3 October 2012

Butternut-Caramel Cupcakes

Though I did post the Baking With Spirit round-up last week I'm very aware that I didn't present you with any cake for the first time since my exams in January. I do apologise for depriving you of these cupcakes for longer than necessary, but I've had a lot of time juggling to do recently in attempts to read text books in between writing job applications - all in a fervent rush to get the bulk of it out of the way before lectures started this week (Monday was my first day of lectures since some time in early May, though to be fair the fear-induced learning and lack of a Christmas this semester due to revision for the January exams will more than make up for having so long away from academia). I am a pretty organised person, but even I might be pushed to my limits over the next few weeks as I balance applying to graduate jobs with academia, and maybe even a little free time.

However, there will always be time for cake -as this post proves - so don't fret about Cake Of The Week dropping off the face of the blogosphere any time soon.

Cupcakes Sans Caramel
I spent the best part of two weeks trying to work out the logistics for this cake. I knew I wanted to put caramel on top of swirls of icing that sat on top of cupcakes, but couldn't figure the flavour combination. I was originally going to try a hot chocolate-sour cream cupcake, but then I saw hundreds of pumpkin-based recipes popping up all over the internet and knew I had to make some more Butternut Squash Cupcakes.

This time I put cinnamon in the cake batter with the butternut squash, and unlike the original cupcakes I chose a Faux French buttercream icing - and, of course, the caramel. Interestingly, my last Butternut Squash cupcake attempt was also my first attempt at Swiss meringue buttercream - oh, how my skills have improved! To be fair, I had got myself a little muddled by the American measurements in the recipe I used and didn't realise quite how important it was to use obscene amounts of butter. The Faux French buttercream is no different in that respect, but I think it works better on cupcakes as it is much sweeter - sort of like vanilla ice cream.

I love the Faux French and Swiss meringue buttercreams because they are perfect for using up excess egg yolks or whites that are lying around in the fridge, and are quite straightforward once you've lost the fear that their recipes seem to instill in most people (including me at first - see above and the Cinnamon Raspberry Cake). If you have a preferred buttercream or cake topper, by all means go ahead and use it: baking isn't any fun without a little experimentation. Similarly, if you like the idea of the topping but not the cupcake, just mix and match until you find a winner.

The recipe for the caramel came from Australian Women's Weekly's The Complete Book Of Cupcakes, Cheesecakes and Cookies. I've also had great success with one that Nigel Slater uses for Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Makes 12
For the cupcakes:

  • 350g Butternut Squash
  • 2 Eggs
  • 200g Butter
  • 200g Dark Brown Muscovado Sugar
  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 50 mL Milk
For the Faux French buttercream:
  • 12 Egg Yolks
  • 350g Good Quality Butter
  • 120g Caster Sugar
For the Caramel:
  • 75g Dark Brown Muscovado Sugar
  • 80mL Double Cream
  • 25g Butter
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Line a baking tray with foil.
  • Slice the butternut squash in half and place fleshy side-down onto the foil. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes until tender.
  • Scoop the butternut squash flesh into a bowl and mash it with a fork. Place to one side.
  • Line a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake cases.
  • To make the cakes, cream the butter and dark muscovado sugar together in a mixing bowl until they are light and fluffy.
  • Beat the eggs in one at a time, then sift in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon.
  • Fold the flour into the batter until the ingredients are all well combined and the batter is smooth. Add enough milk to ensure that the batter has a soft dropping consistency.
  • Now stir in the butternut squash and stir well.
  •  Divide the batter between the cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 22 mins until a skewer comes out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool on a rack.
  • Meanwhile, make the caramel: put the dark muscovado sugar, double cream and butter in a pan over a low heat and bring to the boil. Leave for 2 mins, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • To make the Faux French buttercream, put the egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl over a pan of water, ensuring that the base of the bowl does not touch the water.
  • Set the pan over a medium heat and stir the yolks constantly until the sugar has dissolved completely and the yolks have become very runny.
  • Pour the yolks into a mixing bowl and whisk until they have doubled in size.
  • Make sure the butter is at room temperature, then chop it into small, manageable (for the whisk) chunks.
  • Whisk the butter, a chunk at a time, into the whisked egg yolks until there is no remaining liquid and you are left with a firm, glossy buttercream.
  • Pipe the buttercream over the cooled cupcakes - I used a star piping tip - then drizzle a teaspoon of the cooled caramel over each one (if the cupcakes and caramel are not cold, the buttercream will melt and you will be left with a delicious mess). It may be a good idea to place something under the cupcakes to catch any drips of caramel.

If you have any queries relating to jargon used in the recipe, take a look at The Basics. I intend to write a page about different buttercreams, but this will have to wait until I have more free time; I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have on the topic in the mean time, though.

Next Monday marks a year since I started this blog, so I'll be making a suitably celebratory cake (in my head, it's looking pretty good - hopefully this will translate to reality!)

Have a good week!

1 comment:

  1. I love butternut squash cupcakes and your French buttercream and caramel looks delish x


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