17 February 2011

Go Ahead, Cupcake, Make my Day!

I recently had the pleasure of judging a Christmas cupcake contest on the well-known Cupcak(e)ista's blog. During the process, I met (albeit virtually) Dorian of Mais Pourquoi Est-ce Que Je Vous Raconte Ca... who organizes an annual event called Cupcakes's Day; this year, the 3rd Annual Cupcake's Day will take place on March 6.

I've never met a cupcake event I didn't love and so of course wanted to get in on the action! Especially since the French seem to be embracing my native childhood dessert with such fervor! Today I am going to share a recipe that I recently whipped up as one of my Valentine's Day selections called Wonderful Tonight. It's a light, luscious cupcake for Spring (which I am hoping is just around the corner) and combines several of my favorite flavors: cherry, almonds and chocolate.

A special shout-out to Halwati Shop, an online baking supply boutique, which I have had the pleasure of discovering a few weeks back and am already hooked! No more international ordering for me to source my supplies, Halwati has an AMAZING array of cupcake cases, cutters and moulds, color gels, glitter, and all sorts of tools for the cake and cupcake lover. I made the intricate lace heart decoration and embossed flowers you see in this post (below) with sugarpaste using a Halwati silicone mould and plunger cutter respectively. And I finished the overall presentation with some gorgeous Vestlihouse liners, also from Halwati Shop.

Wonderful Tonight
Almond cupcake with cherry jam center & chocolate buttercream

Makes 18
Almond Cupcakes:
4 ozs. unsalted butter/beurre doux, softened
1 cup sugar/sucre en poudre
1 large egg
1 tsp. baking soda/bicarbonate alimentaire
1/2 - 1 tsp. almond extract (use the greater amount if you really like almonds; I use the Vahine brand: "Arome Amande amere")
½ tsp. salt
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 ½ cups flour
1/2 cup buttermilk /lait fermente
1/2 cup hot water

1) Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C. Grease or place cupcake liners into cupcake tins.
2) To make cupcakes, cream together sugar and butter until smooth. Add egg, almond extract, baking soda, salt and mix until well-combined.
3) Alternate adding flour and buttermilk in 3 batches, mix well until smooth. Add hot water last and mix to combine. Add in almonds and mix again.
4) Fill cupcake liners 2/3rds full.
5) Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from tin and let cool on wire rack.

Cherry Jam Center:
I use a recipe from David Lebovitz because I really enjoy making my own jam. But if you want to take a shortcut, it's perfectly acceptable to substitute store-bought in this recipe.

1) Once the cupcakes have cooled, take a small sharp knife and cut an inverted cone shape out of the center of each cupcake. Be careful not to cut all the way down, you want to leave a small layer of cake at the bottom of the liner.
2) Spoon 2-3 teaspoons jam into the area you have hollowed out from the cupcake.
3) Replace cupcake top - if it's poking out too much, shave some cake off the bottom of the cone and put back in place.

Chocolate Buttercream:
300g 70% dark chocolate, melted (you can substitute white chocolate for a lighter version)
175g unsalted butter, at room temp
10 ml whipping cream
350g icing sugar, sifted

1) Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add in cream.
2) Add melted chocolate and beat until thick and creamy.
3) Frost cupcakes using a pastry tip and decorate as desired!