Photo Credit: S1 Photography
As I’ve mentioned a couple times now, Kevin and I are newlyweds. We are still reveling in the post-wedding glow—reminiscing and tying up loose ends, like ordering photos and finding the perfect cupboards, drawers and hooks for the bounty of kitchen-bound wedding gifts we received. These sporadic wedding-related tasks stand in stark contrast to the months leading up to the wedding, when The Wedding completely consumed my life.
As I’m sure many who have recently planned a wedding would agree, the wedding industry can be a terrifying thing. In the early weeks of our engagement, I felt as if we had been plunked down on some kind of wedding industry conveyor belt. I quickly realized that the easiest response would be to hang on for the ride. Still, I resisted the cookie cutter approach that many planners, florists, etc would push on us. I found the most satisfying way of doing this was to make whatever I could myself.
In a perfect world, I would have loved to cater the wedding myself. As the head count crept toward 200, I realized that this probably would not be the greatest idea (and just might cause my then-fiancé to reconsider the whole “marrying me” thing). Oh, and the venue of our dreams didn’t allow it. (Lucky for us, they had an exclusive relationship with a great Chicago caterer, who—in the end—served up a delicious array of hors d’oeuvres and dinner … so I heard, as I don’t really remember the food. Apparently, one loses her appetite when she’s walking in the clouds.)
So, I did the next best thing. I determined to bake the cake and host a welcome BBQ the Thursday night before our Saturday wedding. Both plans caused many people to think I was completely nuts. Thankfully, both my fiancé and my mother barely batted an eyelash when I announced these decisions.
In an effort toward sanity, I resolved to make the BBQ’s guest list as condensed as possible and began creating and editing the menu months in advance. Likewise, I began researching wedding cakes very early on (before settling on a wedding dress, of course). I quickly realized that cupcakes would be the most feasible and fun option. However, because I didn’t exactly envision multi-colored sprinkles or canned frosting, I scoured recipes for months. Several blogs—Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit in particular—were quite helpful and inspirational. I also dog-eared every wedding magazine layout featuring a tasteful cupcake display.
I settled on recipes for the cakes (from blog Alpineberry) and the frosting (see below), and tested and re-tested them. I tried a variety of cocoas in the cakes (ultimately settling on Scharffen Berger) and I experimented with various stabilizers in the frosting (anticipating hot weather for our outdoor August wedding – good thing, because temperatures on the big day neared 90 degrees). I carefully multiplied the recipe’s quantities to craft a grocery list and procured all the ingredients well in advance of the wedding weekend (I was the person who actually bought those impossibly enormous bags of powdered sugar and boxes of baking power at Costco).
Throughout the engagement, countless people said “I can’t believe you’re making your own cake!” In the end, that statement was far from true. Many others were involved as well. My fiancé was my loyal taste-tester. My sister helped in my search for wedding-worthy cupcake liners (when I found an online purveyor of these gorgeous mini-Pannettone liners, I was sold). My mom constantly reassured me and identified potential problems well ahead of time. And then there’s my stepdad, who built me the most gorgeous stand for the cakes I could’ve ever imagined. Heck, even the Best Man got in on the action, keeping me company when I started the baking at 6 AM the morning after the BBQ we hosted.
The plan, if I do say so myself, came off without a hitch. The cakes themselves were delicious (again, so I heard) and the stand made for a stunning display. More importantly, the project gave me a sense of ownership throughout the process and a surprisingly calming diversion during the wedding weekend. Even better, there was no need to freeze a couple of cakes for our one year anniversary. Rather than thawing cupcakes next August, I can simply whip up another batch (a single batch, thank you).
Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes
(makes 30 cupcakes)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cup whole milk
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup brewed coffee (with 2 tsp instant espresso powder dissolved in the coffee)
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp finely ground espresso beans
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 cups (6 ounces) semi or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 tbsp (3 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
To make cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 30 standard (4 fl oz capacity) muffin cups with paper liners.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs, egg yolk, milk, oil, vanilla and coffee and beat on low speed until well combined.
Fill your prepared muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake until a cake tested comes out clean, about 18-23 minutes. Leave cupcakes in pan for 5 minutes then remove from pan and cool completely on cooling rack.
To make filling*
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the mascarpone, milk, vanilla and espresso until fluffy. On low speed, slowly beat in the sugar until smooth. Transfer filling to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip. Insert tip into the top center of cooled cupcake and dispense about 2 tsp filling into the cupcake.
To make glaze*
Combine chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until well combined about 2-3 minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Frost the filled cupcakes with the warm glaze.
* While I intended to make the filling, I nixed it at the very last minute. I guess I’m not that nuts. This left me with a refrigerator shelf full of mascarpone for a long, long time (which in turn left me with a very good reason to try Ina Garten’s Tiramisu). I also did not make the glaze, in lieu of Bailey’s Buttercream (below).
Bailey’s Buttercream Icing
1 cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
4 T. Bailey’s Irish Cream
½ tsp. cornstarch**
Using an electric mixer, cream together all ingredients until very smooth.
** As I said in the post, I used cornstarch as a stabilizer because I was concerned about the heat in which the cupcakes would be displayed. The cornstarch did a great job of preventing meltage.