Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Bird's Nest Cupcakes
I may have gone a little overboard on the cupcake-making. I have good excuses, though, I swear! First of all, I just finished the crazy process that has been studying for/taking the MCAT. This test really beat the pants off of me, and I had put myself on a no cupcake-baking ban for the last few weeks so I could get all the studying in that I could manage. Secondly, Easter candy was on sale at Bartell Drugs. And I mean, seriously, who in the world could pass up a big bag of speckled-egg jelly beans for 99 cents? Not me, man. No way. They were just so pretty and pastely and made me feel like spring really was here, and not just in Los Angeles. (The 7o degree weather we've had the last couple days has helped too, but it's supposed to be 50 and drizzling the next few days. Ah, how I love Seattle.)
So I have this bag of egg-like jelly beans, but I want to make cupcakes that don't resemble Easter baskets. This is a bit difficult, as Easter candy is inherently designed to emulate Easter baskets. But after a bit of internet-searching, I decided to make toasted coconut bird's nests and just hope that they came across as spring-y and not Christian-y. (Although I'm not sure what "Jesus is risen" and "chocolate-covered eggs" have anything to do with each other--other than somewhat pagan origins.)
Once toasted coconut was decided as the topping flavor, I chose a tropical-feeling cake flavor as well: carrot pineapple. Turns out my mother's carrot cake recipe already called for some crushed pineapple for extra moistness, so I just changed the ratios a bit so that each flavor would balance out the other and niether would be overpowered. The end result was a very moist cake with a deliciously sweet coconut-cream cheese frosting, all topped off with three little candy eggs. Pretty cute, if I do say so myself.
makes 24 cupcakes
1 C butter
1 C brown sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 C grated carrots
1 1/2 C crushed or grated pineapple, drained well
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Add dry ingredients alternately with carrots and pineapple, mixing well after each addition.
Line cupcake pans with 24 cupcake papers. (I chose to match the color of my eggs to the color of each cupcake paper, so that took a bit of planning and counting of each color before I began. But these things are so cute that it's really not necessary to do this extra step.) Fill prepared cupcake papers about halfway with batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
makes decoration for 24 cupcakes
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 C butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
~1/2 C finely grated coconut
~1 lb. powdered sugar
2 C sweetened coconut flakes
Cream together cream cheese and butter until homogenous and soft. Add vanilla and coconut and mix thoroughly. Beat in the powdered sugar a bit at a time until frosting is the right consistency, thick but spreadable and holds it shape.
Toast the coconut flakes in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir often--coconut has a high fat content and will easily burn if you stop watching it. Remove from heat once all of the coconut is golden.
Let the cupcakes cool completely. Transfer frosting to a pastry bag with no metal tip--the opening should be about 1/2 inch wide. Working a few cupcakes at a time, pipe a big O on top of the cake. Turn the cupcake over and lightly smush each O into the skillet of toasted coconut, flattening it slightly. Sprinkle coconut liberally all over the sides of the O and shake off any extra that doesn't stick. Pipe a dot of frosting in the middle of the O and decorate with 2-3 candy eggs.
Smile and enjoy!