Look out for some pretty, feathered bird ornaments to perch on top of these cakes. We have used robins, but if you’re lucky you may spot some really special exotic birds in the shops at this time of year – the sparklier the better!
1 quantity Double Chocolate Sponge (see page 129)
1 quantity Chocolate Meringue Buttercream (see page 129)
12 short chocolate flake bars
12 feathered robins or other bird ornaments
Icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180˚C/ 350˚F/Gas Mark 4. Place 12 brown paper cupcake cases into a muffin tin. Divide the Double Chocolate Sponge between the 12 brown paper cupcake cases, filling each of them two-thirds full.
Put the muffins on the middle shelf of the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Remove the muffin tin from the oven and leave the cupcakes to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Spread the Chocolate Meringue Buttercream generously onto each cold cupcake. Sit a chocolate flake in the middle of each cake, perch a robin, or another type of ornamental bird, on top of the flake, and dust the cupcakes lightly with icing sugar
Double Chocolate Sponge
75g (2 1/4oz) dark chocolate, chopped
50g (13/4oz) unsalted butter, softened
175g (6oz) light brown soft sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
150g (51/2oz) plain flour
1 tbsp, rounded, cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of salt
125ml (4fl oz) soured cream
75ml (21/2fl oz) boiling water
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Gradually add the beaten eggs, mixing well between each addition and scraping down the side of the mixing bowl from time to time. Add the vanilla and melted chocolate and stir well. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together. Add to the mixture in alternate batches with the soured cream. Add the boiling water and mix until smooth.
Makes 12–16 cupcakes
200g (7oz) caster sugar
3 egg whites
250g (9oz) unsalted butter, softened and chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
Put the sugar and egg whites in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until it reaches at least 60˚C/140˚F on a sugar thermometer. Pour into a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or use an electric whisk and bowl). Beat until the mixture has doubled in volume, cooled and will stand in stiff peaks – this will take about 3 minutes. Gradually add the butter to the cooled meringue mix, beating constantly, until the frosting is smooth. Fold in the vanilla and use immediately.
Melt 150g (51/2oz) chopped dark chocolate, then leave to cool slightly before stirring into the buttercream at the same time as the vanilla extract.
Adapted from Christmas Cupcakes by Annie Rigg (Ryland Peters & Small, £9.99).