Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Cupcakes with Presents, Snowflakes and Holly

After carefully cleaning and saving the decorations from the Christmas Cake in my last post, I felt that I had to reuse them somehow, because they were just so pretty.  Not to mention, a time-consuming project to have made.  The log cabin and trees are currently a centerpiece on our table, and may just be wrapped up for my nieces to play with when we see them for Christmas.

As for the red and white presents, they became lovely little cupcake toppers, along with some snowflakes and holly leaves that I'd cut and stamped out of fondant and dried.  I love the sweet simple touch they add to the cupcakes.

For as long as I have been baking, there's been an ingredient that I've refused to use until now - shortening.  I just feel like it's inferior to butter in every way, except for its one beautiful quality, that it's pure bright white.  And I wanted a snowy white frosting for these cupcakes.

I realize that most grocery store bakeries use shortening for their frosting - which is part of the reason why they can sell their cakes so inexpensively.  But I've always strived to be better than that, with good-quality ingredients and fresh flavors.

Butter is silky and delicious, but it is yellow, which imparts an antique white tone to buttercream.  No matter how long it's whipped or how much white food coloring is added, it still has yellowish undertones.  I have read that a drop of violet food coloring will actually neutralize the yellow and create a white buttercream, but I have yet to have a chance to experiment with it on a batch of frosting that I don't mind if I end up turning it violet instead of white.

So for this shortening-based frosting, I added butter-flavored extract as well as a good dose of almond extract to cover up the flavor of the shortening, or to add to its un-buttery flavorless-ness, whichever way you look at it.

Almond and chocolate is a tempting combination, and you know, people ate them right up.

If you have any tested methods for achieving pure white buttercream when using yellow butter, please share them in the comments...

One Year Ago:   Butterfinger Cookie Bars
Two Years Ago:  Vanilla Bean Cappuccino Cake for Mom's Birthday

Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes with Almond Frosting

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1 teaspoon clear butter-flavored extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons cream or milk

Preheat the oven to 350 and line muffin pans with 24 paper liners.

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.  Add the eggs, cream, sour cream, oil and vanilla and whisk vigorously to combine well.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Divide batter between the pans.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the pans and cool on wire racks, covered loosely with clean kitchen towels.

To make the frosting, combine the shortening, powdered sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; mix on low to combine.  Add the extracts and cream and whip on medium high speed for 4-5 minutes, scraping the bowl down a few times, until light and fluffy.

Frost the cooled cupcakes and garnish with sparkling sugar and the dried fondant cutouts.

Yields 2 dozen cupcakes

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen