Fiona Cairns’ liquorice toffee cupcakes

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These sticky toffee cupcakes have a delicious liquorice-flavoured sponge and toffee buttercream. Topped with liquorice allsorts, this special cupcake recipe by Fiona Cairns is perfect as an afternoon tea treat

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Stack the cupcakes on a tower to make a impressive centre piece for a party

Ingredients

For the cakes:

  • 12 cupcakes cases
  • 85g unsalted butter, softened plus more for the tins
  • 100ml whole milk
  • 30g liquorice (Fiona used 22 x 6.5cm lengths of soft, sweet Australian liquorice), roughly chopped
  • 200g dates, pitted and chopped
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • Seed of 1 vanilla pod or 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

For the buttercream:

  • 170g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted

For the liquorice caramel:

  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 60ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 30g liquorice

To decorate:

  • Piping bag and star nozzle
  • Liquorice allsorts

Method

For the cakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Place the paper cases in a cupcake tray.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the milk and liquorice to a boil. Remove from the heat, stir and press on the liquorice to extract the flavour. Cover and leave to infuse for at least 30 mins. Taste the milk. It should be a liquorice milk flavour, then strain.
  3. Meanwhile in a heatproof bowl pour 175ml boiling water over the dates and leave to soak for 20 mins then mash with a fork.
  4. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl.
  5. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla seeds or extract for about 5 mins with an electric mixer. Add the eggs gradually with 1tsp flour to stop the mixture curdling. Fold in the remaining flour, date mixture and milk.
  6. Divide the batter between the cases and bake for 15–20 mins, or until the tops spring back to the touch. Remove from the oven, leave in the tins a couple of minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

For the buttercream:

  1. Make the buttercream by creaming the butter and icing sugar for at least five minutes in an electric mixer (or with a hand-held mixer).

For the liquorice caramel:

  1. To make the caramel, in a small heavy-based pan, dissolve the sugar with 3 tbsp water over a gentle heat, then increase to a boil. Leave the pan undisturbed for a few mins, until it turns a lovely rich, caramel colour and has thickened. Give it your full attention at this stage!
  2. Remove from the heat and add the cream and treacle, protecting your hands with a tea towel. Stir well, then return to the heat with the liquorice, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low, stirring all the time, and continue to cook until the mixture thickens. Remove and leave for all the flavours to mingle and allow the mixture to cool.
  3. Taste; it should have a toffee liquorice flavour. Remove the liquorice and, when the caramel is only barely warm, whisk well into the buttercream. (If the caramel is too cold, it will need to be warmed very slightly so it will combine easily into the buttercream. Too hot, and it will melt the buttercream.)
  4. Divide the buttercream between the cakes, piping it on if you wish and decorate with liquorice allsorts.

By Taken from The Birthday Cake Book by Fiona Cairns (Quadrille, £18.99)

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Nutritional information

Guideline Daily Amount for 2,000 calories per day are: 70g fat, 20g saturated fat, 90g sugar, 6g salt.

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