Sunday, January 24, 2010

Grown Up Cupcakes: Pound Cakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
Chapter 8: Celebrations
Fresh Flower-Topped Pound Cakes, page 270
Swiss Meringue Buttercream, page 304

Deep within the pages of Martha Stewart's Cupcakes are what, I believe, are some of the best cupcake recipes in existence. Throughout my many years of consuming cupcakes (and adding girth to what should be my small frame) I've come to one conclusion. I, personally, believe a pound cake makes the best cupcake. They're firm, dense and moist, and can withstand a plethora of frostings and toppings.

In preparation for my daughter's 3rd birthday party, I completed a dry run on the "Wish Upon a Starfish" mini cakes last weekend. After making the star cakes on Saturday, I tried 3 separate icing techniques - fondant, candy melts and petit fours icing. I didn't particularly like any one technique, so I axed the idea of mini cakes. Instead, I turned to the local bakery of our grocery store with my tail gently tucked between my legs. Although the lovely lady who helped me didn't seem keen to my personal failure, I was disappointed. But, alas, 3-year olds couldn't care less where the cake came from as long as there's cake.

I also planned to make the Brown Sugar Pound Cakes for the parents but, as usual, changed my mind.

Rather, I chose a simple pound cake recipe and a Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Mind you, I've never made Swiss Meringue Buttercream before and as with most attempts, I put an almost immeasurable amount of pressure on myself to make a perfect recipe. But, really, what makes a perfect recipe?

The pound cakes turned out perfect, with one small concern. The recipe noted a yield of 36 cupcakes but I wound up with 26; quite a difference.

And I learned a really important lesson in making the Swiss Meringue Buttercream. No matter how much you believe you can make substitutions, you really can't. Especially when it comes to the egg whites. I've done this once before and feel certain I won't make the same mistake again. There's a culinary certainty that is no within my memory, and that it is when a recipe calls for egg whites, forget being "easy on yourself" and use REAL egg whites. Your time and patience will thank you later.

And after 2 attempts the Swiss Meringue Buttercream was sublime. Not too sweet but very rich and buttery.

Laced with luscious vanilla bean.

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