It may be spring soon (hurry up already!) here, but, with the exception of a couple of days last week, the weather over the last few weeks seems to think that it’s autumn. Dull, grey and blustery. It’s enough to make one crave apples and all those wonderfully wintery spices, even if pretty flowers are beginning to bloom instead of the leaves turning spectacular colours. So when I decided to try out a recipe that called for camomile tea and I opened my tea cupboard to get the camomile, I was immediately distracted by a packet of spiced apple camomile. And as simply as that, I decided to try spiced apple camomile and honey cupcakes instead of just simple camomile and honey cupcakes. Which is perfect for those of you in the northern hemisphere where it actually is autumn.
It turned out to be a rather marvellous idea. The flavours are distinctly autumnal and delicious but also delicate. Without wanting to stereotype too much, I’m tempted to describe these cupcakes as “ladylike” – the lightness of the cake part and the honeyed icing make me imagine these cupcakes set out on a dainty china plate at an afternoon tea party for ladies. The tea (loose-leaf of course, darling, and served by the butler) would be sipped from fine china cups. There’s something about the flavours that makes me think “vintage” as well. I’m not really sure why. If I had a dainty vintage china tea set, it would feature heavily in this post’s photos. My mum does, but on the other side of the world, so I can’t really borrow it. I do, however, have a shark mug. Which is blatantly the same thing.
See, a shark mug is totally all dainty and lady-like. Pfffft. I feel this has turned into a rather lady-oriented post and that I should make it clear that whilst these cupcakes may be all dainty and delicate, they’re not just for the ladies – men will love them, too. I’m basing that statement on the reaction of my labmates – there was “mmmmm”ing all round, but the boys practically inhaled them (although that’s not necessarily unusual). Anyway since when are cupcakes just for ladies? Ridiculous idea. Pfffft. This is turning into a bit of a ramble, so just a quick note about the honey icing – I chose a set pōhutakawa honey that I picked up at the Auckland Food Show and which has been starting me in the face every time I open my ingredients cupboard. This recipe was the perfect occasion to crack open the jar and
eat a few cheeky spoonfuls whilst waiting for the cupcakes to cool use this wonderful NZ honey for something delicious.
Spiced apple camomile & honey cupcakes
Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook
I used Twinings’ spiced apple camomile from tea bags. Other flavoured camomile teas would probably work wonderfully (as long as they go with the honey icing) as would just plain camomile. You could also use whole dried camomile rather than from tea bags, in which case chop it fairly finely before measuring out the 3 tbsp required. I chose a set pōhutakawa honey for the icing. Choose a honey with flavours that will complement the camomile. If using a runny honey, I’d suggest perhaps using 1 tbsp of honey rather than the 2 tbsp stated in the ingredients list. The cupcakes will keep in an airtight box at room temperature for up to three days.
To make the cupcakes:
140g all-purpose flour
125g granulated sugar
55g butter, softened
3 tbsp spiced apple camomile (I found this to be about 9 tea bags worth)
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp baking soda
120 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
To make the icing:
160-180g icing sugar
2 tbsp set honey
4-5 tbsp whipping or NZ pure cream (use heavy or double cream if you can get it)
Ground cinnamon, to decorate
To make the cupcakes:
1. Line a cupcake tin with 12 liners or set out 12 silicone cupcake moulds on an baking tray. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C with a rack placed in the upper third of the oven.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla extract. Set aside.
3. Add the flour, sugar, butter, spiced apple camomile, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt to a large bowl and whisk together with an electric whisk on medium speed until the mixture resembles fairly fine breadcrumbs (this takes about 5 mins).
4. Pour half of the milk mixture into the flour mixture and whisk in until just incorporated. Pour in the remaining milk mixture. Turn the electric whisk up to a medium-high speed and beat for 1 minute, until blended well.
5. Split the evenly batter between the prepared cupcake liners or moulds, filling each only up until about half way (you’ll need to scrape the bowl to get every last drop of batter). Bake for 17-20 mins until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin or moulds for 10 mins before removing to a wire rack to cool completely (be very careful if using silicon moulds – the cupcakes will be fragile and can easily break apart when being removed from the moulds).
To make the icing:
6. Once the cupcakes are completely cool, make the icing. Whisk together 160g of icing sugar, the honey and the cream in a medium bowl until smooth. If the icing is too runny, add a little more icing sugar as required. Using a small palette knife, liberally spread the icing over the cupcakes (don’t try to pipe the icing, it won’t work because the icing doesn’t have a thick enough consistency – I know because I tried). If the icing is too runny and looks like it’s going to escape, pop the cupcakes in the fridge whilst it sets. Once the icing is set, dust with a little bit of ground cinnamon before serving.