Monday, January 25, 2010

Everything's Coming Up Cupcakes

Cupcakes. They were too trendy, too eye-catching, too artificial for my tastes. The hipster of baked goods. Not enough oatmeal, or substance, or something. But, I'm coming around. In part because I discovered 1) meringue buttercream icing, 2) banana cupcakes, and 3) I can be kind of an ornery crank sometimes. (The recipes below were borrowed from Martha Stewart, and changed be less fussy/more fun)

Orange cupcakes with orange meringue buttercream. Moping the day I made these, the texture of the frosting and the flavor of the cake turned my frown upside down.

Orange-Vanilla Cupcakes

1 stick butter, softened
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped (I also used ground vanilla)
1 T finely grated orange zest (I threw in extra)
2 lg eggs
3/4 c heavy cream
1/4 c freshly squeezed orange juice
1 T vanilla (I split this vanilla/almond extract)
2 c all-purp flour
1/4 teas baking soda
1/4 teas baking powder
1/4 teas salt

Oven at 350. Line muffin pan with paper liners or grease with shortening.

1) Cream butter, sugar, vanilla seeds, and orange zest until pale, fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

2) Combine cream, OJ, and extract into a small bowl. In separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients* (*I never sift, it seems too fussy and high maintenance. Like hipsters).

3) Add flour to butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with cream mixture. End with flour; beat til just combined.

4) Fill each muffin cup to 3/4 full. Bake about 25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or until cupcake tops spring back when pressed. Cool on wire racks.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing
Once, I made a roast chicken dinner for a gentleman. As we sat in a candlelit kitchen, I slobbered up the juices, licked my fingers, and lost the capacity for language. It was so succulent and tender, like sex on a platter. Swiss Meringue Buttercream inspired a similarly orgiastic response. In my reverie, I may have told my friend Andrew (who took the photo above) that I wanted to be buried alive in it. It's the frosty peaks of meringue with the grounding silkiness of softened butter. Like the best things, it can't be described in mere words. Here's the recipe, in any case (did I mention that it has a pound of butter? *swoon*):

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I added orange extract too)

1) Place sugar, whites, and salt in a glass, or mixing, bowl. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves (about 160 degrees, if you have a candy thermometer).
2) Remove from heat. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and whisk 6 minutes more, until stiff, glossy peaks form. In the meantime, cut up softened butter (each about the size of a sugar cube).
3) Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition. The texture will change as you add more butter. If the butter hesitates to incorporate itself, whisk it into submission before adding the vanilla. It'll come around. Whisk in vanilla. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Banana Cupcakes with Cinna-Honey Icing

1 1/2 c all-purp flour
3/4 c sugar
1 teas baking powder
1/2 teas baking soda
1/4 teas salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 c mashed bananas (about 4 ripe bananas)
2 lg eggs
1/2 teas vanilla

Oven at 350. Line muffin cups with paper liners or shortening.

1) In medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center.
2) Pour butter, mashed bananas, eggs and vanilla into the well. Mix in dry ingredients until just combined.
3) Spoon into pan, diving batter evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes until tester comes out clean or cupcake tops bounce back when pressed.
4) Let cool completely before icing with Cinnamon-Honey Frosting

Cinna-Honey Icing
This may be the easiest icing ever!
1 1/4 c powdered sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 T honey
1/8 teas ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in bowl. Beat until smooth (about 5 minutes). Spread on cooled cupcakes. I topped with coarsely-crushed walnuts. These cupcakes are best ever: dense, flavorful, full of sustenance!