Happy Mother’s Day!
This year, for Mother’s Day, my mom requested that I make her favorite chocolate cupcakes with Italian meringue frosting from Miette. I love Miette too and they have some amazing pastries and candies. My mom has their cookbook and handed it over to me recently.
I intensely prepared for making this recipe because I know that Miette is tough so I read, and re-read their Old-Fashioned Cake recipe. When I was prepping to cook, I made sure my mise en place was, well, mise en place.
I started by sifting the dry ingredients together.
I placed the dry ingredients aside and mixed the buttermilk and vanilla. I placed the cocoa chunks in a third bowl and poured boiling water over them to melt.
The boiled water created a very liquid chocolate mix. It was much like hot chocolate, which, didn’t feel right but I went with it and continued to follow the recipe.
While the chocolate mix cooled, I whisked the eggs together until they became foamy. The recipe required adding vegetable oil to the foamy eggs. For some reason, we haven’t had vegetable oil in our pantry for months so, instead, I added apple sauce. Another tip I’ve learned – apple sauce can be substituted for vegetable oil. It will create the same moist cake, but can also help in reducing sugar, if that’s a concern.
The cooled chocolate mix and buttermilk mix was then poured into the egg mixture and whisked. I then added the dry ingredients and mixed it with my hands. The recipe said to leave it chunky.
I poured the batter through a sieve and pressed it through with a spatula, making sure that as much batter as possible got through.
This was a messy, but delicious process.
The batter was thick as I poured it into the cupcake liners. It was almost brownie like!
After baking for 25 minutes, the cupcakes came out and looked great!
I made these on Saturday night only to realize that the meringue frosting had to be made the day of serving so I let the cupcakes cool and waited until Sunday morning to make the frosting.
I woke up early Sunday morning to start the Italian meringue. Having struggled with my first meringues, I wanted to give myself enough time to make this.
I mixed the sugar, water, and cream of tartar and heated it to make a candy liquid/paste. I searched high and low for a candy thermometer on Saturday but couldn’t find one. Thanks to Google, I learned what to do in this situation.
I heated the sugar mixture and had a bowl of ice water and spoon handy. As it cooked, I dipped the spoon into the mixture and put it into the ice water. I dunked my hand in there with it, and based on its consistency between my fingers, I gauged if it was ready or not. I know that this is not entirely accurate but it worked well enough.
Next, I mixed the eggs and vanilla and poured the sugar mixture down the sides of the bowl. The recipe said to whisk the mixture for 10 minutes or so until it formed firm peaks. I don’t have a stand mixer (though it is on my baking wishlist – hint, hint), so I used my electric hand mixer.
This is where my problems began. I beat the eggs for 10 minutes, and though it was much thicker now, firm peaks were not forming. I’d like to blame my hand mixer but I know that meringues are finicky and I might have missed something else along the way. I also didn’t want to over-beat the mixture and make it too thick. So many places to make mistakes – yikes!
My next step was to pipe the frosting. Another thing I need practice on and I knew I would have some trouble with this since my meringue wasn’t the right consistency. That being said, I at least learned how to get frosting into a piping bag with ease by placing it in a glass first.
I started to frost the cupcakes, and as anticipated, things got messy. I started by piping as much as the recipe said to, hoping that the meringue would in fact be puffy. This only ended in large amounts of meringue dripping off the top. I started putting less frosting on to offset this but then the cupcakes looked flat. I couldn’t win!
The dripping frosting also made it so that my somewhat centered top candies became very off centered. The above photos show the cupcakes that made it with minimal drips and struggle, so in the interest of full disclosure… this is what the majority of the cupcakes looked like:
I decided to go with the flow of the dripping and pretended that that was the look I was going for. Messy hair buns are in right now, so messy cupcakes must be too, right?
I was happy to have enough to package up nicely and give to my mom and Ward’s mom for Mother’s Day. When I tried one of the cupcakes, I was happy to discover that they were extremely moist and rich. The frosting was gooey but tasted so good.
This recipe reminded me how much of a learning process this is. It also reminded me how fun it is to be messy. I’ve been somewhat concerned about posting the perfect pictures of perfectly baked goods and clean prepped items but that is simply not the reality of learning to bake. Though I am getting better at prepping my ingredients before beginning to bake, a big mess is sometimes unavoidable and I’m starting to think that that’s not a bad thing. Here’s to more messy kitchens and adventures in baking!