Before I get into the cupcake fun, I have to share something. A few weeks ago I received an email from POM asking me if I'd be interested in giving their pomegranate juice a try. Why not? I like pomegranates, and while I'm not a huge fan of "from concentrate" type juice, I shouldn't count it out just yet, so when I got a box of juice in the mail, I popped open a bottle and set about searching for recipes. I guess it tasted okay, but I was sure that it would be even better if properly treated, besides, it's good for you, so I had to give it another chance. I found a recipe from Alton Brown for pomegranate molasses, so I dumped 4 bottles of juice, some lemon juice and sugar into a pot and got to simmerin'. Now I don't know if I messed something up or if that's what the recipe was supposed to turn into, but the thick syrup just didn't smell or taste right. The jar is still in the fridge waiting for me to either try doing something with it or waiting to be tossed.
I wasn't ready to throw in the towel and I still had 2 more bottles in the fridge, so when my sister asked me to make cupcakes for my nephew's birthday I decided to give the kids something that seemed like a chocolate cupcake on the outside, but was secretly a little healthy for them. Not much, mind you, it's still cake, but a little helps, right? I found a great recipe on Whipped a while ago and decided to give it a try. I won't retype the recipe here because I made it exactly as is, not changing a thing. I was a bit tentative about messing with something when the happiness of two dozen kids was at stake. I did switch out the frosting for the one from the same blog, but a different post and I gotta tell you, the cupcakes were good, but the frosting was super easy, gorgeously glossy and very chocolaty with a very pleasing tang from the sour cream. While I was a bit apprehensive about the corn syrup, I'm glad I gave it a try. I just might have found my favorite chocolate frosting outside of straight up ganache, at least for now.
I also had another recipe hanging out on my "to bake" list for a vanilla almond cupcakes from Love and Oil and the flavor combination seemed just too good to pass up. Besides, I had everything it called for in my pantry, which was definitely a bonus, but once again, I changed the frosting. I liked the idea of a berry frosting to match the coconut and almond, so I just tossed a few blocks of cream cheese, a stick of butter and a mess of strawberry jam I had made earlier into the mixer and hit the go button. It came out a bit too tart and thin, so I mixed in just enough powdered sugar to adjust the flavor and texture. Oh, and a few drops of food coloring to make the icky fleshy tone go away. One of these days I'm going to have to actually calculate an exact recipe for my cream cheese frosting, but at this point, this is the one thing I make where I don't even bother to measure, and that feels just reckless enough for me to keep doing it by taste.
Oh, and to add onto the list of other people's recipes that I referred to last night was this wonderful tutorial from Cake Journal for Marshmallow Fondant. It was easy to make, and while not exactly gourmet, it tasted miles better than the store bought variety and was very easy to work with. It made the perfect medium to make several dozen of little Totoro's, which my nephew loves. Have you seen the movie My Neighbor Totoro? It's very cute, it's no wonder my nephew and his friends went nuts over it.
All in all, I'd say the day was a success and while I'm still on a search of the next great chocolate cupcake recipe, the almond vanilla one was a drop dead gorgeous success and it's going into the keeper file, so go ahead. Head over to Love and Oil and whip up a batch for your friends. You won't be sorry.