Tuesday, July 1, 2008

So Pretty

Yes. More cupcakes. What's really surprising is that I lost weight this week, even with these and pound cake. Anyhoo. These were for a coworker's birthday.

I am an official cupcake convert. I love them for portion control and decorating ease. I've taken the Wilton cake decorating classes (with some degree of success); I just am not the type of person to sculpt something with fondant. I prefer the simple elegance of cupcakes. Many of the more popular bakeries have a standard way of applying the icing, not matter the cupcake variety. Perhaps the most famous is Sprinkles, in LA. I like that standardization.

Anyway, I'm a swirl kinda girl, although I'm still trying to get mine to look like these from Blue Cupcake. In hindsight, think it's a large rosette. Mine are like ice cream cone swirls.
So, I decided to make a cupcake version of the strawberry cream cake by Cook's Illustrated. From previous miserable experiences, I knew better than to mess with an egg-foam cake. I turned to the All Occasion Downy Butter Cake by baker extraordinaire Rose Levy Beranbaum. You know I've had a jones for sweet potato and caramel brought together as a dessert, so I decided to go for that too.
Before we get started, let me just say how thankful I was for two KitchenAid stand mixer bowls. I'm thinking about purchasing a second paddle and whisk too. I didn't take any cake-in-progress pics for the cupcake part of the strawberry cream cake, but you know the drill, don't you? While your cupcakes bake, move on to the strawberries.
Quarter them and toss with sugar. Let them sit for an hour. Stir periodically. You should end up with this:
Drain and reserve the liquid. Give the berries a good mash. CI suggests a food processor. I didn't want to dirty another appliance. Pour the strawberry juices into a small saucepan. Add some Kirsch and reduce until it becomes a syrup. Add this to the mashed berries.
Now grab some strawberries and slice them thin. Place these on the outer edges of the cupcake like a border. Spoon a little bit of the mashed berry mixture into the center.
Now let's move to the topping. Whip room temperature cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Don't try to cheat and use cold cream cheese. You will have lumps. And lumps aren't cute are they? Nope. Add cold heavy cream and vanilla. Whip until fluffy.

No fancy piping needed for decoration. In this case, the unfussy dollop of the cream really underscored the real strawberries, real cream cheese and real whipped cream. Natural is good.
Add a strawberry slice to the center and you're done!

Now let's get to the sweet potato caramel. These would have been perfect if there were one less stick of butter in the icing. That's just my preference. Everybody else loved them. Let's keep it moving. The base recipe is CI's Yellow Cupcakes. I took leap of faith and tried to strike a balance between the sour cream and mashed sweet potato.
Roast your sweet potato. I'll take roasting over boiling any day. I think some of the flavor boils right out into the water.

Mash while hot or you will have strings. Strings are not a good thing.

Sorry, no pics of me making the cake. I was going for speed. So pretend I listed all of the steps and took pics. Here's what you end up with: orange-colored goodness.
Now for the frosting -- caramel Italian meringue buttercream. Very ambitious. Especially first thing in the morning. I got up to make it and the cream topping at midnight. I realized that I was in no shape to do anything that required precision, so I went back to bed until 4. That didn't help much because I burned the first batch of caramel!
What's so cool about this icing is that it's like a song with four movements: crème anglaise,

caramel (yes this eventually turned into caramel),


and butter (and lots of it).
Here's the result. Beranbaum's recipe called for four sticks of butter. I found that while the icing was unbelievably silky and light, I tasted more butter than caramel. I'm going to try it with three sticks next time.
Grab a piping bag and tip and have at it.
Now my ultimate flavor combo is sweet potato, caramel and pecan. I chopped a few nuts for the folks to sprinkle on their own. I didn't want hurt anyone with severe nut allergies. Um, yeah. I had to try one. 'Twas great!
All packed up and ready to go!

Tools of the trade:

1 comment:

Katy said...

lucky coworker! they look awesome -- and that box for transporting them looks like the most genius creation ever!