Saturday, October 11, 2008

A perfect send off

This October is full of celebrations, especially when it comes to my office. One co-worker is retiring, one got engaged, four have birthdays, and one is getting married. To celebrate, we put together a lunch-time celebration on Wednesday.

My contribution to the party were some special wedding cupcakes for the bride-to-be. I wanted a beautiful white cake and a fluffy white frosting to match. And because the bride is such a fan of everything pumpkin, I filled them with a pumpkin-spice pastry cream.

Perfect Party Cake
Source: Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk (I used whole milk)
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (I omitted)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract (I substituted 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-x-2-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet. (For cupcakes: line two muffin tins with paper cups.)

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. (If you don't own a sifter, you can toss them in your food processor and pulse a few times.)

Wisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixes and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. (For cupcakes, fill each paper liner about 3/4 full.)

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch -- a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. (For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes.) Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.) (For cupcakes, let cakes cool in the pan for about 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.)

Pumpkin spice pastry cream
Adapted from: Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch, sifted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan (be careful not to let the milk boil over).

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan (or saucier), whisk the yolks together with the sugar, cornstarch, spices, and pumpkin until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk -- this will temper the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly, put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

To fill the cupcakes, put the pastry cream into a piping bag or a zipper storage bag with a corner cut off. Insert a paring knife no more than one inch deep at a 45 degree angle halfway between the edge and the center. Gently turn the cupcake against the knife until you have cut all the way around. Remove the center cone you've cut and set aside. Pipe the pastry cream into the cavity. Cut the cone end off of the cupcake plug reserving the top as a lid. Place the lid on top of the pastry-cream-filled cavity. Repeat for each of the remaining cupcakes.

Buttercream frosting
Source: Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I omitted)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or other large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6 to 10 minutes. During this time, the buttercream may curdle or separate -- just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. you should have a shiny, smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the butttercream until ready to use.

I'm excited to send out a big congratulations to the newlyweds, Michelle and Rick! If you're interested in reading about their journey to the alter, you can visit their wedding blog.


  1. A perfectly beautiful cupcake tier! Thanks Holly for the delicious send off! :O)

  2. You need to be in business! Those are beautiful and look luscious, especially with the pumpkin pastry cream--Yum!

  3. Linda, you're making me blush!