It has long been my opinion that any day is made better with the addition of some sort of baked good. This holds particularly true for Fridays. A healthy (or unhealthy) dose of something sweet and crumbly, frosted or cream-filled eases you into the weekend like nothing else.
So, in order to have a painless and floaty Friday in the office, I have devoted this evening to making cupcakes. They are sort of a good omen, stacked on their plate looking all tasty. They are promising me that tomorrow I will not spend the WHOLE day faffing around with spreadsheets as I did today. Sigh.
Speaking of omens ...
These cupcakes are made with peaches and cream. To me, those three words are as strong a proof as any of the poetry in food. Say them out loud - go on. Peaches and cream. Roll them around in your mouth like marbles, and let them fall slowly off the end of your tongue. Peaches. And. Cream. There now, don't you feel better?
I've chosen to make these particular cupcakes because my lovely colleague, Sally, is getting married very soon. It may seem silly, but for me, 'peaches and cream' suggests more than just a sweet, fuzzy, fruity richness. It has all kinds of connotations, lots of them not connected to food in the slightest, and all of them warm and happy.
It's waking up slowly to the sound of church bells.
It's the way that light filters green through leaves.
It's realising you've spent hours reading and it's now gone midnight.
It's the secret look you share with someone in the seconds after you've kissed.
It's the satisfied feeling of a job well done.
It's lots more besides ...
So, these slightly wonky cupcakes of mine are about more than just fruit and frosting.
To Sally and David. May your life together always be peaches and cream.
Peaches and Cream Cupcakes
(Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)
For the cakes:
140g caster sugar
150g plain flour (the original recipe calls for 120g, but to me this makes a mix that is just that bit too sloppy.)
1 heaped tsp baking powder
40g butter (very soft)
120ml whole milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 fresh peaches (the recipe goes with tinned, but I couldn't resist the lure of fresh peaches, and those that didn't go in this recipe were slurped and eaten over the sink. Juice still ran up to my elbows.)
For the frosting:
The original recipe uses a vanilla icing, but I've gone for a twist on the Hummingbird's cream cheese frosting, incorporating some clotted cream to give added richness. This does mean your frosting is slightly thinner than usual, but it's lovely and silky, and if you don't mind whacking the iced cakes in the fridge for half an hour or so before serving, then the difference in texture is negligible.
300g icing sugar
50g butter (softened)
90g cream cheese
35g Cornish clotted cream
- Preheat the oven to 170C / Gas Mark 3 and line a cupcake tray with paper cases. This recipe is enough for 12-14 cakes.
- Put the sugar, flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl and mix together until you get a crumble-topping like texture. Rather than using an electric whisk, I favour a mixture of wooden spoon and rubbing in with my hands.
- Add half the milk slowly, stirring all the time, until it's all mixed in.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the egg, vanilla extract and the rest of the milk, then pour this into the flour mixture and stir it vigorously until you've got a smooth, quite wet mixture.
- Peel your peaches. To do this, split them in half around the stone, and then slice them in half again. Carefully make an incision between the skin and the flesh at one end of each slice, and then, if the peach is ripe, the skin should peel off in one piece in your hand. This is ridiculously satisfying!
- Slice the peaches into small cubes, and divide them between your paper cake cases.
- Dollop the mixture on top of the peach layer until the cake case is about two thirds full.
- Pop them in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until evenly golden.
- Mix together the butter and icing sugar until they come together. Again, I start with a wooden spoon here, as my electric whisk appears only to have two settings (maim and annihilate), and using it here results in everything I have ever owned being covered in clouds of white powder. If you start to lose the will to live, add a splash of water to help.
- Add the cream cheese and the clotted cream straight from the fridge, and beat with an electric whisk on a fairly high speed for a few minutes, until smooth, glossy and fairly thick. Don't beat it for too long though, or it will be too runny to stay put on your cakes.
When the cakes have cooled completely, put a generous dollop of frosting on top of each one, and place in the fridge for half an hour or so to set.