Sunday, September 4, 2011

cherry cream vanilla bean cupcakes

This cupcake was supposed to be something else altogether. I had envisioned perfect squares of white cake, thick layers of pastry cream and bright red cherry jam, as inspired by this cake. Yeah, that didn't happen. My cake layers shrunk as they cooled, rendering my perfect squares impossible. (I need a new favorite white cake recipe... I'm never making that one again!) My pastry cream didn't set properly, and oozed out everywhere. Although awesome in itself, the cherry jam just mingled with the pastry cream instead of creating the perfect red layer I wanted. Fail! But someday this cake will see the light of day. And it will be amazing. But for now, it got reinvented into these cupcakes.

As I couldn't trust my regular white buttermilk cake recipe, I used a recipe I had used once before, about three years ago for my oldest daughter's first birthday. An adaptation of Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. The batter is great to work with, as it can be neatly scooped into cupcake liners. It creates nicely domed cupcakes that are moist and flavorful, but on the dense side of the spectrum.

Perfect Party Cupcakes
recipe adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan via Annie's Eats
makes 20 cupcakes

2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 stick (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar and the seeds from a vanilla bean. Mix them with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter to the sugar mixture and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Add one third of the flour mixture, continuing to beat on medium speed. Beat in half of the egg mixture, then half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogenous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Using a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop, divide the batter between the cupcake liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the cakes are well-risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted in the centers should come out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to cooling racks and cool to room temperature.

Not sure it's the perfect white cake recipe, but it made a pretty good base for this new to me frosting, made by using egg yolks and a cooked syrup. I guess that's one of the many buttercreams out there, the French buttercream, that I flavored using my homemade cherry jam. It was only my second time making fancy buttercream (meaning, not the butter and powdered sugar kind) and I have to admit that it is quite a bit more complicated than the mix butter with powdered sugar kind.

First off, my mixer is too big to whip up a few eggs properly, so I had to take the hand mixer to it, and I don't think I got them light enough. Then I cooked the syrup which went fine. I poured the syrup on the side of the mixer bowl while whipping the eggs, but because the level of ingredients was still a bit low for my mixer, it didn't mix as fast as I had hoped. I could see tiny bits of cooked egg in my frosting which was worrisome, but when all the syrup was added and had whipped forever until it was cool, I couldn't see, feel or taste the cooked eggs, so I proceded with the recipe and added the butter. My butter was really, really soft. Too soft. After I added it all to the eggs-sugar mixture, I put the whole thing in the fridge for a little bit to let it firm up before whipping again, to get a nice piping consistency.

Cherry French Buttercream
adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible via Delish
Makes 4 cups

6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup liquid corn syrup
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
about 1/2 cup cherry jam

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks until they are pale in color and thick, 3-5 minutes.

Heat the sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a rolling boil.

Pour a small amount of the syrup over the eggs in the mixer, and beat until incorporated. Continue until all the syrup is used up, and the mixture is pale and sticky, like liquid taffy. Continue beating until the mixture is completely cool (or you will melt the butter and ruin the frosting).

Beat in the butter, one stick at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding in the next. When all the butter is added and the buttercream looks dreamy, add cherry jam, tasting and adding jam until it tastes just right to you.

My husband love store bought icing, so his opinion is no good, but I thought the buttercream was nice and light, not very sweet, so the added sweetness from the cherry jam worked really well. It absolutely has to be served at room temperature, or else it would be like eating butter. It sure is different than what we are used to, but still good. I think it's something your palate has to get used to before declaring your love for it.

Since I had made cherry jam to be used in my original cake, I decided to flavor my buttercream with it. I usually only eat cherries when they are in season and fresh, never cooked, despise the canned pie filling, don't like the jam. So I'm not sure why I decided that cherry jam had to be made, but I'm so glad I did! Fresh jam is so different than the grocery store variety! It tastes like cherries! It's not gloopy. Doesn't have great big chunks of weirdly textured fruit. It's awesome! And pretty easy, until you use a pot that's way too small, and it boils over and jam spills all over your stove top. Oh well. Lesson learned. When making jam, use a big pot!

Cherry Jam
recipe adapted from kraft

In a large saucepan, stir together 4 cups stemmed, pitted and chopped sweet cherries, 1/4 cup lemon juice, a one box certo pectin crystals. Bring to a boil over high heat, then add 5 cups sugar. Return to hard boil, and boil for one minute. Remove from heat, stir and skim for 5 minutes to prevent floating fruit. Pour into warm, sterilized jars.


  1. These look stunning and delicious! I would love one right now :)

  2. These look absolutely beauuttiffullll! I can only imagine how gorgeous they taste also, definitely saving this little stunner (even though im not a big cupcake maker i think i might make an exception... :) )

  3. these look beyond perfect!! so dainty and perfect! I want to throw a tea party in their honor. LOVE IT. xx


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