circles around each cake, working from the outside then moving inwards to the centre, then firmly push a large chocolate button into the middle.
  3. Use the dark chocolate/black writing icing tube to pipe a ‘T’ shape onto each Smartie/M&M then add two dots either side of each line to create the ladybirds’ eyes and spots, as per the photo. Place randomly onto your chosen cakes.

Edit: I used this recipe to create my stepgrandad’s birthday cake – he absolutely loved it! 🙂

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