Wednesday, July 29, 2009

a week in cupcakes: july 14

sitting at breakfast
sunday morning,
with larry,
colleen, christian
and her sister, emily,
following a night out
at the brewery, a bar
and a run through the
pouring rain,
it hit me:
blair's birthday was
two days away.
yes, of course i knew that
her birthday was right around
the corner (in my family,
we pretty much start our
birthday countdown at the
six month mark).

but in light of the fact that we
didn't have a gift for her
(for a very good reason)
and in light of the fact
that i had recently
rediscovered cupcakes
and how much fun it is
to make them, i
sensed where this was
going.

after driving home,
i dropped to the floor
surrounded by a pile of
cookbooks, determined to find
a recipe before i left for work
the next morning.
but everything suddenly turned
to chocolate. blair (like me)
is not huge on chocolate and
if given the choice
would choose
vanilla.
so, i felt like
walking in with cocoa-laced items
was certainly not the way to go.
but really - everywhere:
chocolate peanut butter
chocolate caramel
chocolate buttercreams
black forest
and the list went on.

by the time i closed the
last cookbook and clicked
off the last internet page,
i had decided on one thing:
caramel frosting.
but, before i fell asleep
one hour later,
i had switched to blueberry.

blair's been on a bit of a blueberry
kick these days - out of hand,
in her cereal and recently, we all
made smoothies from them
for father's day.
i thought, what better
theme than that?

but, there were only a handful
of recipes - what i really wanted
was a blueberry buttercream -
and i was really nervous about
runny
drippy
streaky
inedible
frostings.
and the cupcake worries!
don't get me started.
but finally, after a day
of deliberating,
i realized how foolish i could
be. why freak out about finding
a cupcake recipe when there
is an entire blog dedicated
to cupcakes?
i had been sad last year when
cupcake blog closed down,
but who would have
guessed that she'd come
back a couple months
ago, to post just one recipe
for a vanilla bean cupcake
with grape cream cheese frosting?
sold.
with blueberries, of course.

as a family we've always been fans
of cream cheese frosting,
and usually the carrot cake that
comes under it (more on that later),
so this seemed perfect,
and at the very least,
stress-free.

of course until 5:30.
i had sworn up and down
that i was leaving work at 5:30
on the dot, shopping for ingredients
and running home to make them -
i was also planning to make dinner.
but as always happens when there is
a concrete plan, an unexpected meeting
popped up at about 5:25
and before i knew it i was running
to my car with a heavy bag
of groceries and then staring,
shocked at the clock in my car
reading: 7:09. i was still in the
parking lot.
i think the clock
was mocking me.

i ran in the house
yelling frantic orders at larry,
muffin pans!
cupcake liners!
flour!
butter...softened!
he stood there watching
the flurry unfold around him,
no doubt wishing he were
somewhere else.

i simmered the blueberries,
transfered them to a strainer
set over a bowl and yelled -
i'd like to say i didn't yell, but...
anyway, i yelled,
here's a fork, press out all
the juices, all of them,
every last drop.
baking is my favorite thing
to do, but often it ends up
turning me into a bit
of a crazy person and larry,
into an exhausted sous chef.

meanwhile, i sliced open
one of my precious vanilla beans,
coincidentally a gift from
colleen - one that i had been
too scared to waste on
something not worth it,
and scraped out the fragrant
specks.

with larry's help,
the thick batter was made in no
time and quickly scooped
into the lined wells.
they were in the oven fast -
so fast that maybe i forgot
to take a picture -
and i set to work making the frosting.

after whisking together
the cream cheese and butter,
i started adding in the sugar,
but stopped when it was sweet
and thick enough for me. as i
drizzled in
the blueberry syrup,
i debated whether or not to watch,
but i needn't have worried,
the frosting turned a vibrant
purple, not a weird grey
like i had feared.
i tossed it in the fridge
to firm up, pulled
the cupcakes out of the
oven and looked at the clock.
9:30.
how?
i don't know.
it had felt like we were moving
at crazy fast speeds.
but maybe if we rolled the tape
back we would watch all the
movements we remembered,
just
in slow motion.

i apologized to larry for the lack
of dinner before thinking, um,
cupcakes are not an excuse.
so while they cooled,
i finally found the chance and reason
to make this
10 minute recipe (including slicing)
that i've been
meaning to try. topped with
an egg it was a welcome,
if not harried dinner.

after, i quickly piped the frosting
onto the cakes,
having just enough to cover
them all,
set them into the carrier
and gladly,
put them in the fridge.

we showed up at the restaurant
the next night with cupcakes,
which had
survived their trip down
and suffered only in a small
softening of frosting.
i had a cake plate in my hands,
that i kept with me the
whole meal, but it turns out,
i should not have bothered.
the waitress brought out
the carrier,
with all 18 cupcakes aglow.
it was quite a site.

once all the candles were blown out
and the cakes distributed,
i held my breath, aware,
ready and waiting for
whatever possible reactions
came my way.
but they were good.
the cake, very moist and dense,
boasted a healthy vanilla flavor
and the specks of vanilla beans
to go with it. i like a cake
that doesn't crumble with the
first bite, and this one
fit the bill. the frosting
was pretty traditional,
with just a hint of blueberry
running through the
sweet cream cheese base.

when we were done,
i sent blair home with
the cupcake carrier and we
promised each other that
we would do it again,
same time, same place,
same people,
in exactly one week
for my mom's birthday.
only difference?
the cupcakes.

vanilla bean cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese frosting
adapted from cupcakeblog.com
here's how i tackled this recipe: i made the blueberry syrup first and then while it was cooling, i prepped the batter and baked the cupcakes. that way, by the time i was ready to whip together the frosting, the syrup was cool and ready for me. to frost, i used a large plain tip.

vanilla bean cupcakes
it didn't occur to me until after the cupcakes were in the oven, but i totally changed around the recipe to the way i feel most comfortable baking. all ingredients and proportions stayed the same, but i had mixed up the order. for instance, the original recipe asks you to combine the milk and vanillas, and to whisk together the dry ingredients, once the butter, sugar and eggs have already been beaten. i need to have my mise en place together, so that by the time the eggs have been mixed in, everything else is ready to go.

don't throw out the vanilla bean: bury it in your sugar for a few days, steep it in vodka for a couple months or simmer it with milk for rice pudding.

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
1 cup milk
2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature

heat oven to 350˚f. fill 24 muffin wells with cupcake liners. set aside.

stir vanilla extract and seeds from the vanilla bean into milk; mix to combine. set aside.

in bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

in bowl of electric mixer, beat butter 1 minute. with mixer running on medium speed, add sugar and beat 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. add eggs one at a time, beating between each until well combined. (i used this method.)

add one-third dry ingredients to butter mixture; using spatula, fold in slightly. beat with mixer 20 seconds, or until just combined. add half milk mixture, stir slightly and beat 10 seconds, or until just combined. repeat twice, finishing with the dry ingredients.

fill wells 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full, smoothing up the tops. bake 22 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcakes comes out clean, rotating racks after about 12-14 minutes.

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

frost cool cupcakes using a spatula or a piping bag.

blueberry cream cheese frosting
after looking for a recipe for blueberry buttercream to no satisfaction, i realized that the frosting recipe accompanying cupcake blog's vanilla bean cupcakes would be perfect to play with. hers was a grape cream cheese frosting, but i had had my heart set on blueberry for too long (a whole day!) to deviate. plus - it's blueberry season (which makes it all the weirder that i used frozen blueberries. but for some reason, it just made sense). and now that i've tasted the fresh ones that i bought, i'm glad i went with frozen this time around. the frosting is bright purple, with just a hint of berry flavor.

8 ounces frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup butter), at room temperature
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/2 - 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

in small saucepot combine blueberries, sugar and a splash of water. bring blueberries to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, mashing ocassionally with the back of a fork, until the mixture is very juicy and slightly syrupy. immediately transfer blueberry mixture to small strainer set over a bowl. press with with back of fork or potato masher to release all liquid possible (make sure to scrape the outside bottom of the strainer, too). let cool. (note: i had just about 3 tablespoons, which is exactly what i wanted so i just added it all in. if this gives you more than 3 tablespoons, use your judgement. or add a little more sugar, below, to accomodate.)

in bowl of electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy and completely combined (make sure to scrape bottom of bowl with spatula to ensure that all the butter and cream cheese have been incorporated with each other). sift confectioners' sugar in, folding to combine, then beating after each cup until the mixture reaches a good spreading consistency. add blueberry syrup; beat on medium speed until completely incorporated. adjust sugar if necessary. chill 30 minutes before using to frost cupcakes.

1 comment:

Blair said...

Brooke,
Thank you for the wonderful birthday cupcakes. They were absolutely delicious!!
Blair :)