Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Guest Post : Mel's Meringue Bouquet Vanilla Cupcakes

Mel (@skewiff on twitter) is an avid baker, she has attended many of our cakeups and came on board immediately when we mentioned The Forage event. 

We must of hit jackpot when she said yes, because look at what she rocked up with on the day!

Mel created these gorgeous looking meringue bouquet vanilla cupcakes which pretty much disappeared the moment after they were put out on our stall!

She had been teasing us with photos of these tiny meringue components in the days leading up to The Forage and when we saw the final result we were just in awe. She put so much time and effort into making these treats we really do appreciate her kindness and generosity. 

And as an added bonus, Mel has been so kind to share with all of us the recipe for her cupcakes - they are most certainly a show stopper!

When Rachi and Giulia sent an email out in late June calling for bakers for the stall they secured at The Forage I replied YES! before I even finished reading.

I love a chance to bake with purpose.
I love baking that gets eaten by other than me.
The Forage and its association with Hustle and Scout meant I could have another go at some meringue bouquet vanilla cupcakes because they’re a bit decoratively spesh ;)

The design is from a Martha Stewart book that I looked at years ago. All the components, except the cupcake, were made ahead of time so that on the day I could focus on decorating. 

Meringue bouquet components

I made these about 5 days before because I knew they’d be fiddly in the making. It’s a basic meringue recipe. 

4 egg whites
220g caster sugar
Pinch of Cream of Tartar (I think if I used more than a pinch they may have held their piped shape better)

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time – although not too slowly so it’s smooth, not fluffy. Beat it until it has thick, glossy, stiff peaks and the sugar’s dissolved. 

Then the fun part, get every piping tip you have, attach couplers to two bags, fill the bags, and then pipe! I did about 12 shapes for each cupcake; leaves, flowers, ‘O’s’, squiggles, splotches – anything that you can envision putting together to form something vaguely floral on top of the cupcake. I found the leaf, open star and drop flower tips were best.

Bake at 90°C for one and a half hours. Leave them to dry out in the oven for three or four hours. Then store them in an airtight container until you need them.

I’d probably turn the oven temperature a touch lower and bake for longer so they dry out and are completely white. I had a bit of baked tinge on some. 

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I made this the day before. I’ve discovered it can be weather temperamental – won’t work if it’s too hot; so I thought I’d experiment in cold weather :)

The recipe I use has been pulled together from much experimentation over the years. I love meringue buttercream because it’s not as sweet as butter icing, it’s got a super light texture, and it’s quite magical to make when it goes right (which is nine times out of ten for me).

4 egg whites
8 oz sugar
16 oz softened butter – cut into large squares
Prepare a bowl of ice water to cool after stage 2

Fill a pot with an inch of water and put your egg whites and sugar in a bowl over it. I use my stand mixer bowl because after this stage you get electric. Whisk over the pot of water until all the sugar is melted – rub it between your fingers to feel this. Usually take only a few mins.

Transfer the melted whites and eggs to a cool bath and whisk just to cool. You don’t want to get it cold, just to take some of the hot out of it for whisking in your stand mixer.

When it’s no longer hot on the base of the bowl (touch to feel this) put the bowl in your stand mixer with whisk attachments (I always use my beaters with no problems).

Whisk until it’s at glossy peak stage. Not quite stiff peaks, but leaves a ribbony trail when the mixture runs off the beaters. Sometimes this may take a while, like 10 mins or more depending on your mix and mixer (Sometimes see this recipe is called ‘7-Minute Frosting’ - I never trust a dessert recipe with that much preciseness.)

Add the butter to the mixing meringue mixture one chunk at a time. It should be soft but not melted. Wait for each piece to be incorporated before you add the next one. Keep mixing when all the butter is added.

This is the part of every SMB recipe that says “and now just trust that it will turn”. A kind of magic happens once most of the butter is added. As it beats it goes from sloppy soup to fluffy, smooth, creamy, light! You just keep on beating until it happens. When it does – you got your buttercream!

If you have a disaster – like curdling or soup I like this site for help. 

I covered the buttercream with glad wrap and left it out at room temp until I used it the next day.

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

For the most part I think of cake as the vehicle for decoration, and I usually go with chocolate. Which is why I requested vanilla cupcakes – I wanted to try something different for me. I found this recipe at Natasha’s Kitchen and only had a few changes to the American recipe. It produced a really delicious light -inside, and gently crisp-outside. Definitely going to bake these again.

I made these on the day (and I’ve never used this recipe before) Everything went perfectly, until they didn’t bake in the time frame – I just added 2 mins at a time until they were done perfectly. So the recipe says 12-14 mins, and I ended up baking for 19 mins. 

Makes 15 cupcakes

1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup canola oil (vegetable or extra light olive oil also work)
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 175°C (although I did 180°C) and line a cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt. Set flour mix aside.

In the bowl beat 2 eggs with an electric whisk on medium speed (15-20 seconds).

Add 3/4 cup sugar and continue to beat on medium speed (30 seconds).

Add vanilla and oil and beat on medium speed (1 minute).

Reduce mixer speed to medium/low and slowly add about half of the flour mixture. Add half of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour mix and the rest of the milk. Beat until just combined and smooth, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl. The batter should be thin.

Pour batter into a lined muffin pan. Fill to about 1/2 full.

Bake for 12 -14 minutes.

Let them cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then remove and decorate.

Putting it all together

I let the cupcakes cool. 

I gave the buttercream a mix in the stand mixer to soften it up a little for piping. I used a large round tip to pipe a kind-of upside-down cone of icing. Basically a base of icing to decorate with the meringue pieces. 

I had left all the meringue pieces on their baking trays (covered in layer upon layer upon layer of glad wrap) so I could see all the pieces I had. And I just started stacking the decorations all over the cupcakes, making sure to cover every buttercream surface with a decoration. 

I did one cupcake with buttercream and decorations at-a-time. I got better at the decoration by the end, and the best ones had a good balance of differently sized bits and bits sticking out. 

And they were pretty delicious too.

It was great fun. Thanks again Canberra Cake Club gang!!!! And for the beautiful display stand on the day from Sweet Tea!

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