The Bourbon Street Cupcake – Viva la revolution!

by moderndomestic on October 4, 2010

The people have spoken – and they want whiskey. Yes, the Bourbon Street Cupcake – vanilla bourbon cake with bourbon buttercream and almond praline – won my Depose the Bacon Cupcake Contest last week. As promised, I made the inaugural batch of these award winning babies last weekend, with the help of Olga from Mango and Tomato.

When Olga heard that I was having a big baking day, she immediately offered up her baking and photography services. We had a great time creating these cupcakes – and I can’t thank her enough for the photographs.

We started by writing up the recipe, which I adapted from Baking Illustrated (easily one of my favorite baking resources these days). And yes, that second “flour” entry – that’s supposed to be sugar.

This batter originally uses a muffin mixing method, but I wanted something that was more consistent and would produce a finer texture. So I altered the mixing method to high ratio – where you mix the butter and some of the liquid into the dry ingredients and sugar, and then add the rest of the liquid in two additions.

Olga scooped the cupcakes, using my ice cream scoop. And in case you want to know how bakeries get all their cupcakes the same size – well, this is the big secret! They either use a scoop, or pipe them.

Aren’t they pretty? I love their pale golden color.

Then we made the bourbon buttercream. Now, I’ve been a little obsessed with Italian buttercreams lately (where you make a meringue by whisking a hot sugar syrup into whipped egg whites, before beating in the butter), so this is an Italian buttercream. They’re light and airy and delicious – but the sugar syrup thing can be a little freaky if you’ve never done it before. The biggest thing is – don’t stir it. Don’t touch it, don’t shift the pot – don’t do anything to disturb the sugar. Stirring it just encourages the sugar to crystallize, which you don’t want.

You start with a sugar and water slurry, cover it, and then heat it until it’s boiling.
Pour in your corn syrup (BUT DON’T STIR IT), and then let it cook, uncovered, until it reaches the soft ball stage (235-240 on a candy thermometer).
You can use a candy thermometer to test the temperature, but I like to tempt fate. So I chilled my hand in a glass of ice water (Olga thought this was pretty bad-ass, so she took a photo), dipped it into the hot syrup, and immediately dunked my hand back into the ice water to test the sugar stage. If you haven’t been taught how to do this by a professional, I’d stick to the spoon or thermometer method.
As the sugar heats up, whip your egg whites to the soft peak stage. Once the sugar is at the right temperature, immediately pour it over the egg whites, with the whisk running. After you’ve poured in all the sugar, continue whisking until the meringue is light, fluffy, shiny, and the mixer bowl is cool to the touch.
Then, beat in your softened butter, piece by piece, into the meringue. Add your seasonings (vanilla seeds, vanilla extract, bourbon, and lemon juice) and beat until incorporated.
Finally, you make the almond praline.
First thing first, toast your slivered almonds – about 5 minutes at 350 should get them nice and fragrant.
Then make the caramelized sugar. It’s actually pretty similar to the buttercream – start by combining your sugar with some water, cover it, and cook until it’s boiling. But after you uncover the sugar, you cook it until it’s a deep amber color. Stir in your nuts, and immediately pour onto a baking sheet lined with foil.
Spread with a spatula until it’s nice and smooth, and sprinkle with a little kosher salt. When it’s completely cool, you can peel off the foil and break into pieces.
Then it’s just a matter of assembly – pipe each cupcake with a swirl of Bourbon buttercream and top with a piece of almond praline.
Aren’t they pretty? Much prettier than a bacon cupcake. And I loved how the Bourbon and the vanilla complimented each other in the cake and the frosting.

Oh, and I did I mention they were delicious?

The Bourbon Street Cupcake
Makes 12 cupcakes
Recipe Adapted from Baking Illustrated, by The Editors of Cooks Illustrated Magazine


1/2 cup (4.25 oz) sour cream
1 large egg + 2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs bourbon whiskey
1 1/2 cups (7.5 oz) cake flour, sifted
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
Bourbon buttercream (recipe follows)
Almond praline (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, egg, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and whiskey until blended. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon until blended. Add the butter and 1/2 of the sour cream mixture and beat on low until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the rest of the sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Scoop batter into the cups with an ice cream scoop, filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until cupcakes are light golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing cupcakes from pan and placing on a rack to cool completely.

Frost with bourbon buttercream and top each cupcake with a piece of almond praline.

Bourbon Buttercream
Adapted from Italian Buttercream recipe by Chef Mark Ramsdell

3 oz egg whites (about 3 large egg whites), strained
1 1/4 cups + 1 tbs (8 oz) sugar
1/2 tbs corn syrup
2 1/2 sticks (10 oz) butter, softened and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 vanilla bean, slit down the middle and seeds scraped out
2 tbs plus 1 tsp bourbon whiskey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp lemon juice

Place sugar in a small saucepan and cover with just enough water to form a slurry. Wipe any excess sugar off the sides of the pan with a wet hand. Cover, leaving a small vent, and heat over medium heat until mixture is boiling. Pour in corn syrup. Do NOT stir the sugar mixture at any time – stirring will make it more likely to crystallize. Heat to soft ball stage (235-240 on a candy thermometer)  and remove from heat.

While the sugar is heating, place egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk to the soft peak stage. With the mixer running on medium speed, gradually pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites, being careful to not pour any sugar onto the whisk (aim to pour the syrup down the side of the bowl). Continue beating the meringue until cool (test this by feeling the mixer bowl – it should be body temperature or cooler). Beat in the butter, adding it a piece at a time. Beat in the vanilla bean seeds, whiskey, vanilla and lemon juice.

Almond praline

7 oz sugar
3.5 oz sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Line another baking sheet with a piece of foil.

Place sugar in a small saucepan and cover with just enough water to form a slurry. Wipe any excess sugar off the sides of the pan with a wet hand. Cover, leaving a small vent, and heat over medium heat until mixture is boiling. Uncover and cook until sugar is a deep caramel color. Add the nuts and stir for one minute.

Immediately pour sugar mixture onto prepared baking sheet, spreading with an offset spatula into a thin sheet. Let cool, then peel off foil and break into irregular pieces.

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Bourbon Cupcakes « Kablee's Kitchen
March 12, 2012 at 7:11 pm

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley Parker October 4, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Omg I’m drooling. Although, all that sugar boiling & such is mildly daunting, I am totally going to have to tackle these as soon as I get myself a legit stand mixer.


Alice October 5, 2010 at 10:26 am

THIS IS AWESOME. And totally deserving of all caps. I love the photo shoot! You guys should team up more often! I really really want to try that recipe now. I made a regular buttercream (just butter, powdered sugar, & cooled melted chocolate) for the chocolate cake and it was just okay. Maybe I’ll have to try the Italian version?


Olga @ MangoTomato October 5, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Thanks, Alice. Glad you liked the photo. I learned so much from Jenna about baking and am still amazed she stuck her hand in boiling sugar! Craziness.


Bonnie October 5, 2010 at 3:02 pm

I totally thought your hand was in the ice water from burning yourself on the sugar syrup! Insane method for testing for soft ball stage. They sound delicious. Will you make them at Christmas for us?


Amber October 5, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Awesome. These will be so easy to veganize!


rebecca October 6, 2010 at 7:51 am

Looks delicious and the pictures are great too. I guess I’ll have to stick to the thermometer method because I’m not a bad ass like you Jenna.


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