On 2 April my first novel, Rebel with a Cupcake, is being reissued by Firefly Press with a beautiful new cover by Niki Pilkington. It’s about a confident teenage girl, Jess (short for Jesobel), who loves to cook for her friends and dysfunctional family. But one fateful Own Clothes Day, a wardrobe malfunction sets off a chain of events which leads Jess to re-consider everything she has held dear. Jess has to learn to make her own way through a family, school and society that seem to think she’s just a bit too much

I’m not a great baker but I do love to try. Whereas Jess can make a gingerbread version of her school in one afternoon, if my cakes were to appear on The Great British Bake Off they would definitely be described as ‘rustic’ if the judges were being kind and ‘a total mess’ if they were being honest. But what Jess and I do share is a belief that food is a great pleasure and a brilliant way of bringing people together. Food and life should be full of flavour! All the best celebrations, whether personal, cultural or religious, all seem to centre on the sharing of tasty dishes and treats. So Jess bakes cupcakes for her friends, throws an impromptu party for her grandmother who rarely leaves the attic, and helps mend her sister’s broken heart. 

To celebrate the publication of Rebel with a Cupcake, if you have time, inclination and most importantly in these strange times, the ingredients, perhaps you might like to bake a cupcake or two to share with those you love. Here’s a basic cupcake recipe that has never let me down. Jess would probably make elderflower and rosehip cakes, for me lemon and poppyseed are my favourite. What would be your perfect cupcake flavours?

Ingredients for the cupcakes:

110g softened butter or margarine

110g golden caster sugar

2 large eggs 

½ tsp vanilla extract

110g self-raising flour

Optional food colouring of your choice … go subtle or go bold!

Ingredients for the buttercream:

150g softened butter

300g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp milk

Optional food colouring … possibly match the beautiful colour of Rebel with a Cupcake’s spine!]

To decorate:

Sprinkles or any edible decoration you prefer

Optional pin badge (just don’t eat!)


Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and fill a 12 cupcake tray with cases. White ones are fine but coloured ones are best.

Beat 110g softened butter and 110g golden caster sugar together until pale and fluffy then whisk in 2 large eggs, one at a time. An electric whisk saves time but using a spoon is a great work-out!

Add ½ tsp vanilla extract (or alternative flavour), 110g self-raising flour and any colouring, whisk until just combined then spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. Aim to fill each case half way or just over. If you fill to the top, then the mixture with expand in the oven.

Bake for 15 mins until golden in colour and a skewer inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. (I don’t have a wire rack – I just improvise)

To make the buttercream, whisk 150g softened butter until super soft then add 300g icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract (other flavours can be substituted). Whisk together until smooth. You might want to do this really slowly to start off with as the icing sugar has a tendency to create a cloud. Now would also be the time to add the colour if you want. Of course, you can always use ready-made buttercream to save time and washing-up if desired.

When ready, either spoon on or if you’re up to the challenge, use a piping bag for a more professional look. You can add sprinkles and/or other decorations. Then present to those you love and see how much they enjoy them! 

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