Wednesday, November 2, 2011

'Tis the Season for Pumpkin

Every year when fall rolls in and the holidays near, my desire to bake heightens.  I especially love trying new recipes at this time, perhaps possibly due to the fact that stores discount many of my favorite, and sometimes pricier, baking supplies.  I'm super excited about the new Publix ad that starts today that has Ocean Spray Craisins on sale B1G1 so I can pick up a few bags at half-price for this awesome Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip cookie recipe of mine that is perfect for Christmas-time.  Coupons for baking items also tend to increase during this time of year (for example, I just found out about a coupon for 50¢ off any Gold Medal flour product, which means much cheaper flour once it doubles up to $1 off).

This weekend I attempted two recipes I've been wanting to try for a little while and combine them into one tasty treat.  I LOVE pumpkin in baked goods and have had many pumpkin cupcake recipes sitting on a shelf just waiting to be tested for some time and decided to just go for it after my awesome trip to Publix on Sunday.  While I do enjoy creating baked goods from scratch, I am not opposed to using cake mixes for simplicity's sake.  I found the recipe for this cake from Kraft Foods and decided to use just the cake portion of the recipe as I wanted to try my hand at a different icing recipe.

The cake is extremely easy to make.  It calls for 1 box of spice cake mix, 1 cup of sour cream, 1-15oz can of pumpkin, 1/4 cup of oil, and 3 eggs.

You simply add all of these ingredients into a mixing bowl, whip them up until all of the ingredients are combined, and then divide the batter into 24 cupcake liners.  The recipe calls for baking them at 350 degrees, though I reduced the temp on my oven to 325 since my muffin pan is a dark non-stick pan, and as a general rule you want to reduce the temp of your oven by 25 degrees when using these types of pans for baking so that way your food doesn't overcook.  I popped the two pans in the oven for 20 minutes and they came out perfectly!  The cake is very moist, but also very light and fluffy.

For the icing, rather than going with a cream cheese frosting like the cake recipe calls for, I decided I wanted to try my hand at this buttercream icing recipe I had seen a couple months ago that I've been dying to try, though admittedly have been a little scared of.  It is an Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC for short) and involves the cooking of a sugar syrup that is then incorporated into a base of whipped egg whites.

My absolute favorite buttercream I've ever had is the vanilla buttercream from the Publix bakery.  It's not overly sweet and also has a light, airy, while still smooth texture to it that I just love!  I would almost pay money to get my hands on their very safely guarded buttercream recipe.  My biggest issue with traditional American style buttercreams is that they just tend to be too sweet because of the mass of confectioner's sugar that is used for them.  I found this IMBC recipe when I had stumble upon Whisk Kid's site several months ago and fell in love with her baking and recipes.

While slightly time consuming, the IMBC was pretty easy to whip up.  The tutorial on Whisk Kid does an excellent job of detailing all of the steps for creating the icing, and the step-by-step pictures are terrific.  Overall I really like this recipe and think this may end up being my go-to buttercream recipe after I make a few adjustments.  It's smooth while also light, and I love how it still maintains a very white color while having two sticks of butter incorporated.  I believe the proportions for the sugar syrup were slightly off, especially after looking at the quantities listed on her recipes that use this as the icing.  The amount of water used should be reduced from the 1/2 cup she has listed on the tutorial page to 1/4 cup, but still used with 1 cup of sugar.  I may try to slightly increase the amount of sugar syrup used for the IMBC, as I think the icing could be slightly sweeter.  I may then also increase the amount of vanilla extract used from 1 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons to give it a little more vanilla flavor and mellow out the buttery taste a little.

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