I have no idea where I first picked up the idea of champagne pear cupcakes, but I looked up a recipe and have had it bookmarked for a while. Wednesday, when my life exploded (temporarily), I decided I was going to make them to distract myself. And then I was supposed to go to my dad's, so I figured I'd just make them there--he has a dishwasher, plus it's about twenty degrees cooler at his house. So I packed up all my stuff, other than I'd forgotten to get vanilla. He said he had some, but I didn't want to run through the entire ingredient list because they'd just annoy him, so I packed up my sack of flour, sugar, even eggs.
The recipe I was using from from 52 weeks of baking:
2 3/4 cups of flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 sticks of butter
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 firm-ish but ripe pears, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup champagne
The only flour I had was self-rising flour, but according to a number of different websites that's okay to substitute, so I went with it (cutting out the baking soda and salt). Other than that, I followed the directions perfectly ....
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a small bowl sift flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In mixer (or large bowl), cream butter and sugar until well mixed and airy.
- Add eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is full incorporated before adding next.
- Slowly add in flour mixture - I do it 1/3 at a time - making sure it is fully incorporated.
- Stir in vanilla and champagne.
- Stir in pears.
- Line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
- Scoop an even amount of dough into each cup - I filled them to the top. You should have enough for about 24 cupcakes.
- Bake for about 16 minutes. I started checking around 12 just to be safe. You want them to be golden in color.
It looked a little lighter than commercial vanilla, so I added an extra splash and hoped for the best.
Then entire time I was mixing this up, my dad was bugging me--for instance, when I was creaming the butter and sugar, he asked why I was "putzing around" with that instead of just dumping it all in the bowl and mixing it. Then it was "shouldn't you let that sit for a while". I told him I was following the recipe.
The first batch of cupcakes totally freaking overflowed, the entire top of the muffin pan was covered and there was cooking dough all over the oven racks and bottom of the oven. Sonofa .... I whipped the muffin tin out and wiped all the dough off the oven before it could set up. My dad then started looking at my recipe and laughing at me about telling him I was following the directions, since I used different flour and different vanilla. He started telling me how he bakes things every once in a while and he could've told me that wouldn't work and I shouldn't have filled the cups to the top and he could've told me that!
I did think it was a little odd, but what do I know? I'm an amateur! I thought maybe something in the champagne would make them not rise so much. I dumped out/scraped out the cakes; I'm sure the fox that hangs around my dad's house had never had champagne before. So there went half my batter.
I did a trial one with just two cakes, filling one half full and one three quarters; they still fell in dramatically in the middle. My dad suggested upping the temperature to 410 degrees; that and a half-full cup made almost perfect cupcakes. I was excited.
Then I started on the frosting:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp champagne (depending on texture)
No catastrophes here, other than accidentally spraying the counters with frosting at one point. The frosting was a bit runny by the time I got it all mixed, so I put it in the fridge to thicken up. Then I loaded up my frosting bag and tried to make them look pretty.
Yeah ... that didn't work. The only decorating tips I have are tiny, and there was another problem I didn't foresee: the frosting bag I got is just plastic, so it didn't really twist closed very well. Every time I tried to squeeze frosting out, it would ooze out the top of the bag as well. It really was a big mess.
In the end, I got about ten cupcakes with slopped on frosting. They didn't taste terrible; but they didn't have a very strong flavor of either pear or champagne. The pieces of pear had lost all their juices and were just texture, no flavor. And the frosting was way too sweet for me. I dropped them off at work on my way home and my coworkers seemed to like them, but I wasn't terribly impressed. I don't know if it was the flour substitution, the "vanilla", the pears not being ripe enough, or what.
I'll probably try them again at some point, but I'll use super ripe, squishy pears and make a puree out of them and see if that works better. All in all, it just wasn't a raging success. I didn't even take pictures! Partially because I couldn't think of a convincing excuse for my father as to why I was photographing my clumsy little cupcakes.