When is a bun not a bun? When it is a cupcake, or a muffin or…… are there a plethora of words or synonyms? English is growing quickly, as I mentioned in a previous article (click here), but what I have recently read is that it is growing most quickly in areas associated with food. English culture has long accepted foreign dishes and flavours, now it seems we are accepting the words too.
My gold source for the English language is my hard-back edition of the Collins Contemporary Dictionary from 1959. As English spreads around the globe it is also diversifying, which is normal. It was always going to happen. Interestingly this divergence is now being recognised, as we are now seeing the emergence of American, Australian or British English dictionaries. In 1959, when the internet was unheard of and English was just English, this dictionary provides me with a snapshot of what was.
So what does my 1959 English dictionary say?
- A bun is described as “A kind of small cake, light in texture and well sweetened”.
- A muffin is described as “A round flat scone or cake of yeast dough, eaten toasted and buttered”
- There is no mention of a cupcake!
Few Americans would agree with the definition of a muffin. English, or at least American has clearly moved on since 1959!
Wikipedia, these days an internet gold source, states that:
- A muffin is “An individual-sized, baked quick bread product”.
- A bun is “A small, sometimes sweet, bread, or bread roll.”.
- A Cupcake is “A small cake designed to serve one person, which may be baked in a small thin paper or aluminium cup”.
Few Englishmen would agree with their definition of a bun! By the way, if you go onto Wikipedia now you may see something different as I submitted an edit to the article……..
Although I am known for my diatribes and general musings, as this is a cookery blog let’s talk about how they differ when making them. In general I find that buns and muffins are made differently and also tend to have a different texture once baked. For me, in general, they are both individual sweet cakes that accept any number of flavourings and styles.
So, always talking in general I tend to see the following differences:
- The ingredients are pretty much the same except that muffins have a tendency to use oil whilst buns tend to use butter.
- Buns tend to be made in one bowl, mixing then beating in all the ingredients.
- Muffins tend to be made using two bowls. In one the dry ingredients, flour, sugar, raising agent etc, are mixed together. In a second bowl the wet ingredients, eggs, milk, vegetable oil etc, are mixed together. The two components are then mixed together.
- For buns it is all about mixing and beating well. The more you beat, the lighter the mix, the better the buns will be.
- Conversely with muffins the two components are only just mixed together. If you want a good texture then you should never over mix a muffin dough.
- As for cupcakes, for me they can be either buns or muffins that have been tarted up with icings or frostings to make them look like mini cakes.
- As for the texture, muffins tend to have a moister texture than buns. I find that buns tend to last longer, perhaps because they are a little drier in general.
So having said all the above, what about the “mini-cakes” I am sharing with you today? I have called them buns because the recipe is more like a bun recipe. Having said that, this recipe is a little different in that the butter is rubbed into the dry ingredients rather than being beaten in. I guess you could call it a hybrid, a “buffin” perhaps? Perhaps I could coin this phrase, create a new page in Wikipedia and jump onto the “invent a new food-word” bandwagon?
I actually make quite a few buns and muffins. I find them very easy and quick to make. I also find them perfect for when I am looking for a sweet snack. Homemade cakes are normally much better for you than commercially bought products. They also come individually wrapped so they are easy to pack if you are travelling. They are ideal if you are looking for a snack to keep you going on a long walk or to help you through the day if you are at work.
Sultana and Ginger Buns
2 tsp Baking Powder
1½ tsp Ginger
Take the butter out of the fridge so that it can come up to room temperature.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, ginger and sugar.
Rub in the butter. The mixture should resemble breadcrumbs.
Mix in the sultanas.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Beat the egg and mix with the milk.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture then pour in the beaten egg and milk mixture.
Mix well to form a stick dough.
Fill the bun cases and bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
The amount of ginger in the recipe above will give a lightly ginger flavoured bun. If you like a good punch then just add in a little more!
If you like buns and muffins, why not give my Triple Chocolate Muffins a try. Just click here.
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
Imperial to Metric Measurement:
1 oz – 28g
1 lb – 16 oz – 454g
1 gill – ¼ pint – 142ml
2016 Lincoln W. Betteridge