Tag Archives: cupcakes

King Cake Cupcakes and a Winter Weather Bulletin

29 Jan

Hi, friends! I hope you are warm and toasty wherever you are today. Here in the Deep South/Alabama Gulf Coast, we are freezing our little tushies off! It has been quite an adventure with below freezing temps for the past 2 days and various types of wintry precipitation all around (only sleet and ice at our house, sadly). The weather has been so “extreme” by our standards, that most businesses, including my office, have been closed since yesterday afternoon and will remain closed until at least tomorrow.

After this little experience, I cannot start to imagine how people survive in the far northern states where it regularly drops 20-30 degrees below zero during the winter. We Southerners wouldn’t know how to function! I have to admit, I would take 95 degrees and 100% humidity any day of the week.

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Our little house with its dusting of ice/sleet.

But don’t you worry, all this down time has given me the opportunity to sew and bake like crazy. Over the past two weeks, I have baked 4 loaves of bread, 1 batch of dinner rolls, sewn 5 (!!!) garments (more on those to come), and made these delicious King Cake Cupcakes. What else can you do when it is “Snowmageddon” outside? (As sarcastically dubbed by a local radio station in response to the media frenzy.)

Growing up near Mobile, Alabama (the home of Mardi Gras), I have eaten my fair share of King Cakes. I have had cakes shipped in from “authentic” bakeries in New Orleans, local grocery store King Cakes, and even homemade King Cakes (yes, yours, Catherine). I have always been a fan of the yeasty delight reminiscent of cinnamon rolls with cream cheese filling and sweet icing and tri-colored sugar on top. And being the baker that I am, I have never tried to make my own King Cake until now. Boy, am I glad I did! These little delights are tasty! And not that hard to pull off. I will walk you through it below but first a little more history on the King Cake (and if you want to see my other post about Mardi Gras traditions and a delicious drink recipe, click here).

King Cake, as we coastal Southerners know it, first originated in French Louisiana in the 1700s, where it was introduced by colonists from France and Spain. Many European countries still have their own versions of King Cake but it is different from ours. I am only going to highlight the Southern Coastal variety in this post but you can read more about all types of King Cakes in this Wiki article and on the blog, Joe Pastry.

First of all, you are only supposed to make King Cakes after Epiphany (January 6) and before Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). Some people might say it was a sacrilege to make them at other times of the year but many bakeries have started adapting the King Cake idea to other holidays.

The simplest King Cake is cinnamon roll-type dough with sugar glaze icing and purple, green, and yellow sprinkles. Most varieties, though, will have a filling (cream cheese — my favorite, praline, cinnamon, or strawberry). All are topped with some form of glaze and traditionally should have a plastic baby trinket inside. This little baby represents the Baby Jesus and the legend goes that whomever gets the piece of cake with the baby has to buy the next cake. When I was a child, I remember the excitement and anticipation surrounding this little toy that might be hidden in your cake (so you had to eat carefully according to your mom, as not to choke on said baby). Nowadays, though, most places will not put the baby in the cake because of the risk of choking — or should I say the risk of a lawsuit. Instead, the baby will be cradled in some excess icing in the center of the cake.

The recipe I am presenting here is a simple brioche-type dough with a brown sugar studded cream cheese filling. The simple powdered sugar glaze has a hint of citrus to balance the sweetness of the cake. While baking with yeast dough can be intimidating, it really is quite simple if you follow the directions given.

I originally found this recipe on the Garden and Gun blog. I would not recommend following the directions on their website, though, because they are not complete. After a little research, I realized their recipe was just a scaled down version of Emeril’s recipe here, but both are apparently variations of the 1983 Southern Heritage Cakes Cookbook. If you want to reference a source, please use the Food Network recipe, not the one on the Garden and Gun website.

To make the King Cake Cupcakes, you start by mixing up an enriched yeast dough.

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After it has doubled in size, you punch it down then roll it out into a rectangle.

 

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Next, you spread the dough with the softened cream cheese mixture, then roll it up into a log.

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Slice the log into 15 even pieces and place in paper-lined cupcake pans.

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Let the cakes rise one more time,

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Then bake them at 325 for 15-20 minutes.

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Once they are cooled, drizzle the glaze on top and sprinkle with purple, green, and yellow sanding sugar.

 

King Cake Cupcakes

Yield: 15 cupcakes

Dough:

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon, plus ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ¼ cup warm milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 ounces (or 6 Tablespoons) melted butter

Filling:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Icing:

  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Decorations:

  • Green, purple, and yellow sprinkles or sanding sugar
  • Small baby trinket

Whisk together yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar until the dry ingredients are completely dissolved, then let rest until the yeast is foamy, bubbly, and active, about 5 to 10 minutes. Combine flour, salt, 1/4 cup sugar, nutmeg, and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric stand mixer (or you can also mix by hand). Fit mixer with dough hook attachment, turn on low speed, and add milk, egg yolks, and melted butter, a little at a time, until all ingredients are combined; continue mixing on low about 10 minutes (or knead by hand).

At this time, if the dough has not formed a sticky ball in the bowl, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, no more than ½ cup total.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer and let mix again for another 10 minutes. Turn onto an oiled surface and knead by hand into a tidy little ball, 5 minutes or so.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until it doubles in size, about 1 to 2 hours. Stretch and roll your dough into a long rectangle, approximately 12″ x 18″.

Combine the filling ingredients and the spread mixture onto the surface of the rectangle. Roll the dough up starting on a short end, and slice into 15 equal medallions.  Place medallions flat side down in lined cupcake tins. Cover, set aside, and let rise again until double, about 30-40 minutes. Bake at 325 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Cool completely.

Combine icing ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until it achieves the desired consistency (adjust with more liquid or more powdered sugar if necessary). You can do this easily with a whisk.

Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cupcakes, hiding a baby trinket or charm inside one of the cupcakes before icing, if desired.  Decorate with Mardi Gras beads or yellow, purple, and green sprinkles.

What We’re Eating — Recipe Round-Up

2 Jul

Mr. Homemaker and I have been contemplating buying/building a new house recently so we’ve been trying to save our pennies.  That means we’ve been eating out a lot less and cooking a lot more.  You’d think I would have a lot more recipe posts for you but on weeknights when we both get home at 6:30 or later and dinner isn’t on the table until 8:30 or later, the last think I want to do is arrange food on a plate in a photogenic fashion and take pictures of it.  I mean, we are starving by that point and I think Mr. Homemaker would bite my hand if I told him he had to wait even 2 minutes for me to snap some shots of his plate! :)

Being an empty nest part of the week, we tend to eat out a lot.  And even with just a party of two, that can get expensive, especially when you aren’t satisfied with the same few restaurants over and over again.  Mr. Homemaker and I knew transitioning to exclusive at-home dining wasn’t going to be easy for us — sure, having a goal helps — but we knew that we would have to keep the menus fresh and interesting to keep us motivated.  So each weekend we sit down with our bi-weekly produce delivery list and come up with a tentative menu and grocery list.  I use the Epicurious and Food Network websites as well as some of my favorite food blogs for inspiration and recipes.  We also try to recreate some of our favorite restaurant dishes at home.

So far I would say we have been pretty successful.  In the past month, we have only eaten out once, and that was just a shared fajitas for one at the cheap Mexican joint. Compare that to our prior habit of dining out 6-7 meals (lunch and/or dinner) per week! We have also enjoyed spending time together in the kitchen getting back into one of our mutual hobbies.  Each meal inspires us to cook up different menus and dishes for the next week.

So since I don’t have time to do an individual post for each recipe that we have enjoyed, I am giving you a recipe round-up and brief review so you can enjoy these dishes, too.  Please feel free to ask questions in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.  And when we make these things again, I will try to takes pictures and add those to this post. I am also giving each recipe my star rating along with my review and suggested modifications.  Total possible stars = 4. None of the photos are my original photos — they are the property of the recipe source.  Click recipe title for source.

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Steak Picadillo Tacos ****

We LOVE these tacos.  We have made them twice now in the span of two weeks.  They are easy and quick to throw together.  We make them exactly as directed (yes, we put in the olives AND raisins), but we do buy a more tender cut of meat since we found the skirt steak to be way too tough on the first round.  We prefer sirloin for this recipe.  It would even be great with left over filet :)  I also use mild Rotel as the regular makes the tacos a bit on the spicy side. We top our tacos with a healthy dollop of sour cream to tame the heat.

 

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Pork Meatball Banh Mi ***

These meatball subs were one of our attempts to keep things interesting in the kitchen.  This recipe is another one that is simple to throw together although some of the ingredients can be harder to find (my local Publix did have some Daikon radish). Matt really enjoyed the pickled carrot and radish topping and has eaten it as a side with other dishes since (the recipe makes more than enough). I am giving it three stars because some of the ingredients can be hard to find but I do love the flavor combination that it creates and I think the meatballs would be good served alone as an appetizer (or even in spaghetti).

 

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Simple Roasted Chicken *****

Did you notice this one got 5 stars? If you check out the recipe link, you will see that it was created by Thomas Keller, one of my favorite chefs.  I have raved previously about one of his other roasted chicken recipes, and since y’all know I don’t discriminate against a roasted chicken (that’s two already on this blog), I had to try this one.  Funny thing is, I didn’t realize this recipe was by Thomas Keller until the day after I made it.  I have now deemed him Dr. Chicken.

But to get to the point, for no more time and ingredients than this involves, you will never put a better piece of chicken in your mouth.  Like shut up and go slap your momma good kind of chicken.  And so easy you just season the chicken with salt and pepper and throw him in the oven in a skillet.  Then when he comes out, slather him with a little butter and maybe a little thyme if you feel like it.  And his skin will be so crispy and his meat will be so juicy.  And not to mention flavorful!  Please, before I ruin my keyboard drooling all over it, just go make this chicken — you can easily do this on even a tired weeknight!

 

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Roasted Potatoes ****

Who doesn’t love garlic roasted potatoes?  Enough said.

 

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Arroz con Pollo ****

I referenced a meal in a prior post that my husband deemed one of the best I had ever cooked — this was it.  I woke up on my day off craving something exotic but comforting and for some reason Arroz con Pollo came to mind.  Now, don’t think Arroz con Pollo is something we ever ate as kids — we didn’t even eat the American version of chicken with white rice.  But I have seen it on menus and have seen recipes enough recently that it sounded just exotic enough and just comforting enough to fit the bill.  And boy did it! The smell in the house was incredible and the process to create it was fun and new — I definitely learned some new techniques while preparing this meal.  And sofrito, the seasoning blend used to flavor the rice, has become a staple for us to make various things such as Spanish rice and stuffed peppers. If you have some kitchen skills, I definitely recommend trying this recipe out — it is well-written and if followed, will yield wonderful, flavorful results.

 

Raspberry Basil Limoncello Cocktail ****

I had a pint of fresh raspberries in the fridge that had gotten a little too soft to eat straight so I went in search of a cocktail recipe.  This one from Bobby Flay was on the top of my to try list and it didn’t disappoint.  The basil is not very strong but does add just a hint of herbal flavor that I found very refreshing. I will definitely be making this one again and maybe it will be a Thirsty Thursday if I can get a photo of it.

 

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Debris Po’Boys ****

So Mr. Homemaker has been craving a New Orleans style roast beef po boy for some time now.  The kind that gets your hands all messy and drips down to your elbows when you eat it.  I don’t know if most people even think of these as po boys because I think most people think of seafood when they think of the traditional New Orleans sandwich.  But nonetheless, the debris po boy is a thing, and a delicious thing at that.  I cooked up a chuck roast according to this recipe then reduced the cooking liquid down to a gravy consistency (had to add a teaspoon or two of cornstarch) to make a delicious meaty mess.  We dressed our sandwiches with mayo and provolone and baby Swiss because that’s how we like them.  I don’t care what any of you Cajun say ;)

 

Skillet Lasagna ***

Who doesn’t love lasagna?  And lasagna that you don’t have to layer and mess up every dish in the kitchen for?  That’s even better! This lasagna is easy to throw together and tastes great.  I substituted ground beef for the Italian sausage just for personal preference.  I found it to run a little dry so I ended up adding the whole second can of tomatoes and then a little more water as it cooked.  I also reduced the cooking heat a little as it seriously stuck to the bottom of the skillet.  Although the one skillet was a cleanup nightmare, the soul-warming meal was worth it and I will definitely make it again.

 

Vinaigrette ****

This is another Thomas Keller recipe that I found while browsing the Epicurious site.  I think this recipe is a great base for creating other flavors but I haven’t really had time to experiment yet.  So far we have just put it on basic green salads seasoned with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

 

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Chocolate Chip Cookies ****

I had a serious craving for chocolate chip cookies last night but didn’t want to be in the kitchen all night changing out batches in the oven and didn’t want the temptation of eating 3 dozen so this little recipe for 12 cookies was perfect. I added a few toasted pecan pieces and they were divine warm out of the oven!

 

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Mocha Brownies ***

I saw this recipe come up in my blog reader and I was sold on the brownie with frosting.  As a kid my mom always made wonderful brownies but they never had frosting and I always craved brownies with frosting. I guess I now have an unfulfilled desire for frosted brownies because I make/eat them when I can. These brownies were decadent and tasty and the girls in my office RAVED about them. I found the brownie base to be a little bland to stand alone but with the frosting it is just fine (if you are going to make it without frosting, I would add a little salt or vanilla).  My issue was with the frosting.  The recipe calls for too much water.  At the ratio given, the butter separates out and curdles.  I think the recipe should call for 1/2 to 3/4 of the amount of water listed and next time I will stop at that.  Because I wanted to follow the recipe as written (I am a rule follower), I added all the water and I regretted it.  I ended up adding more sugar, butter, and cocoa trying to get the butter to re-emulsify.  I got it to be palatable (based on compliments), but I wasn’t please with the grainy appearance of the frosting.  I will definitely remember this next time I make this recipe.

 

New York Cheesecake ****

I made this for the Fathers’ Day dinner at my parents’ house. All but 2 slices were eaten that night and everyone said it was the best cheesecake that had ever had — better than New York City’s itself.  I think that’s enough explanation!

 

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Vanilla Cupcakes ***

Since I was worried the kids wouldn’t want to eat cheesecake, I also took cupcakes to our Fathers’ Day dinner.  I have made this recipe before and it is a moist and tender cake with a good vanilla flavor.  My only gripe with it in cupcake format is that it doesn’t crown well and it pulls away from the cupcake wrappers.  My suggestion is to fill the cupcake papers closer to 3/4 full and this will help keep them from pulling away. If you are looking for a good basic vanilla cake, though, this is it. I omitted the vanilla bean and doubled the extract.

 

I hope you have enjoyed my little recipe round-up here.  Let me know if you try any of these recipes or if you have any suggestions for tasty new recipes to try out!

 

 

 

 

Perfectly Easy Pavlova and a Blogiversary!

23 Jan

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How many of you sewers out there were thinking I had gotten my hands on a copy of Cake Pattern’s newest release, the Pavlova wrap top and skirt, before it officially hits the market?  Sorry, no such luck.  But I did make you this tasty edible version of the Australian dessert that starts with a light meringue shell, gets filled with airy, sweetened whipped cream, and then topped with your choice of seasonal fresh fruits.

It’s also a celebratory dessert to commemorate my 1 year blogging anniversary!  In one year’s time, I have written 45 posts, gathered 98 (wordpress + google reader) followers, received 176 comments, and gotten 8458 hits.  That’s not too bad!  I’ll be announcing a giveaway tomorrow in honor of the special event, so stay tuned!  But until then, feast your eyes on this lovely and refreshing dessert :)

 

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I even made some mini ones to share.  Do you think they look like funny little faces?  This recipe looks complicated but it is as simple as can be.  My sister first introduced me to it several years ago and we have been making it regularly since.  If you have a few basic ingredients and an electric mixer, you can wow your friends and loved ones with this sure-to-please confection.

I have used strawberries, kiwi, and blueberries here because they happened to come in my produce box for the week, but you can use your favorite complimenting fruits — peaches, nectarines, raspberries, blackberries, etc.

 

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So, first you are going to beat your room temperature egg whites until they are stiff and glossy like so.  Can you see my reflection in these?

 

 

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The bottom row has been smoothed.

 

 

If you choose to make the cupcakes, one batch makes about 2 dozen regular size cupcakes.  This time around I just used a spoon to fill the paper cups then smoothed the tops with a wet metal tablespoon (this is a great kitchen trick for meringue).  If I am being fancy, I will use my piping tools to make mini meringue nests on parchment and forego the cupcake papers and tin.

 

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For the large pie, trace a 9″ circle onto parchment paper, flip the paper over and place it on a baking tray, then spread the meringue on top.  Use the spoon to spread it into the circle and smooth the top with the wet spoon.

 

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I spooned the whipped cream on top for the full-size Pavlova, but for the mini ones I piped the whipped cream on with a pastry bag and large closed star tip.  As for the fruit, you can make it as decorative (or not) as you would like.  It will taste great either way!

 

Pavlova

Serves 8 as pie or 24 cupcakes (you can’t eat just 1!)

1/2 cup egg whites, at room temperature (from about 4 eggs)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
2 kiwi fruits, peeled and thinly sliced or 1 cup of another ripe fruit, such as peaches or nectarines
10 strawberries, green parts trimmed off, thinly sliced or other berries, such as raspberries or blackberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in a clean, dry bowl until foamy. Add the granulated sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla and continue whipping until stiff, smooth and glossy, about 8 minutes more. On a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit a sheet pan, use a pencil to draw or trace a circle 9-inches in diameter. Line the sheet pan with the parchment, pencil side down (you should still be able to see the circle). Spoon the egg whites into the circle, using the back of the spoon to smooth the top and sides of the disk (use a wet spoon for best results). Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until the meringue has puffed up and cracked on the top and the surface is lightly browned to the color of cafe au lait, about 45 minutes more. Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open, and let the Pavlova cool in the oven at least 30 minutes, to room temperature. This ensures a gradual cooling, which protects the delicate meringue.

Whip the cream and brown sugar together until stiff. Spoon it in the center of the cooled Pavlova and spread out to within 1/2-inch of the edge. Arrange the slices of kiwi around the edge. Arrange the slices of strawberry in the middle. To serve, slice into wedges with a serrated knife.

 

Recipe by Gale Gand, courtesy of the Food Network.

 

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Golden Vanilla Purist Cupcakes

7 Mar

 

I have a new food blog crush — Scientifically Sweet – which presents delicious recipes with a scientific spin.  I was thrilled to learn that the release of a cookbook by the same name was imminent so I hopped over to Amazon and made a copy my own to satisfy my nerdy sweet tooth.  I was all set to cozy up on the couch with the book Monday night and plan which recipe I would try first, but my sweet little niece had other ideas.  Namely, ideas like a sleep over and playing dress up.

 

 

So once I got her off to school yesterday, I flipped through the 101 thoroughly and beautifully photographed recipes and decided my first victim would be the Golden Vanilla Purist Cupcakes with Vanilla Roux-Meringue Buttercream.  I am always on the lookout for the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe.  I am also a HUGE fan of Swiss Meringue Buttercream (or SMBC, for short).

SMBC is not as cloyingly sweet or greasy as American buttercream made with powdered sugar and shortening.  It also holds countless flavors and mix-ins beautifully.  And best of all, you can make it by remembering the simple mathematical ratio of 1-2-3.  1 part egg whites to 2 parts sugar to 3 parts butter.  I was intrigued by the recipe in this cookbook because it takes SMBC a step further by mixing in a vanilla roux, a step similar to that of an old-fashioned cooked frosting.

As far as the cupcake goes, the batter comes together easily with a one-bowl method and is smooth and silky.  The cupcakes rise significantly so be sure not to fill your cupcake liners more than half full.  The cake is fluffy and moist.  The cake releases neatly from the paper liners which I think is an important feature for a good cupcake recipe.

As for the frosting, it is very tasty.  It is silky smooth, creamy, gorgeous, and pipes like a charm.  I am not sure I will do this every time I make SMBC, but the extra step definitely takes the flavor and texture to a different level.  I will add vanilla beans to the roux next time to see if this will deepen the vanilla flavor.  I will also increase the salt a little to bring out the flavor a bit more.

Overall, my first recipe from Scientifically Sweet by Christina Marsigliese was a success, and I am excited to try many more creations from this gorgeous book.  I hope y’all like desserts because it looks like I might be on roll ;)

 

 

Golden Vanilla Purist Cupcakes with Vanilla Roux-Meringue Buttercream

Makes about 15 cupcakes
 
 
For the cupcakes: 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cake flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (I just pulsed my granulated sugar in the food processor then measured it)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ¼ cup full fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp pure canola oil
  • 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup 2% milk, at room temperature
For the frosting:
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar, divided
  • 2/3 cup 2% milk
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1 tbsp pieces
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

 

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line 15 muffin cups from two standard muffin pans with paper liners and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift together both flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Attach the bowl to the mixer, add sugar and mix on low speed until evenly blended, about 30 seconds.
 
Add softened butter and beat on low speed for 1 minute. The mixture will become less dusty as the butter becomes coated with flour and broken down into small pieces. Increase speed to medium-low and continue to beat until the mixture resembles damp sand or fine bread crumbs, about 2 minutes.
 
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, yolk, sour cream, canola oil and vanilla extract until smooth. Add it to the flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until moistened, sticky and the batter begins to form webs along the sides of the bowl and the beater, about 20 seconds. With mixer running on low, gradually add milk and then beat on medium speed for 20 seconds. Stop the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and then beat on medium speed for another 15 seconds. Do not over-mix. The batter will be smooth, satiny and creamy-looking. Gently fold the batter a few times with a rubber spatula to incorporate any ingredients stuck at the bottom of the bowl.
 
Spoon or scoop batter into lined muffin cups, filling them no more than halfway full (these cupcakes will rise quite a bit). Bake until evenly browned on top, the cake springs back when pressed gently with your finger and a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
 

To make the buttercream, whisk together flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a small 1 or 2-quart saucepan until evenly blended.  Gradually whisk in milk until smooth.  Place over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until it begins to thicken and nearly comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, while whisking constantly, until very thick and paste-like.  When it is ready, the mixture will resemble white glue and you should be able to see the bottom of the pan as you whisk.  This will take about 10 minutes all together.

Pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and into a small bowl.  This serves to remove any lumps and it helps the mixture cool down faster.  Place plastic wrap directly over the surface and set aside to cool completely at room temperature.

In the heat-proof bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together egg whites, remaining 2/3 cup sugar and salt. Place the bowl over a pot with ½-inch of simmering water or a double-boiler and whisking constantly until the mixture reaches 162 degrees F (72 degrees C), about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until it is completely cooled. This will take about 7-8 minutes and the mixture will appear white and fluffy like marshmallow or shaving cream.

Do not begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral (not warm).   Reduce speed to medium and add the butter slowly, one tablespoon at a time. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until creamy and smooth, 1-2 minutes. The mixture will go from looking grainy and soupy to smooth, silky and glossy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

At this point the cooled flour/milk mixture will be stiff.  So, with a wooden spoon or spatula, beat it vigorously until it is smooth and creamy.  Add half of the cooled flour mixture to the buttercream and beat on medium-high until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Add the remaining flour mixture and vanilla extract and beat until whipped and creamy, about 1 minute more. Cover with a damp cloth if using shortly.

Frost and decorate cupcakes as desired.

Blue Velvet Birthday Cupcakes

9 Feb

A two-tiered blue velvet cupcake for the birthday boy. It looked much bluer in person. I'm still figuring out this lighting and photo editing business.

 
This past Sunday was the first birthday party for a very special little boy — Kristian, the one-year-old son of our very good friends and neighbors, Kenny and Larrica.
 
 
 
Kenny’s favorite cake is Red Velvet so anytime I get a chance to feed them cake, this is what I make.  Of course, this is what Kristian requested for his birthday party, too ;)
 
Instead of the usual red, Larrica wanted blue cupcakes to coordinate with the birthday theme.  She also requested a combination of mini and regular cupcakes.
 

This is a better representation of the blue color.

 
 

The cupcake spread.

Unfortunately, the birthday boy was tired by the time the cake-eating festivities commenced, so I don’t have any cute pictures of frosting covered hands and faces.  But I know Master Kristian will have plenty of opportunities to catch up on his Red (or any color) Velvet Cake indulging.

Not a happy camper :(

This recipe has been passed down in my family at least from my great-grandmother. It is a permanent fixture at all of our holiday tables and sometimes we make it just because (like family supper this week).

To make the two-tiered cupcake, I leveled the top of a regular cupcake with a serrated knife. I then frosted it with a single layer swirl (Ateco 804 tip). I peeled the paper off the mini cupcake and pushed it down into the frosting swirl. I then swirled frosting on the top of it with the same tip. While I didn’t do it, you could add a small toothpick or dowel down the center before frosting the mini cupcake for added stability as it may be a bit wobbly.

Blue (or Red) Velvet Cupcakes

Yield: in this case, 2 dozen mini and 1.5 dozen regular cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 1/2 cups canola oil*
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) blue (or red) food coloring

For the cream cheese frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese softened
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
pinch salt
pecans for garnish, if desired

For the cupcakes:  Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease muffin tin or line with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), blend eggs and sugar until thick and yellow.  Mix in vanilla extract and vinegar.  Slowly blend in oil until thoroughly mixed.  Add half of dry ingredients to egg mixture, mixing until just combined.  Stir in half of buttermilk.  Mix in half of remaining dry ingredients until just mixed, then remaining buttermilk, then last of the dry ingredients, blending only long enough to combine.  Do not overmix.  Finally, stir in food coloring until evenly distributed.  fill muffin tins 2/3 to 3/4 full and bake minis for 9-11 minutes, regular for 18-20 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched and cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

For cream cheese frosting:  In bowl of stand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter with paddle attachment until light and fluffy.  Mix in vanilla extract.  Gradually blend in powdered sugar until smooth.  If desired you may stir chopped pecans directly into the frosting if you are going to spread onto the cupcakes with a spatula.  If you plan to pipe, you may want to chill the frosting briefly before filling your bag and decorating.  Top the piped cupcakes with a whole pecan half or garnish as desired.  Or just eat it as is right there on the spot ;)

*The original cake recipe calls for a whopping 2 cups of oil.  When I make this as a layer cake, I follow the original recipe but I found that cupcakes made with 2 cups of oil left oily rings on the platter.  Reducing the oil to 1 1/2 cups doesn’t seem to adversely affect the taste of the cupcakes so I guess you could reduce it in the layer cake as well.  But if you’re eating Red Velvet, you’re not on a diet, now are you???

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