Strawberry Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing

THE title of 'My Favourite Cupcake' is usually shared by a classic White Chocolate & Raspberry and the fabulous Orange & Poppyseed with Cream Cheese Icing, but I felt like something different. It was a cold winters day and I had a bucket of strawberries and a yearning for something totally delicious and indulgent. I had picked up the latest issue of Jamie magazine and was flicking through the pages, dreaming about being best friends with Mr Oliver and skipping around his farm-like garden with his bunnies when I was woken by this recipe. (Perfect timing too, I think things may have been getting a bit weird.)

I gave a dear friend one of the prettiest cupcakes for his birthday and was delighted to hear that it was the best cupcake he had ever eaten. All who tried them have agreed that they're pretty special. The cupcake is bound together by the silky smooth vanilla buttercream which melts into the light sponge with every bite. Upon the second or third bite you'll find the hidden treasure - an oozy jam centre. 

What you'll need:
280g butter
280g caster sugar
5 eggs
280g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

375g unsalted butter, softened
600g icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or one teaspoon of essence)
100ml strawberry jam

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 180C and line three muffin tins with 2 cupcake cases in each. (I prefer to do this double lining as it is more supportive in later steps and will ensure the sides and bottoms of your cakes don't overcook.)

Beat the butter, vanilla and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate. You may need to stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Fold in the flour and stir until just combined. Spoon a heaped dessert spoon into each case so it is around two-thirds full. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until they have risen and turned golden. If unsure, a skewer inserted should come out clean. Cool in the tin for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Make the icing by beating the butter and sugar together using electric beaters until thick and pale. Stir in the vanilla. In winter, it's a good idea to keep this icing (covered) in a sunny spot until you need it.

Use an apple corer to remove the centres of the cakes, but don't core right down to the bottom. Leave some cake there. If you take too much out and can see the cupcake paper at the bottom, simply press some of the already-removed cake back in. Stir the jam vigorously so it thins out a little and fill the holes with jam.

When you're ready to ice, fit a star nozzle to a piping bag and fill the bag with prepared icing. Pipe the mixture on in generous dots, pulling the bag away so you each icing spot comes up to a point. Alternatively, you can pipe a large swirl on each cake or spread the icing on with a knife to create a smooth finish. Once all cupcakes have been iced, decorate with fresh strawberries, sprinkles and/or droplets of jam.