Cupcakes are the new black. Or maybe they were the new black, and now they’re the old black. Or perhaps they are still the current black. I am not sure, but I know they are quite the food trend, what with the cupcake shops popping up all the over the place. I like cupcakes, there’s not much to dislike, really, they are cute, and often gorgeous to look at, and oh so portable, but to be honest, mostly I find them, much like my as yet unrequited love for Seth Meyers, enjoyable, but ultimately unsatisfying. Either the cupcake is too dry, or the frosting is too cloyingly sweet, or it’s just not right.
So all this to say I am behind in the cupcake love, but I have found myself thinking quite a bit about them of late, as B&G is making two wedding cakes this fall, one of which will actually be a small cake and lots of cupcakes. I did a cake tasting for these lovely folks, and had to come up with all sorts of interesting combinations, so it was cupcakes all over the place for a couple of days. They had two specific requests: that one of the cupcakes be red velvet with cream cheese frosting, and that one have some sort of caramel frosting involved. I had never been much for red velvet cupcakes. I didn’t really understand the point. They aren’t yellow cake, they aren’t chocolate, but they don’t really have any other discernible flavor, plus they’re so red. But I soldiered on, and as it turns out, I love this recipe. I am not exactly sure how to describe it, but I really really enjoyed it. The frosting? Not so much. It was fine, and passable, and cream-cheesy, but I think I will keep working on it. I know there is fantastic potential for cream cheese frosting, and I will find it.
As for the chocolate and caramel combo, I have found my new love.
I still have not found the perfect chocolate cupcake, I am working on that, but the caramel buttercream, based on a recipe from Martha, is sweet manna from heaven. I never want to be without it for all the rest of my days. There is no way to describe it other than perfection. Truly. Make this. Put it on stuff. Thank me. Repeat. But you don’t have to thank me every time. That’d be excessive.
And now for the big changes. Perhaps you have picked up on the subtle clues: the extended stay in Florida in February and March, the week on the Cape, all the gorgeous day time natural light photos, and determined that there has been a dearth of regular 9-5 employment around here. And you would have been correct. I am not going to lie, it has been a pretty fantastic couple of months, but it’s time to get back to the grind. I am back to office employment in about 10 days, and I have so many things to cram in to that time. First on my list is beach time. I went today. Tip: monitor your application of spray-on sunscreen closely, just because you spray in the vicinity of the back of your legs, you are not guaranteed a burn free afternoon at the beach. Keep it in mind. Also in the next 10 days, I have some sewing projects to attend to, a refrigerator to clean, and some exciting things to cook, a new language to learn, a couch to steam clean, a business plan to write, a shower to scrub, a half marathon to train for, and several books to read. Imma be busy. I best get some rest.
And so I leave you with these: Two great halves of some delightful cupcakes.
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Adapted from Pinchmysalt.com
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tbl cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, divided, at room temperature
2 oz. red food coloring liquid, or 1 oz. food color gels
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 and line two twelve cup cupcake tins with paper liners.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda into the bowl of a standing mixer. Mix on low speed with the whisk attachment for 30 seconds or so until the dry ingredients are well combined. In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix together 3/4 cup of the buttermilk with the food coloring. With the mixer still on low, add the buttermilk mixture, and then the butter, mix on slow to combine and then turn the mixer up to medium high speed and beat until light and fluffy.
In a small bowl or measuring cup whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup of buttermilk, the eggs, the vanilla and the vinegar, then add to the batter in three additions, folding in until just combined each time.
Pour the batter in to the prepared cupcake tins and bake for 20-22 minutes until a tester inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Let cool completely, and top with your favorite frosting, cream cheese or otherwise, and enjoy!
Caramel Buttercream (makes 4-5 cups)
Adapted from marthastewart.com
1 1/2 plus 2 tbl sugar, divided
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 egg whites
3 sticks plus 2 tbl unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a heavy bottom saucepan, stir 1/2 cup plus 2 tbl of sugar with 1/4 cup of water just to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, without stirring, brushing down the sides of the pan with a clean wet pastry brush to avoid crystallization. Cook until the sugar is a deep amber color. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream. Set the caramel aside until cool.
Whisk together the egg whites and the remaining cup of sugar in a mixing bowl, preferably of a standing mixer, and rest it over a pan of simmering water. Heat for a couple of minutes, whisking occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Whip the egg whites and sugar together on high speed until the mixture forms medium-firm peaks. Add the vanilla and the butter one at a time and whip like crazy until the buttercream comes together. This may take some time, do not fear, just let the mixer do its work until the frosting is the texture of mayonnaise. Change to the paddle attachment on the standing mixer, and add the caramel to the buttercream. Mix until the frosting and the caramel come together, and use to frost your favorite cake or cupcakes.