Sunday, July 26, 2009

a week in cupcakes: july 11

growing up,
july was always a big birthday
month for our family.
from the 14th to the 21st,
we had three birthdays:
first blair's,
with my dad's in the middle
and my mom's finishing
up the week.
our house was birthday central:
weathered deflated balloons
mixed with cheery new ones,
cards on every counter
the fridge crammed with
three types of cake.
it hasn't changed -
we're still celebrating
birthday upon
regardless of the fact
that we're all adults
and now, the cakes
and cards are spread out
amongst several houses.

and, we've all added more people
with july birthdays into the mix.
my friend, colleen
(birthday: july 2nd)
had a big
birthday earlier in the month
and celebrated a week later
with a party at a local brewery
(party: july 11).
colleen and her husband, christian,
live in pennsylvania,
and we're in new jersey -
they were nice enough to let
us stay with them.
that, combined with the
fact that it was a birthday
(and i love any reason for
confirmed that i had to
bake for the ocassion.

my fallback,
always seems to be cookies -
and i was heading there,
until i saw a recipe in
for cupcakes,
clearly reminiscent of college:
chocolate whisky
and beer cupcakes.

i don't know why i wanted to
make them.
yes, colleen and i met in college.
but, i was never a big drinker. never.
i nursed a beer or two all night
long, often staring at the clock
(i later learned that i was the only
one in my group of friends who actually
knew there was a clock in the bar)
until it was time to go home.
the two times in my life
that i actually drank an irish carbomb,
the drink that these cupcakes were based on,
i will blame on complete coercion.
after four years of saying no
to most shots,
to schlitz and slide,
to waking up to boone's and bagels,
i think i was tired of watching everyone else
have fun and also,
slightly sentimental enough about
the impending ending of college
to think that this would give me
an added memory.

and so, at senior week in dewey beach, delaware,
after months of prodding,
i agreed to drink:
1/2 pint of guinness with
a shot glass of
bailey's and jameson dropped in.
everyone swore to me
that it tasted like a milkshake,
and gave the very clear warning:
you actually have to shoot this.
if you drink it slow, it will curdle.
so i did. it wasn't terrible.
my next and last one,
was one week
later, the night before
graduation, at the tally ho,
the bar we spent a minimum
of two nights in each week.
that was enough for me.

yet, these cupcakes seemed perfect
for a birthday.
the grown-up version of
a drink we all spent a lot of time
talking about, if not actually
drinking. and - we were headed
for a brewery that night.
it was perfect.

when i e-mailed larry asking
him if we had:
at home, i thought for sure
he would know what i was making.
but, he didn't. i was very excited.
i felt like it was the ultimate suprise dessert.
yes. i need to get out more.

the cupcake recipe was
very different than most cake
recipes i make: the butter
is melted and mixed with
cocoa powder, the eggs are blended
with sour cream and the sugar
is actually combined with
the flour.
but, it was a very easy (if not
admittedly, messy - you have to
dirty a bunch of bowls and
saucepans) and before i knew it,
the cupcakes were baking.

there was only one mistake
while baking, and it was totally
my fault. in spite of knowing better,
i opted to trust the muffin liner
package. it said that i could place
the liners on a baking pan,
fill them and bake them.
except for one really oozy
cupcake, it wasn't so terrible,
but it did make it hard to fit
them into the cupcake carrier
the next day.

the ganache.
i had spent a full day deciding
whether or not i should fill
them with ganache
as indicated in the recipe,
or use the ganache as a glaze.
i loved the idea of filling them,
but i just had a weird feeling
that for me, it wouldn't go well.
when the cupcakes were cool,
i made the executive decision
to add a little more heavy cream
to the chocolate and to dunk
the cupcakes in the mixture to coat.
the frosting, would be
for decoration.

you know how sometimes, right
before you start to do something
you know it will not go well?
well, i was sure that the glazing
would be a bust and i would
ruin the whole lot of them.
luckily, save for one unlucky
cupcake that slipped out of
my hands and fell in foil-first,
i was wrong.
the glazing was a great idea,
so easy and so pretty.

the frosting.
it came together,
well too, but i again suffered
from the fact that i am not
especially good at cake decorating.
i spent 6 weeks of culinary school
listening to a pastry chef tell me to:
put my pastry bag tip at
a different angle,
stop pulling away and creating points,
start leveling off the spatula to avoid swoops.
yet, i still thought that i could make
them pretty. unfortunately, i think
i succeeded in making a pretty sophisticated
confection (cake plus ganache glaze),
look like a fourth grader's art project.
i tried several designs, kicking myself
every time it didn't look so great,
before finally deciding upon
a frantic back and forth frosting
square in the middle of the cupcake.
i thought they looked ridiculous.
but, in the 24 hours between
making them and giving them,
i grew rather fond of the frenetic design.

bottom line:
these were cupcakes modeled after
a bar favorite and truth be told,
it probably didn't matter what they
looked like. plus, i think they
were rather delicious. while
i'm not a huge fan of chocolate -
i'd always choose vanilla if given
the choice -
i think these were one of the best
cakes i've tasted in a long time.
rich and so moist, with just
a slight, is-there-beer-in-here?
the glaze was thick
and a great addition
to the yummy cake.
and the frosting was, i thought,
very sweet. but in small doses,
it brought everything together.

i was worried that they wouldn't
come together well,
that it was risky to bake something
new not only because it was
for something special,
but because it was for someone
who has quite a lot of baking
expertise under her belt.
i worried that they would melt
and wilt on the long car ride
into philadelphia and that
they would be even gloopier
by the time they got into
colleen's kitchen.
but i needn't have worried.
they survived the ride.
colleen and christian each
had one unwrapped before
we even had our overnight
bags upstairs. and my favorite
part? colleen's mom ate one, too.
it was the perfect start to what i didn't
know was to become,
a cupcake marathon.
stout cupcakes with whisky glaze and irish buttercream
adapted from

chocolate stout cupcakes
larry and i split the last cupcake three days after i had made them and the cake was still very moist - i was impressed. i actually think - that as long as i'm not making them for someone who cannot have alcohol - these could turn into my chocolate cupcake standby.

1 cup stout, like guinness
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cups sour cream

arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of the oven. heat oven to 350˚f. line cupcake wells with cupcake liners (i was able to make 21 cupcakes from the batter, but you could have up to 24, i think).

in small heavy saucepot over medium heat, bring stout and butter to a simmer. remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder until mixture is smooth; set aside.

in mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.

in bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream on medium speed 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until completely blended. carefully (mixture is still hot and dark and chocolatey), add stout mixture to eggs; use spatula to gently combine (this keeps the mixture from splattering). on low speed, beat just until combined. add flour mixture; use spatula to fold the two mixtures together; on low speed beat until just combined.

at this point, i think it's easiest if you can transfer the batter to a large measuring cup, or something with a spout for pouring. fill cupcake liners 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. bake 16-18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. (it's best to rotate the pans midway through baking - top to bottom and front to back.)

let cakes cool 10 minutes in pan; transfer cupcakes to rack to cool completely.

when ready to glaze: dip cupcakes, cake side-down, into glaze, rotating to cover completely. gently turn upright, letting excess drip off. place on cooling rack. if the cupcake is not completely covered, use a spoon to carefully drip over uncovered areas of the cake. let sit 20 minutes, or until glaze has firmed up.

when ready to frost: place frosting in large resealable bag. snip small edge from corner (about 1/4-1/3-inch). pipe designs on cupcakes.

chocolate whisky ganache glaze
i debated whether or not to halve the recipe below. i didn't, but i had figured that using it as a glaze, i would need much less. i was right - i had so much ganache left over, that i ended up chilling it to make truffles. so, it's halved below. if you're worried that it won't be enough, or if you're ok with leftovers, double it. also, if you don't want to use whisky, you can leave it out or replace it with a splash of vanilla extract.

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (chips or bar, chopped)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons whisky

place chocolate in bowl. in small saucepot, bring heavy cream to a simmer; pour over chocolate. let sit 2 minutes; whisk together until smooth. stir in butter and whisky.

irish cream buttercream
again, i halved the original recipe because, when used as a decoration or garnish, you don't need nearly as much frosting. i had a ton left over when i used the full recipe. if however, you'd rather use this mixture to frost the entire cupcake, double all ingredients below. oh, and if you don't like irish cream or would rather not use alcohol, smitten kitchen recommends milk or heavy cream.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (or more)
2 tablespoons irish cream (or more to taste)

in bowl of electric mixer, beat butter until completely softened. slowly add confectioners' sugar a few tablespoons at a time, until the mixture is thick (if it seems a little too thick, remember that the liquid is coming to smooth the mixture out). add irish cream; beat to combine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can attest to the fact that these cupcakes were tasty, very tasty! And perfect for the theme of the weekend: drinking beer!