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2012 – The Year of the Cupcake

30 Dec

In the future, when I look back at 2012, I’ll remember it as my personal year of the cupcake. Because Milette and I dominated Cupcake Wars, Cupcake Wars in turn dominated several months of my life, and many of the conversations I had after our win. It was truly an awesome experience and I am unbelievably grateful to all of the people who cheered us on. You make a girl feel really loved!

Tomorrow night I’m ringing in the new year with some great friends. Really great friends. The kind of friends who come to your Cupcake Wars viewing party in a bar on a stormy night, and when the satellite television at the bar craps out, don’t hesitate to invite the whole lot of the party (half of whom they’ve never met) over to their place to catch the second half of the show. Great friends, indeed!

Since we’re busting into 2013 in the same place where we watched Cupcake Wars thanks to their generosity, what could be more appropriate than the champagne cupcakes from the competition?  Mexicans and Spaniards eat grapes for good luck in the new year, so the cupcakes are filled with a homemade grape and champagne compote. To gussy them to New Year’s Eve standards, I topped each one with a rosette of the winning champagne frosting, added a few sugar-crusted grapes and hit them with just a bit of gold pearl dust. If there is such a thing as a shabby-chic cupcake, this is it!

These are perfect celebration cupcakes. Make them for New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day, or bookmark this and come back to it for all of your 2013 celebrations – let’s hope that there are many!

Champagne Cupcakes

3 cups sifted cake flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup champagne or sparkling wine
1/4 cup whole milk
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with baking cups.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder; stir in salt and set aside. In another bowl, combine wine and milk. Mixture may curdle, but that that is okay.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl after each. Alternately add the flour mixture and the wine mixture in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Fill baking cups 2/3 full. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan; remove to a cooling rack to cool completely before filling.

Champagne Buttercream

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 – 2-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
Pinch kosher salt
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup champagne or sparkling wine
3-4 drops champagne flavoring (optional)

In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth and creamy, about 1 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of kosher salt, and beat on low speed until nearly incorporated. With the mixer still running, slowly stream in half of the evaporated milk. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Repeat, alternating confectioners’ sugar with sparkling wine and remaining evaporated milk. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl as necessary. Add champagne flavoring and beat until well combined.

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Easy Holiday Cupcake Ideas

19 Dec

Last Saturday was National Cupcake Day, and I spent a few minutes at NBC showing some fun and easy cupcake decorating tricks. There are a few holiday ideas, including a two-tiered Christmas tree cupcake topped with a sparkling star cookie and some gorgeous poinsettia cupcakes that you’ll never believe were made with store-bought red gumdrops. Happy baking and happy holidays!

National Cupcake Day on NBC

Tropical Honeymoon Cupcakes

8 Sep
Coconut Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Icing

Tropical Honeymoon Cupcakes

Ever since our episode of Cupcake Wars aired, people have been asking me for cupcake recipes. Someone on Twitter asked me for the BEST cupcake recipe. That’s a hard one! If your favorite cake is chocolate, but my favorite cake is lemon, then my BEST cupcake recipe is going to differ from yours.

I can confidently say that our recipe for Honeymoon Cupcakes that Milette and I did on Cupcake Wars uses the best coconut cake I have ever tasted. The recipe is unique because it incorporates cream of coconut (the stuff that you use to make pina coladas), sweetened shredded coconut, and coconut flavoring together for a super robust, tropical flavor. Coconut extracts are not all created equal. The imitation stuff you’ll find in the red-labeled bottles tastes just like tanning lotion smells, and that’s just downright nasty. I like Frontier Coconut Flavor. It’s all-natural, so it tastes natural. You can buy it directly from Frontier or at Whole Foods.

We filled the coconut cupcakes with a homemade mango curd, which is easily made with a thick natural mango juice, like Naked Juice Mighty Mango. Top it all off with a tangy cream cheese icing flavored with orange zest and a piece of fresh pineapple for an overall flavor that will transport you on an island vacation…well, not literally, but you get what I’m saying!

Here’s the recipe. You can also get a sweet, printable version at FoodNetwork.com.

Tropical Honeymoon Cupcakes

©Beth Somers, 2012

Coconut Cupcakes

1 egg + 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cream of coconut (Cook’s note: Stir cream of coconut before measuring it, as it tends to settle as it sits)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut, coarsely ground in food processor
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with baking cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, cream of coconut, water, coconut extract, and vanilla extract until well combined.

In a large bowl, mix flour, ground coconut, sugar, baking powder, and salt with electric mixer on low speed until combined, about 15 seconds. Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, continuing to beat on low speed until mixture looks dry and crumbly and the largest chunks of butter are about ¼ in. in diameter, about 2 minutes.

Stop the mixer and add half of the liquid mixture. Beat on low speed until the flour mixture is moistened, about 15 seconds. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. With the mixer still running, slowly stream in the remaining liquid. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat on medium speed for an additional 30 seconds.

Fill baking cups 2/3 full with cake batter. Bake 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in centers of cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Mango Filling

2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon corn starch
1-1/4 cups thick mango juice, divided
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Pinch kosher salt

In a small bowl, whisk together  egg yolks, cornstarch, and 1/4 cup of mango juice until smooth. In a saucepan, combine remaining mango juice, sugar, and salt. Cook over medium-high heat until boiling. Slowly stream half of the hot liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Add egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Cool before filling cupcakes.

Orange Cream Cheese Icing

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
2-3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Add orange zest and vanilla extract and beat until fully incorporated.

Makes 13 Cupcakes

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