Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hidden Gold Cupcakes

Well, St. Patrick's Day is less than two days away now, what are every body's plans? I know what mine are: stuck at home and locked in my office, forcing myself to get some serious school work done. And so since I can't enjoy the holiday, I'll enjoy these amazing cupcakes in honour of St. Patrick.

What's so amazing about them do you ask? Well, to start off, there is a delectably light and airy vanilla cupcake made with buttermilk, topped with a perfectly balanced American buttercream, and when you think that's not enough, well let me just tell you, there is a perfect little 'golden coin' sugar cookie nestled into the frosting. But wait! That's not all, surely you must be wondering where the 'hidden gold' is. Well, that hidden gold is deep within the cupcake, in the form of a luscious vanilla pastry cream! Yum! Now if that all doesn't convince you that you need to make these babies, the fact that I had 6 individuals tell me that it was the best cupcake they had ever had in their life, and 2 marriage proposals- from women! should sell you over.

Despite all the components (minus the cookies), these cupcakes come together really quickly. Two pieces of advice: make sure that you don't let this batter sit and that it goes in the oven right away, and when I say only fill them 2/3 full- only fill them 2/3 full. While I was thoroughly impressed by the texture and flavour of these cupcakes, I must admit that I had a bit of trouble the first round; the cupcakes came out a little flat and had spread [horizontally] quite a bit, and they had gotten a little more brown than I would have liked. This didn't affect the taste, they just didn't look as pretty- certainly not as pretty as Glorious Treats'. I have a few theories for why this may have happened (old baking soda/powder, filled too full, uncalibrated oven temp, etc.), and so I am looking forward to my next opportunity to make them and test some of my theories. Either way, they were wonderful.

Pastry Cream:
1 cup 2% milk (if you only have 1%, add a small amount of cream)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 egg (just estimate, when cracking the egg, I try to take half of the white and then break the yolk,   taking half of that as well)
2 tablespoons corn starch
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cupcakes (makes 14-15; however I doubled the recipe. To only make 14-15, reduce pastry cream and buttercream recipes by half):
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
1/2 cup buttermilk

American Buttercream:
1 1/2 cups softened unsalted butter, or 3 sticks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar
1-3 tablespoons buttermilk, depending on stiffness preference

To make pastry cream:
In a heavy saucepan, stir together the milk and 2 tablespoons sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

In the meantime, in a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolk and 1/2 egg. Stir together the remaining sugar and cornstarch into the egg until smooth. When the milk comes to a boil, drizzle it into the egg mixture in a slow thin stream while whisking quickly to temper the eggs (slowly bring them up to temperature and avoid cooking the eggs). Once all of the milk has been incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan. Slowly bring to a boil, whisking constantly to ensure the eggs don't curdle or scorch on the bottom.

When the mixture hits a certain temperature, it will thicken rapidly. At this time (often when it boils), remove from the heat quickly. Whisk in the butter and vanilla, until the butter is completely melted and blended in. Pour into a heat-proof container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill completely before using. When ready to use, whisk the cream thoroughly to loosen it up and break up any clumps.

To make cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds. Add sugar and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add vanilla and oil and beat until combined.

Add half of the flour mixture and mix on slow. Add half of the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Repeat these steps until all the flour and milk is mixed in. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is mixed in.

The batter will be very thin; this is normal. Fill liners no more than 2/3 full. Bake cupcakes for 12-14 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Cool in pan for 1-2 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely on rack.

To make buttercream:
Place the butter into a stand mixer bowl and using the whisk attachment beat butter until light and creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the salt and vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the powdered sugar in 2 separate amounts, mixing until combined both times. Allow the icing to be beaten for an additional 4-5 minutes to help make it fluffy. Depending on how stiff the icing is at this point, add in enough buttermilk to thin it to the consistency you would like. I used about the full 3 tablespoons. If you don't have buttermilk, heavy or half-and-half cream works as well, but I find that the buttermilk helps to cut the sweetness down a little bit. Beat the icing again for another minute until thoroughly combined.

Sources: pastry cream adapted from All Recipes; cupcakes from Glorious Treats; buttercream from Sweet Treats & Healthy Eats- Cherry Chip 'Rose' Cupcakes Pin It

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