Makes 24 cupcakes
275g/10oz caster sugar
275g/10oz margarine/soft butter at room temperature (I use half margarine and half butter)
5 free range eggs
275g/10oz self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla seeds/essence or, if a lemon sponge is preferred, lemon zest/juice
Ready-to-roll sugar paste in
poppy red, black, white and green
Poppy-red edible powder
Gold edible powder
Warmed apricot jam for brushing
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Place 24 muffin cases in two 12-hole muffin/cupcake trays.
2. Beat the sugar and butter/margarine in a mixer – I use a KitchenAid – using a paddle attachment on a high speed, or in a bowl, until pale and fluffy.
3. Mix the eggs in a separate jug or bowl.
4. Sift the flour and baking powder into another bowl.
5. Beat a little egg and a teaspoon of flour into the butter mixture – on a slower speed if using a mixer. Continue until all the egg and flour has been incorporated. Add the vanilla seeds/essence or lemon zest/juice, if using.
6. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases until two-thirds full. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until golden and a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for ten minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice off any domed tops to make a flat surface before decorating.
7. To decorate, first make 72 petals. Roll out the red sugar paste, cut out your petals then shape with your fingers, pressing the edges to make them thin. Dust with the red edible powder then, to give the petals some curve, dry them on a bumpy foam pad, available from cake decorating suppliers.
8. Cut out 24 crown shapes from the white sugar paste using a template or a crown-shaped cutter. Roll thinly and dust with gold edible powder then set aside to dry.
9. To make the centres of the poppies, tear 24 small lumps from the black sugar paste, roll into balls and squash slightly. For the stems, tear 24 small lumps from the green sugar paste and roll between your palms.
10. Using a pastry cutter, cut out 24 tops for your cupcakes from the white sugar paste. Brush the top of each cupcake with a little warmed jam then press on a white sugar paste circle. Add a crown topped by three poppy leaves, a stem and a centre, securing with a little warmed jam if needed.