Happy Mothers Day! I don't usually go in for these Hallmark style events but seeing as I'm also profiting from the giving of gifts to well deserving mums it would be hypocritical of me to whine. After battling through crowds of fathers, with kids in tow, juggling armfuls of flowers, chocolates and cake to get my small mountain of baking onto the shelves this morning I hoped the mums at home were taking full advantage of their annual day of leave (and getting a cupcake into the bargain.)
I remember making breakfast in bed for my mum when I was old enough to burn toast and boil the egg dry in the saucepan, but with six kids in the house breakfast was as good as it got. Call it Mother's Morning if you will. So how did all this pampering get started? Though mother goddesses have been celebrated since pre-history, the always reliable Wikipedia tells us that Mother's Day, as we know it, originated as a Christian festival that falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent, when children in apprenticeships and service returned home to their families to celebrate at their "mother" church bringing gifts of cake and wildflower bouquets for their own mums (wouldn't it be wonderful if some sort of combination of the two could be found?) From the religious beginnings in the seventeenth century the gradual secularisation has led to the flower and chocolate fueled frenzy of today. Apparently Mother's Day is the most popular day of the year to eat out in a restaurant in America though they celebrate theirs on the second Sunday in May. It seems to have begun in the US as a call by mothers for peace during the Civil War and Woodrow Wilson declared the first official national Mother's Day in 1914.
Whatever the origins may be it is good to stop for a moment and realise that there isn't a machine that produces meals at the end of each day, does the laundry, hoovers, provides taxi services and kisses us goodnight. So while all us goddesses (domestic or otherwise) are being worshipped today we will accept your tributes graciously and we will eat cake (if someone will bake one for us.)
This recipe is adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
- 227g unsalted butter, at room temperature (this is a 1/2 pound pack just unwrap and throw it in the bowl)
- 400g caster sugar
- 4 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
- 180g plain flour
- 220g self-raising flour
- 230ml of milk, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 700g icing sugar
- 200g butter, softened
- 90ml of milk, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 180 C and line two muffin tins with 24 paper cases. Sieve the flours together in a bowl with the salt and set aside. Stir the vanilla into the milk.
- Put the butter in the bowl of a free-standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Or use a large bowl and a hand held mixer. Beat the butter on a medium speed until soft and creamy about 30 seconds. Add a third of the sugar and beat for one minute, then another third of the sugar and beat for another minute, add the last of the sugar and beat for a further three minutes until very pale and very fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time making sure each one is well incorporated before adding the next one (beat for about one minute after adding each egg.) Scrape the sides of the bowl down as necessary.
- Now reduce the speed to low and add the flour and milk in stages starting with a third of the flour. Beat slowly just until the flour disappears into the batter, add half the vanilla-milk and beat again until just incorporated. Beat in another third of the flour until incorporated, followed by the rest of the milk,beat in and finish with the remaining flour. It is important to incorporate the flour and milk quickly but gently or the cupcakes will be tough instead of beautifully soft. I usually fold in the last of the flour with a spatula. You should end up with a batter that is quite thick but with a soft dropping consistency (a blob of batter should fall easily off a spoon). If the batter is too thick add a little extra milk a tablespoon at a time.
- Divide the batter between the paper cases and bake the cupakes for 25 minute or until golden and springy in the centre. Cool in the tins on a wire rack for ten minutes, then remove to the rack to cool completely.
- To make the icing; beat the butter and 300g of the sugar together at a high speed until fluffy. Add the milk and vanilla, you might want to reduce the speed for this! Beat again until incorporated and add the remaining icing sugar gradually until you have soft and fluffy vanilla scented icing to pile onto your cupcake. You may need to add more sugar or milk to get a good consistency.
- When the cupcakes have cooled, ice generously with buttercream coloured as you choose and sprinkled with whatever you desire.
Makes 24 cupcakes (easily halved)