Yesterday I turned in my psychology senior honors thesis. Just over a week ago, I turned in my creative writing senior honors thesis. Now, there is one poster, one exam, and 28 days between me and graduation. Needless to say, this was my third batch of cupcakes this week, which has been full of minor hysteria, endless edits, and more real cooking than I’ve had time for in months. You, dear readers, will now reap the benefits. These cupcakes are a major benefit. They may even be the best cupcakes I have ever made.
I realized at about noon yesterday that I absolutely had to celebrate my accomplishments somehow. Writing two honors theses is not an easy feat. While I’m not the best at throwing together impromptu celebrations, I knew that cupcakes had to be involved. I’d already made cream filled chocolate cupcakes earlier in the week (recipe forthcoming) as well as vanilla almond cupcakes (recipe coming when I’ve tweaked it enough to be completely happy with it), so I was running out of ideas. But what’s a celebration without champagne? And what better way to ingest said champagne than in little dinosaur wrapped cakes topped with even more champagne? And when I found champagne from Cupcake Vineyard on sale at the Beer Depot down the street? Well, I knew that the cupcake gods were beaming down upon me, and there could be no more perfect cupcake for this day.
The ingredients for these cupcakes include almost a pound of butter, and about half a bottle of champagne. And that is what makes them amazing. The cake is very lightly champagne flavored, mostly sweet and buttery, and with a lightness appropriate to a cake made with an effervescent beverage. The frosting really makes it. It isn’t heavily flavored, but it is unmistakably champagne, also light, fluffy, and not cloyingly sweet. In short, they’re perfect, and you need to make them right now.
I used Cupcake Vineyard’s brut rosé pinot noir in these cupcakes, as the recipe suggested using a light rosé. I was hoping that the color would come through a little in the cake and the frosting, but both turned out pretty starkly white, which I’m actually very happy with. I think they look more like champagne without the rosey color.
Begin, as is usual with cupcakes, by creaming together your room temperature butter and sugar for a few minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl at some point during this process to make sure you don’t end up with a layer of butter that doesn’t get cut up by the sugar.
Meanwhile, whip your egg whites until stiff peaks form. Egg whites never cease to amaze me. They turn from a mucusey mess into a fluffy mass more than twice the volume that looks so inviting. It’s really hard not to dip a finger in it. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s egg whites, not whipped cream or frosting. Not that I dip my fingers in frosting.
Sorry for the mucusey mess thing. We’re making cupcakes here. No mucus talk allowed.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. I finally got a sifter while home for Christmas and I’m loving it. No more lumpy frosting! I’ve read that, for flour at least, whisking works just as well, but I’ve been getting such excellent results with my sifter that I really hesitate to go back.
Beat the flour mixture into the butter and sugar, alternating with champagne. I made three additions of flour and two of champagne. You’ll end up with something closer to cookie dough than batter, but that’s fine, because we’ve still got the egg whites to add.
Fold in about a third of the egg whites to start lightening the batter. Do this by hand to avoid over mixing. We don’t want tough cupcakes here! Buff arms are a possible side effect.
Fold in the rest of the egg whites, being sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as you go. You can see that the batter looks much more like batter now, and much fluffier, which is just what we want from these cupcakes.
Divide the batter into a lined cupcake pan, filling each about 2/3 full. A cookie scoop is exceedingly helpful here. I used two scant scoops of my two tablespoon scoop for each cupcake, and ended up with 22 cupcakes.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. 20 minutes was exactly perfect for me. Remember to turn the oven off! I almost never do. Adam doesn’t like it.
I didn’t take took many pictures of the frosting making process because frankly everything is white so it’s just too hard to see anything. Also I was too excited and a little worried about getting powdered sugar in my camera. The process for this frosting is a little unusual, but trust me, it is perfect. Beat two room temperature sticks of butter until fluffy. Slowly add sifted powdered sugar – I went a cup at a time, slowly ratcheting my mixer up to speed – beating thoroughly and scraping the bowl between each addition. Add champagne and vanilla and beat thoroughly, again taking your time to get the mixer up to speed so you don’t slosh everywhere. The frosting will look a little bit broken, especially at first. I was worried it was going to be a gross, separated mess, but it came together after about 30 seconds of mixing on medium speed. It’s still not absolutely perfect looking, but it tastes amazing and the texture is smooth. I piped it on the cupcakes with a star shaped tip, and that helped as well.
Aren’t those dinosaur papers great? My aunt got them for me for Christmas. Maybe bot as classy as you would expect from champagne cupcakes, but perfect for me. These cupcakes are totally irresistible. I’ve already had four of them. But it’s my party, so it doesn’t count.
Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream
From The Curvy Carrot
For the Cupcakes:
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 egg whites
1-1/2 cups sugar
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup champagne
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl at least once. Meanwhile, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternate adding flour mixture and champagne to the butter mixture, making 3 additions of flour and 2 of champagne, beginning and ending with flour. The batter while look more like cookie dough than batter at this point. By hand, fold in about 1/3 of the beaten egg whites to lighten batter, then fold in the rest of the beaten egg whites. Fill lined cupcake tins about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Makes about 22 cupcakes.
For the Buttercream:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons champagne, at room temperature
Cream butter until fluffy. Sift in powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, beating thoroughly and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition. Add vanilla extract and champagne, beating thoroughly. Pipe onto fully cooled cupcakes. I recommend a star shaped tip.