No kid’s birthday party in Australia during the 80’s and 90’s was complete without a cake from the Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake book. Trains, popcorn ducks, jelly swimming pools with chocolate sticks as a fences – Mums all over the country slaved over elaborate creations, wishing all along their kids could have chosen the easy rabbit shaped cake.
Home made cakes seem to have gone by the wayside a little in these busy times, replaced by an easy transfer cake topper of brightly coloured cartoon characters or an expensive custom creation, which seems a waste when it will be demolished in a few seconds after it’s presented.
Today’s adorable range of cookie cutters and cupcake holders takes me back to a time of home-made goodies and licking the icing from the bowl as Mum decorated a cake. With my easy piping directions and a simple chocolate cupcake recipe (with an optional grown up twist) you can spoil the kids or big kids without having to slave away for hours or break the budget. Plus with succulents booming in home décor, these cactus cakes are absolutely on trend.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Cactus Buttercream Icing
Use your favourite chocolate cupcake recipe. If you’re pressed for time, a packet mix will do for bulk cooking for a party.
For an an adult twist, add ¼ tsp of chili powder, ½ tsp of cayenne pepper and ½ tsp of ground cinnamon to the recipe to add a spicy chili kick to the cupcakes.
250g butter (softened not melted)
3 cups of sifted icing sugar
Buttercream icing is so simple to make. Just place the butter in a mixer (a hand mixer will do as well) and beat until the butter is pale and creamy. On a low speed, add the sifted sugar, ½ a cup at a time, and beat until the sugar is mixed in and dissolved. It should be a light creamy colour.
Add just a few drops of a green food colouring, either the liquid or a leaf green gel. 3 drops will give the icing a nice cactus green colour. If you want, add one drop of blue to give it a slight aqua tinge.
Put the icing in the fridge for 10 minutes to cool just slightly.
It is very important for the cupcakes to be completely cool before piping, otherwise the icing will melt and you’ll end up with a globby mess.
I used a No. 32 star piping tip to create the cactus stems; these are only a few dollars each and are available from most baking or cookware stores. Before you start, place the piping bag in a tall glass and fold the edges around the top. Fill the bag about halfway with the icing and push it down towards the tip. Don’t over fill the bag or it will get to hard to control and handle.
Step 1 – Twist the bag tight and using two hands, squeeze out a little dollop of icing in the centre of the cupcake.
Step 2 – With short even actions, pipe lines from the centre of the cupcake outwards to the edge, releasing the end with a quick flicking motion upwards. This way the icing will break from the tip and you’ll be left with a little upwards point on the end of the cactus stem.
Step 3 – Turn the cupcake and continue piping from the centre outwards until the top is covered with one layer.
Step 4 – Starting from the centre again, pipe a second layer outwards, ending half way down the cake, then a few final pipes in the centre to create more ‘peaks’.
Step 5 – To finish off, add a small sugar flower (available in the baking section of most supermarkets) to give a pop of colour.