It’s Friday night and this has been one hell of a week. We at Reclaiming the Good Name of the Epicurean, as both big fans of “The Dude” as well as his favorite drink, believe White Russian Cupcakes are in order. You heard it right, White Russian Cupcakes. These delicious bad boys have Stoli, Kahlua, and a whole lot of other devilishly good stuff in them. Enjoy!
1. Bake the cupcakes
Begin by measuring out the dry ingredients. In professional kitchens dry ingredients are always weighed out on a scale. The volume of an 8-ounch measuring cup of flour, sugar, or cornmeal all have vastly different weights...thus a recipe calling for 8 weighted ounces of flour can be far more consistently measured using a scale versus using a measuring cup. Since I know many home cooks do not own a kitchen scale I'm demonstrating how to most accurately measure ingredients using measuring cups. Scoop the flour into the cup so that it is heaping, then...
...level the cup off with a flat surface. The flat surface of a dinner knife works perfectly. If you scoop the flour with the measuring cup itself you condense the flour and everything you bake will be doomed to dried-out oblivion.
Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl and set aside.
Combine a stick of butter and 3/4 cup sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and...
...beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
When I bake I always use a natural, evaporated cane sugar. It is opaque and slightly beige in color. The bright white C&H variety has a slightly metallic, abrasive taste which translates into whatever you're making. This kind of sugar ha a natural caramelly sweetness to it and makes your baked goods noticeably tastier. Zulka is a very inexpensive form of this kind of sugar and can be found for about 80 cents a bag at less expensive grocery stores like Superior or Food 4 Less.
I'm going to demonstrate how to properly separate an egg twice in this post, first for the cupcake itself and second when I demonstrate how to prepare the buttercream in section two. Begin by thoroughly washing your hands (you'll be using them to handle the raw egg itself...just do it, embrace it, it's what all professional pastry chefs do). Collect three small bowls, one will be used to crack each egg over, one will be used to hold the separated yolks, and one will be used to hold the separated whites. Make sure the bowls are pristinely clean and that you keep the whites and yolks strictly segregated. Crack the egg on the surface of the counter, do not crack it on the edge of a bowl or the edge of the counter, this drastically increases the chances of getting eggshell in your cracked egg.
Open the egg onto one hand taking care not to break the yolk. Even the faintest trace of egg yolk will render your egg whites unusable.
Gently pass the yolk from hand to hand letting the white fall into the bowl under you.
Drop the egg yolk into a separate bowl. You can reserve the yolk for another use by freezing it, egg yolks measure to one ounce so the next recipe that calls for egg yolks you can just pull out our measuring spoons and measure out an ounce of egg yolk from your freezer.
Pour the clean egg white into another separate bowl. Make certain there is NO egg yolk in the white whatsoever. Make sure to completely empty the bowl you crack your eggs over after each egg, this ensures that your whites and yolks continue to be perfectly separated. Remember, even the slightest trace of yolk will make your whites unusable.
Add the egg white and egg yolk to the butter and sugar and mix to combine.
Add the vanilla to the eggs, butter, and sugar in the mixer and mix to combine. I like to use this bourbon-extracted vanilla from Trader Joes
Add the vodka to the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla in the mixer.
Add 1/4 cup of the kahlua called for in the recipe to the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and vodka in the mixer. Mix thoroughly to combine.
Add half of the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly to combine.
Scrape down the sides then add the second half of the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly, scrape down the sides one final time, then mix again just until combined.
Using a standard-measure portioning device (such as the two ounce ladle I'm using here) portion the batter into pre-papered cupcake cups. The key to getting consistently-sized cupcakes is using a measure when portioning the batter into the cups. What does in is what goes out.
Portion the batter into all of the cupcake cups and bake for 15-17 minutes in a 350 degree F oven, when a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean they are done.
When the cupcakes come out transfer them to a wire rack to cool and while they are still warm brush them lightly with a little Kahlua just so that they don't run short on booze.
2. Make the buttercream
A classic Swiss buttercream is literally swiss meringue with butter whipped into it. It is a three-part proportion, one part egg whites, one part sugar, and one part butter.
Using the three-bowl system described above first crack your eggs on the surface of the counter
Separate the egg over the bowl by gently passing it from hand to hand allowing the egg white to drop into the bowl below while taking care not to break the yolk.
Place the yolks in a separate bowl and retain in the freezer for a later use.
Place your clean whites in a measuring cup. MAKE CERTAIN THERE IS NO YOLK IN YOUR EGG WHITES. YOUR MERINGUE WILL END UP AS EGG SOUP IF THERE IS EVEN THE SLIGHTEST TRACE OF YOLK IN YOUR WHITES. IF YOU GET YOLK IN YOUR WHITES THROW IT AWAY AND START FRESH-THIS IS WHY WE USE THE THREE BOWL SYSTEM-THE WHITES STAY WHITE, THE YOLKS STAY YOLKY, AND IF A YOLK BREAKS YOU ONLY HAVE TO THROW AWAY ONE EGG.
When you've measured out one cup of egg whites add one cup of sugar and whip slightly in a stainless steel bowl with a heat-proof whip.
Get a saucepan of water simmering on the stovetop
Place the bowl of egg whites and sugar over the saucepan of simmering water and whip constantly until the mixture is hot to the touch. Make certain to whip constantly when the whites are over the heat otherwise you'll end up with a egg white and sugar omelet that you didn't order
When the mixture is hot to the touch transfer the bowl to your stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Whip on high speed until...
...the whites and suger have whipped into a bright white, fluffy mass that is room temperature to the touch.
The meringue is ready when you dab a spoon into the mixture, pull it straight out, and the egg white comes up after the spoon and holds a firm peak. Like so.
Add one cup of butter to the mixture ann whip on high speed until incorporated.
At first the meringue will deflate slightly and look soupy but don't freak out...
...when it is done whipping it will become semifirm, solid, and glossy.
Add Kahlua to taste and whip on high speed until thoroughly combined.
3. Decorate the cupcakes once they have cooled completely.
Outfit a pastry bag with a large star tip.
Fold the bag down so that is is about halfway folded over your hand. This makes sure that excess frosting doesn't ooze out of the top of the bag and make a sticky mess of the outside of the bag, your hand, and everything else you then touch.
Add the Kahlua buttercream to the bag and fill to the folded half-way point.
Unfold the top of the bag like so...notice the lack of frosting anywhere near the outside of the bag?
Twist the bag so that all of the excess air is absent and the frosting is held to the tip with controllable tension
Pipe a rosette onto the top of each cupcake by starting a fat circle around the perimeter...
...rounding a second circle on top of the first one, slightly in so that we taper to a peak.
Finish in the center at the top.
Repeat the process for all of the cupcakes. Your finished product will look something like this!
I made these cupcakes for my partner, she's a graduate student and she's had an exceptionally busy week. One of her secret pleasures is "pride sprinkles." If you have someone in your life with such an affinity feel free to garnish a few with some of them. They'll make him or her certain that this is a treat meant especially for them.