I’m Back and I Brought Cupcakes!

Hello world!  There are two great things about today (well really, countless more than that, but I’m going to mention two): 1, my computer is back and alive and well! Hurrah!  2, it’s the last day of Tax Season!!!  Anyone with a significant other, friend or family member in the tax accounting biz knows just how joyous that is. My fiance has been working crazy long days and 6 day work weeks. Ugh.

When things are rough, I like to show my support and offer encouragement the best way I know how – with baked goods!  This year, for the last week of tax season, I swung by his office on my way to work and dropped off these:

Strawberry-filled angel food cupcakes with homemade whipped cream topping. I kept a half dozen or so for myself, too 😉

I get stressed easily, and mess up a lot when I’m stressed, so I try to make sure I’m not doing everything in a recipe for the very first time. That didn’t happen here. I knew I wanted to make the angel food from scratch (I’m not even sure how it works from a box, because the only thing making angel food cake fluffy is the air in the beaten egg whites). Icing would be too heavy to pair with angel food cake, and whipped cream from a can just wasn’t cutting it. I did try it, but it melted within 15 minutes.

Angel Food Cupcakes (adapted from – you guessed it – Better Homes and Gardens)

  • 1 cup sifted cake flour (or use the cornstarch-and-flour substitute)
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 12 egg whites (or 1 1/2 cups)*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • another 3/4 cups sugar

*If you don’t have an egg separator, you can use your hands. Carefully crack and open the egg over a bowl. Pour the egg contents into your hand and use your fingers like a sieve to hold the yolk but let the whites fall into the bowl. 

I started out cracking the eggs all into one bowl, then realized I was playing Russian roulette with my chances – just a speck of yolk will prevent the whites from whipping up the way you need them to. So I started cracking and separating the eggs over another bowl, then adding that egg white to a bigger bowl.

Much safer

Sift together the flour and first 3/4 cups of sugar. The book recommends sifting four times – you’re not going to be mixing them at all with beaters, so you want to make sure they’re well blended and that the flour isn’t packed down. If you don’t have a sifter, you can use a sieve like I did.

In a mixing bowl (preferably a stand mixer with a big bowl), beat the egg whites, cream of tartar,  salt and vanilla until soft peaks form.

Soft peaks flop over

Gently add the remaining 3/4 cups sugar a little bit at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form.

Stiff peaks stay, well, stiff

Use your sifter or sieve to gently add about a quarter of your flour/sugar mixture to the egg whites. Don’t stir or beat to mix – you’re going to gently (emphasis on ‘gently’!) fold the flour into the egg whites with a down – up – over motion. Fold in the rest of the flour a quarter at a time.

The point of folding is to mix the wet and dry ingredients without losing all of the air bubbles in the egg whites.  You can’t imagine how thrilled I was that this whole bowl didn’t deflate!

Prepare a cupcake pan with paper cup liners and gently spoon your batter into the cups. You can fill the cups a bit more than I did – they’ve already got all the volume they’re going to have, since there’s no leavening agent involved.

I’d also recommend smoothing down the tops. A few of mine in the first batch had little bumps from where the batter slid off the spoon, and those pieces sticking out were a bit on the burnt side.

Bake at 375 degrees for 18 – 22 minutes. I checked on the first batch after 15 minutes, and some batches took longer than others. Finished angel food will have pulled away from the edge of the pan, have a golden brown top and will spring back when pressed with a finger.

Let the cupcakes cool down before you fill them and before you make your whipped cream topping – you don’t want it to melt all over the place.

To Fill the Cupcakes: I used a strawberry pie filling that was rather like a jelly. I wanted to use the cupcake filling tip from my decorating kit, so I didn’t want large chunks of strawberry getting in the way. But use whatever you like. If you have a filling tip, fit an icing bag for it and fill it with some of the pie filling. Insert the tip into your cupcake about halfway through and give the bag a good squeeze. Just don’t break the cupcakes.

If you don’t have the type of icing tip for filling cupcakes, you can also use a sharp (preferably serrated) knife to cut a small hole in the top of the cupcakes, making room for you to spoon some of the filling on top.

Stabilized Whipped Cream (adapted from here)

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 4 teaspoons warm water

Fresh whipped cream is lovely. I’m told it goes well with berries, but the few times I’ve made it, it was to top off a dessert.The only problem with it is that it doesn’t keep it’s shape for long. Even if you’ve never made whipped cream at home, you’ve probably seen that the canned variety starts to get melty pretty quickly. One solution is to add unflavored gelatin to the cream to help stiffen the cream.

This was as trial-and-error process for me. The first time around I took commenters’ advice and combined the gelatin with cold water and then whipped the cream. By the time the cream had whipped up, the gelatin had solidified (ew). So here’s what I did for round two:

Chill your bowl and beaters for 15-30 minutes. Mine were closer to 30, because I got distracted and forgot about them. Start whipping the heavy whipping cream. Try not to let it splatter all over your shirt, the wall, the kitchen counter, etc. When it starts to thicken and you can see ripples from the beaters staying in the cream, add the powdered sugar.

Whisk together the gelatin and warm water so that the gelatin dissolves (but don’t let it sit and solidify!). Add the gelatin and the vanilla to the cream, and beat until stiff peaks form.

To top the cupcakes I used a large star icing tip to squeeze a dollop of the whipped cream right on the center of the cupcakes.

I was really pleased with how these turned out, and how well the whipped cream kept its shape (I kept bugging Nick to ask if the cream had melted yet). I hope you give it a try!

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