Monday, February 20, 2006
President's Day Cupcakes
Almond cake with surprise cherry center.
Cupcakes with surprise centers have been around since Hostess introduced us to the Twinkie in 1930 and are becoming more popular than ever with home bakers. That may be thanks in part to Marcianne Miller's book, The Artful Cupcake which demonstrates cupcakes with flavors baked in as well as some whose tops are lopped off then filled. Then the tops are carefully replaced before being iced. Personally, I think there is an easier way center-fill a baked cupcake, but I'll talk about that another time, perhaps.
In honor of President's Day, I thought ol' George would appreciate a cupcake with a cherry center. Since I didn't find a recipe I really liked the look of and since I'm prone to stick with recipes that I already know will work, even when you fiddle with them a little, I went back to one of my favorites, Colette Peters' white cake. I also really like the base flavor and texture of this cake. The recipe describes the cake as having a flavor similar to angel food cake. The texture is firmer than angel food but still very tender and moist. This is also a cake I've used for sculpting and it holds together really well.
Before the cake, I had to figure out the filling.
I knew I wanted to bake the filling into the cupcake and since I was experimenting, it didn't much matter to me whether or not the filling turned the cake pink.
Along with Grommie-proof recipes, I'm a big proponent of using what I already have on hand. Over the summer I preserved a few jars of Bing cherries (just place cherry halves in half pint jars and fill jars to the top with Kirsch and hide them in the back of the fridge) and I keep boxes of Danish Junket pie filling on hand for making cake fillings.
I find this at the local Amish Market.
Prepare the Junket by mixing the 4 3/4 oz. packet with 2 cups water and boil for 1 minute. Let cool slightly.
In another pan, place the contents of one half pint jar of preserved cherries and about 1 cup of prepared Junket and reduce the mixture by half. Allow to cool while preparing the cake batter.
Measure your ingredients according to the recipe...
8 ounces each all-purpose flour and cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temp.
21 ounces sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. almond extract
1 cup egg whites, at room temp.
1 1/2 cups milk, at room temp.
Egg whites? Nope, don't have those but I have Egg Beaters. Close enough.
Geez, who drank all the milk?!?
Enter the hero.
I didn't bother with adding water, I just used the whole can.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with papers. Sift together flours and baking powder. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
This is not fluffy.
My kitchen was a little on the cool side today, so it took longer than usual to get to the fluffy stage.
I got it eventually.
Add salt and almond extract and mix well. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk, mixing after each addition and ending with the milk. Mix just until combined. Do not overmix.
Fill cupcake pans 1/3 full of cake batter.
Fill a disposable pastry bag with cherry filling and snip off enough to allow cherry halves to pass through.
Place about one tablespoon of cherry filling in the center of each batter.
Cover each filling with batter.
Luckily for me, this batter is not a high riser or my cupcakes would have been huge. Just be sure not to fill papers completely full or you'll have frisbees on top of your cupcakes.
Wait patiently next to Jar Jar Binks for the cupcakes to bake (20 - 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out with moist crumbs. Allow to cool in pans 5 minutes.).
Some variations -- regular filled, filled and topped with chopped almonds (this wasn't that great), cherry filling blended (CheesePuff liked these mostly because they were pink), mini blended with cherry jewels on top (these would be cute with a finger dessert assortment).
Allow to cool completely then top with powdered sugar or Marshmallow Icing.
I used Bing cherries because that's what I had on hand. Preserved sour cherries would have been a nice contrast to the sweetness of the cake and icing (and probably more historically correct for the story of Mr. Washington's tree fiasco).