I just don’t get cupcakes. A generally dry cake topped in overly sweet buttercream at best. Yes, they can look really pretty and attractive, but the taste is rarely worth how it looks. I’ll make an exception for Ms Cupcake‘s marvellous cakes in Brixton and in London markets – which are not only delicious, but also vegan, not that you’d know it.
I was delighted last year when an article in one of the London free dailies featured a chou as ‘the new cupcake’ – although offended that these two items should be made equal even in fashion. A perfect patisserie for me is a two morsel delight, contrasting flavours and textures, sinfully delicious without being heavy. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is definitely what the CHOU offers. The formula is simple: a light casing of pastry filled with a refreshing creme patissiere and topped with caramel, chocolate or icing.
First, meet chou a la creme. ‘Look at me’ chou says, ‘I am magnificent, for I give you creamy vanilla topped by cracking caramel, I am creme brulee made cake, you know you cannot resist me!’ It’s one confident little bugger, but it’s completely right. Classic chou a la creme is plain perfection.
Chou a la creme is so sure of its innate attractiveness that it can really go to town in a fancy sugar work hat (more crunchy caramel, yum!).
Or multiply to conquer the heart of the most patisserie resistant via croque en bouche (or mouth bite). It elevates (ohoh) the not so humble little chou to heights of sophisticated fun and as such is often the dessert of choice and piece de resistance in French weddings or christenings – although the one below fared more modestly but just as bravely at my son’s first birthday.
But who says chou has to stay traditional? How about a croque en bouche of chocolate mousse filled choux pastry covered in pastel coloured white chocolate?
And following the same principle, the chou really can start getting a very exciting, and yes, strike a real challenge to the cupcakes of this world and their buttery twirls. Use silicone moulds to create flower or perfect spherical shapes.
Or get on with royalty like a house on fire (here for the Jubilee a couple of years back).
And then eclairs – the not so distant cousin, which just gives you MORE – more cake, more bite, more silky icing. A good coffee eclair makes me happiest.
Or how about Pimm’s eclairs – with pimm’s and lemon flavoured creme patissiere, lemon icing, and fresh fruit and mint on top, each bite a perfect reflection of its drink counterpart. If cucumber works in a glass, why not on a cake?
I love choux, eclairs and religieuses – the last one being my own Proustian madeleine, reminding me of Saturday mornings spent at my grand-parents, when my ‘Mamie’ would indulge us by buying us a religieuse au cafe each for after lunch. With the addition of the coffee buttercream, this was truly a divine combination (so to speak for a ‘nun’).
So just a few musings or amuse-minds for you, and to you fancy cupcakes of this world, I say ‘Top that!’