Buttercream and I are getting more comfortable with each other (and we’d better be, since the wedding is in one week. One week!). To prove this to myself, and because my family was clamoring for a taste of the cake I’ve been practicing for so long, I made a batch of wedding cupcakes while visiting my parents a few weeks ago. My mom acted as sous chef, and we produced a batch together that will, thanks to time slipping away from me, serve as my final practice before I execute the real thing at the end of this coming week.
This practice run was an exercise in slight changes. Not only did I not have cake flour to work with, or as many raspberries as I wanted for the filling, or enough champagne to add to the fruit compote, I was also working with a new oven, new tools (my mom has an electric mixer, but not a KitchenAid stand mixer, which is what I use at home), and a new friend: I’ve upgraded cameras. I’m now (mostly) shooting with a Nikon D3100, a fantastic graduation gift courtesy of my folks. It’s amazing. I love it. But I digress…
With regular instead of cake flour, the baking time needed to be increased by a minute or two (science-types: why might this be? Does it take longer for regular flour to absorb liquids than cake flour?), and in my impatience, a few of the cupcakes fell in the middle and remained a bit gummy. Initially this upset me, but the wonderful thing about filling is that you hollow out the center of the cupcake, which eliminated any underbaked batter completely.
My mom dipped apricots in a boiling bath so she could slip them easily out of their skins, and she chopped them up in a medium dice to add to the mush of raspberries we had available, water, a small drift of sugar, and a generous splash of dry white wine. We cooked this down for at least half an hour, then poured off some of the remaining liquid and cooked it a bit more. What was left was the consistency of loose jam, and pleasantly melon-colored. To be honest, though the combination was nice and the filling tasted fine with the cupcakes, I think it could have benefited from less cooking time and less sugar.
Baked, cooled, hollowed and filled, the cupcakes just needed their final element: perhaps the tastiest nemesis anyone has ever had. I only let the butter and mascarpone cheese soften for half an hour or so. In my mom’s summer kitchen, it was in the low 70s and the butter had a slight give at the press of a finger, but was not as achingly soft as it would be for chocolate chip cookies. This seemed to be the right move. It whipped together with the cheese easily and well – no large clumps of butter, no separation of fat from liquid. I added powdered sugar a half cup at a time, as I’ve been doing, this time through my mom’s sifter, an ancient, squeaky-creaky crank-powered tube of tin. Only one tablespoon of milk trickled in, and then I had a stroke of genius. The problem with this frosting – the problem I’ve been searching in vain for ways to combat without compromising the texture – is that it’s too sweet. Sitting in a wicker basket on the counter next to me was a large, juicy lime. What would happen if we whipped a little lime juice into the frosting?
Revelation. The good kind. Just a tablespoon of lime juice and the frosting already tasted less sweet. Another tablespoon and it was markedly less saccharine, but still no citrus flavor overwhelmed it, and it piped on beautifully in both swirls and curlie-cues. This is an experiment to be repeated. In a week. One week.