Mothers Day: Strawberry Buttercream & Pistachio Mini Cakes
While Spring does not officially start until my birthday on March 21st, in my mind Mothers Day each year also signifies the start of Spring. (Actually, the Sunday I was born on in 1993 was Mothers Day!) To me, Mothers Day is brewing my Mother cups of fresh pepper mint tea, picking her little posies of butter yellow primroses from the garden, and baking her either her favourite coffee cake, or some other sweet creation in Spring colours for an afternoon tea where tall glasses filled with pretty pink bubbles are in no way optional.
This year, when the team at Campo Viejo (do you remember I visited their vineyards and winery in La Rioja last September?) got in touch asking me if I wanted to bake something to accompany their rose Cava (I love it for a celebration, it is what we toasted 6 years of this blog with!), after a little brainstorming I came up with these adorable (and deceptively easy to decorate) vanilla mini cakes decorated with a fresh strawberry buttercream (yep, you’re looking at all natural colourings and flavourings) and chopped pistachios.
And I honestly am being truthful about the easy to decorate part; rolling the butter-creamed sides in nuts means you don’t need to worry about getting the buttercream smooth; you want there to be a pretty swirl in the top with you can either do with a palette knife, or just with a clean fingertip. Aside from a good palette knife (essential for all cake making, I used a small one to frost and a large one to move the cakes around onto different surfaces but you can get my with just a small one and make sure you wipe it clean), the only other special equipment you need to make these mini cakes is a mini cake tin. It will really depend on the size of your tin, but I’ve made this recipe to make 4 mini cakes, in the tin I own from Lakeland’s own bakeware range, which I love. I find with the little removable bases and the whole thing being really non stick the cakes are so easy to remove, and at £20.99 I don’t think it is a bad investment. It was originally purchased at Christmas to make these mini fruit cakes to give out as gifts, and I’m already plotting miniature chocolate birthday cakes.
To make these little cakes the centrepiece of an afternoon tea, as well as a good pot of tea (fresh mint leaf brewed tea would go beautifully here) and an ice cold bottle of Campo, a few little sandwiches, cut into fingers with the crusts removed would not go amiss. As the cake with the pistachios is something I little different, I’d go for the classics like honey roast ham and a smidge of French Dijon mustard, smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber (a little dusting of fresh lemon zest in the cream cheese will really perk these up) and my personal afternoon tea favourite, egg mayonnaise and cress.
- 60g (2 oz) Margarine (I use Stork, but if you don’t like margarine you can use unsalted butter)
- 60g (2 oz) Golden Caster (granulated) Sugar
- 1 Large Egg
- Vanilla Extract
- 60g (2 oz) Self Raising Flour (America, this is how you can substitute self raising flour)
- 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 65g (2 oz) Fresh Strawberries
- 1/2 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
- 85g (3 oz) Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
- 300g (10.5 oz) Icing (Confectioners) Sugar
- 50g Unsalted, shelled Pistachios
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (335 Fahrenheit). Cut out four little circles of greaseproof paper (I like to draw around the removable bases of the mini cake tin holes) and place them in the bottom for four of the cake tin holes. The tins I use are really non stick, so with a buttery mixture I don’t need to grease them any further, but you may want to grease your tins with a little butter, too.
Beat together the margarine and the sugar until the mixture has lightened in colour. Beat in the egg and a very small splash of vanilla extract, a couple of drops at most. Then beat in the baking powder and the flour until you have a smooth cake mixture. Divide between the four tins; they should be just under 3/4 full. Bake for 12 minutes, or until they are golden on top, and you can test with a toothpick or a cake tester, and you can remove it from the sponge clean. Once the tin is cool enough to touch, turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool.
While the sponges are cooling, make the buttercream. Puree the strawberries with the lemon juice either by hand chopping very tiny with a very sharp knife, or in a mini chopper (I love my mini chopper from Kenwood here). With the back of a spoon, press the mixture through a fine sieve, discarding the seeds that are left behind. Beat together the butter and icing sugar until smooth. Gradually beat in the strawberry puree until everything is combined. Finely chop the pistachios and spread them out on a large plate.
Using a sharp bread knife, slice each sponge horizontally through the middle to make mini sandwich cakes. Sandwich together with the strawberry buttercream, and refrigerate for 10 minutes to allow the buttercream to solidify. If you skip this step, you’ll get lopsided cakes once you’ve completed the next stage of the frosting.
With a small palette knife, carefully spread buttercream around the edges of each sponge, and over the top. Carefully pick up the cake between your thumb and forefinger (yes you’re putting your fingers in the frosting on the top, you can smooth this out later. I’ve found that frosting the top afterwards it is really hard to not catch the nutty sides and create a clean finish) and gently roll the sides of the sponge in the chopped nuts, lifting the sponge and shaking the plate to make sure you’ve got an even lager of nuts every few centimetres or so. Repeat for the other three sponges, and refrigerate the cakes for another 10 minutes to allow the buttercream to solidify. Allow to come back up to room temperature and store in an airtight container.
I’d love to hear what you’re all planning for Mothers Day – I still have no idea, especially as I’m actually spending most of the day in London for a lunch event, so I need to think of something special for either the morning or the evening! On a side note, these cakes are not just for Mothers Day, they make great gifts or party pieces, too. I took the leftovers to the session I was coaching on Saturday afternoon and gave them out to the kids that had helped with things like leading the warm up and tidying up afterwards; they all asked me if I could please bake again soon!
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