The Alzheimer’s Society has declared 13 June Cupcake Day, encouraging us to “bake a difference” and support people with dementia. It’s a great cause.
So today’s recipe is inspired by Chris Norris, who is 65 and has frontotemporal dementia. In 1969, aged 15 and serving in the army as a junior musician, he used to bring psychedelic-coloured marble cakes from the family home to his barracks in Surrey. “People descended upon me as if the Red Cross van had arrived,” he recalls.
These are quite large, muffin-sized cupcakes; halve the ingredients if you want something smaller.
Prep time: 20 mins (cake), 10 mins (buttercream)
Bake time: 20-25 mins, plus decorating time
200g caster sugar
200g eggs (about 4 medium)
290g self-raising flour
3 tbsp whole milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Pink, yellow, green and blue gel food dye
Rind of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp freeze-dried strawberry powder
2 tsp pistachio paste (or a little ground pistachio)
300g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp whole milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Yellow and blue gel food dyes
Biscuits to decorate: party rings, gem biscuits, homemade biscuit cutouts etc
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas mark 4. Line a 12-hole cupcake tin with paper cases.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light in colour and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs. Add the eggs to the butter/sugar mixture 1-2 tablespoons at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add the flour, and whisk on slow speed. Add the milk and vanilla bean paste, and keep whisking until just combined. Don’t overmix.
Divide the batter evenly between four bowls and use the food gels to colour it pink, yellow, green and blue. Stir the strawberry powder into the pink batter, lemon rind into the yellow and pistachio paste into the green. Leave the blue batter plain.
Add spoonfuls of the batter into the cupcake liners, alternating between the different colours. Bake for 20-25 mins, or until risen and firm on top. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
While cooling, make the buttercream. Cream together the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add milk to lighten the texture, and vanilla bean paste to flavour. Place a third of the batter in a separate bowl, and colour this yellow. Colour the larger amount of buttercream blue. Transfer the two colours to separate small piping bags, and cut a medium opening on both.
Place both piping bags side by side in a larger piping bag, with a decorative nozzle tip attached. Use to pipe swirls on all the cupcakes. This will give you a two-toned colour effect. Decorate the tops with homemade biscuit cutouts, gem biscuits and party rings.