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Kate Shirazi's Cupcake Heaven from Devon

PUBLISHED: 17:22 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:53 20 February 2013

Colourful icing for the cakes

Colourful icing for the cakes

Helen Stiles meets Devon's Queen of Cupcake Kitsch - Kate Shirazi who bakes fabulous cupcake creations from her farmhouse in Efford near Exeter in Devon.

I think I've found cupcake heaven! It's in the kitchen of a pretty 18th-century cottage in the tiny hamlet of Efford, just outside Exeter. The most fabulous array of cupcakes greets me as I walk into the kitchen: lush chocolate cupcakes topped with tiny, speckled, sugar-coated eggs; pretty, pastel-iced cupcakes scattered with delicate sugar daisies; and yellow chicks march across others on tiny cherry-red icing legs. The air is filled with the vanilla fragrance of freshly baked cakes. "Fancy a cupcake with your coffee?" says Kate Shirazi, proffering a plate of exquisitely iced cakes. I choose one with a delicate iced filigree of green leaves and a sugar flower. It tastes as good as it looks.

This is the empire of Cakeadoodledo, a cottage-cupcake industry that Kate started three years ago. "I've always been obsessed with cupcakes. I'd seen cupcakes businesses in America and London and thought I'd give it a go - not really expecting it to take off in the way it has."

Cakeadoodledo was launched with a 50th birthday party booking for a friend. From there Kate got more and more orders and decided she'd better get a bit more professional. So she designed her distinctive duck-egg blue and chocolate-brown spotted boxes, tied with a chocolate-brown satin ribbon, and started couriering her cupcakes around Devon.

"Business went berserk! I think the whole Sex in the City and Nigella's Domestic Goddess following has made cupcakes fashionable. People have cottoned on big time to giving cupcakes as a gift. I was making cupcakes for new mums, they would then want to send some to their friends who had gone to ante-natal classes with them. It just snowballed."

In her opinion there isn't an occasion when a cupcake wouldn't be appropriate. Valentine's Day turned into Valentine's Fortnight for Kate and her assistant, Helen. "We must have made well over 1,000 cupcakes. We were still sending them out a week after Valentine's!"

Helen Mildon is Kate's right-hand woman. They are good friends and their children are in the same class. They joke and banter as they ice two dozen cupcakes with swirls, stripes and dots in pretty retro colours of soft pink, blue and yellow. Kate deftly spells out 'Thank You' on a cupcake. "We get on very well and have a giggle. Helen is also a very harsh critic, which is what I need."

Helen, a self-confessed chocoholic, finishes topping a load of cupcakes with chocolate ganache and Maltesers. This is her dream job! On the worktop are china bowls with a rainbow selection of icing, and large glass jars of every different type of sugared sprinkle you can imagine. Going to the Shirazi house for a play date is a dream for many little girls.

"Edible glitter is a wonderful thing," chuckles Kate. "Children march up to me when I go to pick up Rory, and make it quite clear that they want to play with sprinkles and icing." Kate's son, Rory, a former cupcake fan, is bored rigid by the whole thing. "He thinks they're rubbish. He'd much prefer a jammy dodger," she laughs.

Many of Kate's enchanting designs are done with children in mind, such as her bright, glittery butterflies and bumblebees, but she can also turn her hand to more sophisticated creations mimicking an Orla Kiely design or embracing a Bollywood theme.

"It helps that I went to Art College. There's that bit of me that loves drawing, colour and pattern, so this is the perfect vehicle for it," she says as she puts the finishing touches to a rather fetching daisy design. "That's why I never get bored. For me it's not just a cake with a bit of decoration on it."

Wedding cupcake towers are one of Kate's favourites: 100+ beautifully iced cupcakes are carefully arranged on a skyscraper-like Perspex structure creating the ultimate centrepiece in nuptial chic. "I can do about 150 wedding cupcakes a day from scratch. I make them the day before so they are as fresh as possible for the day."

The cottage is bursting with cupcake paraphernalia, so a new extension that is close to completion can't come soon enough. "I call it my 'Cupboard of Love'; it's going to be brilliant. We'll have a much larger kitchen with a commercial-sized oven, space for decorating cakes and an office. I must make 16,000 cupcakes a year and I want to make more. I just need to find some more experienced cake decorators to join the team."

As Kate and Helen carry on decorating, outside a dozen or so hens cluck and scratch around the garden. These are Kate's 'girls', ex-battery hens from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust at Chulmleigh.

"They're in a pretty sorry state when they arrive, anaemic-looking with bald patches and greasy feathers. They even instinctively sit on top of each other, it's really tragic. But what a wonderful life they have now. They soon start to look better, though some have rather cheekily started to lay their eggs in the hedge!"

As Kate gets through around 100 free-range eggs a week, her girls couldn't possibly keep up with demand so she sources eggs from a nearby farmer. But she hasn't forgotten her own hens. Part of the proceeds of Kate's book Cupcake Magic goes to the Battery Hen Welfare Trust.

Cupcake Magic has been phenomenally successful since its publication last year. It was very much a family affair, with her sister, Charlotte Barton, a professional photographer, taking the pictures and Rory's school friends taking on the arduous task of eating cupcakes for the camera. Kate has just produced a second book, Cookie Magic, and Cookiedoodledo is on the horizon.

"I love kitsch and I think a cupcake is the epitome of kitsch. It's that 1950s doily-and-frilly-apron mentality I adore. If I could work in a frilly apron I'd be in it like a shot. I'd be Doris Day in the kitchen. If I could cook in high-heeled mules I would. A bit of gingham as well? I would love that too!" `

Chocolate Easter Eggs

This is a no-holds-barred chocolate eggs, on chocolate icing, on chocolate cake. They are easy to make, look fantastic, give you the opportunity for some serious bowl-licking, and taste delicious.

Makes about 12

4 large free-range eggs, separated

150g caster (superfine) sugar

3 tsp cocoa powder

225g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

50g chopped mixed nuts (such as hazlenuts, walnuts and almonds)

Small bag of Maltesers or other chocolate malted

milk balls

For the chocolate ganache

2 x 100g bars of good-quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

200ml double cream

36 coloured chocolate mini Easter eggs

1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ gas mark 6. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.

2 Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and creamy.

3 In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then gently fold into the egg yolk mixture.

4 Sift over the cocoa and fold in the ground almonds, baking powder and chopped nuts.

5 Lightly bash half the packet of Maltesers - you want large chunks, rather than powder - and fold these into the mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cases and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

6 Make the ganache by putting the chocolate, still in its wrapper, onto a hard surface, grab the rolling pin and smash the living daylights out of that chocolate. Open it all up carefully over a bowl and hey presto, gravel chocolate. Just make sure none of the wrapper goes in with the chocolate.

7 Heat the cream in a small, heavy saucepan until almost boiling, then pour over the chocolate. Leave for 30 seconds before gently stirring it all together.

8 Carefully spoon the ganache on top of the cupcakes. Let them dry for just a few minutes. Before the ganache is completely set, pop 3 eggs onto each cake. Leave them to set for a few hours before scoffing.

Ricotta and Smoked Salmon Cupcakes

These are great for breakfast or brunch.

Makes about 12

75g plain flour

100g polenta

12 tsp salt

1tsp baking powder

150g ricotta

2 large free-range eggs, beaten

75g butter, melted

2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish

4 large slices smoked salmon, plus extra to garnish

150ml soured cream or cream cheese

1 Preheat the oven to 190/375/gas mark 5 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.

2 Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the polenta, salt and baking powder. Stir through well. In another bowl, mix the ricotta, eggs and melted butter. Add the dill and stir. Add the salmon strips to the ricotta mixture and give another good stir. Add the contents of the wet bowl to the dry ingredients, and mix just enough to combine. Don't worry about the lumps.

3 Spoon the mixture into the cases and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until firm to the touch and golden. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out cleanly when the cupcakes are done. Remove from the oven and cool.

4 When the cupcakes are barely warm, dollop soured cream or cream cheese on top and add a smoked salmon rose made from the extra salmon. To make a rose, roll the strip of salmon up, teasing out the top edge as you go, then finish with a touch of extra dill.

(both recipes taken from Cupcake Magic by Kate Shirazi, published by Pavilion


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