Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cake of the Week: Cranberry Maple Walnut Cupcakes

I’m a great guest. Invite me places – I’ll bring dessert!

Luckily my roommate had the Thanksgiving pies covered – I suffer from an irrational fear of pie crust and would rather write a cover letter than make one.

So with pies taken care of, I had some leeway to get creative. I went for the wow-factor and made these babies:

Cranberry Maple Walnut Cupcakes. This is a great holiday recipe – they look so festive, but they’re really not too difficult. Bring these to any holiday party – people will think you’re a kitchen goddess and no doubt invite you back soon! (Idea: you could do it with blueberries instead of cranberries and make Hanukkah cupcakes! It’d be a great flavor combo – blueberries + maple syrup = all I love about breakfast. If you try that, you may want to add a teaspoon of cornstarch to make sure the jam gels properly.)

So back to my cupcakes:

What makes them so delicious? Well, I love cranberries. A lot. As in, I eat dried cranberries every day, with almost every meal…what can I say? They’re good!

And in this context, the cranberry jam adds a nice tartness to the very sweet maple syrupy buttercream. I suppose you could pass on the cranberry jam part if you’re not that into cranberries…but that would kind of defeat the purpose of this whole recipe…

The cupcakes themselves are pretty dense – almost muffin-y. And just an FYI, they puffed up a lot, so don’t fill your muffin tins too full! Some of them were so rounded on top that I worried the cranberry jam would just slide off – thus I decapitated them (I know, I’m a cupcake murderer! Cruel and unusual treatment of bake goods? Guilty.) But I think that strategy worked really well, because then the cranberry jam could really soak into the cupcake.

I did the frosting in a “pastry bag” (aka I put it in a zip-lock and cut off the tip). You don’t have to do this, but it’s easy and makes them look really special.

And, another plus – they store really well. I froze a couple to save them for my friend who was away, and they actually defrosted quite nicely.

So here’s the recipe from Beantown Baker, with some of my own adaptations (in red).

 Cranberry Maple Walnut Cupcakes (adapted from Crazy about Cupcakes 

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup (use the real stuff!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour 

2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped cranberries
Preheat over to 350F. Insert liners into a medium cupcake pan.

In a large bowl cream together the sugar and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Beat in the maple syrup. Add the vanilla and eggs. Beat until mixture is smooth.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, powder, and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk. Beat well. Stir in the walnuts 
and chopped cranberries.

Cranberry Jam
2 cups cranberries
1/3 cup sugar

Place remaining cranberries
and sugar in a saucepan. Add enough water to cover the berries.
Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and cover for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and cover. Allow to simmer while cupcakes bake and cool.

When cranberry sauce is cooled, puree in food processor.  
NOTE: Make sure you puree them thoroughly, otherwise your jam will be seedy!

Maple Syrup Frosting 
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2-ish Tbsp milk (as needed)
Cream butter and sugar until blended. Add maple syrup. Add milk as needed until frosting reaches desired consistency.

To assemble cupcakes:
Allow cupcakes to completely cool. Using a fork or toothpick, poke multiple holes into the cupcake tops.
Spoon some cranberry sauce onto the top of the cupcakes, coming close to the edge. Allow to soak in for 20 minutes.

Mix frosting while cranberry sauce is settling. Using a large tip, pipe frosting on to of sauce, but not covering all of the sauce.

So Beautiful!!!