Category Archives: Iron Cupcake

Iron Cupcake Earth: Soda

This month, I was a little “meh” about the theme for Iron Cupcake. I don’t really drink soda (I’m a tea and water kind of girl), and considered sitting this one out. But, it wouldn’t be a challenge if I didn’t do it, and besides, I was able to make something for the coffee challenge, and I drink coffee even less frequently than I drink soda.

They look so innocent, don't they?

They look so innocent, don't they?

One of the few sodas I do enjoy is ginger beer. Why ginger beer instead of ginger ale? Spiciness! I love the kick of a good ginger beer, and heck, I just really like ginger.

I knew I was going to need more than a little stale powdered ginger to give these cupcakes the bite I wanted, so I chopped up a bunch of the homemade candied ginger I pretty much always have on hand. That wasn’t going to be enough for me, though, so I added some ground white peppercorns and a pinch of cayenne. To make things EXTRA gingery, I used all ginger sugar: I reserved the sugar I had rolled the last batch of candied ginger in and ground out all the big clumps.

You put de lime in de ginger beer...

You put de lime in de ginger beer...

Jamaica is known for its ginger beer, and I decided to go with that and cut the spiciness with a smooth buttercream full of sour lime flavor. I also used brown sugar in the frosting to give a hint of molasses flavor.

I got a little creative with some of the frosting. Star tips always make me want to be creative.

I got a little creative with some of the frosting. Star tips always make me want to be creative!

Another thing about these cupcakes – they’re bite-sized. And the correct way to eat them is all at once. At first, you’ll taste the lime and butter as the frosting melts in your mouth, then soft, sweet cake with chewy little bits of ginger throughout. Finally, you’ll feel the heat in the back of your throat from the pepper and ginger. They’re Bites because they’re bite-sized and they bite back!

Although, if I made them again, I’d probably replace some (or all) of the milk with some nice dark rum.

Jamaican Ginger Beer Bites

Tasty ginger everywhere!

Tasty ginger everywhere!

First, make some candied ginger. Reserve the syrup and sugar. Pour syrup into jars, seal and refrigerate for later use. Allow the sugar to dry, grind any large lumps with food processor or mortar & pestle.

Then, Make the Cakes:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, soft & in Tbsp

1/2 cup ginger sugar

1 cup cake flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 large knob fresh ginger, peeled

1/2 cup minus 2 Tbsp milk

2 egg whites

2 Tbsp chopped candied ginger

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp (10) ground white peppercorns

Pinch cayenne pepper

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Grate the fresh ginger and squeeze by handfuls into a clean bowl. You should get about 2 Tbsp; combine with milk in a liquid measure. Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer. Add the dry and wet mixtures into the creamed mixture alternately, by thirds. Stop the mixer and scrape it down (or not if you have one of those sweet scraper paddles). Turn the mixer on medium-high and add the egg whites. Beat until fluffy (5-10 seconds). Add spices all at once and quickly incorporate (5 seconds). Preheat the oven to 350. Carefully pour the batter into lined miniature muffin tins. Bake 10-12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of one comes out clean, but not until the cupcakes are browned at all. Allow to cool completely before frosting. I generally let cupcakes rest overnight to allow the flavors to develop.

Then, Make the Frosting:

2 egg whites

1/2 cup brown sugar (I used light, you could try dark if you wanted more molasses flavor)

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

2 sticks unsalted butter, soft and cut into Tbsp

Zest & juice of 1 medium-large lime

1/2 tsp ground ginger

Sprinkles, if you want ’em

Place the egg whites, cream of tartar and brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and place over a saucepan of simmering water, whisking constantly for about 5 minutes, or until light and frothy. Immediately transfer to mixer and bead on high 2-3 minutes, until you have a stiff, glossy meringue. Switch to a paddle attachment and beat on medium-high. Add the butter one piece at a time, waiting for each to be fully incorporated before adding the next. If it gets curdled or isn’t fluffy and awesome, just let it mix for a while; eventually it’ll fix itself. Once the butter is all incorporated, mix in the lime and ginger. Place in a piping bag by thirds. Using a fun star tip, pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles and keep refrigerated.

About Iron Cupcake:

You can vote for me starting on the 29th at No One Puts Cupcake in a Corner!

Our April ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, http://www.fiestaproducts.com, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com; TASTE OF HOME books, http://www.tasteofhome.com; a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM http://www.upwithcupcakes.com/. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com .

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Iron Cupcake Earth: Nuts & Seeds II

This is a recipe I’d like to tweak some more, but the ingredients are not terribly easy to come by. However, the flavor pairing I picked is one I really like.

Gooey, sticky and sweet.

Gooey, sticky and sweet.

When I learned the theme for this month was nuts and seeds, I had to be my weirdo self and google around for a while to find the most unusual nut I could. I ended up with chestnut – something I’d never eaten before. I had to get my hands on some…

Did you know chestnuts are crazy expensive? I sure do now!

It's what lies under that frosting that I like...

It's what lies under that frosting that I like...

I also had super ridiculous adventures trying to get some! It involved two trips, and two different health food stores and a grocery store. Also the discovery of a really cool candy store where I stocked up on jelly beans and old-timey candies!

Once I procured a (very expensive) jar of (happily non-moldy) chestnuts, I was able to taste them and determine that they were, well, weird. Out of nowhere a couple days later I realized what they needed – maple!

You know what also perked up this filling? MORE MAPLE.

You know what also perked up this filling? MORE MAPLE.

I experimentally boiled several of the pre-cooked chestnuts in maple syrup for a while and ended up with something that I’m so glad to have a little extra of: chestnut maple syrup, and is it ever awesome. Chestnut and maple go oh so well together. These cupcakes are almost perfect. Almost.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re pretty great. The cake itself is sooo good. Especially hot out of the oven. You could just drizzle the maple syrup on that. I did. The filling is good, too. I’m just not crazy about the frosting. I don’t really like powdered sugar frostings, I guess. I much prefer buttercreams and meringues to cloudy icings. Also it was my first try at making a browned butter frosting, and I think maybe I didn’t brown it enough, or brown it correctly. Who knows.

The chewy chestnut pieces on top are another issue for me. I like them and think they bring a little interesting extra texture contrast to the cupcakes, but are one of those things that make me self-conscious that maybe my stuff is a little too weird. Like they’d keep someone from wanting to try them. So if you are feeling extravagant enough to make these, you can skip that part if you’d like. I won’t be offended. But DO get some chestnuts to boil in the syrup. Really.

Chestnut Maple Cupcakes

Writing all of this has made me appreciate these cupcakes more.

Writing all of this has made me appreciate these cupcakes more, somehow. I was kind of mad at them earlier. I'm sorry, cupcakes.

First, Boil the Chestnuts:

At least 7 oz. pre-cooked jarred chestnuts

Maple syrup (at least 12 oz.)

Place the chestnuts in a medium saucepan. Cover with maple syrup and cook on medium heat for about half an hour, stirring gently every once in a while. Don’t let it bubble too much or scorch. Using tongs, remove the chestnuts to a cooling rack over parchment or wax paper. Let the syrup cool a bit, then pour it into a clean jar (mine fit perfectly in an 8 oz. jar) and seal tightly. Allow the chestnuts to sit until no longer sticky (they will still be tacky but not overly so); overnight is fine.

Then You Bake the Cakes:

1/2 cup butter, softened and cut into Tbsp

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup AP flour

1 cup chestnut flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk, plus 1-2 Tbsp, if necessary

1/2 cup chestnut maple syrup

4 egg whites

With a stand mixer on low, cream the butter until fluffy, then slowly add the sugar. Sift together the dry ingredients and alternately add wet and dry ingredients, minus the egg whites. If the batter is very thick and more like a dough, gradually add a bit more milk. Add the egg whites all at once and beat on medium until fluffy. Bake in an oven preheated to 350 for 15-20 minutes.

While They Cool, Make the Maple Cream Filling:

1 cup milk

2 egg yolks

1 egg

4 Tbsp chestnut maple syrup

2 tsp cornstarch

4 Tbsp butter, cut in fourths

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Meanwhile, combine the yolks, egg, syrup and cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the hot milk in one continuous stream, whisking constantly. Return to the saucepan and simmer until thickened, whisking constantly. Once it’s thick, immediately strain it into a bowl and add the butter, stirring constantly. Place in an ice water bath to finish cooling if you’ll be assembling the cupcakes immediately. If you’re assembling the cupcakes in a few hours, cover the bowl with plastic wrap pressed down onto the surface. Cut a few holes to vent and refrigerate.

Now Make the Maple Brown Butter Frosting:

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup milk

1-2 Tbsp maple spread or maple syrup (I happen to have some spread, it’s just a more solid form of the syrup)

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook until golden brown. Add the browned butter to the sugar and whisk in the milk and maple spread/syrup. Continue whisking until smooth.

To Assemble the Cupcakes:

Cupcakes

Maple Cream

Maple Brown Butter Frosting

Maple Syrup (you could also use the Chestnut Maple Syrup, I chose to use the rest of my plain syrup for extra maple flavor)

Maple Candied Chestnuts, chopped roughly (optional)

Fill the cupcakes with the maple cream using the cone method. For each one, trim the cone from the top so it’s flat on both sides and set aside briefly (this is so you can get the most filling in the cupcake without it oozing everywhere). Add a few drops of maple syrup onto the cream filling, then replace the tops. Frost each cupcake with a butter knife and press chestnut bits into the frosting, shiny side up.

Chestnut and maple maybe isn’t the first thing you think of eating when you’re trying to coax out spring via foodstuffs. But it’s a combination that I’ll use again. I’m totally using the rest of the chestnut flour for muffins – it’s really wholesome-tasting and naturally sweet.

Since this is an Official Iron Cupcake Entry, here’s the Prize Info:

Our March ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, http://www.fiestaproducts.com, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com; TASTE OF HOME books, http://www.tasteofhome.com; a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM http://www.upwithcupcakes.com/. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com . And as a special thank you, we would like to once again thank DIANAEVANS – http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5599270 for her participation in the February challenge. An incorrect link was posted and we want to be sure that she gets the recognition she deserves. Thanks again Diana!

Iron Cupcake Earth: Nuts & Seeds I

A little sloppier than I'd like, but it was a crazy day in the kitchen.

A little sloppier than I'd like, but it was a crazy day in the kitchen.

I was definitely intrigued by the nuts and seeds theme this month. I thought of lots of potential ingredients…I do a lot of stuff with almond flour these days, oh but sunflower seeds are Z’s favorite…hmm, but what about poppyseed? No, poppyseed is good, but too obvious. And then I had a Very Original Idea, which morphed into an Even Better Idea, which I am going to attempt as my second entry once I have more butter. But there were compenents that got knocked out by the evolution of the idea, namely salted caramel, and I couldn’t abandon something as awesomely delicious as salted caramel. So I brought in my good friend Mr. Cashew. Mr. Cashew and salt are friends from way back, and the rich smoothness of caramel pairs wonderfully with the almost creamy texture of cashews. And what was going to tie them all together? An awesome rich chocolate ganache, that’s what!

I wonder what those giant crystals could possibly be?

I wonder what those giant crystals could possibly be?

These cupcakes are really, REALLY awesome, and I definitely would make them again. I found a recipe for peanut butter cake – no chocolate, just a cake recipe that had a cup of peanut butter in the batter. Then I tweaked it around and substituted cashew butter (which is not cheap but so much nicer than peanut butter – can you tell I don’t really like peanut butter?) and ended up with sturdy but still mysteriously light-as-air cupcakes. I think beating the cashew butter into the rest of the batter really lightened it up and made it fluffy, and the extra fat the cashew butter added makes the tender cake melt in your mouth.

Come on, by now you should know that those aren't sugar crystals on that cupcake...

Come on, by now you should know that those aren't sugar crystals on that cupcake...

I filled each cake with a generous dollop of caramel pastry cream. I added 1/2 tsp fine sea salt into the batch along with the vanilla and butter and it was soooo good. Seriously, it was hard to keep myself from just eating the warm salted caramel cream with a spoon before I got the plastic on it. After plugging up the little holes in the tops of the cupcakes, I spread a rich chocolate ganache on top of them – if I hadn’t gotten confused and made the ganache too soon, I would have tried dipping the cupcakes, but the spreading went relatively well even after the ganache stiffened more than I wanted it to.

And then I topped them with whole salted cashews and a sprinkling of crunchy, awesome coarse sea salt.

Delicious gooey surprise!

Delicious gooey surprise!

These cupcakes kind of capture everything I love about cashews – their smooth, fatty, almost creamy richness; the way they blend so perfectly with chocolate, caramel and salt alike; just a hint of crunch. Light and snacky, but also substantial and filling. Yummmm…

Salted Cashew Turtle Cupcakes

One cashew was not enough. They were lonely!

One cashew was not enough. They were lonely!

First, Make the Cakes:

3/4 cup butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups AP flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

3/4 cup hot water

1 cup cashew butter

In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure they are thoroughly blended, then add the vanilla. Sift together the dry ingredients and alternately add dry and wet to the batter. Once everything is well blended, add the cashew butter and beat on medium-high until completely mixed and light and fluffy. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 12-15 min.

Salted Caramel Cream (adapted from Lucy Vaserfirer’s recipe)

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

2 cups milk

2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

1 egg

2 egg yolks

1 Tbsp butter

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Combine water and all but 2 Tbsp of the sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil for 8-10 minutes, until dark and caramelized but not burned. While the syrup is boiling, prepare an ice water bath. Once the sugar is caramelized, dunk the bottom of the saucepan in the ice water to stop the cooking. Remove from the bath and slowly stir in the milk. Don’t freak out if your caramel totally seizes – the next step is to simmer over low heat until smooth, and it may take a while but all the hardened caramel will totally melt, I promise! Just stir gently until it’s smooth and darkened from the caramel. In the meantime, whisk together the cornstarch and 2 Tbsp sugar, then whisk in the egg and yolks. Increase the heat on the caramel mixture to medium and simmer, then pour into the egg mixture in one long, slow stream, whisking constantly. Return to the saucepan and cook over medium for a couple of minutes, whisking the whole time, until the mixture thickens and just begins to boil. Immediately strain it into a bowl and stir in the butter, salt and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap pressed down onto the surface with a couple holes punched in it to vent the steam, like you would for a curd. Place in refrigerator and use once cooled.

Chocolate Ganache

8 oz. good quality dark or bittersweet chocolate chips (or a slab of finely chopped chocolate)

3/4 cup whipping cream

2 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp butter, room temperature

Combine the cream and sugar in a saucepan and barely bring to a boil. Immediately pour it over the chocolate and whisk until completely smooth. Stir in the butter. If you do this right before you want to frost the cupcakes, you can dip the tops of the cupcakes in. If it sets up a little bit, you can still spread it with a knife, or pipe it.

To Assemble:

Cashew Cupcakes

Salted Caramel Pastry Cream

Chocolate Ganache

Whole Salted Cashews

Coarse Sea Salt

Cut a cone out of each cupcake and fill the resulting hole with the pastry cream. Trim the cone and replace just the top. Frost with ganache and decorate each cupcake with whole cashews and a sprinkling of coarse salt.

Voting isn’t open until the end of the month, but once it is you can go vote for these here.

Here’s the requisite prize info:

Our March ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, http://www.fiestaproducts.com, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com; TASTE OF HOME books, http://www.tasteofhome.com; a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM http://www.upwithcupcakes.com/. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com . And as a special thank you, we would like to once again thank DIANAEVANS – http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5599270 for her participation in the February challenge. An incorrect link was posted and we want to be sure that she gets the recognition she deserves. Thanks again Diana!

Iron Cupcake Earth: Coffee I

Don’t let this recipe color your opinion of me.  Yes, it is the fifth Iron Cupcake entry of mine in a row that contains alcohol.  I promise I am not an alcoholic!  In fact, I rarely even drink anymore and would generally much rather bake with any alcohol I do have.  The only reason this cupcake contains alcohol (which is in the batter anyway so the alcohol content bakes away, as opposed to the Ispahan cupcake which has drunkylicious frosting) is because a couple of months ago I acquired a bottle of homemade Tia Maria from my totally awesome mom.  As I’m not a big coffee drinker anymore, I was a little stumped by this challenge and was very glad to have a unique source of inspiration.

Don't you just love the color of that frosting?

Don't you just love the color of that frosting?

I knew I wanted to create a cupcake based on a cocktail, but there aren’t too many drink recipes that use Tia Maria.  Generally, it’s used as a stand in for Kahlua.  No good – I wanted something that was specifically meant to use Tia Maria.  I searched around online for a bit and kept coming up with one recipe on many mixology sites:

The Alexandra

1/4 Tia Maria

1/4 Cream

1/4 Rum

1/4 Cocoa Cream

I wasn’t familiar with Cocoa Cream, so I looked it up.  It’s a liqueur flavored with chocolate and strawberries…that sounded good!

Whatcha doin' back there, cupcake?

Whatcha doin' back there, cupcake?

Since I’ve got a pretty good basic cake recipe that I’ve been working with, I decided to use that.  It’s always light, moist and generally a great vehicle for experimentation, so I flavored it with the Tia Maria.  I chose a basic pastry cream filling flavored with vanilla bean – it’s pretty neutral, but a nice texture contrast in the middle of the cake, and is a good representation of the cream in the original drink.  I left out the rum, not really seeing a need to lushify my reputation further.  Though I considered tracking down a bottle of real Cocoa Cream to flavor the frosting, random liqueurs really aren’t in my budget at the moment so I took advantage of the Florida winter strawberry season and used fresh pureed strawberries and melted dark chocolate instead.  I’m glad I did because the frosting is the best part!

Miss Alexandra! Show some self-respect! BE A LADY!

Miss Alexandra! Show some self-respect!

I’ll admit that I really enjoyed the process of figuring out the best way to translate a drink into a cupcake.  Have I mentioned that I went to bartending school?  Probably.  Well, my interest in mixology and in creative baking are definitely related.  Boozy reputation be damned, I might just keep this kind of thing up.  If I could afford it, I’d love to invent cocktails as a part of this blog as well.  But it’s cheaper to make cupcakes than to keep a well-stocked bar.

A couple notes on this recipe: I slightly overfilled the cupcake papers and got 18 cupcakes instead of the usual 24 for this base recipe.  Because of this, I halved the frosting recipe.  I was a little worried about this not yielding enough frosting, but it was perfectly fine.  I think using a meringue buttercream instead of a French one makes for more volume due to the fluffiness.  What is posted is what I did, so if you are making mini-cupcakes or something then you may have to double the recipe I give.

Alexandra Cupcakes

I'm honestly not trying to make such consistently girly cupcakes, they just come out this way!

I'm honestly not trying to make such consistently girly cupcakes, they just come out this way!

For the Cakes:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft and cut into Tbsp

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups AP flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Tia Maria or other coffee liqueur (Kahlua is probably too syrupy)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 egg whites

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.  In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, then add the Tia Maria and dry ingredients alternately in fourths until fully incorporated.  Mix in vanilla, then add egg whites and mix on high until light and fluffy.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean (edges will be just lightly golden).  Allow to cool fully before filling.

While the cupcakes are cooling, Make the Cream Filling:

1 1/4 cups milk

1 small vanilla bean, split

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 cup flour

Scant 3 Tbsp corn starch

Sift together flour and cornstarch, set aside.  Combine sugar and yolks, then add the flour mixture and combine well – it will yield a smooth paste when fully mixed.  Set aside.  In a small saucepan, combine the milk and vanilla over medium heat until the milk boils.  Remove from heat and add slowly to the egg mixture, whisking continuously to prevent the eggs from curdling.  Remove vanilla bean and strain mixture, if any lumps have formed.  Scrape remaining seeds from vanilla bean and add them to the mixture.  Place in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly until it boils.  Keep whisking for another 30-60 seconds, until it is thick and hard to stir.  Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap pressed down on the surface of the cream so that a skin doesn’t form.  Refrigerate until fully cooled.

Once both the cupcakes and the cream filling are cooled, you can fill the cupcakes.  Using a small round cookie cutter (about 1″…I didn’t have a round one and a half-moon shape worked great, I just had to twist it a little), press into the center of each cupcake, removing a little “cap” from the top.  Set aside and use a small spoon to hollow out the cupcakes a bit more.  Spoon enough pastry cream into each cupcake to almost fill the hole, then firmly press the “caps” back into place.  Keep refrigerated.

Now Make the Frosting:

2 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and divided into Tbsp

2 oz. dark chocolate, melted

1/4 cup pureed strawberries

1/8 tsp red liquid food coloring

Combine whites, sugar and cream of tartar over a double boiler with simmering water.  Whisk to combine, then continue whisking intermittently as you cook the mixture, about 5-7 minutes or until it reaches a temperature of 160 (to kill any bacteria).  Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer and whip on high for 6-8 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Switch to the beater attachment and beat on medium high, adding the butter one piece at a time.  Wait until each piece is fully incorporated before adding the next, and if at any time the mixture should appear to “curdle” just wait it out; the beating motion will smooth everything out in a few minutes.  Once all the butter is mixed in and the frosting is light and fluffy, add the chocolate, strawberries and food coloring, beating until everything is an even color.  Scoop into a pastry bag fitted with your choice of tip and frost the cupcakes.

If I made these again, I might try adding a little espresso powder to either the cream or the cupcakes to heighten the coffee flavor.  The Tia Maria has good flavor and makes the cakes sweet and interesting, but not as coffee-ish as some might prefer.  I’m sure they’d turn out a little differently if you used commercial Tia Maria as well, but if you have the inclination to make homemade liqueurs, you’d have more control over the flavor in general.  I probably won’t make this whole recipe again, but the frosting is amazing and would be fantastic for Valentine’s Day, on a simple chocolate cake with a strawberry filling perhaps, or even on a plain white cake.

Since this is an Iron Cupcake entry, here’s the obligatory shtuff (and don’t forget to vote for me in the first week of March! Link will be posted once voting is open):

Our February ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:

As an added bonus for February, SWEET CUPPIN CAKES BAKERY AND CUPCAKERY SUPPLY will be tossing in a variety of cupcaking supplies, http://www.acupcakery.com/index.html.

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, http://www.fiestaproducts.com, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com; TASTE OF HOME books, http://www.tasteofhome.com; a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM http://www.upwithcupcakes.com/. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com .

Iron Cupcake: Wine III

I thought I was done with this theme, but my mom gave me a mostly-full bottle of locally made raspberry wine a few days ago.  Hmm…raspberry plus rose equals what?

Yes, that's a tiny toy Ispahan. Yes, I bought the entire Pierre Herme set.

Yes, that's a tiny toy Ispahan. Yes, I bought the entire Pierre Herme set.

Give up?…It’s two of the three flavors that compromise Ispahan, the flavor combination invented by Pierre Herme.  Since I’ve never had a chance to visit Paris or Tokyo, I’ve never had the opportunity to try one (or any macaron, for that matter).  When do we get a New York patisserie already?

This jar smelled like pure awesome.

This jar smelled like pure awesome.

Once I decided I really wanted to try for an Ispahan-inspired cupcake, I realized I had to find myself some lychees.  Unfortunately, the closest store that carried them was an hour away.  That didn’t stop me and I returned home with two cans.  If it were possible to find them fresh, I would have loved that, but canned is tasty, too.  Before starting the mix up the cupcakes, I removed the lychees from their syrup and soaked them in a mixture of raspberry wine, rose-flavored syrup and enough lychee syrup to just cover the fruits…oh, and a few dried rose petals, too!  Once the lid was screwed on tight I shook the jar a bit to combine everything and let it sit while I made the cupcakes and frosting.  You can sort of tell, though the interesting thing I found about the lychees is that they already smell like a combination of berries and roses.

Another thing that would have been nice to have fresh was raspberries, but they’re so expensive and  sad-looking this far out of season that I couldn’t do it, and wasn’t about to settle for frozen, figuring they’d just get mushy.

No, I didn't bother chopping up the lychee, since I didn't have raspberries.

No, I didn't bother chopping up the lychee, since I didn't have raspberries.

Z didn’t like these at all.  I think he might have given them more of a chance if I had maybe cooked down the wine a bit.  The whole thing definitely tastes alcoholic, but if you enjoy wine then you wouldn’t mind at all.  I had a lot of cooking to do today and wanted to get these done and photographed before I lost what little natural light the snowy weather was allowing me, so I didn’t take the extra time to reduce the wine.  It has a very bright, sweet raspberry flavor aside from the alcohol taste, and I decided it could stand on its own.

Seen enough pink yet?

Seen enough pink yet?

My lack of time was also a factor in how the cupcakes are decorated.  You can see I didn’t bother to mess with the pastry bag and went straight to the knife-spreading.  I’d actually been a little nostalgic lately about the cupcakes I used to make for work…not the mix or storebought frosting part (I’m so very ashamed), but the simple frosting spread on with a butter knife and littered with colorful sprinkles.  You can also see that, in keeping with the theme of a very pink, Valentine’s-friendly dessert, I kept my papers and decorations in that same vein.  These cupcakes are very Valentine’s-friendly in general…Predominantly pink with the flavors of roses and wine.  Sweet and intoxicating at the same time.

Drunken Ispahan-Inspired Cupcakes

I'd accept this Valentine any day!

I'd accept this Valentine any day!

First, Soak the Lychees:

1 can lychees in syrup

1/4 cup raspberry wine

1 Tbsp Monin rose-flavored syrup

5-10 dried rose petals

Remove the lychees to a jar.  Reserve syrup.  Add the wine, rose syrup and petals to the jar, then add enough lychee syrup to cover.  Screw lid on tightly and shake gently, then allow to sit while you make the cupcakes and frosting, jostling the jar every once in awhile to keep everything evenly covered.

Then, Make the Cupcakes:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup vanilla sugar

1 cup cake flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup milk

2 egg whites

4 Tbsp Monin rose syrup

5 drops red liquid food coloring

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer set on a low speed, cream the butter, then add the sugars.  When the mixture is light and fluffy, add the flour, baking powder, salt and milk.  Once everything is well-mixed, add the whites and turn up the mixer speed to high, beating until smooth and fluffy.  Add the rose syrup and food coloring and mix until the batter is a uniform color.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes (until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, but before the cakes start to brown on the top).  Allow to cool fully before filling and frosting (the process may be sped up by putting slightly-cooled cupcakes in the freezer for a few minutes).

Then, Make the Frosting:

3 egg yolks, room temperature

1/2 lb. butter, softened and divided into Tbsp

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 cup water

6 Tbsp raspberry wine

1/8 tsp red liquid food coloring

In a stand mixer, whip the yolks until light and foamy (about five minutes).  In the meantime, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  When the sugar mixture reaches a temperature of 238, pour into a Pyrex liquid measure.  With the mixer off, drizzle the sugar syrup into the yolks a bit at a time, mixing intermittently.  Once all the sugar has been added, continue to whip on high until the mixture reaches room temperature.  Switch to the paddle attachment and turn the mixer to medium-high.  Add the butter one Tbsp at a time, waiting for each piece to be fully incorporated before adding the next.  Continue beating until light and fluffy, then add the wine and food coloring and beat until fully combined.

To Assemble:

Cut a large cone out of each cupcake and fill with a lychee, open side up.  Trim the cupcake top to fit inside the lychee and replace.  Frost with raspberry buttercream and decorate with red, pink and white sprinkles, rosebuds and/or fresh raspberries if you have them.

There are a few specific ingredients/techniques that I think are important to these cupcakes.  I used vanilla sugar instead of extract or beans so the color of the cupcakes would not be affected.  The decision to use cake flour instead of AP was a little last-minute, but I’m glad I did it – the cakes have a very light, moist, fine crumb and are just slightly rose-scented.  And even though I decided I wanted to go more in the meringue direction when it comes to my frostings, I just had to use a French buttercream for this particular recipe.  Speaking of which, if I’d had more time I’d also have made more of a filling for them.  I think once raspberries actually are in season, I’ll try to reinterpret this idea.  Of course, by then I hope to be pretty decent at making macarons myself, so I won’t have to substitute with cupcakes!

The fine print…

Our January ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:

As an added bonus for January, our friend at SWEET CUPPIN CAKES BAKERY AND CUPCAKERY SUPPLY will be tossing in another treat as well, http://www.acupcakery.com/index.html.

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, http://www.fiestaproducts.com, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com; the CUPCAKE COURIER http://www.cupcakecourier.com; TASTE OF HOME books, http://www.tasteofhome.com. NEW, BEGINNING IN JANUARY; our new friends at UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM http://www.upwithcupcakes.com/ will be providing our winner with one of their cute cupcake attitue t’s! Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com .

Iron Cupcake: Wine II

It takes a very smart or very stupid person to plan a recipe around a slightly odd ingredient they’ve never tasted before.

Which am I?

You be the judge (literally, for a week after January 24th, you can vote here…please vote for me…specifically THESE).

Three little cupcakes, all in a row...actually, these are the bigger ones.

Three little cupcakes, all in a row...actually, these are the bigger ones.

I’d been noticing a lot of posts about a practically magical winter fruit that I’d never met in person before: the quince.  From what I’d read and seen, I gathered that it was very similar to a pear or apple, only it smelled better and was utterly inedible (and white on the inside) without a long, hot bath in some sugar syrup (after which it would also be pinkish).  Hmm…poached quince…not too different from poached pears, I bet…and what do we poach pears in?

How's my piping?

How's my piping?

Anyone?

Yes, that would be wine, which as I am all too aware, is the theme for this month’s Iron Cupcake.

I decided to re-use the recipe for the Chardonnay cupcakes, only omitting the vanilla extract and nutmeg.  In their place, I used the insides of a long, fat, juicy Madagascar vanilla bean, opting to keep the cake simple.  I also cooked them slightly less than the first batch, because I wanted to keep them as soft as possible.  I also stored them on the counter, lightly covered with plastic wrap, for a full 24 hours before filling and frosting.  They are extra moist and lack the caramelized crust around the edge.  They hold up just fine to refrigeration and freezing (they come to room temperature in about 5 minutes when refrigerated and are just as soft), which is pretty important since being able to freeze the frosting on them as soon as it was applied was a pretty big deal.

An oddly-arranged bouquet?

An oddly-arranged bouquet?

Yes, they’re tiny buttercream roses (well, not so tiny in the case of those giant ones on top…there’s only a few of those).  No, I’ve never done them before.  I just had a lot of tiny lopsided mini cupcakes to practice on.  And had to switch to the cloth pastry bag that belonged to my grandmother…great grandmother?  The seam around the tip of the cheap plastic pastry bag I had been using split, and I had to switch to a bigger petal tip.  But it worked so much better and some of the cupcakes even kind of looked like roses!

So very girly!

So very girly!

So you can see there what I did with the quinces (which are as magic as they seem…they’re covered with tufts of fuzz and smell like the sweetest pear candy ever, but are completely inedible until you cook them), but why did I want roses on the tops of my cupcakes?  For practice?  As a cute vehicle for those great pearlescent jimmies?  To do justice to the adorable cupcake papers?

I would have liked to have photographed these outside in the grass...but this is Maine and there is a blizzard outside.

I would have liked to have photographed these outside in the grass...but this is Maine and there is a blizzard outside.

None of the above.  The frosting is rose flavored!  It is also a light and airy Swiss meringue buttercream (based on Joe Pastry’s recipe).  While I liked the French buttercream for the Merlot cupcakes, I didn’t want something that rich.  Besides, I needed yolks for some upcoming creme brulee!

And so I present my second entry into ICE: Wine…

Vanilla Bean Chardonnay Cupcakes with Poached Quince and Buttercream Roses

I wish I had a garden tea party to take these to!

I wish I had a garden tea party to take these to!

There used to be a recipe here, but since I am SO in love with these cupcakes and the voting is closed, I’ll be keeping this one to myself from now on.  If you are really interested, just ask and I may share it with you.  It’s just that if I ever end up opening a business that sells cupcakes, I’m going to want to put these on the menu at some point, and I’m going to want to retain the rights to my original recipes.  Based on my notes above, you can pretty much figure out how I made these anyway.

Cue butterflies and fairies.

Cue butterflies and fairies.

What’s the verdict?  Well, I pretty much love them.  These cupcakes are quite fruity from the wine and the quince, and two of my favorite things to eat are fruits and flowers.  Z thinks they are good, though too fruity and girly for him.  I ought to be coming through town on Monday morning, so if you see me and you like ridiculously fruity, girly, tiny cupcakes, try to snag one…and then vote for me later!

I should be delivering these little bites of Springtime on Monday morning...

I should be delivering these little bites of Springtime on Monday morning...

I thought I was going to keep it to two entries this time, but I just received an ingredient from my mom that qualifies for this challenge.  If I add the rose buttercream (or just the rose flavor), plus another, trickier (to locate) ingredient, I’d have a famous flavor combination that I haven’t had a chance to taste myself but would love to try.

I think I'll eat this guy tonight.

I think I'll eat this guy tonight.

Hint hint.

Obligatory Iron Cupcake prize info:

As an added bonus for January, our friend at SWEET CUPPIN CAKES BAKERY AND CUPCAKERY SUPPLY will be tossing in another treat as well, http://www.acupcakery.com/index.html.

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, http://www.fiestaproducts.com, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com; the CUPCAKE COURIER http://www.cupcakecourier.com; TASTE OF HOME books, http://www.tasteofhome.com. NEW, BEGINNING IN JANUARY; our new friends at UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM http://www.upwithcupcakes.com/ will be providing our winner with one of their cute cupcake attitue t’s! Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com .

Iron Cupcake Earth: Wine I

This is the first thing I came up with when I decided to go with Chardonnay as my wine for the challenge.  I might try something with the Merlot from last month, but due to a previous lack of proper equipment I now have a very full bottle of Chardonnay, and these cupcakes are SO GOOD that I might just keep experimenting.

I had to buy two bottles of Chardonnay.  See, the first one I bought, we couldn’t open.  We improvised a corkscrew for the Merlot, since we didn’t have one.  We couldn’t figure out how to do it again for the Chardonnay, so I went and found an old pocketknifey thing I had packed away and tried to use the corkscrew on that.  Turns out the pocketknifey thing is not made from very strong metal and the corkscrew broke right off in it.  So we decided to try and pry the cork out.  I broke the cork.  The top half came straight off, and the rest was firmly wedged deep in the bottle’s neck.  So we decided to hammer the cork in, because why the hell not.  The edge of the bottle’s opening chipped and bits of cork were visible in the wine.  I gave up and went to the store for another bottle and a corkscrew.  Ah, proper tools.

We had some epic grocery adventures yesterday, and (among other delicious things) I got some cheesecloth, and before bed last night (and directly after starting up some more bread dough…and sorting through some sage…and oiling my cutting board and pastry rolling pin…etc.) I took the corkscrew to the “ruined” bottle, successfully got the cork out, and poured the Chardonnay through some cheesecloth into a jar.  Hooray!  It was pure again!

…However, I don’t have a funnel, so I used a bent plastic lid and did everything over the sink.  I had too much for the bottle, so I had to drink some.  I’m starting to like wine.

So.  Anyway.  The cupcakes.  Well, since I was just totally improvising and didn’t know if the cakes themselves were even going to work out, I didn’t try anything too daring.  Luckily, every component turned out really good and come together for a fruity, surprising cupcake.  I just cobbled together the cakes, some curd filling and a buttercream frosting from things I’ve made before…The cake recipe is the one I used for the Fit for a Bear cupcakes (and I do mean to revisit that frosting!), only I replaced the milk with Chardonnay and added about 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg.  The curd is from my first entry in Iron Cupcake, with white grapefruit zest and juice (and what a grapefruit…smelled SO good…ate its friend with some vanilla sugar).  The frosting (which gave me a little trouble and it’s totally my fault) is just the Merlot buttercream, with some fresh ginger juice and a little vanilla extract.  The cupcakes taste pretty awesome, though they’re not the most colorful cupcakes I’ve ever made (just wait for my second entry…I just received the final ingredient via UPS).

Color enhanced to break monotony.

Color enhanced to break monotony. (All the color comes from the yolks.)

You may have noticed that I scooped the insides out instead of piping the curd in.  The curd didn’t really set as much as it needed to for me to have piped it, so that’s the explanation there.  I used the cone method or whatever it’s called…The curd kind of soaked into the cake in the middle and set up a bit more; you don’t get drippy curd everywhere when you eat one.  It was tough doing the itty bitty ones I made, but a fish boning knife worked surprisingly well.

…I was just downstairs holding a bottle open under my nose, waving a fruit in one hand and a double-wrapped plastic bag of something else in the other…That’s a terrible clue to my next cupcake that will give off all the wrong impressions.  I’m weird, but I had to make sure the components smelled good together.

We look much blander than we taste...

We look much blander than we taste...

I’m really excited to get to work on those cupcakes (and use some of my other fancy new cupcake wrappers!) but I have bread dough to poke at, exercising to do, what will almost definitely be some completely delicious risotto to re-attempt (what kind of stupid crushed rosemary shaker HAS A GIANT HOLE instead of a shakey top?), some sage leaves to try to fry (teehee), a meat-and-potatoes dinner to make with the help of my brand new cast iron skillet…Yikes.

I’ll leave you with the recipe.

Chardonnay Spice Cupcakes with Grapefruit Curd Filling

That's King Cupcake.  He was delicious.

That's King Cupcake. He was delicious.

First, make the Grapefruit Curd (you can use ruby red or white):

3 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

6 Tbsp fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice

2 tsp grapefruit zest

4 oz unsalted butter, cut into Tbsps

In a small saucepan, whisk together the eggs and yolks, then whisk in the sugar, juice and zest.  Then add the butter and whisk continuously over medium-low heat until thick (between 5 and 10 minutes).  Remove from heat and strain immediately into a bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap pressed down to the surface of the curd, and poke a few holes in the wrap to let steam escape.  Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Then, make the Spiced Chardonnay Cakes:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 cup butter

1 cup Chardonnay

1 tsp vanilla

4 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350.  Place everything but the whites in a mixing bowl and blend on a low speed for a couple of minutes, then add the whites and mix for another couple of minutes at a high speed, until everything is fluffy, well-blended and smooth.  Pour into muffin tins lined with cupcake papers, filling cups about 2/3 to 3/4 full.  Bake 10-15 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the top of one comes out clean, but not until they start to brown.  Allow to cool fully before attempting to fill and frost.

Once the curd has set and the cupcakes are completely cool, use the injection method or the cone method to fill the cupcakes with curd.  Set aside (refrigerated if you kitchen is really hot).

Make the Ginger Buttercream Frosting:

6 egg yolks, room temperature

1 cup white sugar

1/4 cup water

1 lb. unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 tsp vanilla extract

5 Tbsp fresh ginger juice (grate a big knob of ginger and squeeze the flakes in some cheesecloth…or carefully in your clean hands)

Place yolks into a mixer bowl and, using the wire whip attachment, whip on high until light in color and foamy (about 5 minutes).  While it’s mixing, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring to 238 Fahrenheit.  Immediately pour the sugar syrup into a Pyrex liquid measure.  With the mixer off, drizzle the syrup into the yolks gradually, mixing intermittently until fully incorporated.  Whip until cooled to room temperature, then switch to the paddle attachment and add butter a bit at a time, mixing each chunk in fully before adding the next.  Beat the mixture until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and ginger.  Spoon frosting by fourths into a pastry bag fitted with a star or round tip and decorate your cupcakes however you like.

The spices are surprisingly understated, but help to round out the tart, almost rude zing of the grapefruit filling.  The cake is soft and light and just lightly caramelized around the top edges, and is noticeably fruity.

Stuff I’m competing for:

As an added bonus for January, our friend at SWEET CUPPIN CAKES BAKERY AND CUPCAKERY SUPPLY will be tossing in another treat as well, http://www.acupcakery.com/index.html.

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, http://www.fiestaproducts.com, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com; the CUPCAKE COURIER http://www.cupcakecourier.com; TASTE OF HOME books, http://www.tasteofhome.com. NEW, BEGINNING IN JANUARY; our new friends at UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM http://www.upwithcupcakes.com/ will be providing our winner with one of their cute cupcake attitue t’s! Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com .