Easter cupcakes please kids, adults alike
VAIL CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Well, why not? I’ve seen them served at weddings, formal dinner parties, just about anywhere. So, why not make cupcakes your Easter dessert? In truth, they have a lot to recommend them. They please both adults and children, they can be made ahead of time, they’re easy to serve, perfect on a buffet, and they’re as pretty as a bouquet of spring flowers.
So, if you rule in their favor, consider this Easter candy cupcake. It’s a tender little bite of a light, moist vanilla cake topped with an ultra-smooth cream cheese frosting that echoes the vanilla flavor of the cake and adds the puckery brightness of lemon zest. You can omit the lemon if you choose, or replace it with the zest of an orange. Top these cuties with any of your favorite Easter candies, or leave them unadorned; the frosting is good enough to stand alone.
The cakes are best the day they’re frosted but still presentable the next day if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Remember that the frosting has no preservatives or stabilizers, so try to avoid placing the cupcakes in the hot sun.
Easter Candy Cupcakes
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
Make in standard-sized cupcake pans
Makes about 10 standard-sized cupcakes
3/4 cup plus 2 scant tablespoons (scant means each should be slightly less than a full tablespoon) of bleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter (one stick), at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
2 eggs at room temperature plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 teaspoon of water
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature
8 ounces of cream cheese, cold
2 teaspoons of vanilla
4 teaspoons of freshly grated lemon zest (optional)
2 to 2 1/2 cups of lump-free confectioner’s sugar
Jelly beans or other candies for topping
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center position. Place paper cupcake liners in the pan. Spray the liners with a vegetable oil or vegetable oil-flour spray. (I know you’re wondering if you really need to grease the paper liners. At sea level, the paper liners would be sufficient. But, at altitude, I’ve had many a cupcake stick to the paper liners in which they’re baked. So, I recommend greasing the liners.)
Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Cut the room-temperature butter into small pieces and place them in a medium bowl with the granulated sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the room temperature eggs and the egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and the water and mix until combined. At this point, the mixture may look curdled; it will come together once the flour is added.
With your mixer at low speed or by hand, gradually add the flour-salt mixture and stir until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, filling them about two-thirds to three-fourths full.
Bake until the top of each cake is firm and a tester comes out clean. In my oven, this takes about 25-30 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven to a cooling rack. Leave them in the pan for about 10 minutes and then gently lift them out of the pan and place them directly on the rack to cool completely. They may be refrigerated for a day or frozen for a week before frosting.
Make the frosting: Cut the butter and cream cheese into small pieces and place them in a food processor with the vanilla, three teaspoons of the lemon zest (if you’re using it), and two cups of the confectioner’s sugar. Pulse only until the mixture is smooth and creamy. (Don’t overbeat or the frosting gets grainy and soft.) Check to see if the frosting is thick enough to hold a shape. If not, add more confectioner’s sugar, two tablespoons at a time, until it’s the right consistency. Give it a taste and add more lemon zest (if using) to your liking. Frost the cupcakes, decorate with the candies, and serve. Store the cakes in the refrigerator.
The cupcake recipe was inspired by one in Martha Stewart’s Living.
The frosting is a variation of a “Joy of Cooking” recipe.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor at the CMC Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at email@example.com.