You may be getting the impression that my workplace is all about cake, or at the very least, all about morning and afternoon teas. And… you might well be right. But, you see, our research covers so many different things, and they all have fundraising days! And then there’s the fact that a goodly proportion of staff and students are also involved in non-medical-research-related fundraising, and basically the outcome is a lot of morning teas.
It’s dreadful. I don’t know how I cope.
Anyway, the Division just along the corridor from my two has a lab devoted to ovarian cancer research, so naturally a morning tea was required – or rather (since teal is the ribbon colour for ovarian cancer research), a Morning Teal.
(You know, I can’t help wondering whether all these morning teas are conditioning me to hear ‘cancer’ and immediately think ‘cake!’. But then, just about everything makes me think ‘cake!’, so my psychology was probably pretty abnormal to start with.)
I’m telling you now, I have never seen so much blue food in the one place in my life. It was both gorgeous to look at and somewhat disturbing. I think that, as an Institute, we probably consumed at least two bottles of blue food colouring this morning. I didn’t notice any personality effects resulting from this, but then, I had my share of food colouring too, so I was probably running with the hyped-up crowd on this one.
Anyway, teal in food terms pretty much means blue curaçao in my book. My first thought was that evil blue curaçao marshmallow pie I made for Eurovision last year, and indeed, I did make that. But it is my practice to always make something dairy, egg, gluten, soy and nut-free for these events, because so many of my favourite people at the Institute are allergic to many of these things. Hence the cupcakes…
I could tell you that these cupcakes are gorgeous and tangy and strawberryish, and strangely friand-like in texture for cupcakes that involve absolutely no nuts. They are also decidedly teal and mildly alcoholic, icing-wise (though, I must confess, far less so than I’d hoped – but then, the number of people who were told the ingredients for my curaçao tart and kind of went teal themselves contemplating that much alcohol that early in the morning suggests that I covered the alcoholic crowd sufficiently with my alternate offering), but really they speak for themselves. No, really, they do. It’s the blue curaçao that does it. If they aren’t speaking to you before you eat them, eat a few spoonfuls of the icing and the application of wild blue food colouring and high alcohol content to your bloodstream should do the trick…
Your Shopping Listzest and juice of one orange zest of one lemon (and keep the juice aside, just in case you need it later. You can always freeze it in an ice-cube tray for future lemon juice needs if you have spare) 1 1/2 cups rice milk 2 tsp raspberry vinegar 2/3 cups canola oil 1 1/3 cups caster sugar 2 punnets (500g un-hulled) strawberries 3 cups gluten-free flour mix (or gluten-free flour from a packet) 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1 tsp bicarb of soda 1/2 cup tofutti cream cheese 1/2 cup nuttelex or other non-dairy margarine 4 cups icing sugar 20 ml blue curacao
Now what will you do with it?
Pre-heat the oven to 175°C, and line 2 x 12 cup muffin trays with blue or green or teal cupcake cases (come on, you’re putting blue curaçao all over these things, you can’t come at blue cupcake cases?).
Zest and juice your lemon and orange, and put the zest into a large bowl with the rice milk. Squeeze your orange, and measure the juice – you want half a cup, so if you don’t have quite that much, make it up with lemon juice. Add the juice to the rice milk along with the vinegar. Let sit while you play with the strawberries.
Wash the strawberries, hull them, and dice them. I make it sound so fast, don’t I? But actually, this is the most time-consuming part of the recipe.
Now add your oil and sugar to the liquid, and stir together well.
Stir your flour, bicarb and baking powder into another bowl to mix well. Slowly pour in the liquid ingredients, beating well with a fork as you go to break up the lumps. You’re going to wind up with something like a thick pancake batter, so don’t worry, it’s supposed to be that liquid. You’ll also find that it thickens a bit on stirring.
Stir in the strawberries, and then use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop out batter and pour it into the prepared muffin tins. Scoop well into the batter so that you get batter as well as strawberries (but yes, this really is very strawberryish batter).
Bake for around 20 minutes, or until the cupcakes are golden, risen and set. If your oven is not large enough to have both trays next to each other (does anyone have an oven like that? And if so, would they like to give it to me??!), swap them around half way through cooking so that they bake evenly.
Remove the cooked cupcakes from their muffin trays, and set aside on a cake rack to cool.
Now make the icing. Beat together the tofutti and margarine until smooth, then sift in the icing sugar. Stir in the blue curaçao until the mixture is no longer streaky. Pipe onto the cake. Don’t forget to lick the bowl – the party will be ever so much more fun if you do!
(if you are getting the impression that I am a total lightweight, alcohol-wise, you’d be right. This much blue curaçao is absolutely sufficient to make me very silly indeed. Then again, I’m silly most of the time, especially when sleep deprived, so who’s to say the curaçao has anything to do with it?)
(actually, this icing was *disappointingly* unalcoholic in my view, but as I said, the curaçao marshmallow tart more than made up for it…)
The main one I can think of here is that you may not want alcoholic icing, in which case, replace the curaçao with lemon juice (and maybe add some zest, too) and add a little blue food colouring to get the appropriate effect.
The other problem you might have is that your cupcakes are not blue enough. This horrible situation can easily be remedied by adding a few spoonfuls of blue curaçao to the batter (replace some of the orange juice or rice milk – don’t just add blue curaçao to the existing recipe, because this batter is liquid enough already). You could also replace the strawberries with blueberries or blackberries, of course, which would add a certain je ne sais pourquoi c’est si bleu to the whole situation. Though this would be even better in a cake with egg-whites, which might also give you an excellent anthocyanin reaction, for that truly gruesome mould-blue that everyone aspires to in baked goods.
Also, if you happen to be rummaging through your pantry and find a stash of bright blue sugar crystals… you know what to do. I wish I’d thought to photograph these cakes after demonstrating that I, too, know what to do with blue sugar crystals, but them’s the breaks.
(Yeah, I got about three hours sleep last night and then spent the day doing laps of the Institute to stay awake. The blue food colouring helped, too. Can you tell?)
Obviously, you can make this cake with plain flour and dairy milk and such, but this is really rather fun as it is. Or you could embrace the friand within and replace some of your flour (gluten-free or otherwise) with almond meal.
I’m submitting these cupcakes to the Sweet Luv challenge, run by Vardhini at Cooks Joy, which may be a mistake, because she is now going to think I’m totally bonkers. With some justice. But mad or not, it’s a good recipe…