Saturday, April 2, 2011

creme brulee cupcakes

I love chess.

The tactics, the suspense, the passion for sacrifice, the need to always be two steps ahead of your opponent.

But most of all, I love how humbling of a game it is.

Weird, right? But it's true.

You see your opponent's bishop close in on your cornered king, and your stomach drops as you realize that it's all over. But instead of fighting it, you tip your king over in a show of grace and humility, accepting defeat as an homage to your opponent's skill.

And then you shake hands, part ways, and promise yourself you won't lose the next one.

I love chess because humble defeat is what happens to me every time I make a resolution. Humble defeat in the form of eating a cupcake.

No sugar for 80 days? Well, one [read: two] days won't kill me.

And it was delicious so, in my eyes, totally justified.

Wait a hot sec, did she just say a cupcake was delicious?

Yes, in fact. It was delicious. This isn't to say I love cupcakes now or anything, but I suppose some can be tasty.

These were made for my good friend, Daniel, who turns 20 tomorrow. His favorite dessert is creme brulee, and since I couldn't very well transport 6 ramekins via car for 20 miles, I settled on a cupcake variation. Caramel cupcake, topped with a cream cheese frosting, and decorated with sugar shards. Deliciously moist and perfectly sweet.

Creme Brulee Cupcakes
Adapted from Creative Loafing
Makes 12 cupcakes

For the caramel cupcakes, you'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 stick of butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp buttermilk

For the cream cheese frosting, you'll need:
  • 1 8-oz package of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick of butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

For the sugar shards, you'll need:
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cupcake pan with papers.

To prepare cupcakes, cream butter and brown sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture in batches, alternating with buttermilk. Mix until just incorporated.

Divide batter evenly among paper cups, about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

To prepare the cream cheese frosting, cream cream cheese, butter, and shortening on medium speed until fluffy. Lower speed and slowly add in confectioner's sugar. Add vanilla and increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Refrigerate frosting until using.

To prepare sugar shards, line a 12-inch tray with aluminum foil and grease lightly with butter. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat sugar and water. Stir until sugar dissolves, then remove spoon. Continue mixing by swirling the pan (do not stir), allowing sugar water to come to a boil. Once the sugar turns a pale yellow color, watch diligently; it will begin to dark relatively quickly. Continue swirling until sugar turns a golden brown color. Immediately pour sugar onto greased pan, swirling the pan so the sugar spreads out evenly. Allow sugar to harden completely before using, at least 2 hours. Once set, break sugar apart and form shards of different shapes and sizes.

To assemble cupcakes, frost the tops of each cupcakes with a generous amount of cream cheese frosting. Take a few different-sized shards and stick them on top of the cupcakes, making sure to pierce the cakes to maintain stability. If not serving immediately, store cupcakes in the refrigerator. Cupcakes will last up to 3 days in the fridge.

I'm home for the weekend, and spent a good portion of the day visiting friends in the city [after a wonderful brunch with Nitya]. Picked up Daniel and Cory and drove them over to Ellewood Cafe to meet up with Matt and Chelsea. It was nice, sitting in Ellewood Cafe, catching up with old friends, cappuccino in hand and cupcakes on the table. Like a scene from a movie. Complete with snark and insults flying from all mouths.

Just the way I love it.

As for my defeat this weekend?

Well, I don't plan on losing the next one.


Thanks so much for reading!
I'd love to hear your thoughts :)