Merry New Year all! So another Christmas has come and gone. Mine involved a rebellion against tradition, resulting in a truly excellent Christmas dinner of roast duck with a herby root vegetable gratin, and sprouts with bacon and chestnuts (okay so the rebellion didn’t go as far as sprouts, some traditions are here to stay)
As it turns out, starting a food blog leads to birthdays and Christmases filled with wonderful new cookbooks and tableware, as evidenced by both this recipe and the fabulous cake stand featured in the picture above. Isn’t it beautiful? I think so and I’m truly grateful.
I’m also grateful that every year my lovely boyfriend buys me an utterly fabulous bottle of sloe gin for Christmas. For those unfamiliar with the wonder that is a good sloe gin (none of that cheap fake chemically nonsense please) I beg you, try it this winter over a little ice (if you like your liquor strong) or mingled with tonic.
For me it will always be my winter beverage of choice, it has a certain astringency and bitterness that warms my cockles. So when I was flicking through one of my Christmas cookbooks and came across the concept of cocktail cupcakes, I knew what had to be done.
The Primrose Bakery Celebrations book has a whole chapter dedicated to these cocktail cupcakes and as someone who has always found cupcakes a little too sweet and dull, this concept appealed to me. I liked the idea of putting a little alcoholic bitterness into the mix. A boozy syrup is soaked into the warm sponge to give a beautifully moist texture, as well as a bit of a kick.
However, making this recipe revealed that I really am ridiculously awful at icing cupcakes!
Sloe Gin & Tonic Cupcakes
Adapted slightly from Primrose Bakery Celebrations
I’m not really a fan of cupcake icing, so I halved the quantity here. If you’re all about the icing double the icing recipe.
For the syrup:
85ml tonic water
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
100g granulated sugar
1 lemon, finely sliced
85ml good quality sloe gin
For the sponge:
150g golden caster sugar
140g self raising flour
2/3 tsp baking powder
150g unsalted butter at room temperature
3 large free range eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
2 tbsp milk
zest of 1 1/2 lemons
For the icing:
55g unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
250g icing sugar
Pomegranate seeds to decorate, or you could use some candied lemon peel
Preheat your oven to 180 C / 160 C Fan / 350 F and line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin cases (these cupcakes are a little taller than your average cupcake, so fairy cake cases will be too small)
Start by making the syrup. In a small saucepan mix together the tonic water, lemon juice and sugar (remember to zest the lemons before juicing them, you’ll need the zest in the sponge) Bring the mixture to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 3 -5 minutes until the liquid becomes syrupy. Add the lemon slices and simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the sloe gin and then leave it to cool. Once cool, strain the mix into a small bowl and reserve 30ml for the icing.
In a food processor (or by hand if you don’t have one) mix the sugar, flour, cornflour and baking powder. Next add the rest of the sponge ingredients and process for about 10 seconds, until evenly mixed.
Pour the batter into the 12 muffin cases, splitting it evenly and bake them in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes until lightly browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Remove the cupcakes from the oven and immediately brush the top of each one with some of the syrup. When you’ve done all 12, go round again and add a second helping to each one. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then remove them to a rack to cool completely before you ice them.
Whist the cupcakes cool you can whip up the icing. In a large bowl beat together the butter, reserved syrup, vanilla and half the icing sugar until nice and smooth. Gradually add the rest of the sugar until you have a thick buttercream.
Ice each of your cupcakes, as best you can! Then top with pomegranate seeds or a little candied lemon peel.
Best served with some of the remaining syrup mixed with tonic water. Enjoy!