Happy New Year’s Eve to everyone! I hope everyone spends the evening celebrating the end of another year safely. I can feel it….2011 is going to be a big year!
The theme for my year, personally, has been that I have given life my best. I accomplished several things during 2010…both professionally and personally. In January 2010, I accepted a fellowship position in my dream specialty and will be moving in six months to the East Coast to begin the final phase in my (seemingly never-ending) training. I took on extra responsibilities at work, presented at a national conference (which I had always wanted to do), and have made some life-long friends and mentors along the way. Personally, in June of 2010, Annie persuaded me to attend the Food and Light Photography Workshop in Boulder-a trip which changed my life, in a way. I picked up a camera, figured out how to turn it on, sat among people who are way more talented and creative than I ever hope to be, and decided right then and there in Boulder that I would start a little food blog of my own in July. Balancing my professional and personal life (the blog, especially) has been a wonderful challenge and uplifting experience. Has anyone seen Eat, Pray, Love? Well, this is my “Eat” phase of the journey. But, in all seriousness, I can take one retrospective look at the year 2010, and I can say that, “Yes, I have given my best.”
Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive: co-workers, friends, family, “internet” friends, and mentors. It means the world to me.
To celebrate the end of a year and the beginning of a new one, I decided to make these cupcakes, which I had bookmarked last year…knowing that they would be fantastic for a New Year’s Eve celebration. The cake part is light and sweet with subtle hints of champagne (I went for a sweet rosé type), but the buttercream? This buttercream is close to the best frosting that I have ever had in my life. I’m not kidding. I’m picky when it comes to buttercream. This would make the most amazing frosting for a wedding cake or cupcakes. It’s thick and creamy, sweet with a little hint of champagne, but still light and airy. It dances on your tongue. (ok, that was cheesy, but you get my point.) It’s incredible. I followed Ali’s advice and actually doubled the frosting recipe, and I saved the extra for another fun treat that I served (post soon to follow) on Christmas Eve. This frosting is way too good to let go to waste. So it’s up to you if you want to double the recipe or not.
And, now, for the spun sugar embellishments. I have to apologize for my lack of assembly photos. I know that they would be extremely helpful, but you have to understand: I’m alone in the kitchen, with 250 degree hot caramel, swinging it around, a heavy DSLR camera, bad lighting, and really weak wrists. I couldn’t get a great shot of my technique. Plus, the thought of hot caramel landing on my camera or hands scared me quite a bit. Now, I have since scored myself a nice tripod (and a macro lens is on the way, thank you to my Amazon gift certificate giver….), so better step-by-step photos are on their way. Yes, the spun sugar took a little time to throw together, but it ended up being incredibly fun and got many “oohs” and “ahhs” when I recently served them up to some guests.
Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream
Servings: About 20-22 cupcakes
For the cupcakes
2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup champagne**I used a light pink rosé.
6 egg whites
For the buttercream frosting
3 and 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons champagne, at room temperature
For the spun sugar
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1. For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.
4. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together, and then blend into creamed mixture alternately with champagne.
5. In another large clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
6. Fold 1/3 of the whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites.
7. Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
9. For the frosting: With an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter.
10. Mix on low until well blended, and then on medium for another two minutes.
11. Add vanilla and champagne, beating on medium for another minute.
12. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. (Again, I used my favorite, 1M Wilton pastry tip.)
13. For the spun sugar: Secure a long-handled wooden spoon under a heavy cutting board on the edge of the counter, with the handle facing out and extending over the edge.
14. Place newspapers on the floor, directly under the cutting board. (Believe me, you will need them as this can get messy….)
15. Prepare an ice-water bath.
16. Bring sugar, corn syrup, and the water to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
17. Stop stirring.
18. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
19. Cook until the mixture turns pale amber and registers 300 degrees (hard-crack stage) on the candy thermometer.
20. Plunge pan into ice bath to stop the cooking; let cool, stirring occasionally, until caramel registers 250 degrees. ***Be careful. The pan is hot and will steam very strongly when you cool it so rapidly.
21. Dip the tines of a fork into the caramel.
22. Holding the fork about 2 feet above the spoon handle, swing caramel back and forth like a pendulum in long arcs, allowing strands to fall in threads over the handles. **You will most likely lose a lot to the floor below; hence, the newspapers.
23. Let stand until ready to use, then gently gather some of the strands and shaped as desired. **I wanted mine to look like fireworks, so I broke them into shorter fragments.
24. Garnish the cupcakes with the spun sugar.