From The Pastry Dungeon: Cappuccino Cupcakes


[Photograph: Anna Markow]

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For all the ranting and venting I do in this space, I do really, truly, genuinely love being a pastry chef. I see sweets from a completely different angle than other people. Every time I make something, I get better at it. Repetition is boring, but it's also refinement.

And I'm absolutely loving sharing my work with readers here. Making these recipes again at home is like catching up with old friends. It's also allowing me to go back and tweak things that never had the chance to achieve perfection when I was swamped with production at work.

Because when developing recipes for work, concept comes first. What flavors do I want to use? How is it seasonal? What form do I want said flavors to take? Sometimes I start with a recipe I already trust or want to play with, sometimes I have to go hunting for a base recipe. Very rarely the stars align and I get every element perfect on the first or second try, other times I have to re-test and work for a couple of weeks to get things right.

Once everything tastes awesome, I figure out a presentation that looks inviting, minimizes waste and is easy to eat. Usually things are perfect by the second "live" batch I make, but occasionally I've made things for special occasions that don't get as much attention and time as I'd ideally like. Unfinished edible thoughts. These Cappuccino Cupcakes were sadly in that category until I re-made them for this post.

Dead simple and a coffee fiend's dream come true, these cupcakes start with a base of fragrant espresso cake and a light "foam" frosting made of Swiss meringue and subtly flavored with milk powder. I knew all along that I wanted to decorate them with a latte art pattern, but when I created them for a party that had three additional cupcake flavors all demanding my attention, I wasn't able to get beyond a simple sprinkling of cinnamon on top (which looked nice, but threw off the flavor for me). So I was really excited to spend a little time in the kitchen at home doodling designs on the top of every cupcake in this most recent batch.

You could certainly make more elaborate patterns, but for me a simple spiderweb design is effective and elegant, and certainly signals that these are no ordinary cupcakes.

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Cappuccino Cupcakes »