Friday, June 12, 2009

Cupcake Enhancement

Friday was Daughter Number Two's birthday! For her special day, she asked me to make chocolate cupcakes with a raspberry jelly filling and those hard, sugary flowers that you peel off the paper from the grocery store. First I made the cupcakes:

Our go-to chocolate cake recipe is always Mrs. Abernathy's Chocolate Cake. The above picture doesn't do it justice; it's really a lovely dark cake. But do you see another problem? The cupcakes aren't nicely domed. They're FLAT! Not good!

Luckily, there's an easy, yummy trick for making your A-cup cakes look more like "C cups."

First, cut a little well out of the middle of each cupcake. I like my smallest Ateco circle cutter for the job:
If you use a similar cutter, drill it about 2/3 of the way in, then give a gentle twist to pull out a little "plug" of cake:

Set the plugs aside; you'll be using them in a second.

Next, pour into the holes your favorite filling. I used raspberry jam, which in our house is always Wilkin & Sons Tiptree 'Sweet Tip' Raspberry ("Tiptree" for short):

But you can use many different things as filling: try a blob of frosting, or peanut butter mixed with a little softened cream cheese, or chopped-up candy bars. You want a filling that will complement the cake/frosting combo and be a little surprise in the middle.

So, with a small spoon, fill the holes until the cakes are full but not overflowing:

Then gently tap the plugs back on. (No need to try to match up which plug went with which cupcake.) The jelly will cause the plugs to stand up higher than the surrounding surface:

See? They look a little like "outie" bellybuttons:

Next comes the frosting. I used our favorite Cream-Cheese Frosting (recipe is at the bottom of this post).

For this frosting, throw into a small-to-medium mixing bowl some softened butter and cream cheese with the best-quality vanilla extract you can find:

Buzz 'em up with an electric mixer until all is smooth and incorporated. Then add powdered sugar, a bit at a time:

I have a big, honkin' Kitchen Aid stand mixer, which I adore. But for little jobs, like this frosting, there's nothing like my sweet old Sunbeam mixer--29 years old and still going strong!

When all the powdered sugar is incorporated, add your food coloring of choice. I like this set by Wilton because the pots of color are small and won't last until the last millenium, getting all grody in the process (which is what my last set of gel colors did):

Dip a toothpick into the gel and add it to the frosting, a little bit at a time, mixing well to see if you have the tint you want. Use a new toothpick each time you dip into the pot so you don't contaminate the gel with food particles:

A little bit goes a long way with these very concentrated colors:

There! A very girly, light pink tint:

Next, stand a pastry bag fitted with an open tip into a tall glass for support:

Add some frosting to the pastry bag. If you don't have a bag-and-tip set, you can fill a plastic zip-type bag with frosting and then snip a tiny bit off one corner:

Roll up the pastry bag's open end to prevent frosting from squeezing out backward when you frost the cakes:

Wow. Remind me not to be a hand model in this lifetime. Squeeze a little frosting out the tip of your pastry or plastic bag to eliminate any air pockets:

And frost the cupcakes, from the outward edge in, building up to a "peaked" profile:

The "plug" of cake adds some altitude to the frosting, which in turn covers up the plug:

Add some sugar sprinkles and sugar flowers:

And there you have it: Formerly flat, now happily enhanced cupcakes! Happy birthday, lovely daughter!

Cream-Cheese Frosting

1/4 lb. butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. good-quality vanilla extract
1 lb. powdered sugar
Beat the first three items together in a medium mixing bowl. Add powdered sugar gradually until smooth. If frosting is too thick, add a few drops of milk to thin it. Add food color, if desired, and blend until color is even throughout the frosting.

Makes enough to fill and frost a three-layer, 9-inch cake, or three dozen cupcakes.

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