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In the interests of not completely losing my mind during all the nasty winter weather last week, I decided it was a good time to finally try to create the cupcakes I dreamed up as a tribute to “Frozen.” So after dinner, I started baking.
Why is it that things never turn out the way you imagine them in your head?
First, I wanted an Elsa cupcake. I dreamed of a beautiful white, velvety cupcake (maybe white chocolate) with a cool, peppermint center. Kind of a York peppermint patty feel. I wanted to top it with a high mountain of white frosting, decorated with pieces of blue spun sugar for the ice palace. Sounds great, in theory, right?
I found a recipe online for Peppermint White Chocolate Cupcakes and decided to use it as a starting point. It sounds awesome, but I needed to make a few tweaks to make it fit my vision. She used chocolate mousse frosting, but I figured I could change it to white chocolate pretty easily. Then when I started baking, I realized the cake part was peppermint, instead of white chocolate. Meh, I could fix that! (Lesson to learn: always read through the whole recipe before starting. 2nd lesson: “I can fix that” isn’t always a true statement.)
I started with a white cake mix. (I had one. It seemed an easy way to start.) To make it white chocolate, I melted a half cup of white chocolate chips in the microwave and reduced the water to a half cup. (The mix called for 1 cup of water.) Oh, I also substituted sour cream for the oil — I hate using oil in a cake recipe.
I added the water gradually, until the batter seemed right. I probably added between 1/4 and 1/3 cup instead of a full half cup. I also added about 2 drops of peppermint extract, just to marry the flavor of the cupcake and the filling a little.
Well, the cake experiment didn’t work. It didn’t fail, exactly; it just didn’t work the way I thought. (Yes, that is foreshadowing. Keep reading.) I probably should have added more water, because the cake turned out pretty dense and slightly drier than I wanted. The flavor was pretty good though, so I kept going.
The filling was supposed to be a white chocolate peppermint ganache. Ganache is easy, right? I even followed the recipe, except for adding peppermint extract. Sigh. It didn’t work. At all. Instead of a thick, creamy ganache that I could use as filling I ended up with a thin, runny glaze-like concoction. It tasted pretty good, but instead of making a thick filling that would stay put in the middle of the cupcake, it just soaked into the cake. But, hey . . . that helped the cake texture, right? RIGHT?
I made the spun sugar next. I had never attempted it before, but Pinterest made it sound easy. (*facepalm . . .saying that now makes it fairly obvious that this project was doomed from the start.)
It was easy all right. My daughter and I whipped up a batch in just a few minutes. I laid out the parchment to drizzle it on. I had visions of beautiful abstract ice palaces. Which meant it needed to be blue, right? It started out blue. A bee-you-ti-ful blue. Then I added the peppermint extract at the end and I boiled up. A lot. (No one was harmed in the creation of this spun sugar.)
Do you know what happens to sugar syrup when you heat it to boiling? Yes, it does allow you to create spun sugar, but it also starts to turn a golden brown. Even when you take it off the heat IMMEDIATELY, it continues to darken a little. Now think back to elementary school art — what do you get when you combine blue and a lovely pale gold? Yes, that’s right — GREEN! Like grass.
So we added more blue and it made it really dark. Ok. Then I had the really brilliant idea of swirling a drop of red through it so there would be some pink in it, too.
Let’s just say I know how to make dried blood colored spun sugar if I ever want to make vampire cupcakes.
So we tried again. We watched oh-so-carefully for the first hint of color change so we could take it off the heat. For a moment, it seemed to have worked. Then we watched as it slowly turned green again. Adding another drop of blue only intensified the green.
At that point, we decided we were tired of making spun sugar and just went ahead and drizzled it out. “Maybe it will darken as it dries,” I said. “Maybe it will look okay,” I said. Sigh. It would have looked wonderful on an Easter cupcake.
So, onward and upward — time for the frosting. White chocolate mousse frosting. Sounds to die for! Flavor wise, it was ! I swear I could just eat it out of a bowl all day. Unfortunately, mine did not pipe onto to the top of the cupcakes in the beautiful way it was pictured on the recipe. It just wasn’t stiff enough. (. . .) Instead of looking like a snow-covered mountain, it looked more like Olaf on a spring day. And that was after putting it in the fridge for a few minutes, like the recipe suggested.
If I try it again, I will make the frosting several hours early and let it stand in the fridge. Because when my daughter decided to get a spoonful or two at breakfast the next morning (It had milk in it…3 kinds! Don’t judge!), it was set up perfectly. Oh, well, live and learn.
I may get brave enough to try these again, just to see if I can do any better. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
P.S. There was another surprise waiting on me when I woke up the next morning. All the spun sugar had melted overnight and was now a sad, green drizzle on top of the cupcakes. This was in spite of being stored in an airtight container. Doomed, I tell you. DOOMED!
P.P.S. Stay tuned for the next cupcake inspiration installment — The Anna
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