Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Cupcakes A to Z: Almond Cupcakes

There are certain flavours that I love.  Citrus flavours, coconut, and almond.  I mean - I'm not going to say NO to a chocolate or vanilla cupcake - but I would choose something a little different in place of chocolate or vanilla.

And now - it's all about the almond.

I mentioned before that I had a multitude of similar recipes.  The almond cupcake recipe is no exception.  So, I went to my computer gathered up as many almond-related recipes I could find and printed them off - there were eight.  So this is kind of a best of the best episode too.

I halved all the recipes (math, math, math) and decided to make four cupcakes from each recipe.  I froze the remaining batters to test a theory that you can in fact freeze batter and that it would still work out okay.

And I totally intended on starting first thing in the morning - at like 9.  I wanted to have breakfast and watch a little bit of a movie (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World).  Then my brother called to talk about my car issues (he can fix it!  He won My Favorite Person of The Day Award - there's a crown and sceptre and everything, he was very excited).  And then I didn't want to turn off the movie.  So I didn't get started until 11.

And I thought it would take way way longer than it actually did, but once I got into a rhythm things started to go pretty quickly.  And I have an idea for how to make it go even faster next time.  Because we all know there'll be a next time.

I decided to do a Vanilla Almond Buttercream, courtesy of The Curvy Carrot, on all the cupcakes as a control.  Holy crap I could have swam in a bathtub full of it - it was so creamy and yummy, and most importantly - almondy.  (Is that a word?)

I also tossed around how I would differentiate the different cupcakes.  I thought about colouring the cupcakes all different colours, but I tossed that out the window.  And then it came to me a little later in the day.  LETTERING.  So I put aside some of the buttercream, coloured it blue and piped letters A - G on the top of each cupcake.  I know - I'm a nut.
Don't laugh!  I have to practice my piping, and it's REALLY hard to pipe on that swirl!

A: Vanilla Almond Cupcakes
This recipe calls for vanilla beans, but I just subbed in extract in place of the vanilla bean.  (I Googled and found out that 1 bean is about equal to 1 teaspoon of extract)
Putting the cupcakes back on the recipe was how I kept them sorted!

B: Almond Cupcakes
This recipe is actually the base to "Almond Joy Cupcakes". 

C: Vanilla Almond Cupcakes
This recipe called for coconut milk, but I subbed in whole milk.  Do you know how hard it is to half 1/3 cup?  1/3 cup is equal to 16 teaspoons.

D: Vanilla Almond Cupcakes
This is from a box, so I couldn't half it.  I am not opposed to using box mixes, but I do have my concerns that you can TELL it's from a box.

E: Vanilla Almond Cupcakes
This one uses almond meal and no almond extract.

F: Almond Cupcakes
I've never beaten eggs into stiff peaks by hand before.  Holy crap it's hard work.  The only reason I did it by hand was because my mixer was already in use.  But I got it to work anyway!  How did people DO that before mixers?  And when I started to mix the egg whites into the batter, I noticed that some of the egg hadn't been beaten.  But I had already deposited my whisk into the sink.  So it was warm.  And then the rest of the eggs would NOT whip up.  But I used them anyway.  Halfing 5 egg whites is hard.  But there are two tablespoons of whites in each large egg, so there ya go.

G: Vanilla Almond Cupcakes
I think I messed this one up a little.  I was measuring out the vanilla and my hand started to shake and I spilled a whole bunch into the milk.  So I kind of had to guess on how much vanilla actually ended up in the batter.  And I would have just started over, but the last bit of milk that I had went into that cup.

Now - if you've been counting, that's only 7.  There was an eighth, but something happened.  And I was really excited about this one.  When I did my shopping on Thursday I couldn't find almond paste.  So on Saturday morning I had a few free minutes, so I ran over to another grocery store and found almond paste in the bakery.  I did have to ask for help to find it, but there it was beside the fruitcake.  For real. 

So you're supposed to blend the almond paste and the sugar in the food processor until well mixed (I believe the actuall word was "sandy").  And when I pulled the top off the food processor I almost drooled.  Alright - I did drool a little, but not into anything.  And when the whole she-bang was baking in the oven I just about died.  And when it rose really high and started to spread I got a little nervous.  And at the end of the cook time, I tried to check the "doneness" and the cupcake DEFLATED.  Right in front of my eyes.  And when I pulled the pan out, the other three proceeded to deflate. 

Here's a picture.

So needless to say - this one got pulled out of the running.  Bummer.

I told Kay recently - okay, it was after I hadn't talked to her in a while (WE'RE BUSY!) and I felt like a jerk and was trying to seduce her into being my friend again (like she was ever not) - that I would follow her around with cupcakes.  And she whole-heartedly accepted this offer.  Silly silly girl.

I gave Kay the assignment of sampling cupcakes A - G and letting me know which one she thinks is best. 

The best part?  She totally understood what I was going for.  And even though other people might think I'm somewhat sick and crazy, she doesn't.  Heck - isn't that what friends are for?

So now you've waited all this time and are still waiting with baited breath about which was my favourite.  And now I'm gonna tell you.

But let's start with Kay's choice.  (ha ha ha)  She chose as her first choice cupcake C.  Followed by B.

For me, it came down to a choice between B & F.  I honestly couldn't remember which was which so I when I taste-tested them it was kind of blind.  I would also like to say here that if I didn't find your recipe to my palate, it's not because it isn't good - it's my own personal preference.  I literally have the weirdest tastebuds in the history of the world.  (I really don't want to offend anyone.)

A was a little dry and had a little almond flavour, but not enough.  C was really moist, and had not bad almond flavour.  D just tasted like white cake from a box.  It was really fluffy, but I couldn't get past that taste.  E was nice and moist, but had no almond flavour.  G didn't have enough almond flavour, but just wasn't it.

F had excellent almond flavour and was nice and moist.
B also had excellent almond flavour and was also nice and moist.

Well now what?  They are both wonderful.  How do I choose?  A decision has to be made.  There can be only one.

So I pulled the recipes.  Because I could swear they were almost the same.  But obviously they're not.  I decided that for me, the decision maker would be the ingredients and the "ease" of which the recipe is made.

For me - the easiest was B.  So that's my choice for a base almond cupcake. 

And that Vanilla Almond Buttercream is KILLER.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my decision making process.  Ain't it fun?

This is a tired Cane Girl - signing off!

Almond Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups milk
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line the cupcake pan.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in mixer bowl until smooth, about three minutes.
  3. On low speed, add the eggs one at a time.
  4. On low speed, add the almond and vanilla extracts, and milk.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix dry ingredients into the wet in the mixer bowl. 
  6. Mix until just blended.
  7. Fill the liners to 2/3 full (about 1/4 cup of batter).  Bake for (about) 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Let cool in pan about 10 minutes, remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack before frosting.
Vanilla Almond Buttercream
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
  1. Beat butter at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes.
  2. On low speed, gradually add in icing sugar, making sure to increase mixer speed for about 10 second increments to get air into the frosting. (Do this - it makes all the difference)
  3. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix until the frosting is smooth and creamy.
Cupcake: Peter Andrew Ryan
Frosting: The Curvy Carrot
Love and Olive Oil
Look I Made That
Sugarplum Musings
Ming Makes Cupcakes
Sweet Tooth

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