Sunday, March 25, 2012

French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

The idea for these cupcakes arose from the fact that my husband wanted to make homemade cinnamon extract and I wanted to find an excuse to try it out. I thought about a cupcake flavour where I would want just a hint of cinnamon - French toast cupcakes! French toast is my favourite brunch food. If I make it at home, I usually add vanilla extract, and a little ground cinnamon to the egg mixture. I typically use a non-stick pan but I still coat the pan with a little butter for flavour.

For these cupcakes, I used my favourite vanilla cake recipe but I reduced the vanilla extract and added butter flavouring. For the cinnamon flavour, I used 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon extract (for a batch of 12 cupcakes). After tasting the batter, I found that it wasn't quite enough cinnamon. Aesthetics-wise, I think that I also like the speckled nature of ground cinnamon in a batter, therefore I also added about 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

For the frosting, I made a basic confectioner's sugar-based frosting with vanilla extract and added maple syrup and maple extract to taste. I have found in the past that I don't quite like the flavour of maple extract in icing versus using real maple syrup, however this has been for maple swiss meringue buttercream. With a sugary frosting, it is so sweet that you can get a stronger maple flavour without adding even more sweetness by using an extract. The syrup almost gets lost in all of the confectioner's sugar. For swiss meringue buttercream, I would go all maple syrup.

The cupcakes are garnished with a toast-shaped cookie crouton made from sugar cookies coated in a melted butter, sugar and cinnamon mixture. I used a basic sugar cookie recipe from Martha Stewart. The dough was quite easy to work with. I used half of the dough and placed the other half in the freezer for later use. I cut out little toast shapes from the dough and baked them as directed. I ended up with quite a lot of little 'toasts' which ended up being very good because I couldn't stop snacking on them! It got even worse once I 'croutonized' them. To make them into little french toast cookie croutons, I melted 2 tablespoons of butter of low heat, added 2 heaping teaspoons of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. I whisked this mixture over low heat until it was well combined and poured it into a small glass bowl. I threw in the cooled toast-shaped sugar cookies (what was left of them) and tossed them until well coated. I spread these on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and put them in the oven (300°F) for 15 minutes until crisp.

My overall review of this French toast cupcake experiment is that I would pair the cupcake with a maple swiss meringue buttercream instead of frosting. I feel that the maple gets lost in the sugary nature of frosting. I love the cookie croutons. Those are definitely a keeper. I've posted the recipes below for your own French toast experimentation.

French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

Yield: 12 standard cupcakes

French Toast Cupcakes (adapted from Magnolia Bakery's Vanilla Cupcakes):
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon butter flavouring
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon extract (or increase the ground cinnamon above to 1/4 teaspoon)

Maple Frosting (adapted from Wilton's Vanilla Frosting):
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or increase maple extract to taste)
1 tablespoon water (can add more depending on desired consistency)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line one 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine flours and cinnamon and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add sugar gradually and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg. 
  4. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients alternating with the milk, vanilla, butter flavouring and cinnamon extract (if using) beginning and ending with flour until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. 
  5. Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 full. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the centre of the cupcake comes out clean. 
  1. In a medium bowl and using an electric mixer, beat butter and shortening together until fluffy. 
  2. Add vanilla and maple extracts and mix until combined.
  3. Add the icing sugar gradually and mix on low speed until smooth.
  4. Add maple syrup (if using) and mix on low until combined.
  5. Add water to thin to desired consistency.
  6. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes or spread onto cupcakes with a small offset spatula.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


It has been a little while since my last post. I was busy being a diligent Master's student and then I got sick. Influenza cupcakes anyone? I didn't think so.

I am happy to be back in the kitchen and just in time for St. Patrick's Day!

One of my favourite cupcake recipes are the chocolate Guinness cupcakes with whiskey ganache filling and Bailey's Irish Cream frosting that I made back in December as part of my holiday baking.

These cupcakes are based on the not-so-politically-correct beer cocktail - the Irish Car Bomb. This drink involves dropping a shot glass of Bailey's Irish Cream and Jameson Irish Whiskey into a glass of Guinness.

Since I have been on on a bit of a macaron kick, I decided to combine these glorious (but perhaps offensive) flavours into a macaron, but with a softer, less offensive name. I give to you....the MacaBoom! (patent pending).

Each time I think about making macarons, I go through a bit of an internal battle - French method - Italian method - French method - Italian method. In the world of macarons, I guess you could ask the question: What would Pierre Hermé do? Pierre Hermé is a French pastry chef well known for his macarons. He has a beautiful book that is worth a peruse the next time you're at the bookstore. Since I do not own this book and it's a bit of a financial commitment at about $50 (you better love the art of the macaron), I decided to search online to see if any of his recipes were available. It turns out that he uses the Italian meringue method. I decided to continue my research with a more hands-on approach. A few weekends ago I went to one of my favourite Toronto patisseries and picked up a few macarons. I also asked what method they used - French. The macarons were delicious - so once again, French it is! One day I may be convinced to try the Italian Meringue method - just to compare.

These macarons feature a chocolate macaron shell, a stout and whiskey chocolate ganache, and Bailey's frosting. I went with a frosting versus my usual swiss meringue buttercream simply because I did not have any leftover swiss meringue buttercream and it is easier to make a small quantity of frosting. This frosting is very sweet and so is the macaron shell, so I decided to use a dark chocolate for the ganache to offset some of the sweetness.

For the shell, once again I ground whole, unblanched almonds using my coffee/spice grinder and this time I used leftover egg whites that I had stored in the freezer vs pasteurized egg whites from a carton. My previous decisions to use pasteurized egg whites was simply because I had them leftover from making swiss meringue buttercream for a cake. If the eggs are not going to be cooked as when making buttercream, it is safer to use pasteurized egg whites. Some people believe that you don't get as good a volume as compared to freshly separated egg whites but I've never had a problem. If you plan on cooking your egg whites as is used in meringue based cookies/decorations, egg whites frozen from fresh are fine. Egg whites can be stored in the freezer for up to 4 months. I freeze them in mason jars and label them with the number of egg whites and the date. I thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then let them sit on the counter to come to room temperature before using for macarons.

I was trying to think of a way to incorporate the Guinness into the MacaBoom. Since the shells are so finicky that didn't seem like a successful option. Then I came across the show Sweet Genius while channel surfing one evening. One of the surprise ingredients was stout and one of the chefs mixed it with chocolate. This chocolate ganache filling is made with 3 oz dark chocolate, 3 tablespoons of heavy cream (35% M.F.), 1 teaspoon of butter, 1 teaspoon of Jameson Irish Whiskey (I may have added a little bit more as I had a spilling situation while pouring) and 2 teaspoons of Guinness. The taste of the alcohol in the ganache is not too prominent but it's the thought that counts!

The Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting is from here. I halved the recipe and put 2 generous (overflowing) tablespoons of liqueur in it.

To assemble, I piped a generous dollop of Irish Cream frosting on one half and spread a small amount of ganache with a dessert spoon on the other half (a little goes a long way with the ganache).

The macarons are decorated with little fondant shamrock decorations made with hearts.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!