A cupcake is a personal cake. It says “just for you.” It’s a cake-to-go with its own wrapper. And cupcakes can be as fancy or as simple as you like. Just a little cake batter poured into a few cupcake liners can make a special treat for dinner.—Michelle Gayer Nicholson
For the cupcakes
1 vanilla bean
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups plus 5 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 cups pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 3/4 cups room-temperature water, divided
6 large egg whites
1 recipe White Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting
6 to 8 ounces white chocolate, peeled into curls, optional, for garnish
For the white chocolate mascarpone frosting
2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
17.6 ounces mascarpone (see Note)
Make the cupcakes
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Fill twelve 3 3/4-inch muffin cups with paper baking cups. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape free the seeds.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, put the butter, 1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and the vanilla seeds. Mix for 2 minutes on medium speed or until light and fluffy.
3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and alternately pour into the butter-sugar mixture 1/3 of the dry ingredients and 1/2 of the water (7 ounces), mixing well after each addition and scraping the inside of the bowl. Begin and end with the dry ingredients. Remove the mixing bowl.
4. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment. In another mixing bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft peaks form. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. The egg whites should look glossy. Do not over mix. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter in two or three additions, incorporating all the egg whites thoroughly.
5. Spoon the batter into the baking cups, filling each one three-quarters full. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the centers of the cupcakes spring back. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove the cupcakes and cool completely.
6. Frost each cake with generous spoonfuls of the mascarpone frosting or another favorite frosting. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape a block of white chocolate to create large curls. Place several on top of each cupcake.
7. Place the cupcakes in an airtight container and refrigerate. Allow the cakes to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
Make the frosting
1. In a small saucepan, warm the cream over medium heat until it feels hot but is nowhere near a simmer. Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the warm cream over the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate melts. Set the bowl in an ice bath until the mixture is chilled. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture and a second piece over the bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. You may also make this 1 day ahead.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the mascarpone and half of the white chocolate mixture and whip for 2 minutes, or until well combined. Add the remaining white chocolate mixture, increase the speed to high, and beat the mixture until the frosting holds stiff peaks.
Note: Mascarpone cheese, which is imported from Italy, is sold in small tubs that are measured in grams. Converting to ounces creates this odd, just-over-one-pound unit.
Recipe © 2004 Lori Longbotham. All rights reserved.