Monday, April 25, 2011

Two Birthdays, Two Cakes

I had a couple of co-workers celebrating birthdays (there seems to be a lot of April birthdays, at least where I work), and while I asked if there were any particular requests, I was given the go-ahead to use them as guinea pigs. So I found a couple of recipes that appealed to me and went from there.

I’ll have to say they were both very well received, and as a matter of fact, the s’mores cupcakes made a second appearance over the weekend in celebration of my brother-in-law’s birthday. Both were easy to prepare, and I even got to haul out the kitchen blowtorch, so all-in-all it was a pretty successful endeavor!

Be prepared to make a second batch of the coffee/liqueur filling (if needed). The cake is pretty firm, so you definitely want enough to moisten them up.

Tiramisu Cupcakes
adapted from Once Upon a Plate

1 1/4 cups sifted AP flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped
4 Tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 large whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup sugar

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly brewed espresso
1 oz Frangelico, brandy or marsala
2 Tbs sugar

1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz container of mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 325º. Heat milk, the vanilla bean pod and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat just until bubbles appear around the edge. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter until melted; let stand 15 minutes. Line muffin tin(s) with liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Mix together whole eggs, yolks, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water; whisk by hand until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture becomes warm warm, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove bowl from heat. With the mixer on high speed, whisk until mixture is fluffy, pale yellow, and thick enough to hold a ribbon on the surface for several seconds when whisk is lifted.

Gently fold flour mixture into the egg mixture in three batches, until it is thoroughly mixed; strain the milk mixture and slowly add to the batter with the mixer on low speed, mixing until just combined.

Fill the paper-lined tins about ¾ full of the batter. Place in preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the cupcakes are lightly-golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (rotate the pans halfway through the baking time). Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, mix the espresso, liqueur and sugar in a small bowl and allow to stand a few minutes so that the sugar dissolves. Make slight indentations in each cupcake and then poke with a toothpick. Spoon about ½ - 1 tsp of the coffee syrup in each of the cupcakes. Allow the cupcakes to stand about 30 minutes to absorb the liquid.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat 1/2 cup of the cream until soft peaks form (don't overbeat). Gradually beat in 1/4 cup of the confectioner's sugar until medium peaks form. Remove to a separate bowl. In the same mixer bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese until softened. Slowly add the sugar and then the remaining ½ cup of cream, blending until well combined. Carefully fold in the sweetened whip cream. Spoon into a pastry bag and immediately frost the cooled cupcakes. Store in fridge up to 24 hours, sprinkling with cocoa before serving.

S’mores Cupcakes

1½ cups graham crackers, ground to a fine crumb
¼ cup sugar
5 1/3 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 cups sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup plus 1 Tbs cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

8 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
½ tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter; mix well with a fork. Drop about 1 tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner and press down to line the bottom (use a smaller amount for mini cupcakes). Sprinkle a small amount of the chopped chocolate on top of the graham cracker crusts. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, maintaining the oven temperature.

Sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla; mix on low until combined, using the paddle attachment. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water and stir just to combine (batter will be thin).

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ of the way full. Return the pans to the oven and bake about 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Allow to cool.

To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Heat mixture over a saucepan filled with a small amount of water until the mixture is hot to the touch (about 160º). Transfer the bowl to the mix stand fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Mix in the vanilla until combined. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired. Brown with a kitchen torch and garnish with chocolate and graham cracker segments (optional).

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