For these cupcakes I used the base recipe for Strawberry Chocolaty Cupcakes from the Hamyln 200 Cupcakes book and some simple buttercream icing. The recipe below is enough for 12 large cupcakes and a generous amount of icing for each.
For the Cupcakes you'll need:
- 75g cocoa powder (I used Bounville to make them extra chocolaty!)
- 225 ml boiling water
- 125g lightly salted butter
- 275g light muscavado sugar
- 2 eggs
- 200g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 150g unsalted butter
- 250g icing sugar
- 50g cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons of hot water
- Grey fondant
- Orange fondant
- Green fondant
- White fondant
- 3 Cadbury's Flakes
- 1 small Bournvile bar
- Black icing pen
- Balsa Wood
- Cocktail sticks
- PVA Glue
- Cupcake Cases (I used Buffin cases, halfway between a bun and a muffin, also the only ones I could find in brown)
- Weighing Scales
- Measuring spoons
- Mixing bowls
- Hand held electric mixer
- Metal spoons
- Muffin Tin
- Wire rack
- Cupcake decorating tools (Or cheap kids modeling tools from an art shop)
- Parchment paper / grease proof paper
- Sharp knife
- Piping bag
- CAKE - Comfort Eagle / Fashion Nugget
Step 1: The Cupcakes
First thing's first, you need a base to decorate. As I said in the intro, I used a recipe from my Hamlyn cupcake book. Because I want my icing and cupcake to look like the soil underneath my rabbits I decided to go for a totally chocolaty recipe! The original idea had carrot cupcakes, but I thought the sweetness of the icing and the fondant would clash with the carrot cake flavour. And of course you can choose your favourite cupcake recipe instead if you'd prefer!
To start the cupcakes, line a muffin tin with 12 large cupcake cases, I chose brown to keep with the soil theme, and put the tray to one side. Set your oven to 180C so it can be preheating while you make your cupcake mix,
Sieve the cocoa powder into a heat proof bowl or jug, and add the boiling water. Whisk until completely smooth, and then leave aside to cool.
Add the muscavado sugar and the butter to a bowl and using an electric mixer, blend together until smooth. Beat the eggs and gradually add them to the sugar and butter, blending again until smooth.
Sieve the flour into the bowl and then using a metal spoon stir it into the mix. Don't forget to add the baking powder here, the book actually forgets to mention it, and I didn't remember it until I was dividing up the mixture.
Add the now cooled cocoa mix and blend. Make sure you scrape around the edges, so there's no pale mixture left.
Divide the mixture as equally as you can among the paper cases and put into the oven for 25 minutes. Remove when firm to the touch but still soft and springy underneath. Place them on a cooling rack in the tray for 10 minutes and then remove them and allow them to cool completely.
Now you have your base for your decoration, you can start on that while these cool!
Step 2: The Icing and the Dirt
To make the buttercream icing, blend the butter and the icing sugar together in a bowl until smooth and creamy. Add the cocoa powder, and blend again. Finally, add 3 tablespoons of hot water and blend for the last time. Because this icing only takes about 10 minutes to prepare, you can transfer it to a jug and cover it with clingfilm so it's ready to use later.
For the "dirt" or "topsoil" on your cupcakes, take your Cadburys flakes and crush them while they're still in their packet (be carefull as those packets like to open by themselves!) and empty them into a mixing bowl. Crush any extra large lumps with the back of a metal spoon, but leave some lumps for effect. The take the bar of Bounville and grate it into the mixing bowl, the idea of this is to break up the solid colour of the milk chocolate with some dark chocolate. Subtle, but effective.
Fill a piping bag with icing, and attach a large nozzle. Use this to pipe rows out onto the cool cupcakes, like rows of soil in plowed land. Then, one by one, take the iced cupcakes, and dip them into the chocolate in the bowl, be careful not to apply too much pressure or your icing might ooze over the edge and undo all your lovely piping. You may have little gaps in your soil cover, but you can just sprinkle on some extra chocolate once your cupcake is the right way up again!
Now that you have your soil, it's time to plant some veggies in it!
Step 3: Carrots and Cabbages
Lay out some parchment paper, or in my case I covered my two chopping boards in it to make mini work surfaces for myself. Slice up your block of orange fondant into a few 4 mm thick slices. You don't need to slice the whole thing like I did, unless you plan on adding a lot of carrots.
Dust a small part of the board with icing sugar. take a small bit of green fondant and roll it out about 1 mm thick. (I didn't have a small enough rolling pin so I used a shot glass dusted in icing sugar). Cut small triangles about 1 cm long out of this, these will be your greenery on top of your carrots.
With the orange fondant slices, cut up into equal parts (I cut em into triangles again, and got about 4 to 5 out of each slice). Roll these parts into a ball, them elongate into a carrot shape. If you find your fondant is cracking, roll it out using your rolling pin or glass, and roll back into a ball, this should soften it a little and stop cracks forming. Add a hole on top for the greenery, and put indentation lines like a real carrot around the outside. Pinch the two ends of the greenery bits together, and insert into the hole in the carrot. If you like you could mix up a small amount of royal icing and use it as a glue here.
Depending on how deep you want your carrots to go into the soil, you might need to trim some of them. You can also add ones with bites taken out of them etc. If you need to use your modeling tools to make a little hole in the icing to stick them into, and re draw in the lines in the soil.
For the cabbages, I did mine like the fake wax cabbages they make in japan for food displays. Start by taking a 2 mm thick slice of fondant, again dusting the work surface and the rolling pin / glass and rolling it out to about 1 mm thick. At the bottom of the strip start to bunch it up and move up the strip, rocking back and forth gathering the fondant around itself. Then, take another thin slice, and roll it out into an uneven circle, add a little water or icing to the center of the circle to make it tacky and wanting to stick. Place the first part of your cabbage into the center of the circle and gather the circle up around it, Don't worry if it crinkles and folds, it adds to the effect. You'll most likely need to dig a little hole in the soil to plant your cabbage, otherwise it'll roll away on you!
Repeat these steps until you have your cupcake patch filled with as many carrots and cabbages as you desire. Now you need some Rascally Rabbits to come gobble and steal these veggies!
Step 4: Those Rascally Rabbits!
I have 3 different types of rabbit on my cupcakes; one diving into a hole with a carrot in tow, one stuffing his face with a carrot and one who has dragged a carrot over from another cupcake.
To make the rabbit jumping into a hole, start with the bottom half of an egg shape, you could just make an egg shape and chop off the top. Make 2 little sausages, flatten the slightly and make them taper and the end. Use some icing mixed with black food dye to make grey glue to stick the sausages to the egg, to make a body with kicking feet. Take a small ball of while fondant, prick and prod it to make it look textured and fluffy and stick it to his bottom the same way. You can then add details like the paw pads using a icing pen.
For the Rabbit popping out of a hole and stuffing his face, start with a ball again and stretch and flatten it out at one end. Because I wanted this bunny to look like he was chewing, I pinched one cheek out a bit so it looks like it has something in his mouth. Then take a sharp knife of a modeling tool, and cut the stretched flattened bit in half to make ears, round these off with your fingers or sculpting tools. Then take a smaller ball to make the top half of an egg shape (or use the ones trimmed from the first rabbit) and flatten the top a little. Use icing to stick the rabbits head to his shoulders and place him in a hole. You can also add front paws by making the same shapes for the back paws for the first rabbit and having them protruding from the hole. I added some orange fondant crumbs to his face (drawn on with the icing pen) so he looked like he was eating the carrot in front of him.
Then the last rabbit is totally above ground so he's a combo of those two rabbits. Make a full egg shape, add slightly smaller foot shapes (because he'll be sitting on them) and attach them with icing. Add a head and two arm shapes with icing also, and don't forget his fluffy tail!
Now that you have your Rascally Rabbits, it's time to find out whose garden this is anyway!
Step 5: Sign Posts and Finished Piece
To make sign posts for your garden, cut up rectangles and strips of balsa. You can then bevel the edges with a scalpel if you don't want a clean crisp look. Write labels for your veggies on the sign posts, and give your garden a name on a larger one.
Now you know mine is Mr McGregors Garden, can anyone name the 3 rabbits in the garden? and their brother who's probably at home with a tummy ache?
Glue the posts together with non toxic PVA and add cocktail sticks so half their length is hanging over the end of you posts. This means you only have to worry about sticking the cocktail stick part into the cupcake and prevents you from making big holes in it!
Place your signposts and Ta-Da! Your vegetable garden is finished! You can see from my photos I added extra bits like a rope made out of twisted brown icing for the diving rabbit, and a hole where there's a cabbage missing, but a leaf or two left behind with bite marks. You can get really creative with your rabbits and the amount of destruction they cause is entirely up to you!