Sunday, August 29, 2010

Princess Cake Cupcakes

Even though it's fairly obvious who's going to win Hoosier Homemade's Summertime Cupcake Challenge I figured I might as well see it through to the bitter end. More like a sweet end because cupcakes are involved but you know what I mean. The final week's theme was to use candy to decorate some summer-themed cupcakes.

Faithful readers of my blog may have noticed that I tend to focus more on the flavor of my cupcakes than on how they look. While I do put some effort into making them look appealing, I rarely take the time to do anything more elaborate than a little garnish or sprinkles. I guess my cupcake philosophy is that I'd rather my cupcakes taste good than look exquisite. I hardly see the point in laboring over intricate decorations that will be admired for a second and then cast aside so the cupcake eater can get to the actual cupcake. If it's going to distract from the taste of my cupcake I don't want it on there. So for this leg of the competition I wanted my candy decoration to not only tie into and enhance the flavor of the cupcake but also to be as edible and enjoyable as the cupcake itself.

For the past few years, every June I and most of my extended family have converged upon the Monterey/Carmel area of California to celebrate my grandmother's latest birthday. We all know we're lucky to still have her around and so healthy at the age of 97 (and counting) so it's a real cause for celebration and a great occasion to get everyone together. While the family time is an important part of the trip, another part I look forward to is our visit to a local bakery there that specializes in Princess Cakes. If you've never had a Princess Cake you are truly missing out. Sponge cake layered with pastry cream, whipped cream, and jam all topped with one of my favorite foods: marzipan. Doesn't get any better than that!

These cupcakes attempt to recreate the goodness of a Princess Cake in cupcake form. It's traditional to top the cake with pastel green marzipan, adorn it with pink marzipan flowers, and wrap a beautiful ribbon around the base of the cake. Marzipan is one of my favorite candies so I was all too happy to garnish my cupcakes with mini marzipan roses. I looked forward to eating the garnish just as much as I looked forward to eating the cupcakes.

Following Bakerella's tutorial for rolled roses I tinted a portion of my marzipan pink and shaped strips into cute little roses. I may have sampled one or two along the way merely as part of the testing process.

I'm lucky/spoiled enough to have Princess Cake flavoring (sold by King Arthur Flour) so I replaced the vanilla called for in 125 Best Cupcake Recipes' "Princess Cupcakes" recipe with that for a hint of almond, vanilla, and citrus flavors. To create mini Princess Cakes I lopped off the top of each cupcake and flipped it over so each cake would have a wide base with a tapered top.

Then I sliced each cupcake in half and applied large dollops of whipped cream and jam.

After reassembling and topping each cupcake with a generous spoonful of pastry cream they were ready to be coated in marzipan. The marzipan was tinted green to resemble a traditional Princess Cake, rolled out, and draped over each cupcake. It was my first time working with a fondant-like covering so I did have a little trouble smoothing it all out but I eventually whipped it into shape. Any fussy spots could also be covered by the ribbon, which serves the dual purpose of looking pretty and hiding all manner of ills.

The roses were attached by making a small indentation in the top of each cupcake filled with a drop of whipped cream to help keep the rose in place. Until you're ready to devour yours, of course, because this is one decoration you won't want to set aside!

Princess Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from 125 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 egg whites
1 tsp Princess Cake Flavor OR 1 tsp vanilla plus 1/4 tsp almond extract
1 cup buttermilk

1) Preheat oven to 350 F and line 12 cupcake wells with paper liners.
2) In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3) In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter until well combined. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk, making three additions of flour mixture and two additions of buttermilk. Beat until combined.
4) Scoop batter into prepared pan. Bake 22 to 27 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on rack.

Cream Filling
Recipe adapted from Food Network

1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
Granulated sugar

1) Bring the milk and vanilla bean to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minute.
2) Whisk the eggs, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a bowl until smooth. Add half of the milk into the bowl containing the eggs, whisking constantly, then return the mixture to the saucepan containing the remaining milk, whisking over moderate heat.
3) Continue whisking until the mixture thickens. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer into another bowl, cover surface with plastic wrap, and allow to cool completely.
4) Whip heavy cream and sugar (to taste). Fold into the cooled pastry cream and refrigerate, covered, until chilled (approximately one hour).

To Assemble

1/2 cup heavy cream
Granulated sugar
1 1/2 pounds marzipan*
1/4 cup jam (apricot or raspberry is traditional but any type will work)
Red/pink food coloring
Green food coloring

1) Whip heavy cream and sugar (to taste).
2) Remove the paper liners from cupcakes, cut the top off of each cupcake, and flip over. Cut each in half horizontally and spread a small spoonful of whipped cream and jam onto each bottom layer. Replace top and spoon a scant tablespoon of pastry cream on top of each.
3) Tint approx. four ounces of marzipan pink and shape into roses.
4) Tint the remaining marzipan green, divide and roll out into a thin layer (1/10"). You may need to use confectioners' sugar on your rolling surface and rolling pin. Drape over the cupcake, smoothing wrinkles by hand, and trim excess marzipan off around the base. Wrap a length of ribbon around the base and secure with tape. With your finger, make a small indentation in the top of the cupcake, add a dab of whipped cream, and press a pink rose into place. Pipe additional whipped cream as decoration if desired.

* As this will be ridiculously expensive, a cheaper but less pretty option would be to cut a cone out of the cooled cupcakes, fill with pastry cream and jam, then replace cone and top with whipped cream and a disc of marzipan.


Kathryn said...

YUMMMM! I love princess cakes, I could eat an entire cake myself, this would be a much better option for me. :) Thanks for the recipe!

Heather said...

That looks great! I'm a new follower!

Red Couch Recipes said...

My daughter (14) , who has a blog, but has been MIA recently, came home from school today and said she knew what she wanted to make for her blog next...guess what? A princess cake...she has never made one before or eaten one! Your princess cake cupcakes look so delectible...I wish you could shoot me one. Thanks for the yummy recipe! Joni

Van said...

Wooow- beautiful! Those are wonderful looking cupcakes. I wish I had more time to bake!

Lori@Paisley Passions said...

I am hosting a Thursday Linky called Thrilling Thursday. I would love for you to stop by and link up!
Thrilling Thursdays @Paisley Passions

Lori@Paisley Passions said...

Thanks for linking up! I hope you will join in again next week :)

Sue said...

Your cupcake is beautiful and looks delicious! The recipe sounds amazing!
I really like your sentiment at the very top, under your blog title...I feel like that sometimes too:)

Bella said...

Oh, this looks so good, and Im so with you, I feel like decorations are pointless, for me, since I don't eat them, even marzipan, but I LOVE to decorate, so go figure. Since most people want fancy decorations, I get to work on my creative outlet with them, but for me, shoot, it looks downright horrible, and tasty. I never had princess cake, I don't think, never even heard of it, that happens a lot since I grew up learning the names of food in ROmanian, but this looks really similar to something else we make. Either way, yours turned out great, very pretty, and the inside looks so good. I'd say you were a winner regardless, and I loved her cupcake challenge, wasn't it great??? Bella :)