I’m nothing if not a follower of trends. And you can’t swing a whisk around on the interwebs without hitting pictures of pretty, geeky cupcakes. I feel a project coming up.

There’s at least two problems with me making cupcakes. Especially pretty ones.

1: I’m not a big fan of artificial colouring. Blue frosting reminds me of chemicals, not yumminess.

2: I have, like, no drawing skills, let alone piping skills.

Righto then.

Step 1: Planning

Yes. I’m trying to keep the improvisational bit to a minimum here.

The colouring problem I can get round by using black and white themes. For this first one: chess! I figure I can use white chocolate for the white background, and dark for the black background.

The piping I’m just going to avoid altogether. My pieces will be made in marzipan, because that is one hell of a forgiving confectionary. If I screw up with the shaping or cutting, I can just roll it all up again and start over.

The white pieces are easy: plain marzipan. The black pieces will be more brownish, coloured with pure cocoa powder.

Step 2: Earl Gray Cupcakes

The recipe I’m using is one adapted from Martha Stewart’s Vanilla Cupcakes.

This is for about sixteen to eighteen cakes.

Earl Gray Cupcakes

  • 150g butter
  • 236g flour
  • 170g white sugar
  • 130ml milk
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • contents of one teabag (as aromatic as possible, Earl Gray is great, Lady Gray is better. I’m using Lipton’s Persian Earl Gray)

Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir so they’re blended. In a big bowl, cream the sugar and butter together. Whisk in the eggs one by one, then sift in half of the flour mixture, add half the milk and beat till smooth. Repeat with the other half of flour and milk.

This was my first time making actual cupcakes and I’ve learned the hard way that you need a muffin pan to put your paper liners in, or some very firm cups. Paper liners alone don’t work.

So, fill a muffin pan with paper liners and divide your mixture over the different cups.

Put in a 190°C oven for about twenty minutes.

I'd love to say that the oval shape was my intention, but it kinda wasn't.

Let them cool before going to step 3.

Step 3: Chocolate!

Half of my cupcakes are going to be white, and half black.

So get about 150g of white chocolate, put it in a glass bowl and shove it in the microwave.

You want to be careful here. Only put it on for half a minute or twenty seconds at a time, taking the bowl out and stirring every time, until the chocolate is nice and smooth.

I took a spoon and drizzled the chocolate on my cupcakes. The paper cups stop the chocolate from spilling over. If your cupcakes didn’t fail like mine, and actually muffin topped out of the paper, it might be easier to just dunk the head in the chocolate instead.

Rinse and repeat for the dark chocolate.

Step 4: White marzipan

Working with marzipan is, as mentioned, rather forgiving. So get out a piece and roll it between your hands, kneading until it’s warm enough to work with.

Then get a rolling pin and some powder sugar. The powder sugar will keep the marzipan from sticking to your table, making the rolling a lot easier. You use it the same way as flour when kneading dough. Sift some on your working surface, and on your piece of marzipan, then start rolling. Add powder sugar whenever things get sticky.

Now cut out your shapes. I have some random tools to make things go faster, but most shapes can be made with just a knife and your fingers. Also never underestimate the power of toothpicks.

Hmmm. Needs more cute.

If you’ve been rather lavish with the chocolate, like I have, it’ll still be runny enough for you to just stick the marzipan on. If not, use a dab of honey or syrup as your ‘glue’.

Step 5: Brown marzipan

My natural colouring for the brown marzipan is cocoa powder. This has the advantage of making rather tasty marzipan, and the disadvantage of looking vaguely like poo. Oh well.

Take your leftovers from the white shapes, and maybe some additional fresh marzipan and work it again until it’s soft. Then add cocoa to the marzipan, one teaspoon at a time, and work it in until you have a single dark brown colour.

Roll the marzipan flat again and cut out your shapes.

Pictured: moar cute.


All the added chocolate does make these cakes rather heavy. Which is a shame, cause the earl gray teacake is definitely a winner.

If you don’t feel like overindulging, they’re very nice without topping, and should be delicious with a lemon glaze, too.