Saturday, 22 September 2012

Hibiscus Cupcakes

Here in the UK it's National Cupcake Week this week so I've used this as an opportunity to finally getting around to baking a recipe that I've been thinking about for a while.
I've baked with lavender before and I have a recipe in Harry Eastwood's Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache book for chamomile cupcakes which I haven't actually made yet. But the idea of baking with hibiscus has been floating around in my mind for a while, simply because I love the taste of hibiscus tea and the colour, it's purple! If you haven't tried it before then I recommend it. It tastes quite fruity almost like blackcurrants and as it's caffeine free it's great for a relaxing afternoon drink. Not so good in the evening though as it can act as a diuretic and you don't want to keep getting up in the night after a cup!

I came across these fantastic hibiscus shortbread biscuits a few months ago on Heather's Sprinkle Bakes blog and since then the idea has been slowly ticking away at the back of my mind. I think the only reason I hadn't made them until now was a confidence thing, I really wasn't sure if they would work or not. But tonight I was feeling bold and I also have a fairly fresh packet of hibiscus tea in the kitchen. I buy mine from ebay as loose tea made from finely cut dried flowers and then make it in a mug using my tea strainer.

I only had 2 eggs in the fridge so unfortunately I couldn't quite make enough cake mix to fill 12 cupcake sized cake cases. But I wanted to use the pretty purple cupcake cases I bought from Lakeland recently. If I had chosen a slightly different basic cake recipe then I probably could have made 12 but I like to use my basic sponge recipe when trying out new ideas. It's the ratio of eggs, butter, sugar and flour that my Mum taught me and that I memorised after I started baking in my own home that is always the basis for many of my quick cake recipes and helps me to scale quantities up or down easily.

I apologise for the use of imperial units, I normally try and give measurements in metric but for some reason when making sponge cakes my brain refuses to compute metric unless I'm following a specific recipe from a book. This is especially bizarre considering that I am a scientist and I have to deal with data that is in metric units on a daily basis.

Ingredients - makes 10 cupcakes or 12 fairy cakes

For the cakes:
4oz butter
4oz caster sugar
2 eggs
4oz self raising flour
3 tbsp strong hibiscus tea made with 1 tsp finely cut dried hibiscus flowers and 3 tbsp boiling water

For the icing:
4oz icing sugar
3 tbsp very strong hibiscus tea made with 2 tsp finely cut dried hibiscus flowers and 3 tbsp boiling water

  • Preheat the oven to 180C and line a bun tin with 10 cupcake cases.
  • Make the hibiscus tea and leave to infuse whilst preparing the cake mix.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy in a large bowl and then beat in the eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour and then pour in the hibiscus tea through a fine tea strainer or a fine sieve and stir through. This will turn the cake mix a pale purple colour. 
  • Divide the cake mix between the cake cases and then bake for 15 minutes until the cakes are risen and an inserted skewer comes out clean. While the cakes are baking make the hibiscus tea for the icing so it will be nice and strong.
  • Cool the cakes on a wire rack and then make the icing by mixing together the icing sugar with the very strong hibiscus tea. The flowers will absorb some of the water so when straining the tea use a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible by squeezing the flowers against the strainer. This is where the flavour and the beautiful deep magenta colour comes from so you want to get every last drop of tea mixed in with the icing sugar. The icing should be thick enough to spread on top of the cakes without running off, add a couple of drops of water if it is too thick. 
  • Spread the icing on top of the cooled cakes using a palette knife.

The hibiscus in the cakes turns them a pale blue colour after baking and the flavour is quite subtle, these were an experiment so I might make the hibiscus tea for the cakes stronger next time. The icing though has a lovely fruity flavour from the hibiscus and I had to restrain myself from eating it straight from the bowl!

I'm entering these into Calender Cakes this month as the theme is cupcakes, this challenge is run by Laura from Laura Loves Cakes and Rachel from Dolly Bakes. I'm also adding these to Javelin Warrior's Made With Love Mondays.



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  2. Ooooo these sound really interesting...I've never seen Hibiscus cupcakes before! They look so tasty...I'd love to try one! Thanks for entering Calendar're certainly the first Hibiscus entry! :-)

  3. LOVE the use of hibiscus for both flavor AND color in these cupcakes, Jen! What a great idea and they sound delicious. The color is SO intense - at first I was sure you must have used food dye, but I'm so glad to see you didn't... Thanks so much for sharing with Made with Love Mondays and I'm still trying to catch up after a week of holiday...

    1. Thanks :) I was surprised at how vibrant the colour was as well. I'm happy to have found a natural food colour that stands out and also tastes good!

  4. I love hibiscus flowers in syrup - they really the only thing to have in a glass of champagne. Have not cooked with it. These are on my list to make!


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