Recently, however, baking has creeped more and more into my repertoire. With Will's birthday came those complicated filled Carbomb Cupcakes, with my own birthday was the Almond Cake with Maderia Icing, and baking is quickly winning my respect. It's one of those things in life where I've realized that if baking is a task that women are often assigned, it is not because it is frilly and easy. In many ways I've had a harder time baking then with my usual cooking, it is more detail oriented, more precise, and with less room for error. In other words... David Chang can cook. Christina Tosi can do it backwards and in heels.
And so with beloved friend Stef returning to NY for another visit on a date that was coincidentally her 26th birthday, I knew cupcakes were in order. What kind was hardly up for debate. Stef is mad about almonds. Almond croissants, almond danishes, almond biscotti, the girl has not met an almond she didn't like. I briefly considered the cake I had made myself in February, but then dismissed it. It had been a fabulous cake, but I was craving new adventures. Also cake is hard to divide up, but it is easier to pack a few cupcakes for the journey home, which was a treat I felt the birthday girl deserved.
Two recent blog obsessions helped considerably. Design Sponge, an amazing blog full of home projects to make your apartment adorable and awesome, which includes some baked goods recipes for stuff that will look cute on your counter, impress your friends, and make everything smell awesome. They posted a recipe for Pistachio Fig Cake, but that wasn't what caught my interest. The author of this recipe was one Ming Thompson, who runs the website Ming Makes Cupcakes. Yes, yes she does.
The website isn't really a blog, because there is no discussion of the recipes or how she came to them, she just numbers her cupcakes and gives you a recipe in a very stark, "Here's your god damn cupcake" kind of way. No unnecessary narcissistic ideas that the world is interested in personal views and stories of a blogger. Anyway.... I immediately honed in on Cupcake 27. And luckily just like last week my friend Anne was here to assist and photograph. Will better watch his back, he's quickly losing his title of sous chef.
Almond Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted (slightly) from Ming Makes Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
For the Cupcakes:
- 1 cup cake flour (or 130 grams if you are a freak like me and weigh it)
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 stick butter at room temp.
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 400°. Whisk together both flours, baking powder, and salt. Beat in sugar and mix thoroughly. Beat in eggs, then vanilla and milk until just mixed. Pour into lined cupcake pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until toothpick comes out almost clean.
For the Frosting:
- 4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/2 stick butter at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups of confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
Mix cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup with an electric mixer until just combined, then slowly add the confectioners' sugar and mix at high speed until smooth and light, about a minute. Frost cupcakes. Decorate as desired.
I played a bit with a new frosting kit I bought, but mostly just decorated by making the frosting smooth and plunking an almond or three on top. Um, does that cupcake look a little dark to you? Yeah, on the website Ming recommends baking for 20 minutes, which turned out to be a little much for my perhaps overly hot oven. I made a second batch and baked for 15, which was better, but I had been a bit haphazard in mixing the ingredients so they didn't rise properly and were perhaps a little strudelly looking.
I even made a third batch (and by that point Anne wasn't here to photograph and make it all pretty) which was better, but kinda rose into weird peaks instead of a pretty dome. America's Test Kitchen seems to think you get prettier tops if you bake cupcakes at 350° for a bit longer, like 18 to 22 minutes. Someone else is going to have to have a birthday so I can test that theory.
I really liked the frosting, it was sweet and creamy. I got WAY too much, however, so I might have to cut the recipe next time. Though it was helpful when I made that extra batch. The cake, while moist and tasty, was not as almondy as I would have liked. Anne brought a cupcake book over with her, Crazy About Cupcakes (she contributed to the cupcake party by making Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream Frosting). The book includes its own Almond Cupcake, which includes ground almonds as well as almond extract, so that might be worth a turn the next time I attempt this. Stef seemed happy though. She blew out her candle and enjoyed a cupcake the night of her birthday.
It was the next morning, though, when I got the real complement on these confections. After packing a few cupcakes for her in a tupperware, we went to grab coffee before she had to catch her bus. As we sipped our caffeinated beverages, her hand wandered into her bag. The next moment I looked up, she was happily enjoying a cupcake breakfast. A Happy Birthday treat indeed!