Monday, June 21, 2010

Strawberry Lime Cupcakes

I'm not much of an improviser. It must be the German in me who prefers to strictly follow the rules. Besides, I've found that fussy little things like recipes usually turn out best when the instructions are followed to a T. There's not much room for creativity in my kitchen!

That said, I was clearly feeling especially brave this weekend. That and I lacked the necessary oranges to make this Orange Sour Cream Cake from Baking Bites. I did, however, have an abundance of strawberries and limes that needed to be eaten before I leave for vacation. While tossing them into a nice fruit salad would have been a reasonable and much healthier option, I instead improvised (eek!) and made a few adjustments to the recipe to suit the fruit supply at hand. And you know what? It actually worked! Perhaps this marks the end of an era, an era where I was afraid to experiment or deviate from the written recipe by as little as a single teaspoon. I guess now that I have a little experience under my belt I can afford to take a few risks. I too can conquer the world of creative cupcakery!

This was also my first experiment with Swiss meringue buttercream. I've heard/read its virtues extolled with glowing praise as a far superior alternative to traditional American buttercream, the type made up primarily of butter and powdered sugar. Turns out I prefer my frosting to be sweet, which the Swiss meringue definitely was not. I wound up adding powdered sugar at the end both for taste and to thicken the mixture as I added more and more lime juice for flavor. Not sure I'll bother making it again as it leaves me with a bunch of unwanted egg yolks and requires a lot more time to make, but since I'm still searching for THE buttercream frosting recipe I may keep experimenting with Swiss meringue and traditional buttercream hybrids.

Strawberry Lime Cupcakes with Lime Swiss Meringue Buttercream

1-½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoons salt
½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cups sugar
1 tablespoon lime zest
2 whole large eggs
½ cups plain yogurt
Juice from ½ lime plus enough pureed strawberries to total 1/2 cup

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 cupcake wells with liners.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

3) In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar and lime zest until light in color.

4) Add in eggs one at a time, and beat mixture until smooth and well combined.

5) Mix in one third of the flour mixture, followed by the yogurt. Mix in another third of the flour mixture, followed by the strawberry puree. Stir in all remaining flour, mixing until no streaks of dry ingredients remain.

6) Spoon into prepared liners. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Swiss Meringue Lime Buttercream
Adapted from Crispy Waffle

3 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp lime zest
Juice from 1 lime
Powdered sugar

1) Combine the sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar and water in the stainless steel bowl of an electric mixer. Bring a large pan of water to simmer, making sure that the water is at the same height as the egg whites in your stainless bowl. Set the bowl in the pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Be careful to not curdle the egg whites– simply remove the bowl from the heat for a bit if it feels like that’s happening. Also, you’ll know when it’s getting close to 140 degrees; the mixture will be getting ultra foamy, like the top of a latte.

2) Remove the bowl to your stand mixer and beat on high speed for 3-5 minutes, until the mixture holds glossy, marshmallowy peaks. Remove the meringue to another bowl.

3) In the standing mixer, beat half the butter and one-third of the meringue until well combined. Continue to add the remaining two-thirds of the meringue a dollop at a time. The mixture may look scarily curdled at this point; adding the remaining butter a tablespoon at a time will smooth things out. (Basically, just keep adding a bit of butter at a time until the curdling corrects itself.)

4) With the mixer on low, add the lime zest and lime juice and mix until well combined. Begin to pour in powdered sugar in small increments until the frosting reaches the desired consistency and sweetness.