Thursday, 30 June 2011

Butterfly Cakes - Torta Farfalla

Butterfly Cakes (also known as fairy cakes) are an absolute classic in my opinion.  Perfect for little kids (and big kids!)
Deliciously light sponge, a smooth butter cream icing and wings to help your blues fly far far away.

What I particularly love about Butterfly Cakes is that they make their own wings.  They enter the oven as caterpillars, cool as chrysalis and are then decorated to become butterflies.  If you ever see them in a shop where the wings have been made separately and stuck on top then they've got it all wrong, they're just being lazy.  This is the equivalent of balancing a rock on a slug and calling it a snail.  Nasty business.

The wonderful thing about making any sponge based cake recipe is that it is so easy to remember.  There are four ingredients and the quantities of each are based on the weight of the egg.  Before electric scales, equal amounts of butter, flour and sugar were weighed against the appropriate number of eggs.
An average, a medium egg weighs 2oz and so these days we use this as the measure, rather than a balance with eggs on one side and dry ingredients on the other!

This recipe should make 12 large butterfly cakes or 24 smaller ones

4oz / 250g unsalted butter, softened
4oz / 250g golden caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4oz self raising flour - premium sponge flour if you can find it!
A few drops of vanilla essence

For the Buttercream Icing
3oz unsalted butter
6oz icing sugar
splash of milk

Other items
You will need some cupcake cases - choose a pretty pattern - every cake is worthy of it!
A little icing sugar for dusting

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 5.

Place the butter into a large mixing bowl and cream with a wooden spoon, or beat in an electric mixer for a couple of minutes.  Beating the butter in this way starts to break it down, soften and lighten it.  It is also less likely to result in a lumpy batter!  If you are using butter straight from the fridge, cut it into cubes first and place it in a microwave for 10 seconds or so, until soft - be careful not to melt it completely as it will make the mix too runny to bake properly.  Add the sugar to the bowl and mix the two together until combined well.

Break the eggs into a separate smaller bowl and lightly whisk.  Add half a teaspoon of vanilla essence and mix together.  A little at a time, add the whisked egg to the butter and sugar mix.  Mix well between adding the egg otherwise the mix may curdle.  If it does curdle, panic not(!) it can usually be rescued!  Just mix well before adding any more egg.  Once all the egg is added, beat thoroughly for 5 minutes.

Sieve the flour into a separate bowl (to save on washing up I use the eggy one).  Add a couple of spoons of flour to the cake mixture and mix in thoroughly.  Now, the next bit can only really be done successfully by hand, with a wooden spoon.  Add a couple of spoons of flour at a time, enough to cover the top of the cake mix, and fold the flour into the mixture, rather than beating it in.  By doing this you retain as much air as possible in the mixture and this is what will help the final cakes to rise nicely and be super light!  Be sure to check the bottom of the bowl as you fold, as flour has a habit of making small pockets of itself within the mixture.  Once all the flour is added and folded in, move the mixture to one side.

Prepare your cake tin.  I use a 12-hole cupcake tin.  These can be found in pretty much every cake shop and most supermarkets if they have a home-ware section and you shouldn't have to pay more than 7 or 8 squid for one.  Select your cupcake cases and place one in each hole.  There is no need the grease a cupcake tin, the paper cases do the job for you.

Now, take a mug and half fill with cold water.  Place two dessert spoons in the cold water - you will use these to spoon the mixture into the paper cases.  By placing the spoons in cold water between uses, the cake mixture will fall clean off them into the cases.  Skills!

Spoon the mixture into the cases, equally dividing it - you should find a heaped dessert spoon is about right, but if you are unsure, add a little at a time.  I will usually use one spoon, then place it in the water and use the other spoon for the next spoonful - in case you were wondering why you need two spoons!

Don't worry about smoothing the mixture out, it will partly melt in the oven and self-level.

Place the cakes on a middle-top shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  If you are not sure whether they are cooked or not, insert a skewer into the centre of one.  If the skewer comes out clean then they are done!  If it is a little wet of covered in cake mix, then leave them in for a little longer. Try not to open the oven door too often as this makes the oven temperature drop and the cakes won't rise properly.

Whilst the cakes are in the oven you can prepare the butter icing.

Again, cream the butter in a mixing bowl.  Sieve the icing sugar into the butter, a couple of spoonfuls at a time, and mix well.  Add a splash of milk at the end to make it that extra bit fluffy and delicious!

When the cupcakes are done, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting and decorating.  Once cool, you can cut a cone from the centre of each cupcake to make the wings.  Place your knife about 5mm in from the edge of the cake and point it towards the centre of the cake, so it is at around a 45degree angle to the worktop.  Insert the knife and spin the cake to create the cone of sponge.  Remove the cone, cut it in half and there you have your two wings.  Fill the hole in the cake with buttercream and pop the wings back on top!  As you practice this, you will find that a shallower angle will create a nicer wing and will also save on buttercream.

Dust with a little icing sugar and serve over a brew.  ahhh-delicious!

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