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.
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.
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.
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.
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.