Thursday, February 19, 2009
I have a habit of buying things that I never get around to using. I’m not talking about big, expensive things. More like small, inexpensive (where are you going to store them?) things like the Valentine’s cookie cutters:
And small silicone heart shaped cupcake cups:
Well, Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and I’ve given up on those cookie cutters, but on Sunday I was determined to use the silicon cupcake cups. My Aunt Sandie and Uncle Jerry are visiting from Hawaii, so we had a family dinner at my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Foster’s house in Harwich. This seemed like the perfect excuse to make some cupcakes.
Ever since last summer, I’ve been dying to make my dear friend Jennifer’s cupcake recipe. These are not just any cupcakes. They are the best cupcakes I’ve tasted – EVER.
Jennifer is so modest I might never have known how incredible her cupcakes were, if I hadn’t made bread and butter pickles and relish with the excess of cucumbers we grew last summer. Jennifer loves sweet pickles so I offered her a jar of each. Instead she wanted to trade, so I asked her what her specialty is.
“I’m pretty good with cupcakes,” she said, and just like that a deal was made. I loved the idea of bartering food and thought it would be a great blog post. I took this photo of what I gave Jennifer:
And then I took a few pictures of her cupcakes as soon as I brought them home. Why, you ask, are those photos not here? Unfortunately, I didn’t upload the photos until the next day and they were simply awful. I was still trying to figure out how to take food photos back then (and now) and for some reason those cupcake photos were tinted blue and very blurry – in short, not at all worthy of Jennifer’s cupcakes.
Which were simply AWESOME! She isn’t just pretty good at cupcakes; she is the cupcake QUEEN. Her cupcakes were so light and flavorful and topped with plenty of fluffy frosting that was creamy and not too sweet.
They were so amazing that I ate two that afternoon, and I’m not prone to sweets. The rest of the cupcakes were glommed down by my family before I ever had a chance to discover my photos didn’t come out.
I meant to make them myself right away so I could take new photos, but you know how that goes….fast forward six months later and here they are, finally.
The batter came together so beautifully:
And for the first time perhaps ever, I decided to test the new kitchen gadget before I committed to a whole batch. Good thing I did! For my first trial, I sprayed one little heart shaped cup with butter flavored Pam and filled it with batter.
Well the center of the cupcake rose, but the sides didn’t because that Pam kept making them slide right back down. The end result looked like a pregnant heart. I wish I took a photo, but I was too horrified to even think about doing that. Obviously I’ve got a long way to go as a food blogger…
The next individual heart went into the oven with no greasing. It rose evenly and looked beautiful, until it refused to leave its red silicone heart behind. I gave up on the hearts and threw some liners in my regular cupcake pans and crossed my fingers.
Jennifer’s recipe comes from the cookbook from her favorite bakery, the Buttercup Bake Shop in Manhattan. The original recipe called for all whole eggs, but Jennifer has found that the cake is lighter when you substitute egg whites for some of the whole eggs. She also substituted some cake flour for regular flour because she thinks it tastes better, and used salted butter instead of unsalted and added a touch of almond extract.
The frosting recipe is my second attempt at strawberry frosting. The first time I tried to make this, I used a recipe from the February issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The chocolate cherry stack cake looked beautiful so I decided to make it for my daughter Julie’s 16th birthday.
Julie wanted strawberry frosting instead of cherry, so I substituted strawberry juice for cherry juice. The recipe called for sour cream, whipping cream, confectioners sugar and maraschino cherry juice – all good in concept, but the frosting just didn’t gel.
It tasted great, but the consistency was more like yogurt than frosting. This time I used a traditional buttercream recipe and added the strawberry juice to that. Much better.
My cupcakes weren’t as good as Jennifer’s, but they were still the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. The kids agree - and they were a huge hit at the family party. They got great compliments and both these plates came home empty.
(Adapted from The Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook Golden Layer Cake)
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 egg whites
1 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups Softasilk cake flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 24 liners in cupcake pans.
With medium speed on electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the extracts to the milk and stir. Add half the flour to the butter and sugar mixture, beat well, then half the milk. Repeat.
Fill cupcake liners and bake about 20--22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean. Cool and frost.
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
3 – 4 tablespoons milk
Wash and hull strawberries and place in a mini-food processor. Process until pureed. Beat butter in mixing bowl. Add confectioners sugar and 4 tablespoons strawberry puree. Beat, adding 3 tablespoons milk as icing mixes. Scrape sides of bowl, beat until all ingredients are blended. Check consistency. If frosting is still too thick, add one more tablespoon milk.
*Because the frosting contains fresh strawberries, refrigerate any cupcakes that are not eaten right away.
For a printable recipe click here