I’ve mentioned this before but cupcakes are not really my thing. In Seattle, like many other cities, there is no shortage of places to buy them. What I find is that, in addition to them costing upwards of $3 a piece, the cake part tastes like sweetened air and the frosting tastes of moist powdered sugar.
Let me say a word about frosting. I was never really a frosting person. I remember requesting the corner piece of the birthday cake, the one with the greatest proportion of flowers and where the frosting was piled high, and then, after a few bites, scraping it off to get to the cake underneath. My kids, of course, are the opposite which works out well since I get to just eat their cake.
So, a cupcake has two very different things going on. If both of those things are good, tasty moist cake and frosting with a flavor, you have a good cupcake. If both of those things are great, you have a great cupcake. What if one is very good and one is great? Is it a reallygoodalmostgreat cupcake?
Cake – very good. Frosting – great. I know. High praise from the person who doesn’t like frosting. I made these cupcakes because I was intrigued by the ingredients for the cake but ended up being seduced by the frosting. There is nothing magic going on here, just butter, cream cheese, a bit of maple syrup, and a lot of sugar, but the proportions are perfect so that it doesn’t overwhelm you with sweet. Instead, your quite sweet and very nice cake gets topped with a bit of tang and richness. Oh all right – all right, it’s a great cupcake.
Cupcakes previously on Dana Treat: Mississippi Mud Cupcakes, Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes
One Year Ago: The Big Brownie Smackdown
Two Years Ago: Gnocchi with Winter Squash and Seared Radicchio
Maple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 24 cupcakes
For the Maple Cupcakes
3 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter, slightly softened, cut into chunks
2 tbsp. vegetable shortening, at room temperature
2 cups pure maple syrup
3 egg yolks
1 large egg
1¼ cups whole milk
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
For the Cream Cheese Maple Frosting
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. maple syrup
Make the Maple Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening until ribbonlike. Turn the mixer to low and stream in the maple syrup. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is nearly uniform in color, about 3 minutes.
Add the egg yolks and egg, one at a time, and beat until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Stream in the milk. Stop the mixer, add the rest of the flour, then turn the mixer on until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and fold in the walnuts.
Fill the prepared cupcake pan about three-quarters full. Bake the cupcakes for about 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Note: These cupcakes take long to bake than traditional cupcakes due to the maple syrup.
Allow the cupcakes to cool for 15 minutes in the cupcake pan, then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely.
Make the Cream Cheese Maple Frosting
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter until it is completely smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.
Add the sugar and the maple syrup and beat until smooth. Be careful not to overbeat the frosting or it will lose structure. (At this point, if you want to, you can tightly cover the frosting and refrigerate it for one day. Let it soften to room temperature [DT: which takes a long time] before using.)
Assemble the cupcakes
There are many ways to frost a cupcake. If you have a pastry bag, simply fit with the largest tip, fill the bag with frosting, and pipe enough to cover the cupcakes in a big mound. If you do not have a pastry bag, use an ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to scoop the frosting and dispense it onto the top of the cupcake. you can also use an offset spatula to frost the cupcakes. Top with toasted walnuts (DT: or sprinkles).
Refrigerate any leftover cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Bring cupcakes to room temperature before serving.