Afternoon Tea Cupcakes {Cucumber + Champagne}

26 Comments
champagne cupcakes

A simple cupcake with a hidden core of refreshing cucumber jam

There are few things more British than a cucumber sandwich. Simple and delicate (and delicious when made properly – think paper-thin cucumber, salty butter, soft white bread), this recipe of aristocratic origin is made all the better for being absolutely unnecessary. Traditionally served at tea-time (our way of justifying the indulgence of an additional mid-afternoon meal involving a lot of cake) they have next to no nutritional value, being probably the only sandwich in the world over which I wouldn’t shed a tear to see the crusts removed. But they are a delicious nonetheless, especially when accompanied by freshly-baked scones a glass of cold champagne.

champagne cupcakes

Simple & sweet: cucumber jam

On Saturday we headed out into the Oxfordshire countryside to celebrate some friends’ engagement. We’d been invited for champagne afternoon tea and, while I knew there would be an enormous array of food on offer, I wanted to make an extra little something special for the happy couple to mark the day.

While cucumber works wonderfully in savoury sandwiches, it also has a beautiful sweetness that is all too often neglected. If you’ve ever drunk Hendricks gin or a cucumber-based cocktail, you’ll know what I mean. And as I thought about the tea and what I might make as a present, the idea of a cucumber sandwich-inspired cake started to take shape in my mind.

champagne cupcakes

Champagne buttercream & cucumber jam

As is so often the case, my idea evolved over the next couple of weeks. With the classic combination of cucumber, butter and slightly sweet bread (or cake) as my starting point, I investigated ways in which I could play the flavours off against each other. Somewhere along the way I decided that including champagne was a must, then the idea developed into individual cupcakes and finally I found this, a recipe for cucumber jam.

If you’re inclined to dismiss cucumber jam as a bit too bonkers, hear me out for a minute. Think back to that cool, refreshing sweetness you can find in any cucumber. Imagine it magnified as the pulpy flesh reduces down, the flavour amplified by sweetness, the floral notes heightened by scraped vanilla seeds. Think of it once chilled and set, pale and grassy in colour and flecked with tiny specks of black. Imagine it spread on scones with lashings of cream, shiny green globules bursting in your mouth. Taste its sticky, syrupy sweetness spooned into the centre of a cupcake, seeping into the surrounding sponge.

champagne cupcakes

Light, buttery sponge with a syrupy cucumber centre

It might not be for everyone, but if you like cucumber, the chances are you’ll like this jam. After that, the rest of the recipe is simple – light, buttery sponge, sugar syrup and basic buttercream made just a little more celebratory with a cheeky shot of champagne.

The recipe I’ve linked to makes more jam that you will need to fill your cupcakes, but I wouldn’t bother to reduce the quantities. I’ve got half a little pot sitting in the fridge and am planning to spread it on toast, stir it through yoghurt, melt it down into a syrupy glaze for a simple fruit tart or salad. Like the cucumber sandwich, it’s a little bit bizarre, but all the better for it.

champagne cupcakes

Cupcakes ready for afternoon tea & celebration

Champagne & Cucumber Cupcakes
(makes approx. 24 cupcakes)

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes
200g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
Pinch salt
Seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod
4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
200g self-raising flour

For the syrup
100g caster sugar
100ml water
50ml champagne

For the filling
1 x quantity of cucumber jam (recipe here)

For the buttercream
200g unsalted butter, softened
500g icing sugar
50ml champagne

Method:

For the cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Line two 12-hole muffin tins with cupcake cases.

In an electric stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla seeds until pale and fluffy. Alternatively use an electric hand-held whisk.

Add the eggs to the butter whilst whisking on medium speed, a little at a time. If the mixture starts to curdle, add a little flour and continue until all the egg is combined.

Sift in the flour and fold lightly in until just combined. Carefully divide the batter between the cupcake cases then bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and spring back lightly to the touch.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Using a melon baller (a teaspoon would do), scoop a small amount out the top of each cupcake.

For the syrup
Bring the sugar and water to the boil in a small saucepan, then simmer until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Set aside to cool. Once cool, stir in the champagne then spoon over the tops of your cupcakes.

For the filling
Using a teaspoon, dollop a small amount of cucumber jam into the hole in the top of each cupcake.

For the buttercream
Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the icing sugar, beating on high speed until well combined. Reduce the speed and add the champagne until completely incorporated. Check for flavour – you might want to add a little more.

Using a palette knife, spread a generous amount of icing over a cupcake then smooth the edges to create a slightly domed top.

These cupcakes are best kept at room temperature in an airtight container, although if it’s very hot you might want to pop them in the fridge for 10 minutes or so before serving.

26 RESPONSES TO Afternoon Tea Cupcakes {Cucumber + Champagne}

  1. I don’t think it sounds bizarre … these sound wonderful and so creative. Lovely post. And what a lovely gift for your friends.

  2. What a really lovely thing to do – I bet they were a great hit. You are so creative, I am now completely intrigued by cucumber jam and so wish I could have tried one of your cakes.

  3. Laura -

    I love the sound of these, what an inspired idea. I bet they’re delicious.

  4. shez -

    I was so confused when I first read cucumber jam, but then I realised that it might have tasted a bit like melons? Either way, it sounds very classy.

    • The Single Gourmet & Traveller – glad you like them :-)

      Lorraine – I highly recommend giving them a go!

      Savory Simple – do give them a go :-)

      Choclette – thank you. The cucumber jam is fab, well worth trying.

      Laura – they are! ;-)

      Nic – thank you.

      Shez – it does have some of the subtle, watery sweetness of melons – you’re absolutely right.

  5. Lisa -

    I have so much catching up to do, my newly engaged one :) This is such a brilliant idea for a cupcake! I’m dying to taste it! I’ve never heard of cucumber jam until now. I mean..I knew people had to be making it, but just never encountered it. Regardless..such a creative and unique idea!

  6. This is the most interesting food post I’ve read in ages. Cucumber and champagne cakes! Amazing.

  7. Pingback: Cucumber and Champagne Cupcakes « The Best Cupcake Recipes

  8. Loved the concept! Will definitely give a try (but nervous to try jam)

  9. What an interesting combination! Cucumber jam sounds so intriguing, especially as I love cucumbers. You are so creative.

    • Lisa – ahh, thank you!

      Laura – so pleased you like them :-)

      Baking Beardy – this recipe uses jam sugar so it’s super simple!

      Jennifer – thank you :-)

  10. Jaime -

    You really have a way of selling that cucumber jam! And the cupcake looks and sounds so sophisticated – perfect for the occasion!

  11. scottishbaker -

    I was at the party and tasted the cakes later with the happy couple. They were amazing

  12. Sacha -

    I would definitely love that jam and these lovely cupcakes. When I was young, my mom and I used to make cucumber-salted butter-white bread sandwiches, but they were always full sized (the American way, I suppose). I still love the simple combination.

    • Jaime – thank you! They’re great for a celebration, but we enjoyed them just as much at home the next day :-)

      Scottish Baker – ah, thank you! The afternoon tea spread that you put on was incredible! (I’ve never seen so many tea cups in one place…)

      Erin – thanks Erin!

      Sacha – salty cucumber sandwiches (and lettuce sandwiches with butter too) are so delicious – dainty is good but I don’t blame you for wanting to eat a full size one, they’re so delicious!

  13. what a great tribute to your friends and to afternoon tea, these are just absolutely gorgeous!

  14. Susan -

    I’m SOLD. Two of my biggest complaints about cupcakes is that often they are way too sweet, and they are dry. This seems to address both issues.

    • Jenny – thank you, I think they enjoyed them so everyone’s happy! :-)

      Susan – so pleased you like these :-)

  15. I j’adore cucumber sandwiches – I’m looking forward to trying these!

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  17. Christine -

    Do you think it would work to use finely shredded, peeled seedless English cucumber mixed in the cake like carrot cake?

    • Hmm I’m not sure as it has a higher water content than carrot… If you do try it out, let me know how you get on!

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