Well, apparently it’s just been national cupcake week (or should that be fairy cake week as it’s the UK?) Not sure if this has been going on for some time, but I only spotted it in my local supermarché when I realised they were trying to flog more cupcake cases and fondant icing than normal. [Update: I’ve just found out via a certain search engine that it’s the baby of an industry mag called British Baker, is in it’s sixth year and has amateur and professional competitions see here].
This post is more about the construction than the recipe. I dispensed with my usual Hummingbird Bakery recipe and used Roger Pizey’s vanilla cupcake recipe from his ‘Worlds Best Cakes’ books for this one. They were glorious and I’ll definitely be using this recipe again. However, it matters little which recipe you pick as as all I’m doing is explaining how I made the decorations.
- for the ‘hard’ modelling: royal icing/sugar paste/flower paste/Mexican paste or even marzipan – whatever is your choice for modelling – about enough to equal the size of two golf balls
- for the cream frosting: buttercream/cream cheese frosting/meringue buttercream – enough for 12 cupcakes. Divide this into two bowls, keep one plain and mix in blue food colouring into the other for the sea
- 40g / 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
- food colouring – black, blue (plus yellow if you also want to make some starfish as I’ve done in the photo)
- piping bag
- oval or mini chiboust-shaped nozzle, medium sized – about 4mm – (a plain circular one will suffice)
Spread the dessicated coconut over a baking tray and pop in a pre-heated oven (about 160C) for a few minutes – or alternatively you can toast them in a dry frying pan over a low heat. Which ever method you choose keep a close eye on the coconut as it will change from just done to burnt within seconds. You’re looking for just a light caramel colour.
Set the toasted coconut aside until it’s completely cool (while this is cooling, you can make the buttercream).
Halve the buttercream into two bowls. Leave one bowl plain and mix blue food colouring into the second bowl.
Spread the plain buttercream over half of the top of each cupcake, but don’t do it in a straight line – curve it a little (so that the butter cream looks like a half moon on the top).
Sprinkle the cooled, toasted coconut over the buttercream on all of the cupcakes – here’s your beach! Shake off the excess.
Take the icing you’ve reserved for modelling (eg flower paste) and divide it into two if you want both shark fins and starfish. Colour one half yellow and the other black (do the lighter yellow first as this won’t affect the black icing – but you’ll have problems if you do black first). Alternatively if you only want shark fins, just use black throughout all the paste.
Divide the paste by the number of cupcakes you have. If you made 12 cupcakes and are only making shark fins, that means 12 equally sized balls of paste. If you’re doing both fins and starfish, then you’ll need 6 of yellow and 6 of black, for example.
Mould the black paste pieces into a triangle first and then tease it into a fin shape. For extra effect, snip a small notch out of the concave side.
To make the starfish, the easiest way (but maybe not so neat way) is to roll it into a long string and snip off equal sized lengths, putting five together to form the starfish. Alternatively start with a pentagon shape and tease out the legs from each of the five corners. For extra effect on the starfish, press the finished shapes lightly over a sieve to give a bumpy, starfish skin effect.
Set aside both shark fins and starfish.
Spoon the blue buttercream into a piping bag with an oval or circular nozzle. using the crescent shape of the sand as a guide, pipe a line across the cupcake next to the ‘beach’. Try and make it a little wavier if possible, so you get a slight snaking pattern. You should end up with a wave effect.
Then pipe another line next to the first and so on, until you have covered all of the top of the cupcake that didn’t already have the coconut sand on it. Repeat on all cakes.
Place the shark fins and starfish in place.