One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes with Gumdrops
Piped buttercream starbursts and chewy gumdrops make playful toppings for these ever-popular chocolate cupcakes. As the name of the recipe implies, all the ingredients come together in one bowl. Using vegetable oil instead of butter makes an exceptionally moist cake; good quality cocoa powder, such as Valrhona, produces a deep, dark color and the best flavor. White icing and clear gumdrops combine in this elegant monochromatic motif; use multi-colored gumdrops for a more whimsical effect. You can customize the cake flavor by using a different extract in place of the vanilla; for example, anise would complement the clear gumdrops used here (increase amount of extract to 1½ teaspoons). Makes 18
1½ cups all–purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch–process cocoa powder
1½ cups sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup warm water
Swiss Meringue Buttercream (recipe below)
¾ pound gumdrops, for Garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Reduce speed to low. Add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
2. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
3. To finish, fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium French-star tip (Ateco #863 or Wilton #363) with buttercream. Pipe 5 starbursts around perimeter of cupcake, then pipe another starburst in the center. Cupcakes can be stored up to 1 day at room temperature, or refrigerated up to 3 days, in airtight containers. Bring to room temperature and place a gumdrop in the center of each starburst before serving.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
If there is one frosting recipe a home baker should always have on hand, this is it. This all-purpose buttercream has an ultra-silky, stable texture that spreads beautifully over cakes and cupcakes, and can be piped into perfect peaks and patterns. Swiss meringue buttercream is also less sweet than other types of frosting, with a wonderful buttery taste. It can be varied with different extracts, juices, zests, and other flavoring agents, and tinted any shade. Don’t worry if the mixture appears to separate, or “curdle,” after you’ve added the butter; simply continue beating on medium-high speed, and it will become smooth again.
Makes about 5 cups
5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).
2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.
3. With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.
4. (Optional) To tint buttercream (or royal icing), reserve some for toning down the color, if necessary. Add gel-paste food color, a drop at a time (or use the toothpick or skewer to add food color a dab at a time) to the remaining buttercream. You can use a single shade of food color or experiment by mixing two or more. Blend after each addition with the mixer (use the paddle attachment) or a flexible spatula, until desired shade is achieved. Avoid adding too much food color too soon, as the hue will intensify with continued stirring; if necessary, you can tone down the shade by mixing in some reserved untinted buttercream.
Martha's Meyer Lemon Cupcakes
The mild and sweet flavor of Meyer lemon is one of Martha’s favorites; these zest-flecked cupcakes are filled with Meyer lemon curd, which peeks out from the tops. The fruit, which is actually a lemon-orange hybrid, is generally available at specialty stores in winter and early spring. If you can’t find Meyer lemons, use regular lemons instead. The recipe yields a lot of cupcakes, so you may want to consider these for a bake sale or large gathering, such as a shower or special birthday celebration.
3½ cups all–purpose flour, sifted
2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice (from 1 to 2 Meyer lemons)
½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons coarse salt
1¾ cups (3½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
7 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Lemon Curd (made with Meyer lemons; below)
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, zest, baking powder, and salt.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in cream cheese. Reduce speed to low. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in lemon juice and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, beating until just combined after each.
3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
4. To finish, dust cupcakes with confectioners’ sugar. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a coupler and a medium round tip (#8) with curd. Insert tip into top of each cupcake, and squeeze some curd below top to fill the inside, then lift the tip and squeeze more curd in a pool on top. Filled cupcakes can be kept at room temperature up to 1 hour (or refrigerated a few hours more) before serving.
A high proportion of lemon juice gives curd its intense flavor. As an acid, the juice also prevents the yolks from curdling when heated (unlike when making pastry cream, which requires the extra step of tempering). You can substitute an equal amount of juice from other citrus, such as lime, grapefruit, or blood orange.
Makes about 2 cups
2 whole eggs plus 8 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
⅔ cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
Combine whole eggs and yolks, sugar, and lemon juice in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Strain through a fine sieve into another bowl, and cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap, pressing it directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days).
Fourth of July Cupcakes
Tiny blue buttercream stars and red licorice stripes create a patriotic batch of cupcakes to celebrate Independence Day. Festive
24 Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes (below) or One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes (above)
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Blue gel–paste food color
1 small bag red licorice laces
1. Tint 1 cup buttercream bright blue with gel-paste food color. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip (#4). Using an offset spatula, spread each cupcake with a smooth layer of untinted buttercream. Cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature before decorating
2. To finish, cut licorice laces into seventy-two 1 ½ inch-long pieces and seventy–two ¾ inch–long pieces. Arrange three longer pieces and three shorter pieces to form a flag pattern on each cupcake. With blue frosting, pipe nine dots in each open corner to form “stars.”
Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes
You will likely make these cupcakes again and again, varying the frosting (say, dark chocolate) and sprinkles (sparkly, multicolored, or otherwise) to suit your whim or fancy. Two types of flour contribute to the cupcakes’ singular texture: Cake flour makes for a delicate crumb, while all-purpose flour keeps them from being too tender. Makes 36
3 cups cake flour (not self–rising...