For the last six weeks, I attended a pastry class at L'Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg. After my first class, I applied to Le Cordon Bleu for the intensive patisserie program. I knew that when I didn't want to leave after spending three hours in the classroom that I could do this all the time. Up until last weekend, I hadn't made any of the recipes from the class. So while I was in Philly for Easter with my brother's family, I volunteered to make dessert. No one seemed that excited when I said I was making cupcakes, but I wanted to re-try the buttercream icing recipe that didn't turn out during class.
Lynn (my sister in law) and I took my nieces to the store and bought the ingredients - the 4 pounds of butter was a little much, but I needed 20 ounces for the icing alone. That is almost 5 sticks of butter, trust me, the end result was worth it. I made the butter cake recipe for the cupcakes, not a complicated French genoise (sponge cake). In class, the teacher made that recipe for the class while we made a roulade from the genoise recipe. So it was new to me, but very easy. Lucy and Rose helped me measure and tossed the ingredients into the mixer bowl, Rose is just three, so I had to be sure she wasn't tossing in egg shells or dollhouse toys. When the batter was mixed, it was so good -- everyone wanted to lick the bowl! I think Rosie had too much, she had a sugar fit soon afterwards (sorry Lynn). The oven was busy, so I made the icing while the potatoes and asparagus cooked, and waited to bake the cupcakes. It was crowded in the kitchen, luckily the lamb was being grilled outside.
The buttercream recipe is based on Italian meringue - egg whites beaten with sugar and water that have been boiled to 'soft-ball' stage. I made the girls stand far away as I poured the boiling mixture into the egg whites beating in the mixer. Hot sugar water hurts! When I made the recipe in class, some of the mixture hit the sides of the bowl and immediately cooled into sugar lumps. This is what I wanted to remedy with this try, and it worked - no little lumps in my buttercream. Phew - success! Then as I added the butter, it just didn't look right, it had the consistency of over-whipped cream. Like tiny bits of butter in a watery sauce. Yuck. I wasn't sure if it was melting, if I beat it too much, or messed up the measurements. Of course, by this point everyone was in the kitchen wanting to taste and see what was going on, making me a little stressed. I don't usually stress out if I cook by myself, but this was the first time I had made anything in public, and wanted it to be perfect.
Dinner was delicious, and after two glasses of wine, the cupcake fiasco seemed a little less important. While everyone else chatted after dinner, I got the icing out of the fridge, and decided my mistake had been not beating it enough. When I got the icing in the mixer again, I turned it on high and beat the hell out of it for two minutes. And voila! Perfection. It was a huge relief. And by then I was sweating a little with anxiety, no one wants to ruin Easter dinner with a gross dessert.
I hollowed out a little hole in the middle of the cupcake with a sharp knife, like coring the stem from a tomato, and poured in a little chocolate ganache (the easiest french icing - chocolate and cream). If I had more time, I would have refrigerated the cupcakes to harden the filling a bit before icing them. I spooned out some buttercream to tint, I saw a Martha Stewart magazine this spring with multi-colored cupcakes on a plate and thought they looked so pretty. Yellow, peach, pink, geranium, orange, and lavender. Starting with plain old grocery store food coloring, I added yellow to the butter cream and iced a few cupcakes. Then a little red to make peach, a little more to get orange, then more and more red until I got the pink tones, and then a little blue to get the lavender (that was the hardest color to get right). Lucy sprinkle some colored sugar on them and we arranged them on a plate to serve.
I was so tired of looking at them, I didn't even have a cupcake until two days later, but everyone seemed to like them, even saying that they were the best cupcakes ever! I think the chocolate filling made them so special, and that was something I didn't learn in class, I just came up with it - not that it hasn't been done before. I didn't take a photo of them - stupid, but I might make them again for my graduation party. I think they would be great as mini cupcakes, I love desserts that are just one bite!