I had a brilliant idea yesterday. Shamrock cupcakes! Of course! St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite quasi-holidays, even though I’m more Scottish than Irish, and I can’t stand beer, even if it is green. I like having the right to pinch anyone not festive enough to wear green, and there is no better way to keep the attention of a bunch of 7-year-olds than to talk with an very theatrical Irish brogue all day. So yeah, it’s pretty much my favorite.
I dreamed up these adorable cupcakes that would make all those cutesy women who have started whole empires based on the mini confections sigh with jealousy. How hard can a cupcake be, really? Well, apparently, they can be a lot more difficult than I would have thought. There’s the whole high-altitude part (even “high-altitude” recipes are written for about 3,500 feet below where I live) , the fact that I have a frosting disability, and the fact that I didn’t start my project until 9pm. But even so, I think they turned out pretty darn cute. I won’t be founding my own cupcake empire any time soon (read here about my fear of baking), but I think I can at least make my kiddos happy.
I used this yummy recipe for Brown Sugar Vanilla Cupcakes from Cheeky Kitchen. They were even formulated for high-altitude baking, although in hindsight, I probably should have modified the recipe even more. Mine sank a tiny bit, but they still turned out delicious, and I don’t think any of the kids will mind a little extra frosting filling in the depression.
I used a simple buttercream for the frosting. Beat 2 sticks of room-temperature butter with an electric mixer until very fluffy. Add 1 cup of powdered confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup of milk and 1.5 tsp vanilla. Beat until well combined. Continue adding powdered sugar in 1/3 cup increments, up to an additional 1 cup, beating after each addition, until frosting is desired consistency and flavor. If you have the motor skills that I apparently lack, you can put the frosting in a pastry bag with a wide tip, or in a zip-top bag with the corner snipped off and pipe an attractive spiral. This is quite clearly not one of my spiritual gifts, so i just used my small offset spatula and spread some swirls on the cupcake. I wanted a cute little shamrock decoration to put on top of the cupcake. After sifting through a bushel of ideas, I remembered that I had a small shamrock cookie cutter. I decided to try cutting the shapes out of green-tinted white chocolate. Follow along below to see how I did it.
I used the Baker’s brand of white chocolate squares. It was the only one at the grocery store that actually contained cocoa butter. I imagine, thought, that white candy coating or white baking chips would work about the same.
I melted the white chocolate in a bowl in the microwave. It took about 3 minutes, stirring after each minute. Then I added quite a bit of green food coloring. I only had liquid coloring on hand, and it took about 15 drops. If you had gel or paste coloring, it would probably take less, and would change the consistency of the chocolate less.
To make a surface to spread and cut my chocolate, turned a sheet pan over and covered the flat surface with non-stick foil. If you had wax paper, that would also work. When the chocolate was the color I wanted, I used my spatula to spread it into a thin layer on the foil.
I found that the best way to cool and harden the chocolate quickly was to stick it in the freezer for a minute or two. If you leave it in too long, you’ll have to wait for it to warm up a little bit, or else it will just shatter when you try to cut out the shapes.
To cut out the shamrocks, I firmly pressed my cookie cutter down into the chocolate. Then, using a thin metal spatula, I was able to pull it up off the foil. The end result was quite satisfactory, if I do say so myself:
To finish everything off, I rolled the edges of my frosted cupcake in green decorating sugar (put the sugar in a wide, shallow bowl, then carefully rotate the cupcake) and placed a white chocolate shamrock on top. Ta-da!
If you choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, I hope that you have lots of fun, but that you also reflect on the story behind the celebration; not green beer and corned beef, but a man who was courageous enough to forgive those who had mistreated him and showed love to everyone around him. Now that’s something to celebrate!