Last weekend, Lovely Daughter #2 decided to make cupcakes from scratch. (The ONLY way we do them, around these parts.) I was out doing errands while she baked the cupcakes, and they came out fantastic, if I do say so.
Her Vanilla Cupcake recipe is from Joan's on Third, a notable Los Angeles bakery. They're so simple and easy, even a beginning baker like LD#2 can make them with ease. And they're so delicious, they hardly need frosting.
But LD#2 wanted to make a salted caramel frosting. Who was I to say No?
She found a recipe in a famous cupcake book by a famous author, who shall remain nameless. Her initials are M.S., but that's all I'm sayin'.
That, and the fact that some of her recipes are overly fussy and needlessly complicated.
When I got home, LD#2 had dirtied almost every pot in the house in an attempt to turn out a frosting that required making a butter cream component, a meringue component, and a scorching-hot pan of caramelized sugar. It was all too much for a beginning baker.
I tried to help. But it was no good.
The hot sugar refused to caramelize properly, and the meringue and the buttercream didn't play nice. After attempting to resuscitate the mess, we threw up our hands, poured some Kahlua into the frosting and tossed in some cocoa powder for good measure.
Piping it out through a large-bore pastry tip, the frosting looked like a bunch of turds.
But it tasted great, so we smushed the frosting onto the cakes roughshod, and called it a day. Here's how they looked:
Uhhhh, yeah. Not gonna win any awards for looks, here.
But LD#2 wasn't finished yet. She had a third step to the cupcakes, one that took them from "What the heckisthat?" to "Oooh, how cute!"
Chocolate filigree hearts!
The same overly fussy home-making queen whose frosting baffled us had a very pretty, very easy recipe for making these toppers in the February 2010 issue of her magazine.
Just melt chocolate chips, pour the slightly cooled chocolate into a resealable plastic baggie, cut off a tiny bit of the corner, and pipe the heart shapes onto a piece of parchment paper. Chill, then peel the paper off the hearts and stand them up in the frosting:
You can also lie them flat if you're transporting them, or if your cookie tins aren't very deep:
LD#2 mastered the technique in a flash, and it transformed the ugly cupcakes into something really special.
And they tasted deee-vine. Here's another cupcake development that's come along recently:
Reynolds' "StayBrite" cupcake papers. They don't get greasy or lose their vivid colors as the cupcakes bake.
They come in some really cute patterns and colors. Imagine the monkey papers with banana-nut cupcakes and vanilla butter cream, topped with a dried banana chip. Cute!
The secret to the colors lasting is the foil lining in the cups:
I hope they come out with some red-and-pink hearts in time for Valentine's Day.
Because cupcakes this delicious deserve another chance.