Thursday, January 28, 2010
Cinnamon + Dulce de Leche + Espresso: I had this flavor combo floating around my idea bin long before I set out to make my own batch of dulce de leche. Cinnamon and dulce de leche play very well together, as do dulce de leche and coffee. Cinnamon and coffee also pair nicely, so a combination of all three could only result in pure and utter deliciousness. The most difficult part was deciding which flavor would go into each component of the cupcake. I finally decided upon pure dulce de leche sandwiched between a cinnamon cupcake base and an espresso buttercream crown. Result? Amazing. Without a doubt, one of best things I've made so far.
The cupcake is based on the "Yellow Butter Cake" recipe from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America. Wow, folks. I think I've finally found the recipe to replace my yellow and white cake mix cupcakes. It's soft and buttery, with a delicately fine crumb. In other words, absolute perfection. They don't even need frosting, but since this is a special occasion* I figured I'd go all-out and top it with THREE toppings, including a chocolate football!
* The Saints winning the NFC Championship, naturally. Superbowl XLIV celebration treats coming soon...
Cinnamon Dulce de Leche Espresso Cupcakes (makes 36)
Adapted from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America
3½ cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
1 Tbl. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, diced & at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, divided
4 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 tsp. vanilla extract
14 oz. can prepared Dulce de Leche (tutorial & recipe here)
Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place paper liners in 36 wells of three muffin tins.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add butter and ½ cup milk. Mix on medium speed until smooth, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, egg whites, remaining ½ cup milk and vanilla extract until combined. Add to the batter in 3 additions, mixing for 2 minutes on medium after each addition. Scrape down the bowl between additions.
Divide the batter evenly between the muffin tins. Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched in the center. Cool completely on wire racks.
Spread about 1 heaping teaspoon of Dulce de Leche on each cupcake. Top with a generous swirl of Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream (frosts about 36 cupcakes)
4 egg whites
1¼ cup sugar
2 Tbl. espresso powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 Tbl. vanilla extract
Place the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl; whisk to combine. Place bowl over a small saucepan of gently simmering water (double boiler set-up). Heat egg white mixture to 160°F, whisking constantly. The mixture will become thin and foamy as you approach 160°F.
Pour the heated egg white mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add espresso powder. Beat on high speed with the whisk attachment for 7-9 minutes, until stiff peaks form and mixture has cooled. The mixture MUST be cooled to room temperature before proceeding.
With the mixer running at medium speed, add the butter, 2 Tablespoons at a time. Allow the butter to incorporate before adding more. As you add butter, the appearance of the mixture will go from a fluffy meringue to a thin, cake batter-like consistency. Once all the butter has been incorporated, increase the speed to medium high and beat until an emulsion forms and the mixture has transformed into a thick & smooth icing. (How long this will take depends on the starting temperature of both the egg white mixture and the butter pieces, so be patient. Pay attention as the mixture is whipping--you'll hear a definite difference in sound when the buttercream is ready.) Add vanilla extract and beat on low speed for a minute or two to incorporate and to reduce any air bubbles.