Frosting the Cupcakes

August 8th was my little brother Matty’s 18th birthday (let’s now even discuss how creepy it is that Matty is 18 and heading to college in a week).  So I decided to make birthday cupcakes for a get together my parents were having.  Now, as with most things in life, I wasn’t content to to take the easy way out and mix up some Duncan Hines and frosting in a can, rather I decided to go all out and do both the cupcakes and frosting from scratch.  The cupcakes were pretty straight forward — flour, baking powder, salt, butter, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla for the vanilla cupcakes and pretty much the same ingredients for the chocolate cupcakes with the addition of cocoa powder (ghiradelli dark cocoa powder) and a substitution of sour cream for milk. 

Vanilla Cupcakes

3 cups King Arthur All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Salt
12 TB Unsalted butter (1.5 Sticks)
1.5 cups Sugar
4 Large Eggs
2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 1/4 Cups Whole Milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  In another mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated.  Beat in vanilla.  Add flour and milk mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour.  Thoroughly mix.  Divide batter into cupcake tins.  Bake until tops spring back to touch (about 20 minutes).  Cool on wire rack.

Chocolate Cupcakes

3/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
3/4 Cup King Arthur All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
3/4 Cup Unsalted Butter (1.5 Sticks)
1 Cup sugar
3 Large Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Sour Cream

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt.  In a mixing bowl bream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, then beat in vanilla.  Add flour mixture in two batched, alternating with sour cream.  Pour batter in cupcake tines.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean (About 20-25 minutes).  Cool on a wire rack. 

Both recipes are pretty straight forward and resulted in moist, not too sweet cupcakes (Shaun said they were missing something — the cloying sweetness of a box mix).  I baked the cupcakes on Friday night and saved the massive project, making the frosting, for Saturday morning.  I’ve made lots of frostings but its usually a pretty simple mixture of cream cheese, vanilla and confectioners sugar.  This time I decided to be a little more creative and made a Swiss meringue butter cream.  Hands down this was the best frosting I’ve ever made, although it took me about 90 minutes to make it. 

2 Pounds of Butter for the Butter cream Frosting

 Swiss Meringue Butter cream

2 1/2 Cups Sugar
10 Large Egg Whites
4 Cup (8 sticks) Unsalted Butter Cut Into Pieces
2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1. Place the sugar and egg whites in a heat proof bowl.  Set the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (I used a small stainless steel bowl to create a double boiler) and whisk until the sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch.  The mixture should feel hot and smooth (all the graininess of the sugar should be gone). 

2. Transfer the egg mixture to a large mixing bowl (or if you’re lucky enough to a have Kitchenaid Stand Mixer to the mixture stand — hint, hint Shaun — first anniversary present ).  Using a whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high speed until it has cooled completely and stiff, glossy peaks form.  This took me about 15 minutes with my hand held mixture. 

Heated Egg White and Sugar Mixture

3.  Add butter, one piece at a time and beat until incorporated after each addition.  This works best is the butter is at room temperature (so soft and messy but warm enough to be able to easily incorporate).  The mixture may look curdled — its not — and it will smooth out as you continue beating.  At some point it’ll get really hard to beat the mixture if you’re using a hand held, I got out a spatula and “helped” the mixer along.  Add vanilla and beat until combined.

4. Once everything is combined beat on the lowest speed to eliminate air pockets.  you can then frost right away.  If you’re saving the frosting for later, make sure you let the mixture warm up to room temperature before attempting to frost.

This had to be my favorite frosting ever.  Super rich, not overly sweet and I could eat it by the spoonful.  Shaun claimed it was okay, but that didn’t stop him from eating six cupcakes at a sitting (Shaun were did the cupcakes in the fridge go, did you eat all of them?  No, I didn’t eat the wrappers). While I did end up eating several spoonfuls of frosting (I watch too much Master Chef — taste, taste, taste) I also had several good meals.  Here’s roasted tomatoes from the CSA, sauteed summer squash from the CSA and turkey burgers:

Roasted tomatoes, summer squash and turkey burgers

And here’s my go-to salad (pretty much my standard lunch everyday).  I’m not sure what I’m going to do when all the nice vegetables are no longer in season. 

Lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, avocado and chicken (I like green vegetables)

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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05


The Miller Family · August 17, 2011 at 12:28 am

We are making cake balls tonight for Ryan’s birthday! Looks great!

Kel · August 17, 2011 at 12:29 am

Cake balls . . . nom nom nom. So good.

Running Disorder · August 17, 2011 at 1:10 am

This just made me seriously crave my mother’s frosting… Also from scratch. I however would burn the house down & buy from a bakery & put on my own plate:)

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