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.

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