for k’s birthday, i put together some chocolate cupcakes. the cakes were yogurt based (see pandan cake recipe and substitute 80g of chocolate melted in 20g of strong coffee for the pandan essence). i hollowed out the middle and filled them with passion fruit curd. my friend d, self-professed cupcake connoisseur, has made a very good suggestion that dulce de leche might make a better accompaniment than passion fruit curd. i think i agree. i topped the cupcakes with a chocolate italian meringue buttercream and an inkblot cookie for some *pizzazz* (now there’s a word i haven’t heard since the 80s)!
in cooking school, we learned to make two types of buttercream. one was french and the other an italian. the french buttercream contained a lot of butter and it tasted quite rich and thick. the italian meringue contained less butter but quite a lot of sugar. way too sweet for me. i discovered, however, that if i cut down the sugar content in the recipe by about 60g, i could reduce the sweetness while still maintaining the structure (you really do need sugar to set the structure of the meringue). the italian meringue buttercream is also more stable than the french meringue.
that said, i should point out that both buttercreams are a lot silkier in texture and utilize A LOT less butter and sugar than american buttercream, which is just confectioners sugar blended in with butter.
Italian Meringue Buttercream
(enough to generously frost 18 cupcakes)
|Egg Whites||150g (~5 egg whites)|
|Sugar||315g, divided into 75g and 240g portions|
|Butter||450g (4 sticks, cubed)|
|Dark Chocolate||6oz (melted either in the microwave or over a water bath)|
- Prepare a French meringue. To do so, start beating the egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer. (You can add a dash of cream of tartar for extra stabilisation).When the egg whites start to foam, add in 75g of sugar. The egg whites should start to become very shiny and form soft peaks.
- While you are preparing the French meringue, combine 240g of sugar with 130ml of water in a saucepan. Heat the sugar until it reaches the soft-ball stage. Do not stir the sugar while it cooks, otherwise little crystals will form. Sugar will reach the soft-ball stage when it reaches 235º-240ºF. If you don’t have a thermometer, set a small bowl of iced water next to your saucepan and spoon small amount of the sugar mixture in to the ice water. When it has reached the soft-ball stage, the melted sugar will immediately turn into something that feels like melted gelatin or jelly fish when it hits the water.
- Take the sugar off the heat and pour it into the french meringue while the mixer continues to whip the meringue. To do so, carefully pour the sugar mixture down the side of the bowl. Do not pour it onto the whisk, as it may splatter.
- Continue to beat the meringue and sugar mixture until it has cooled. (This will take a good 10-15 minutes.) The mixing bowl should be warm but no longer hot to the touch.
- Add in the butter a little bit at a time until it has fully incorporated.
- When the butter has been incorporated, the buttercream will look extremely runny at first. Have some faith. Continue to whip the buttercream and it will thicken into something that is spreadable (and resembles soft ice cream!). In my case, I piped the buttercream on top of the cupcakes.
- Add in the melted chocolate and continue to whip until it is evenly incorporated.
- The buttercream can be stored in a refrigerator for 3 days or frozen for a month (though once defrosted, you should beat it for a few minutes until the consistency returns).