Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Cupcakes

A tasty winter wonderland.

Cupcakes always means theres a celebration...even if the celebration is just the fact that they turned out well. My reason for making cupcakes last week was to celebrate the holiday and the fact that I graduated from college with my bachelors in Hospitality Management. It has been a a long journey and I fell down a couple times and almost quit but I'm happy that I had people around me to inspire me to keep going and to even take my education further after this chapter closed. Ok enough of the soft stuff...on to the cupcakes, so I made two types of cupcakes and two types of icing. One of the recipes I made were vanilla bean cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and then peppermint jo jo cupcakes with Italian meringue buttercream. All the recipes except the cream cheese frosting are from other websites and then tweaked by me. The swiss meringue is from Baking 911, the vanilla bean cupcakes are from thespicedlife, the chocolate cupcakes are a tweaked cake recipe from, and the cheesecake frosting is actually the Kraft no bake cheesecake filling. I especially loved using the cheesecake filling for frosting it was extremely easy but its not shelf stable so it can only be out for a short time and refrigerated the majority of the time. The vanilla bean cupcakes definitely weren't my favorite, the cake had a nice flavor but it was too heavy and mealy. The author suggested to spray the cupcake liners but it is a totally unnecessary step.  The chocolate cake and Italian meringue buttercreams are old faves.
Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
2 large eggs, room temp
2/3 cup (160 g) full fat sour cream
seeds from 3 Tahitian vanilla beans
1 T Tahitian vanilla extract
1 t lemon zest (to amp the vanilla--I was not going for a lemon flavor here)
2 cups (200 g) cake flour
1 cup (200 g) superfine sugar
1/2 t baking powder'1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t fine salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 T, 170 g) unsalted butter, between 65-75 F 
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, the vanilla seeds and extract, the lemon zest, and 3 tablespoons of the sour cream. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with hand mixer), mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt with the flat beater for 30 seconds on low. Add the butter and remaining sour cream to the dry ingredients; mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened and a higher speed will not cause the flour to fly out of the bowl. Then mix on medium speed (high for hand mixer, 4 for Kitchen Aid) for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Then add the egg mixture in 2 additions, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down the bowl in between. Finish by hand if any parts have not incorporated so as to not overbeat.
- Fill each cupcake 3/4 full (or use a #30 disher--which I did not have). Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8oz container cool whip topping, softened
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
- Place cream cheese in mixing bowl with whip attachment and whip until soft and spreadable
- Add in cool whip and sugar and whip until combined. 
- Ice cake immediately or store in a container until ready to use.

Chocolate Jo Jo Cupcakes
Chocolate Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled
3/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
4 oz unsweetened chocolate squares, melted and slightly cooled
24 peppermint Jo Jo's or other peppermint sandwich cookies.

-Prepare cupcake pans and liners and set to the side.
- Combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In another large bowl, beat eggs for about 3 minutes, until they have thickened slightly and are lemon-coloured. Add buttermilk, coffee, oil, vanilla and melted chocolate. Mix  until well blended.
- Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until batter is smooth. 
- With liners in place in cupcake pans scoop in about a tablespoon of cake batter and then place a cookie on top of it then finish fill liners with cake batter. Divide batter equally among cupcakes liners.
-  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees F, until a toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cupcake from pans and cool completely before frosting.

Italian Meringue Buttercream from Baking 911
1 pound (4 sticks or 2 cups) unsalted butter (65 degrees F - slightly softened and cool - not runny, greasy or soupy)
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (60 grams) water
5 large (150 grams) egg whites, room temperature
1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla

- In a mixing bowl beat the butter until smooth and creamy and set aside in a cool place. 
- In a small heavy saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar and the 1/4 cup water. Under medium-high, boil sugar and water mixture, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling. Stop stirring and reduce the heat to low. 
-  Meanwhile, place the egg whites in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Fitted with a WHISK attachment, beat the egg whites with a stand mixer on medium until foamy for 1 to 2 minutes. Then, stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar. Beat for 3 more minutes on medium-high or until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. 
- Gradually beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, taking 3 more minutes. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Simply turn off the mixer.
- Increase the heat of the stove and boil the syrup until you get bubbles all over the surface. The syrup starts to look thicker and the Candy Thermometer registers 248 degrees F to 250 degrees F.
- Immediately remove syrup from the stove and prepare to drizzle it into the egg whites
- Fit the mixer with a PADDLE attachment (not a whisk attachment.) Turn the mixer on high, and start drizzling the sugar syrup, in a thin stream, into the contents of the bowl. Keep beating until the mixture cools completely, taking about 5 to 10 minutes. 
- Beat in the butter at medium speed 1 tablespoon at a time. After the first few tablespoons have been added, the mixture will seem thinner, but keep adding in butter slowly and beating because the meringue will thicken beautifully by the time all the butter is added. Keep the mixer speed on medium and drizzle in the liquor. Don't use more than 1 teaspoon or the recipe's emulsion will break. Place in an airtight bowl. 

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