Thursday, July 7, 2011

Margarita Cupcakes

Hi everybody!  I’m sitting outside, watching the girls play.  It’s a beautiful day here!  We are lucky because we don’t actually live in downtown Reno.  I’m not saying that because downtown is bad or anything….It is just that it is hell-fire hot downtown.  We live up Mt. Rose in a forest, so it is a good 10 to 15 degrees cooler here.  It is probably close to 100 downtown, but only about 85 here.  We also had some thunderstorms here yesterday.  Those are pretty cool….They come in from over the mountains, and they are SUPER loud.  Ok, enough about the weather.  How ‘bout them Giants?;)
So today I am starting a 3 part series I like to call “Boozie Cakes”.  Yep, that’s right…cakes made with booze.  The booze cooks out, so they are safe for kids, but they still have that cocktail-ish flavor.  I think it adds a cool twist to cakes and cupcakes.  It is something unexpected, and I think it makes cupcakes seem a bit more grown up.  Today I will show you how to make Margarita Cupcakes.  I will finish this series over the next 2 Thursdays.  Next Thursday I will show you how to make a Strawberry Daiquiri Layer Cake, and the following Thursday will be a Pina Colada Bundt Cake.  Yea for Boozie cakes!
I love a good margarita.  I have to go easy on them because tequila tends to make me mean….but I still like them.  I’m mean to other people, not myself;)  A margarita is typically Triple-Sec, which is an orange flavored liquor, tequila and lime juice.  I think that the lime juice is the predominant flavor.  I really don’t feel that I ever taste the Triple-Sec.  Some people like theirs blended, while others prefer “on the rocks.”  Also, some people like their glass rimmed in salt, some don’t.  I prefer on the rocks, with salt.  The cupcakes that I am going to show you have a strong lime flavor, and they are even topped with salt!
I stuff my cupcakes to make them extra special.  I will show you what I mean by that in a bit, but for now…let me show you how to make the filling, which is a fluffy lime mousse type thing.
I start with a homemade lime curd.  A fruit curd is a cooked mixture of butter, sugar, eggs and fruit juice.  It becomes thick when cooked, almost like a pudding.  You will commonly find lemon curd in stores.  Lime is harder to find.  If you can find it…buy it!  Then you can skip this step;)
I put the lime juice, butter and sugar over a double boiler.  A double boiler is just a big bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  The water doesn’t actually touch the bottom of the bowl.  I cook it over simmering water, just long enough to melt the butter.
You have to “temper” the eggs before they can get added to the lime juice, butter and sugar. To temper the eggs just means that we will bring the eggs up closer to the temperature of the lime juice mixture.  If you add cold eggs to the lime juice mixture, which is hot, the eggs will scramble.   I take about 2 tablespoons of the hot lime juice mixture and stir it into the beaten eggs.  Once that is blended, I slowly add the eggs to the lime mixture in the double boiler, stirring constantly. 
I cook this mixture until it thickens….about 10 minutes.  When it is ready, it will coat the back of a spoon.  That means that if you were to draw your finger across the spoon, that trail would stay.  The liquid wouldn’t just run back over the trail your finger made.  Does that make sense?  That is super hard to explain!
Once mine thickened, I added 1 drop of green food coloring to make it look more lime-ish.  I poured the curd into a bowl and put plastic wrap directly on top of it to prevent a “skin” from forming.  I popped this in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
To finish the filling, I use heavy cream and a smidge of powdered sugar and the lime curd.  By this time, you will have sampled the curd and figured out that it is heaven in a bowl. 
I beat the cream in a large bowl with a hand mixer.  When the cream is almost to soft peaks, I added a bit of powdered sugar.  I continued beating until I had whipped cream.

The whipped cream and curd gets gently folded together.
It will look like this.  Then, you just pop it in the fridge till you need it.
Let’s make the cupcakes, shall we?
I use a boxed mix to keep things simple.  There are quite a few steps to this cake; I don’t need to tack on additional time by making a cake from scratch.  I use the oil and eggs that the mix calls for, but instead of water, I use a canned margarita.  The kind I chose has the alcohol already in it.  This will give the cupcakes a yummy lime flavor, with a background flavor of tequila and triple-sec.  If you have to buy them in a 6 pack, feel free to drink 4 of them.  We will need another one later.  If you drink these with me, watch yo’self.
I prepared the batter according to the package directions and baked them for about 18 minutes.
Once the cupcakes are out of the oven, and cooled a bit…they are ready to get their insides poked out so they can get stuffed!  I use an apple corer, but a paring knife would work too.  I take out about an inch of cupcake.  And then I eat every piece that gets poked out. I don’t share.  I’m like Joey from “Friends.”  Courtney doesn’t share food!  I’m kidding, I do…..obviously.
Here is a close-up of a cupcake that has been violated;)
I use my handy pastry bag with a star tip to fill my cupcakes.  A Ziploc bag is equally effective, but maybe not as pretty.  I set these in the fridge to keep the filling stiff while I made the frosting, but that is your choice.  They will be fine at room temperature.
Finally!  The last step, which is the frosting.  I use the other can of margarita, powdered sugar and softened butter.  Yes, my can is already open.  That is because I put the contents of that can in a small pot and boiled it until it was reduced by half.  This will not only cook off the alcohol, but it will intensify the flavor.  That, or I shotgunned it.
With a hand mixer, I beat the reduced margarita, softened butter and powdered sugar until I had the consistency I wanted.  I also added a drop of green food coloring to this.  I really think that a margarita cupcake needs to be green!
I frosted the cupcakes with my pastry bag and star tip.  The frosting covers up the filling so that it is a surprise.  I also sprinkled coarse sea salt on the tops of the cupcakes to complete the margarita theme.  That is optional, of course;)
These cupcakes are sweet, slightly sour, and super refreshing.  These would be great for a birthday party for a grown-up.  If you want to serve them for a kid’s party….maybe call them something else as to not freak the other parents out.  But I promise that all of your grown-up friends will love these!
Just to be clear, the alcohol cooks off so anyone can eat these.  The cupcakes are left with the delicious taste of a margarita, without any of the fight-inducing tequila effects.
Yum!  The filling is the best part!  You have to try this recipe!
I hope you all have a great weekend filled with sun, fun and margarita cupcakes!

Margarita Cupcakes
1 box white cake mix
1 can Prepared Margarita (200 ml), plus water to equal 1 cup
1/3 cup oil
3 eggs
Lime curd filling-recipe to follow
Margarita Frosting-recipe to follow
Coarse sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare cupcake pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, canned margarita/water, oil and eggs for about 2 minutes.  Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes, or until tester toothpick comes out clean.  Set aside to cool.
When cooled, use an apple corer or paring knife to scoop out about an inch’s worth of cake.  Fill hole with lime curd filling.
Frost cupcakes with Margarita frosting and sprinkle each cupcake with coarse sea salt.

Lime Curd Filling
½ cup lime juice
1/8 cup butter, (1/4 stick)
½ cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 drop green food coloring
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Using a double boiler, melt butter with lime juice and sugar over simmering water. 
In a separate bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of hot lime mixture with beaten eggs.  Slowly add the tempered eggs back into lime mixture.  Cook until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Stir frequently to avoid lumps.  Add 1 drop of green food coloring if desired.   Place curd into the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
In a chilled bowl, beat cream with a hand mixer.  When cream is almost too soft peaks, add powdered sugar and continue beating to soft peaks.
Gently fold together whipped cream and chilled curd.  Chill until ready to use.

Margarita Frosting
1 can prepared Margarita (200 ml)
24 ounces powdered sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 drop green food coloring
In a small pot, boil canned margarita until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Let cool.
In a large bowl, beat together softened butter, reduced margarita and powdered sugar with a hand mixer until desired consistency is reached.  Add food coloring.

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