Friday, May 3, 2013

Rachel's Cupcake Academy

Guest chef Rachel Moliere has a few things she'd like to tell you about cupcakes:

My favorite New Year's resolution this year was to become a better baker. I decided to start with something fairly foolproof - cupcakes! - and perfect my technique. For St. Patrick's Day, TheBashionista threw a dinner party, so I decided to bake her a batch of my new favorite recipe - sour cream cupcakes with green frosting. Naturally.

First, the recipe, then some tricks of the trade I've picked up:

Sour Cream Cake

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
Wilton Green color mix-ins, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix.
Then whisk in flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together milk and sour cream.
4. In a large bowl, add the flour mixture and the milk mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour. The batter should be thick. At this point, fold in color mix-ins, if using.
5. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake wrappers and pour in 1/4 cup level measures of batter into each one. Bake for 17 minutes. Let cool completely and set aside.

Dyeing Frosting
Ok, so sue me, I used frosting out of the can. But I did use food coloring to make it a vibrant shade of emerald green. Tip #1: When dyeing frosting, be sure to buy a can of white frosting, NOT vanilla, as the vanilla extract will affect the hue.
Batter Consistency
If you're making sour cream cupcakes, you want your batter to be slightly thick - not as thick as oatmeal, and not as thin as soup. Here's what you're aiming for:

Adding Mix-ins
If you're planning to dye your batter as well as your frosting, Wilton makes mix-ins - they look a lot like sprinkles - that you can throw into the batter. The trick is to add them to the batter last, and gently fold them in. If you mix too vigorously, they'll dissolve completely - you don't want that. Rather than dying the whole batter a vague green, you're going for little punches of color.

Applying Frosting
Maybe you already own a pastry gun. Aren't you fancy! If not, you can make one out of a plastic storage bag. Just make a small snip in the corner of the bag, and insert a metal tip. The one I used was a Wilton 2b tip - the kind with a star-shaped opening. You can pick these up at your average kitchen supply store, or possibly your supermarket.  
My favorite trick for loading up the pastry gun? Place the bag in a tall glass, then fill it up with frosting.


In the mood for more dessert? Try Molly's recipe for homemade Vanilla Marshmallows, or Cara's Death by Chocolate Cake.

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