Monday, March 12, 2012

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lavender Cream Cheese Frosting

What do you get when you put Pauline Pau and Michelle Tran together? Awesomeness! Seriously... Taste and believe. Ladies and gentleman! May I present you with a CHIBI CHOMP first collaboration! Featuring my very good friend: Michelle! (who I've known since kindergarten!!!)

Funny thing is, I did not intend for this to be a collaboration of any sort. The original plan was to just make lavender cupcakes for a friend's birthday. Why lavender? Our first encounter with lavender came after having tasted a cupcake sample from Red Velvet Gourmet Co. at our local farmer's market. It was basically a vanilla cupcake with lavender frosting and was pretty good. Our first impression of it was that it tasted like a spa.  A few days later Michelle told me that she found a recipe for an earl grey cake with lavender frosting and I was immediately interested because: 1. I love earl grey and 2. lavender frosting so we decided to make it for our birthday girl. I was expecting the recipe to be pretty much like an earl grey version of the cupcake we tasted at the farmer's market but instead it was this: Fudgy Earl Grey Chocolate Cake. Where did the fudge come from? I was definitely taken by surprise and thought that chocolate would overpower the earl grey flavor so instead we came up with an alternate recipe. Besides, I wanted Earl Grey to be my star. 

The texture of the cake is reminiscent of chiffon cake with subtle but well balanced flavors. Light cream cheese whipped cream with a hint of lavender is perfect with the denser cake. Unlike the cupcake at the farmers market, we chose to add only a hint of lavender extract so it did not taste like soap. So here it is: A first collaboration and an original recipe. Mind you, this was accomplished in the middle of the night after a strenuous week for the both of us! Enjoy!

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lavender Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon lavender extract
6 tablespoon powdered sugar
2 drops blue food coloring
2 drops red food coloring

2 eggs (separated)
175 grams cake flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
Tea leaves from 6 bags of earl grey tea ground into a fine powder (I used a mortar and pestle)
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Melt butter on low heat and add ground tea leaves to the mixture. Steep for 10 minutes on low heat to extract flavor. Do not let it boil. When mixture is cool enough to handle, separate the solids from the oil. (I used coffee filter paper.) Set earl grey butter aside to cool. 
3. Sift cake flour and then add salt and baking powder; whisk to mix dry ingredients. 
4. In a separate bowl, whip egg yolks, vanilla extract, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the milk and mix. Add the earl grey infused butter and mix. 
5. Mix the dry and wet ingredients until just combined. Do not overwork the batter.
3. In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 1/4 cup of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. 
4. With a rubber spatula, gently fold a third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it. Gently incorporate the remaining egg whites in two additions. Take care to not over mix or the batter will deflate. 
5. Line cupcake tin with cupcake liners and divide batter into cupcake pan (makes 12 cupcakes). 
6. Place the pan in the middle of the oven and bake cupcakes for 12 to18 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. 
7. Set cupcakes aside to cool completely. 
8. Chill your bowl and whisk beforehand. In a clean bowl, beat cream cheese until it is smooth and creamy. Add the whipping cream, food coloring, lavender extract, and powdered sugar and beat on low so you don't splash yourself. When the cream cheese begins to incorporate into the cream, increase the speed and beat until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until use. 

The amount of food coloring you add is pretty much up to you. I did not want the frosting to look like teletubby food so we did not add much food coloring (I think 1 extra drop of blue and red would've been perfect though.) Overall I think the frosting was excellent but the cake part may use a smidgen more work to get the texture right. Either that or we over baked it a bit (it was late at night!!) Nevertheless, these were gobbled up in no time.

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