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Monday 1 July 2013

Salted Caramel Cupcake Kit by Sainsbury's

Nothing says "Sorry for neglecting you for so long" like cupcakes so, after my previous reasonable success, I've been looking at various easy cupcake-making options over the last few months. I'm not sure whether cupcake-making kits predate the likes of Wright's Flours or whether they're a response to them in the same way that most supermarkets now have their own brand of 'just add water' bread mixes, but they are becoming quite prominent on the baking aisles. Then again, cupcakes seem to be big business these days... Every time I go to something like the London Expo (sorry, the MCM London Comic Con), there seems to be a greater number of stands selling little more than glittering, brightly coloured sugar mountains...

Wanting to try something a bit different from the average sweetness explosion, I picked up this kit, which purports to make six cupcakes with the aid of nothing more than a single (medium) egg, 120g of butter and a grand total of 50ml of water.

  • 1 Sachet Cupcake Mix
  • 1 Sachet Icing Mix
  • 1 Sachet Drizzle Mix
  • 1 Sachet Fudge Pieces
  • 1 Medium Egg
  • 120g Unsalted Butter (approximately half an average brick)
Preparation Time: approximately 30-45 minutes

Tools Required:
  • At Least One Mixing Implement (eg. Whisk - Electric or otherwise, though I used a jar scraper for the icing)
  • 2 Small/Medium Mixing Bowls (one for the cake mix, one for the icing)
  • Teacup-sized Bowl (or a teacup, for the drizzle)
  • Muffin Tray
  • Piping Bag or Palette Knife (for applying the icing, though I just used a normal table knife)
The Process:
I have to say the instructions on the box are pretty clear... but they're also fairly minimal and very much 'best case scenario'. Since my kitchen rarely bares witness to a best case scenario, here's a fuller explanation...

To begin with, preheat the oven to 180C (160C for fan-assisted), then place the provided cupcake cases into the muffin tray. Set these aside for the time being, and pour the contents of the Cupcake Mix sachet into one of your bowls. As it comes out, it may be slightly clumpy, so it's worth giving it a quick whisk to break it up a little. Add the egg and 45ml of water (about three tablespoons - doesn't seem like much, but the egg adds a fair bit of fluid). Whisk the mixture till smooth. An electric whisk might do a better job than my manual whisk did, as the mixture remained pretty lumpy for me.

Spoon the contents into the cases, trying to ensure even distribution, as this will ensure your cupcakes will all be of approximately the same size. Stick the muffin tray into the oven, on the middle shelf, for about 15 minutes (hopefully you'll know your oven well enough to judge timings but, if you're unsure, there's the old trick of sticking a fork or toothpick into the cake where, if it comes out clean, the cake is ready... I was in the process of washing all the forks while this was going on, so my girlfriend used an Alien chestburster chopstick instead). When the cakes are done, let them cool in the muffin tray for about five minutes before moving them to a wire rack. And, seriously, don't eat any along the way.

Next comes the icing and, bizarrely, all you need in your medium-sized bowl is the sachet of Icing Mix and 120g of unsalted butter. No fluids necessary. It's as well to have left the butter out of the fridge for a couple of hours (or less, during summer!) to ensure it's nice and soft, and easy to mix. The box recommends using an electric whisk for everything but, considering how much of the icing mix went flying the moment I started stirring manually (albeit with a jar scraper which is, perhaps, not ideal), I would recommend avoiding electric whisks for this stage, if not altogether. Despite the softness of the butter I used, mixing this stuff was very tiring (you'd think my wrists would be stronger...) and it took quite a while for the bowl of powder and chunks of powder-coated butter to become anything resembling icing, during which time I snorted quite a bit of airborne icing. Cue jokes about rolling up £20 notes and 'doing lines' of icing.

Wow, I'm so Middle Class.

This kind of icing, despite the description on the box, never quite becomes 'light and fluffy', so stop stirring/whisking when you have a fairly consistent paste. If you've done this manually, the cakes will almost certainly be fully cooled by now, so grab your icing-application implement of choice and get spreading. There will be enough icing for a very generous topping, but you may wish to give each cake a small amount of icing to begin with and build each one up in stages, to ensure an even spread.

The final stage is the Dressing of the Cupcake, for which you will need the last two sachets. The first is the Drizzle Sauce, which needs - somewhat incredibly - a single teaspoon (5ml!) of boiling water. Quite how they expect you to accomplish that, I'm not sure. Carefully, of course. My girlfriend very deftly poured the water straight from the kettle into a teaspoon.

Once this miniscule amount of water is fully stirred in, you have a surprisingly thin sauce to pour gracefully and artistically over your six lovingly iced cupcakes. Once you're happy with that, open the final sachet - the fudge pieces - and carefully arrange them in complex geometric patterns over the top. Or just sprinkle them randomly. Each to their own.

One step that's not mentioned on the box - and actually isn't completely necessary - is sticking the finished cupcakes in the fridge to allow the icing to set a little before you eat them. This is my preference, because otherwise the icing just oozes everywhere every time you take a bite. If you have poor impulse control, you may wish to start scoffing immediately...

I'm a bit nonplussed by these cupcakes... I'd always though that, as well as featuring opulent towers of icing, they were supposed to be tasty cakes but, in all honesty, I couldn't tell you what the cakes taste like. They're not entirely without flavour, but it's nothing outstanding. It really is the icing, the drizzle and the fudge pieces that make these cupcakes... So don't be surprised if, after your first taste, you end up just licking all the icing off and discarding the cake.

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