I think it’s easy for the icing on your muffin to be a bit of an afterthought.
Us bakers often spend hours researching new, exciting and unusual flavours and textures for our sponge, and then just plonk a plain old buttercream or plain white icing on top.
Some of my favourite recipes involve making a really basic, and not too sweet vanilla sponge and then topping with a nicely flavoured icing or frosting.
Here are some of my favourite and unusual icing flavours that will transform your plain old vanilla sponge into an exciting mouthful that Heston would be impressed with.
This is a favourite of mine, and this flowery flavoured frosting gets mixed reactions with friends…like marmite, they either love it or hate it. The reaction of some is that it tastes fresh, light and lovely, and others think it reminds them of their grandma’s perfume – you can’t please them all!
I like to decorate my cupcakes with a little sprig of Lavender on top. Try my creamy lavender frosting recipe the next time you are making cupcakes
Peanut Butter Frosting
I’ve stuck this one in the unusual list just because I have never come across peanut butter frosting, not amongst my baking friends or in the places in town where I buy cupcakes. Most homes always have a jar of peanut butter in their cupboards, so I am not sure why this one is so rare.
Most of the recipes out there like this popular one on all recipes call for a smooth peanut butter rather than a crunch one.
Cinnamon works a treat in sponges, but you might be surprised to find out that this spice can really add depth to a plain old vanilla cupcake.
Martha Stuart uses honey with her cinnamon frosting to add some natural sweeteness to an otherwise bitter icing.
Some might be put off this flavour, thinking their muffin might end up tasting like someone’s squeezed a tube of toothpaste all over it! However, as long as you don’t overdo it with with your peppermint essence, you could be pleasantly surprised.
You can use fresh peppermint leaves, or a peppermint extract for this frosting but if using the later you might want to add just a hint of green colouring to your icing, or stick a peppermint leaf on top of the frosting.
I use peppermint frosting on top of very chocolatey muffins as the frosting can end up tasting a bit too minty on top of a vanilla sponge – also using a chocolate sponge makes the whole thing have the same taste as a mint choc chip ice-cream which I LOVE!
Chai tea frosting
Using tea flavours in frosting has become pretty popular recently and the coolest thing about using tea bags is that anything you make tea with – you can also make a frosting with. Imagine the possibilities….what about hosting a tea party with tea themes cupcakes!
I adore the combination of flavours in Chai tea – the ginger, cardamon and peppery flavours work so well together.
To make chai tea frosting, make a strong concentration of chai tea (either homemade or teabag). Once this tea has cooled, use it in place of some of the milk or cream in your frosting recipe. You can use this method for any type of tea, earl grey, green tea, hibiscus – let us know if you experiment with any unusual ones that end up a great success or a total flop!
Lemon & Thyme Frosting
These are two ingredients I usually stuff inside a chicken in a Sunday, and when I came across this lemon and thyme frosting recipe from coconutandlime.com I must admit my nose wrinkled. So I had to give it a go!
Once you get over the fact that these flavours are usually found on your Sunday roast you will discover that they work really well sweetened up spread on top of a plain sponge cupcake!
This icing gave me some ideas for trying other frostings with ‘savoury’ herbs in – watch this space!
Balsamic and strawberries are often paired together in fancy restaurants. Now you create that wonderful pairing in a cupcake!
Try baking some sweet strawberry muffins and pairing them with tart balsamic frosting – the combination of the sweet sponge and acidic frosting works a treat!
Or you could go totally savoury and try these tomato cupcakes with balsamic frosting from the neuroticbaker.com