Originally posted on Black & Gold Tchotchkes.
December. You’re already going to be baking. A lot. More than you probably want to, but you just cannot say no to another cookie exchange, holiday party or even just bringing treats into the office.
December is also when football watching all weekend, every weekend starts to become an iffy proposition because of all the aforementioned holiday parties, cookie exchanges and treats for the office you’re baking for. Which is why I start looking for treats in December that can pull double duty between bringing to a football event (boozy) and something that seems festive and colorful for the holidays (mini cupcakes). Recipes that can be easily doubled, satisfy a large group of people, and are relatively easy to make.
As I mentioned last week, December also means we’re out of meaningless football games. Joke all you want about playing for pride, but there are always more than a few teams gearing to play spoiler at the end of the regular season. Missing football in December is always a risky bet. New England-Chicago or Jets-Dolphins next weekend mean just as much to me as Steelers-Bengals in case it comes down to a Wild Card slot, even though I know I have multiple holiday obligations that same Sunday.
So not to be too manipulative, putting forth the extra effort beforehand goes along way during the holidays. If you happen to find yourself at a holiday function on a Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon — or for that matter, Monday or Thursday night at an office holiday party — no one is going mind the boorish guest who parks themselves near a TV or keeps checking their phone for scores if they bring something as seemingly extravagant as a boozy mini cupcakes.
How am I doing this holiday season? Not well. Every time I think about Sunday night’s Steelers-Ravens game, my pupils dilate, my heart flutters and I lose feeling in my extremities. I nearly blacked out reading Cory’s post at Three Rivers Blog, What’s Really At Stake: Steelers vs Ravens, I got so nervous, especially after Pittsburgh lucked out in overtime against the Bills last week. Add in a week of Baltimore heckling nonsense along with fears about the Steelers OL and Bruce Arians play calling, not to mention Ben’s broken foot, and my nerves are completely shot. The only thing that comes close to making me this tense is having another conversation about how to fit in visits with all of our in-laws.
Maker’s Mark Manhattan Mini Cupcakes
You will need…
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup of butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temperature (About 30 minutes or so out of the fridge should do it.)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup bourbon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Shortening or cooking spray to grease the pan, muffin liners
Preheated oven to 350º.
Note: Using whole milk is very important since you’re cutting down on the normal amount of milk used in baking cakes and replacing it with bourbon, so your batter needs all the fats it can get. (Unless you happen to like dry cupcakes, in which case I wonder why you’re even bothering to make these delicious bites of bliss anyway. Probably a desert dwelling Cardinals fan.)
Mix together in a large bowl the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt until completely combined.
Grease and line the mini muffin tins (or regular muffin tins) for your cupcakes.
In your mixing bowl – either a stand mixer or a hand mixer will do, cream the butter and sugar together. It helps to cream the butter alone first, but I forget that step so often that it doesn’t really matter. (Much like how I forget to make my fantasy football moves for the Thursday night games this time of year.) Beat for 3-4 minutes until combined and creamy. So creamy and sweet, you’ll briefly consider just eating sugar and butter and ditching making cupcakes all together.
With the beater still going, add one egg at a time until combined. Sadly, it is no longer safe to eat the raw sugar and butter mixture.
Be sure to stop every once and a while and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure you’re truly mixing everything together.
Still beating on low, alternately add in small amounts of the dry and wet ingredients and slowly mix in your cocoa/flour mixture and the bourbon, milk and vanilla. Once all are combined, beat for at least another 30 seconds on high.
Fill your mini cupcake pan (or regular cupcake pan) cups 3/4 the way full and then bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center of the middle cupcake comes out clean.
Set aside and cool completely before topping with frosting.
1 cup whipping cream
Dash of salt (1/8 teaspoon)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted, plus an additional 1/3-1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
2 1/2 ounces bourbon whiskey, Maker’s Mark preferred in deference to friend of the program, Jeremy Smith.
1 dash Angostura bitters (A few drops.)
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, (Or 3-4 cups depending on how still you want your frosting and if you add additional bourbon in the latter stages of the mixing. I used about 3 1/2 cups in this batch.)
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Maraschino cherries for topping
Also recommended, making yourself a Manhattan to drink while cooking, just so you know what sort of taste profile you are looking for. As listed above, 2 1/2 ounces of bourbon, 3/4 ounce of sweet vermouth, a dash of bitters and maraschino cherry. Yes, you are going to drink one Manhattan and pour another one into the frosting and then some.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve made these cupcakes a couple of times now and have yet to get pictures of the entire process. Maybe it’s because everything happens in such a hurry, I don’t stop to take a shot. Possibly. Maybe because after making hundreds of other pictures of the cake part by the time I get to the frosting, my camera is out of battery power. (True the last time.) Maybe because I’ve winged it both times and have no idea what I would even take a picture of. Most likely.
This is based on whipped cream frosting, which you’ll find many different variations of either online or in cookbooks. So if you can make a basic whipped cream frosting — easy enough, you can make a Manhattan frosting. But you have to be fearless, because you’re going to make a roux/paste ball and then break it with alcohol and then remake it into a roux/paste again. You may, no, you will think you’ve done something wrong. Then it will be okay. And then, once you think you’ve made the perfect frosting, you will break it again with a touch more bourbon. And you will feel like…
Don’t lose faith. The frosting will come together and Shaun Suisham will hit the field goal for the overtime win.
This is a process so serious, we’re making an actual step-by-step list.
1) Make a Manhattan. 2 1/2 ounces of bourbon, 3/4 ounce of sweet vermouth, a dash of bitters. Do not drink this one!
2) In a medium sauce pan, combine 1/3 cup flour, 1 cup heavy cream and a dash of salt and stir until smooth.
3) Over medium-low heat, stir your cream and flour mixture until it forms a paste ball, completely pulling away from the sides of the pan.
4) Still stirring, take a deep breath and then pour the Manhattan into the paste ball. Yes! I know! The paste ball broke! Don’t panic! There’s still time left on the clock!
5) Slowly mix in 1/3-1/2 cup of flour until it regains its paste ball qualities, as seen in the above picture.
6) Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. And completely means completely. Put it in the fridge for 30 minutes if you have to. But if you do the next steps with the paste ball still warm, the whole batch of frosting will be a complete and utter failure. (I should know, as it happened to me the first time around and I had to start all over again.)
7) Once your boozy dough ball has cooled, start beating 1 cup of softened butter in your mixer.
8) Still beating, add your dough ball to the butter.
9) Now the fun begins. While the mixer is still going, slowly add 1 cup of powdered sugar and then 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and then the second cup of powdered sugar.
10) Check the consistency and taste. Not sweet enough? Not stiff enough? Needs to be more Manhattan-y? Now you have some tough decisions to make. If you want it to be sweeter and stiffer, add more powdered sugar until it reaches almost the proper consistency but no more than 3 cups of powdered sugar total. (We’re going to refrigerate our frosting briefly before using it, which will help firm it up.)
11) If you think the Manhattan taste is close enough, keep mixing and add one more teaspoon of vanilla for good measure. If you want it to be more Manhattan-y, in your measured shot glass make a tiny Manhattan with 3/4 of an ounce of bourbon, a dash of sweet vermouth and one or two drops of bitters. Remember the part about being brave? You think you have a good looking frosting coming together? Well, once you put this last shot in the mixer it will break for the second — SECOND — time and you’re heart will stop. Just add the remaining 1-2 cups of powdered sugar and it will thicken right back up.
12) Once completely mixed, put the frosting in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes so it can firm up just a little bit more before icing your cupcakes. Use the time to make yourself a second Manhattan because making the frosting was rather traumatizing, even if it did yield something quite delicious.
Either pipe on with a pastry bag and tip or spread with a spatula. Top with either a half or a whole maraschino cherry.
If not serving right away, refrigerate the cupcakes so the icing does not break in the heat. If chilled, they will hold up for at least 6-7 hours on a banquette or when taken to a sports bar and handed out to friends and strangers alike during Sunday night football.
For some reason people you do not know will ask if you have spiked them with pot, a question that has now been posed to me at two different bars on two different occasions with these cupcakes. Oh, Los Angeles. Imagine what a professional football team will have to go through in this town with a medicinal pot collective on every other corner.
Yields 3 dozen mini cupcakes.
So what’s everyone making this weekend? I’m debating breaking out the lucky pizza dip for the Steelers-Ravens on Sunday, despite my misgivings over its only slightly winning record and the 10,000 calories in each dish, but am not sure yet. What about you guys? What games are you worried about this weekend?
Cake recipe adapted from the Better Holmes and Gardens Cookbook, frosting recipe adapted from Cooks.com.