Ode to a Cupcake

Serves: Makes about 50 mini cupcakes
Cost: ~€8
Preparation and cooking time: ~50 minutes
Calories: ~110 per cupcake

I heard recently that, apparently, cupcakes are “out”. Macarons are the new big thing apparently, unless I missed the memo and those fickle cake eaters of the world have since moved on to something else again. What I want to know is who’s deciding this… and why? (or rather how?) – what makes something which is perfectly delicious suddenly become so reviled and “oh my God, so last year!”? It’s a conspiracy I tell you. Celebrity chefs and food critics, in the pockets of whichever bakery or restaurant happens to be waving a cheque at that moment and boom – all of a sudden their dessert is riding the wave of global popularity.

Well screw that I say. I like cupcakes (though I also like macarons). They’re little sweet mouthfuls of heaven, with, hopefully, a delicious frosting on top. There is nothing about these things not to like. I’m not going to let some clown dictate to me what I should and should not eat, based on some silly trend. For the record, I also like prawn cocktail, and I don’t give a hoot if my dinner table might look like some 1980s throwback festival when I eat it!

It’s a great shame; businesses wither and die every year. Businesses which might be owned by some incredibly talented people, and why? Because their “crime” was to specialise in cupcakes instead of macarons? Of course, it’s a volatile market – I don’t think I’d have the courage to establish a business selling one thing, and one thing only. There’s a place in the mall near my place which sells mini cupcakes. They’re pretty good too (the creamcheese frosted ones at least. The “butter”-cream ones taste like the frosting is made with cheap margarine) but I notice that even they have branched out into sandwiches and cheesecake since opening so as to diversify a little.

In any event, in case it’s not apparent, I was moved to make some miniature cupcakes myself. I got online and ordered some mini cupcake cases (they got terrible reviews but I can’t imagine why – they’re great!) and once they arrived I set to work. I wasn’t really sure what flavour to make, and since variety is the spice of life I went for three different types. Besides – who wants 50 identically flavoured cupcakes?!

CupcakesIn the end, raspberry, blueberry, and mint-choc-chip were the flavours of the day. I had brought back some food colouring and peppermint essence from England was eager to give them a try. The food colouring was, according to the bottles, “all natural”. Apparently this means it’s rubbish and doesn’t really work because despite using almost half a bottle between the cake batter and the icing I never really achieved the colours I was hoping for. Deep blues, rich reds, and minty greens. Oh well. It was enough that the colours were slightly different, but there’s a lesson for you: if you want rich colours you’ll probably need to reach for that bottle of something-sulphate or E-something-something. Vegetable and spice-based colourings don’t really, ahem, “cut the mustard”.

I hope you all have a good weekend everyone. I’ll be back in a few days with something new, and since someone asked for it in a previous comment, here’s a picture of my happy little guy!

William with teeth

Raspberry, Blueberry, and Mint-Choc-Chip Cupcakes


Cupcake ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 170g Butter, softened
  • 170g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 180g Self-Raising Flour
  • 1tbsp each of Red, Blue, and Green Food Colouring
  • 1 handful each of Raspberries and Blueberries
  • ~50g Plain Chocolate

For the frosting

  • ~500g Cream Cheese
  • ~100g Icing Sugar
  • 2tsps each of Red and Blue Food Colouring
  • 2tsps of Peppermint Essence
  • 1 handful each of Raspberries and Blueberries
  • ~80g Plain Chocolate

You’ll also need

  • ~50 mini Cupcake Cases


  1. Start off by making the cupcakes themselves. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and then cream together the butter and sugar until pale. Whisk together the eggs in a bowl and beat into the butter and sugar mixture bit by bit until completely combined. Finally, sift in the flour and fold in with a metal spoon.
    Making the batter
  2. Divide the cake batter equally between three bowls and add the red food colouring to one, the blue to another, and the green to the last one. Stir well to combine. Set out your cupcake cases and in about 18 of them, place a blueberry in the bottom. Place a raspberry in another 18, and then crumble up the chocolate and place a small piece of chocolate into the remaining cases. Divide the mixture between the cases – the blue for the blueberries, the red on the raspberries, and the green on the chocolate. My cupcake cases were large enough to contain a heaped teaspoon of batter. You may need to adjust, but the batter should come to roughly halfway up the case.
    Colouring the batter
  3. Place the cases into the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, until well risen, and springy to the touch. Remove and allow to cool while you prepare the frosting.
    Cupcakes ready for icing
  4. In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese with the icing sugar and then divide equally among three bowls. Chop the chocolate as finely as possible and then place into one of the bowls with the peppermint essence. In the other bowls add in the blue colouring and the red colouring to the other two bowls and then mix all three bowls well. Spread, or pipe, the frosting over the respectively coloured cake, top the fruit ones with a blueberry or raspberry accordingly and enjoy! Store in a refrigerated place when not eating and allow to come up to room temperature before enjoying!



  1. says

    Hi Charles..Glad to see the baby’s face.

    You’re right! who decides such things?

    Depeding where you are in the world, macarons are already a thing of the past or is still on.. cupcakes as well..Whatever it is..both are good (not too much frosting for me please but ok for a generous macaron filling Pierre Herme style)…

    Your cupcakes look just perfect for me..

    • says

      Hi Nada, nice to see you again – how are things going for you? You know, in the past I was never a big fan of frosting, but I don’t make it too sweet, and it’s just good cream cheese, so I don’t mind at all if there is quite a good pile of frosting on top :)

  2. says

    I’m with you Charles, just this past Easter I served a retro shrimp (prawn) cocktail with the home made ketchup and horse radish sauce! I even shredded the iceberg lettuce! I’m all about natural colourings so your icing has a lot of appetite appeal to me. The cupcakes look almost as adorable as William! He looks so happy. Loving his little sweater too. Was he ever able to wear the baby jumpers Barb and I got for him? He’s such a big boy, so cute too.

    • says

      Hi Eva – absolutely, I think the last time I posted a pic of him he was wearing one of the outfits you sent. He was able to wear them all a good few times, the problem is he’s growing at a crazy rate! He’s bigger than babies 4 months his senior. It’s certainly made dressing him a challenge at times :D. Still, we’ve been sorting through all the clothing and either keeping it or freecycling it to other parents. The bodies from you and Barb we’ve kept for the “next one” – whenever that may be, so that he (or she) may also display proudly “I <3 Canada” 😀 (or was it “Canada Rocks”?

  3. says

    Hahaha! That made me smile. I was never one for following fashion so I am with you all the way. Cupcakes are lovely and so is prawn cocktail!
    I love the idea of mint choc chip especially. Yours all look lovely and I think a mini one is better as the ration of topping to cake is better for my tastes x

    • says

      Hi Anneli, you should have seen the rage-out I was having with the mint-choc frosting. The bits of chocolate kept clogging up the piping nozzle, and then I ending up piping the whole batch over the floor so had to re-make it. Seriously not cool!

  4. says

    I would want to tickle the (not so) little guy repeatedly to see that toothy grin, Charles.

    I’ve never tasted a macaron in my life (they haven’t hit any of the bakeries I frequent apparently or I’d give them a try) but your cupcakes are so very pretty and I like all the flavours you made.

    • says

      You’ve never had a macaron?! Oh my – I hope you get a chance to try one soon… if I could recommend it, go for lemon ones! They’re seriously good! Perfect with a cup of tea :)

    • says

      Thanks Laura – macarons are something I still haven’t tried… despite buying macaron mats more than a year ago, lol! 😀

  5. says

    What a gorgeously happy looking bub!!! Just beautiful. I love cupcakes, especially the mini ones because you get more icing per cake 😉 I’m greedy 😉 your cakes are looking scrumptious 😉

    • says

      Thanks GG – more icing per cake… haha, that’s a great way of looking at it… I totally agree. I’m all for that idea! :)

  6. says

    Well…it’s good that the colourings are natural! I do like to be a-la-natural but I do make exceptions when it comes to food colouring – like you say, the natural ones tend to give you muted, muddy tones. A cupcake shop has just opened down the road from me. Should I tell them their business is doomed? Oh, and you asked about the weather. It’s in the low 20’s at the moment and so we’re having a pretty pleasant May. I have 20 for lunch tomorrow for Mother’s Day and I’m hoping we’ll be able to eat outside – that could be the last roll of the dice before winter sets in xx

  7. says

    He is a happy boy! Love that dazzling smile. And who wouldn’t be happy with those cupcakes! I rarely make them…I think because I know I’d have such a hard time stopping myself from eating them. I didn’t realize they had gone out of style either. I was just in a cupcake shop and they were having a grand-opening of their third store. Like you, I don’t think I’d have the guts to open a shop that sold one thing and one thing only. I often wonder how they pay the rents in their locations. Oh, and I’ll have one of the raspberry ones please. :)

    • says

      Hi Kristy – it helped that we had friends round for coffee the day after I made them and they were more than happy to oblige in eating about 10 each at the time, and then take another 6 home, lol :D.

  8. says

    I am one of those people who doesn’t like cupcakes (I don’t like most cakes either), but yours certainly look beautiful, Charles, despite coloring difficulties. For a deep red or rose pink you could try a little beet juice. I have found that food trends don’t influence what I like to eat, although they do influence what might be available.

    • says

      Hi Sharyn, I think the colouring might have been based on beet juice (oh, actually I think it was based on paprika now I think about it) – I will try the beet juice next time though – it’s a good idea, thanks!

  9. says

    I have always thought that cupcakes were in and macarons out, but following such food trends or ignoring them is what makes a difference between a foodie and a gourmet… so I totally agree with you that such things don’t matter. I have been eating macarons for years and when I learnt one day that they were “in” (everyone seemed to made them on tv, on blogs, websites…) I thought “so what?”. It was a bit like hearing “coffee is ‘in'” 😉 Your cupcakes look cute and irresistible, but I must confess I have never tasted a cupcake in my life (!). The blue ones make me thing of Smurfs 😉
    I know that beet juice is a very good food colouring (it’s used in powdered form by many pastry chefs), but maybe making a natural blue colouring was a bigger challenge 😉 Now that I think red cabbage cooked for a certain time is the only natural blue food I know…
    Thank you for reassuring us that William is constantly in good mood :-) Lucky guy!

    • says

      Hi Sissi, I will try beet juice next time – it sounds like a very good idea. I hope it will work well (it didn’t when I made that beetroot bread, you remember? The dough was “pink” at best, and the final bread was just brown!).

      I went to a 1st birthday party the other day for a colleague’s daughter and took William with me (my wife stayed home and slept in peace and quiet, haha). William was so good, didn’t cry a single time, just happy and laughing. Of course, he is sad sometimes when he’s tired or something, but now my colleagues all think I have a freakishly happy kid who can never be sad, haha. It’s like I’m not allowed to complain about having to stay awake at night anymore, lol!

  10. says

    With an assortment of cupcakes like this, you certainly aren’t going to let them go out of style. :) What beautiful little cupcakes! I can tell they are good just by the gorgeous smile on Williams face. Love all of the flavor profiles that you chose, and thanks for the info on the natural food coloring. Very interesting. Hope you and your lovely family are having a wonderful weekend!

    • says

      Thanks MJ, they were really good, though sadly didn’t last that long! It’s incredibly difficult to avoid eating these little things when each one is a mere two bites each! 😀

  11. says

    Hi Charles, in this case I didn’t get any memos at all. I am so far behind all the food fashion! :) And yes, who decides?! I would have a cupcake any time as long as it’s good! Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a wonderful comment. I am so happy to have such thoughtful friend. :)

  12. says

    Charles, if I recall, I don’t believe that you’ve been giving Will sweets yet? I think we gave our girls their first cupcakes at 1 year old. I can still remember the look on my oldest daughter’s face! I love mini cupcakes and your three flavours look irresistable! I’ve never used a cream cheese icing before (believe it or not) but this post inspires me to want to try it out.

    • says

      Hi Barb, not really yet. He has to sit and look jealous while we eat cupcakes :D. He seems to like lemon though… we let him chew on a piece, expecting to see the typical “baby eats lemon” reaction but it was crazy – he loved it and totally went to town on the wedge he had! 😀

  13. says

    Hi Charles,
    I don’t believe in food trends either, my theory is “eat what appeals to you” and “what your belly craves for”. Macaroons are delish and fancy. But Hurray for cupcakes!! Those little bites of joy look delicious. Cute photo of the little one!!

    • says

      Thanks Malli! Totally agree… it’s a shame because some really good foods and dishes have been almost “lost” to time because of changing fashions.

  14. says

    “Apparently this means it’s rubbish and doesn’t really work” heehee… I don’t know Charles, I actually really like the colours you have going on here and I’ve always found those over-the-top florescent colours unmistakably…well, fake. These ones look natural to my eye and I also like that you added in some real fruit. I’m afraid I don’t know my macarons from cupcakes when it comes to food fashion 😉 but good for you for doing your own thing – singing your song with your adorable son in tow.

    And I’m right there with you with the shrimp cocktail!! You know I had this incurable shrimp cocktail attack last summer… I was out on the tennis court and I absolutely *had* to have a shrimp cocktail after the game… I could not be stopped. So we went on a massive hunt but couldn’t find a resto for miles that served one (not even the tennis club we were visiting – seems like a tennis/golf club thing, no?) so, we went to the grocery store and then home to make a big fat hanging off the glass ol’ fashion shrimp cocktail and it was awesome :).

    • says

      Hi Kelly, I suppose the colours aren’t bad in the end. I was hoping for the cakes themselves to be more vibrant – the frosting colour I can settle on though, even if it was more pink and baby blue!

      I loved your story of having to get a shrimp cocktail. Isn’t it funny how that happens. Driving along, doing shopping, playing tennis, and suddenly… SNACK ATTACK! Glad you were able to get one in the end – even if you had to work and make it yourself. I bet it was way better, fresher and cheaper as a result!

  15. says

    Love William’s picture!!! He’s such a happy and handsome baby! I’ve never made cupcakes before. I’m a bit worried about frosting part and it made me reluctant to try. Though I am going to try one day! Your cupcakes are beautiful. Now you have a little guy to make him happy with delicious homemade cupcakes. :)

    • says

      Thank you Nami. He’s a happy little chap. Though right now he’s rolling all over my wife in the bedroom while she’s trying to make him go to sleep, lol :D. I suppose I’d better go and help!

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