I can’t help but to watch Alton Brown’s show Good Eats. The other day a rerun was on about cupcakes where he made the chiffon cupcake. Typically one sees chiffon cakes vs. chiffon cupcakes but a cupcake is really just a tiny cake, right? As I’m always up for a challenge and enjoy doing things the hard way I thought I’d start with the more personal sized version.
By the way, as far as I can remember, this is my first time making cupcakes of any kind.
The chiffon cake or cupcake is in it’s simplest form merely a combination of a batter cake and a foam cake. As you can imagine this combination really does offer the best of both worlds. This cupcake is not too chewy and not too heavy. While you gain in texture you lose a little in flavor, but a good frosting is like a good sauce…it adds balance and serves to complete the dish. In my mind the cupcake shouldn’t be too flavorful lest it contend with the icing. With this in mind it made sense to create a frosting that complements the light texture and flavor of the cupcake. An orange butter cream seemed appropriate…add in some orange flavored liquor and its even better.
One tidbit that I thought was quite interesting on Alton’s show is that prior to the invention of cupcake liners and specialty pans cakes were often made in any vessel available that could stand up to the heat of an oven or fireplace. Since most people had some sort of heatproof drinking container, like a cup, many cooked small cakes in these cups. Thus the invention of the cup-cake. If you wish you can definitely make your cupcakes into cup-cakes by using a standard coffee or tea cup (just make sure it is oven proof). I even saw a recipe where they were made in paper cups.
As usual the recipe is below and I have added some of what I learned in the process.
- When zesting oily fruits for garnish let them dry a little or they will stick together and be difficult to sprinkle
- Chiffon cupcakes seems rather forgiving when it comes to how much they need to be cooked…overcooking by a couple of minutes doesn’t seem to dramatically impact the consistency or dryness
- When folding in the meringue mix it well but it’s not important that every chunk of the meringue is mixed in…larger solid pieces of meringue seem to create air pockets in the final cupcake
- When whipping the egg whites watch them closely and don’t let them get too stiff or they will will be difficult to fold in…you want stiff peaks not a mass of solid foam
- In general over-beating is bad…beat batters only until they are combined and whips only until they reach the desired consistency
See recipes below…
- 5¼ ounces cake flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 6 ounces sugar, divided
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅝ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter softened
- 3.5 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Orange Liquor (I used a orange creme vodka)
- Zest of 1 orange
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Place paper liners into 2 (12-cup) muffin tins and set aside. If you prefer, set 12 ovenproof coffee mugs on a half sheet pan and set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Place the egg yolks and 5 ounces of the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture becomes pale yellow and ‘ribbons’ when lifted. Add the water, vegetable oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients and whisk just to combine. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl while you whisk the egg whites.
- Place the egg whites and cream of tartar into a clean bowl and whisk on high using the whisk attachment, until it becomes foamy. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the remaining ounce of sugar. Increase speed to high and continue whisking until stiff peaks form, approximately 2 minutes.
- Transfer ⅓ of the egg whites to the batter and whisk until well combined. Add the remaining egg whites and fold in gently. Transfer batter into prepared muffin tins or coffee mugs, evenly dividing the batter between the cups. Place both muffin tins on the middle rack of the oven or, if using mugs, place all of them on a half sheet pan and set on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean or the cupcakes reach an internal temperature of 205 to 210 degrees F. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
- To make the Orange Vodka Butter Cream beat the butter in a stand mixer on high until it is of a uniform consistency. Reduce the speed to low and add in the sugar slowly until it is all combined. Add in the vanilla extract and the orange liquor. Turn the mixer to high and mix until fully combined. Taste and adjust sugar, liquor, and vanilla in very small amounts at a time to your liking.
- Fill a piping bag with the Butter Cream and pipe the frosting on the cupcakes.