Thursday, November 22, 2012

Nutmeg Cupcake Bites with Cinnamon Frosting

There were three reasons I decided to try this recipe. I wanted to take something to share with my classmates on my birthday, even though I was having a birthday party at home with friends. For my party, I was making a pumpkin-spice cake, which is always a favorite for me around October. So this recipe for nutmeg cake seemed like an appropriate riff on (or whiff of!) spice, while still being a significant departure from the other cake I would be consuming that week. 

Secondly, as so many of us were completely subsumed with the the presidential election, it seemed fitting to turn to a recipe historically referred to as "Hartford Election Cake" (apparently, Connecticut is unofficially referred to as The Nutmeg State and residents are known as "nutmeggers.") This recipe doesn't actually have anything to do with the original, which contained dried fruits, molasses, and brandy, but I guess that shouldn't be a surprise, given the source. Which brings me to my third reason.

I have not been at all impressed with Warren Brown's cookbook, United Cakes of America. The recipes are just "okay" and the book on the whole fails to deliver on multiple fronts including the fact that ingredients are scaled in unnatural portions, recipes span opposite pages instead of facing pages, photos are limited, and - to rip-off the criticism of a professional reviewer - a bunch of the recipes just aren't cake... including the very first recipe in the book: for whoopie pie. But, I really really wanted to be fair, so I thought I should try all the recipes that at the very least sounded good to me. That included these cupcakes, and while I will not be making them again, they were definitely enjoyed by my classmates, and made attractive, sturdy, tasty bite-sized bits of fall festivity.

Mini-cupcakes all dressed-up and packaged for carrying to class!
I found this cake to be pretty dense. That worked okay for small cupcakes, because they held together well even when bit into a couple of bites, but I'm not sure I would like it as a slice of a whole cake. The nutmeg flavor is really nice, if you like it (which I do!), though otherwise the cake really lacked flavor. However, paired with this our most favorite of frostings for it's sugary spiciness, it was a great match. This buttercream has appeared previously and as thick, sweet, and heavy, worked well on a dense cake where a more tender texture might otherwise be lost.

Nutmeg Spice Cupcakes
from Warren Brown's United Cakes of America
recipe says it makes 10 cupcakes; I got 30 mini-cupcakes from one batch

8 ounces (1 cup) sugar
5 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon potato starch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (P.S. I wouldn't even bother with these if you don't have fresh nutmeg)
pinch of allspice
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter, melted
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 325. Coat cupcake pan with cooking spray, butter, or use liners.
Whisk together dry ingredients.
Combine wet ingredients and mix well. Lightly whisk wet into dry ingredients.
Fill cupcakes 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden and skewer comes out with just a few crumbs (watch your time carefully - it depends on how full your pans are, and what size tins you use, so I can't be sure this timing is accurate).
Cool completely before frosting with cinnamon buttercream (recipe below).

Cinnamon Frosting
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cream

Beat together the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon until fluffy and smooth. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla and cream, scraping down the bowl, then add an additional 2-3 cups of powdered sugar, until desired consistency is reached. (I used a little more than 2 cups, then thinned down ever-so-slightly with just a bit more cream.)

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