Monday, 11 April 2011

Arnold Palmer Cupcakes

Tee time on the range.

Despite never having swung up a club, and holidays spent eating unripe figs on a golf course in the Algarve while my dad sneaked in 9 holes, I love golf.  And the Masters, held every April in Augusta Georgia, is my favourite tournament.  Everything looks so exotic and perfect.  Manicured fairways, pine and peach trees, dogwoods and azaleas.  Bright white sand traps and bright blue water hazards.  Even after four whole days of stroke play I find very little to match the excitement of the last few holes on Sunday evening.

This year we've been lucky enough to have some decent weather here in England that doesn't make me look enviously at their short sleeves and sun visors.  So what better way to celebrate the sun than with a homage to one of the greatest golfers, and four times Green Jacket wearer, Arnold Palmer. 

An 'Arnold Palmer' is a drink, usually served in the States, that is comprised half iced tea and half 'old fashioned' lemonade.  History has it that Palmer was heard ordering the mix sometime in the late 60's and soon his name became synonymous with the beverage. (a 'John Daly' sees the drink spiked with a slug of vodka.) Now days you can even buy official bottles and cans of the the stuff endorsed by the man himself.

To take the idea one step further I decided to make tea flavoured cupcakes with a lemon flavoured frosting, an idea I first saw while while watching Georgia native Paula Deen on the Food network one afternoon. Although fancy cupcakes are not the kind of things I normally go for I thought it would be nice to do something a bit different.  After all it's not everyday you get to garnish your food with an neon straw.

 On googling the recipe I found that reviews for it didn't seem too positive, bemoaning the lack of tea flavour and wisdom of using two whole sticks of butter for the frosting.  Unfazed I decided to use a plain cupcake recipe, and infuse some Lady Grey tea bags into the milk.  I also put a few tea leaves into the batter mix, for extra flavour, and then topped the cakes with a lemon buttercream.  

Arnold Palmer Cupcakes
Makes 9

Earl Grey Cup Cakes-
125g Caster Sugar
125g Unsalted Butter
2 Large Eggs
250g Self Raising Flour
100ml Milk
4 Earl/Lady Grey Tea Bags

Lemon Buttercream-
60g Butter
200g Icing Sugar
Juice and Zest of One Lemon
Pinch of Salt

-Heat milk in a pan or microwave proof jug until nearly boiling. 
-Add three tea bags, stir and leave to infuse for 30 minutes
-Preheat oven to 190c
-Cream together softened butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
-Whisk in eggs one by one, and mix thoroughly.
-Fold in sifted flour and the contents of one tea bag.
-Add infused milk to batter, you may have to add a splash more to get it to dropping consistency.
-Fill paper cases two thirds full of mixture and bake for 20/25 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

-Beat butter, zest and icing sugar together until light and creamy.
-Stir in lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
(you may need to add a little more sugar if the icing is too thin, or a splash of milk if it's too thick)

I was very happy with the tea taste in the finished cupcakes.  Often flavours are muted once the cakes are baked, but these still had bright notes of orange and bergamot with the aroma of a freshly brewed cuppa. I used silicon baking cases, which conduct the heat far better than paper cases and left the bottom and sides a bit more 'done' than usual.  (that and forgetting to set the timer...)

The icing was a bit of an adventure too.  Deciding that if you're going to get wet you might as well go swimming, I fashioned a piping bag from a sandwich bag with the end snipped off and attempted to decorate the cakes.  Not a terrible effort, although I did get a bit bored half way through and finish them off with a palette knife. If you're not into too much kitsch, or want a lighter icing, then icing sugar mixed with lemon zest and juice into a thick paste, would also work well.

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