Saturday, October 8, 2011

Revising - White Russian Cupcakes

Sometimes I get requests, like these for my boyfriend's best friend's birthday, which is today.  When my boyfriend told him I was making White Russian Cupcakes for another friend's birthday party, he flipped and immediately wanted them for his own birthday.  Willing to experiment as always, I obliged.  White Russians are a cocktail consisting of cream, vodka, Kahlúa and sometimes ice.  I've never tasted one, but I was curious to find out how this potent mixture tasted in cake form.

I ran out of cupcake liners, but it still turned out nice :)
Last time I helped make these, they turned out tough, dry, full of large bubbles and far too sweet, likely the results of self-rising flour instead of all-purpose and overmixing.  The final nail in the coffin for the glory of these cupcakes was overbaking, exacerbated by using alcohol in the batter.  Ethanol (the stuff that people drink and burn in their gasoline) dries very quickly.  I've heard it makes a great pie crust when substituted for water, but I have not tried this myself.  Although people kept telling me the cupcakes were great, I personally wasn't too fond of them and was determined to improve.  With a new recipe and some adjustments, however, I was able to transform the disasters of time past into a subtly flavored, moist and soft cupcake.  

Oh, dear, poor indoor lighting.  I wanted to show the (early) 2-year anniversary present my wonderful boyfriend got me!  It's a beautiful cooling rack that slides out from one to become one that's 3x the size!  Isn't he sweet? :)

I messed around with a Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake from the blog Baking Bites and borrowed a few elements from White Russian Cupcakes from the blog Baked Perfection.  The frosting is an improvised Swiss Buttercream, the original recipe from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle.  My friend helped me for this one.  Along with being a very sweet and kind person, her arm muscles are amazing.  She told me she got a lot of practice with egg whites at home, since her family is originally from a place where there is no electricity.  

Here she is, with the meringue just beginning to firm up.  She is much stronger than I am!

White Russian Cupcakes from Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake + White Russian Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1½ cups sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vodka (optional, it only adds a touch of alcohol) 
2 tablespoons Kahlúa (coffee liquor)
1¼ cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons lemon juice
(Original recipe called for buttermilk.  I made my own with half-and-half and lemon juice)
½ cup vegetable oil 

2 mixing bowls, 1 medium, 1 large
1 wooden spoon (or a sturdy electric mixer if you've got one.  I'm not that lucky)
1 rubber spatula
¼ teaspoon measure
1 teaspoon measure
1 tablespoon measure
2-cup liquid measure
½ cup dry measure 
1 cup dry measure (optional)
1 cupcake pan (2 if you can get them)
24 cupcake liners


1. Line the cupcake pan, then preheat the oven to 350°F.  Pour the half-and-half into the measuring cup, then add the lemon juice.  Stir to mix, then set aside to curdle.

2. In the medium bowl, gently mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, incorporating each one fully before adding the next.  

4. Add a third of the flour mixture and gently fold until there are no streaks of flour left.  Then add the buttermilk (half-and-half and lemon juice) and mix gently until completely combined.  Then add another third of the flour, gently folding.  Now add the vanilla extract, vodka, Kahlúa and vegetable oil, making sure to gently stir.  Add the last third of the flour and gently fold.  The batter will be somewhat lumpy, but that's okay.  

5. Fill each cupcake liner about ¾ full.  Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes.  They will be done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, being careful not to overbake the cupcakes.

Make the Swiss Buttercream while the 'cakes bake.  For convenience, the updated recipe:
The Cake Book, by Tish Boyle.  Half recipe.  Makes about 2 cups

3 egg whites (2½?  The original recipe called for 5 egg whites)
½ tablespoon water
½ cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature and very soft
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ tablespoons Kahlúa (adjust to taste)

1 double boiler/pot with very slow burner
1 whisk
1 large mixing bowl
1 sturdy fork (electric mixer really comes in handy here)
1 very strong friend to alternate with you if you don't have a mixer 
Candy thermometer (optional, I guess.  I didn't have one, and it turned out fine)


1. Mix together the egg whites, water and sugar.  Gently heat until the mixture reaches 160°F, whisking all the time.  You can actually guesstimate at 160°F, but perhaps err on the side of a tad hotter than you'd think.  This step is to help prevent food poisoning.

2. Whip the egg whites into meringue, using the fork or electric mixer.  You should form stiff peaks, but our meringue was at ribbon stage.  We had no mixer and it was already midnight.  O ye pastry chefs, kindly forgive our transgression.

Here she is again, because she is just that awesome.  See her arm go!

3. Once the meringue is cooled completely, carefully beat in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.  When all the butter is in, it will look curdled, but have a little faith, and continue to beat.  It may take several minutes.  At some point, add the vanilla extract and Kahlúa.

You're done! Enjoy the mildly alcoholic fruits of your labor, and don't do this in a dry dorm.

Good to know that although I can now make a parchment cone, I still can't pipe...

No comments:

Post a Comment