Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Celebrations are in Order!

Some friends of the Hubster and mine recently got engaged (Hooray!), and they threw a party (Hooray again!).  For this party, I promised to bake something.  Since this was a celebration-type thing, I thought it would be really cute to make something that incorporated champagne, and, since the two go together so well, strawberries.  I had seen several recipes for champagne cupcakes pop up in my Google reader, and they fit the bill perfectly.  I decided I would make champagne cupcakes with strawberry frosting.  And, since they seem to go faster at a party, I made them mini (no one can resist the cuteness of tiny baked goods). 

I found the cupcake recipe here, by way of a recommendation from a friend.  When I was making the batter, I was very skeptical.  Even after folding in the egg whites, it was still much thicker than I was used to dealing with.  I was worried that it would bake up very dense.  But fear not!  I baked up a few tester cuppies, and they were great!  The champagne flavor really came through, and the cake was nice and light.  The recipe recommends using a sweet champagne, which I agree with.  I actually used Almond Champagne from Wilson Creek Winery, which is a local winery, and my favorite champagne.  And make sure it’s room temperature.  Since we don’t normally store our extra bottles of bubbly in the fridge, this wasn’t a problem. 

The frosting, which was a strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream, came from Annie’s Eats.  She has always been a rock-solid source for good recipes, and since frostings tend to be finicky for me, I knew I needed a recipe I could trust.  Here’s where I have a confession: I don’t like buttercream frosting.  Not even Swiss Meringue Buttercream, which is lighter than it’s regular buttercream cousin.  Believe me, I am no opponent of butter, but I just am not down with eating it when it’s all whipped up with sugar.  I just don’t like it.  Sorry.  I like other kinds of frosting, just not really anything that involves the word “buttercream”. 

Even though I didn’t get to go to the party, I was told that everyone loved the cuppies.  The fact that the Hubster didn’t bring home any leftovers is a good sign. 

And please don’t judge the quality of the cuppies by my lack of piping skills.  I’m working on it, but I don’t know that I’ll ever get the perfect swirls that other bakers get.  As long as they get eaten, I’m okay with that.

As a special treat for you, here is a photo of what happens when I try to take too many photos while holding one tiny cuppie:

Such a sad loss.

Champagne Cupcakes

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter
1 ½ cups white sugar
¾ cup champagne, room temperature (the sweeter, the better)
6 egg whites

1.       Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a cupcake pan with liners (this made me 48 mini cupcakes, and would probably make 20-24 regular-sized cupcakes)
2.       In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (fp note: this can take a while.  patience is needed).  Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together, and then blend into creamed mixture alternately with champagne. 
3.       In another large clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites.  Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
4.       Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes (20 for regular sized cuppies), or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Source:  Annie’s Eats

1 ½ cups fresh strawberries (8oz.), rinsed, hulled and coarsely chopped
4 large egg whites
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1.       Place the strawberries in a food processor or blender.  Puree until completely smooth. Set aside.
2.       Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F and the sugar has dissolved.
3.       Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)
4.       Reduce speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more.
5.       Blend in the strawberry puree until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
6.       Fill a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip with the frosting.  (I used a star tip). Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

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