Everybody’s favourite pudding brought bang up to date as a cupcake with salted caramel buttercream. There are two alternative toppings: the first involves making a caramel, the second, simply opening a jar of dulche de leche. The choice is yours, though the former will give a pleasing bitter edge. If you prefer an unsalted caramel buttercream, omit the salt and use unsalted butter.
Preheat the oven to 180C / fan 170C / 350F / gas mark 4.
Place the paper cupcake cases into a cupcake tin.
In a heatproof bowl, pour 180ml boiling water over the dates and leave them to soak for 20 minutes. Then with a fork gently break up the dates and stir in the vanilla extract.
Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar for a good five minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs gradually, beating between each addition and slipping in 1 tbsp flour about half way through to prevent curdling. Lastly, fold in the remaining flour and then the date mixture.
Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake for 15 – 20 minutes (the tops should spring back when pressed with a finger). Remove and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, make the buttercream. To make the caramel, dissolve the sugar and 60ml water in a small, solid-based ban over a gentle heat, then increase the heat to a boil. Wait a few minutes, leaving the pan undisturbed but watching it like a hawk and, as soon as it changes to a wonderful caramel colour (like strong tea) and is thicker, remove immediately from the heat, stand well back, and add the cream. Be very careful as it is searing hot and it may splatter a little. It will react, or ‘seize’, and you may think it has gone wrong; it hasn’t. Keep stirring, adding the salt and the vanilla. Leave until stone cold.
If using dulche de leche, simply mix it with the salt and vanilla.
Cream the butter and icing sugar for at least five minutes in an electric mixer (or use a handheld mixer) and add the caramel or the dulche de leche. Put the buttercream into the piping bag fitted with the star nozzle and pipe it on to the cakes, or spread it on with a palette knife.
Wallace & Gromit's BIG Bake
Fiona Cairns has provided this recipe to support Wallace & Gromit's BIG Bake, which takes place between December 7 and December 13 to raise money for children in hospitals and hospices across the country. To take part you can hold a fundraising bakesale at work or with family, visit the Wallace & Gromit's Children Charity website for more details.