Thursday, March 24, 2005
IMBB #13 – My Little Cupcake
This is the lesson that I learned through IMBB 13, hosted by Makiko: When one eats something for the first time, it is paramount that one only eats the very best. Otherwise one will spend years hating and staying away from that certain something; and only if one is really lucky will an event like IMBB come along to right the wrong.
I wasn’t going to take part in this IMBB, because I have hated cupcakes for as long as I can remember. When Karen kindly reminded me of the event, I told her I was going to sit out. Writing my reply to her, I realized that the only cupcakes I’d ever had were from American supermarkets. The icings were always so disturbingly sweet that I thought I was going to die from a hyperglycemic attack every time I ate one. But, should I write off cupcakes based on my limited experience with supermarket bakery goods? I also hate supermarket cakes (I think they use the same icing for everything) but that doesn’t mean I stay away from cakes. Maybe if I found the perfect cupcake and made it to my taste, I would love it. And that's how I decided to give the cupcake a second chance.
I set out to search for the perfect recipe, something light and flavorful, without the sugary icing. As luck would have it, I found a copy of Baking in America by Greg Patent at the library and it has a large section on cupcakes. I wasn’t surprised to see that most have icings that call for 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar. Just looking at them gave me a toothache. However, two recipes did catch my eyes: a Double Espresso cupcake with espresso syrup; and something called Ginger Cupcake Triple Play with a white chocolate icing. These are perfect! I love anything coffee flavored, and you simply cannot go wrong with ginger and white chocolate. I decided to cut the recipe down in half and make both.
The Double Espresso cupcake was good without being spectacular. I actually found the syrup to be a bit of a distraction from the cupcakes as it was a little too sticky and didn’t really add that much flavor to the cupcake itself.
The Ginger Triple Play, on the other hand, surpassed all my expectations from a humble little cupcake. It was light as air (I think the technique I learned from my cooking school helped in this front as well) and very complex in both taste and texture. The flavor from the three types of ginger: ground, freshly grated, and crystallized, jerked my taste buds to attention, but was at the same time not overwhelming. Since I didn’t have crystallized ginger, I used Japanese candied ginger instead, and boy was it a treat to bite into one of the little pieces that had soaked up moisture and plumped up inside the cupcake. My friend Anna who acted as my taste-tester refused to believe they were merely dried candied gingers. Of course, the white chocolate and sour cream frosting deserves special mention because it was the answer to my aversion to frosted cupcakes. White chocolate goes with everything, doesn’t it? I could just use this frosting for all future cupcake recipes that catch my fancy.
Now let’s hear it from my toughest critic: Jason liked them okay but was scarred too deeply from previous experiences with nauseatingly sweet versions that he was unable to look past the name and shape to enjoy them. Well, it’s his loss.
As for me? Now that I’ve found my little cup-a-cake, I’m a converted cupcake lover (non-sugary icing only please). Thanks Makiko and Karen!
Following is the recipe for Ginger Cupcake Triple Play from Greg Patent’s Baking in America, with my comments in Italics.
1 ¾ cups sifted cake flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp allspice
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1-in cube peeled fresh ginger, finely grated (plus any juice)
Finely grated zest of one orange
1 c firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
¾ c buttermilk
¼-1/3c finely chopped crystallized ginger
3 tbsp heavy cream
3.5 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp sour cream
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat oven to 350F. Line 14 muffin cups with paper liners; set aside.
2. Resift flour the baking soda, salt, ground ginger, and allspice (another three times) ; set aside. 3. In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth (color should turn a bit white). Add the vanilla, fresh ginger, orange zest, and ¼ c of the brown sugar. Beat for 1 minute. Beat in the remaining ¾ c brown sugar about ¼ c at a time, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape the bowl and beaters and beat on medium-high speed for 4 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs (in tiny little portions so the oily ingredients do not separate from the watery ingredients), beat until smooth.
4. Use spatula (do not use mixer) to fold in flour mixture in 3 additions (sift flour mixture one last time into the bowl), alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix only until smooth after each addition. Stir in the crystallized ginger. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Don’t bother to smooth the batter; it will level itself during baking.
5. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the cupcakes are golden brown and spring back when gently pressed in the center. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then remove them to wire racks to cool completely.
6. Meanwhile, for the frosting, heat the cream in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat until it just comes to the boil. Remove from heat and add the white chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside, whisking occasionally, until the frosting is completely cool and thickened enough for spreading.
Place a teaspoonful of frosting on top of each cupcake and spread evenly with the back of a spoon. Let stand until set before serving.