Sunday, 7 April 2013

Famous Faces’ Favourite Fancies – Lemon and poppy seed cupcakes with lemon butter icing

I have often voiced my dislike of lemon on this site and balanced it with my family’s love of it.  I even married into a lemon-loving family so now have even more relatives flying the ‘we love lemon’ flag.  What has proven to me, once and for all, how my lemonphobic ways are out of step with society at large, are the Famous Face responses I received.  Of the responses, I would estimate that maybe as many as three quarters of the male choices are for lemon cakes of one kind or another, mostly lemon drizzle.  The ladies are far more varied in their tastes.  I wonder why this is? Do women think more about cake than men?  Are we more willing to try different flavours, whereas men find something they like and stick with it? This is also why I have to ration the Famous Faces posts....otherwise it would be week after week of lemon drizzle cakes (I can hear my family murmuring that wouldn’t be a bad thing!)

Gyles Brandreth is someone I can always remember popping up on the television in one guise or another throughout my life.  Whether you recall the ‘interesting’ jumpers he wore on TVAM, his anecdotes in Countdown’s Dictionary Corner, or his reports for The One Show, I defy you not to have had a chuckle at/with him at some point.  I remember, in my younger days, reading that Gyles and his wife ran a teddy bear museum in Stratford-Upon-Avon, now relocated to Wimbledon (the museum that is, not Stratford-Upon-Avon) and thinking this was the most wonderful thing anyone could do! Then he became a Conservative MP for Chester for five years.  I think that could be termed a broad career!

Here’s an interesting thing: for my Famous Faces feature I wrote to many different people and chose a selection of better known politicians from each of the major parties.  I have had three responses from politicians (Boris Johnson, Gyles and one who thanked me for writing but declined to answer) and they have all been from Conservatives.  What can this mean?  Is it mere coincidence?

I have tried my best to meet Gyles’ selection criteria.  He said: “a lemon cupcake with butter icing takes my fancy...who cares about cholesterol?!”  The lemon sponge element is particularly interesting in this recipe.  The combination of lemon zest with yoghurt gives it a light, lemon curd flavour.  The poppy seeds add crunch, so often missing in cupcakes.

The buttercream is as classic and simple as buttercream can get.  I think people often say that this type of buttercream is too heavy but I don’t think it is; my theory is that it isn’t whipped enough.  If you whip buttercream long enough it becomes light and fluffy – like whipped cream. 

PS. For a confirmed, card-carrying lemon hater...I thought these cupcakes were delicious!


For the cupcakes:
175g unsalted butter
225g self raising flour
175g golden caster sugar
2 lemons – grated zest only
3 eggs
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
100g natural yoghurt

For the buttercream:
225g unsalted butter –at room temperature
400g icing sugar
1 lemon – juice only

To decorate: flowers and sprinkles


Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Line a 12 hole cupcake pan with paper cases.

Start by melting the butter over a gentle heat and then leave to cool slightly before making the cupcakes – about 5-10 minutes is plenty.

Place the flour, sugar and lemon zest in a bowl and stir together.

Stir in the poppy seeds.

Add the eggs and yoghurt to the cooled butter and whisk together.

Pour into the dry mix and combine.

Spoon into the cases – they will look fuller than with a normal cupcake batter but don’t worry; they rise nicely and won’t overspill the pan.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the sponge comes out clean.  I recommend using the skewer test as the cupcakes remain pale, so judging them on colour won’t help.

Leave to cool completely on a wire rack, and remove from the baking pan as soon as it is cool enough to do so.

Now make the buttercream: beat the butter until pale and whippy.

Beat in the icing sugar and lemon juice.

Keep beating until you have a light whippy buttercream that looks almost like cream – you can’t rush this!

Spoon into a piping bag and swirl generously on each cupcake.

Decorate with sprinkles or wafer flowers.  Best eaten on the day of making.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.



sensibilia said...

Yes, women definitely think more about cake than men do,in my experience. Also, women respect cake more. A hungry man will just about eat anything, which, while pleasing, does not give one the feeling that one's offering is exceptional. (Yours are, of course.)

Jacqueline Meldrum said...

I am afraid I think you are mad as I am in the lemon loving camp. They look adorable, not what I would have expected from Gyles.

My major Gyles memory is a mad fact book I bought from my school book club by him. I loved it and still remember the cover.

Janine said...

I love your Famous Faces feature - what a fantastic idea! I'm looking forward to finding out who else gets back to you and what their choices are. The lemon and poppyseed cupcakes look great; I think I'll have to integrat poppyseeds into my own baking.

Debs Dust Bunny said...

These cupcakes are so beautiful! Almost too pretty for Mr. B. : ) A couple of years ago I attended a one-man show of Mr. B. He singled me out of the crowd and delivered most of his punchiest jests to me. I played along and after the show he was so kind and generous, giving me an autographed book for my humiliation. So here's to Gyles! A jolly good egg deserves a GORGEOUS cupcake.

Susie @ Fold in the Flour said...

I do love finding out what kind of cake gets people going, so think this feature is brilliant. It's interesting that men tend to go for lemon cake. Mike would go for chocolate every time, although he does like lemon. These cupcakes look so gorgeous and light, they might just tempt him. I know I'd definitely enjoy tucking into them! :)

Jo said...

You're a much better person than me CC for baking with lemon time and time again when you don't like it. I'm the only one in family who hates coffee and I have no intentions of baking coffee cake!

Ulla said...

I'm one of those lemon/lime lovers. I use them lots. Both baking and cooking. Perhaps I haven't whipped buttercream enough as I think it's too heavy. That's why I've been struggling to get swiss meringue buttercream perfect. Without much success, I must admit. We are not meant for each other, me and that meringue buttercream that is. I just hope someone in Cake International next weekend can help me with good hints for it. Looking forward the visit to London :)

Nom! The Indulgent Baking Blog said...

yay you liked the lemon!! I love the famous faces posts :)

tallhatClaire said...

Great recipe thanks, I have just got them out of the oven now! They look fab.

Gloria Baker said...

Look delicious I adore lemon and poppy seed so these look stunning!!
Im bookmarking to make soon!!!

WhatKateBaked said...

Not only have I been admiring some mighty fine looking cupcakes but I've learnt all about the male taste bud and far more about Gyles than I ever thoug I would- love the teddy bear fact, there's a One Show feature rig there without needing to stray too far from home a all!

Obsessive Compulsive Baking Disorder said...

Ohh scrummy, I love making mini cupcakes and often use those sugar flowers too!

I make a large round lemon and poppyseed cake, check out my blog for a photo!

Leah x x x

Cakelaw said...

I like these Famous Faces posts. I have no idea who Gyles is, but I do like his choice of cupcakes, and the fact that he owns a teddy bear museum wins another tick.

Katie said...

Yay, I love your famous faces posts - keep them coming.
Maybe at the end you could do a list of responces and all their answers, whether you baked them or not.

I love lemon anything, so these look delicious to me. Like the idea of adding yoghurt to make them lighter. I agree that buttercream must be well whipped to be tasty

Choclette said...

Haha, you are moving over to the lemon side. Your cakes look scrumptious as always. As for Gyles, never having had TV, I've never seen him, but he drives me nuts on Radio 4. At least now, I have one good thing to say about him - he has good taste in cakes.

Maggie said...

I love lemon everything and lemon and poppyseed cake is scrumptious. Great cakes.

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Lucy said...

I always enjoy reading your Favourite Fancies feature, particularly this time as I love lemon cupcakes! These look lovely and light and the daisy is so pretty but simple.

Mrs Mulford said...

Lovely and I'm sorry but I'd also like this served as a really big lemon and poppy cake slice.The lemon drizzle is the biggest seller on my market days but I make 80% chocolate cake/brownies for men. Ladies are definitely far more adventurous!

Miss Lemony Love said...

I flippin LOVE lemon - hence my blogging alter ego. These look delicious, I can just imagine Giles snaffling one of these sporting a jazzy jumper.