Sugared Almond Cakes

Makes 24 cupcakes. Recipe is from “Wedding Cupcakes” by Joanna Farrow.

For the cupcakes:

21/2 sticks lightly salted butter, softened

11/2 cups superfine sugar

1 tbl. vanilla bean paste or extract

5 eggs

22?3 cups self-rising flour

2 tbls. milk

1. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper baking cups and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat with a hand-held electric mixer until smooth, creamy and pale in color. Divide among the baking cups, filling them about two-thirds full and bake for 25 minutes until risen and just firm to the touch. Let stand in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool.

For the frosting and decoration:

24 small edible flowers

1 egg white

Superfine sugar, for dusting

24 cupcakes

1/2 cup sherry or orange-flavored liqueur, optional

31/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 to 4 tbls. lemon juice

72 sugared almonds

15 yards white organza ribbon, to decorate

1. To make the frosted flowers, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Make sure the flowers are clean and thoroughly dry before frosting. Put the egg white in a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork to break it up. Put plenty of superfine sugar in a separate bowl. Take a flower and, using your fingers or a soft paintbrush, coat the petals on both sides with the egg white. Sprinkle plenty of superfine sugar over the flowers with your fingers, turning the flowers until evenly coated. Shake off the excess and place the flower on the lined sheet. Frost the remaining flowers and let stand overnight until dry and crisp. If storing for longer, place in an airtight container once completely dry, interleaving the layers with paper towels.

2. To prepare the cupcakes, drizzle the cakes with the liqueur, if using. Mix the confectioners’ sugar in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Gradually add the remaining lemon juice, stirring well with a wooden spoon until the icing holds its shape but is not difficult to spread — you may not need all the juice. Spread the lemon-flavored icing over the cakes with a spatula and arrange 3 sugared almonds in the center of each. Place a frosted flower on top of each cake while the icing is still soft so they are held in place.

3. To finish, tie a length of white organza ribbon around each baking cup to decorate, finishing with a bow.