I really just want to share these gluten-free cupcakes with you.
It’s no secret that I think cupcakes have magic healing powers. Or that they are a divine sort of therapy. This particular recipe is no exception. Actually, it might just be the cupcake that proves the rule.
This summer hasn’t been quite what I had planned for myself. There haven’t been neighborhood festivals every week or long walks on the lakefront discussing the meaning of life, the universe and everything. (Ok, fine knowing the answer to all of that is 42 defeats the point of the discussions, but I digress). It was supposed to be filled with trips to friends in not too far away places and movies in the park. I was supposed to be making new friends and cherishing the time I had left with some of the old ones before they moved away.
But then I had a flare. And life went back to being one foot in front of the other. It went back to being a routine with very little time for anything but working and surviving.
I was a little lost.
But these cupcakes. These delicious, sweet things. They kept coming to me. When I could do nothing more than lay still and hope there wasn’t a breeze, I would imagine the tart apricot filling bursting from the cake. I could feel the honey buttercream melting on my tongue. The scent of the almond cake invaded my dreams.
I owe these little cakes a lot. Not only did they give me a treat to focus on while I waited for a new wave of treatments, they gave me a way to make an impression on some new friends. Such an impression that I might have found a suitable stand-in for Helen when she leaves me for that silly PhD she wants to earn. They might have won me the hearts (and stomachs) of a few good people.
I hope I have set your hopes quite high for these cupcakes. Because they really ought to be. You see, they are almost perfect – delicate flavors that build on each other. Surprise centers. A classic combination in a form that looks like it could be any old cupcake. And then you eat it. You get a taste of what got me through a rough patch. You get to take a giant bite of friendship with a heart-filled center.
That, my friends, is what this is all about.
(A small confession: I might have raided MammaCakes’ pantry for some of her home-made apricot preserves. If you know MammaCakes, I highly recommend raiding her pantry as well 🙂 )
- For the cakes
- 85 grams (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 175 grams (1¼ cups) gluten-free all purpose flour such as Cup4Cup*
- 1/2 tsp xantham gum (omit if your AP blend includes this)
- 4 grams (¾ teaspoon) baking powder
- 1 gram (¼ teaspoon) baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 200 grams (1 cup) sugar
- 130 grams (½ cup) almond paste**
- 4 large eggs, separated
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup milk (I used 2%)
- For the Honey Merengue Buttercream
- 4 large egg whites (30g each–total120g, or ½ cup)
- 200 grams (½ cup plus 1½ tablespoons) honey
- 280 grams (20 tbsp or 2½ sticks) of unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon honey
- orange gel food coloring (optional)
- 1 cup apricot preserves
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with cupcake papers.
- Sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl; set aside.
- Put ¾ cup sugar and the almond paste into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 2 minutes. Raise speed to medium-high.
- Add butter; mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Mix in egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the milk. Transfer to a large bowl; set aside.
- Put egg whites into the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until foamy.
- Gradually add remaining ¼ cup sugar, beating until soft peaks form.
- Fold one-third of egg-white mixture into batter with a rubber spatula. Gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture.
- Fill the cake wells ⅔ full (I used a standard cupcake scoop). Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cakes should be a light golden brown and should spring back when tapped lightly or a cake tester should come out clean when inserted. Remove cupcakes from pan and place on a cooling rack. Put 6 cupcake liners in your pan
- Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk attachment, small bowl, and whisk with paper towel and lemon juice (or vinegar), to remove any trace of grease.
- In a clean pot, combine the egg whites and honey over medium heat, whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140 degrees F.
- Take off of stove, and pour the mixture into your clean bowl for your electric mixer. With the whisk attachment, begin to whip until the mixture is thick, glossy, and neutral (you can feel outside of the bowl to test temperature).
- Switch over to paddle attachment and, while mixing on low speed continuously, add butter one cube at a time until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth – it just means that your butter was probably a little too cold). Add vanilla, honey and salt, mix well. If you want to color your frosting, now would be the time to do it and gel or paste colors work best. I used Wilton orange gel color.
- If your frosting is too runny, your butter was probably too soft. Pop the bowl from the mixer into the fridge for 15-so minutes to allow the butter to firm up.
- Remove some cake from the center of the cupcakes using a cupcake corer or a paring knife, making sure to leave a half inch of cake at the bottom so your jam doesn’t leak out.
- In a pastry bag fit with a large, plain tip, place the apricot preserves. Pipe some filling in each cake to fill the empty centers.
- In another pastry bag, fit with your favorite tip, add the buttercream and make sure to remove any air bubbles. Pipe a swirl of frosting on each cupcake. The recipe is enough to do a rose-type swirl on each cake.