Starry cupcakes

Fourth of July baking took over my kitchen, and so I also made this cute little cupcakes. What is special about them is a hidden white star you find inside them when cut. It is so unexpected, pretty and festive! Perfect to take to a 4th of July barbecue.
To make the cupcakes I used the same white cake recipe as for the Fourth of July Cake. Make one recipe of the cake, and bake it in a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, at 325 degrees F, for 20 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature, then pop it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. 
Freezing the cake sheet will make it much easier to cut and then stand in the cupcake pan. 
Prepare your cupcake pan, using your favorite cupcake liners.
Preheat oven at 325 degrees F. 
Prepare another recipe of the white cake, tinting it at the end with blue gel food coloring, or any other color you wan to use, just make sure the stars and the other batter have different colors. 

With a 2-2.5 inch star shaped cookie cutter, cut out stars out of the chilled cake sheet. 
Place a star, standing on two of it's five little feet, in the center of each cupcake liner, and make you sure you put all of them on the same line, so that you will remember where the stars are facing. This is important. I like to put them paralel to the pan's edge. 
Using a spoon, carefully spoon blue/colored batter in front, and back of the star, so that it is helps it stand. If you just pour the batter on top you risk the star to fall, and it won't stand strait. Keep adding batter in the cupcake liner, up to 2/3 of it's height, as you would normally do for regular cupcakes. Carefully place the pan in the preheated oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Check them with a toothpick to make sure they are done. 
Let them cool on a wire rack in the pan.
Take a small sharp knife and make small superficial cuts on top of the cupcakes, all the way across, till the paper, on the same line as the stars inside, so after you take the cupcakes out of the pan, you will be able to see exactly what way the stars are oriented. The cut won't be obvious unless you look carefully.
Prepare your favorite cupcake frosting recipe. I used Swiss meringue buttercream on some , and cream cheese frosting on others. (left overs from the cake :) )
Frost the cupcakes to your liking, but remember not to cover the cut near the paper liner, so you can still  see the sign you made, and so you can cut them when serving, to make the stars show up! 
You can use this technique for making many fun cupcakes. You could make pink hearts inside of Valentine's Day cupcakes for example!

"Fourth of July" cake

I was really excited to try making my first Fourth of July "Independence Day" cake, and here is what it turned out like!
It was so much fun making it! But it took two days... 
First day I made the marshmallows, as they had to have time to set overnight, and baked the cake layers too, letting them chill overnight in the fridge, so that it would be easier to cut and handle when assembling the cake. Today I made the filling and frosting, and put everything together. 

I used Alton Brown's marshmallow recipe. They are very easy to make, and it is so much fun to be able to make your own colors and shapes! I made one batch, spread it on a 9 by 13 inch pan, and next day I cut them with a cookie cutter. So easy! 

 I baked 3 batches of regular white sponge cake, this means 6 7 inch pans, leaving one (2 pans)  all white, while tinting with food coloring the other two in a vivid red. To make white sponge cake I just replace the egg quantity in my regular vanilla cake recipe, with a same quantity of egg whites only. For the batter recipe, you can check my "Perfect vanilla cake" recipe.

I then cut out the domed upper part of each baked cake, so that it would be perfect straight. Then cut it in two equal layers, using a cake leveler, having now 8 layers of red cake, and 4 of white cake. This tool is very handy when making layered cakes like this. I used only five of the red cake, for symmetry. Also It was dangerous to make the cake taller, it is 8 inches tall as it is, and only 7 inches in diameter! 
For filling I used the cream cheese frosting recipe that you can also find in the "Perfect vanilla cake" post. 
 Placing pieces of parchment paper under the cake helps keep clean the cake stand while frosting it! After finishing frosting gently pull them out and you have a clean stand! This is very helpful especially when using bright colored frosting, like the blue one I used.

I started assembling the cake with a red layer, alternating with a white one, and so on, and finishing with a red layer as well. In between the layers I used a dollop of cream cheese frosting only. Using a large ice cream scoop for picking up the cream ensures you have equal amounts of it between layers. I decided on this filling because it is a little thicker, and would hold better under the weight of the cake. This is a huge cake, about 8 inches tall, so you have to take in consideration it's stability. Having the cake layers chilled also helps a lot. You can also freeze them before, but chilling was enough.
After finishing layering, I covered everything with a Swiss meringue buttercream, because it is a very white cream, so tinting it a bright blue is easier, and gives you a nice color. 

 Place a dollop of frosting on top, and using an offset spatula crumble coat the cake first. This means putting a thin layer of frosting all over it, so the crumbles won't get in your finishing layer of frosting. After crumble coating it, let it chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes, then continue with the rest of the frosting.

The recipe for the meringue buttercream:
1 cup egg whites
2 cups granulated sugar
3 sticks softened but cold butter, cut in cubes
1 tablespoon pure Tahitian vanilla extract
small pinch of salt
5 drops of Royal Blue Ateco gel food coloring


Wipe the clean bowl and whisk attachment of your stand or regular mixer and a hand whisk with a paper towel with vinegar or lemon juice, to make sure you remove all traces of grease.
Put a sauce pan with 2-3 cups of water  on heat, and let get to a simmer. Mix the egg whites with sugar in the mixer bowl, and place it over the sauce pan, making sure the bowl does not touch the simmering water bellow. Mix continuously with a whisk, until the egg and sugar mixture gets to 140 degrees F. You can use a candy thermometer. I did not have one, but for this cake went and got one at Sur la Table, for $12. This little gadget is not expensive but it helps you so much in the kitchen, from making candy and marshmallow, to playing with chocolate or getting a perfect steak or turkey!
If you don't have one just heat everything for 6-8 minutes, until all the sugar is melted, and the egg whites are quite warm, but you must be able to touch it, so not very warm. 
Place the bowl on the mixer, and let it whip for 5-6 minutes on medium heat, until you get a glossy meringue, and the bowl reaches a neutral temperature to the touch.
Change the whisk with the paddle attachment, and with the mixer on slow, add the butter cubes one by one, until incorporated, and the cream is spreadable. If it is too runny, the butter might have been to warm. Put the bowl in the fridge to cool fo 10-15 minutes, then beat again. If the mixture curdles, keep beating and it will come together. At the end add the vanilla, salt and food coloring. Mix.
Use the frosting  immediately. If not you can keep it in the fridge or even freeze it.

After frosting the cake with the blue buttercream, I made a cake topper using my marshmallow stars. I wanted white stars to put on the blue cake, and marshmallows seemed the perfect choice for USA's Independence Day, because they are sooo... American! An explosion of stars on a beautiful blue is what I wanted. I am happy how it turned out!

The red and white striped "stick" holding the largest star is actually a paper beverage straw! ;)

So here you have it, a 9 layers cream cheese frosting filled, red,white and blue, taller than wide cake, covered in blue meringue buttercream and topped with an explosion of homemade marshmallow stars!

Happy 4th of July, everyone!