I have recently come to the conclusion that cake is my favorite gift.
I love when Mr. Pedantic welcomes me home with an armful of blushing roses. Candles and cozy socks speak to my heart in a deep and wonderful way. Candy and lattes are the ideal cheering-up tonic. But cake…. Cake is just special.
When someone brings you cake, particularly in the form of cupcakes or petit fours - so that they may be easily consumed while wearing pajamas in bed - and it’s not your birthday, that is an amazing day.
Mr. Pedantic recently brought home a gift of one dozen petit fours and I do not think I have ever loved him more than I did in that moment. It was just me and a tiny box of tiny cakes, and in those moments, all was right with the world.
That gesture, and the moments of pure, cake-devouring delight that subsequently followed, led me to the discovery of my profound affinity for cake on non-celebratory occasions.
It’s Monday, and while many of us (or maybe just me) are more than thrilled that summer is coming to a close, there are summer lovers and school-aged children all around us dreading the coming of fall.
We should cheer them up with cake.
Want to make a friend? Gift them a box of cupcakes. Foolproof.
Need some cheering up yourself? Cake.
Happy and ready to celebrate that awesome thing your awesome self did? Cake.
Basically, our lives should be a continuous cake party. Funnily enough, that is also the title of my upcoming self-help book “Finding Fulfillment by Living Life as a Continuous Cake Party.” I kid. Or do I?
Mr. Pedantic and I have a favorite cupcakery that we discovered many years ago and our favorite choice, by far, is their cookies and cream cupcake.
It is not exactly innovative or show-stopping in appearance, but there is just something about those black and white packaged cookies that plays really well with cake and buttercream.
I recently decided it was high time that I made an at-home version and my mind got to work.
I knew I would want to cut the sweetness of the Oreos a bit by bringing some acidity to the table. Hello, rich and tangy cream cheese.
On the other hand, I also knew that I did not want a thick, cream cheese frosting for these delicate chocolate cakes, and I felt that it would also be a little too heavy to work well with the Oreos.
So, I created this very enticing hybrid buttercream that might just rock your pants off. Not really, but it is super good.
We make this very special buttercream just as if we were making standard Swiss buttercream, but this time we cut the amount of butter in half and replace it with cold cream cheese. It really is the best of both worlds.
The resulting buttercream has all the richness and airiness of traditional Swiss buttercream, with the tang of cream cheese!! The cream cheese is perfectly prominent and just the thing to balance out the sweetness of our cookies.
Speaking of which, you can use Oreos or Joe Joe’s (the Trader Joe’s version) here and both work fantastically!
Our perfectly sweet cookie buttercream is piped onto my very favorite, extra-moist cupcakes and cold milk is poured.
Monday blues? Never heard of them.
Cookies & Cream Cupcakes with
Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream
FOR THE CUPCAKES
recipe adapted from Genius Kitchen
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup cold, filtered water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Combine flours, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly.
Use the bottom of a small measuring cup to form three wells in the flour mixture. Pour the vanilla in one well, vinegar in the second, and the vegetable oil in the third. Finally, pour the cold water over the mixture and whisk until very smooth.*
*Cook's Note: Use a spatula to make sure all of the flour is incorporated before moving forward with the next step.
Divide the batter evenly amongst the 12 muffin cups and bake for 12-15 minutes; until the center of the cakes bounces back when tapped slightly. Allow the cakes to cool completely before making the buttercream.
Cook's Note: Being that the frosting is heavily fattened, it will melt especially quickly. Make sure the cupcakes have cooled completely before applying the buttercream.
FOR THE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, slightly softened, but still cool
4 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
1 cup Oreo cookie crumbs*
*Cook’s Note: Place whole Oreos in the work bowl of your food processor and pulse until the cookies are in fine crumbs.
Fill a 2-quart saucepan with roughly two inches of water and place over high heat; bring to a simmer.
Combine granulated sugar, egg whites, and sea salt in the bowl of your stand mixer.*
Cook's Note: Wipe the bowl clean with a damp paper towel and dry thoroughly before using.
Place the mixing bowl over the pan of simmering water, being sure that the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
Warm, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. An instant-read thermometer is essential here.
Return the bowl to your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form. This will take a good bit of time, but do not rush this step.
Cook's Note: As the mixture whips, it will cool down, preparing it to accept, rather than melt, the coming butter.
Reduce the speed to medium high and begin adding the butter, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Make sure the butter is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next piece. After all of the butter has been incorporated, work in the cream cheese using the same method.
Cook's Note: If the butter begins to melt, this is a sign that the mixture is too warm. Simply stop mixing, and transfer the bowl to the refrigerator. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture is cool and stiff. Beat for 1 minute to loosen the buttercream before continuing with the remaining additions of butter.
After all the cream cheese has been incorporated, mix in cookie crumbs.
Cook's Note: At this point, the buttercream can be transferred to an airtight container and stored for up to a week. Just allow the buttercream to sit at room temperature to soften for 15-20 minutes before using.
Pipe the buttercream atop the cupcakes. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.