Nutmeg Cupcakes With Maple-Brown Sugar Buttercream - Everyday Baking Blog at - 126876

Everyday Baking

Nutmeg Cupcakes with Maple-Brown Sugar Buttercream 
Sep. 28, 2009 2:28 pm 
Updated: Jul. 31, 2012 8:29 am
Now that it's starting to feel like fall around here, I wanted to bake something to celebrate the changing seasons. I wanted a cider-and-doughnuts kind of flavor—without having to do any frying. I looked at spice cake recipes and settled on this Nutmeg Cake. The cake worked beautifully as cupcakes; one batch of cake batter made 15 regular-sized cupcakes that baked for just about 20 minutes.

The recipe includes a caramel icing, but I wanted something a little lighter-tasting. I adapted a brown sugar buttercream recipe to include maple syrup (I'd like to try using more syrup than sugar next time, but maple syrup is expensive so I'll wait for a special occasion). I like to use Grade B maple syrup because I think it has a deeper flavor.

"Buttercream" generally just means any butter-based frosting. I like Italian or Swiss meringue-based buttercreams: they use granulated sugar, not confectioners', and include pasteurized egg whites beaten into a meringue, yielding a gorgeous light, fluffy, not-too-sweet frosting. (For an "Italian meringue" you cook a sugar syrup to soft ball stage, and carefully pour it into your already beaten-until-stiff egg whites while your mixer is running. For "Swiss meringues," you heat egg whites and sugar over a double boiler, whisking gently to break up the whites but not enough to make them frothy. Sugar has a protecting effect on the egg whites so they don't coagulate as easily, allowing you to heat them to pasteurization temperatures before beating them into a meringue.)

Another blogger, doughgirl8, summed up the process perfectly in a post titled Better Buttercream:

"You really need a stand mixer to make buttercream (this is where I go off on my Ode to Kitchenaid®). You need your hands free in order to carefully pour hot sugar syrup into whipping meringue, plus the mixture needs to cool for at least five minutes. Once the hot meringue mixture has cooled down to room temperature, you can begin dropping in pieces of room-temperature butter, letting each piece become fully incorporated before adding more. (This is the step that freaks people out until they're used to working with buttercream: the volume drops, the mixture looks curdled, and the whole thing looks like a mess. As my cakes instructor put it, it has to go through its "ugly adolescent phase" before it smoothes out again and gets a nice 'Fluffernutter®' consistency.)"
To make buttercream, have all of your ingredients ready to go before you start heating your sugar mixture.
  • Bring the water, maple syrup, and brown sugar to a boil.
  • When the sugar syrup is boiling, start beating the egg whites at medium speed. Add the cream of tartar and pinch of salt; continue beating. When the sugar mixture reaches about 220 degrees F, increase the mixer's speed to high. You want the egg whites to be at medium-stiff peaks at the moment you pour the boiling sugar down the side of the mixing bowl.
  • Try to pour the syrup in a thin stream that falls between the whirling beater and the side of the bowl (it's better to get it on the side of the bowl than into the beater, which will whip it around cotton-candy style).
  • When the syrup has all been added, keep the mixer beating at high speed to cool it down.
  • If you're worried about egg safety, stop the mixer and use an instant-read thermometer to ensure the meringue has reached 140 degrees F. (I've never not had it attain pasteurization temperature.)
  • Keep beating the meringue until cool to the touch (turn off the mixer and stick your finger in the center of the bowl—it should not feel warm at all).

If you're working in a warm kitchen, you can speed up the process by holding reusable ice packs to the sides of the mixing bowl. When the meringue is cool, start adding the butter one piece at a time. I wear a latex glove on my butter-tossing hand and keep my other hand clean to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. You'll notice a big drop in volume once you start adding the butter. Just keep adding it, one piece at a time with the mixer running, and it will eventually get incorporated. The mixture will get fluffier as air gets beaten into the butter. Once you've added all of the butter and the mixture is smooth and fluffy, add the vanilla extract (or maple extract, or other flavoring). Mix until incorporated, and then frost your cupcakes.
Maple-Brown Sugar Buttercream

1/4 cup water
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup real maple syrup [no substitutes!]
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch salt
1 1/3 cups unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

This recipe made enough to frost 15 cupcakes with a spatula, with a little frosting left over—it would be enough buttercream to use a piping bag to frost the cupcakes.
Nutmeg Cake cupcakes, garnished with fresh-grated nutmeg
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Boiling maple syrup & brown sugar: the syrup and brown sugar cook to "soft ball stage" (240° F).
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Beaten egg whites: leave the mixer running while you add the syrup (I turned it off to take a photo)
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Cooled, sweetened Italian meringue. (I couldn't photograph the boiling sugar while pouring it.)
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Adding butter, one piece at a time
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There's a big decrease in volume once you start adding butter. Have faith and keep mixing!
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Nutmeg Cupcake with Maple-Brown Sugar Buttercream
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Fresh nutmeg on a microplane grater
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Sep. 28, 2009 7:09 pm
Ahhh, Frances. Thank you kindly for such beautiful pics and instructions.
Sep. 29, 2009 6:05 am
Thanks for sharing your recipe, Frances! Your cupcakes look delicious!
Sep. 29, 2009 6:16 am
Looks and sounds great! I only wish I had a KA mixer to do some of that advanced baking. I have this little hand mixer that I know would burn up. Oh well, one day...thanks for sharing the techniques and tips too!
Sep. 29, 2009 9:52 pm
thank you Frances for the fantastic instructions...I'm warming up my Kitchen Aid!
Sep. 30, 2009 3:31 pm
I am excited to try this recipe! It sounds delicious. My daughter works in a bakery and they make meringue buttercream but I haven't tried one yet. Thanks for the step-by-step. (The syrup into the mixer sounds a lot like making marshmallows!)
Sep. 30, 2009 5:38 pm
Thanks, folks! pieceofcake, I'd love to hear about it if you make these cupcakes. Yes, jenkaa, if you've made marshmallows, you're certainly ready to tackle buttercream! It's my favorite frosting--so adaptable to different flavors. You can add liqueurs (about 2-3 tablespoons, tops), melted and cooled chocolate (about 2-3 ounces), peanut butter or hazelnut or pistachio paste...I like this recipe on our site, for a good base recipe (it's a Swiss meringue): "Easiest, Most Delicious Meringue Buttercream." Good luck!
Oct. 3, 2009 4:25 pm
Oh! *drools* That looks way too good! I've made marshmallows, meringue, buttercream and whatnot so I'll be saving this recipe to make in the future. :) Thanks for sharing!
Oct. 9, 2009 1:19 am
i want to know what igredients i will use when i making a notes on the cakeslike "happy birthday",, pls help me,,
Jul. 31, 2012 8:29 am
Great tutorial and extremely helpful! Thanks Frances!
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About Me
I'm proud to say I've been an Allrecipes employee for 9 years, combining my love of the written word with my passion for food. I've worked in publishing and in the food service industry, both "front of the house" and back. I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America's Baking & Pastry program and have worked as a baker and pastry cook in Wisconsin, for a season at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and at bakeries in Seattle. Twitter handle: @F_Crouter
My favorite things to cook
My baking career really began when I was in first grade and my family was living in Germany. Every morning my father and I would walk to the local bakery for bread and an afternoon treat, like Apfelkuchen. I love dark sour breads, baking anything with yeast in it, and anything that requires hours of patient work, like croissant and Danish doughs.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Food we ate while camping. Animal pancakes. My mom's meatloaf. My grandfather's breakfasts.
My cooking triumphs
I think a baker's real triumph is getting to work at 4 am, day in and day out, so that there are beautiful pastries and loaves of bread on display when the bakery opens three hours later. A personal triumph was making my own wedding cake.
My cooking tragedies
Heavens! Too shameful to list: all that wasted dough, those burnt nuts, spilled milk to cry over....
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