February 16, 2012

Grapefruit Daisy Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

I miss the sun.  Wintertime in Seattle is gray, rainy, dreary, gray, wet, and gray.  Honestly, Seattleites really should come up with a bunch of words for different types of gray...like the Eskimos have with snow (which is not true according to Wikipedia).  When I saw a recipe on Whisk-Kid for Grapefruit Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Strawberry Rhubarb Jam and Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream, I began craving them immediately because they seemed summery and delicious.


I also decided to use these cupcakes as an excuse to try using fondant for the first time.  Some simple flowers to put on the cupcakes sounded like a good first project.  I would like to say that I chose daisies because they kind of fit with my craving for summer, but really, they just looked relatively uncomplicated.

The daisies did turn out to be fairly straightforward.  I chose to buy pre-made fondant (Satin Ice Buttercream Flavor) and I found that it handled better than the chocolate plastic I've used before, but didn't taste as good.  I rolled the fondant, cut it, shaped it using this thing called a "veiner tool", and popped it into some aluminum foil "forming cups".  When fondant first comes out of the packaging, it is kind of moist and clay-like.  When left out, however, it dries out and becomes hard.  Since I wanted the daisies to be three-dimensional, they needed to keep their shape as they dried and not shlump down and become flat again.  Thus, the forming cups.

Fondant daisies in foil forming cups.

Notice that Whisk-Kid's recipe is for a cream cheese buttercream.  This sounded delicious, so I did attempt to follow her recipe - I just failed utterly.  It started out well.  After adding the butter, the buttercream came together and became thick and frosting-y.  Then, I added the cream cheese.  BAM!  My frosting became soup.  I spent the next hour and a half or so trying to fix it.  I changed the mixing speed, tried refrigerating it, and changed to the paddle attachment.  Eventually, I just glared into the mixture and tried to will it to thicken.  My stand mixer is the kind where the bowl turns and the beater stays still.  So, after focusing on the spinning buttercream mush for 20 minutes, and then having the room spin when I looked up from it, I gave up.  I threw the mush away (after eating several spoonfuls - it was delicious) and made vanilla buttercream.  Sigh.


The cupcakes with the vanilla buttercream were still quite tasty.  I ended up skipping the strawberry rhubarb jam (the strawberries at the grocery store didn't look so good), but the grapefruit cupcakes and grapefruit syrup were delicious.  The tangy grapefruit flavor in the cupcakes came through really well and the cool vanilla buttercream was a nice complement.

Finally, I'm trying to improve the pictures I put on this blog!  I'm not a great photographer, so this is something else I'm trying to get better at.  How am I doing?  Better?  Worse?

Grapefruit Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Grapefruit Syrup
I followed Whisk Kid's delicious recipe.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

4 egg whites
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 tbsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Cube the butter and leave out at room temperature (make sure you don't leave it over the dishwasher or oven or it will get too warm). 
Whisk the eggs whites and sugar together in the top part of a double broiler.  Make sure that the water in the bottom part is simmering, not boiling.  Keep whisking until a candy thermometer reads 160 degrees (Fahrenheit).  Transfer to a stand mixer with the whisk attachment installed.  Whip at a medium speed until the mixture is at room temperature (the bowl feels neutral when you touch it).
Lower the mixing speed and add the butter, one cube at a time.  Keep mixing until there is an obvious change in the consistency of the buttercream - from soupy to much more solid (you can usually hear the mixer start making different noises).  If it stays soupy for a very long time, throw the bowl in the refrigerator for ten minutes or so and retry.
Finally, add your vanilla and salt and keep mixing until they are incorporated.

Daisy, Daisy...

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