Perfect Cupcakes for Picnics Posted by: | April 11, 2010

I’ve been looking forward all week to today to make cupcakes for the first time. It is for a picnic at Botanic Garden. Who wouldn’t love cupcakes for a picnic? And recently I’ve been very fascinated with cupcakes for its simplicity and variety that gives you so much room for your own creativity! Perfect for a person like me who loves to decorate! So who would I turn to for the best cupcake recipe? Nigella Lawson! She always blows me away with how quick she whips up her pretty cupcakes for her tea parties. She swears by making cupcakes with a food processor as it is a huge shortcut as compared to manual mixing. So that inspired me to buy a whole new food processor this week. Yes, I couldn’t resist it, but heck, think of all the recipes and time I could be saving from using it! Oh how I love kitchen gadgets! Nothing beats having the right tool when it comes to cooking. My cupcakes turned out to be a hit and all 12 pieces were gobbled down quite quickly. Not to mention the picnic host’s homemade springrolls, stuffed “paella” squids, and sandwiches which were awesome too. All in all, it was a really satisfying picnic of great food, company and weather! We should do this more often! Restaurants inside malls just don’t cut it… Food + Outdoors = Happy People.

I tweaked Nigella’s recipe a little bit by adding grated dark chocolate and strawberries for the extra kick. It totally worked its magic! So here it goes… the recipe you’ve been waiting for:

“Night-And-Day” Cupcakes with Strawberries (adapted from Nigella Lawson in “How To Be A Domestic Goddess”)

INGREDIENTS (makes 12 cupcakes):

For the cupcakes:

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • scant 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup self-rising flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup very soft unsalted butter (take it out of the fridge about 20 minutes ahead & chop into smaller chunks)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk

For the frosting:

  • 1 1/3 cups icing sugar (or confectioner’s sugar), sifted
  • 4 ounces or about 115g cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • dark chocolate (of at least 70% cocoa solids) for grating
  • 6 fresh strawberries


1. Preheat oven to 200 deg C (400 deg F). Mix the cocoa to a paste with the boiling water and set aside.

2. Now the exciting part where I get to play with my new toy: put the sugars, flour, eggs, and butter in the food processor (see Picture 1) and blitz till mixture is combined smoothly (see Picture 2). Scrape the mixture from the sides, then pulse (in case you don’t know, “Pulse mode” is a function useful for folding flour or fluids into batter to maintain creaminess) while you add cocoa paste, vanilla extract and milk down the funnel. Stop when you have a batter with soft dropping consistency (see Picture 3 below). If the batter is still too thick, add a little more milk.

2. Dollop into your cupcake baking cups in the pan until they are about half full. Now I’m very glad with the little innovation I have here. Since my Microwave Convection Oven is too small to fit a 12-cupcake pan, I bought 12 individual silicon cupcake baking cups which are soft, oven-safe, non-stick and really great in saving storage as you can stack them up. Instead of putting the batter into the cups directly (which is totally fine as the silicon cups will not stick to the batter), I still layer the cups with paper cupcake liners just to make it look pretty for serving later. I know. I’m vain that way. It also allows me to make bigger cupcakes than the small silicon cup size (hmm that sounded a bit wrong!). Place the cupcakes on a cookie baking sheet/tray and bake for about 20 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick you insert comes out clean.

3. Take out the cupcakes from the oven and leave them to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, make the frosting by beating together the sifted icing sugar and cream cheese till soft and smooth. Now don’t make the same mistake as me and try to beat with a mixer from the start. The cream cheese was still too hard and couldn’t incorporate with the sugar, leading to the sugar flying everywhere out of the mixing bowl. I was in a white mess, haha. To avoid this, you should take your cream cheese out of the fridge earlier to let it soften somewhat, then fold into the icing sugar with a spatula slowly until it becomes a thick mixture and all sugar is incorporated (see picture). Only then you can use a mixer to beat until the mixture is completely smooth and lump-less. Add lemon juice to taste and spread over the cupcakes.

4. This was my favourite step: Grate the dark chocolate over the cupcakes to create a thin layer on the white frosting. Beautiful! (I was rather generous there as I know my friends love chocolate)

5. Press half a strawberry lightly onto each cupcake. And voila! You have a wonderful mini palette of colors and great combination of fluffy, moist cupcake with the sweet, sour/tangy frosting covered in grated bitter-sweet dark chocolate and topped with juicy strawberry.

What a wonderful orchestra of flavours and textures! Such cupcakes are really hard to come by outside. Most cupcakes being sold outside are so boring, so these “virgin” cupcakes of mine were such an eye-opener on what I have been missing out on! I will definitely experiment more cupcake recipes in future (bought a new cupcake book as well!). They are perfect for outdoors and also for tea/dinner parties. It has a certain value of hip and lifestyle to it that is hard to replicate in other cakes. And of course, they are easy to make but always a real show-stopper to impress your crowd! Now that is what I call a winning-formula in just a little cup ;)


6 Responses to “Perfect Cupcakes for Picnics”

  1. TienQueen says:

    ngon qua, dau tay la favourite fruit cua e, suot ngay di comment chua duoc thu phat nao huhu

  2. Phuong Do says:

    Looked sooo beautiful. Just wondering that the idea of putting strawberry for the frosting is yours or from any cookbook? It’s cool.

  3. Theresa Wong says:

    I noticed from the picture above, the after baked cup cake cracks alot. What caused it to crack so much before frosting.

    Anyway thanks for sharing your recipe.

    • Chi Anh says:

      I think it cracks cos it is a bit overbaked. I didn’t mind cos I like the crunchy top below frosting. You can try taking it out of the oven earlier and use a tester to see if it’s done. Take out to cool as soon as the tester comes out clean. Have fun baking :)

  4. [...] Perfect Cupcakes for Picnics [...]

Leave a Reply