Untempered rose water can be a little too close to perfume, and food which smells like something your grandmother might wash in is never a winner, so I added a small quantity of ground almonds in place of some of the flour, and used just as much vanilla essence as one would for plain vanilla sponge. I wanted tall, proud domes - none of these flat, un-risen looking affairs where the icing is as deep as the underlying cake and still only just fills the paper case* - hence the rather large quantity of batter to make only just over a dozen cupcakes. I ended up with 14, though it could easily have stretched to 18 and still yielded very respectably-sized cakes. I iced them with buttercream, again delicately scented with rose water, and then finished them off with adorable little pink wafer roses (bought from the Jane Asher sugarcraft shop in South Kensington). Very cute, sweet and tender and light and exuding just a faint breath of exotic, floral scent.
For 14-18 large cupcakes:
For the icing:
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line muffin tin with paper cases.
Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla essence and rose water and beat in briefly. Weigh out the flour, almonds, cornflour and baking powder and sieve together into a spare bowl, blending them thoroughly. Add the eggs one at a time to the creamed butter and sugar, beating them in a cup first, and adding a couple of spoonfuls of the flour in between each. Gently fold in the remaining flour. Add enough milk or cream to reach a soft dropping consistency (a batter which just about holds its shape in the bowl and will plop off the spoon when given a single shake). Divide between the cases, leaving about 1cm empty space at the top for big cakes risen above the top of the cases. For more dainty, demure little numbers, only fill the cases two thirds of the way full. Note that I have only one muffin tray, and so some of the mixture has to sit around until the first dozen are out of the oven, but this doesn't appear to be a problem at all (contrary to what I was always taught was the case with sponge mixtures), so don't worry if you too have to cook them in batches. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until risen and golden and a skewer or cake tester comes out clean. Turn the tray around after about 15 minutes if your oven does not cook very evenly (like mine), but do not open the door until at least 12 minutes have passed, as you might cause them to collapse if you do so.
Allow them to cool completely, sitting on a wire rack, before icing. Once you are ready to do this, make the buttercream by creaming the icing sugar into the butter a couple of spoonfuls at a time (if you do more in one go, it will poof up and you will look like a snowman, never mind the state of the kitchen). Beat in the vanilla and rose essences, then enough milk or cream to make it easily spreadable, but definitely not runny - it must hold its shape. Spread over each cupcake and top with a wafer rose.
* Yes, Hummingbird Bakery, I am referring to you. I was very underwhelmed by their produce - sickly and sugar rush-inducing.