Cupcakes…I will miss you

blog 07 31 01So, Crumbs closed….and…crickets…because not a lot of people care anymore.
I think one of the comments on the Chicago Tribune article about this said it best, “That’s still a place??” Yes, yes it is…errr…was.
The era of fancy and overpriced cupcakes is over, I believe. Really it has been over for a while, someone just needs to let the literal endless run of cupcake food trucks in Chicago know it has passed.
But fear not…turn that frown upside down. Cause it’s donut time!! Awww yeah it is!
Fancy and overpriced donuts are slowly taking the cupcake’s place.
Donuts shops are all over this city (if you are wondering where to start, go to the Doughnut Vault on Franklin St., I’m not kidding) and from what I can gather, they are all over other parts as well.
And that’s ok, because donuts are awesome…for all these reasons:

        1. They are fried
        2. They are considered a breakfast food
        3. Because they considered a breakfast food, you can eat them the second you roll your lil ass out of bed
        4. I always feel like they are lighter than a cupcake, so you can feel less bad about eating them (they are not as filling)
        5. Some of them have bacon on them
        6. Some of them have bacon in them
        7. Fancy donut proprietors often fill them with awesome things, ie. homemade curds and sweet mascarpone cheese
        8. I went to a very classy wedding at an art museum and instead of a giant cake, they had a giant donut bar (this is reason enough for remarriage if someone will have me)
        9. They are fried (again)
        10. Long Johns are huge

Someday I will chronicle great donut shops in the city (when I get some more followers).

But for now, I wanted to say a proper good bye to cupcakes.
I worked for two years as the head baker in a suburban boutique cupcake shop (in Homer Glen). I f–king loved that job. The owner was a restaurateur who is a fabulous Italian cook, but NOT at all a baker. We became fast friends when I went to introduce myself and bring her samples of my baking. She hired me to run and operate the shop, which was next to her restaurant, and gave me free creative reign, something you never get as an employee. Virtually all our cupcakes were my own I am proud to say. I worked with a girl Sarah, who I loved, who made some of the most delicious curds and frostings…things I still use to this day at home. Every single thing we did was from scratch…so rare nowadays.
Anyhow, the owner retired, and moved away and the shop closed up, for a bit, and is now reopened as a very fine Spanish bakery, Artesa, run by an incredibly talented baker/decorator.
So as my proper good bye to the cupcake I give to you two of my best cupcakes…they were my favorite to eat, my most popular to sell and still the cupcakes (or cakes) I am most frequently asked to make for anyone.

Red velvet cake with whipped cream cheese frosting
3 cups cake flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda
¼ cups dark cocoa powder (I use Perignotti – Williams Sonoma)
1 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons red coloring
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups oil (now here’s the thing…I use avocado oil at home, it is non GMO and it has no flavor and I love it in baking, but at the shop, I would use vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
1 teaspoon vinegarblog 07 31 02

Heat oven to 325 and either line two cupcake pans with liners or butter and flour two nine inch cake pans.
Sift together all dry ingredients in bowl.
Combine all wet ingredients in bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk all wet ingredients together with whisk attachment.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
Pour into pans and bake…cake for approximately 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center…cupcakes about 20 minutes.

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese
1 stick of butter at room temperature
About 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste (eyeball it)
Pinch of salt
About 2-2 ½ cups of powdered sugar (again, eyeball it, some like their frosting sweet, some like it sickeningly sweet and some like to taste a lil bit of tang from the cream cheese)
Two cups heavy whipping cream, cold (lil tip, chill the bowl you are gonna whip it in, it comes out better)

In a large bowl, whip the cream cheese and butter until it is a bit fluffy and completely incorporated into each other. Add the vanilla and the salt. Begin adding the powdered sugar cup by cup and then ¼ cup by ¼ cup, tasting after you blend each time until you have the desired sweetness.
In a separate chilled bowl, beat the heavy cream and one tablespoon of powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture very gently, it doesn’t have to be completely mixed together, you want to keep the air in it, and then chill immediately until ready for use.blog 07 31 05blog 07 31 03

This one is slightly more complicated and has more steps. But you can save any left over curd for pies or to spread on toast, it’s really good.

Raspberry filled vanilla bean cupcake with white chocolate mascarpone frosting
Raspberry curd
12 oz raspberries (fresh or frozen)
2 ½ cups sugar
8 egg yolks
1 stick of butter
½ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients into a sauce pan and cook whisking constantly until mixture thickens and boils, approximately 15 minutes. Cool completely.blog 07 31 04

Vanilla bean cake
3 cups flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup of butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 ¼ cups whole milk
3 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or use vanilla extract)

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each until combined.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour.
Bake at 350 approximately 20 minutes for cupcakes, or about 40 minutes for a cake, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
After cupcake has cooled completely cut a small hole in the center and spoon the raspberry curd inside and frost.blog 07 31

Whipped mascarpone frosting
8 oz mascarpone cheese 9 cold)
3 oz of white chocolate melted with ¼ cup of hot cream then chilled (it will be like a thick ganache sauce)
3 teaspoons of vanilla extract or paste
2 cups of heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl beat the mascarpone cheese with the white chocolate mixture and vanilla.

In a separate chilled bowl, beat the heavy cream and one tablespoon of powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.

Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture very gently, it doesn’t have to be completely mixed together, you want to keep the air in it, and then chill immediately until ready for use.

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