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Cupcakes and Italian "Acid Cream"

Asked by meri1964. Answered on 23rd May 2011

Full question

I absolutely love Nigella's cupcakes, but, as strange as it may seem, they rise more in the centre than they are supposed to do (silly, as my cakes often don't rise at all!) Too much baking powder maybe? Too much batter in the cases? I've recently bought "Delizie Divine" a fantastic cook book with a good Italian translaltion. But I have another query - I can't find acid cream in Italy, what else could I use? May be yogurt? Thank you Nigella - my cooking guru! Maria from Vicenza Italy

Our answer

Nigella's cupcakes usually rise spectacularly as she often adds a little bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to the baking powder in her recipes, which will give extra "lift" - particularly if the recipe contains cocoa powder or a dairy ingredient like sour cream or buttermilk. Also Nigella frequently bakes her cupcakes at 200c (400F) which is slightly higher than the usual 180c (350F) for cakes - the higher temperature speeds up the cooking time but also tends to cause the cakes to rise more in the middle as the outside of the cake cooks quickly, forcing the centre into more of a peak.

For the "acid cream" we suspect it is referring to either sour cream or creme fraiche (the French cultured cream). For baking recipes we would suggest using sour cream though you could use creme fraiche instead (or please browse our Kitchen Queries archive for suggestions for substitutes for sour cream). For sauces we would suggest using creme fraiche as sour cream will tend to split if it is boiled. If you can't get creme fraiche then use an equivalent amount of the thick cooking cream which usually comes in small cartons in Italy, and add a squeeze of lemon juice.

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