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Birthday Cake Remix

July 25, 2010

Birthdays really are great, not only in the general sense that it’s your special day and you are queen for the next 24 hours but also because your birthday means that it’s going to be a really good food day.  For one, on your birthday, you are perfectly at liberty to gorge yourself with however much the heart desires simply because this day only comes once a year.  Secondly, because you are queen and what you say goes, you get to pick what is eaten all day, and nobody can complain.  Two days ago was my birthday and let me just say it was a one very much fit the food lover in me.

For starters, my Amazon book order came in several days early, just in time to pose as a birthday present to myself.  And in this enormous package were the books I have been salivating over for the last 6 months but was too much of a penny-pincher to buy.  But now, sitting in my room, I gleefully stare at my new cookbook collection.  Two Jamie Olivers: Jamie’s Dinners and Cook with Jamie, and The Culinary Institute of America’s Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft.  The first two are pieces of art; the pictures are gorgeous and the food is beautiful.  The latter is a monstrosity of 1000 pages jam-packed with every baked good in existence.  It’s really more of a textbook and not very practical for the home cook, but I adore it all the same.

Second round of birthday food fun brought a wonderful book from Nia called Eating for England in which Nigel Slater reminisces on typical British Cuisine, both traditional and commercial.  It’s a perfect guidebook for me to read before I begin the English food culture blog I’ll be keeping during my study abroad in London this fall.   Stay tuned for the URL.  I’m about halfway through and have on multiple occasion laughed out loud at his uncanny ability to be insightfully truthful.  And from my mom, an absolutely beautiful baking apron…if it wasn’t backside-less, I would wear it as a dress…every day.

And perhaps most importantly, this birthday was a extremely tasty.  It started with my daily comforting oatmeal and coffee.  For lunch, my favorite panini from a nearby café called Beans in the Belfry.  I always order the Pangaea Panini: crusty country bread stuffed with prosciutto, Brie and pears.  For dinner, my mom picked up succulent, flavorful, and fall-apart-in-your-mouth ribs from a local bbq joint.

And of course, what is a birthday without cake.  For the last few years I have decided that I would much enjoy making my own cake because as a baker, it is actually a real treat for me to spend my special day doing hat I love most.  This year’s cake was one of my favorite varieties of cake and, yet again, another reminder of how much I love fall food.  I created delicious Chai Tea Spice Cupcakes with Orange Mascarpone Frosting.  I found the cake recipe from the blog Baking Obsession and the frosting from my new Cook with Jamie book, but both are adjusted some.  I made them into cupcakes because I have a particular fondness for cupcakes and they turned out really great.  They were a slightly dense but extremely moist and had the loveliest of aromas.  The spice flavor was just the perfect amount.  The frosting was not too sweet and really creamy and fluffy.  It’s tartness and the orange flavor matched nicely with the spiciness of the cake.  The cake was very comforting and would also be great as a breakfast pastry.  A must make again in the chillier months and a perfect ending to a foodie’s perfect birthday.

Chai Tea Spice Cupcakes

6 chai tea bags
½ cup boiling water
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 stick  (8 Tbs.) butter, softened and divided
½ cup granulated sugar, divided
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the paper or foil liners in the cupcake pan, or, if using a different pan, grease and flour it and place parchment paper at the bottom.  Push the tea bags into the boiling water and let them steep for about 5 minutes.  After, remove the tea bags, squeezing as much moisture out of them as possible to extract maximum flavor.  Let the tea cool to room temperature.  I used an ice bath to speed the process.

Combine the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg in a small bowl and mix them all together.  Set aside.  Place 2 Tbs. of the butter in a small pan on the stove over medium-high heat.  Let the butter melt and swirl it around the pan, over the heat, for about two minutes until the butter is just browned, not burnt, to a nice golden color.  Add the spice mixture and stir, over heat for 10 seconds.  Remove from heat and transfer to a smaller dish to let it cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, add the oil to the mixture.  Set aside.
Place the remaining 6 Tbs. of the butter into an electric mixer.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until fluffy.  Add ¼ cup of the sugar plus all of the brown sugar and whip for about another 2 minutes.  On a low speed, add the vanilla, cooled tea, and spice mixture.  Mix on medium until combined.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  With the mixer running on low, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry.  Mix until everything is just combined. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium until frothy.  Add the cream of tartar and whip until you have soft peaks.  At this point, gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of granulated sugar, while whipping, until you have stiff peaks and the mixture is very glossy.  Fold the egg whites into the batter in three stages.  Divide amongst the cupcake tins, filling each 2/3 full. Bake for 22-25 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes before removing the cupcakes to let the cool completely before frosting.

Orange Mascarpone Frosting (very easy)

8 oz cream cheese
6 oz mascarpone cheese
½ stick butter, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
Zest of 1 orange plus 1-2 Tbs. of the juice, to taste

Combine the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, and butter in the mixer and beat on medium to high speed until fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar.  Add the zest and juice.  Use a rubber spatula to stir the frosting, making sure there are no lumps and everything is well mixed.  Chiil in the fridge for a bit to firm up the frosting, to make for easy application onto the cupcakes.

Frost them with either an offset spatula, or, like I did, with a piping bag.  Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.  This would be delicious served with coffee.

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