Sunday, March 4, 2012

French Toast Fantasia: French Toast Cupcakes with Bacon

Quite fortuitously, baking buddy Nancy and I had drinks last night. Naturally drinks evolved into talk of what I was making for my weekly Sunday Brunch, which quickly turned into what we were making for Sunday Brunch. She had a fantastic looking créme brûlée French toast recipe she wanted to try, and I had recently seen a few French toast cupcakes that I desperately wanted to fill my stomach with. So we reached a compromise. We would make both (See, this is how you do a win-win compromise. Maybe I should consider a profession as a mediator.). As I sit here typing with a headache having crashed from all the sugar, I know that it was totally worth it. Now on to part one of the single greatest brunch of all-time (with a cupcake involving bacon was there any doubt it would be).

French Toast Cupcakes
Adapted from
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Time: 40 minutes

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut pea-sized

3 cups all-purpose flour
Batter (with minor butter chunks)
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp bourbon 
Maple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Sugar Decorations (recipe follows)
Bacon, pan-fried to crispy and cut 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Make the streusel by mixing all the ingredients in a large bowl then mashing the butter pieces in by hand. Chill in the freezer until the batter is ready.
  3. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Cream the butter using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment at medium speed.
  5. Add the sour cream, eggs, vanilla and bourbon and mix well.
  6. Pour the dry ingredients in over three intervals at low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl in between rounds. Be careful not to overmix.
  7. Use an ice cream scooper to fill lined cupcake tins 2/3 of the way with batter. 
  8. Sprinkle the tops with streusel.
  9. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the toothpick test comes back clean.
  10. Pipe on the cream cheese frosting and garnish with sugar decorations and bacon.
Crispy streusel topping gives a great crunch.
The cupcake itself was already a nice breakfasty treat. As soon as I tasted the batter, I knew this was going to be amazing (although I was unnecessarily concerned with how dense it was). The cinnamon and nutmeg really came through in the cupcake to give an authentic French toast taste. The streusel on top also added a nice level of sugary crispness to add texture to the moist cake. But the fun (and deliciousness) was only just beginning.

Maple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Servings: Enough for 30 cupcakes
Time: 5 minutes

16 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted

The world's most perfect frosting
  1. Cream the butter in a stand mixer until soft (this will help melt it and prevent lumps) then beat in the cream cheese, cinnamon, vanilla and maple syrup.
  2. Add the powdered sugar about a cup at a time and mix at medium speed.
I have used various iterations of this frosting for Maker's Mark Cupcakes and Bananas Foster Cupcakes, so I knew it was a winner. I really wanted to bring the cinnamon flavor across since our créme brûlée was sadly lacking in it (more on that to come in a future post). This was jam packed with all that cinnamon our hearts desired without being overpowering. There was also a nice sweetness added by the maple syrup that would be key to the interaction with the bacon. To top it all off, this also may have been the best I've ever made this frosting as it had the perfect cupcake topping consistency.
Sit down. We're nowhere near done.
Sugar Decorations
Time: 15 minutes plus cooling

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp light corn syrup

  1. Stir the sugar, water and corn syrup together in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil swirling occasionally until it turns amber colored then quickly remove from heat (it will rapidly burn if you let it keep going).
  3. Drip onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to make fun shapes. Also, you can wrap a rolling pin in parchment paper for cool curved shapes.
  4. Let harden.
The parchment rolling method
The goal of the sugar decorations was to mimic the syrup drip on your standard French toast (and to play with scolding hot sugar for yet another culinary Rorscharch test). I think the end result provided a fun and playful garnish to help these somewhat color deprived cupcakes stand out. Just be sure you make your decorations thin so your teeth don't become coated in hard sugar (it's like the exact opposite of a filling).

The results up until this point definitely gave that French toast sensation in one sweet package, which is where the bacon comes into play. In order to cut some of that sugar (and further establish a complete brunch), we added the salty bacon. At first, we were both a little hesitant, but by the end we found ourselves crushing up more bacon to put on our cupcakes. It might seem a little unorthodox, but it plays a vital role to one well-rounded brunch dessert.
The sugar crown. One day I will rule the cupcake throne!
When all the flavors came together in our finished cupcake, I couldn't help but get weak in the knees and unleash uncontrollable mmm noises. I think I'll have to thank the four hour Cupcake Wars marathon I watched yesterday for its inspiration leading to what is perhaps my favorite cupcake yet (that shockingly didn't have a filling). Stay tuned for part two of our ode to French Toast as Nancy will present a special guest post on the Créme Brûlée French Toast. For now, enjoy some more of our sugar artwork (Nancy does work at an art gallery, so it should come as no surprise that she was a natural).

In the game of cupcakes, you win or you die(t).
I'm pretty sure there's a swan in there.
And Nancy shows how to make the cupcakes even more adorable and awesome.

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