butterfly cupcakes for andy which took 3 trips to the grocery store

i lie, obviously. they weren't for andy, who chides me on my butterfly fetish. or for tiffany, whose birthday it was. they were really for me. and not even to eat them--merely to give me an excuse to plunge once again into dorie's baking bible and play some more.

this time, i chose the "perfect party cake," since i was going to a party and had offered to bring baked goods instead of alcoholic beverages. with respect to the butterflies, i should confess that i have a reputation around my very conservative DC office for being only vaguely acquainted with the standards of an office dress code. this passing fling with professionalism frequently manifests itself with the playful addition of a butterfly to some aspect of my wardrobe: a shoe, a necklace, earrings, a hair clip, and on very special occasions, all of the above.

since it was tiffany's birthday, and andy is tiffany's boyfriend, i couldn't resist the opportunity to turn the "perfect party cake" into butterflied cupcakes. it was too delicious--both in irony, and in the cake itself.

the cake started last weekend with a thinking ahead sort of list for my weekly food shopping. the problem was that i lost my list somewhere between the office and the supermarket on friday night, so i forgot to purchase a key ingredient--lemon extract--for the cake batter. this necessitated trip #2 to the supermarket, to get a lemon, some extract, and while i was at it, some shredded sweetened coconut to use as a garnish.

trip #3 was triggered as i was staring, hypnotized, at the perfect ribbons of batter swirling about my kitchenaid mixer (i have literally never seen a texture like that in a cake batter before. it was like...silk. lemony silk...). i was also making a cheesecake to bring to my aunt and uncle for sunday night, and accidentally used all of the raspberry jam (but more on that later). i had this mad idea to fill the cupcakes with some raspberry jam under the butterflied tops and i became obsessed with the potential disaster of a perfect party cake sans raspberry jam. while the cheesecake was baking, i ran out of the house like a crazy person and into the nearest CVS, where i grape and strawberry jam but no raspberry. inspiration struck me like lightning and i remembered the small and somewhat sketchy "metro supermarket" a mere block away from both the CVS and my house. a wall of jam greeted me in one of the half-dozen aisles, and i grabbed a large-ish jar of raspberry and ran back out again.

i gingerly sliced the top off one of my cupcakes--they were softer and springier than i imagined they would be, and much more delicate--and immediately realized that there was no way i could dollop any kind of filling into these babies. not without completely wrecking the balance and texture and crumb of one of the moistest, springiest, lightest cakes i've ever tasted (like angel food cake, but not). i settled for using the leftover chocolate pastry cream to anchor the "wings" and making the butterfly body out of a stream of strained raspberry jam. only i got too much water in the jam as i was melting it, so it was more like a raspberry sauce than a raspberry gel. i sprinkled the "wings" with powdered sugar and the "body" with sweetened coconut, packed it all up, and nearly dropped it on tiffany's floor because of the rain outside. but it didn't matter. i got my laugh out of both the birthday girl and the butterflied boyfriend, and helped myself to a brownie and a cocktail.

hey, i wasn't kidding when i said they weren't for me to eat. i don't like lemon!

andy's butterfly cupcakes
(inspired by the book "cupcakes!" and adapted from dorie greenspan's perfect party cake)

2¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter 2 12-cup muffin pans, or use cupcake liners.

TO MAKE THE CAKE: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub
them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the but-
ter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat
at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on
medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the re-
maining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, and the remaining dry ingredients. Beat it for an extra minute or two just for good measure, scraping down the sides so that everything is incorporated.

Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full (you should get about 24 cupcakes) and bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. They will be light-colored and very springy, and a cake tester will come out clean.

Allow to cool, then slice the tops of the cupcakes off and dust them with confectioners sugar. Cut the tops in half to make wings and position them in icing slathered across the now-flat tops of the cupcakes. Decorate, if you like, and make the butterfly "body" with a stream of melted and strained and cooled raspberry jam. Dust with sweetened shredded coconut.

No comments: