January 1, 2011

... Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes

My Aunt Steph saw these scrumptious little gems on Oprah and gave me the heads up.  I decided they'd be a perfectly festive treat to share with friends for New Years Eve, but they'd also be great for Valentine's Day, Fourth of July, or, you know, any old day that you want to indulge.

Tasty bright red strawberries soaking in pink champagne and then folded into delicious vanilla cake batter.

This was the first time I've ever used an actual vanilla bean.  It was really easy to slice open the bean and scrape out the seeds.  Not very pretty, but the aroma was amazing.  And see those little black specs in the batter?  That's fresh vanilla, folks.


Not so pretty.

Take note, when the recipe recommends to take the cupcakes out of the paper baking cups when you take them out of the oven, do it.  Don't think (as someone who shall remain nameless did) that you can let them cool and then take them out of the cups or they won't come out looking too lovely.  Luckily, after you put them in the champagne flutes and layer them with Champagne Buttercream Frosting, Champagne-soaked Strawberries, and Chocolate Ganache, they become pretty once again.

Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes 
36 mini cupcakes, 3 per champagne flute)

For the cupcakes:
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, diced
1/2 cup good Champagne (sweet rose Champagne suggested)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsweetened applesauce
1 3/4 cups Splenda
2 large eggs
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract, plus seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 1/4 cups skim milk

For the Champagne Buttercream Frosting:
16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup good Champagne (sweet rose Champagne suggested)

For the strawberry layer:
24 fresh strawberries
1 cup good Champagne (sweet rose Champagne suggested)

For the Chocolate Ganache*:
2 cups high-quality dark chocolate

Step 1: Baking the Mini Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 mini cupcake pans with 36 mini baking cups or grease pans with butter if not using baking cups.

Dice 1/2 cup of fresh strawberries (I used 8 strawberries) and soak in 1/2 cup of Champagne.  Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.

Place the unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer.  Add the sugar; beat on medium speed until well incorporated.

Mix in applesauce slowly.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly after each addition.

Combine the vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, and milk in a large liquid measuring cup.  Set aside.

Reduce the speed to low.  Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then gradually add one-third of the milk mixture, beating until well incorporated.  Add another one-third of the flour mixture, followed by one-third of the milk mixture.  Stop to scrape down the bowl as needed.  Add the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining milk mixture, and beat until just combined.

Gently fold in the diced Champagne-soaked strawberries, just until incorporated.  (do not include the champagne)

Scoop batter into baking cups and bake for 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.  If using paper baking cups, peel off all the paper baking cups from the cupcakes at this time.

Step 2: Making the Champagne Buttercream Frosting:
Place the unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer.  Add the powdered sugar; beat on medium speed until well incorporated.

Add the vanilla extract, milk, salt, and Champagne, and beat on high speed until light and fluffy.  Place frosting in a disposable piping bag with a large round tip. (I put mine in a ziplock baggie and snipped the corner.)

Step 3: Preparing the strawberries:
Slice 24 strawberries lenthwise and soak in 1 cup of Champagne for approximately 10-15 minutes.  (don't soak for longer than that as you don't want the strawberries to get soggy)

Step 4: Making the Chocolate Ganache:
Break the dark chocolate into small pieces.  Fill a medium saucepan with an inch or two of water and place over medium-low heat.  Place the dark chocolate pieces in a medium glass bowl over the saucepan and melt slowly.  Stir occasionally until the chocolate is completely melted.  Remove the bowl of melted chocolate from the saucepan.  Pour the melted chocolate into a plastic squeeze bottle.
*I read a comment on Oprah's site about this ganache not being very easy to pipe and the commenter gave another recipe.  Here's what I did:
Bring 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/3 cup sugar (I used Splenda), 1/3 cup light corn syrup, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract to a boil.  Stir constantly so the mixture doesn't burn.  Once it boils, remove it from the heat and add 12 ounces of dark chocolate chips.  Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  I used a ziplock baggie as a piping bag for this, too.

Step 5: Assembling layers in Champagne flutes:
Line up 12 Champagne flutes.  Insert 1 mini Strawberry Champagne Cupcake in the bottom of each glass.  Next, pipe a swirl of Champagne Buttercream Frosting on top of each cupcake.  Add several (or two) slices of Champagne-soaked strawberries (again, just the berries... not the Champagne) and a drizzle of Chocolate Ganache.  Repeat layers.  Finally, place a third mini Strawberry Champagne Cupcake at the top of each glass, pipe with a final swirl of Champagne Buttercream Frosting, and top with a final drizzle of Chocolate Ganache.

Taylor's Notes:
These little guys are very festive and were a hit with the people I shared them with, which makes it all worth it.  That said, though, they are pretty time consuming, kind of pricey when you consider all of the ingredients, and, maybe it was just me, but my kitchen was a mess!

The recipes (there was a standard recipe and a low-fat recipe) that were posted on Oprah.com were a little confusing.  Some of the directions didn't exactly tie in with the ingredients and there was some confusion with the amounts of some of the ingredients.  I followed the low-fat recipe to the best of my ability and the end result was good.  The cupcakes, however, were kind of dense and I wonder if that might be because one recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and the other called for 2 1/2 teaspoons.  I opted for 1/2 teaspoon and I think that could be why the cupcakes weren't too fluffy. All in all, though, they tasted good.

I finished these up at about noon and delivered them around 3:30pm.  I kept them in the refrigerator until then and even had one at midnight with our Happy New Year! toast.  I don't think they'd keep much longer than that, though.  Also, I had enough batter to make 48 mini cupcakes and could fill 16 flutes.

If I make these again, I think I'll try full-size cupcakes and then cut the cupcake in half and layer the frosting, strawberries, and ganache that way.  They'd be a mess to eat, but probably pretty cute!

Enjoy and Happy New Year!!

And... for those of you who like to refer to me as 'Martha' or 'Betty'... I thought you might enjoy seeing what happened with almost half of the batch of Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes after they were all dolled up and ready to be delivered...

Man down!  The box missed the counter by about an inch.  Oops.  After I cleaned up the mess, I decided I deserved this...

Happy New Year!  I hope you all have a fabulous 2011!


Bonnie L. said...

those look delicious! lucky are the folks who you shared them with. i'm guessing due to contents, we won't be seeing on the back counter come monday morning. :o( bummer. :o)

Kerstin said...

Great post taylor! and you know what i think? the treats still look good tumbled onto the ground. Happy new year!!