Saturday, August 24, 2013

Maple-Walnut Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream

Maple-Walnut Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream
Cupcakes! As I sit down to write this post, I realise it's been over a year since I baked cupcakes. (Remember my Black Forest Cupcakes?). I guess I don't really go in for cupcake baking these days, but a Canadian co-worker gifted me a packet of maple flakes (flocons d'érable in French), and I thought that cupcakes would be the perfect way to use them.

Maple Flakes - Flocons d'érable
Maple flakes are awesome - pure maple sugar in crunchy little flakes. When you open them, the pure maple smell that hits you is incredible! According to the product website, apparently you can use them on salmon for a kinda crunchy maple-glazed salmon, or simply sprinkle them over vanilla ice-cream or yogurt. I have about half the packet left, and want to try them in waffle batter. Can you imagine? Self-mapling waffles!!! (Don't y'all be stealing my idea!)

But, back to cupcakes. I googled a recipe for maple walnut cupcakes, and stumbled across these beauties by Martha Stewart. I subbed half the sugar in the recipe for maple flakes, reduced the overall sugar content and used salted butter to cut through the sweetness. (American recipes tend to be too sweet for me).
Cupcake batter

Another reason I was so cautious with the sugar in the cake batter is that I knew the icing would be really sweet! Martha's maple buttercream is like an Italian buttercream (i.e. heat sugar to a certain temperature, slowly whisk it into egg yolks, then add cubes of cold butter, one at a time, until fluffy and smooth), but with maple syrup instead of sugar. You have to use exact ratios of egg yolks, maple syrup and butter, and can't reduce the sweetness in the buttercream without affecting the texture. (I used unsalted butter in the buttercream, but did add a good pinch of sea salt at the end, to try and balance it out a little without going too salty.)

You do need a sugar thermometer to make this, and we got ours pretty cheaply online. It really should go without saying, but boiling sugar is HOT! Be careful, wear shoes and long sleeves, and don't get distracted while you make it!
Boiling maple syrup

Making the buttercream
Mmm... butter.
Butter
It is a bit of a pain whisking in the butter - it takes ages, and you have to just stand there, listening to the noisy whirring of the mixer, adding one piece of butter at a time, waiting for each piece to be incorporated fully before adding the next. It's totally worth it though: check out the result!
Maple buttercream

Love it! This type of buttercream is so smooth and creamy, with none of that unpleasant graininess that you get from a standard buttercream (i.e. icing sugar and butter). It's so, so mapley! I think it would be gorgeous with some espresso added and used as the icing for a traditional English coffee and walnut cake.

And here are the cupcakes! I had initially thought to sprinkle them with extra maple flakes, but the icing was really sweet, and I didn't want to push it over the edge. A plain walnut was all the decoration I needed.
Maple-Walnut Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream

Slice o' cupcake

I shared these with my coworkers and friends, and they seemed to go down really well. Actual quote from one of my coworkers: "That cupcake had the perfect texture". Yay! Despite my concerns about the sweetness, they were well balanced: the base felt more muffiny than cupcakey (yes, those are both words, I've decided), and provided a nice, relatively plain, base for the sweet mapley buttercream.

I know that maple flakes aren't easy to get here, but the maple flavour in the icing is really strong, so I think these are still worth making even if you can't find maple flakes. (If you happen to have maple sugar or maple extract, expensively bought on a whim at a US foodstore and collecting dust in your pantry, now is the time to use them!)

And... NOM!

Maple-Walnut Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream
Recipe from Martha Stewart, with very slight adaptations

Ingredients
For the Cupcakes
2 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
225 grams salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup maple flakes (substitute maple sugar or normal caster sugar)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups walnuts, plus 24 extra, for decorating
For the Buttercream
3 egg yolks
1 cup maple syrup
225 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Generous pinch of salt

Method
For the Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 175C. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with muffin papers.
Chop the walnuts into medium pieces. Toast in a dry frying pan until they smell lovely and aromatic. Tip into a bowl and set aside to cool.
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy and pale. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in between each one. Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.
Now switch to a wooden spoon. Add the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the milk. Stir in the walnuts.
Divide the batter into between the muffin cups, filling to about three quarters full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until lightly golden brown and cooked through when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool completely before icing. Decorate each cupcake with a generous swirl of buttercream and a walnut.
For the buttercream
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks until pale and fluffy, about five minutes.
Heat the maple syrup in a small saucepan over a medium high heat. Allow to boil and continue cooking until it reaches 115C. Take off the heat.
With the mixer running, gently pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a slow, steady stream until it is completely incorporated. Continue whisking until the mixture cools down to room temperature. Add the butter, one piece at a time, only adding the next piece when the previous one has been fully incorporated. After about 5-7 minutes you will have a bowl of the fluffiest, smoothest, most delicious maple-y icing ever! (If it starts to look curdled, just keep whisking!) Whisk in the salt.
Makes 24

7 comments:

Cara @ Gourmet Chick said...

These look great Sarah - wonder where I can get my hands on some maple flakes!

Amanda @ Gourmanda said...

Mmmm, maple flakes! I was actually just eyeing the "100% Genuine Canadian maple syrup!!!" in the supermarket today, and I think you've put me in the mood for it!

Hannah said...

Oh my god, I made waffles with maple flakes just this morning!!

Nah. I don't even own a waffle maker. But you absolutely must make peanut butter maple flake waffles.

(Do you like how I added peanut butter in there as if that was your plan all along? I SURE DO.)

msihua said...

Eee this looks so technical! Ahahaha.. love it though, so cute..

cquek said...

Ahh it’s an addiction for sure!

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Maple flakes sound so awesome! I'd be tempted to just eat them straight out of the packet :)

Daisy@Nevertoosweet said...

OMG maple flakes?!?! Can you please ask you colleague where I can buy some where? I want to make and eat these so badly!