Monday, August 3, 2009

Sunflower Cupcakes

This past weekend marked a very special occasion. My brother (Paul) and older sister (Kalli) flew into Atlanta for the weekend from Arizona and Oregon (respectively). It was a very special visit for a few reasons. 1. They haven't been home in over 2 years and 2. they haven't met either Caroline or my niece, Georgia. So needless to say, I have been very excited about the visit. And I wasn't the only one. My stepmother threw a party in honor of the occasion on Sunday night. We had a great time eating ribs and chicken fingers, letting the girls play in the kiddie pool, and just enjoying the great company.

Linda asked me to make some cupcakes, and I decided on these sunflower cupcakes. They turned out even better than I expected, as I combined a few methods and adapted them to my liking. My biggest challenge was that I couldn't decide what to use as the center. One method used an oreo, while some used cocoa puff cereal, and Martha Stewart used chocolate covered sunflower seeds. I experimented a bit, I and finally decided to simply pipe chocolate icing in dots to make the center. The ladybug was a great finishing touch, and Georgia couldn't wait to eat a "ladybug cake."

Just as a quick note, the buttercream was insanely buttery when made according to the recipe, so I added about 1/2 to 1 cup of confectioner's sugar to sweeten it up. I have made this change in the recipe below. Oh and a special thanks to my mother-in-law for helping me pipe at midnight Saturday night!

These are a simple chocolate cupcake with Swiss meringue buttercream.

Sunflower Cupcakes

inspired by Martha Stewart and Hello Cupcake
cupcake adapted from Hershey's

Swiss Meringue frosting adapted from Martha Stewart

For the cupcakes:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot, strong brewed coffee
Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of stand mixer. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Add to mixer, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in hot coffee, and pour into muffin tins, filling about 2/3 to the top.

Bake 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the buttercream
makes about 5 cups

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2-1 cup sifted confectioners sugar
Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.

With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Taste, and add confectioners sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, until desiered taste is reached. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth.

Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

For the sunflowers
  • 12 chocolate cupcakes
  • 1 cup chocolate frosting (I used canned to save time)
  • 1/2 recipe Swiss meringue buttercream, tinted yellow
  • 12 red m&m's
Using a #5 round tip, pipe a small mound of chocolate onto the center of the cupcake. Pipe small dots over the mound. Don't worry if its not a perfect circle, the petals will cover the edge of the center.

Using a #18 star tip, pipe petals around the outside edge of the cupcake. Starting between 2 petals, pipe a second row around the cupcake. If necessary, pipe a few more petals to cover inperfections of the center.

For the ladybugs, use a #3 round tip to pipe chocolate frosting to resemble the shell. Carefully place the ladybugs on the flower.

I also tinted some buttercream green, and just piped it onto extra cupcakes. I didn't get any pictures of them, but they looked cute with the flowers.


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