If you’ve gazed in wonder at impossible complicated cupcakes on Pinterest or Instagram, chances are you’ve never imagined that you would be able to produce something so special.
The amazing toppings – from cute characters to floral blooms and more – are mini works of art cast in sugary sweetness, and for many of us they’re as out of reach as getting on The Great British Bake Off.
I felt like that, more likely to buy a box of the treats from a supermarket than actually make any attempt to match the ones I’d seen online.
But a trip to Hey Little Cupcake has given me confidence and a little knowledge – perhaps a dangerous combination – and I’m totally on board with trying it myself at home.
The Hardman Street venue – part cafe, part cupcake-themed art gallery – has a calming atmosphere, everything in that charming pink and white colour scheme that seems to go with the world of those mini cakes.
I will note at this point that some can find cupcakes a little bit twee – that’s totally up to you, and I respect it.
For me, they’re an adorable gift for mates and a really fun treat after a long, frustrating day.
The cafe was set up when we arrived with a table to seat seven of us – two staff members and five students.
A box of six of the cakes – ready-made by the HLC experts – was resting at each spot, with a pastel yellow and polka dot apron set aside for everyone.
We washed our hands and set to work, with the first task to be rolling out a lump of red sugar paste icing and cutting out two hearts.
Sarah at the head of the table was on hand to offer step-by-step guidance, and nothing we asked seemed to be too ridiculous.
We then repeated the exercise with green, and fashioned some leaves out of the flattened icing, and followed that with a pink spotted bowtie – made with a useful bowtie tool – and then rolled our own rose.
The trick was to use a cutter to create the shape then roll the blossom ourselves – a first real test of our sugar skills, which I pretty much failed at, with a weird towering flower instead of a pretty rose.
Moving to the mixer at the counter, we watched as Sarah – and some class volunteers – mixed the icing that we would be piping onto our cakes.
For the vanilla frosting we made, Sarah says that 12 cupcakes take 12oz of icing sugar, 6oz of butter and a tablespoon of vanilla flavouring.
Back at our workstations, we piped the icing onto a plain cake, then rolled it delicately in the fanciest hundreds and thousands ever, all little stars in a kaleidoscope of colours.
From there, we iced more cakes in more colours and flavours.
Using a closed star nozzle, we piped blue icing onto a chocolate cupcake which has an Oreo baked inside – and with the addition of eyes and a mini Oreo, we had a Cookie Monster. Well, that’s what it was supposed to be.
The chocolate chip cupcake got a green vanilla texture from the glass nozzle, which my slightly pathetic rose perched on top of.
We managed a Minnie Mouse cupcake with Oreos for ears – so that’s what the bowtie was for – and then a gentle pink rose with one of our leaves affixed.
That one was given a little burnish with some glitter spray on its undulating ‘petals’.
A red velvet cupcake was the last to get iced, a smooth nozzle employed to apply as smooth as curl as possible, which was then topped with a red heart.
When all was done, I was pretty proud of my efforts, which may not measure up to those professionally produced by the HLC team, but were still not appalling.
Scooping up our treats – including a certificate declaring our newfound skills – we set off to our home kitchens with sweet, sugary ideas about baking successes to come.
Hey Little Cupcake runs classes throughout the year. The two-hour cupcake Decorating Class includes:
• A choice of any luxury drink on arrival
• Lesson in making buttercream icing
• Piping icing in various techniques
• 6 of your own Hey Little Cupcakes to take home
• A certificate and your own apron to take home
Classes are £45 per person, and the next one is on Sunday August 17 at 11am.