Friday, 21 September 2012

Cream Tea Cupcakes

I recently went for a last minute jaunt down to the Jurassic Coast for a spot of fossil hunting, fish and chips on the beach and, of course, a cream tea. I have mentioned before that my boyfriend is a gluten-dodger, so we feared getting a good cream tea might be too tricky to find. Thankfully, we found a beautiful hotel called The Alexandra in Lyme Regis, apparently famous for their gluten-free cream teas. We jumped in the car and rocketed over with as much speed as was legal.

Out of curiosity, I also had a gluten-free cream tea and I can report back that it was absolutely delicious, but much more cake-y than I expected. No bad thing. Cogs turned and I decided to make cream tea cupcakes on my return to London, but not just any old cupcakes.

Richard and I stayed in a delightful cottage on Laverstock Farm in Dorset, owned by Emma and Ludo Blackburn. Emma, very kindly, gave me a box of fresh duck eggs to take home and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them.

I adore cakes made with duck eggs. The sponge is yellower and richer, thanks to their enormous yolks and you can use them as a direct substitute in pretty much any recipe that calls for hens’, but you can especially taste the difference in a Victoria sponge or vanilla cupcakes.

As it's National Cupcake Week, it had to be vanilla cupcakes, all the way. Once the duck egg cupcakes were cooked, I cut a little hole (about half an inch deep) in their middles, in preparation for a big splodge of jam, or should that be clotted cream?

Now we all know about the scones debate. No, not that one about how you should pronounce it, we will never find a resolution there. I’m talking about the cream versus jam debate: which goes  first? Some think only a lunatic would put the jam on first, while others believe cream-first devotees are only inches away from a long trip to the asylum. Personally, I’m not particular. I’d probably go for cream first if it was nearer my greedy, grabbing hand, or jam first if someone else was occupying the cream bowl. They all go down the same pie hole (or should I say cake hole) in the end anyway.

In an attempt to settle this debate, I looked it up on Wikipedia  did some important research and discovered that in Devon, the cream goes on first and the jam (which must be strawberry), goes on top. In Cornwall, it’s the other way around. As I was so close to the East Devon border, I thought it would only be polite to go native and go for cream first, but there are no such rules in south London. For my Dorset duck egg cream tea cupcakes, I thought it would be only right to try it both ways – it just wouldn’t be in the spirit of fairness not to. 

I’m sorry to say, Cornwall, although they were both equally delicious, Devon won it by a hair’s breadth for being slightly less messy to eat. Having said that, I probably ought to go back and check again, just to be sure, you understand. It just wouldn’t be in the spirit of fairness not to.

Duck egg cream tea cupcakes

For the cakes

Line a 12 hole muffin tray with cupcake cases and preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/ 350°F (325°F fan)/ Gas mark 4

3 duck eggs
6 oz/ 170g soft, unsalted butter
6oz/ 170g caster sugar
6 oz/ 170g self raising flour, sifted
1 tsp of baking powder (optional)
A generous splash (none of your “a few drops” nonsense) of vanilla extract

Strawberry jam
Clotted cream

Use the all-in-one method (mix everything at the same time) if you are using an electric whisk. If making it by hand, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy, before adding the eggs and vanilla and then mixing in the flour.

Divide the batter between the cases (you want to be quite generous as the cakes need to rise above the paper cases) and bake for 20 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

You can serve them warm or leave them to cool, before cutting out a shallow cone shape from the centre of each cake (you can just slice their tops off if you prefer). Fill the hole with cream before topping it with a blob of jam. Or the other way around if you prefer.

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