rhubarb & vanilla cupcakes

© Lydia, punge.blogspot.co.uk

It's rhubarb season again!

Yep, I've been on the silent side, I've just started a new job and have been too distracted with the move to put enough effort into creating new stuff, but I'm back! To ease myself back in, and as thanks for the generous gift of rhubarb from my colleague Andy, I'm rehashing a recipe done once before and tarting it up to turn it from an everyday bake to a special cupcake.

The classic pairings for rhubarb, as far as I'm concerned, are ginger or custard, and the custard was calling to me. Well, a sort of custard. Given that custard is basically vanilla in flavour, I opted for a super vanilla-y white chocolate buttercream with a rhubarb swirl to top this off. And vanilla sounds more decadent than custard. 

This recipe originated as the Sticky Rhubarb Drizzle Cake, which makes a nice, un-frosted casual bake should you wish to go for the mildly healthier option instead.

© Lydia, punge.blogspot.co.uk

Lydia's Rhubarb and Vanilla Cupcakes (12)

300g (2-3 stalks) rhubarb (if you have more, great!)
¼ tsp lemon juice
225g (9oz) butter or margarine
225g (1 cup) sugar
4 eggs
250g (1¾ cup) self-raising flour

White Chocolate & Rhubarb Buttercream
about 50g (2oz) caster sugar
100g (3½oz) white chocolate
140g (5 oz) unsalted butter
200g icing (1 cup confectioner's) sugar
2tsp vanilla extract
vanilla seeds, if you have them 

Chop 250g of the rhubarb (leaving approx 4 inches of one stalk for later, or more if you have more) and place in a pan on a medium heat with the lemon, covered, for approximately 10 minutes. Strain gently through a sieve - but don't squeeze it, you need a juicy pulp to keep the cake batter moist. Keep both the juice and pulp for use in the recipe.

Chop the remaining rhubarb (up to 200g) into small chunks (about 1cm³) and set aside for later.

Preheat the oven to 160°C (electric/fan, 180°C gas -mark 4, 320-350°F) and line your cupcake pan with cases.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 

Add the eggs one at a time while beating, adding a little of the flour between additions of egg if the mixture becomes too runny.

Fold in the flour and rhubarb pulp from the juice extraction process. The batter should have a good dropping (but not pouring) consistency, if it is too thick, add a little of the extracted rhubarb juice.

If you had lots of rhubarb, at this stage set aside about 48 chopped pieces (4 per cupcake) and fold the rest of your rhubarb into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Place the remaining chopped rhubarb on the top and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the tops are golden, you should be able to hear a fizzing sound.

© Lydia, punge.blogspot.co.uk
While the cupcakes are in the oven, prepare the rhubarb drizzle by mixing the rhubarb juice with up to half the weight in sugar (I had 100g (4oz) juice and added 50g (2oz) sugar, if you want a tarter flavour then start with ¼ of the weight of rhubarb in sugar), and bring to a low boil over a low heat to reduce to a syrupy consistency. This will take about 10 minutes. The hot syrup will thicken as it cools, you're aiming for a watered down / warm honey consistency.

For the buttercream, melt the chocolate in a bain marie / double boiler (or melt in a bowl above simmering water, being careful not to allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water). Set aside to cool to body temperature.

© Lydia, punge.blogspot.co.uk

Beat the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the vanilla extract, cooled chocolate, and the vanilla seeds if using.

Swirl in your rhubarb syrup (I had just over 2 tbsp) delicately so that it doesn't mix completely with the rest of the buttercream, and pipe onto the cupcakes once they've cooled.


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