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The fact that I am posting a recipe up here is a little bit laughable. I am completely rubbish at most things in the kitchen - so much so that when we were first married and invited our mates round for dinner and a film, many of our more culinary friends often suggested they THEY would bring the ingredients and cook for US. In OUR kitchen. Hmmm.

Anyway, although I can turn a (cack-)hand to a family roast, the odd casserole (at a push) and a sort-of-decent lasagne, chilli and macaroni cheese, my savoury cooking skills are limited at best. I am far more suited to the chuck-it-all-in-and-let-the-KitchenAid-sort-it-out style of creating that baking allows.

Ah yes, baking. Many a sunken middle has been rescued by a more than generous layer of buttercream in my kitchen. And you can use edible glue. And glitter. What’s not to love?

So here follows my fail-safe and absolute best recipe for cupcakes. I know they’re no longer de rigueur but they make a great weekend treat or a gift for friends and are very quick to make….

I’ve experimented with lots of recipes and always come back to this one. It’s for vanilla cupcakes but you can just as easily adapt it for lemon or rose cupcakes. It makes about 12 generously sized cupcakes in muffin cases (or closer to 15 if you’re using the shallower standard cake cases).

* 110g self raising flour

* 110g caster sugar

* 110g Bertolli ‘margarine’

* 1tsp baking powder

* 1tsp vanilla extract (use the best you can find or replace with 2 tsp lemon juice and 1 tsp grated lemon zest if you’re making lemon ones)

* 2 large organic eggs

Preheat your (fan) oven to around 160-170˚. I guess about 10% higher for a non-fan assisted oven.

Chuck all the ingredients in your mixer and mix well for 2-3 minutes, stopping after 90 seconds or so to scrape any flour from the sides of the bowl into the rest of the mixture. Whizz again until the mixture is lighter in colour and has a bit of a fluffier consistency. Be careful not to over-mix as this makes for denser results I think.

Line your muffin tray with cases and using one teaspoon to scoop and one to scrape & plop, carefully divide the mixture between the cases. I allow about 1.5 dollops for each case. Too little and you’ll have flat pancakes, too much and the mixture will rise uncontrollably and spill out over the case making a right old mess.

Give the filled muffin tray a good bang on your work surface to even up the mixture a bit. I find this better than trying to do it with a palette knife as the mixture doesn’t stick to the sides of the cases this way.

Now pop them in the pre-heated oven for 13-15 minutes. The ideal baking time will very much depend on your oven. In our last home, 13 minutes exactly was perfect, but with our current oven, 15 or sometimes 16 minutes creates the perfect cupcake. Trial and error will reveal your optimal baking time, but in general, you’re aiming for a gently risen cupcake that has a light golden brown appearance and is springy when you press it lightly.

Once your cupcakes are done, remove them from the oven and using a fork, gently lever the cases out of the muffin tray. Leave them on a wire rack until they are completely cold. They will shrink back a little but that’s OK.

In the meantime, you can get on with the icing. Again, I’ve tried lots of different ways to ice cupcakes. Initially I favoured the smooth fondant icing top with rolled icing flowers on it but then the boys got a bit older and more impatient so I now mostly opt for the quick and easy butter cream option. Plus it is waaaay less fiddly.

For this you’ll need ingredients in the following proportions. The quantities below will make lots of icing so if you only like a bit, I suggest halving them and eeking it out for your 12 cupcakes:

* 500g icing sugar

* 110g unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes

* 60ml semi-skimmed milk

* ½ tsp vanilla extract (or the same of lemon juice and grated lemon zest if you’re making lemon cupcakes)

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add the other ingredients then whizz for way longer than you would think is necessary (at least 5 minutes). Half way through, give the scrape round to combine any unmixed bits of butter, then once the icing sugar looks nice and light and fluffy it is ready.

You can either plop it on using a spoon and a flat-edge knife to shape the icing, or you can use one of those squeezy bottle type things with a piping nozzle which I find is much easier and gives nice results. How you then decorate your cupcake is up to you and your imagination, but personally, I favour the 'more is more’ approach as the following examples will testify.

Happy baking!

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