Sunday, March 6, 2011

Adventures in Cupcakery

Settle in, this one is long.  Today I spent all afternoon baking and icing cupcakes in preparation for our upcoming nuptuals.  See, two of my aunts are baking Mr. Pocket's and my wedding cake, and have been asking me what kind of cake we want.  My friend Joyce had posted a link last week to this blog:  When she posted the link, I thought it looked so delicious and so festive that perhaps we could use that as our wedding cake recipe.  Since my aunts live across the country, I figured I'd test drive the recipe myself.  Mr. Pocket was very much in favor of this idea - he's generally in favor of any idea that comes with cupcakes.  We decided that since we had no idea what champagne icing would taste like, I would make a half batch of the champagne icing, and a half batch of plain buttercream.  That way, not all the cupcakes would be ruined if the champagne icing was awful.  So with a plan, a trip to the grocery store, and my new electric hand mixer, I was off...

And making a colossal mess.  Lowest setting on the hand mixer is "spray whatever you're mixing all over the place."  And I'm already incapable of baking anything without making a huge mess.  So I needed a solution.

Baking parchment to the rescue!

So now I was free to move about the mixing bowl without spraying the counter with butter and sugar.  Fantastic.  Rolling right along, I love baking, everything's great, I even found a way to keep my eggs from rolling all over the counter while I added them one-at-a-time:


No more problems, the batter comes together beautifully (and quite tastily, as of course I had to taste-test as I went along) and I'm filling the cupcake cups...


And... oops.  Dropped the spoon.  And it bounced off my shoe on the way to the floor.  Don't worry, I got a clean one to continue filling cupcake cups.

"Cleanup, aisle me."

So I got the cupcakes in the oven and they're baking happily away and I even managed to cope with my stunning lack of cooling racks (2 small ones is not enough for 31 cupcakes, in case you've ever wondered).  Cupcake mixing bowls and utensils are all clean so now it's time to rock out with the icing, right?  So on to the cheap champagne...

This stuff had a screw cap.  Oh well.  I got it free, regifted from one of Mr. Pocket's coworkers.  What could I expect?

So you're supposed to boil the champagne to reduce it to a super thick, super concentrated, syrupy sort of stuff.  Mmm.  Kind of disgusting by itself, actually.  But I got the bubbly bubbling away on the stove...

Bubble, bubble, toil and... nevermind.

And while that's going and then cooling, I proceed to follow the blogger's directions for the basic buttercream icing that it's to be added to.  Butter, powdered sugar, whisk attatchment, ok, here we go...

Oh, dear.  What ensued was what I have dubbed "The Great Buttercreamsplosiontastrophe of 2011."  An event that shall live in infamy.

Say it with me, folks:  Fail-boat!

So, I did what any self-respecting inexperienced baker with a problem she can't quite solve would do:  I called my mother.  Apparently, using a whisk for anything involving butter is a less-than-awesome idea.  Instead of starting over entirely and wasting 2 sticks of butter and 2.5 cups of powdered sugar (at least, more of them than was all over the counter, cabinets, stovetop, wall, toaster, sugar boxes... you get the idea), I switched to the beater attachments and tried to salvage it, per Mom's advice.  My mother is a genius, because it worked.  The butter and sugar creamed together, and I was able to add the champagne-syrup-stuff.

Isn't it a pretty color?

Well, the finished icing was more butter and champagne than anything else (even after I added more sugar), but it successfully covered the cupcakes:


The half-batch of normal buttercream icing, following the instructions on the box of sugar, was a far less eventful experience.  I may have added a little too much milk, which may have been due to just wanting to be finished and therefore just eyeballing the quantity of milk, but it tastes good and wasn't too runny even if I did add perhaps a splash more milk than I should have.


Behold the cupcake. 

The final verdict is that the strawberry cupcake recipe is a keeper, but the jury is hung up on the icing.  It's good, but also kinda weird.  I might have to try it with a slightly less cheap champagne and see if it's better.  I actually am really tempted to try it with a still wine instead, specifically Riesling, because that's my favorite and I think it goes nicely with strawberries :)  For now, though, Mr. Pocket and I are enjoying these little cuppiecakes just the way they are.

Well, maybe I could add a strawberry on top...


Maryanne said...

At least they taste good :)! Perhaps good wine would taste better?!? And, not reducing it, so you don't have a syrupy mess, just the flavor?
Or just the cake and buttercream...just some ideas. But, isn't learning fun?;)!

Lola said...

Very interesting recipes . . . I never thought about using champagne for icing. I would suggest that you try Freixenet - it's a bit better but not so expensive that you'll waste it on this icing. You could try icewine, but that would be very, very expensive and result in very, very, very sweet icing.

You may want to put a Kitchen Aid mixer (6 qt) on your wedding registry. It's a very good investment, and these mixers come with lots of different kind of attachments. There's even an attachment available for ice cream.

Katie said...

I hope you find in time, that the more you cook, the less mishaps will happen.. But everyone drops a spoon every now and then :) Those cupcakes look delish.
When I think of champagne in a desert, I think of zabaglione; its kind of like a fluffy sweet sauce.. Not sure if it would be the best thing for cupcakes though.
As with most wines (or beer)used for cooking, cheap is ok, but I wouldn't cook with it if I won't drink it.