Happy Chinese New Year!
I deliberated over what flavors to use in a Chinese New Year dessert. I thought about almond cookies (which are still to come in a future post), green tea cake, sesame seed cupcakes, and many others, but after doing much research, I eventually decided on a fruity combination- coconut mango.
The cupcakes are a simple recipe for a white cake with coconut extract. After they're baked and cooled, a homemade mango nectar syrup is brushed on top for moisture and flavor. Finally, they're topped with a Mango puree French buttercream. The frosting was partially influenced by the frosting Bobby Flay created for his "Throwdown" recipe: Gingerbread Cupcakes with Caramelized Mango Buttercream. I used both fresh and frozen mangos from Whole Foods in the frosting. Mr. Pixie Crust, being as sweet and equipped in the kitchen as he is, cut up both of the fresh mangos for me. I caramelized the two fresh mangos with 2 tablespoons of butter, some brown sugar, and mango nectar syrup. I then used frozen mangos (NOT caramelized) for the remainder of the frosting. You certainly could leave all of the mango fresh, or caramelize all of it, but I did a combination to create a richer, more complex fruit flavor.
The frosting tastes like biting into a buttery, fluffy mango cloud. It turned out pretty delicious. I was nervous that the flavor might not be intense enough when I decided to make the buttercream, but it definitely was. In fact, since the original Bobby Flay recipe did not include any sort of guidelines of the amount of mango puree you should end up with and add to the buttercream, mine turned out kinda runny and never became the consistency I had intended. By using less puree the second time around, the flavor was still there, but the prettiness of thicker, piped frosting was also attained.
For the Coconut Cupcakes (Yields 24 cupcakes):
• 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
• 3 cups sifted cake flour
• 1 cup sour cream
• 6 large egg whites
• 1 tablespoon pure coconut extract
• 2 tsps baking soda
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1/2 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cupcake pans and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, stir together, sour cream, egg whites, water and extracts. Into a second medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add the sugar. Continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.
Add one-third of the flour mixture and one-third of the sour cream mixture, and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add remaining mixtures in 2 separate batches beating between additions to fully incorporate. Scrape down sides of bowl, and stir by hand to finish.
Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
For the mango simple syrup:
• 1 cup mango nectar
• 1 cup sugar
Mix one cup of mango nectar one cup of water and heat over stovetop until gently boiling. Continue to heat until mixture thickens.
Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, use a pastry brush to lightly brush the top of each cupcake with the syrup (you can also use the back of a spoon, as long as you're gentle).
For the Mango Puree:(NOTE: You many want to make this 1-2 days in advance to cut out baking time on the day of)
• 2 fresh mangos, sliced
• 2 cups frozen mango chunks
• 2 tbsp honey
• 2 tbsp unsalted butter
• 2 tbsp mango syrup
Slice 2 fresh mangos into large pieces. Put mango slices into large sauce pan, drizzle 2 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp butter, and 2 tbsp mango syrup on top of mango. Cook mango until caramelized.
Put caramelized mango and fresh/frozen mango (2 cups) into blender and run blender on puree setting. Puree until totally smooth. Pour mixture through medium mesh strainer and set aside.
For the French Buttercream (Adapted from Bobby Flay's Caramelized Mango Buttercream recipe from Foodnetwork.com):
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 cups unsalted butter
• 6 egg yolks
• 1/2 cup light corn syrup
• remaining mango syrup
• 2/3 cup mango puree
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire whip attachment, beat the egg yolks at medium-high speed until creamy and pale yellow, about 5 minutes.
In a non-stick saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and remaining mango simple syrup. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a full rolling boil without stirring and cook until it reaches soft-ball stage (238 to 242 degrees F) on a candy thermometer. Immediately pour the mixture into a buttered measuring cup to halt the cooking.
Add a small amount of the syrup to the beaten egg yolks, turn on the mixer to high speed, and beat for about 5 seconds. Continue stopping the mixer, adding syrup, and beating in the same manner until all of the syrup is incorporated and the mixture is cooled completely.
Add the butter, 1 piece at a time, and beat until incorporated before adding the next piece. When all of the butter has been blended in, add the vanilla and slowly add the mango puree (pay careful attention to the consistency of the buttercream and add more or less puree to your liking). Continue beating until combined.
For the Cupcake Assembly:
Once cupcakes have cooled and been brushed with mango syrup, place the mango buttercream into a pastry bag fitted with large star tip. Pipe buttercream evenly onto each cupcake.
After the cupcakes are frosted, begin creating sugar "fireworks." Place two fireworks on each cupcake. See the awesome tutorial here at the Wisdom of the Moon blog.
DISCLAIMER: In my first attempt at making hard candy/attempting sugar work, I definitely overcooked my sugar and did not have the same results as Wendy from Wisdom of the Moon.
One tip I would suggest is to make sure that you either double the recipe or using a smaller saucepan than I did (mine was a 3qt) and do not let your candy thermometer touch the bottom of the pan. Either way, I ended up with a sugar mixture that still looked beautiful on top of each cupcake. I simply swirled the mixture onto wax paper and then broke pieces apart (mine did not drizzle well since the sugar was overcooked- yay, improvisation!)
Also, Mr. Pixie Crust created a Mango Nectar Sake Martini that was amazing! Who doesn't love a dessert/cocktail pairing?