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Baking Cupcakes with Jenna from Modern Domestic

This past weekend I got together with my friend Jenna of Modern Domestic to bake. I learned many helpful hints from Jenna and had a great time helping out, taking photos and just chitchatting. My photos and Jenna's write up are below. Enjoy!

The people have spoken – and they want whiskey. Yes, the Bourbon Street Cupcake – vanilla bourbon cake with bourbon buttercream and almond praline – won my Depose the Bacon Cupcake Contest last week. As promised, I made the inaugural batch of these award winning babies last weekend, with the help of Olga from Mango and Tomato.

When Olga heard that I was having a big baking day, she immediately offered up her baking and photography services. We had a great time creating these cupcakes – and I can’t thank her enough for the photographs.

We started by writing up the recipe, which I adapted from Baking Illustrated (easily one of my favorite baking resources these days). And yes, that second “flour” entry – that’s supposed to be sugar.

This batter originally uses a muffin mixing method, but I wanted something that was more consistent and would produce a finer texture. So I altered the mixing method to high ratio – where you mix the butter and some of the liquid into the dry ingredients and sugar, and then add the rest of the liquid in two additions.

Olga scooped the cupcakes, using my ice cream scoop. And in case you want to know how bakeries get all their cupcakes the same size – well, this is the big secret! They either use a scoop, or pipe them.

Aren’t they pretty? I love their pale golden color.

Then we made the bourbon buttercream. Now, I’ve been a little obsessed with Italian buttercreams lately (where you make a meringue by whisking a hot sugar syrup into whipped egg whites, before beating in the butter), so this is an Italian buttercream. They’re light and airy and delicious – but the sugar syrup thing can be a little freaky if you’ve never done it before. The biggest thing is – don’t stir it. Don’t touch it, don’t shift the pot – don’t do anything to disturb the sugar. Stirring it just encourages the sugar to crystallize, which you don’t want.

You start with a sugar and water slurry, cover it, and then heat it until it’s boiling.

Pour in your corn syrup (BUT DON’T STIR IT), and then let it cook, uncovered, until it reaches the soft ball stage (235-240 on a candy thermometer).

You can use a candy thermometer to test the temperature, but I like to tempt fate. So I chilled my hand in a glass of ice water (Olga thought this was pretty bad-ass, so she took a photo), dipped it into the hot syrup, and immediately dunked my hand back into the ice water to test the sugar stage. If you haven’t been taught how to do this by a professional, I’d stick to the spoon or thermometer method.

As the sugar heats up, whip your egg whites to the soft peak stage. Once the sugar is at the right temperature, immediately pour it over the egg whites, with the whisk running. After you’ve poured in all the sugar, continue whisking until the meringue is light, fluffy, shiny, and the mixer bowl is cool to the touch.

Then, beat in your softened butter, piece by piece, into the meringue. Add your seasonings (vanilla seeds, vanilla extract, bourbon, and lemon juice) and beat until incorporated.

Finally, you make the almond praline.

First thing first, toast your slivered almonds – about 5 minutes at 350 should get them nice and fragrant.

Then make the caramelized sugar. It’s actually pretty similar to the buttercream – start by combining your sugar with some water, cover it, and cook until it’s boiling. But after you uncover the sugar, you cook it until it’s a deep amber color. Stir in your nuts, and immediately pour onto a baking sheet lined with foil.

Spread with a spatula until it’s nice and smooth, and sprinkle with a little kosher salt. When it’s completely cool, you can peel off the foil and break into pieces.

Then it’s just a matter of assembly – pipe each cupcake with a swirl of Bourbon buttercream and top with a piece of almond praline.

Aren’t they pretty? Much prettier than a bacon cupcake. And I loved how the Bourbon and the vanilla complimented each other in the cake and the frosting.

Oh, and I did I mention they were delicious?


Unknown said...

Wow, they are really beautiful. The brittle on the top makes them look really spectacular.
*kisses* HH

nicole said...

these look amazing! i'd be scared to try all this boiling sugar and corn syrup thing, it just screams "burn victim" to me!

Simones Kitchen said...

They look totally delicious and I loved the photos taking us through the story step by step!

Leslie said...

I BET they were delicious!!! I love that cookbook!!

Delicious Dishings said...

This looks like so much fun... and the pictures are gorgeous as always. Now, how well do these cupcakes ship? :)

Lisa said...

Those cupcakes look so professional. Love that candy topping on them.

Chef Fresco said...

1. Great pics
2. These guys look amazing
3. Love that plate the butter is on!

Meister @ Eat This Neighborhood said...

Those are perfect cupcakes! Look at that icing! I can't believe how incredible they look.

ittybittyfoodies said...

yummy Olga! i would like to try baking soon with my two itty bitty foodies! they would love this!