The cake batter for these cupcakes is very simple to make, the only other step needed is preparing the pear topping, but if you want to make your life real easy, you can do that the day before and keep it in the fridge. They don’t need anything but a light shower with powdered sugar.
VANILLA MINI-CAKES WITH HONEY PEARS (adapted from several sources)
for the pear topping: 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter 4 Anjou pears, peeled, cored, cut in small cubes 1/3 cup (65g) golden brown sugar 2 tablespoons honey
for the cakes: 3/4 cup (185g) unsalted butter, room temperature 1 cup (200g) sugar 4 large (200g) eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 + 1/3 cups (160g) all purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt
Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet, add the pears and sauté for 5 minutes, until tender. Add brown sugar and honey, cook until pears are evenly coated, about a minute or so. Transfer to a small bowl, cover and put in the fridge until needed.
Heat oven to 350°F. Coat 8 mini-cake pans with non-stick spray. Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating constantly. Add the vanilla. Which the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, and sift that mixture into the butter/egg, mixing gently until combined.
Divide the batter among cups, filling a little more than half-full. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of the pear mixture on top of the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, about 25 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before un-molding. Right before serving, add a little powdered sugar on top with a sieve.
Comments: For the cakes, I used one of my favorite pans, which I bought a long time ago on eBay. I have not been able to find a source to get it in the US, but you can see it here. It is the same pan I’ve used for mini Victoria cakes (flash back post here). It bakes like a dream, and since the bottom is loose, you can push the cakes out easily. I love the look of the mini-cakes, they get perfectly straight edges. If you don’t have a similar pan, use a regular cupcake pan. Maybe the number and size of your cakes will be different but it will work.
The same approach will work with other fruits, and I also think pineapple could be wonderful, so that’s an idea for future adventures…
Mini-cakes are cute from the get-go, in fact most desserts made in single serving are pretty adorable by default. But some details can raise their level of cuteness even higher. Today I share three ideas to make mini-cakes a little more special.
The first method to make cute cupcakes is using a different shape of pan. Like this pan from Nordic Ware. I think the quality of their pans is hard to beat, and totally worth the price tag. They are heavy, well-made and bake like a dream. I usually still spray the inside with PAM baking spray, a light coating ensures nothing will stick in the little crevices.
LEMON MINI-BUNDT CAKES
LEMON MINI-BUNDT CAKES (adapted from several sources)
125g butter (I used Kerrygold) 150g sugar zest of 1 lemon 2 large eggs (100g) 180 g all-purpose flour 1 + 1/4 teaspoon baking powder Pinch of salt ½ cup milk 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tsp lemon extract for the glaze: 200g powdered sugar (1 cup) Juice of 1 fresh lemon (amount adjusted for consistency) sprinkles to decorate (optional)
Heat oven to 350 F. Rub the sugar with the lemon zest for a couple a minutes until very fragrant. Cream butter and lemon-infused sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, beating in slow speed until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and milk. Mix well to combine, then add the lemon juice and extract, whisking gently.
Pour batter into the pan a little over 1/2 full in each cavity, but not quite reaching 3/4 of the capacity. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Leave the cakes in the pan for 5 minutes than invert and cool them completely over a rack.
Make the glaze by mixing the ingredients. You want a pourable consistency, but not too thick so that the ridges of the cake still show. Pour over the cooled cakes. Decorate with sprinkles.
These lemon cakes are very moist, with intense citric flavor. I used a very thin glaze because I wanted the ridges to be evident. If making a regular cupcake, consider a much thicker icing that will stay on the surface a little better.
In this method, used by Sonali from sugaretal, you will need a silicone mold to bake the cakes. Then, after washing it well, the pan is used to apply the compound chocolate coating. The result is quite stunning, but the process pretty simple. I used this pan.
To get the recipe, follow the link to her Instagram page.
After baking the cakes….
The silicone pan is washed and dried very well. I used a little gold luster powder to brush the bottom of the pan, then poured Candy melts dyed light green. Carefully brushed that all the way to the sides of each cavity and placed the cake back, snuggly, so that it would get a smooth coating on the surface. Make sure to do one little cake at a time, so that the melted compound chocolate does not harden.
The pan is placed in the freezer for about 30 minutes, so that the shell is properly formed and the cakes will release fully coated.
I am totally in love with this combination of pistachio and rose. In fact, I urge you to visit Sonali’s blog, full of elegant ideas for all sorts of desserts.
Finaly, the third way to dress up a cupcake, is making a few colors of Swiss meringue buttercream and creating a cute pattern on the surface. I followed the design of Liz Shim, available at Domestika.com
CUPCAKES DECORATED WITH SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
I made a simple vanilla cupcake (recipe from America’s Test Kitchen), and a batch of Swiss meringue buttercream following the recipe provided by Liz Shim in her class. I coated the top of the cupcakes with buttercream, and separated small amounts to dye orange, brown, and black. Those were used to make all the details using star-shaped or round piping tips.
I hope you enjoyed this trio of cakes. There are many options for mini-cake pans at Nordic Ware, one more beautiful than the other: hearts, little houses, tiered little cakes, stars… just choose your favorite and play with cake flavors. I think the pan I used would be very nice with a red velvet cake too.
Coating a cake with compound chocolate is another great option to include in your repertoire, and Sonali is a pro at that. You might remember I’ve used her method in the past (click here).
As to piping designs with buttercream, it involves a bit of a learning curve. I am much more comfortable piping Royal icing, which stays put better and is less prone to melting with the heat of your hands in the piping bag. But I intend to keep practicing, so stay tuned!
I love all bakes by Sonali, a Bengali food blogger (site: Sugaretal) based in Australia. Her style is flawless, and her choice of flavors always pleases me. Not too long ago she shared these mini-cakes, loaded with blueberries, made even more special by the final touch of a shell of chocolate. To bake them, I used the Silikomart mold Parfum.
MINI BLUEBERRY CAKES (very slightly modified from Sugaretal)
170g all-purpose flour 130g granulated sugar 1 + 1/2 tsp baking powder 1 egg, lightly whisked 1/2 cup milk 1/4 cup vegetable oil 1 tsp vanilla extract 1/3 cup fresh blueberries 1 cup white chocolate melts pink oil-soluble food color fondant decoration (optional)
Heat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease/spray 8 silicone molds.
Place flour, sugar and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add the egg, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine. Fold in the blueberries.
Pour batter into mold. Bake for 20 to 25 mins or until fully cooked through. A toothpick must come out clean when inserted in the center of the cakes. Remove from the oven, let the cakes cool almost completely before attempting to remove them from the silicone molds. Wash the silicone pan and reserve, while the cakes sit on a rack to get completely cold.
To the melted chocolate, add pink color, and brush the inside of the silicone pan. Carefully place a cold mini cake inside the cavity, so that the chocolate coats the surface. Place in the fridge for 45 minutes or the freezer for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the cakes. Decorate if so desired, with fondant or a Royal icing flower.
Comments: So many possibilities with this technique! If you follow Sonali on Istagram (check her page here), you’ll see she has other variations using chocolate in the same basic approach. I can hardly wait to bake another batch. I will probably use my default recipe for brownie cupcakes, as it behaves well in different types of baking pans. The main thing to pay attention to is making sure the coating is fully set before the final un-molding. When in doubt, wait a little longer. It should come out very easily.
Baking in silicone pans can be tricky, so my advice is to always use a good quality product. I stand by Silikomart, all the way. If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you know that I never accept products to review, and only recommend things I love. This little pan makes the cutest, two-bite size cakes. I share today four different bakes using it. The most important thing is to bake a little longer than you would in a metal baking pan, and allow the cakes to fully cool before trying to un-mold them. You can even let them come to room temperature and then place the pan in the fridge for 10 minutes to ensure a perfect release. For all these bakes I used the Silikomart Savarin Mold, medium. Available here. I always spray the inside very lightly with PAM baking spray.
CHOCOLATE CHIP FINANCIER MINI-CAKES
CHOCOLATE CHIP FINANCIER MINI-CAKES (adapted from foodohfood)
80 g unsalted butter, diced 50 g almond flour 140 g powdered sugar 60 g all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 150 g egg whites 50 g mini chocolate chips chocolate ganache, or melted chocolate and sprinkles for decoration
Heat oven to 360F.
Make the brown butter. Put the diced butter in a pan and melt it over low heat. Simmer the butter until the water is evaporated, it should get a light caramel color and a nutty smell. Pass it through a sieve and allow it to cool.
In a bowl, mix the almond flour, powdered sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed with the electric mixer or with the leaf attachment and gradually add the egg whites and then cold brown butter. Finally, add the chocolate chips. The batter is quite liquid, so use a piping bag to distribute it in the pan, filling almost 3/4 height.
Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven. Let it cool completely before un-molding. Fill the center with ganache or melted chocolate, or leave it plain. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.
Comments: For the financier, filling not quite to the 3/4 height was perfect. I love the texture of these mini-cakes. You need tiny chocolate chips for this recipe (I’ve featured the ones I like in my last In My Kitchen post) If you don’t have it, cut regular chips in very small pieces. It is hard to pick a favorite, but these were truly delicious on all counts.
RED VELVET MINI-CAKES
Recipe used: America’s Test Kitchen Red Velvet as published in their book The Perfect Cake. I could not get permission to publish the recipe. If you have the book, my only change was to make half the amount. I still had batter leftover after making 10 mini-cakes, and that was enough for two regular size cupcakes. Recipe for the frosting below.
SMALL BATCH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING (adapted from several sources)
2 ounces cream cheese softened 2 ounces unsalted butter, softened 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 80g powdered sugar, or more if you prefer a stiffer frosting Pinch of salt
In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract. Beat until well-mixed and fluffy.
Add powdered sugar and salt and continue to beat until sugar is completely incorporated and frosting is smooth and creamy. For a stiffer frosting, add more powdered sugar. Add the frosting to the cavity of the mini-cakes, and decorate with sprinkles, if desired.
Chop the chocolate and butter in pieces, place them in a microwave-safe bowl and melt at 50% power just until the chocolate is almost fully melted. Finish melting by whisking gently until smooth. Allow it to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
In another bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Reserve.
To the melted chocolate, add the sugar and mix with a handheld mixer, when the sugar is incorporated (it won’t be smooth), add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth, for a couple of minutes medium-speed. Gently sift the flour mixture on top, whisk just until the flour is incorporated and no dry bits can be found.
Fill each cavity of the savarin mold a little less than 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly moist. Cool completely before un-molding.
Any of the icings I shared in my original post will work for these cupcakes, just pick sprinkles that match the flavor. But, for a simpler bake you can just dust them with powdered sugar. The shape is beautiful no matter now you finish it.
BLACK SESAME & CHAI MINI-CAKES
These cakes were made from a recipe found in the cookbook Masala and Meatballs, by Asha Shivakumar. I’ve had this book for several years and everything I made from it turned out excellent. I highly recommend it. For these mini-cakes, the batter takes black sesame paste, and I used my own icing from the Chai-Brownie Cupcake in this post. In Asha’s recipe, the icing was made with sweetened condensed milk as a base plus powdered sugar, so I opted for something a little less sweet.
I hope you’ll consider baking with little savarin molds, especially if you are sharing these with friends or co-workers. They are very small, and the format allows for just a little icing. I am always impressed by the beauty of iced cupcakes, but they can be quite over-indulgent. If you like to enjoy sweets but prefer some moderation, these have your name written all over…
I made these cakes in November 2019, if you can believe it… Sometimes things take their sweet time to go from a folder with pictures to the blog post. Victoria Sponge is a true classic from the UK, named after Queen Victoria, because it was her favorite sweet to enjoy during afternoon tea. It is a sandwich type cake with strawberry jam, often whipped cream, and usually not iced, the top and sides left naked. Many variations exist, I am sharing a version that makes them in individual format. I find them irresistibly cute.
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature 175g granulated sugar 3 large eggs, beaten 1 tsp vanilla extract 185g all-purpose flour 1 + 1/8 tsp baking powder Pinch of salt
whipped cream lightly sweetened strawberry jam
Heat the oven to 350°F. Very lightly grease the molds of a mini-cake pan.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Reserve.
Cream the butter and caster sugar together until the mixture is pale and light. Gradually add the beaten eggs, mixing well between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time. Add the vanilla extract and mix again.
Add the flour mixture to the batter, mixing gently until smooth. Fill the mini-cake mold, each cavity 3/4 full, no more than that. You should have enough for 12 mini-cakes. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden, well risen and a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean.
Leave the cakes to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then ease out onto a wire cooling rack and leave until completely cool. Cut each cake in half, and pipe the whipped cream onto the bases, in dots. Drizzle the jam over the buttercream dots, place the sponge tops on and lightly dust the cakes with icing sugar.
Comments: I had to play around with the recipe a bit to get it right, adjusting the baking powder amount and not filling the mold to the top, so that the doming was just right. It was a huge hit with our departmental colleagues, I got several emails about it. The cake is tender and moist. The original recipe called for American buttercream for the filling, but I decided to go with whipped cream, stabilized with gelatin. Follow the recipe from this link. For the pan, I used this one. At the time I bought it on ebay, but could not find it available right now.
I think whipped cream is less sweet and makes the cake feel a bit lighter, but if you prefer to go with buttercream, follow the original recipe in the link I included.