Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Year's Cookin' Eve: Champagne Cupcakes & Mimosa Cupcakes

Luckily, our message board didn't have something inappropriate written on it for once.
This New Year's we decided to have a fun night in. Naturally, I couldn't take this as an excuse to relax. Instead, I decided I had to make a dessert to go along with some Drunk Prussian Champagne Punch (plus I really needed something to do while watching the previously mentioned New Year's episode of The O.C.). The only possible choice was to incorporate as much champagne as humanly possible since that's what New Year's is all about (well, that and buying a gym membership you'll use for a month). Despite an uber successful year of making cupcakes (you can explore the 8 varieties here), I knew I couldn't rest on my laurels and end the year on a disappointing note. Since I couldn't find a safe way to put fireworks inside the cupcakes themselves, I instead opted to fill them with a champagne sabayon. But the fun didn't end there; I made two frostings, one a champagne buttercream and the other an orange cream cheese to transform the cupcakes into their evil (and ridiculously tasty) twin- the mimosa cupcake.

Champagne Cupcakes
Adapted from and
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Time: 35 minutes (for cake part)

Firm peaks are key.
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp sweet cheap champagne or sparkling wine
6 egg whites
Sabayon sauce (recipe follows)
Frostings (2 awesome options below)
Colored sprinkles for garnish
Orange slices for garnish

Fold it in.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using a stand mixer at medium speed.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.
  4. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and champagne into the creamed mixture at low speed (dry -> champagne -> dry -> champagne -> dry). Be careful not to over mix.
  5. Beat the egg whites with a whisk at high speed until stiff peaks form. Make sure the bowl you're doing this in is dry or this will affect the peaks.
  6. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter to get it started then fold in the remainder. Be careful not to deflate too much.
  7. Line a cupcake tin and fill the liners 2/3 full with batter. This batter will rise a lot, so try not to over fill.
  8. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until the toothpick test comes back clean. Rotate the cupcakes halfway through.
  9. Let cool on wire racks.
  10. Use them to shoot in the air at midnight or add sabayon filling and frosting for a delightful and complete cupcake experience (recipes follow).
The cake portion was incredibly light and fluffy with a wonderful champagne aroma and flavor. Be sure to get your egg whites firm so the cake maintains this fluffiness. If not, they will end up dry and crumbly. Also, the champagne (or sparkling wine) is extremely important. You want something that is sweet but also cheap since you're using it to bake (and drink from the bottle while you wait for them to finish). After testing several bottles (it's a rough life), I decided on Martini & Rossi Asti which was far sweeter than the usual brute and extra dry varieties that are everywhere on New Year's.

Champagne Sabayon Filling
Time: 5 minutes + cooling

4 large egg yolks (save them from the cupcakes)
4 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup champagne

  1. Bring water to a simmer in a half-full saucepan.
  2. Whisk the ingredients until smooth in a metal bowl.
  3. Create a double boiler by putting the the bowl over the saucepan and whisk constantly until the sauce is thick and doubled in volume (about 5 minutes). 
  4. Chill in the fridge for half an hour to thicken it more or just let it cool on the counter to room temperature before filling. Be sure to stir it after removing it from the fridge.
For being such a simple recipe, I was shocked by how incredible the sabayon was. I couldn't stop dipping my finger in it until I realized I wouldn't have enough for the cupcakes. The champagne really pops in this creamy presentation (which would also go great on top of berries).  In fact, my favorite part of these cupcakes was the wonderful center.

Champagne Buttercream Frosting
Time: 5 minutes

3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
5-8 tbsp sweet champagne

Hopefully the pearls and sprinkles distracted you.
  1. Mix the powdered sugar and butter together over low speed until well blended then ramp it up to medium.
  2. Add the vanilla and champagne at medium speed for a minute. Vary the amount of champagne to thin the frosting. Use it to frost immediately. The frosting takes on a weird consistency after being in the fridge.
Since I've been trying to branch out from my usual cream cheese frosting ways, I decided to try the buttercream that was with the original recipe. I added extra champagne for indulgence and thinning, and the result was absolutely delicious. The only problem was that after sitting in the fridge for several hours, the frosting changed to a strange consistency, which distracted from their prettiness. I would recommend making this right before frosting them to avoid this because it really is an incredible frosting that finished off an extremely light and refreshing cupcake.

But now for the true star of the evening:

The Mimosa Cupcake

This is just like the other cupcake except 50,000 times more awesome since it mimics the amazingness that is brunch (and drinking early in the morning).

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
Time: 5 minutes 

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp champagne
1 3/4 tsp orange extract
2-3 cups powdered sugar
Orange food coloring (yellow and red)

It took me three cupcakes to realize how thin to cut the orange slices.
  1. Beat the cream cheese, butter, champagne and orange extract together until light and fluffy.
  2. Sift the powdered sugar and add it in 1/2 cup increments until the desired levels of sweetness and thickness are reached.
  3. Whip at high speeds to remove chunks and thicken.
  4. Add the orange food coloring (or 1 part red to 4 parts yellow) until you achieve the desired color.
  5. Refrigerate for at least an hour then frost your cupcakes. Add an orange slice (not too thick or it'll fall over) and some green sprinkles for garnish.
I decided to create an orange cream cheese frosting (with a hint of champagne) to bring home the brunchtastic cupcake. The orange extract struck just the right balance with the cream cheese to give a fruity and sweet treat (with just the right amount of orange dreamsicle). Unlike the champagne buttercream, this frosting was aided by its time in the fridge where it was able to thicken to a fabulous consistency and all the flavors melded together to yield my favorite frosting so far. I also loved the orange slice, which I think helped make this my nicest looking cupcake yet (plus starting off the cupcake with that splash of orange makes it extra refreshing and really helps it hit the mark).
The picture just doesn't come across as well without a champagne flute (I'm just not sophisticated enough to own one).
Of all the cupcakes I made in 2011, these were definitely my favorite. From the cake to the filling and frosting, everything was absolutely phenomenal, and everyone agreed they really captured the New Year's spirit. Incredibly, they only became more mouth-watering awesome after a day in the fridge that really helped the champagne come out. I wouldn't recommend waiting until next New Year's to try these, as they'd also fit in perfectly at a brunch or shower (so by all means you should either get engaged or pregnant so you have an excuse). The bar has been set high for 2012, but I can't wait to test my baking skills to their delightful limits.
Sadly the sparkler garnished cupcake was wasted by my camera's flash confusion.

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