Sunday, January 1, 2012

Vanilla Almond Cupcakes with Anise (Licorice) Swiss Meringue Buttercream


Today begins a new year and a new commitment from me to cupcake baking and to updating this Blog.  2011 brought changes both good and bad, wanted and unwanted into my life.  The loss of my sweet Mother being the most difficult. But life does go on and we learn to deal with what life puts in our way.  

The next big change was my return to one of my great loves - the theater. Performing the role of Mrs. Pearce in a local production of "My Fair Lady". Rehearsals and performances took up most of my spare time from August to November.  Theater and this production brought me back in contact with a lot of wonderful friends.  It also brought a new friend into my life who has become very dear. I am currently in rehearsals as Dotty Otley/Mrs. Clackett for a production of "Noises Off" that opens the end of January.

The other major event in my life was the adoption, with a friend, of a beautiful five month old gray tabby kitten.

We named him Jackson Pearce.  He is a ball of mischief and has stolen my heart.  He's not a very good baking assistant though.  In fact, he has to be put in the other room whenever I bake or he is up to his paws in flour.

So, what about the cupcakes? Just because I have been busy doesn't mean I haven't been baking. Getting back involved with theater has given me a whole new group of people to bake for who enjoy my cupcakes. 

Our wonderful Music Director on "My Fair Lady" loves Black Licorice. I would always buy him Black Licorice and bring it to him at rehearsals. When he learned I baked cupcakes, he asked me if I could make him a Licorice cupcake and this is what I came up with...

Vanilla Almond Cupcakes
with Anise (Licorice) Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Now, I personally don't like the flavor of black licorice at all and I never eat it but I have to admit these cupcakes were pretty tasty.  The vanilla almond of the cupcake was exactly what was needed with the anise flavor of the buttercream.  And the Swiss Meringue Buttercream was the perfect compliment to the anise flavoring. Decorating them with mini Licorice All Sorts gave them just the right flair and added to the drama of these cupcakes.  If you like licorice, you are going to love these.  Here are the recipes...

Vanilla Almond Cupcakes
Makes 2 1/2 Dozen

1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch cubes, room temperature
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line standard cupcake pans with your favorite paper cupcake liners ( I love black liners for the Anise Cupcakes!).

2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine dry ingredients (flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt) and mix on low speed until blended. On medium-low speed, add cubes of butter, a few at a time, and mix each one for a moment before adding the next few, until each cube of butter is incorporated. Be sure there are no large chunks of butter in the batter before moving onto step 3.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Be sure each egg has been incorporated before adding the next.

4. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together milk, vanilla, and almond extract. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl with spatula after each addition. Beat until just incorporated (try not to over beat).

4. Using a 1.5 oz cookie scoop, divide batter among liners (should be 2/3 full). Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 17-20 minutes.

5. Remove from oven onto a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans and let cool completely before frosting.

*Recipe adapted from Billy’s Bakery Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes via Martha Stewart by Sweetapolita

 Anise (Licorice) Swiss Meringue Buttercream

5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons anise flavoring (more to taste if needed)

To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl (I used the bowl of my Kitchenaid mixer) set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F and the sugar has dissolved.  (A candy thermometer is crucial anytime you are cooking sugar.)

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (using the bowl of your mixer makes this step a breeze).  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don't worry, it will come together!).  Stir in the anise flavoring and mix until incorporated.  Using your favorite decorating tip pipe frosting onto cupcakes and decorate with black jimmies and mini Licorice All Sorts..

Yield: about 5 cups

Enhanced by Zemanta