Last Wednesday, it dawned on me that it was exactly 2 years ago that I started this blog. I could hardly believe it! It feels like I've been doing this blogging thing for forever, but it turns out that it's only my second year of doing so. Huh.
To be fair, when I created this blog back in 2011, I didn't exactly think that this whole blogging thing was going to pick up in the way that it did. And to think I started this blog for truly mundane reasons — that is, I was bored and frustrated with my job and life in Denver in general — and I needed an escape. Little did I know that the food blogging community would become one of my main support networks, one that would ultimately encourage me to find confidence in the kitchen, in photography, and in life as a whole. Thank you guys for reading this blog, and thank you for your support and kind words for the last two years.
So, what were the highlights from my second year of of blogging? There was that time Saveur Magazine nominated yours truly as one of the Best Desserts & Baking blogs of 2013. Definitely THE highlight of the year. How I seriously upped my photo game and finally splurged on a fancy camera. My blog also underwent not one, but two logo redesigns.
And now, to celebrate, this unforgettable recipe for pink champagne cupcakes:
Perhaps one of the best things that's happened as this blog has grown over time is an increased access to food related events. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to invited to a book party with Jennifer Shea, owner and founder of the famed Trophy Cupcakes bakery in Seattle, Washington. Trophy Cupcakes gained fame a few years ago when Martha Stewart herself declared Jennifer's cupcakes to be some of the best in the country, and invited her to her show to demonstrate how to make her famed Chocolate Graham Cupcakes. I actually remember inadvertently visiting Jennifer's first Trophy Cupcakes location in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood back in 2008 (this might have been pre-Martha — there were no lines at the shop and only a handful of flavors available). I was blown away by their red velvet and lemon cupcakes. To this day, I can still remember how perfectly balanced – that is, tangy and sweet – their lemon buttercream frosting was (is)?
Jennifer was in town promoting her latest book, Cupcakes and Parties:
The book combines her love of baking with another one of her hobbies: party-planning. Inside the book are several ideas for crafts, recipes, and decorations for various themed parties (think: Moroccan Night or Paris Night) and occasions like birthdays and engagements. In addition to being an engaging speaker and taking the time for a Q&A session, Jennifer gave us a quick frosting demo and showed us how to make the bakery's signature domed and petaled cupcakes:
Is there anything more celebratory than a glass of champagne, and a cupcake topped with a swirl of pink frosting? I didn't think so. You can understand why I thought this was the perfect recipe to celebrate my blog's 2nd anniversary.
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Some baker's notes:
- The book doesn't specify what kind of champagne to use. I went with a dry champagne, since I knew that it was going to be combined with a generous amount of sugar. The dry champagne worked wonderfully in the recipe, providing just a subtle tangy flavor.
- This is a fairly straightforward recipe, except for one step in the batter that requires you to mix a significant amount of champagne with a significant amount of half-and-half. Be sure to whisk the mixture immediately after combining the ingredients, or it will start to bubble and look kinda gross. Don't panic if that happens though — it's just what happens when alcohol and dairy are combined.
- To get my frosting swirls, I used a star tip from this large tube pastry tip set. The recipe makes a large amount of frosting (which, truthfully, I went though quite quickly on account of my generous swirls), so if you're not big on frosting you can cut the recipe in half and still have enough to frost each of the 24 cupcakes with a small amount of frosting.
(Adapted from Cupcakes and Parties)
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2/3 cup champagne
- 2/3 cup half-and-half
- 1/4 teaspoon red food coloring
- 3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 6 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon champagne
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 drops red food coloring
- Preheat the oven to 350 (F). Line two 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups cake flour, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter and 2 1/3 cups granulated sugar. Beat on low speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add 3 eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping the bowl after each addition, only adding the next egg once the previous one has been fully incorporated into the batter.
- In a liquid measuring bowl, combine 2/3 cup champagne, 2/3 cup half-and-half, and 1/4 teaspoon red food coloring. Whisk briskly for around 30 seconds.
- With your mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture (from the 2nd step) to the sugar and egg mixture (from the 3rd step) in 3 parts, alternating with the wet ingredients (from the 4th step) in 2 parts. Mix each addition just until the ingredients are combined — do NOT overmix! Once everything has been added, use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle, before paddling the mixture for an additional 30 seconds until just smooth. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes, before using a rubber spatula to stir gently before using.
- Use a cookie scoop to fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full and bake until the tops of the cupcakes are firm and a skewer inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out with just a few crumbs, about 20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes in the pans on a wire rack, before turning out to cool completely on the wire rack.
- In a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream 3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter. Start with the mixer at its lowest speed, before gradually increasing the speed over time and using a rubber spatula to scrape the paddle and sides of the bowl as needed. The butter is done creaming when it is light in color, perfectly smooth, and makes a slapping sound as it hits the side of the bowl.
- Once the butter has finished creaming, lower the mixer speed to its lowest setting and add 6 cups confectioner's sugar, one cup at a time, only adding the next cup when the cup before it has been fully incorporated into the mixture. When all the sugar has been added, scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula. Add 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon champagne, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 3 drops red food coloring. Continue beating at a low speed for an additional 15 seconds, before increasing the speed as high as you can without making a mess. Continue beating until the mixture is perfectly smooth, creamy, and light, about 5 minutes. Use immediately.