Yesterday I had the pleasure of celebrating the amazing, and often way too wild, birthday of Ms. Shaunique Adams, whose birthday theme was “It’s my birthday, I can do whatever I want.” From the party bus to Baltimore, gut-poppin’ baked carbs at Amicci’s in ‘Lil’ Italy,’ and dancing like it was my high school mixer in ’99 at an Asian Caribbean soul lounge, fun was had by all the ladies part of Ms. Adams’ entourage. *A special thank you to the patient waiters at dinner and the saintly bus driver, who all experienced singing and dancing at level 10s for hours.
Lady Shaunique is also known to have a bit of a sweet tooth and often raves about some of the best cupcakes places in D.C. So, when Her Highness asked me “So are you gonna’ bake some cupcakes for my party or what?!” how could I resist? 😉 I was asked to make chocolate with chocolate ganache and vanilla bean with vanilla. Simple enough…but what’s the fun in not spending Saturday with dyed magenta fingertips and your face streaked with chocolate?
Since it’s spring time here in D.C. and the party being all ladies, I thought: let’s go with some flower power! I’ll explain the techniques below, as well as some great recipes that seemed to please some of the toughest critics I’ve had to date. This was my first time making these vanilla bean cupcakes and the crisp top of the cupcakes gives way to a light, moist, and airy inside. The icing recipe is also great because while it’s stiff enough to hold shapes for piping and develops that hard outer layer needed to maintain shape, it’s also light and creamy on the inside.
Happy birthday, Ms. Adams…oh and 50 Cent called-he said you’ve still got to party like it’s your birthday 😉
Equipment-for the chocolate cupcakes:
- Cupcake pan
- Electric mixer
- Wilton 127D rose tip, or any extremely large rose tip for piping
Equipment-for the vanilla bean cupcakes
- Cupcake pan
- Stand mixer
- Ateco 61 rose tip or any small rose tip for piping
For the chocolate cupcake recipe, see this post. It’s the recipe under ‘cake’ and makes 24-30 cupcakes.
For the chocolate ganache frosting: [Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes]
- 1 lb. (16 oz.) good-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 1/3 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup (this will make your ganache easily pipe-able and not too stiff; can also re-warm and cool repeatedly without worrying too much)
Ingredients-vanilla bean cupcakes [Adapted from Zoe Francois of Zoe Bakes. Makes 24-30 cupcakes]
- 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract + 2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
- 3 cups cake flour (you can find this in any grocery store next to the regular flour. Cake flour is finer and gives your cupcake a lighter, more airy texture)
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
For the vanilla piping icing: (if you just want to frost the cupcakes, cut this recipe in half. If you want to make decorations, use this amount)
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened at rm. temp.
- 4 Tbl. shortening
- 8 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 2 pinches of salt
- 12 Tbl. cream
- 1 tsp. clear vanilla extract (this helps your icing stay white and not tinted yellow or brown. Even if you’re tinting your icing, this helps keep the color intact)
- Any kind of gel food coloring you’d like to tint your icing
Chocolate cupcakes: Bake the cupcakes as listed on the above-mentioned post. Let cool completely before frosting.
For the ganache: Place the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Bring the cream and corn syrup to a simmer over medium-high heat; pour mixture over chocolate and let stand, without stirring, until the chocolate begins to melt-about 10 min. Working slowly, fold in the cream to the chocolate using a spatula until the mixture is combined and smooth and there are no little bits of chocolate left-about 15 min. Refrigerate, stirring every 5 min., until frosting just barely begins to hold its shape and is slightly lighter in color. Immediately take out of fridge (the ganache will continue to cool rapidly after this stage) and let it continue to cool and thicken to your preferred piping consistency.
Sometimes the ganache can be a bit tricky to work with as a frosting because the chocolate gets heated and starts to melt from the warmth of your hands holding the piping bag. If this happens, just stick the bag in the fridge for a couple of min. (not too long or it will be too hard-if this happens, let come back to rm. temp. in a bowl). As I said above, this frosting lends itself nicely to playing with its temp., so don’t worry if you have to keep adjusting…and try to work fast!
Vanilla Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. Combine the melted butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 min. Add the eggs, egg yolks, and all vanilla and beans and mix on medium speed 3 min.
Add a third of the flour mix to the butter mix and mix to combine on low speed. Add half of the buttermilk and mix to combine. Repeat with another third of the flour and the rest of the buttermilk, ending with the last third of the flour, mixing after each addition. Mix the cake batter on medium-low speed for 1 min. Scoop the batter into the liners, never filling more than halfway full. Bake for 20 min., or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool completely.
For the icing: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, shortening, confectioner’s sugar, clear vanilla, and salt. Mix on medium-low speed for about 1 min. (any higher speed and you will get too many air pockets. This might take a while, but it’s worth it). Add the cream, 1-2 Tbl. at a time until it’s smooth, but still stiff. Add your gel food coloring. *Note: make SURE all the shortening and icing at the bottom of the bowl is incorporated. I had some left overs and it kept blocking my piping tip when it came time to ice.
Before you start decorating your vanilla cupcake with the flower, it’s good to have a layer of icing to make up for any mistakes in your petals. This little holder comes with a set of flower nails by Wilton and helps turn your cupcake while you ice.
For the technique on how to get the flower multi-toned, see Zoe Francois’ tips here. There are a few things I learned, however: Gel color, which you should use, doesn’t drip easily down the seam of the bag. You have to reach all the way down the bag and carefully line the gel bottle with the seam and squeeze out the color. Keep squeezing out color every few inches or so and let gravity do the rest. I also used a toothpick to help coat the seam with the color. Some of the color might also run out of the tip before you have time to fill your bag with icing, so do it over the sink…otherwise, you’ll get pink spots on your kitchen floor like me 😉 Another tip-don’t line too much of the seam because you should only have 1/2-1/3 of the bag full of icing-any more and it will be too heavy to wield as you’re piping one-handed.
The butterflies are gumpaste, using cutters, and dusted with edible pearl dust.
All cupcakes will keep about a week in the fridge.