Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Glory of Cupcakes

One of the best pleasures in life is the first bite into the perfect cupcake. The anticipation of peeling off the wrapper, the care you take in not dropping it or getting the icing everywhere then the contrast of creamy icing with fluffy, light cake thats packed with flavour hitting your tastebuds is a joy to rival no other.

My cooking is always focused on turning out such amazing joy, as one of the most fulfilling things in my life is to provide people I care about with something amazing to eat. I buy the best ingredients, no expense spared and take the most care I possibly can when making something to eat, baked or otherwise.

So as you can imagine, dear readers, the huge disappointment that comes with failed recipes. This past weekend I made a batch of cupcakes for a neighbour's birthday and decided to try a new recipe. The recipe is for Vanilla Cupcakes from the famous Billy's Bakery in NYC. The recipe had all the great makings of lovely cake... the right ingredients, more importantly the proper ratio of ingredients and of course, the pedigree of the Bakery itself. Friends have told me that is a great bakery and the cakes are fantastic ( it opened just after I left for Londontown). I was prepared to be happily swept away by pure cake loveliness.... However, the method of combining the ingredients seemed, well...unorthodox to say the least. The recipe called for the butter to be rubbed together with the flour and sugar before adding the liquid ingredients. Not usual cake making, but I went with it....

The batter had a gorgeous aroma of butter, vanilla and sugar that told me the flavour would be spot on, but the thickness of the batter did concern me as it seemed impossible that the cake would have enough leavener to make the magic happen. Despite a whopping addition of baking powder for extra boost as indicated by the recipe, there was no beating of sugar and butter together to produce the crucial air bubbles that give that lovely lovely fluffyness. Also, adding the sugar on top of the flour really seemed to weigh down the light and airy sifted flour I put in the bowl. But hey, just doing what I am told.

So the result....

They rose a decent amount and the oven temp was perfect ( a serious feat for my oven) so there was no cracking or excess browning. The smell was really intoxicating. I used Nielsen Massey Vanilla extract and boy could you tell. The whole house was filled with sweet vanilla fug and literally, I couldn't wait until they cooled down enough to eat.

The flavour is really, really good. However, the texture was heavy and the cakes had a large loose crumb so the mouth feel was completely wrong. Toothsome, if that makes sense? Instead of lightly dissolving in your mouth, you really had to chew the cake which is wrong, wrong, wrong! I felt like I was eating corn bread, which is not at all the texture of the most sublime cupcake in the world ( I had high hopes clearly). Even though I thought they were technical rejects of the worst variety, I still couldn't help eating several of them without icing because I just wanted more and more of the flavour.

So, I am going to give the recipe one more go as I was so bowled over by the taste. However, I am going to change the order of adding the ingredients to the traditional - tried and true, creaming method, adding the liquid in stages and sifting my flour three times. I was going to post the original recipe but instead, once I do a 're-cake', I will happily tell you all about it and post up my tweaked version.

If anyone out there has any experience with combining ingredients in the manner described above with great success, I would love to hear about it!

x Arianna

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