Sunday, February 23, 2014

Finally, a 'go to' vanilla cupcake and frosting recipe - Whoop Whoop!

If you've been following my blog, you'll remember that I had a post a while back about the hunt for the perfect vanilla cupcake.  I didn't find it, truth be told.  Hence when I was asked to bake a batch of cupcakes again, I found myself scouring the web looking for new and different recipes.  I'm happy to report that I found an amazing recipe...beautiful cake, and absolutely gorgeous vanilla bean swiss meringue doesn't get more divine than this. Definitely my 'go to' recipe from now on.

Interestingly the method in the cake recipe calls for adding the butter to the flour mixture in cold cubes - similar to the method I use when I bake my scones.  I know the idea behind adding cold butter in pastry dough recipes, but don't consider this a method I'd use in making cupcakes.  Alas, I couldn't bring myself to apply this method when using this recipe.  So then, I used the ingredients exactly as they're written, but changed the method. And, oh yeah, if you're going to bother using cake flour, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS sift it.  You're going for air, clearly, so might as well go all the way ;). 

    Make the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C degrees F.
  2. Sift the flours, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Beat the butter on medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar.  Beat until the mixture is pale yellow and very fluffy ~ 4 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are well-combined.
  5. Combine the milk and vanilla extract & bean paste in a measuring cup.
  6. On a low speed, alternating, add the flour mixture and milk emulsion to the butter mixture. Beat until just combined ~ 1-2 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and mix again until the mixture is well blended (30-60 seconds).   
  7. Fill paper liners 2/3 full with batter, and bake for 15-20 minutes - until a tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  Start checking at 15 minutes.
  8. Cool completely before topping with buttercream.
    Make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  1. Place the egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl. Set over a pot of simmering water, and whisk continuously, until the mixture is hot, opaque, and the sugar is completely dissolved (should not feel gritty between your fingers), about 5 minutes.
  2. Whip the mixture on high speed, until stiff peaks form and it has completely cooled (12ish minutes).
  3. Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, whipping well after each addition. If it begins to look curdled, continue to beat until it comes back together, before adding the remaining butter.
  4. Mix in the vanilla bean paste until well blended.
  5. Using a pastry bag fitted with your preferred nozzle of choice, pipe the frosting on to the cupcakes.
  6. Enjoy!
  7. P.S. I made about 36 cupcakes from this batter (probably filled them half way vs. 2/3 since I didn't want the cupcakes protruding from the cases - wanted them more tidy and flat).  As such, I ended up needing to make 2 batches of the buttercream frosting since the recipe as is barely covered 23 cupcakes, and I didn't use massive amounts as you can see below. 

Note: This recipe was shamelessly stolen from who stole it from who adapted it from the cookbook, "The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook" -  I absolutely LOVE how recipes are adapted from one baker to the next.  I'll be curious to hear if anyone adapts this one...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Salted Caramel's what's for dessert...

I was trying to find something easy yet a bit elegant for a dinner party this evening and came across this simple, yet enticing recipe (love Food and Wine magazine!).  I'm a firm believer in 'simple' recipes with high quality ingredients.  
The result? This cheesecake was very easy to make and a bit different as no base was required and, since it was in ramekins, added a personal touch. The salted caramel came out divine, though it wouldn't be until my second batch that I would discover this.  My first batch I overcooked by about 10 seconds and burned it...sugar is indeed tricky.   The cheesecakes are chilling now in the refrigerator and I can't help but wonder if I should have added vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste to make it a bit vanilla-y.  I believe in pretty much adding good quality vanilla to almost any sweet dessert-y recipe.  Hmm.  I guess i'll be able to tell you this evening when it's being devoured (hopefully!).
Changes to recipe: There was feedback about the cheesecake not being cooked properly according to the recipe's directions.  Upon research, I decided to increase the oven temp to 350F/175C and cooked for 20 minutes, then shut off the oven and left them in the oven for an hour.  They seemed to be pretty perfect when I removed them from the oven.  I'll tell you later if they were cooked properly or not.  And I may or may not advise to add vanilla ;).
If you make this here in the UK, you'll wonder how to 'stir the cream in a thin stream'.  Since the double cream (UK equivalent to heavy cream) here has the texture of whipped butter, that's pretty much an impossible feat.  I dropped the lump of cream into the mixture and stirred it quickly - no issues.  
I had a bit of caramel left over and decided to coat apples in it - absolutely delish and the fleur de sel was an excellent touch.  I'm very much looking forward to seeing how this recipe turned out.  Stay tuned!

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

  • ACTIVE: 30 MIN
More and more pastry chefs are raiding the saltcellar. And that includes Michael Moorhouse, who sprinkles crunchy bits of fleur de sel on his moist, intensely flavored cheesecake topped with thick, golden caramel. Moorhouse created the cake for Gaia, a restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut, and it's a most outrageously delicious desserts.


  1. 1/2 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  4. 1/2 cup sour cream


  1. 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  2. 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  3. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  4. 1/2 cup heavy cream
  5. Fleur de sel
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until smooth. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in the sour cream. Pour the batter into six 5-ounce ramekins or custard cups.
  2. Set the ramekins in a small pan and set the pan in the center of the oven. Add enough hot water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the cheesecakes for 10 minutes, until set at the edges but still quite jiggly in the center. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecakes in for 1 hour. Transfer the ramekins to a rack and let cool completely.
  3. In a heavy medium saucepan, heat the corn syrup. Stir in the sugar and cook over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until a deep amber caramel forms, about 9 minutes. Off the heat, carefully stir in the butter with a long-handled wooden spoon. Stir in the cream in a thin stream. Transfer the caramel to a heatproof pitcher and let cool. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon of fleur de sel.
  4. Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons of the caramel over each cheesecake and swirl to coat the tops. If the caramel is too thick, warm it in a microwave oven at 10-second intervals. Refrigerate the cheesecakes until chilled, at least 3 hours. Sprinkle with fleur de sel just before serving.
MAKE AHEAD The cheesecakes can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.NOTES Cooking Club Tip: If you see sugar crystals on the sides of the pot while making caramel, dissolve them with a pastry brush that has been dipped in water until well moistened.