First, and most importantly, if you don't know anything about Pimm's, go here.
Now that you've all been educated, let's get to the baking! These Pimm's cupcakes have a light lemon sponge base, filled with strawberry puree, topped by a swirl of cucumber mint buttercream, garnished with a fresh strawberry and a slice of candied cucumber, And of course there are a few extra splashes of Pimm's added along the way.
Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment
For the cupcakes:
- 2 oz butter
- 2 oz caster sugar
- 3 oz self raising flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
- Fresh strawberries
- Caster sugar (a couple of tablespoons depending on taste, and how sweet you strawberries are)
- 3 egg whites
- 120 g caster sugar
- 120 g butter (at room temperature, cut into small cubes)
- 1 tbsp cucumber mint syrup
- Fresh strawberries
- Candied cucumber
- Bowls, spoons etc.
- Small saucepan
- Cupcake tin with liners
- Piping bags and a star tip
- A double boiler/small saucepan with bowl on top
- An electric whisk
- A blender
For those without scales, there is a good weight to volume converter here.
Step 2: The Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F/Gas 4). Line a cupcake tin.
To make the cupcakes, first cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl, beating until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
At this stage add the egg, and beat until well combined. Beat in the lemon zest and a measure of Pimm's after this.
Now sift in the flour and fold it though gently, until you have a smooth batter. Don't use the electric whisk at this point, because overbeating will make the cake tough and dense.
Spoon the batter into your tin and bake for around 20 minutes, until the tops are risen and golden, and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Step 3: The Filling
Bring the pan to the boil, then turn it down and and let it simmer for about quarter of an hour, until most of the liquid has gone. If at this point there is still a lot of liquid, drain it off. This ca be used as a gorgeous strawberry syrup, great in cocktails or poured over icecream.
Take the pan off the heat and blend it to a smooth puree. Don't worry if it is still quite runny, it will firm up as it cools.
Step 4: The Icing
First, set up your double boiler (or saucepan/small bowl combo), over the heat with a small amount of water in the bottom pan. Make sure that the water does not touch the bottom of you bowl. Put the egg whites and caster sugar in the top bowl and whisk them continually over a low heat until the sugar has fully disolved. Test this by taking a pinch of syrup and rubbing it between your thumb and finger. If it feels gritty, keep it on the heat for a little longer.
Now pour the syrup into a clean bowl, and get beating. You need to get this right up to the stiff peak stage, where the mixture is glossy and smooth, and stands up proud when you take the whisk away. When you have stiff peaks you can start adding the butter.
Add the butter one piece at a time, and make sure that each piece is combined before you add the next. The butter will deflate the meringue, but don't worry, this is supposed to happen. Once all the butter has been added, keep on whipping, The buttercream will begin to gain in volume, and whip up to a smooth topping. This will take at least 10 minutes, proabably more if you're using a handheld mixer.
If your buttercream is not whipping up, and instead remains a sloppy mess, put the bowl in the fridge for a bit (about 20 min), then take it out and beat it up again.
At some point after adding all the butter, your icing will look like a curdled mess of scrambled eggs. This is normal. Power through and keep on beating, and trust that it will come together.
Once you have a smooth, fluffy icing, you can then beat in a splash of Pimm's and 1 or 2 tablespoons of the cucumber mint syrup.
Your icing is now ready to be piped.
If you are having issues with the buttercream, go here or here, for advice from people much more experienced with this type of icing.
Step 5: Putting It All Together
- First hollow out the middles of the cupcakes, using an apple corer or small sharp knife
- Spoon the strawberry puree into a piping bag annd pipe into the middles of the cupcakes.
- Fill another piping bag, fitted with a star tip, with the buttercream and pipe a swirl on top of each cake.
- Garnish with half a fresh strawberry and a slice of candied cucumber.
For an extra cutesy touch, serve the cakes in tea cups along side a pot of Pimm's, for a perfectly pretty summer tea party.