On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, The Country Kitchen baked for me… …Kings Cupcakes
Well here we are, the last day of Christmas. Today we will take down our trees and decorations, packing them back up in their boxes to go into the attic for another year. Sad times, right? On a brighter note though, I think some of the fairy lights I have hanging around the house will stay, as they are so lovely in the evening when you just want a little low light and they have made the house look so pretty. Yes, I think they will have to stay.
Thank goodness I don’t have to take all these down…
It is believed by many to be bad luck to leave your Christmas decorations up after Twelfth Night, and this is a custom that goes back hundreds and hundreds of years. Originally, people decorated their homes with holly, ivy, berries and the general greenery of the season, as a way of providing a safe place for the ‘tree-spirits’ living inside them to be during the harsh days of mid-winter. It was then thought that once Christmastide was over, the ‘tree-spirits’ would become angered if not returned back into the wild, and release upon their bearer a spell of bad luck and refuse the vegetation to grown. This in turn would result in a bad harvest, as spring would never have come to allow the crops and plants to grow after the winter months had passed. Of course, this is just a myth which can be traced back almost to Pagan times, but it has become a tradition to remove out decoration by this date as a way of warding off any bad luck or ill wishes.
A grand fireplace decorated with real greenery of the season
The last day of Christmas, or Twelfth Night as it is traditionally known, falls on the 5th of January, twelve days after Christmas Day itself, and signifies the eve of Epiphany. Epiphany is a significant event as it celebrates both the arrival of the Three Wise Men, and also commemorates the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. Nowadays, Epiphany involves a day of feasting which includes a very important cake… The Kings Cake.
Kings Cake decorated with coloured sugar representing the Three Kings
A Kings Cake is named after the Three Kings that came to visit Jesus and present him with their gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh – and is typically baked in a ring shape, representing a crown. Inside the cake a small trinket is hidden, and it is traditional for the person who gets the slice containing it to hold the next Epiphany party, or the Candlemas celebration on February 2nd. Traditionally, the trinket is a bean or a pea which has been baked into the cake, but you are more likely to find a small plastic figure of a baby Jesus in your Kings Cakes nowadays.
Baby Jesus trinket inside a slice of Kings Cake
The ingredients used in a Kings Cake vary tremendously from country to country, but I chose to go down the more European route and make mine with three different spices, each one representing one of the Three Wise Men, or Three Kings. I used a mix of Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Ginger (Cinnamon being the most tradition spice used for Kings cake), as well as making some cinnamon sugar butter to use in place of regular butter in my recipe. I wanted these to taste really festive and smell like you had just walked into a spice shop, and I was not disappointed! I also wanted to try something a little bit different, so I made my Kings Cake into Kings Cupcakes and thought it would be a lot more fun if my ‘trinket’ was edible. Yep, edible and delicious, that sounds about right! At first I thought about filling them with icing, but they would have been far too sweet and the crown of frosting on top would have been ruined. So I put my ‘think-like-a-child’ cap on and scoured my store cupboard for inspiration…
I found the answer in a bag of soft toffees, and thought to myself “toffee and cinnamon? Would that work?” Well, you never know until you try, so I gave it a whirl and what I ended up with was a much more modern take on your traditional Kings Cake, but these cupcakes were to die for. I mean they were seriously good. A gentle hint of spices, sweet frosting and a chewy toffee centre, can you get any better than that?
Oh dear I am starting to get cravings for the Kings Cupcakes just writing about them… Better get on with giving you the recipe I suppose! Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients; it’s not that scary honest! And if you’re worried about what to do with the left over Cinnamon Sugar Butter, this tastes amazing on top of pancakes or toast. That’s if there is any of it left over after baking these cupcakes, the temptation to eat it straight is seriously strong… but should you have the will power of Superman, you can always double wrap it in cling film and freeze. It will last a good six months when frozen, but I recommend using it up while it is still fresh – personally I would go for the pancake option, I love that!
Kings Cupcakes by The Country Kitchen
Cinnamon Sugar Butter (makes 150g):
- 150g Butter, softened
- 70g Brown Sugar
- ½ tsp. Ground Cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. Ground Nutmeg
- 190g Self Raising Flour
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- ¼ tsp. Cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. Nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. Ginger
- 150g Caster Sugar
- 75g Cinnamon Sugar Butter
- x2 Eggs
- 120ml Milk
- 1 ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract
- One bag of Soft Toffee Sweets
- 385g Icing Sugar
- 40g Cinnamon Sugar Butter
- x1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 2-3 tbsp. Milk
- Silver and Gold Sugar Pearls
- Heat oven to 180°C/160°C Fan assisted and line a cupcake tray with paper cases.
- Make the Cinnamon Sugar Butter by beating the softened butter, brown sugar and spices together in a bowl until fluffy. Leave to chill in the fridge.
- Sift the flour and combine with the salt and spices in a bowl, then set aside.
- In a separate bowl, cream the sugar and 75g of the Cinnamon Sugar Butter and beat at a medium speed until well mixed and smooth.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the whisk speed to low, and beat again until thoroughly combined.
- Gradually add the flour mixture, alternately with the milk and vanilla extract, beating well after each addition and the batter is smooth.
- Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases and bake for 12-15 minutes, until they are just beginning to set. Press a toffee into the centre of each cupcake and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven but leave to cool in the tray for 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once the cupcakes are totally cool, make the frosting by combining all ingredients except the milk in large bowl. Beat at a medium speed, adding enough milk once the ingredients are mixed until you have your desired spreading consistency.
- Pipe on top of your cupcakes and decorate with the gold and silver sugar pearls.
Well there you have it, my last recipe for the Twelve Bakes of Christmas. Is it weird that I am actually really sad this is over now? Looks like I am just going to have to find something else to write about… Any suggestions anyone?
I really hope you have enjoyed reading my blog over the Christmas period and I hope I have not disappointed any of you with my recipes or horrific spelling… Where did that A grade English student go I wonder? Got lost in the kitchen I reckon! Anyway, I will continue to bring you lots of delicious recipes that I really hope you try out at home for yourselves sometime. Just remember, nothing beats home-made.
Happy Baking x