Brown Sugar Pound Cakes with Bailey’s Buttercream Frosting
March 17, 2010 § 2 Comments
I really like holidays, even holidays of the most miniscule proportion, and I don’t mean overly contrived Hallmark celebrations such as National Secretary Day. Take St. Patrick’s day with it’s silly rules and traditions, wear green or expect to be pinched, a dinner of corned beef and cabbage is a must, and don’t forget the Guiness. And I especially like holidays because they are an excuse to bake, not that I need one.
In honor of this year’s Irish celebration I made some delicious brown sugar pound cakes with Bailey’s swiss meringue buttercream frosting. My inspiration, well, Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes, yet again. I will not be through with this book for a good long while. The pictures of those perfect cakes with all the perfect decorations are just too much to resist. I want to be able to spin out marzipan ladybugs and perfect meringue peaks just like Martha. I’m not sure that will ever happen, as I don’t think I came equipped with the patience required to make those little ladybugs she tops some of her cupcakes with. Fortunately, these brown sugar cupcakes required no such tedious tasks and I had a helper.
My cousin Gina, who helped me make chocolate chip cookies back in December, spent the afternoon with me making these dense, moist delights. We even took altitude into consideration long before they were ready for the oven. You’re probably thinking, it is about time you figured that one out. The funny thing though, is even if you remember and adjust there is still a strong chance the recipe won’t come out quite like it would at sea level. Baking, especially way up in the mountains, is a lot more science than art. Keeping this in mind, the way all the different ingredients interact at altitude depends on so many factors, it is impossible to offer cut and dry do every time adjustments. What works for one cake may not achieve the same successful result with another. Of course there are some basic general guidelines, found here, but if you really want to get down to the nitty gritty you can see here that a whole lot more is going on than you imagined. This is where I feel like baking comes back over to being if not an art, at least a lot of trial and error that involves a bit of finesse.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Brown Sugar Pound Cakes with Bailey’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes
Just a quick note to say that like previous recipes, I include the adjustments I made for altitude in parenthesis along with the original recipe. Even though a reduction in sugar is often suggested for baking above sea level I kept the original amount of sugar opting to add an additional egg, having read that extra egg yolks are natural emulsifiers that work allow you to keep the sugar without sacrificing the structure of your cake.
3 cups all-purpose flour sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder (1 ¾ teaspoons at altitude)
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 ¼ cups packed brown sugar (light is recommended but I used about half light and dark and was pleased with the finished product)
4 large eggs at room temperature (5 eggs at altitude)
¾ cup buttermilk (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon at altitude)
Crank your oven up to 325ºF. Line standard or jumbo cupcake tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy and it pales in color. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined, using a spatula to scrape sides of the bowl as needed. Next add the flour mixture in three batches, adding half the buttermilk between each flour addition, making sure to beat until combined after each addition.
Fill muffin cups with batter until three-quarters full. (If you have an ice cream scoop with a quick release mechanism use that, man does it simplify matters, less mess and it is so easy to evenly divide up the batter). Bake, rotating cupcakes halfway through, until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. About 25-30 minutes depending on muffin size and your oven. Transfer tins to wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Then remove from tins to cool completely. Martha tells us the cupcakes can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for three days or frozen for up to two months.
Makes about 28 standard size cupcakes. Mine yielded 12 standard and 5 jumbo.
For the frosting:
Note: Below, I halved Martha’s recipe because last time I felt 5 cups of frosting was a bit overkill for my 11 jumbo cupcakes. We had so much buttery goodness left we had to give it away lest we be tempted into eating by the spoonful every time we walked by the fridge. Consequently, by halving it, one sad cupcake was left bare. We still managed to eat it though. :)
3 large egg whites
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ tablespoons Bailey’s (optional)
green food coloring (optional)
Using a double boiler or the heatproof bowl of your standing mixer, combine egg whites, sugar, and salt and set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk egg mixture constantly by hand until it is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (test by feeling it with your fingers, it should be completely smooth).
Remove from heat. Using the whisk attachment of your hand or standing mix, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form, starting on low speed and gradually progressing to medium-high speed. Mix until the mixture is fluffy, glossy and completely cool (test temperature by touching the bottom of the bowl). This takes about 10 minutes.
With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well in between. Martha says not to worry if the mixture appears to curdle at this point, just keep beating and it will smooth out again. Once all butter has been added whisk in vanilla and Bailey’s (if using). Switch to paddle attachment (if available) and continue beating to remove air bubbles, about two minutes. (If you don’t have a paddle attachment like me, try putting in a bit of elbow grease with a wooden spoon to beat out the air bubbles). Beat until frosting is glossy and smooth. Add food coloring (if using), a drop at a time, mixing well in between, until desired shade is reached. Unlike other frostings this picks up color quickly, and as you continue to mix, color deepens. It might be a good idea to set aside some untinted frosting for adding back in, in case you need to tone the color down.
Frosting can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for one month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with a paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes. Then spread those little cakes and decorate to your hearts content.
Makes a little less than 2 ½ cups frosting.
Note: Martha says this is the frosting recipe that all bakers should have on hand because of its versatility. You can color it, flavor it, pipe it into pretty peaks and patterns, and it spreads oh so nice over cakes. Well, mine didn’t turn out quite so marvelous, it tasted wonderful, but when it came to being glossy and smooth, and easily spreadable, I didn’t find that to be the case. I chalk this up to the fact that I didn’t have a paddle attachment and couldn’t quite get all the air out. Also, maybe I didn’t have the patience to wait for really in truly stiff peaks to form.