July Martha Stewart Cupcake Calendar Challenge: Lemon Meringue Cupcake

Lemon is my second favorite flavor. To chocolate, that is (obvi).  Well maybe coconut is second.  So it is up for debate.  Right-o.  Well,  regardless, I had been eyeing this cupcake for some time.  Who can overlook the stunning billowy meringue peaks?  Not I.  Always one with a taste for drama, after all, I am a Leo.

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I made the lemon curd and the cakes the day before serving.  I had no trouble with either, however the curd always takes me longer than any directions say, probably because I am worried about burning it.  The day of serving the little cakes, I whipped up the frosting, what a joy a 7 minute frosting is!  So satisfyingly voluminous!  I was a bit worried because old Martha said to serve the cakes immediately, however I was waiting a few hours.  This was no issue, they maintained their integrity.  My only gripe about this recipe is that due to there being 3 components, it is sugar overload for the eater.  I think they would be super adorable in mini form. I would think they would be lovely at a wedding or baby shower.

In other news, we are going to the beach in a few weeks with some friends and are responsible for 2 meals.  Any suggestions for easy crowd favorites?  I was thinking bbq chicken but would love to know your thoughts, dear reader!

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
by Martha Stewart

Lemon Cupcakes
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons (about 1 1/2 tablespoons), plus 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
Lemon Curd
7 Minute Frosting

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.

3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
4. To finish, spread 1 tablespoon lemon curd onto middle of each cupcake. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open-star tip (Ateco #828 or Wilton #8B) with frosting. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip slightly and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Hold a small kitchen torch 3 to 4 inches from surface of frosting, and wave it back and forth until frosting is lightly browned all over. Serve immediately.

Lemon Curd
Ingredients
4 large egg yolks
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/2 cup sugar
1/16 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Directions
1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes, and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
2. Remove saucepan from heat. Add salt and butter, one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

7 Minute Frosting
Ingredients
3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 large egg whites, room temperature

Directions
1. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.
3. As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately.

June Martha Stewart Cupcake Calendar: Rose and Ginger Cupcakes

Still catching up on this little project.  Almost skipped this one altogether.  But I didn’t because I committed to it.  However, I think the lesson here was that the zuzu of not wanting to make this cupcake affected the outcome.  I believe the energy you put into whatever activity you do is the outcome you get out.  Lesson learned.  Thanks for the reminder, universe.

Regardless, I put some time into these and the results were underwhelming.  I do like ginger and I was hoping for a pleasant surprise with the rose water.  I did try to cut the recipe down to 1/3 of its original size.  This may have had an affect.  The crumb was a little tough, a little too chewy.  Also, the crystalized ginger may have been too sweet, it may be better to buy larger chunks of it and throw it in the food processor.  I couldn’t taste the rose water in the icing at all.

Now I have a bottle of rose water remaining.  Any suggestions?  Sweet or savory welcome!  Not to fear, I have an AMAZING dessert in store for you later this week.  Until then, my advice?  Stay away from uninspiring recipes.  You heard it here first.  Life altering advice.

Rose and Ginger Cupcakes
Makes 24
by Martha Stewart

Ingredients
For the Cupcakes:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped

For the Rose Glaze:
1/2 cup milk
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons rose water
pink gel-paste food coloring

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.  Sift together flours, ground ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

2. With a mixer, cream butter and granulated sugar until pale, about 4 minutes.  Beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Beat in flour mixture in three bathces, alternating with milk and beginning and ending with four.  Stir in candied ginger until distributed.

3. Divide batter among liners, filling fhalfway.  Bake until golden and set, about 20 minutes. Transfer tin to rack to cool for 15 minutes.  Remove from tin; let cool.  Store in an airtight container about 2 days.

4. Make glaze a few hours before serving (if glazed cupcakes sit out too long, they will wrinkle). Whisk milk and confectioners’ sugar until smooth.  Add rose water.  Add a small drop of food coloring for pale pink, and stir.  Immediately pour glaze on cupcakes (about 1 tablespoon each) just until flush with top of liner.  Let set before decorating.

Martha Stewart Cupcake Calendar: Meringue Cupcakes with Strawberry Rhubarb and Creme Fraiche

So I have about 9 days to catch ya’ll up on the Martha Stewart Cupcake Challenge.  I have completed the May cupcake and June will be forthcoming!  I must say, May’s cupcake was a bit of a disappointment.  It photographs well – dramatic, billowy meringues drenched in red strawberry rhubarb dripping down the side.  Unfortunately, they weren’t my favorite.  All the components are fine but overall, it wasn’t my jam.

I have a few complaints that I would like to log with the management (Martha Stewart’s empire).  First off, finding rhubarb in the northeast in May is an impossibility, something one would think our dear Martha would understand since she lives in New England.  So, even though I wasn’t in a position to make these in May, it would have been too impractical anyway.  Also, strawberries aren’t even in season in the south in May, much less up here so I am not sure what she was thinking with that.   Second, if the directions say the meringues might crack, assume they will.

The cupcakes are easy enough, whip a bunch of egg whites and throw in the oven for 3 hours or so.  Meanwhile, whip this strawberry rhubarb concoction together and throw in the fridge.  Make a green smoothie, wonder why you went to bed so late the night before and ask what happened to your life.  Snap out of your reverie, hit the stop button on the incessant beeping of the kitchen timer, worry that the meringues are too done, then debate whether they need more oven time.

I thought the meringues were way too sweet.  The creme fraiche saves the dish because it has no sugar added and if I were to do this again (which I won’t), I would cut the sugar in the compote too.  Really, just make the compote and serve on ice cream, pound cake, pancakes, in a bowl or in a pie.

Meringue Cupcakes with Strawberry Rhubarb and Creme Fraiche
by Martha Stewart
makes 12

Ingredients
Vegetable oil cooking spray, for baking cups
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 225.  Line every other cup of 2 nonstick 12-cup muffin time with baking cups; coat with cooking spraw.  With a mixer on medium-high speed, whisk egg whites, vinegar, vanilla, and salt until frothy.  Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating for 2 minutes after each addition and scraping bowl to make sure all sugar dissolves.  Beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

2. Transfer meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, and pipe into lined cups so meringuue is about 2 inches above rims, finishing with a peak in the centers.  Bake until meringues are just beginning to color and are completely dry on the outside but still soft in the middle (a toothpick inserted at base of top, through the side, should have moist but cooked crumbs attached), 3 to 3 1/4 hours, rotating tins halfway through.  Remove from oven, immediately remove rom tins, and peel off liners.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

3.  Just before serving, whisk together creme fraiche and heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Using a serrated knife, gently slice tops off cupcakes (don’t worry if they crack).  Spoon compote and then cream onto bottom halves, and replace tops.  Serve immediately.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote

Ingredients
10 oz (2 cups) fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, chopped
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
10 oz trimmed rhubarb, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 2 3/4 cups)
2 tablespoons water

Directions

1.  Stif strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice in a small nonreactive pan; bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.  Remmove strawberries; place in a bowl and let cool.  Set aside pan with strawberry liquid.

2. Meanwhile, in another small pan over medium-low heat, combine rhubarb, remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the water.  Simmer gently, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved and rhubarb is almost tender, about 6 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer rhubarb to bowl with strawberries.  Add strawberry liquid to pan.

3. Raise heat to medium and simmer until thickened and reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes.  Let cook.  Stir into strawberry-rhubarb mixture.

Red Velvet This

People love red velvet.  Like adore it.  I say, what’s the big deal?  it’s chocolate cake with food dye?  I don’t need food dye to eat cake.  I eat naked, unadorned cake.  But if someone I love asks for cake with food dye, that’s what they get.  My cousin, aka chief-taste-tester requested all cakes which are vehicles for cream cheese icing.  I had already made a different cake but he is the baby and I think you should get what you want (at least the cake you want) on your birthday.  So cake number two commenced.

This recipe is from the Whimsical Bakehouse, a bakery in NY state, the owners of which published a fabulous cake book, with that title and another book, Little Cakes, which is devoted to cupcakes.  That is where I went for the recipe.  If you are looking for a book with a lot of foolproof cake recipes, go here.  They always work.  They have great instructions on decorating cakes too, with good ideas on doing it easily.  Clearly I have no patience because I bought a big tip and do the same thing every time.  I know what I like.  You will too if you make this cake and frosting.  Ciao!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
adapted from Little Cakes
Makes 18

Ingredients 
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon red liquid gel color
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vinegar

Instructions
1.   Preheat oven to 350. Grease the top of a muffin tin and add liners.
2.  Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
3.  Add eggs and food coloring until well creamed.
4. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into separate bowl.
5.  At a low speed, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternatively with the buttermilk, vanilla and vinegar.
6.  Pour into the prepared molds, filling 3/4.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack before turning out.

Cream Cheese Icing aka why we all came to the party
from foodnetwork.com

Ingredients 
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions
1.  Beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy
2. add sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy and smooth.

Martha Stewart Cupcake Calendar: Coconut Chick Cupcakes

Make way for cuteness, ya’ll.  I know you remember peeps.  They were in your Easter basket.  You may have blown them up in the microwave.  Perhaps you enjoyed the teeth cracking sweetness.  Maybe you found them disgusting. No matter.  Move on.  These are cuter.  And homemade.  With a marshmallow like frosting, you will not miss the peeps.

Super moist, dense and with an extra dose of vanilla flavor.  Vanilla paste is the bomb.  I knew it was so, but finally got my own and this was the first time I used it.  So the flavor cannot be missed.  And I hope you agree, from the picture, these are really adorable.  And not too hard to do.  Toast some coconut, keep a close eye on it so that coconut doesn’t burn and that serves as lovely feathers.  Whip up some frosting and ransack your cabinet for acceptable eyes and feet.  Martha wanted me to use pull and peel Twizzlers but apparently those no longer exist in this market (I have no idea if this is true, I just couldn’t find them and was annoyed for wasting time on it), so I made do.  It’s not too late to pull these little guys out for Easter.  Happy Easter!

Coconut Chick Cupcakes
adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 10-11

Ingredients
Cooking Spray
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspood salt
3/8 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved)
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Swiss Meringue Buttercream (recipe below)
14 ounnces sweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted
10 whole unblanched almonds
assorted sprinkles in different sizes/colors to taste

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners, coat liners with cooking spray.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt.  With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beed butter, sugar, vanilla bean paste, and zest, until pale and fluffily.  Reduce speed to medium; add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated and scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk.  Beat in vanilla extract

2. Divide batter evenly among lined cups,f illing each 3/4 full.  Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.

3. Decorate cupcakes: gently peel liners off cooled cupcakes.  Flip cupcake over.  Using an offset spatula, spread buttercream over sides of cupcake, then generously spread more over inverted bottom to create a dome shape.

4.  Place toasted coconut in a bowl.  Press coconut into frosted top and sides of cupcake, letting excess fall back into bowl.

5. Press 2 licorice pieces or small sprinkle into each cupcake for eyes.  Insert an almond for a beak.  Use large sprinkles for feet, or 3 red licorice pieces for each foot.  Cupcakes are best served within 24 hours.  Keep at room temperature.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream 
Ingredients
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions
1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water.  Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-hgih speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.  Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 7-10 minutes.

3. With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla.  Keep at room temperature, if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month.  Before using, bring to rooms temperature and beat with a paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.