I do love a good cupcake, or in the case of when I make them at home tiny fairycake, and am always envious about ones that come nicely iced because icing with a piping bag is probably my worst skill in the kitchen. The soft swishy cake against the sweet and well-formed icing makes for a wonderful texture combination and usually the flavouring is well balanced to leave a little smile on the face too.
But generally cupcakes are one of the things I resent purchasing in a store, or at least in a supermarket anyway, purely because I know from them being one of the first things I used to make with my Mum on a rainy day that making small cakes like a cupcake is pretty cheap to do and that the amount of time it takes to whip them together is minimal as well. You can prepare the mixture for 12 cakes in the space of 10 minutes before popping them in the oven and going off to have a brew and open the post whilst they magically rise in the oven. Then you take them out and leave them to cool whilst you change the bed or something and then head back to make the icing and stuff but of course these have ‘hidden centres’ so involve an extra couple of minutes of effort per cake… My point is when I see an individual cupcake on sale in a shop for £3.50 I wince a lot.
These hidden centre cupcakes by Sainsbury’s are usually £6.50 for the tray of twelve, that is over 54p a cupcake, and whilst the value is fairly reasonable and the tray could get you out of a pinch for a last minute gathering that is still more than a full set of ingredients for a lot of basic cakes. Unless in that emergency in a pinch situation I would never spend that amount of money on some cupcakes from Sainsbury’s, yes perhaps from the local bakery, but these were discounted one day to £3 which made them an absolute steal of a price for a quick dessert.
The strawberry ones were probably the worst and most disappointing. The sponge was soft and responded to a prod but it seemed to lack any flavour and could have done with another splash or two of vanilla, especially as the icing seemed to be lacking much in the way of flavour. And the filling inside did not provide much balance in terms of flavour either as it seemed to be lacking even the usual strawberry punch caused by jam and instead was just a mildly flavoured sugary mush in the middle of a bland cake.
Luckily the other two cakes packed a bit more of a flavour punch and this was helped by them being chocolate cupcakes and naturally having some added flavour from the cocoa. It was not overwhelming flavour, as it might be if you used something like a dark chocolate high quality cocoa to boost the flavour, but there was at least a hint of it when you took a bite. These mild but noticeable flavours were also present in the icing of both the salted caramel and the chocolate centred cakes and they were able to find a balance of impact without becoming too sweet and overwhelming on the palette.
None of the cakes were anything remarkable but I can see their place in the world; if you are having a party that includes a lot of children that care more about the concept of cake than the actual flavours or quality of cake. £6.50 seems a little too high especially when you consider the amount it cost in ingredients and length of time these take to produce in bulk but if, as many people increasingly seem to not be able to (which alarms me a lot), there is no other option then they will save you in a pinch.
Instead of spending £6.50 on this though I would recommend a caterpillar cake which is still low in quality but to me a lot more fun and has different flavour and texture elements plus chocolate around the outside!
What are your thoughts on these cupcakes and how do you generally feeling about spending several £’s on a individual cupcake as many stores are increasing trying to promote? Do let me know in the comments below!