Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cake of the Week: Raspberry Filled Cupcakes

I have no skill with pencil or brush or clay or textiles. Neither is engineering my strength - haven’t built anything since Legos and K’Nex (flashback – those were awesome!).

But give me flour/butter/sugar and I will construct you a cake. Whip up some frosting and a masterpiece of buttercream will soon be on your plate!

 My kitchen is my studio and pastry is my medium.

I create works of cake-art that, on good days, are art, and on bad days are just food. 

Desserts can be as much of art as any painting – and arguably more challenging. A pretty cupcake is nice, but if it doesn’t taste good then there’s no point. Like a Project Runway designer I work with layers of textures and degrees of intensity. Sometimes I miss the mark – my creations flirt with (and sometimes overstep) the line of too sweet or too intense.  But when everything comes together in a perfect balance of sweet and tangy and smooth and spongey, a good cupcake can evoke emotion just like your favorite painting.

Raspberry gloriousness. That is what’s happening here. Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Curd Filling and Raspberry Vanilla Frosting. They may be a bit pink for some visual palates, but in terms of emotion: childlike glee with a surprisingly mature sweet-but-sour center. These cupcakes make me happy. They brightened my cold and dreary weekend, and enlivened my co-workers’ Monday afternoon.

And I’m feeling particularly pleased with myself because I invented them.  I took my inspiration from the Lemon Filled Cupcakes (consistently one of my most popular posts), but then raspberry-ified them. 

Lemon curd is one of my favorite things…so why shouldn’t it have a raspberry counterpart? I wasn’t satisfied with the raspberry curd recipes I found online, so I made up my own using fresh raspberries, egg yolks, sugar, butter, and lemon juice.  And miraculously, it worked!

I’m not in love with the white cake recipe I used. It’s from Sweetapolita, and she describes it as “an old Mennonite recipe, it’s different than any other cake crumb and taste I’ve made before, and although I really enjoy it, it’s not for everyone. It isn’t very sweet and it does have an unusual dense-yet-light texture. When first baked it’s very light and then it does tend to get heavier tasting shortly after.” I think the not-super-sweet aspect worked well in the case of these cupcakes, since the filling is so tangy and the frosting so sugary, but they were a bit heavier than I would have liked.

Though I will point out that it’s kind of diet cake - just one stick of butter and egg whites! (Indulge me here…me and my delusions that is…)

My main reason for choosing this cake is that it calls for 4 egg whites, and I needed 4 yolks for my raspberry curd, so the recipes were conveniently complementary.

Snow White Vanilla Birthday Cake  (source)     
1/2 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups ice water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Zest from one lemon
4 egg whites beaten stiff

  • Add sugar to the butter and beat until light. Sift dry ingredients and add alternately with ice water and flavorings, beating thoroughly after each addition. 
  • Fold in the beaten egg whites. 
  • Scoop into muffin tins lined with cupcake liners and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.  
  • Cool completely before assembly.

Raspberry Curd
Make ahead!
4 oz fresh raspberries, blended/pureed (to smooth out the seeds)
4 egg yolks
3 T sugar
1/2 a lemon's juice (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
4 T butter, cut into cubes

  • Mix the first 4 ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk constantly for about 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.
  • Cover with plastic wrap, with the wrap touching the top of the curd (to prevent a skin forming). Cool for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Raspberry Vanilla Frosting
1 ½ stick butter (12 T), softened but not melted
3 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon raspberry extract (optional)
Gel  food coloring (I mixed “burgundy” and “marigold” to get a nice raspberry-ish color)
  • Beat all ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth. Add more milk of powdered sugar as needed to reach a light spreadable consistency.

To assemble the cupcakes:

  • Cut out a conical hole from the top/center of each cupcake (what happens to those little cake cones in the kitchen is between you and your cupcakes - I won't tell anyone…). 
  • Using a small spoon or butter knife, fill the holes with raspberry curd (be generous).
  • Fill a piping bag with frosting and swirl over the tops.

You can refrigerate them for storage, but cupcakes are best enjoyed at room temperature. 

Oh, and I made a few minis - just for fun!