Tips for icing the perfect cupcake

Last week saw a herd of cupcake lovers descend on the Hummingbird Bakery’s new outlet, recently opened on Frying Pan Alley in London’s Spitalfields. Out of duty to ACHICA Living I thought I’d better go along too, not at all tempted by the thought of hundreds of lusciously topped little cakes, of course.

The new shop features the classic and enticing Hummingbird window displays; pink grids with perfectly sculpted cakes and tiny fairy cakes, small enough to promise just slightly less guilt.

Guilt is something that should be left at the door in a Hummingbird Bakery, where the sublime creations are just too good looking and tasting for any dietary moralising.

Tarek Malouf’s now legendary chain of stores made huge waves in London’s patisserie world when they first opened in 2004. We Brits had previously supposed the cupcake to be an all-American craze, but judging by our reaction to the first store, it was one we were willing to adopt.

Since then, despite a backlash in the form of an anti-cupcake movement, the business shows no signs of slowing down. Malouf and his team have released two recipe books and have plans for a third, and are working on opening new international stores.

After admiring the new Spitalfields shop with the brand’s first ever cupcake consultation room, we donned aprons and headed out to the kitchens for a Red Velvet master class.

Red Velvet, for those unfortunate enough to be not yet in the know, is the Hummingbird Bakery bestseller, a deep red sponge topped with a creamy swirl of cream cheese icing and a sprinkle of red crumbs.

Emma Power, the brand’s Product Development Manager (a.k.a Chief Taster of new cake flavours and envy of foodies the world over) took us through the challenges of perfectly icing a cake, something all the staff are trained to do onsite daily.


To give a cupcake a bonnet that would rival an Ascot creation is, it turns out, pretty challenging. First you measure the exact amount of icing (created in huge vats and comprised of Philadelphia cream cheese, icing sugar and butter) with a special scoop, which you release onto the top of the cake.

You then swirl the icing evenly around the cake with a large palette knife without leaving any thinning patches, a cardinal sin in icing terms.

Once the icing is smoothed in a perfect peak, you attempt to cut a smooth swirl into the top with a deft flick of the palette knife.

Even though Emma attempted to slow down her pro swirling technique it still remained hopelessly beyond me; but when you cover the creamy top with the red crumbs of another blended cake, the whole thing looks so pretty and delectable that you can count on no one noticing the flaws.

The Hummingbird Bakery’s latest store is located at 11 Frying Pan Alley, Liverpool Street, London. For more details, visit Hummingbird Bakery

Getting sidetracked eating the cupcakes before they're made (above) and The Hummingbird Bakery (below)

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Olivia Parker Guest Writer ACHICA Living

View all posts by Olivia Parker Guest Writer ACHICA Living