Donna Hay’s cupcakes

Donna Hay’s cupcakes are a classic, teaming rich, buttery sponge with two options of icing.

William Meppem and Chris Court


125g unsalted butter
260g self-raising flour
165g caster sugar
½ tsp baking powder
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
125ml milk

1. Preheat oven to 160C/gas 2½. Line a 12-hole (125ml capacity) muffin tin with paper cupcake cases.
2. Place the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and stir with a spatula until melted.
3. Place the flour, sugar and baking powder in a big bowl and, using a whisk, mix to combine. Add the melted butter, eggs, vanilla and milk, and whisk until well combined and smooth.
4. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Wearing oven gloves, carefully remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes and move on to wire racks to cool completely, before spreading with your favourite icing.

Vanilla cupcake icing

Place 80g chopped and softened cream cheese and 120g fresh firm ricotta in a medium bowl. Using a whisk, mix until smooth (you can use a food processor for this step if you don’t have time to soften the cream cheese). Add 2 tbsp maple syrup and 1 tsp vanilla extract and whisk to combine. Keep in the fridge and spread over the cooled cakes when ready to serve.

Chocolate cupcake icing

Add 1½ tbsp sifted raw cacao or cocoa powder and an extra 2 tsp maple syrup to the vanilla icing recipe, above, and whisk to combine.

Three easy flavour swaps

Strawberry cupcakes
Whisk 15g chopped freeze-dried strawberries into the mixture at the end of step 3 in the cupcake recipe, above. When cooled, spread the cakes with the vanilla icing, see recipe, left, and sprinkle with extra chopped freeze-dried strawberries.

Lemon coconut cupcakes
Replace 35g of the self-raising flour in the cupcake recipe, above, with 40g desiccated coconut. At the end of step 3, whisk 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp finely grated lemon rind into the mixture. When cooled, spread the cakes with the vanilla icing, see recipe left, and top with some toasted shredded coconut.

Chocolate cupcakes
Add 45g chopped dark chocolate to the butter in step 2 of thecupcake recipe, left, and stir until melted and smooth. In step 3, replace 35g of the self-raising flour with 2 tbsp sifted raw cacao or cocoa powder. When cooled, spread the cakes with the chocolate icing.

Basics to Brilliance Kids by Donna Hay is published by Fourth Estate, price £20. To order a copy for £15 until 1 July, visit or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.