In one of my previous posts (it was for the lemon cupcakes ), I talked about how the first version of my idea was a total failure - one thing after another went wrong - and I finally just tossed the darn things out. There is, of course, always a time to raise the white flag (y'all know I'm from Alabama, right? And I'm French? Hush your mouth!). But there are other times when things don't go as planned and instead of having a foot-stamping fit, it's an opportunity (hee! Now I sound like a middle manager). In other words, never admit to mistakes (in cooking!). So these are the I-Meant-to-do-that cupcakes, and boy, did they turn out well!
I had to take the car to the mechanic (for the third time in as many weeks) and was just about in a state over it. I needed some comfort. So first, I got in a workout (preventative measures, you see) and then I went about whipping up some comfort. Don't get me wrong, I love chocolate, obviously, but the smell of cinnamon, like the smell of fresh bread, just makes me feel better. Back in college, I used to burn ground cinnamon in metal cups instead of the ubiquitous college incense - I read about it in a book from the 60's...maybe the Alice's Restaurant Cookbook (and even if not you should check that book out) and everyone always loved how our dorm smelled. Anyway, a cinnamon cupcake appealed to me.
Now, I've seen recipes where you essentially make cinnamon rolls and plop them in muffin tins to sort of resemble a cupcake, but that's not what I wanted. I wanted a cupcake, with a gooey filling. I went for a light and moist vanilla cake (with a bit of cinnamon added), and thought that if the cake were light enough, I could make a cinnamon sugar filling (like you'd use in a cinnamon roll), sprinkle it on top, and it would sink into the cupcake. I even read other recipes where that worked!
Yeah, not for me. The filling spread out over the top of the cupcake like a spicy skullcap. But that didn't have to be a bad thing. That meant I could still do a filling (I like putting a creamy filling in cupcakes, and I was a bit dubious about the cinnamon-sugar route to begin with).
I knew I wanted a cream cheese frosting, so I didn't want anything to similar for the middle of the cupcake, and I had liked a brown sugar frosting I used for a chocolate chip cookie cupcake (of which I didn't take any photos so I will have to recreate...darn), so I went about looking for a brown sugar buttercream. I wanted to take the lazy way out so I found one that didn't require the separation of eggs or cooking to a certain temperature and whipped it together...but it didn't look very frosting-ish. It looked a lot more like caramel.
I moved on. What fluffy buttercream? Faugh!
I knew I wanted to incorporate pecans somehow, so I toasted some off on the stove and then ground them up in my mini food processor (I didn't want big chunks of nuts) and folded them into the not-at-all-fluffy brown sugar stuff. Voila! A buttery, brown sugar, toasted pecan-y filling, and had I not just told you, you'd never have been any the wiser.
So I filled the cupcakes with the usual cut-a-cone-out-fill-up-the-cavity-replace-the-cap method, then piped on the cream cheese frosting. I dusted the tops with cinnamon and a bit of the ground pecans so my tasters would know what they were getting into.
You know what? These were great. Really great. They had everything you love in a cinnamon roll (but with more frosting) in a dessert form. The filling was sweet, buttery, and gooey, and the cap of cinnamon and sugar was a nice, not-too-sweet foil to the creaminess of the frosting. It was a lovely balance of flavors and textures and when I make these again, I won't do anything differently.
I totally meant to do that.
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 egg white
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, softened
Mix with a fork until it makes a paste, and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a standard muffin tin with cupcake liners (or grease the tin well). (This made 21 cupcakes for me, so be prepared to make about that many. If not, of course, it is not real hardship to take a cupcake liner out of a muffin pan and put it back in the cupboard, is it?)
In an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy. While that's beating combine together the dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, beat together the eggs, egg white, milk, and vanilla.
Once the butter and sugar mixture is light and fluffy add a third of the flour mixture. Mix on low speed. Add half the wet ingredient mixture to the batter. Alternate until all of the ingredients are just incorporated.
~Brown Sugar-Toasted Pecan Filling~
1 cup tightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 1-ounce pieces
1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely ground in a food processor (about 2 tablespoons reserved for garnish, if desired)
Heat the brown sugar, cream, and 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently while bringing the mixture to a boil. Allow the mixture to continue boiling while stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Transfer the hot mixture to a metal bowl and allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding. Place the cooled mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on low for 30 seconds. Then beat on medium for 2 minutes, while adding the remaining 3 pieces of butter, one at a time, until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat for an additional 2 minutes. Mix in the pecan pieces and stir to combine.
Once the cupcakes have cooled, cut out a cone-shaped portion out of the top of each cake. Slice off the excess cake from the cone (leaving the flat cap) and reserve the top. Fill the resulting hole with about a tablespoon of the filling (or however much you need). Replace the cap. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes, and then put in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to chill and set the filling (once cool, it will become very thick and hold the caps in place).
~Cream Cheese Frosting~
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), room temperature
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 - 2 tablespoons milk (only if needed)
In an electric mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese until well-blended. Add in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time (add in the salt, vanilla, and lemon juice after half the powdered sugar has been added). If a thinner frosting is desired, add a bit of milk; add more sugar if you want it thicker. Frost the cupcakes using a pastry bag and large star tip. If you like, garnish with a dusting of cinnamon and a sprinkling of the reserved ground pecans.