Do you remember rosy apples? They were a kind of boiled sweet, which were allegedly apple flavour but were, in truth, just sugar flavour. They were shades of green and pink never found in any fruit known to nature, being reserved for tropical fish and the more lurid birds of paradise. There was a little sour hit to them, but mostly they were the kind of confectionary that would leave the roof of your mouth feeling simultaneously puckered and shredded, and your eyes spinning like comedy bow ties from the potent cocktail of sugar and artificial colourings.
Naturally, I thought they were a good candidate for a cupcake makeover.
I made the Rosy Apple Cupcakes as a leaving gift for a colleague, who is off to become a teacher. Apple cakes seemed an appropriate gift, as I’m sure she’ll be the most popular teacher in the school and will find many shiny apples left on her desk as tokens of appreciation. For her sake, I hope she will find other tokens there too. Like shiny bottles of wine. Teaching is a hard job.
I used a new to me ingredient in these cakes: dried, sweetened apple. I found this by accident while shopping; food shopping is the only kind I really enjoy, and I quite often browse the baking section of whichever shop I’m in, to get ideas or find new things. The dried apple seemed like a great ingredient for these cakes – sometimes using real fruit can leave the surrounding sponge soggy, and nobody likes a soggy sponge.
The sponge itself is a standard vanilla sponge recipe, using wheat free flour, with the chunks of apple diced up and mixed through. The smell of these little cakes as they baked was exactly the smell of the fairy cakes I used to make when I was just learning about baking, from a recipe in my Brownies handbook. In my quest to always be trying new flavours and different techniques, I’ve turned my back on the humble fairy cake, and the wonderful smell of these brought on a great deal of nostalgia in the Rock Salt kitchen. They even came out of the oven looking like my fairy cakes of old – a gently rolling, slightly cracked, barely golden dome of vanilla scented loveliness.
To finish these, I made a cream cheese icing with a half teaspoon of citric acid thrown in for a good sour hit. I will say now, cream cheese icing and I don’t really get along very well. It never gets as thick as I want it to, so it doesn’t hold its shape well after piping. It’s fine for spreading, or filling, or for cakes where you don’t mind the icing staying soft, but personally I prefer a good buttercream that crunches on the surface when you bite into it. It’s a shame, because I do really enjoy a cream cheese icing, expecially with lemon or, the ultimate combination, on carrot cake, but it’s often a pain to make and this time it was definitely out to get me.
I combined a mix of cream cheese and room temperature butter with an ungodly amount of icing sugar until I ran out, mixed in a pinch of salt to temper that eye-wateringly sugary taste and then dyed half pink and half green – I went for more subtle shades than the original sweeties, but not by much. Then I piped the icing on to the cakes in a swirl of the two colours, just as I did with the Brandy Alexander cupcakes but with the colour split evenly this time, half and half. When I wrote the post on those Brandy Alexanders, I said I’d document the process better next time. This was the next time, and I found out that it’s much easier to describe this method of icing than it is to take photos of it, at least with the limited set-up I have in my kitchen.
The long and short of it is, you fill one side of the bag with one colour, the other with the second colour, and then squeeze them together so that the two touch without mixing. Then you pipe as normal, being sure to apply even pressure to the piping bag, and you get a pretty, two-tone swirl effect. This is the only photo I managed to get. Even though I have good, wide piping bags, getting the sticky, too-soft cream cheese icing to go in there was a battle of wills. I got about as much icing on my hands as I did in the bag, and after a very short while the thought of licking it off as I usually would was making me feel like I might burst a blood vessel in my eye from sheer sugar overload.
I would like to clarify that I always wash my hands after I lick icing off them. I am a clean and hygienic baker. Thank you for your attention to this public service announcement.
I couldn’t take any more photos of the process – I wasn’t sure which photos would illustrate the technique, and even if I had been my camera was buried under a mound of icing. I’m sure I heard that icing chuckling, though that may have been a hallucination brought on by inhaling excessive amounts of powdered sugar.
The end result was much prettier to look at than the mid point, anyway. See?
A pretty mix of pink and green, and what seems to be a perfect swirl with a perfect point at the top.
Needless to say, this was the best of the bunch. The rest had varying degrees of success. I blame the cream cheese.