Firstly, friends, my apologies for how long it’s been since I last posted. Most of my cake-energy has been subsumed by writing an absolutely mammoth guide to the 50 best bakeries in London for the Evening Standard. I know, excuses, excuses. It nearly cost me my love of cake (for all you might say my job is great, after the fifth bakery in a day I defy anyone to feel anything but ill) but 3,000+ words later and probably a stone heavier I’m done and recovered. So it’s back to it at Pippa Bakes.
We’re starting with these beauties – peanut butter cupcakes. I love the flavour of peanut butter, but find it too salty and the texture too cloying to actually enjoy out of the tub. Well, while on my cake guide travels, I spent a very pleasant half hour at the Primrose Bakery tucking into a peanut butter cupcake and – a revelatory moment – it was incredible; possibly the best cupcake I’ve ever eaten.
Sadly, there’s no recipe for peanut butter cupcakes in either of the Primrose Bakery cookbooks I own, so I did my best to make it up instead. I started with my basic vanilla sponge cupcake recipe, switched the caster sugar for dark brown because it seemed somehow more suited, and ladled in that peanut butter to taste. Smooth, obviously. They’re finished off with milk chocolate buttercream (with a bit more peanut butter for good measure) and peanut brittle. Not quite as good as Primrose, but near enough.
75g unsalted butter or margarine
180g soft dark brown sugar
3 heaped tablespoons smooth peanut butter
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g milk chocolate
100g unsalted butter
500g icing sugar
1 dessert spoon peanut butter (or more, to taste)
80g caster sugar
60g unsalted peanuts
Preheat the oven to 160°C fan and line a cupcake tray with cases.
Cream together the butter/margarine and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the peanut butter and beat again until incorporated.
Weigh out the remaining dry ingredients so they’re ready, then add the eggs one at a time, beating between each. If the mixture begins to curdle, add a spoonful or two of flour to help bring it back together.
Next, beat in a third of the flour, followed by half the milk. Repeat, then finish up with the final third of flour.
Divide equally between your cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes until an inserted knife comes out clean. Leave to cool entirely.
Now to make the peanut brittle so it has time to set. Caramel may defeat Great British Bake Off contestants when they’re under pressure, but in the comfort of your own kitchen it’s really nothing to be frightened of.
First, get out a non-stick baking sheet or piece of greaseproof paper and lay it in a baking tray. Take a heavy-bottomed non-stick pan and place it over a medium heat, then add the sugar and don’t stir. Give the pan an occasional shake as the sugar begins to melt and leave over the heat until it’s all melted, then continue to cook until it reaches a deep copper colour – a bit like a 2p coin. If it starts to smoke, turn down the heat; you don’t want to burn it.
When it’s ready, pour in the peanuts and stir quickly before it begins to set, then pour onto your prepared baking sheet and flatten with the back of the spoon so it’s all one-peanut deep.
Leave to set at room temperature and then use your hands to snap it into small, cupcake-ready pieces.
For the icing, melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave or over a bain-marie and set aside to cool. Cream the butter until smooth, then add the icing sugar a bit at a time until well combined and fluffy. Lastly, mix in the milk and melted chocolate and peanut butter, adding more to taste if you wish. Pipe or spread liberally on top and finish each with a piece of brittle.