Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Eleanor's Snowman Cupcakes

Eleanor with her latest kitchen creation.

Eleanor used chocolate chips placed upside down for the eyes and orange and brown sprinkles for the noses and mouths.

I feel so lucky that my parents gave me free rein of the kitchen as I was growing up. They were so easy going about letting me experiment and have fun as long as I cleaned up my messes and looking back, I know that's why I love cooking and baking today. The kitchen is a comfortable place for me and it's where I get to be creative.

Trying to mimic what my parent's did for me, I try to remember to step aside when my daughters feel the urge to exert some independence in the kitchen. And when I do, I'm always amazed at what they create like these cute Snowman Cupcakes created by my daughter Eleanor this week.

She made vanilla cupcakes and buttercream from scratch and then used chocolate chips and orange and brown sprinkles to make a snowman face on the top of each. "The hardest part was sorting out the orange and brown from the jar of rainbow sprinkles," she said.

Here's how Eleanor made them:

Vanilla Cupcakes
(makes 20)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with cupcake papers.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.

Beat in the eggs plus egg yolks, one at a time, until combined. Beat in vanilla.

In another large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. With mixer on low, add a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating to combine. Beat in 3/4 cup buttermilk, another third of the flour mixture, another 3/4 cup buttermilk, and remaining flour mixture until just combined. Scrape down the bowl as needed.

Fill the cupcake papers 2/3 full.  Bake for 18 to 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Vanilla Buttercream
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
 2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of fine sea salt

Place the whites in a clean mixing bowl. Whisk in sugar and cream of tartar.

Place bowl over a double boiler on medium heat, stir frequently until the mixture is very hot (120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit).

Move to mixer and whip whites on high for 2 to 3 minutes; turn down to medium low until cool (use the bowl as your guide).

In a separate bowl with a wooden spoon, stir butter to soften.

With mixer on medium/high speed, add the butter one tablespoon at a time, adding the next tablespoon just as the previous one is blended in. Once all the butter incorporated, add in vanilla and salt and whip on high speed until fluffy.

To Assemble:
Chocolate Chips
Orange and Brown Sprinkles

Using a table knife, add an even layer of buttercream to the top of each cupcake.
Place two upside down chocolate chips on each cupcake for eyes. Then add one orange sprinkle for the nose and five brown sprinkles for the mouth.  

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