Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Cupcakes

yay! it is my favorite time of year!! well kind of, because the holiday season equals yummy sweets which also equals hello thunder thighs. but who cares its only once a year. so i decided to spend my lovely day baking holiday cupcakes. the little Christmas trees are chocolate filled with caramel and caramel icing and the cute snowman with ear muffs are red velvet filled with cream cheese and cream cheese frosting. yes they are to die for!!

Chocolate Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup warm water
Alright first you want to preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Next line muffin tin with paper liners (if you plan on decorating them the same as myself use brown liner).
Within a medium to large bowel you are going to want to whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using mixer on low speed, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined.
Spoon the batter into liners. The hardest part... waiting. Bake approximately 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean . Transfer tins to wire racks and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.
In order to have the cupcakes be filled with caramel you will need to hollow out the center. My recommendation is to do this step after you make the caramel filling, as the filling will need time to cool. This can by done by using a small knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake.You can either throw away the pieces, which I feel is a complete waste so being the baker you have the all mighty rights of eating them!!

Caramel Filling
2 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Heat the sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium-high, stirring occasionally. Continue to stir until the syrup looks clear. Once this occurs clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring. Cook until syrup comes to a boil. You may want to wash down the sides of pan with a wet pastry brush if needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360°F. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let the filling cool for about 15 minutes (in which time you can cut out the centers of your cupcakes). If the caramel filling begins to harden reheat gently until pourable. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm caramel into each hollowed-out cupcake. The caramel will slightly sink into the cupcake, so just add a bit more. Remember you don't need to use all of the caramel filling because some leftover caramel filling will be needed for the frosting.

Caramel Buttercream Frosting
1 stick salted butter
1 stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 – 4 cups powdered sugar
About 1/2 cup leftover caramel sauce from above
The left over caramel should now be cool enough to use for the frosting. Make sure it’s slightly warm to the touch, and still pourable. If it’s hardened too much, gently reheat until pourable. In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly until combined and then add the left over caramel filling. Beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes until light and airy, and completely mixed. If the frosting looks like it needs to set up a bit, refrigerate it for 15 – 20 minutes. The caramel walks a fine line between being either too warm, or too thick and unpourable if it gets too cool, so this affects the temperature of the frosting and you may need to compensate for that by refrigerating if the caramel warmed the frosting too much. Add more confectioners’ sugar, in 1/2 cup increments, to make the frosting stiffer if you need to. For my Christmas tree design I used a pastry bag with a medium open-star tip, making small lines of frosting building up the cupcake. Add a candy star as decoration on top, and small pearl sprinkles.

Cream-Filled Red Velvet Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
10 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp red food coloring
Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tin with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in cocoa powder until well combined, then beat in the eggs one at a time.
In a measuring cup, combine buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and food coloring. Working in two or three additions, meaning alternate adding some of the flour mixture and some of the buttermilk mixture to the butter mixture, ending with an addition of dry ingredients. If cake doesn't look red enough you may add a few extra drops of red food coloring. Mix only until just combined and no streaks of flour remain visible. Divide evenly into prepared muffin tins.
Bake for 14-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Turn cupcakes out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting and Filling
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
approx 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat at high speed until smooth, gradually adding the confectioners’ sugar until a thick and spreadable consistency is reached. Additional confectioners sugar may need to be added to thicken frosting, especially if humidity is high in your area.Transfer frosting to a pastry bag or a large ziploc bag with a corner cut off before beginning to assemble cupcakes.Make sure the cupcakes are cooled before beginning this process. Using a small pairing knife, cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake.  Trim off the pointy end of the cone, leaving a flat circle of cake. Set aside and repeat this process for all the cupcakes. Yes, you can eat the excess cupcake you cut off, that's the best part of being the baker right?
Take the cream cheese frosting and squeeze a tablespoon or so into each cupcake cavity, filling the hole up to the top with filling. Top off with a flat circle of cake to plug the hole and keep the filling in place.
Squeeze some more frosting on top of each cupcake and use a small knife or offset spatula to spread it into an even layer. I decorated my snowmen using red licorice, gum drops and black decorating gel. The licorice can be bent and pushed into the sides of the cupcake and a gum drop split in half can go on both sides of the licorice to form the snowman's earmuffs. Orange gum drops can be split in half and half again to make up the snowman's carrot nose and black gel is used to create eyes and a mouth. yummy!

Have a wonderful and safe holiday!


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