Name every cookie you can think of in 30 seconds. Go ahead.
I've probably made them all at some point in my baking life.
But cupcakes, on the other hand, are unfamiliar territory for me. I have never made cupcakes for birthdays, for parties or potlucks. Although I certainly admire their fluffy whipped all-around cuteness, cupcakes just usually aren't my bag, baby.
But a few weeks ago, to my surprise and delight, the good folks at POM Wonderful found this blog somehow and contacted me with an interesting proposition: they would send me a free bottle of their new POM Concentrate if I used it in a recipe for their Valentine's Day Cupcake Contest.
I said yes. Emboldened by the challenge, I armed myself with the huge bottle you see below, and launched headfirst into CupcakeLand.
Firstly, since it's Valentine's Day and all, I wanted to conjure up a cake/frosting combo to fit the holiday. Romance, seduction...something ritzy and unexpected.
Strawberry-pomegranate? Hmm...too acidic.
Dark chocolate-pomegranate? Nehhh...overdone.
What about....champagne? Oooh, yeah! YEAH! Champagne cake! With white chocolate?! Yes! And pomegranate! Phew. Done. That was actually the easy part.
The harder detail was figuring out a catchy name.
Valentine's Day Cupcakes? Lame.
Cupid's Cupcakes? Ugh, worse.
Fuego de Amor Cupcakes, Kissy Cupcakes? Lord, no. Thank goodness my roommate Oscar waltzed into the kitchen at that point.
"Oh there's that champagne/pomegranate cocktail...what's the name of it? The Ruby Dutchess? That would be a good name," he suggested casually. After a quick search online, I discovered that yes, it was real, and it even originated in New York's Dutchess County, of which Poughkeepsie is the county seat. Come on now...Poughkeepsie and romance? Synonymous.
Thanks Osckie. Your check is in the mail.
RUBY DUTCHESS CUPCAKES
2 2/3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsalted room-temp butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup champagne (spumante works well)
1 egg + 5 egg whites
White Chocolate Pomegranate Buttercream Frosting:
2 sticks unsalted room-temp butter
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz bag of white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
7 tsp POM Wonderful Concentrate
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with baking cups. Then, prepare the batter. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream the white sugar and butter and fold in the champagne. Then slowly stir in the flour mixture. In a third bowl, beat eggs for 3-5 minutes and gently add to the batter.
Fill baking cups 2/3 full with batter,
and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Who cares if the tops get messy? They'll be slathered with frosting soon enough and the secret will be yours.
Meanwhile, make the buttercream frosting. Place a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water and add white chocolate chips; stir gently until they have melted through and then remove them from heat. In another bowl, combine butter, vanilla, and melted white chocolate. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar, until the frosting begins to fluff and thicken. Finally, add POM concentrate and beat frosting to desired texture.
I love the designs an electric mixer makes. They always remind me of Turkish ebru.
When the cupcakes have finished baking and cooling, top them with buttercream to your heart's content. A sprinkling of red decorating sugar adds sparkle.
And here she is, the lady dressed for the ball:
If you get a wild hair, check out Miss Ruby Dutchess on the POM Wonderful website and vote for her February 14th-28th.
Happy Valentine's Day, lovers.