♫ O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree… ♫ your boughs are green, your star is bright, and your ornaments are dazzling. This is such a wonderful Christmas cupcake, made with little of bits of candied glace fruit mix, spices, and a dash of brandy. Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting is piped on top of the cakes with a star tip to resemble a tree, and then the tree is trimmed with a twinkling fondant star, dragee ornaments and a dusting of edible glitter.
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup milk (preferably whole milk)
½ cup brandy
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup mixed candied glace fruit mix
Tip: Use standard measuring cups and spoons or scales for accurate measuring.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting:
5 large egg whites
1¼ cups granulated sugar
1/16 teaspoon salt
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Forest Green Food Coloring (optional)
Yellow Rolled Fondant for cutout stars (or use white fondant tinted with yellow Food Coloring)
Gold edible glitter
Dragees in assorted colors and sizes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two standard 12-cup muffin pans; line with paper cupcake liners.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves; sift or whisk together to mix. Set aside.
- In a small mixing bowl, stir the milk, brandy, and vanilla together. Set aside.
- In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Tip: To cream, start by placing the butter in the bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed begin by beating the butter about 1 minute until it is smooth and light in color.
With the mixer still on medium speed, slowly add the granulated sugar to the butter, either one tablespoon at a time, or in a very slow steady stream, taking from 4 to 5 minutes to add all of the sugar, then add the brown sugar, taking an additional 3 to 4 minutes, beating until the butter and sugar are fully incorporated and the mixture is a light, or pale yellow color, with a fluffy texture. While adding the sugars, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the mixture off the paddle and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula so the mixture blends evenly.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly mixed.
Tip: For each egg, crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk with a fork to thoroughly break up the egg before adding to the creamed mixture. Start with the mixer on low speed so the liquid from the egg doesn’t splatter, once the egg is partially mixed increase the speed to medium. Each egg should be fully incorporated into the mixture before adding the next egg, taking about one minute to blend in each egg.
- With the mixer on low speed, add about one third of the flour mixture, mix just until the flour is almost completely blended. Scrape the bowl down, and add about one half of the milk mixture, blending just until mixed. Scrape the bowl down again and continue alternating with the flour mixture and milk mixture, ending with the last portion of the flour, and stirring just until blended.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the glace fruit mix into the batter.
- Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners. Fill about 2/3 full, using about ¼ cup of batter per cup.
Tip: Avoid over-filling the liners which may cause the batter to run-over the sides when baking. It is better to bake any remaining batter separately after the first pan of cupcakes has finished baking.
- Bake, rotating pan halfway through, 20 to 22 minutes, or until the cakes are just firm and spring back when gently pressed, and a toothpick, wooden skewer, or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly in cupcake pan on a wire cooling rack, and turn out of pan when cool enough to handle. Repeat process with any remaining batter. Cool cupcakes completely on the wire cooling rack before frosting.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting:
- In a large bowl of an electric stand mixer combine egg whites, sugar, and salt; place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Using a wire whisk, whisk constantly by hand until the mixture is hot, about 3 to 5 minutes. Tip: the mixture should reach about 130 degrees on an instant read thermometer, or feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips. Remove from heat.
- Attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium high speed for 5 to 7 minutes or until the mixture forms a thick fluffy meringue and is cool. Tip: Touch the meringue and make sure it has cooled to room temperature. Also the outside of the bowl should feel cool to the touch.
- Stop the mixer, remove the whisk and attach the paddle. With the mixer on medium speed add the butter, about 1 tablespoon at a time and mixing 20 to 30 seconds after each addition. While adding the butter, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the mixture off the paddle and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula so the mixture blends evenly. Add the vanilla and continue beating until the Buttercream is thick and smooth, about another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Optional: add green food coloring, a drop at a time and blend with the mixer. Add additional food coloring if necessary to reach the desired shade.
- Plan on making the stars at least a day in advance so they will be ready when time to use. Use Rolled Fondant and tint the fondant with yellow food coloring. If adding edible glitter to the stars, brush one side of the stars very lightly with water and then dust with glitter. Set aside to dry.
- Use a pastry bag with a #9 star decorating tip to pipe the frosting.
- Place a star in the top of the frosting, and then sprinkle the frosting with dragees and a light dusting of gold glitter.
Makes about 2½ dozen cupcakes
Graham, Jennifer, The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook, Penguin Books, 2007