Cups of sweet­ness

Whether a fad or a se­ri­ous fash­ion, th­ese lit­tle cakes are here to stay

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All over the coun­try, cloth­ing de­sign­ers are putting the fi­nal touches on their prepa­ra­tions for Fash­ion Week this month. In the mix, I’m won­der­ing if, in any man­ner or form, there will be cup­cakes.

It was a 30-sec­ond cameo on Sex and the City that rock­eted th­ese lit­tle cakes to fame as a fash­ion icon. Sea­son three, Car­rie and Mi­randa, sit­ting on a bench chair out­side the Mag­no­lia Bak­ery down in New York’s West Vil­lage, munch­ing hap­pily on their pink-iced con­fec­tions and talk­ing about their love lives – well, we were hooked. We wanted to be there and we wanted those cakes. We weren’t go­ing to be get­ting any of the Manolo Blah­niks at US$485 a pop, but those cup­cakes — ohhh yes, we could all get our hands on those lit­tle can­dy­coated morsels of de­li­cious­ness. One bite and our lives would be trans­formed into a world of cos­mopoli­tan cock­tails, fab­u­lous shoes, amaz­ing clothes, witty friends and hot sex.

Life in Bleeker St was never the same as hordes of peo­ple lined up to get their cup­cake fix from the newly fa­mous Mag­no­lia Bak­ery. Long af­ter the TV se­ries was de­funct, bus tours took up the charge with a ticket that in­cluded a stop at the bak­ery and iced cup­cake. All over the globe, looka­like bak­eries were spawned, of­fer­ing their own ver­sions of sug­ar­coated plea­sure.

The funny part of the whole story is that cup­cakes weren’t even a menu item at the Mag­no­lia Bak­ery un­til one of the bak­ers de­cided to throw some left­over cake bat­ter into cup­cake tins. They sold so well that they even­tu­ally be­came a menu sta­ple. Cup­cakes earned their name be­cause the bat­ter was mea­sured in cups (as dis­tinct from pound cakes, which were mea­sured by weight). Ba­si­cally any cake bat­ter can be cooked as cup­cakes, the cook time will just be shorter. Just like when mak­ing a cake, you need to take care not to over­beat

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the mix once the flour goes in, as this will give a peaked, vol­canic shape and a coarse, tough tex­ture.

Fash­ion is capri­cious, re­gard­less of the genre, but the de­light in bit­ing into your very own lit­tle per­sonal iced cake is un­likely to wane. The lat­est it­er­a­tions of cup­cake fash­ion that I saw in New York re­cently are “healthy” ve­gan of­fer­ings, iced with co­conut but­ter­cream rather than real but­ter but­ter­cream, but at heart they are the same pretty lit­tle sweet fix.

Think of cup­cakes as the lit­tle black dress in your culi­nary wardrobe — some­thing you can whip to­gether in a flash, which makes you look fab­u­lous and is per­fect for ev­ery oc­ca­sion. This week I’m shar­ing two of my favourite cup­cake recipes, plus a sim­ple but­ter­cream ic­ing that you can flavour to suit any kind of cup­cakes.



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