Sunday, November 15, 2009
Just when I thought cupcakes would be scarce around here for a while, the deadline (eek - today!) for November's peanut butter themed Cupcake Hero challenge crept up on me all ninja-like. Talk about squeaking by last-minute. I suppose I’ve always worked better under pressure anyway. So let's get started already!
First things first, you should know that we have a theme song this month: the net-(in)famous and ridiculously silly "It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time!" If you haven't seen the video yet, I (respectfully) demand that you go watch it now.
A PB & J pairing was the first idea to spring to mind when CB announced peanut butter as the theme. Yet as much as I love that childhood classic, the time was ripe for a more sophisticated way to satisfy our PB (and cupcake) cravings. Of course the few days I gave myself to find an idea dragged into weeks. But lo and beyond, while mulling things over during lunch break, I only had to look down for inspiration to smack me in the face. Why not coffee?
Thus this coconut coffee cupcake with peanut butter swiss meringue buttercream frosting (SMBC) was born. I threw some coconut milk into the cake batter to add richness and complexity of taste that enhances without overpowering, like any good supporting actress. The real star here, though, is the peanut butter buttercream. It's silky smooth, not too sweet, and perfect for piping those beautiful swirls (which we all know get the most oohs and aahs).
This frosting was, in a word, amazing, and I can't wrap up this post without thanking Judy of Judy in Her Natural Habitat: The Kitchen for invaluable guidance about making SMBC. If you haven't already, please swing by her blog to see all the impressive creations. Some of my favorite posts of hers are the photo tutorial for making swiss meringue buttercream, her many flavors of SMBC, and especially her homemade cupcake wrappers which look cooler than any I've ever seen for sale. Thanks so much, Judy! And I hope these photos reveal me to be a dedicated student.
Coconut Coffee Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
Makes 11 to 12 cupcakes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Recipe below)
Peanut brittle, to garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin tin with 12 paper liners. Heat the coconut and dairy milks gently on the stove or in the microwave, then add the instant coffee powder, making sure that it's completely dissolved. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a different larger bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and yolk and mix until combined into the batter. Then add the vanilla and mix again. Finally alternately beat in dry ingredients and milk mixture. Fill cupcake liners until they are about 2/3 full (I like to use my large cookie scoop for this). Bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely. Frost the cupcakes as desired and top each with a small piece of peanut brittle, if desired.
Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Crispy Waffle via Judy in Her Natural Habitat: The Kitchen
Makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes
XIAOLU'S NOTES: I used a natural, dark-roasted peanut butter, so I didn't need much for either color or flavor. But if you use a milder, lighter PB, feel free to add a couple tablespoons more. This technique of combining the meringue with butter was very successful, but I'm curious if dividing the meringue is really necessary. Next time I make SMBC, I'll try the simpler method of adding butter by the tablespoon to the entire meringue to see if the difference is worth the extra steps.
2 egg whites
6 to 8 tablespoons granulated sugar (according to how sweet you like things)
1 teaspoon molasses
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cool room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons peanut butter
Combine the sugar, egg whites, molasses, and cream of tartar in the stainless steel bowl of an electric mixer.
Bring a large pan of water to simmer, making sure that the water is at the same height as the egg whites in your stainless bowl. Set the bowl in the pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (I just whisked by hand and cooked it until the sugar was completely dissolved and the top became foamy). Be careful not to curdle the egg whites, remove from heat if this starts happening.
Remove the bowl to your stand mixer and beat on high speed for at least 3 minutes, until the mixture holds glossy, marshmallow-esque peaks and the bowl is completely cool (Very important - the frosting's consistency will be off otherwise). Remove the meringue to another bowl.
Switch to the paddle attachment and beat half the butter and one-third of the meringue until well combined. Continue to add the remaining two-thirds of the meringue a dollop at a time. The mixture may look scarily curdled at this point; adding the remaining butter a tablespoon at a time and beating well after each addition will smooth things out. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla and peanut butter, and continue beating 1 minute to incorporate the additions and reduce air bubbles.