There was a time I considered myself a Cupcake Queen. No matter the occasion, I brought cupcakes – the more decadent, the better (think chocolate peanut butter cupcakes with peanut butter cups both hidden within the cake and perched atop the icing).
These days, I identify more as a Bread Baroness, if you will. Though my sweet tooth has not disappeared altogether, it has moved towards the back of my mouth to make room for various iterations of salt, water, yeast, and flour.
But on occasion – a friend’s birthday, usually – I dig deep into that drawer under the oven to unearth my cupcake tin to see if she still has another dozen cakes in her. And she always does.
The last time I made cupcakes was in February, when I whipped up Bobbette & Belle’s Piped Rose Lemon Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes (not the aforementioned diabetes-inducing one). This time, I decided to try my hand at another B&B recipe: the Classic Hummingbird Cupcakes.
This recipe is most curious – it is the only one in the cupcake chapter NOT to have a photo demonstrating the final product. I wonder why: last minute book addition? Disastrous hard drive crash? Dropped the final product on the floor? While it’s a little unsettling to not know what your bake is supposed to look like, it also allows a little freedom, which is a nice thing.
I think the idea of spirit animals is kind of dumb, but if I had to choose a spirit animal for myself, it would be the hummingbird, largely because they thrive on sugar. Luckily, the hummingbird cupcakes don’t contain any birds – they traditionally contain an apparently hummingbirdly combination of banana and pineapple. The Bobbette & Belle version also throws in coconut and pecans, and promises the recipe acts “as a nice alternative to carrot cake”.
Making the cake is very simple; in addition to the ‘bird ingredients, the usual suspects apply: all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, sugar, an egg, vegetable oil, and vanilla. After all the bread I’ve been baking, it felt so modest to use just one cup of flour in a recipe.
I’m sure there’s a reason that this recipe uses vegetable oil and not butter, but I don’t know what it is. It felt kind of weird to “cream” sugar with the oil (and egg and vanilla right away). The directions are a little vague (“beat on medium-low speed until creamy”) – I beat it for about three minutes, but it wasn’t sufficiently creamy for my tastes, so I boosted the power level and kept going for another couple of minutes. The flour is added in stages, then the hummingbirds are added (crushed pineapple with juice, mashed ripe banana, finely chopped pecans, and flaked coconut). Bake for 20 minutes, and ta-da: hummingbird cupcakes.
The icing was a point of contention: it called for sour cream frosting.
Really? Sour cream? For icing?
When it comes to icing, I prefer cream cheese to buttercream every time. People think they like buttercream more, but I believe that in a blind taste test, they would choose cream cheese. The name throws people off – and I was hoping the same thing was happening to me with the whole sour cream thing.
I’m not a fan of sour cream. When a recipe calls for it, I almost always sub in plain Greek yogurt instead. But when it comes to baking, I like to stay loyal to the ingredient list – and B&B said that “the addictive sour cream frosting [is] our twist on the traditional cream cheese frosting”.
I had to trust that they were leading me down the right path. In the recipe description for the sour cream frosting, they promised “it’s sure to become a favourite”. So I took a leap of faith.
Though I was trusting them blindly, I probably should have opened an eye to read through the recipe carefully ahead of time. The first step: drain the sour cream in a sieve with cheesecloth in the fridge overnight. Not only did I not have time for this, but I also didn’t have cheesecloth. I compromised by draining the sour cream for an hour in a few layers of paper towel.
The temperature directions are a little finicky, too: for the sour cream, you are to “bring almost to room temperature”, and the butter is meant to be “cool room temperature”. Other ingredients include lemon juice, vanilla, salt, and icing sugar.
Things looked good as I creamed the butter and the sour cream, but when I added the lemon juice, vanilla, and salt, the mix started to look a little curdled. This has happened to me before when making icing, and I’ve learned that you just need to keep mixing through the curdledness. I persevered until things were a little better, though still not 100% smooth. Luckily, everything worked itself out when I added in the icing sugar. As a bonus, I threw in an extra teaspoon of pineapple juice – YOLO.
Without visual aids to guide my icing, I had free reign. I chose to colour the icing yellow (kind of banana/pineapple/lemony, right?) and I consulted YouTube for ideas on how to decorate the cupcakes. I didn’t want to pick something overly labour intensive, so I settled on this pretty – but very easy – flower, which is piped using a simple round tip.
Now, the fun part: taste testing the creation.
Scrumptious. Absolutely delicious. The cake is moist and not too sweet; the chopped pecans are the key to texture perfection. Lo and behold, the icing was really, really good. It pairs wonderfully with the cake and it certainly leans more towards cream cheese than sugar sweet buttercream.
At times like this, I wonder why I don’t make cupcakes more often!