Do you remember as a child making a papier-maché volcano in science class? And putting a cup in the top and filling it with bicarbonate of soda? And then adding vinegar and watching in wonder as your volcano erupted all over the classroom, sending frothy bubbles everywhere? What they never told you (or never told me anyway) was that experiment was much more pertinent to cupcake-making than volcanoes (which tend to erupt when a certain level of crystallisation has been reached within the magma chamber, which depends on the exact silica content of the rocks, something that’s not terribly easy to reconstruct in a classroom). See in a cupcake recipe where there are no eggs, the lift is achieved by the mixing of an alkali, bicarbonate of soda, with an acid, say lemon juice. But as the volcano experiment demonstrated, this reaction starts instantly, and within a few minutes has ended. Thus when baking using this method it’s imperative that you get the cakes in the oven as quickly as possible, to make the most of this reaction and ensure your cakes rise as much as possible.
This means that my modifications to this recipe weren’t especially sensible, as instead of baking the cakes and then adding in the jam later, like the original suggested, I faffed about half-filling the cases, then adding some jam, then a bit more batter. They still rose nicely though and were light and fluffy, but this is definitely a recipe where two pairs of hands is very helpful. If, like me, you can’t abide a single additional foot inside the kitchen with you then you’ll just have to work very quickly indeed.
Jam-filled cupcakes with lemon icing
Adapted from Love and Olive Oil
1 1/4 cups gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup vegetable or sunflower oil
1 cup milk, mixed with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons strawberry jam
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup icing sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2. In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar.
3. In a small bowl mix together the oil, the milk curdled with the lemon juice, and the vanilla extract. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the wet to the dry. Stir quickly until the ingredients are well mixed and the batter is relatively smooth.
3. Spoon (or pour, if your hands are steady) the batter into cupcake cases so they are half full. Working quickly spoon 1/4 teaspoon strawberry jam on top of the batter in each case, then spoon another teaspoon or so of batter on top, so the cases are 2/3 full. Place in the oven to bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden on top and risen. Remove from the oven and cool in their cases.
4. Meanwhile whisk together the lemon zest, juice and sugar to make a simple icing. When the cakes are completely cool, spoon this over the top of the cakes. Leave to set for 1 hour, then serve.
Makes 22 small cupcakes. I have no idea how well they keep, and yes no matter how hard you try, the jam will sink to the bottom of the cupcake.