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.

Lemon Layer Cake with apricot and honey

Light, lemon-scented cake layers spread thin with sweet apricot jam and frosted in pastel swirls of floral, honey buttercream.

Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA

The start of our new kitchen remodel will commence in just three short weeks, and I’m kind of freaking out.  Who remodels their kitchen while they are in the middle of recipe testing for a new cookbook?  My kitchen is my office.  If my oven were to be out of commission at any point, I would definitely spiral into a deep, dark place.  But now?  Voluntarily?  In the middle of a busy summer?  Yup.  We are doing it…

And by we, I mean the contractor and my amazing mother.  The boys and I will actually be out of town the first week of the renovations, so at least I won’t have a heart attack watching the workers disconnect my oven and start tearing down cabinets.  And to be honest, it’s a very, very small remodel.  A face-lift, if you will.  Including a new oven that I am equally excited and dreading baking cake in.  It took me months to learns the little quirks of my current oven, so I am borderline terrified of having to adjust to a new appliance.

But you know what?  If not now, then when? 

Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA
Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA

We’ve been living in our home for exactly four years this month.  When we moved in, I had just entered my second trimester with baby Everett and had my first manuscript due in 5 months.  If I could adjust to a new house and kitchen with all of that chaos around me, then I should certainly be able to do it now.  Right?  But that’s not even really my point here.  At that time, I made a promise to myself that I would not freak out over the unfurnished dining room or bare walls.  After getting settled in, my priorities were the book and the babe.  Decorating would have to wait…

Four years, a book, and a toddler later, our master bedroom walls are still blank, my dining table is mostly used as a dumping ground for lose items, and Everett’s closet is the most disorganized storage unit that I’ve ever seen (I don’t know what we are going to do when he decides that he’d like to hang his clothes in there).  Now is the time to make this house a home.

If not now, then when?  I love our home.  I love the layout and the location.  It’s not very big nor very fancy, but I know we probably won’t ever be able to find anything else like it if we want to stay in downtown Vancouver.  And if/when we do decide to sell it, it needs some upgrades.  At this point, the only reason for moving would be to find a larger place to support a growing family (we aren’t there yet, but hopefully some day).  So then when?  When I am pregnant again and we need to move?  That hardly seems like a good time for a remodel.  At least if we do it now, then we can enjoy the new space ourselves instead of just making it pretty for someone else to fall in love with.

Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA
Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA
Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA
Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA

As I write this and contemplate the notion of “if not now, then when?,” it feels like a reoccurring theme.  Many aspects of my life can be traced back to this.  Like opening my custom cake boutique and filling an empty spot in the market for fancy wedding cakes before anyone else in town beat me to the punch.  Or making the huge decision to move to Canada before buying a home or starting a family.  And even our upcoming trip – if not now, when else might we be able to have a real family vacation just the three of us?

Of course, not everything needs to be as life changing as a new career or big move.  I also have a tendency to hold onto things, waiting for “the best time” to use them.  Like not wearing my favourite dress so I don’t ruin it.  Or letting the gift card for the Dry Bar become a permanent fixture in my wallet because I don’t want to waste it.  Or holding on to a recipe idea until the right season….

I made this cake months ago for The Cake Blog, but I’ve been waiting for the “the best time” to share it here.  What does that even mean?  I love how beautiful the watercolor frosting is and how airy and ethereal the photos turned out so much that I’ve been saving the images.  But why?  And for whom?  So can look at them by myself? 

Even before submitting the recipe to The Cake Blog, I had been sitting on this flavour combination for a while.  I love the way the sweet apricot is balanced by the floral honey and light lemon cake.  The swirly pastel buttercream mimics the fresh yet subtle flavors.  However, while we are in the middle of a season packed with berry cakes and stone fruit desserts, this cake doesn’t really scream “summer.”  Out of fear of having to compete against mystical ice cream creations and the most impressive latticed pies, I thought I’d hold onto this cake for bit. 

But if not now, then when?  In the fall when pumpkin reigns supreme?  Or in the winter when everyone is baking family heirloom recipes for the holidays or items for this year’s cookie platter?  Then next year?  Get outta here. 

Life is too short, Tesssa.  Make the cake.  Eat it.  Share it.  Enjoy =)

 

Find the full recipe over on The Cake Blog