Thursday, October 23, 2008

Iron Cupcake Earth: Cheese

My first entry in an Iron Cupcake Earth challenge is an almond cupcake with a pear-parmesan swirl and frosted with caramel icing.

The project was a bit of trial and error, and the end product is much improved over my first attempt! My first cupcake, I ended up with a layer cake. A sweet, white cake top layer with a bottom layer of pear-romano mush (egh). It wasn't very appealing.

In revising, I started with Rose Levy Beranbaum's Golden Almond Cake from The Cake Bible. Subbed out some of the butter and sugar for the pears, decreased the salt and extracts, and swapped parmesan for the romano. The cupcakes were ready!

The icing turned out to be the greatest challenge. My goal was a caramel buttercream. I went through four(!) batches of buttercream, initially hoping to make a caramel buttercream by making caramel and adding to swiss meringue buttercream.
Batch #1: I didn't realize I broke the glass tip of my candy thermometer and didn't feel like eating glass.
Batch #2: I didn't have a second thermometer but thought I could get along without. In overcompensating I somehow ended up with what looked like a baked meringue layer in the bottom of my mixing bowl.
Batch #3: Bought a new candy thermometer and more eggs. My first decent batch of smbc of the day! Then I tried adding my caramel I'd made the night before and ended up with more of a caramel-chunk buttercream. Not really what I'd hoped for.
Batch #4: After burning another batch of caramel, I made a traditional batch of smbc, subbing brown sugar for the white.

After all of this buttercream work, I found I didn't really like the texture combined with the cupcake, so I went for a straight caramel icing based on an epicurious recipe from Blackberry Jam Cake and Caramel Icing. The icing is very good - very rich! And it works well with the cupcake.

Almond-Pear-Parmesan Cupcakes with Caramel Icing
1 large egg
1/4 tsp almond extract

3/4 cup sifted cake flour
2 TB finely ground almonds (I used sliced almonds in my cheap coffee grinder)
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

1/3 cup sour cream
4 TB unsalted butter, softened

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease or line tins.
In a bowl (other than your mixer bowl) combine eggs and almond extract. In your mixer bowl, combine the cake flour, ground almonds, cardamom, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Run the mixer on low just to combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter and sour cream and beat on medium for 1 1/2 minutes, scraping down the sides. Add the egg mixture in two batches, beating 20 seconds after each addition. Spoon batter into prepared cupcake tins.

Pear-Parmesan Swirl
2 pears
1 TB light brown sugar
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Cook pear, sugar and cardamom covered until pears are tender. Press through a sieve back into saucepan. Cook down over med-low heat to thick consistency. It should be about 1/4 cup. Add grated parmesan. Drop about 2 tsp of pear-parmesan mixture into each cupcake and swirl with a toothpick.
Bake 15-17 minutes. Makes 6 cupcakes

Caramel Icing
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup half and half
4 TB butter
Combine sugar, half and half, and butter. Cook over med-low heat until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage. Transfer to your mixer bowl and mix until thickened. This happens quickly, about 1-2 minutes. Frost cupcakes immediately as the icing sets quickly. Glaze cupcakes (it's helpful to have waxed paper under the rack for easy clean up).

Voting will begin on Sunday, October 26 at 12 noon at
NO ONE PUTS CUPCAKE IN A CORNER and will be open through Thursday, October 30 at 12 noon.

I am competing to win the following please go out and vote for me!
ETSY artist ART ON THE MENU with her awesome little cardboard cupcake:
A pair of cupcake earrings from Lots of Sprinkles
A sassy and sweet T from Bakelove Bakewear
HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson,
Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers

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