My first foray into cupcakes

I just want to be clear with you. I abhor the “cupcake craze” that is going on in this country. It’s ridiculous. People will spend $4 on a tiny little cake that most of the time sucks. I have NEVER had a commercially produced cupcake that was any good. Either the cake is junk, or the icing is no good, but most of the time, they are both crap. Given, I pretty much only have tried ones that my mother in law buys and takes to gatherings. Maybe she’s not buying the right ones? Maybe if you spend $7 on a cupcake, the bakery can be bothered to actually make it worth eating, not just pretty. Despite my contempt for cupcakes, I understand that people less sensible than myself seem to adore them. And since I was making cake for a gathering, I figured I’d try to please the masses by selling my soul. I made 2 types of cupcakes. One was the coconut cake turned into cupcakes, and the other was the most adorable chocolate malt cupcake that I found on tastespotting.

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The first hurdle to overcome is making a proper icing. I am a big fan of egg white buttercreams, but they are very buttery. This is perfectly acceptable on cakes as there’s only a minimal icing to cake ratio. The way fancy cupcakes are iced, this can become a bit of an issue, as the icing to cake ratio is so high. Another of the reasons cupcakes are lame. Egg whites only (no yolks) helps to lighten the icing a wee bit.

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This egg white only chocolate buttercream is a cinch.
4 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks
2 cups of sugar added slowly, then beaten to stiff peaks
1 lb of butter, whipped/beaten until light and fluffy, added in tablespoon increment to the egg whites
10 ozish of bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks and carefully melted; added all at once when all of the butter has been incorporated, then whipped a wee bit more to incorporate more air.

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The icing I made for the coconut cupcakes was a wee bit more involved, making a sugar syrup that partially cooks the egg whites. It’s a mousseline buttercream, and holds up exceptionally well to heat.

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You beat 5 egg whites and then stream in 2 cups of 248º sugar syrup, beating it until it’s cool. Then you (once again) add in 1 lb of beaten butter a tablespoon at a time. To make this suited for the coconut cupcakes, I added about 6oz of coconut cream.

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Easy Peasy. The only thing you have to be concerned with is getting things cool enough. Your target temperature for both the beaten butter and the eggs when all this goes down is 65º or so. Thankfully, I have the fanciest thermometer ever made.

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The buttercreams are a good place to start, as they can be made and refrigerated quite a while, then brought back up to room temperature, rebeated, and piped as usual.

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The chocolate malt cupcakes are a waste in my opinion. I got good reviews from the people who ate them, but to me, the texture and flavor was similar to that of a cake mix. And why go to the hassle of making something from scratch if it would be just as good as a cake mix? Whatever.

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If I were to try these again, I’d probably make the cake from a reputable cake recipe and just add in some malt powder to the wet ingredients. I won’t bother sharing the recipe for the chocolate cupcakes as a result. But apparently Martha Stewart has it on her website.

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Frosting the cupcakes is a cinch. You use a 1M star tip (Michael’s has these for a couple bucks). I use a gallon ziploc freezer bag (the freezer part makes it stronger and less likely to burst under pressure) and snip a small bit of the corner off, then drop the tip down into the corner and fill the bag, then use as a regular pastry bag.

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The coconut cake is the greatest cake I’ve ever had. It’s dense, delicate but complex, moist, chewy, but still very tender. It’s Craig’s dad’s favorite cake, and he’s the reason I made these cupcakes. So he could have some more of the cake.

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1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk (available canned in the Asian section of most grocery stores, or see Tip)
1/4 cup coconut cream (Coco Lopez)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 large egg whites at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350º. Place paper liners in a regular sized cupcake tin.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt to blend. In a small bowl, stir together the milk, coconut milk, and coconut cream until smooth. Add the flour mixture in 3 increments, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 increments, starting and ending with the flour mixture. After each addition, mix at low speed just to combine the ingredients. Stir in the vanilla.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until evenly blended. Fill each cupcake liner ~2/3 full and bake for 20-25 minutes; until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes approximately 28 cupcakes.

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Pipe the coconut buttercream on and top with toasted coconut. Become a goddess and have several people suggest that you open up a cupcake shop. Try to tell them that you think cupcakes are stupid in the most tactful possible way.

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