Monday, March 26, 2012

Cupcakes With A Cause

Survivor by Destiny's Child
This is the theme song for strong women!  Whether you're going through a difficult breakup, hard economic times, or trying to conquer bad habits and create reform in your life - you're going to need a motivating theme song.  "I'm a survivor, I'm not gon' give up, I'm not gon' stop, I'm gon' work harder . . ."  It seems a rather large hunk of song for such a sweet-looking cupcake, right?  Well, that cupcake was made for a fundraiser geared to help women become fighters - and survivors - of one of the most terrifying battles around - breast cancer.  Let's think pink today.

A while ago I was asked if I could possibly donate some baked goods for a local breast cancer fundraiser.  I checked my schedule and was glad to see that I was going to be able to do it.  I think I can say that breast cancer is one of the greatest fears among women.  I think I can also safely say that most of us know someone that is battling or has battled this disease.  According to this website, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, affecting one out of eight women.  I'm all on board with a project whose goal is to reduce that ridiculously high number.  So - what can we do?

While men can get breast cancer as well, it is predominantly a women's disease.  Early detection greatly increases your chance of survival so it's key that monthly breast self-examinations are part of your routine.   Also, check with your doctor to see when you should start getting mammograms - and then get them.  Please.  For your sake and for your loved ones.

I love that a pink ribbon is the breast cancer awareness symbol.  It is such a delicate choice.  Delicate doesn't have to mean weak, though.  Strength and resolve can reside deep within and be called forth when needed.  The women I know that have battled this disease are all graceful and serene, exuding the quiet strength of steel.  This cupcake is to honor them.

I knew that pink would be involved in whatever I decided to make for the fundraiser.  And, for some reason, I had already been conjuring up how I would go about making a cherry cordial cupcake - with an actual cherry cordial inside.  Cherries could provide the pink element I wanted.

The final project came together when I finally found a recipe - no - THE recipe for a white cake mix from scratch that I was 100% happy with.  When I envisioned a cherry cordial cupcake that used a beautiful, fluffy white cake instead of the usual brown chocolate cake, I got even more excited.  I loved the delicate nature of the end product.  But it would also have some sneaky elements.  I love hiding ganache just about anywhere and this cupcake would be hiding some right beneath it's buttercream rosette on top.  Simple and elegant with lots of flavor!  I could hardly wait to get working on it!

Cherry Cordial Cupcakes
makes 12

White cake:
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar (300 g)
1 c. buttermilk
2 c. cake flour (223 g)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
pinch of kosher salt
1 t. almond extract
3 egg whites, beaten stiff
12 cherry cordials, frozen

Chocolate Ganache:
1 lb. chocolate chips - I used a mix of both milk and semi-sweet
1 c. heavy cream, heated to a simmer

Cherry Buttercream Frosting:
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar (410 g)
1 c. butter, softened (227 g) (2 sticks)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place cupcake liners in a cupcake tin.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy - because of the high sugar to butter ratio this will take about 5 minutes.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture, stirring just until it starts to incorporate.  Add half of the buttermilk and stir just until it starts to incorporate.  Add half of the remaining dry ingredients and stir until it starts to incorporate.  Add the remaining buttermilk and stir until it starts to incorporate.  Add the remaining dry ingredients until it starts to incorporate.  Stir in almond extract and then gently fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites.  Do not overmix.  Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full with the batter.  Place a cherry cordial in the center and give a gentle press but don't try to submerge them too deep.
They will sink on their own when they bake.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.
It's fine if some of the cordials don't sink entirely because you will be covering the tops with ganache and frosting.

Make the ganache by placing the chocolate chips into a food processor bowl and chopping.  While the processor is running, pour the heated heavy cream through the food chute and continue to process until the chocolate is melted and is smooth and silky.  Place in a pastry bag fitted with a tip with a 1/4" round opening.  Pipe a small circle of ganache in the center of the top of each cupcake.
Make the frosting by creaming together the powdered sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add the cherry juice concentrate and blend well.  Place a large star tip in a pastry bag and fill with the frosting.  Pipe a large swirl on the top of each cupcake, being sure to cover or "hide" the puddle of ganache but not covering the entire surface of the cupcake.

You can make the chocolate curls to garnish the top by taking a large chocolate bar (milk chocolate works well) and taking a vegetable peeler and shaving it down an edge.  They will be delicate to handle.  Place a few curls on the top of each cupcake.

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