Health & Wellbeing

Cravings Corner: For When You Want To Eat Cupcakes

Can you think of an occasion where a cupcake or two (or three?) doesn't go down a treat? Nah, us neither. Make a batch instead of a birthday cake (just stick a candle in the centre cake), scoff some with your mates and a movie, or take a plate of them to your mum – she'll LOVE you.

Just don't expect us to say these cute pastel Kawaii cakes are almost too pretty to eat....we're more than happy to eat them all up. Are you in? Here's how to make them...

Rainbow Swirl Cupcakes

Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 22.35.50

  • Makes 12
  • Skill level: easy


  • 300 g (10. oz) soft salted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
  • 300 g (10. oz) golden caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 6 medium free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 300 g (10. oz) self-raising flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powders

For the icing

  • Large piping bag
  • Food colouring gels (Try purple, yellow, green, blue and pink)
  • Large open star nozzle
  • 600 g (1lb/5oz) basic vanilla bean buttercream (see below)
  • Bag clip

How to make

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C /Gas 4. Grease a 12-hole cupcake tray.
  • Place the butter, sugar and vanilla or other flavourings into a mixing bowl and combine.
  • If using an electric mixer, turn the speed to high (or if you’re using a wooden spoon, use plenty of elbow grease!) and beat until the mixture is very pale, soft and fluffy and the granules of sugar have disappeared.
  • Add the beaten eggs, about one-quarter at a time, beating them in slowly each time.
  • Add the flour gradually, one-quarter at a time, mixing gently on a slow speed, until it has mostly been incorporated.
  • Then, add the baking powder. Fold with a metal spoon if doing this by hand. Take care not to mix or beat vigorously or your sponge can turn out a bit tough.
  • Scrape the mixture into cupcake cases or lined tins as required.
  • Bake for around 12–15 minutes, checking every few minutes. Remember, all ovens vary so if in doubt use an oven thermometer.
  • The cakes should be a light golden brown, springy to the touch. A sharp knife or metal skewer should come out clean and free of mixture when inserted into the centre.
  • Leave to cool for a couple of minutes in the tins, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
  • When the cakes have cooled, turn the piping bag inside out, then drizzle with strips of the gel colours to create stripes. Turn the bag right side out, then fit it with the star nozzle and fill with buttercream. Clip the bag to keep it all in.
  • Squeeze the buttercream onto the cupcakes. Hold the bag in a vertical position and pipe in a spiral, starting around the outside edge of the case, winding inwards and building height to create a peak.
  • The colour will be blended onto the buttercream, giving a lovely rainbow swirl effect.

Cake flavour switch up

Lemon or orange: add the zest of 2 lemons or 1 large orange.

Brown sugar/caramel: switch the sugar for light muscovado for a deeper caramel taste.

Chocolate: switch 2 tablespoons flour for cocoa and add an extra teaspoon of baking powder to the dry ingredients.

Buttercream icing


  • 1 vanilla pod, or 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • 250 g (9 oz) soft unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) icing (confectioners’) sugar, sieved

How to make

  • If you have an electric stand mixer then use this with the beater or paddle attachment. Otherwise, use a hand-held mixer or a wooden spoon.
  • Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod, if using, or add the paste. In the mixer or bowl, cream the butter with the vanilla seeds and extract until very pale, creamy and smooth.
  • Add about one-quarter of the icing sugar. To make sure the sugar doesn’t puff out in clouds and cover your kitchen, mix slowly at first. You can also place a damp tea towel over the bowl.
  • Once the icing sugar is incorporated, beat at a high speed for about 1 minute until the mix is really creamy and pale. It will take you a few more minutes by hand.
  • Continue adding the sugar, one quarter at a time, taking care to beat it in well after each addition.
  • Beat the buttercream at high speed for 1–2 minutes until fluffy and pale. Use as required.

Flavour switch-up

Orange Buttercream: follow the basic recipe above, omitting the vanilla if you prefer. When creaming the butter, add the zest of 2 fresh oranges.

Raspberry & Strawberry Buttercream: add 1 tablespoon each of good-quality raspberry and strawberry jam.

Lemon Buttercream: add the zest of 1 lemon and a 100 g (3 oz) homemade or good quality shop-bought lemon curd.

Extracted from Kawaii Cakes by Juliet Sear (Hardie Grant, £10) Photography © Jacqui Melville

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