Boozy Birthday Cupcakes

It's not my birthday nor is it the birthday of anyone I know, or even close to it.  But I bet it could one yours, dear fabulous readers.  And for that, I made you Boozy Birthday Cupcakes!

Boozy Birthday Cupcakes

Actually, I'm lying.  I made these for Brett's birthday back in August, but only now have I found the time to write about them.  We were out of town on his actual birthday, so I brought these cuties to his office a couple weeks after we got home to help celebrate.

I love making over-the-top birthday cakes for my husband Brett each year – like this Funfetti Oreo Cake or this Peanut Butter Donut Drip Cake.  However, I must confess that sometimes I use the opportunity to just make something I personally wanted to test out.  This year, it was kind of a mash-up of some of his favourites and a new recipe I was dying to try.  You guys – Marshmallow Buttercream!!!

Boozy Birthday Cupcakes
Boozy Birthday Cupcakes

This Marshmallow Buttercream was truly like nothing I've ever made before.  It acts like a meringue-based buttercream (like Swiss or Italian meringue), but guess what....No egg whites!  This mystical marshmallow concoction comes from the pastry wiz, Stella Parks.  I've been following Stella's blog, Bravetart, well before I even had a blog myself!  Not only is Stella the mastermind behind the deliciousness AND baking science on Serious Eats, she was also named "one of America’s Best New Pastry Chefs" by Food & Wine.  Let me tell you – she really knows her stuff.  So when I found a recipe for a fluffy, cloud-like buttercream without eggs whites in her new cookbook, I just had to try it!!!

Boozy Birthday Cupcakes
Boozy Birthday Cupcakes
Boozy Birthday Cupcakes

Stable, rich, fluffy, not-to-sweet, and totally dreamy – this Marshmallow Buttercream is definitely a game changer.  If you've been following this blog for a while, then you know how much I love Swiss meringue buttercream.  I love it for its silky, smooth qualities and how it glides over layer cakes so effortlessly.  I've come around to using whipped American buttercream from time to time (I used to hate it) because of its convenience and lack of egg whites.  But a buttercream that's not super sweet like American buttercream that doesn't require a ton of egg whites?  Count me in!!

This recipe starts with a basic homemade marshmallow recipe.  I'll admit, it is a bit time consuming and you still have to boil sugar (I promise it's not as scary as it sounds).  But guys, it's totally worth it!  I added a big glug of bourbon and just enough pure vanilla to make these a bit boozy and 100% fun.  

Be sure to pick up a copy of Stella's new book for the full recipe!!

My Favorite Devil’s Food Cupcake Recipe
4 ounces dark chocolate (about 70%), chopped
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ¼ cup boing water
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant espresso
1 cup unsalted butter, very soft – slightly melty
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
3 large eggs
½ cup milk 

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake pan and set aside.

2. Combine the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, and boiling water together.  Stir to combine and set aside.

3. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

4. Using an electric mixer, combine the super soft butter with the sugars.  Mix for a couple minutes until thoroughly combined.

5. Add the vanilla, almond, and eggs – one at a time, making sure each in incorporated before adding in the next.  Stop mixing and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

6. With the mixer on low, stream in the chocolate mixture until combined.

7. Slowly add in half of the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Stream in the milk.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

8. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until combined.

9. Evenly divide the batter into the cupcake pans and bake until done, about 22 to 24 minutes.

10.  Let cool on a cooling rack before frosting.

 

Boozy Meringue Buttercream
½ cup (120 ml) egg whites (from about 3 to 4 large eggs)
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks – 340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
1/4 bourbon, or to taste
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (optional)

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, add the egg whites and granulated sugar.  Whisk them together briefly by hand, just until they are combined so that the egg whites don’t begin cooking by themselves.

2. Fill a sauce pan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer.  Place the mixer bowl with the egg white mixture on top to create a double-boiler. The water should be kept at a simmer but should not touch the bottom of the bowl.  The double-boiler acts as indirect heat for the egg white mixture. 

 3. Occasionally stirring, heat the egg white mixture until it reaches 155 to 160 degrees F on a candy thermometer.  The mixture should be very hot to the touch and the sugar should have dissolved. 

 4. Once the egg white mixture is hot, carefully return the bowl to the stand mixer.  Fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high speed for about 8 minutes.  When done, the meringue should hold shiny, medium-stiff peaks and be cooled to room temperature.  Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.

5. With the mixer on low, begin adding in the butter a couple tablespoons at a time.  Use the paddle attachment to mix it in.  The butter must be room temperature in order to incorporate properly with the meringue.  Mix until combined.

6. Once the butter has been mixed in, add the bourbon, vanilla bean seeds (if using) and the vanilla extract.

7. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and mix until silky smooth.  This may take a few minutes, but keep mixing until light, creamy, and free from most air bubbles.

Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel

Classic chocolate cake layers with caramel buttercream and coconut caramel drizzle.  It's like liquid gold!!

Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel

I have a lot of mixed feelings heading into this post.  Mostly feelings of content, but there's a not so happy reason why I am sharing this particular cake on this particular day.  Don't get me wrong, this might be one of the best tasting cakes I've had in a long time (and I eat A LOT of cake).  You might even say it's life-chaging!  But it's not the only thing changing my life right now... 

Chocolate Cake with Caramel Buttercream - Tessa Huff
Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel
Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel

Today is a great day, so let's start with the good news: THIS CAKE!!!!  I make so much cake that I tire of it rather quickly.  I test recipes weekly and always have cake in the house, in some form or another.  It takes a really outstanding recipe like this that brings me back for slice after slice instead of just forcing the leftovers on my neighbors or shoving it in the freezer.

This might be one of the tastiest chocolate cakes ever.  It is moist without feeling oily or heavy and full of chocolate flavor.  Thanks to a healthy dose of buttermilk and yogurt keeping it nice and tender, each bite pretty much melts in your mouth.  The one thing that makes this chocolate cake even better?  CARAMEL!!  

Chocolate Cake with Caramel Buttercream

Two things intriguided me about this caramel sauce.  1) there is an option to use coconut milk instead of cream and 2) it is made using a dry method (which I'd never done before).  I thought it might be like any other salted caramel sauce that I've made, but I was pleasantly surprised!  Terrified yes, but happy with the results.

In my go-to caramel sauce, I use a wet method.  I start by bringing sugar, water, and a little squirt of corn syrup to a boil before adding in butter and cream to make the caramel saucey.  The corn syrup keeps the sugar from crystallizing and you don't even have to stir or use a thermometer.  Just watch as it turns from cloudy to boiling to golden!

With a dry caramel method, you melt white sugar in a dry skillet.  Won't it burn?  Won't it turn into a horrific mess?  I held my breath the entire time, but it worked!  The sugar melts on its on rather than burns.  It turns the same deep amber color as the wet method, before stirring in butter and cream (coconut cream, in this case) and then bringing it back to a boil until thick and glossy and delicious.  I love the addition of the subtle coconut flavor, but you could use heavy cream.  The coconut isn't overbearing, but pairs beautifully with the chocolate layers and just elevates the entire cake.

ChocolateCaramelCake_02.jpg
Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel
Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel
Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Caramel

This Chocolate Caramel Cake is from Tieghan Gerard's new cookbook, Half Baked Harvest.  Named after her hugely popular blog, this highly anticipated book has it all!!  From spectacular snack boards and over-the-top desserts to easy weeknight dinners and pics of her family goats, this gorgeous book is packed full of recipes and Tieghan's signature food styling and photography.  I've been following Tieghan's work for years - watching her grow into an Internet super-star with an extensive catalog of delicious, creative recipes to back her up.  She started cooking as a teen for her family of 7(!!!) and blossomed not only into one of the most recognizable young food bloggers but also a charming, mature, and dedicated young woman.  Congrats, girl!  You totally deserve every ounce of success and recognition!

Chocolate Cake with Caramel Buttercream

I chose today to share this cake because I was supposed to be on a flight to Denver this afternoon.  I was invited by Tieghan and her team to join a small group of food bloggers for a culinary retreat in Colorado to celebrate the release of her book.  I don't ever get out on my own like that and this was one of the first big industry meet-ups that I was asked to attend.  I was thrilled!!!  Brett was equally excited and we made all the necessary arrangements for me to take my first solo trip since Everett was born.  Last week, I unfortunately had to cancel...

As I said in the beginning of this post, I write this with very mixed feelings.  Today I fell great and I am mostly content, but I've been dealing with some recurring health issues... I thought my episode with Mal de Debarquement was a one-time thing last year, but it looks like it might be something that I will have to consider forever.  

What's that fancy french word you ask?  MdDS is similar to land sickness.  Ever get off a long flight or a cruise and still feel a bit wobbly for a few hours?  Now imagine that feeling but it doesn't go away for weeks, months, and sometimes years.  I had my first experience with MdDs last year after flying to California and back.  I wrote about my month stuck in bed in this post.  The syndrome is most easily described as something similar to vertigo, but a feeling of rocking/bobbing/swaying instead of spinning. I was given the rare diagnosis last year after landing myself in the ER.  It felt like I was in a row boat in a hurricane.  Thankfully, symptoms eventually subsided and I went into "remission" about 4 to 6 weeks later...

Since I've pretty much felt fine this past year, aside from the motion sickness and migraines I typically get, I thought it was a one-time thing and had no reservations about traveling again.  With my history of motion sickness and migraines, I guess it's no surprise to learn that this could always come back... After our family vacation to Toronto last month, it came back.  Thankfully symptoms were much much milder, but enough for me to come to a realization that I will always be susceptible to MdDS.  

Chocolate Cake with Caramel Buttercream

For the past few weeks, I've been researching symptoms and treatments all while feeling like I am floating around on a pool raft.  There aren't really any "cures," but only ways to manage symptoms and some preventative tips for when you might encounter a trigger (traveling).  I was terrified at first.  What if it never goes away?  What if it gets worse?  Will I ever travel again?  For the first time, I joined an online support group.  Reading about what other people were going through was equal parts comforting and terrifying.  Some had mild symptoms like me while others were suffering for years and years.  

It was devastating when I canceled this highly anticipated trip to Colorado, but I am determined not to let fear keep me from traveling ever again.  I am learning so much now about triggers and how to manage my symptoms (lots of rest and low-stress, two things that I constantly struggle with on a daily basis).  My family doctor suggested I book another appointment with my neurologist (scary that I have one of those now, but it's for my migraines) to discuss vestibular migraines and a treatment plan for when I do eventually travel again.  Just last night, Brett and I booked our flights home for Christmas.  I'm a little scared of what will happen, but mostly feeling excited and confident that I can overcome this terrible illness and not let it control my life.  I read that it's life-altering, not life-threatening, so I will not let it beat me!  Hopefully optimism wins.  And if not, at least I can drown my sorrows in chocolate cake =) 

Chocolate Caramel Cake
adapted from Half Baked Harvest

For the Chocolate Cake
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup canola oil
4 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup hot coffee

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans and set aside. Stir together the dry ingredients (including the sugar) in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, buttermilk, yogurt, oil, melted chocolate, and vanilla on medium speed for about 3 minutes.  With the mixer on low, add in the dry ingredients in two batches.  Mix until combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.  With the mixer on low, slowly stream in the coffee and mix until combined.

Evenly distribute the cake batter between the prepared pans.  Bake for 3o to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack fro about 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

For the Caramel Buttercream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 to 4 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup caramel sauce, or to taste (recipe to follow)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
splash milk, as needed
pinch salt (optional)

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioner's sugar until incorporated.  Turn the mixer to medium and mix until combined.  Add in the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.  Add more/less caramel, sugar, and milk until desired thickness and sweetness is achieved.  

For the Coconut Caramel Sauce
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups coconut cream, full-fat coconut milk, or heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

In a large, dry skillet, heat the sugar over medium-high heat.  Cook the sugar until it melts into a medium golden color.  Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the butter, a tablespoon at a time.  Whisk in the coconut cream.

Return the skillet to medium heat and cook until thick, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.  Carefully pour into a heat-safe container and cool.  Sauce will thicken as it cools.

Assembly
Place a cooled cake layer on a cake board or serving plate.  Spread on about 1 cup of buttercream with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Top with the next layer of cake and repeat.  Crumb coat the cake with caramel buttercream and chill in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes.

Frost the cake with the remaining buttercream.  Before serving, slightly reheat the caramel so that it flows (should be thicker than honey) and is about room temperature (not too warm or it might melt the buttercream).  Drizzle over the cake (I start by adding drips around the edges, but can you just pour onto the top and then spread around).  The caramel will most likely continue to slowly drip down the cake, so try to not get discouraged - it will still taste amazing!!

Trail Mix Cookies

Sweet, salty, and crunchy - the perfect mix-and-match cookies!  These Trail Mix Cookies are hearty and full of nuts, seeds, fruit, and grains.

Trail Mix Cookies

My baby boy started pre-school on Monday.  Let's all take a moment (mostly just me) to let that sink in...

...

Okay, but seriously – how can that be?!?!  To celebrate, we made these delicious Trail Mix Cookies together.  If that's all you came here for, then go ahead and scroll down.  But if you want to read a bit about my darling boy (even if it's just me and maybe my mom coming back to read this 10 years from now), then keep reading.

Trail Mix Cookies
Trail Mix Cookies

Oh Everett James... I am so proud!  My baby boy is still so sweet, sensitive, and without an aggressive bone in his little body.  But while he still asks for cuddles, he is also brave, silly, and clever.  It's funny, I feel like he is one of lasts ones left of all my friends' kids to go to school/daycare but he is only 2.5 years old.  I didn't start pre-school until I was 3, so who knows.  What I do know is that he is going to thrive in this program.

Everett spends a lot of time with adults so I am excited for him to truly interact with kids his own age.  Sure we go to music class and gymnastics, but this is his first time without mom or our wonderful nanny.  Being around adults all the time has made him quite mature, curious, and patient.  He looks before he leaps and likes to figure things out first instead diving right in.  I swear I can hear the wheels churning is his little brain while he tries to take in a new situation sometimes.  He gets nervous when there are too many kids around, especially when they are being rowdy.  He likes rules and order, unless I'm telling him not to do something that he really wants to do, haha.  Having a January birthday likely means he is the oldest in his new class.  I hope he learns to play hard and be a bit more free-spirited while also being a leader for those little ones that are lot younger than him.

Trail Mix Cookies

Things he's into these day:
– Cars of all kind
– Jumping off the furniture and rough-housing with dad
– Riding his balance bike
– Cooking with mom (mainly smoothies, granola, and cookies/muffins/bread)
– Books
– Learning his letters, numbers, and colors
– Riding the SkyTrain
– Swimming at Nan's house
– Singings songs (nursery rhymes and show tunes, lol)
– Beach life

Trail Mix Cookies

Okay, on to the cookies.... oh these cookies are soooo good!  I literally can't stop eating them and I don't even feel bad about it.  The recipes comes from America's Test Kitchen's latest masterpiece: The Perfect Cookie.  Perfect, indeed!

ATK really nailed this book.  Seriously.  They killed it - in a good way.  It is jam-packed with recipe after recipe for cookies, brownies, and bars – each one tested and retested until perfection.  What I absolutely LOVE about this book is that each and every recipe comes with a section called "Why This Recipe Works" which breaks down not only what the cookies should taste/look/feel like, but all the tips/tricks, techniques, and exact ingredients that went into creating the perfect recipe.  I live for this stuff!!  If you like to know the how's and why's behind your recipes, then get this book!

Trail Mix Cookies
Trail Mix Cookies

I book-marked over a dozen recipes to make, but I ultimately picked the Trail Mix Cookies because I had all of the ingredients already.  All of the ingredients that I wanted to use, that is.  I love this recipe because it is totally customizable.  The base is actually on the healthy-ish side (as far as cookies go) using only a little melted butter, whole wheat flour, and tons of oats.  The fun comes with all the add-ins.  I live for add-ins!  These hearty cookies are filled with an assortment of nuts, seeds, fruit, and a little bit of chocolate (because you can't leave out the chocolate, am I right?).  These were also fun for Everett to make because he got to scoop and toss in so many different ingredients.  In the end, we went with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds (ours were salted and made the cookies perfectly salty/sweet), dried cherries, and chopped walnuts.  Feel free to mix and match your own batch with whatever you have on hand!

Trail Mix Cookies
recipe from The Perfect Cookie

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
splash almond extract (optional)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins, currants)
1/2 cup seeds (pumpkin or sunflower)
1/4 cup toasted, chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds)
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

In a small-medium bowl, stir together the oats, flours, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the butter, egg, vanilla, and almond (is using).  Add in the brown sugar and stir until no clumps remain. Add in the dry ingredients and use a wooden spoon to stir until just combined.  Add in the nuts, seeds, fruit, and chocolate.  Fold until evenly distributed.

Using a mechanical disher, scoop out balls of dough (about 2 tablespoons) and place on the lined baking sheets at least 2-inches apart.  Bake for 14 to 18 minutes (depending on the size of your cookies).  When done, the edges should be set but the center should look almost raw and undercooked.  Let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Thank you the America's Test Kitchen for providing a copy of The Perfect Cookie.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.
 

 

 

Berry Blitz Torte with King Arthur Flour

Simple sponge cake, crispy pillows of meringue, crunchy almonds, silky pastry cream, and juicy seasonal berries - this rustic dessert is a symphony of textures and subtle flavors.  Be sure to bake this Berry Blitz Torte before summer is officially over!

Berry Torte with crispy meringue and pastry cream filling.

Summer is nearly over.  Say it ain't so!!!  For as much as I love fall, I can't believe another summer has breezed by.  I don't even want to think about the all the rain and dark days ahead.... 

While it is still warm out (which it actually is here in Vancouver), I'll be holding on to summer as long as I possibly can.  This includes baking all the berry desserts before they are gone for the season!!  I just stocked up on all the sale organic strawberries and local raspberries.  Have you?  Are you tired of berry desserts yet and already digging out your pumpkin spice and scarves?  I hope not...

Berry Torte with crispy meringue and pastry cream filling.
Berry Torte with crispy meringue and pastry cream filling.

I you are going to make one final berry dessert before we officially say farewell to summer, let it please be this Berry Blitz Torte!  Trust me, it's a winner.  Want to know how I know this?  It's from the amazingly talented chefs over at King Arthur Flour!

Berry Torte with crispy meringue and pastry cream filling.
Berry Torte with crispy meringue and pastry cream filling.
Berry Torte with crispy meringue and pastry cream filling.
Berry Torte with crispy meringue and pastry cream filling.

I made this Berry Blitz Torte with King Arthur Flour a couple months ago for their May #Bakealong.  I did a little Instagram takeover.  Did you join and bake along with us?

Velvety butter cake, crispy meringue, AND silky pastry cream? Yes please! I love the various textures throughout this torte and how the smooth, creamy filling contrasts with the slight crunch of the baked meringue and almond topping. It might seem complex, but the cake and topping layers actually bake up at the same time! Just spread the cloud-like meringue right on top of the cake base before being sprinkled with the cinnamon/almond mixture and baked to perfection.
Berry Torte with crispy meringue and pastry cream filling.
Berry Torte with crispy meringue and pastry cream filling.
I love decadent pastries and unique flavor combinations, but there is something about the simplicity of fresh berries and cream that makes me swoon every time. With a filling as luscious as this vanilla-scented pastry cream you don’t even need frosting! I am thrilled that berries are finally in season. Not only do they “pop” in color against the pillows of meringue and pastry cream, but also they add a burst of sweet/tart flavour to each bite. Today I went with sliced strawberries and juicy raspberries, but feel free to swap in whatever berries you like! Be sure to tag your tortes #bakealong with @stylesweetca so that I can see your sweet creations!
Berry Torte with crispy meringue and pastry cream filling.

Be sure to join King Arthur Flour every month for a new #Bakealong.  For the recipe for the Berry Blitz Torte, click here.

Milk Chocolate Cloud Angel Food Cupcakes

Pillow-soft fluffs of Angel Food Cupcakes topped with cloud-like milk chocolate meringue buttercream.

Milk Chocolate Cloud Angel Food Cupcakes

It’s very rare that I ever have leftover egg whites.  With all of the Swiss meringue buttercream I make every week, it is usually leftover egg yolks that I’m scrambling to get rid of.  But every now and then, after I’ve made a big batch of pastry cream or have been craving ice cream, I find myself with an abundance of egg whites.  As I stood in front of the refrigerator, tummy growling, I just knew this batch of whites were destined for Angel Food Cake – or cupcakes, as was the case that fateful day (yesterday)…

Milk Chocolate Cloud Angel Food Cupcakes
Milk Chocolate Cloud Angel Food Cupcakes
Milk Chocolate Cloud Angel Food Cupcakes

The best way to describe these cupcakes are literal clouds – springy, fluffy, squishy, pillowy goodness.  Even the milk chocolate frosting is light and heavenly!  They are so satisfying to bite into – not just because of the delicious flavours, but for the inimitable texture.  Neither box mix nor commercially made Angel Food could ever yield that kind of fluffiness.  Clouds this adorable could only be completed with a sprinkling of pastel jimmies and sugar hearts.  So stinkin’ cute, right?!?!

Milk Chocolate Cloud Angel Food Cupcakes
Milk Chocolate Cloud Angel Food Cupcakes
Milk Chocolate Cloud Angel Food Cupcakes
Milk Chocolate Cloud Angel Food Cupcakes

To be honest, I’ve never actually made Angel Food Cake from scratch before.  Again, I typically have an excess of yolks stashed in my fridge, and I hate adding to it unless a craving really strikes.  Also, I don't have a tube pan.  Did you know you are supposed to not only leave the inside of a tube pan ungreased when making chiffon or Angel Food cakes, but you are also supposed to cool them upside-down?  Terrifying.  

Instead, I baked up these fluffy nuggets in extra-large cupcake liners.  Unlike most other cupcakes, you are going to want to fill the liners nearly to the top!  Trust me.  And if you don't and are scared they might explode onto your oven floor, you can sit next to your oven and keep a discerning eye on them (like I did).  Since there is so much whipped air in the batter, the cakes won't be fully set until they cool.  That being said, they will shrink down just a touch as they cool.

Milk Chocolate Cloud Angel Food Cupcakes

What I didn't know about Angel Food Cupcakes is that they are pretty much a French meringue but with less sugar and just a tiny bit of flour.  Who knew that small portion of cake flour would take whipped egg whites from crispy, chewy baked meringues to fluffy, pillowy little cakes?!?!  Since these cupcakes are like 87% meringue, let us review a few things to remember about working with whipped egg whites... 

1.  Make sure there are no traces of fat or grease.  We are all about reaching the maximum potential when it comes to whipped egg whites.  What that means is volume, volume, VOLUME!  Fat and grease can inhibit us from reaching that potential.  I'm talking fat from any drips of egg yolk or grease in the mixing bowl (and accompanying attachments).  Slight traces of fat/grease will probably not kill your meringue on the spot, but try to stay clear of fats as best as possible.

2.  Increase the speed gradually.  From foam to peak, increase the speed very gradually as you go.  For a better illustration of what this might look like at ever stage, check out this visual.

3.  Add the sugar gradually.  By slowly adding in the sugar a tablespoon at a time, it will dissolve easier and not collapse the delicate whites.  Increase the speed and overall amount of sugar in tandem.

4.  Fold! Fold!  After all that work of adding air and volume to our whites, it would be a shame to crush and collapse them by mixing improperly.  But don't stress!  Folding is not as scary as it might seem.  Use a large rubber spatula to scoop down to the bottom of the bowl, and turn the contents on the bottom up to the top.  Use one hand to fold and the other to spin the bowl 90 degrees between each turn.  Be delicate and deliberate at the same time.

5. Cream of tartar as a stabilizer.  You might notice ingredients such as cream of tartar, lemon juice, and vinegar in meringue recipes.  All of these ingredients act as stabilizers.  They won't necessarily increase the volume of your egg whites, but they will help keep them from collapsing too quickly.

6. Temperature of eggs.  Eggs are easiest to separate when they are cold.  However, room temperature egg whites have the ability to whip up with more volume.

Milk Chocolate Cloud Angel Food Cupcakes

 

Angel Food Cupcakes
makes about 10 to 12 extra large cupcakes

6 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream tartar
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake tin with extra large liners and set aside.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or use an electric hand mixer). Sprinkle in the cream of tartar.  Start by mixing on low speed until the egg whites begin to form bubbles.

As the egg whites begin to foam and become more opaque, gradually turn up the speed and start slowly adding in the sugar, a tablespoon or two at a time.  Continue adding in the sugar, followed by the salt.  Over the course of about a minute or so, all of the sugar/salt should have been added and the speed will have increased to medium-high.  

Continue whipping the egg whites until medium-stiff peaks.  They whites should still be pillowy but not dry or clumpy.  Unlike a true meringue (with twice the sugar), they will not be particularly glossy.

Add in the lemon and vanilla.  Whip again until just combined.

Stop the mixture.  Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the flour in two to three batches.  You can be a bit more deliberate and heavy-handed with the first batch of flour as you temper the two ingredients together, but then use a lighter touch as you go.  Be thorough, but do your best not to deflate the batter.

Use two spoons to plop the batter into the cupcakes liners.  Fill the liners nearly to the top.  With the back of a spoon or small offset spatula, smooth out the tops of each cupcake.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 to 23 minutes.  When done, the tops should be browned and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.  Remove from the oven and let cupcakes cool in their pans for about 5 minutes before moving them to a wire rack.

 

Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

3 large egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons mascarpone, softened
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1 to 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer.  Whisk by hand to combine.  Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and bring to a simmer.

Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler.  Whisking intermittently, warm the egg mixture until it reached 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Once hot, carefully replace the mixer bowl back on the stand.  Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl returns to room temperature (about 8 minutes).

Turn the mixer down to low and add in the butter and mascarpone, a couple tablespoons at a time.  Stop the mixer and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment.

Add in the vanilla, melted chocolate, and cocoa.  Mix on medium-high until the buttercream is smooth, fluffy, and cloud-like.

If the buttercream looks like it has cuddled, the butter was probably too cold.  Just keep mixing.

If the buttercream looks soupy, you probably added the butter in too soon and before the meringue returned all the way back to room temperature.  Chill the mixture (inside the bowl) in the fridge for 15 minute and try whipping again until smooth.