December 15, 2011

French Toast Cupcakes

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French toast cupcakes. Doesn't the name just make you want to dive face-first into the frosting? Let me say it again: French toast cupcakes. These are basically maple spice cupcakes with a maple cinnamon buttercream. It sounds like French toast to me.

I had been trying to come up with a way of making French toast cupcakes for a while. Then, Thanksgiving morning, I was making spice cupcakes and I thought, "You know what sounds good? Maple spice. I've got maple syrup and maple flavoring, and I'll switch the brown sugar to dark brown sugar because that would go well with maple syrup." I took them out of the oven and I had to try them to see if they were any good. ZOMG, they tasted like French toast! I had created my prototype French toast cupcake completely by accident.

Now, that first batch wasn't perfect. The texture was a bit muffin-y (they make brilliant muffins- expect that recipe soon), they weren't quite sweet enough, and the cloves and allspice made it a little too spicy. I had also topped them with cream cheese frosting which, while delicious, isn't especially French toast-y. So I tweaked the recipe and waited for my chance to make them again. I was going to make them Saturday, but I made the mistake of sitting down after bringing up all the Christmas decorations. Sunday, I went shopping. Monday, we had no eggs. Tuesdays I babysit. Finally it was Wednesday and I could make as many cupcakes as my little heart desired. It didn't matter that I didn't feel so great after waking up at 6 with a migraine, I was going to make these cupcakes darn it.

I'm leaving work and the other receptionist says, "I'll see you tonight."

Holiday party. Darn. I didn't want to put off the cupcake making for another day, so I rushed a bit to get these done before I had to leave. I didn't have time to garnish them as well as I would have liked, and I found butter bits in the batter as I was scooping it out. Forgive me Viola! Luckily the cupcakes still turned out yummy, though I still might tweak the recipe a bit more another day.

These turned out moist and yummy, though a bit on the dense side. (I didn't add the baking soda, but after baking them, I added it to the recipe. It's definitely needed). The maple flavor is the most prevalent, though there's a nice spice tang from the cinnamon and nutmeg. The frosting is some of the best I think I've ever made. I just took my basic buttercream, made it whipped, and added cinnamon and maple flavoring. Holyohmygoodness yum.

Here's our cast of characters: butter, flour, sugar, dark brown sugar, milk, eggs, maple syrup, maple flavoring, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda, salt, and vanilla extract. You could probably nix the vanilla if you want. I think that next time I'll try it that way.
Mix the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and soda, and salt together in a large mixing bowl and set it aside.

I like to add the maple syrup to the milk and mix it together. This isn't a necessary step; I just find it easier that way. You're going to add them at the same time anyway, right?
Beat the butter and both sugars together until fluffy. I obviously did not pay enough attention at this part and ended up with butter bits in my batter. Make sure all the butter is fully incorporated. Add the eggs and extracts and beat well.

Now you want to add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk mixture. So, half the flour, add milk, other half of the flour. Easy peasy.
Make sure to scrape down the sides of your bowl with your handy-dandy rubber spatula to make sure all the flour is mixed in. I generally have batter on my fingers at this point, so I use that as an excuse to taste it. It should have a silky texture and will taste mostly like maple syrup. Some of that maple flavor will bake off, don't worry.
You can see my butter bits. I'm so ashamed.
Fill your cupcake liners 3/4 full of batter, about 2 tablespoons. Voice of experience tip: when you buy Reynolds foil baking cups and they're separated by those paper liners? Don't throw out the papers. You can reuse them as paper baking cups.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes. An inserted toothpick should come out clean, or with a few crumbs clinging to it. These smell amazing while they're baking. If your kitchen smells like French toast, you know you're doing something right.
This is all you need for the frosting. Powdered sugar, butter, heavy cream, cinnamon, and maple flavoring. You know, as a kid I hated frosting. Cake was okay, some of the time, but I couldn't stand frosting. Until I made my own. I always thought frosting would be difficult to make because nobody does, but it's really one of the easiest things in the world. And it tastes worlds better than the canned stuff, not to mention the fact that you can flavor it however you want. That's not to say there aren't complicated frostings out there. Frosting is only as difficult as you let it be. Me, I tend to stick close to my easy-peasy buttercream recipe. This is just a whipped, flavored version of that.

 I don't have pictures of making the buttercream because 1) it's so quick to put together and 2) my hands get very messy when I make frosting. I didn't want to have to wash my hands every 5 seconds so I could take a picture. I was rushing, remember?

Start by beating the butter on medium speed. Add the powdered sugar a little bit at a time. Another voice of experience tip: too much powdered sugar + electric mixer = giant mess. Once the sugar is added, beat in two tablespoons of the heavy cream. Add the cinnamon and maple flavoring. Once everything is fully combined, beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Increase the speed to high and beat until the frosting is smooth and fluffy.
Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl when making frosting, too.
Now, I know that this doesn't look like a lot, but frosting can be deceptive. I frosted the cupcakes very generously, and got a good 18 out of it. With a little less, I could have frosted all twenty, easy. But this is too excessively yummy so I piled it on. Seriously, this is my new favorite frosting. I am now brainstorming all the things I can put it on.

For now, how about some French toast cupcakes?

French Toast Cupcakes {Printable Version}

Yield: 20 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. baking soda
½ cup milk
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
½ tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
¼ tsp. imitation maple flavor

For the frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
¾ cup (1 and ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. imitation maple flavor

Preheat the oven to 350°. Place paper liners in a muffin tin. In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside. In a measuring cup, mix together milk and maple syrup. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and maple flavor and beat well. Add half of the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Add the milk mixture and beat until fully incorporated. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Fill the paper liners ¾ of the way full, about 2 tablespoons of batter. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks.

For the frosting, put the butter in a bowl of a stand mixer, or in a mixing bowl with electric beaters, and beat on medium speed. Gradually add the sugar in small increments. When all the sugar has been added, beat in two tablespoons of the whipping cream until fully incorporated. Add the cinnamon and the maple flavor. Add the rest of the whipping cream and beat on medium until just combined, then beat on high until the frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Recipe by Kim
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