Today is our daughter, Erin's birthday and one of the saddest things about living so far apart is that on these special occasions our celebrations can only occur via the telephone or by Skype. On top of that disappointment, because of the unseasonably hot weather across the nation, I wouldn't even attempt to send her birthday cupcakes for fear they'd be a melted mess by the time they reached her...even if I did an express ship! However, that being said, it didn't stop me coming up with a special cupcake that when we are together again, I'll make for her.
Erin Lyn is our first born--a true Leo, July 23rd-August 21st. Leo's are confident, ambitious, generous, loyal and encouraging. They are very independent, but they need something to control and someone to admire and appreciate them. For example, when Kelly and I would go shopping with Erin, we'd turn out to be, as we termed it, " Her Ladies in Waiting"--helping her pick out outfits, going back and forth to the dressing room with new sizes and styles, to please her. She would model the outfits and we had to give her our feedback--positive or negative, before she'd go on to the next one. She'd be the one with all the shopping bags and we were tired, mostly from the good time of bringing her new things and but mostly joking about her controlling us.
Girl Scout Samoas have always been one of Erin's favorite variety of cookies. It has coconut, caramel, and chocolate all rolled into one soft, gooey cookie and even I have a hard top stopping at one or two. LOL! So, the challenge was to come up with a cupcake that combines these ingredients and try to keep busy enough so I wouldn't think how far away she is on a our special day.
Samoas Birthday Cupcakes
Cake: The cake is basically a recipe from King Arthur Flour, with just a few changes.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup Coconut milk powder
4 large eggs
1 T Vanilla Paste (or I used 3 Vanilla beans, split and scraped)
1/4 tsp. Coconut flavoring
2 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup Queen Guinevere Cake Flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
3/4 cup whole milk
Dulche de Leche:
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp. coconut flavoring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Begin by making the Dulche de Leche. In the top of a double boiler, with 1-2 inches of water in the bottom part, place the open can of sweetened condensed milk.
Cover and reduce heat to med/low. Continue to cook until the mixture turns a golden tan, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Check every 15 minutes, stirring the mixture until the color is reached.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill.
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.
In the large bowl of a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, cream the butter. Add the sugars and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides as needed.
Add the vanilla beans, coconut milk powder, and coconut flavoring, then, mix to combine.
Sift the flours with the baking powder and salt. Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Beat 1-2 minutes more, scraping down the sides.
Scoop up the batter and place into the paper liners. Bake in the preheated over 20 to 22 minutes, until golden brown and the tops spring back when lightly touched.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the ganache. Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the heavy cream until bubbles form around the edges. Pour hot cream over the chocolate chips and let sit about a minute. Use a whisk to blend the cream and melted chocolate together. Set aside.
To fill the cupcakes: Use an apple corer to remove a "plug" from the center of the cupcake.
Fill a pastry bag with a #7 tip and pipe the dulche de leche into the center.
Once you've finished filling the cupcakes, turn the cupcakes upside down and dip into the chocolate ganache.
Turn right side up and let the ganache set while you mix up the Italian buttercream.
For the Buttercream:
In a large mixing bowl, place room temperature egg whites, sugar and salt. Use a hand whisk to beat together slightly. Place the bowl over a pan with 1-inch boiling water and cook, whisking constantly, until the temperature reaches 140F-degrees.
Wipe off the bottom of bowl and place it on the stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat until the egg whites are stiff and glistening. Add the softened butter, one tablespoon at a time while the mixer is running, until all the butter is incorporated. Continue whisking until the buttercream comes together--don't be concerned if it looks curdled at first--it does come together. Beat in the coconut flavoring and vanilla extract.
Fill a pastry bag with a #6B tip (or use your favorite) and pipe a mound of buttercream over the hardened ganache. Top it off with a sprinkle of toasted coconut.
The complexity of flavors is a perfect match for our sweet daughter. I can't believe she's all grown up and a beautiful mother herself that continues to amaze me everyday. Love and miss you...Happy Birthday. Enjoy!