Jun 10, 2009

Yellow Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate-Egg White Buttercream

Heavenly Cakes is divided into five main sections: Butter and Oil Cakes; Sponge Cakes, Mostly Flourless Cakes and Cheesecakes, Baby Cakes, and Wedding Cakes. The three recipes I've tried so far have all been from the first section, so it seemed time for me to branch out a bit. I went to the Baby Cakes chapter. And, by the way, there is a handy page toward the back of the book that lists 32 Quick-and-Easy recipes. It may not come as a total surprise to you that most of the cakes I've tried so far have been of the quick-and-easy variety. Although, as I've mentioned before, it's all relative. Not so quick and easy if you're comparing to a box cake or to the infamous microwave cake in a mug.
These cupcakes are also from the Quick and Easy list, and so what, I say. They are, in my completely objective opinion, the most delicious cupcakes I've ever tasted, and, although the frosting is not piped on, or mile-high, or decorated with cute little thingies, it's better than the frosting on the cupcakes sold in adorable little bakeries and coffee shops.

Let me put in a little plug here for measuring ingredients by weight instead of volume. I always liked cooking better than baking because I thought measuring was a nuisance. You're supposed to be precise when you bake, but you never know whether you're supposed to measure sifted flour or measure the flour first, then sift it. And how can you be exact about two tablespoons of honey when half the honey stays in the spoon. I resisted a scale because it seemed too ... foreign, maybe, or too scientific. I love it now. The recipe says 200 grams? I can give you 200 grams, not 199, and not 201.

And, when it's time to put batter in the cupcake tins, I can figure out exactly what 50 grams of batter looks like in the muffin tin:

The batter for these cupcakes is put together the same way as the other butter cakes I've made: dry ingredients mixed together, then softened butter mixed into the dry ingredients; finally, two additions of combined wet ingredients (e.g., eggs, vanilla, sour cream, milk). It's a simple basic procedure that yields--at least so far--a lovely, tender, moist cake.

The frosting almost did me in, though. It wasn't so much that it was hard to make--more that it kept threatening to turn into a disaster. First, my egg whites didn't want to whip. (I think it's easier to beat egg whites in a hand-held mixer than in the stand mixer with the whisk beater, at least when it's only two egg whites). The real trauma came when I was mixing the already whipped butter into the beaten eggs. It was more butter than the poor little egg whites wanted to absorb. The mixture curdled into an unsightly mess. Jim didn't catch the curdling with his camera because he didn't know what it was. I think he may have run out of the kitchen in response to my string of curses. Fortunately, Rose tells you what to do if the frosting starts to curdle, although she could perhaps have been a bit more reassuring. "Do not panic!" for example, or "All is not lost!" And, even though I panicked, all was not lost.

It turned into a smooth, glisteny chocolate mass. And no problem to frost these little babies, either. The frosting went on easily, and was quite malleable. If I were a better decorator, I could have turned out something that looked like the $5 cupcakes you can buy. Even though they're not that pretty, these cupcakes have a $10 taste.

Everyone raved about the cupcakes. There was enthusiasm, though not as much, about the frosting. I'll tell you that there is no point in giving this frosting to people who aren't wild about dark chocolate. It had 5 ounces - which is a LOT of chocolate - of ScharfenBurger 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate. Although the icing looks innocent, it carries a powerful, deep chocolate punch. Most people who ate these cupcakes thought it was a bit much. Me, I thought it was amazing. I have vowed to eat only one piece of cake that I make, but I have to tell you that when I finished my cupcake, I wanted another one. And then when I looked at them before I went to bed, I really wanted another one. Someday I may sit down and eat five or six. But not yet. That way lies madness. Or at least fatness.


Leila: "The cupcake has a good texture--I love the crunchy top. I'm not a big chocolate fan, but the frosting is good: very rich, but light."

Karen: "The cake is moist, light, and very good. Dark chocolate is not my favorite, and it seemed to overwhelm the cupcake."

Joe: "The cupcake's crunchy top was a very nice touch. It's one of the best I've ever eaten--light and fluffy. The chocolate was a surprise. I wasn't expecting the dark chocolate taste. It was good."


Melinda said...

You know I like gram measurements too. So easy, and less washing up of the measuring cups and spoons. I wish all baking books had a gram amount offering. Rose is very generous and does three. That must be very pain staking in the writing and editing of her book. I truly appreciate her precise work.

Your cuppie cakes look good. I would probably love the dark chocolate taste, especially with a soft yellow cake to go with it.
You know, I have never done the exact amount in the cupcake liner before. That is such a good idea! I don't know why I haven't. I must be just too thick to figure that out on my own! I'm sure they bake more evenly if they contain the same amount. I will use this advice on all my future cup cake cakes!

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie!

I left a "hey great, a new baking challenge!" comment in the introductory post to the new blog, but alas, that post has disappeared.

So hey, great, a new baking challenge! I will be following along eagerly because, well, I really like cake! And I really enjoy the way you write about your successes and failu...um challenges.

In my original comment, I suggested that we, the readers, begin a pool to see when you break your self-imposed rule of only one piece of cake per bake. I chose the third cake, but you seemed to easily resist, even though it was a delicious success (and an icon of the midwestern hot dish supper circuit) so I am out. I was heartened to see that you at least wavered in your resolve with the cupcakes. I was beginning to feel bad about my own lack of willpower in the face of your iron will.

Are there any other constraints to this new baking challenge? The entire book in a year or something?

I like weighing too, and see we have the same scale. Like Melinda, I never thought of weighing my batter, and think it looks like a great idea.

So congratulations on your new challenge, I am looking forward to the next chapter in your baking journey.

Chris in RI

Marie said...

I've never done the exact amount in a cupcake pan either, but once you've done it, it seems like an obvious idea.

I wondered if you'd notice my incredible will power. The secret is in getting rid of the cake as soon as possible. Also, if you announce that you're only eating one piece of cake, you're stuck with that, unless you want to skulk out to the kitchen and steal a piece.
I would love to bake them all in one year, that would be a LOT of cake.

Marty said...

I'm a bread guy but my wife will enjoy this blog. A note about your scale. I have one like it and want to warn you that you can get inaccurate weights if you measure with the cover on the control panel up. The cover hits the table and will interfere with its travel. I suggest you close the cover or remove it. I've been there.

Marie said...

Thanks for the warning!

Anonymous said...


Yowza, I love the recipes you are choosing, I have to admit I don't have a bundt pan and I am from MN, eek! However, I do have a mug...ha!

I baked the carrot bread today from the bread bible and I have already had two pieces with cream cheese...veggies and dairy, I feel very good about myself!

I know it's silly but cupcakes always seem more manageable...I'll have to try this recipe first when the book releases, of course, I could just make the frosting and sit around with a spoon!

Keep baking! stacey

Rose L. Beranbaum said...

Marie, there is nothing more fun than seeing your take on my cake! I've never made every recipe in someone's book and it occurs to me that there is no better way to understand how an author thinks--the inter-relationship of the recipes--and hopefully continuity.
Brava Marie! And thank you from the bottom of my heart.
PS my mantra: in generosity lies slimness! (yours too I've observed!)

Rose L. Beranbaum said...

Marie, there is nothing more fun than seeing your take on my cake! I've never made every recipe in someone's book and it occurs to me that there is no better way to understand how an author thinks--the inter-relationship of the recipes--and hopefully continuity.
Brava Marie! And thank you from the bottom of my heart.
PS my mantra: in generosity lies slimness! (yours too I've observed!)

Anonymous said...

As a baker/cakemaker brought up with scales, cups and spoons are as strange to me as weighing is to Americans in general, I ,too, have never thought of weighing my batter out to make small individual cakes! Another lesson you've taught me, Marie! I'm afraid my will-power is weak too, the only way I could resist eating those cakes would be to give them away.
Especially with dark chocolate topping! Jeannette

Marie said...

You cannot be a true Minnesotan if you don't have a bundt pan. Next you'll be saying that you don't consider Jell-o to be a salad course. I don't think it's silly at all--they are more manageable, and now they seem to have become socially acceptable as dessert at a sit-down dinner, so why not make them?

Well, thank you for coming up with the recipes! I've noticed that Europeans want to keep food the same as it's always been and Americans always want to "improve." I think your approach combines the best of both.

Yes, giving them away is not so much generosity as self-defense.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie-

Great job! Good for you for having the willpower to only have one. You are a better woman than I, but we knew that already :-D

I couldn't agree more about weighing ingredients. Actually, it was you (way back when) that got me to try it. I really thought I'd lose my patience or mess up the math (who gets excited about adding more math to their life - well, unless it's more numbers in your bank account, lol). Less than halfway through that fateful recipe, I decided it was lunacy to do it any other way! It also irks me when other cookbook authors don't include weight measurements. It's faster, far more accurate, and LESS dishes! That's a winning combination in my book.

Laura NYC

Anonymous said...

I concur about removing the shield from the scale. Also, you will then be able to put the entire pan on the scale, and weigh the batter that way, pressing tare between each cupcake. I think your tasting panel might have enjoyed 60% chocolate. I like dark chocolate too, but at 70% and higher, it can get a little strong. Looking forward to following your progress!

Marie said...

One of my life goals was to convert at least one person to measuring by weight. Now that I know I'm responsible for your conversion, I can cross that off my list! We Americans can be a stubborn lot, can't we?

Think you're probably right about the 60%, although it was perfect for me.

doughadear said...

I have converted to measuring by weight whenever I can. I remember long long ago when my mother-in-law used a scale to make cookies I thought it was so foreign. Not until I started baking the breads in the Bread Bible did I realize how much easier it is. Now when I need to divide dough or cake batter into equal amounts I have become quite obsessive, er precise, and use the scale for exact measurements. Your cupcakes look just great! How I wish I were on your taste testing panel.

Anonymous said...


Absolutely! If it weren't for our stubborn, we-can-do-it attitude, the cake in a cup deal never would have made it! :-P

Enjoy your week, girl.

Laura NYC

Marie said...

I have that precision/obsessiveness gene too. I wish you a tasting panel member too.

I think it's a safe bet that the French wouldn't have invented the cake-in-a-cup.

evil cake lady said...

mmm, yellow cake with chocolate frosting, my favorite! i have never thought to weigh out the batter in a cupcake cup but like many who have commented before, i will totally do it next time! i love weighing out my ingredients and often i am baking from another book i'll pull out rose's cake bible to help convert the recipe to grams. i believe in grams.

so rose has an egg white chocolate butter cream and a yellow butter cake in the cake bible; how do these recipes differ?

Marie said...

I haven't compared the recipes, but I'm pretty sure that the buttercream is exactly the same as in TCB, and the yellow butter cake has got to be pretty similar. I've never made either one before (because I didn't have a project!). I don't see how you could get a better yellow cake than t his one.

Melleah said...

Oh my, dark chocolate frosting! I am a chocoholic and love cake (don't bake it very often since there's only 2 in my household), but this cupcake and the chocolate party cake look soooo good! I'm putting Heavenly Cake on my wish list for now (until I get my paycheck and can move it to my "buy" list).

Thanks for sharing!

Marie said...

Melleah, (pretty name),
I didn't bake cakes very often either, until I started this project (only two in my household as well). But it's been so nice to look forward to having cake in the house!

Maria said...

I've really enjoyed reading all your bread stories, and now these cake ones are great!

Tip on egg whites (that maybe you already know?)--they beat better when room temp. I don't have a problem with just a couple whites in my KA, but maybe mine is smaller than yours.

Marie said...

I know, but only because I read it in Heavenly Cakes. The instructions in this cookbook are so precise that they even specify what temperature things like cream cheese and butter should be at, although eggs are just at "room temperature."

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Great post. I too love to weigh using gram weight - I have Rose to thank for that! Your cupcakes look scrumptious :). Can't wait to give that recipe a try. PS - the curdling stage is something a lot of people experience, but just a bit more mixing usually resolves the issue. I find making sure the meringue base is completely cool before I start adding the butter, and adding the butter fairly slow fashion avoids the curdling all together. Hope that helps for next time.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

PS - is that a My Weigh scale? If so, what model is it?


Marie said...

The second time for anything is usually easier because you know what to expect. I would just as soon avoid the curdling stage, so that's helpful.
The scale is a MyWeigh KD-7000. I've had it since I started baking bread, and have had no problems with it at all.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

As soon as my current scale bites the dust, I'll be replacing it with a My Weigh. Thanks for the info!