Recently I've made the decision to say "yes" more often, within a reason of course, so now I'm making an effort to not count myself out and to throw my hat into every ring. But you see, my hat doesn't yet belong in every ring. Sometimes my hat is more like a fez, perfectly awesome, but doesn't necessarily belong alongside a dozen fedoras. But life is one big lesson, right? And it's exactly why I had to send in my entry into last weekend's cupcake contest, despite actually being very good at cupcake decorations. Sure I can make pretty swirls and toss in some sprinkles, I've even gotten pretty good at piping roses, but I'm still leery of anything to do with fondant, which limits what I can do, but not necessarily what I think I can do.
The contest was hosted by the French Pastry School in Chicago, and the criteria stipulated that we had to expand on a pound cake recipe for our cupcakes. I set out with a great idea: I was going to make tiramisu inspired cupcakes. I did a lot of research, tried a few things, added my favorite tiramisu cream and let me tell you, the flavor, texture, everything tasted fantastic. But then it came time to decorate and all my attempts fell short. I made a batch of chocolate marshmallow fondant and tried to shape it into trees...it didn't work. Then I tried to make tomb stones...they kept drooping. And finally I decided to just make mummies. I pulled out a face mold, and a piping bag and came up with something fairly decent, or so I thought. They're mostly grading on taste anyways. Right? Well, no backing out now.
Wow. When I showed up and people started putting their cupcakes up on the display table, I was almost ready to pack up and go back home. No way were my cupcakes good enough to compete. But I was there already, and my parents were coming to support me, so I stuck it out and spent the next two hours biting my nails and drooling over all the other entries:
Just look at this detail:
That green stuff is melted sugar, how cool is that:
This one actually ended up being one of the runners up:
Aren't those roses cute:
This was just awesome. It's an axe and a severed hand on a tree stump...all edible:
I thought these were fun. I don't know the flavor, but this would be fun for an oreo or a cookies and cream theme, don't you think?
The tables were right in the middle of a mall and both kids and adults passed by pointing out their favorites. This mademoiselle couldn't tear herself away until she went through all of them, and picked out the ones she liked best. Isn't she adorable? I want that coat in my size.
I thought these were the coolest looking ones out of all of them. Would you believe they didn't even place? I guess the taste didn't measure up, but come on, don't they just look awesome?
And this was the grand prize winner. I'm waiting for them to post the recipe, I'm really curious to see what was so special here, just looks like a chocolate cupcake to me. (I may also be a sore loser...maybe)
Yeah....these were mine and no, they didn't win. Please please please don't make any creepy bundled baby jokes, I know. My friends told me all of them. I can tell you though that despite the looks, they tasted awesome, so I'm including the recipe, should you want to try making them yourself...sans "mummy" of course.
Chocolate Tiramisu Cupcake
3 tsp. instant espresso powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. hot water
2 and 3/4 cups unsifted All-Purpose flour, King Arthur
1/4 cup unsifted cake flour
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. Dutch processed cocoa
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, large
1 cup sour cream, thick style
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare two cupcake pans with liners.
Stir together the espresso powder, vanilla extract, and hot water in a very small bowl.
Onto a large sheet of parchment or wax paper, sift together the flour, cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium size bowl, toss the chocolate pieces with about 1 Tbsp. of this flour mixture. Set both aside.
In the large bowl of your mixer, cream the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl.
Pour in the granulated sugar in 3 additions, mixing for about 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the bowl frequently to ensure even mixing. Add in all of the brown sugar and beat for 1 more minute. Scrape again.
One at a time, add in the eggs, beating for 45 seconds after each one. Scrape!
Blend in the espresso mixture.
On low speed, add in the sifted ingredients alternately with the sour cream (3 additions of flour and 2 additions of the sour cream). Scrape after each addition. Blend in the heavy cream.
Fill cups ¾ full and bake for 30 min.
Once cupcakes are cool, cut a cone shape out of each one. Slice the cap off of the cone and set aside the rest in a bowl. Fill with tiramisu filling and replace the cap on each cupcake. Crumble the cake bits into crumbs.
Dip each cupcake in slightly warm ganache and sprinkle cake bits on top. Put a fondant mummy head on top, pipe the body out of ganache and add mummy wrappings with the fortified cream cheese/tiramisu frosting.
Tiramisu filling and Cream Cheese Frosting
3 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 (8-oz) container mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
1 8oz package cream cheese
Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Beat in mascarpone until just combined.
Beat whites with a pinch of salt in another bowl with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks.
Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, then continue to beat whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat cream in another bowl with cleaned beaters until it just holds soft peaks. Fold cream into mascarpone mixture gently but thoroughly, then fold in whites.
Once the mixture has been used to fill the cupcakes, whip the cream cheese until soft in a separate bowl, add in whatever is left over of the tiramisu filling and whip together. This will give you a stiffer frosting to pipe the mummy shapes with.
8oz dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp instant espresso powder
¼ cup honey
Put chocolate into a bowl and combine the rest of the ingredients in a small pot set over high heat. Stir until honey is incorporated, butter has melted, and just until the first bubbles appear around the edges. Pour over chocolate, let sit for 2 minutes and then whisk together until well blended.
Shape mummy heads out of the fondant and let dry overnight. Or leave them off entirely...yeah, much better to just leave them off.