Those of you who know me, know I have a cupcake obsession. When I was a kid my mother used to take me to a small local bakery about once a week, and tell me to order whatever I wanted. I always ordered the same thing: a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting, and every year for my birthday we’d buy 20-some odd of those same vanilla cupcakes to bring into school. The bakery has sadly since closed, but my love for cupcakes remains.
I mean come on, they’re adorable, delicious, and unbelievably satisfying.
Plus unlike cakes which require levelling, torting, masking, and frosting, cupcakes just have to cool, be popped out of the cupcake tins, and frosted. Additionally, they’re much less stressful to transport than cakes. When I have a cake in the car you’ll see me folding towels to use as levellers, and then I drive ten miles below the speed-limit with one hand holding onto the cake-box until I am safely at my destination.
Cupcakes on the other hand can be popped into a box, and simply set into the back seat with very little fanfare. One or two may end up slightly ruined, but the great thing is most recipes make at least a dozen, and an ugly cupcake gives you an excuse to eat it. I mean seriously, no one wants that deformed one, and more importantly you have to make sure they still taste good after transportation. Quality control people. Quality control.
I mean, I love making cake. Love it. But sometimes I just want a cupcake.
I first made these cupcakes last June. They were completely inappropriate given that it was nearly 80 degrees out, perfectly sunny, and summer. Today is more appropriate, given that we’re into the second week of November and it’s definitely not pushing 80 outside. Plus, the time has officially ‘fallen back,’ Starbucks has switched to holiday cups, and I could order an eggnog latte, if I liked eggnog. It’s officially the holiday season, so let the holiday baking begin.
These maple cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting come out of one of my favourite cookbooks: Baked Explorations.
These particular cupcakes are pretty much perfect. They are dense, with a hint of maple, and covered in the most incredible cream-cheese frosting I’ve ever had. I love it so much I use it every time I make cream-cheese frosting no matter what I’m planning to use it for.
Unlike most cream-cheese frostings which are overly sweetened due to an overload of powdered sugar added in to stiffen them up, this frosting uses a bit more butter and cream cheese which lets the flavour shine through. I’ll be honest – it doesn’t hold a piped-shape very well, but it does so enough to use a plain round-tip, or to get decently-smooth edges onto the side of a cake. But the flavour is undeniable, and well worth putting out a slightly messier dessert.
Just trust me and make the damn cupcakes.
Here’s what you need (lightly adapted from Baked – Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented)
1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1.5 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2Tbsp of butter – softened and cut into chunks.
2 cups pure maple syrup – and for the sake of maple syrup lovers everywhere, use the real stuff, it’s pricy but worth it.
3 egg yolks
1.5 cups whole milk
For the Frosting:
3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
12 ounces cream cheese softened – I let mine sit out on the counter while I make and bake and cool the cupcakes
4 cups powdered sugar – sifted, this keeps out the lumps so don’t skip it.
2 tablespoons maple syrup.
Here’s what you do:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line 2 muffin trays with cupcake liners.
2. Sift the flours, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter until it starts to ribbon a bit. Turn the mixer onto low and stream in the maple syrup before increasing the speed and beating for about 3 minutes until the mixture is close to uniform. It will look a bit curdled as the butter will not want to blend with the maple syrup. That’s ok so long as you’ve managed to get the mixture fairly uniform.
4. Lightly beat the egg yolks and eggs and then pour into the batter in three separate additions. Beat until just incorporated after each additions.
5. Scrape the bowl, and with the mixer on low speed add half the flour, then all the milk, and the rest of the flour. Mix until just uniform, as soon as the last of that flour disappears, turn off your mixer.
6. Using a 1/4 cup measure, fill each of the muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes (my oven took 22 minutes), rotating the pans 180 degrees, and switching racks if baking both pans at the same time, after 15 minutes. Remove from oven when a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the muffin pan for 15 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool all the way before frosting.
To make the frosting:
1. Beat butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until it is completely smooth. Add the softened cream cheese and beat until they are combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
2. Add the maple syrup, then lower the speed on the mixer and add the powdered sugar, once it starts to incorporate beat on medium speed until the frosting comes together.
Frost cupcakes using either a pallet knife, or a large round tip. As I mentioned above, the frosting is too soft to hold a star shape.