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Friday 22 January 2010

Book Review: Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery

It seems the amateur baking world is split into two camps. Those who Hummingbird, and those who Primrose.

Thanks to my mother knowing me far too well (this book was on my Christmas list but she'd bought it for me before I'd even sent the list!) I am firmly in the Primrose camp. If you want to make shop-quality cupcakes, 'Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery' will help you do that without too much fuss, mess or hard-to-find ingredients.

That said, it's not without its faults. In the name of research, I tried out two very different recipes from the book, with varied results...

First up, vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing. This starts with a really classic vanilla cake mix, but there was one glaring omission in the recipe - no pinch of salt! I thought this was odd, but trusted the recipe and cooked up a batch anyway. On tasting, they were very yummy, quite dense and muffin-like, but I do think that salt was needed to bring out all the flavours.

The buttercream recipe I couldn't fault. It was rich, thick and delicious, and very easy to make, though I was a bit annoyed that the recipes don't match up. If you follow them to the letter, you get 12 - 15 cakes, but enough icing for 18...and that's after a very generous icing!

The cakes were loved by all who tried them, but we did agree they were tooth-achingly sweet, and perhaps a bit too dense. I'll be trying again with a pinch of salt and an electric whisk to see if I get better results second time round!

More successful were the ginger cupcakes with ginger fudge icing. These did have a pinch of salt in, and were made from a ginger and dark treacle infused mixture that produced amazingly rich but fluffy cakes the colour of amber. They were amazing on their own, still warm from the oven, but I did manage to save enough to ice! The ginger fudge icing is slightly thinner and more watery than the buttercream, and has a tiny bit of lemon juice in it, making it a bit fresher and perfect with the spicy cakes. In this instance, the amounts matched too, so I had just enough to ice my cakes with no waste.

As far as Primrose's mantra goes, the authors emphasise the importance of quality ingredients (free range eggs, good vanilla essence etc) which I do think really helps with the final product. They also labour the point that you should bring everything up to room temperature before you start mixing. This is most important, of course, with butter, or you end up killing your arms if you're unfortunate enough (as I was) to find your electric mixer doesn't actually work any more and you have to resort to a good old wooden spoon.

There are loads of interesting recipes in here for all occasions, with fantastic photos and clear instructions, and the cakes and icings can be mixed and matched to suit. I love the look of the more adventurous recipes, like malted cupcakes with marshmallow icing and chocolate orange cupcakes, and there's also a small section at the back for traditional cakes if you'd rather not fuss around with muffin tins.

Perhaps the most important page, however, is 'how to ice a cupcake'. I've always wondered how cupcake shops get their icing to looks so appealing, and now I know!

Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery is £7.47 on Amazon, or £14.99 RRP.


  1. This book is fanastic!! I have this and The Hummingbird one and in my opinion the Primrose Bakery one wins hands down!!! The recipes are super easy to follow and the results are really consistant!! The Hummingbird seems much more fiddly and I have never had a good batch of cupcakes from any of the recipes!! xxx

  2. Mmm, I've flipped through this book in Tesco every time I go shopping and everything does look very pretty in there.

    I find cupcakes (as opposed to the more English fairy cake) are very dense though, I bought one from Ella's Bakehouse the other day in Covent Garden and they're more like a muffin rather than a light tasty treat (but good though).

    As for icing, I found Hummingbird had the problem with loads of icing, although this problem doesn't seem to occur if you use a piping bag and do a proper cupcakey swirl which uses oodles of icing!

  3. Piping bag it is! For the first time ever, I got told off for putting *too* much icing on the vanilla ones, so perhaps that's the way to go!

  4. Mmmmm cupcakes. Come visit me in America and I'll whip you up a batch ;-)

  5. I'm far too lazy to bake my own cup/fairy cakes. Actually, it's not that I'm lazy it's more that I'm weak; I know I'd simply gorge on them as soon as they came out the oven (I know this because it's what I do when I bake fruit pies) so I just don't do it.

    So I restrict myself to a weekly/fortnightly trip to Sunday Upmarket and buy a half dozen from Molly Bakes.

    Is it wrong to eat a cupcake while waiting for the kettle to boil and then have another with the resulting tea? Someone please say 'No' ;)

  6. Mr Omneo, you're doing it right :-)


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