Dark and moist chocolate sponge topped with a wickedly moreish salted caramel buttercream, these cupcakes are delicious. Decorated with autumnal leaves and pumpkins, they would make a wonderful special occasion treat.
I tend to make a version of these decorated cupcakes every year. As we established last week, I love autumn, and so I don’t think there’s a better excuse to go all out. I don’t make decorated cupcakes very often; decorations made of sugar paste may look delightful but are pure sugar and E numbers at the end of the day – not something we should make a habit of eating! But still, sugar lecture over, decorated cakes are perfect for celebrating a special occasion and can take a plain cake to a magical place.
However, these are not the slightest bit plain to begin with. A light, moist, chocolatey sponge – adapted into cupcakes from my favourite cake recipe – and topped with the most amazing caramel buttercream, they are delightful all on their own. The buttercream is, I think, particularly special. You’d think a caramel buttercream would be hard to make, but it is simply made with soft brown sugar! The, deep, caramel flavours are really brought out in the buttercream, and a small pinch of salt takes it to the next level. The soft brown sugar also gives the buttercream a gentle crunch, which contrasts beautifully to the soft sponge – I can’t wait to try this buttercream with other cakes!
So… so far, we have a moist, chocolatey sponge and the most amazing caramel buttercream. Both very simple, right? Well, the decorations are no exception to this simple trend! They may look complicated, but I promise they really aren’t and do look very effective. I’ve put some step by step instructions below, and I really would encourage you to give it a try. The secret is all in the leaf cutters you can buy for a few pounds on Amazon!
Sugarpaste is something I’m keen to learn and develop – so I had some fun creating the autumnal scene below. Some poor teenager has been dragged down to the family allotment to help pull up the pumpkins… he’s still got quite a few to go and does not look impressed!
Makes 9 generously sized cupcakes. Takes 35 minutes for the cakes and buttercream, and a further 30 minutes for the sugar paste pumpkins and leaves.
- 120g dairy free butter
- 120g golden caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 120g self raising flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tbsp cocoa
- 1 level tsp instant coffee
- 2 tbsp non dairy milk
- 50g dairy free butter
- 15g dairy free vegetable lard (Cooken or Trex would be perfect here)
- 115g soft brown sugar
- pinch of salt, to taste
- Sugarpaste in orange, red, brown and green (you can either buy this ready made or buy white sugar paste and the individual gel colours) available in most big supermarkets
- 1 tbsp cornflour, for dusting
- Tools – a skewer or small paint brush and leaf cutters; search for set of 3 veined ivy maple leaf plunge cutters, for around £2 on Amazon
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees, and line a cupcake tray with 9 cases.
- Use the all in one method to make the cakes; in a large bowl add all the cake ingredients and beat together with either an electric or hand whisk.
- Evenly split the cake batter across the 9 cupcake cases, and bake in the preheated oven for 15 – 17 minutes, or until well risen and a skewer comes out clean from the centre.
- When the cupcakes are baked, cool completely on a wire rack.
- Make the buttercream – add all the buttercream ingredients except the salt into a large bowl, and using either an electric or handheld whisk beat until light and fluffy. Once you’re happy with the consistency, add a tiny bit of salt, whisk and taste – keep adding tiny amounts of salt until you’ve got the salted caramel taste you’re looking for.
- Spread the buttercream onto each cupcake, using a knife to smooth it over.
- Make the sugar paste decorations – first, make the pumpkins. Roll 9 round cherry tomato size balls from the orange paste. One by one, squeeze each ball between your thumb and forefinger to flatten it a bit at each end. Then, using the blunt edge of a table knife, make 6 indents in the ball running from one flat side to the centre of the other (where they meet in the centre will become the top of your pumpkin. Where the lines meet at the top, make a shallow hole using the skewer or paint brush end.
- Repeat on the other 8 balls.
- Make the pumpkin stalks – Making 9 pieces of the brown sugarpaste about the size of a large grain of rice, roll the ball into a cylinder and press into the indent on each pumpkin. Set aside to dry at room temperature for about an hour.
- Make the leaves. Roll out a piece of sugar paste to about 4 sheets of paper thick on a surface dusted with cornflour. Using the leaf cutters, cut and press out as many leaves as you can. Leave the trimmings on the side whilst you repeat with the next colour of sugar paste.
- When you only have trimmings of each colour left, and you want more leaves, quickly knead the sugar paste together and then roll out and cut again. Don’t worry that the colours will mix with each other – this makes the leaves look more authentic!
- Set the leaves aside to dry at room temperature for about an hour.
- Decorate the cupcakes – add a pumpkin to each cupcake, and then randomly sprinkle the leaves over.
- If you want to make some pumpkins in soil, simply cut a top off one of the cupcakes, and break apart with your fingers. Sprinkle the ‘soil’ over the buttercream, then press in the pumpkin and leaves.