Going nuts for toffee cupcakes

2014-10-10 00:00

FOR the next three columns, we will be walking you through some basics in the kitchen. As the first basic food lesson in our series, we will discuss one of Seline’s favourites — caramel.

It is the thing people ask her to make the most often since the end of MasterChef SA, with the public calling her “the sugar wizard” or the “sugar whisperer”.

Here’s the secret about working with sugar — it is really simple.

Caramel is simply made by melting sugar over a low temperature until it is completely liquid and free of all sugar crystals. Caramel can be spun into sugar nests, or can be thrown over nuts to create any type of brittle. If you add cream to brittle, you end up with toffee, which is great in tarts or as a sauce. If you add a knob of butter to toffee, you get a rich, luxurious butterscotch. You can add a pinch or two of salt at any point to get salted-caramel, toffee or butterscotch — something that is a current trend in South African confectionery.

We grew up in a small town in the North West. When we were little girls, our parents would host Bible study at our house every Thursday. We remember having to set out the coffee cups and saucers before the meeting started — it was the special tea set, the kind with patterns and little people on it.

We would wait patiently throughout the gathering until the end when the smell of coffee and baked goods would fill the house. As a special treat, our father would bring back a pecan-nut pie from a business trip to the big city, and our parents would warm it up in the oven and serve it to our guests.

This was our favourite treat, but as kids we were normally left with the pastry crumbs by the time the adults were finished. No idea why, but this story has stuck with us through our lives, and to this day we cannot have a slice of pecan-nut pie without thinking about the house we grew up in or the adult folk who formed us as a little girls.

The older we got, the more we developed the recipe and the concept of the American pecan-nut pie.

A leading favourite was a crisp, dark base, with a caramel sauce that had baked, and cinnamon pecan nuts almost floating on top of it.

Having coffee the other day, we realised how much we would love to turn this childhood treat into a cupcake. So here you have it — a vanilla-and-cinnamon cupcake stuffed with a toffee filling, iced with a sour-cream buttercream, and topped with some wonderfully crisp, sugar-roasted pecan nuts.

We love food that bring back childhood memories.

Nowadays, though, we can make our pie and eat it too — and we couldn’t be happier.


Pecan nut pie cupcakes

PHOTO: “Hog in the Fog Creative Media”

Pecan-nut pie cupcakes.

PHOTO: “Hog in the Fog Creative Media”

Makes 18 cupcakes:


440 ml flour

30 ml baking powder

2 ml salt

2 ml cinnamon

185 ml milk

10 ml vanilla essence

315 ml castor sugar

115 g unsalted butter

3 egg whites

Preheat your oven to 180° Celsius. Place your cupcake cups in a greased muffin pan. Sieve the cake flour in with the salt, cinnamon and baking powder. In a separate bowl combine the milk and vanilla. In a third bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Now combine half the flour mixture into the butter, followed by half the milk. Beat well, before adding the rest of the flour and milk mixtures. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, and fold into the rest of the batter. Fill up cupcakes cups ¾ and bake for 11 minutes.

Caramel filling:

300 g castor sugar

good pinch of salt

125 ml cream

Pour half of the sugar into a wide saucepan. Melt until it turns liquid and then add the rest of the sugar. Wait 10 seconds and then start mixing. When the sugar is totally melted (190° if you have a sugar thermometer), add the cream a little at a time, while whisking. If you add it too fast it will cease and turn solid. Allow to cool, before piping it into the cupcakes

Sour cream buttercream icing:

150 g salted butter, at room temperature

seeds of 1 vanilla pod (or 10ml of vanilla essence)

500 g sifted icing sugar

120 ml sour cream

Cream the butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add half of the icing sugar and continue beating until combined. Add the sour cream and beat again. Add the rest of the icing sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

* Note: we prefer to add sour cream to the icing, as it prevents the cupcake from becoming too sweet, but you could easily substitute the sour cream with 80 ml of milk as well.

Roasted pecans:

100 g chopped pecan nuts

70 g sugar

30 ml water

Combine the sugar and water in a mixing bowl. Toss the pecan nuts in the mixture. Strain and spread out on a greased baking sheet or silicon mat. Bake at 180° for 8-10 minutes. Be careful not to burn the nuts!

To serve:

Hollow out part of the cupcake and insert five to 10 ml of the caramel into it. Pipe the icing on to the cupcakes and top with roasted pecans.

For our next column, we would like YOU to send us your food questions.

Is there a recipe that you have been struggling with, or a dish that really reminds you of your childhood?

• Send us the concept and we’ll choose our favourite one to recreate in our next column. Catch us on Twitter at @SelineVW or @This_is_Leandri.

• Head over to our blog at www.beautyandthefeastfood blog.wordpress.com for more inspiration in the meantime.

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