Saturday, November 9, 2013

Butter Pecan Cupcakes

If you are from the south then you are probably aware that today is opening day of modern gun season.  Hunters have been preparing and waiting for this day for weeks, and some even months.  This morning people woke up before the crack of dawn, dressed in their camo and hunter's orange and made their way to their stands and waited patiently for the big one to cross their paths.  What does all this have to do with Butter Pecan Cupcakes you ask?  Well, I'll tell you.
One of my co-worker's boyfriends is an avid hunter and his birthday was today.  She wanted to surprise him with a birthday cake, but not just any cake, a cake that was personalized to one of his passions.  So she found it only fitting to give him a cake that was inspired by the season.  After we visited about it for a while we finally decided on a deer cake.  A cake that was reminiscent of a deer mount.  Perfect, right?
So once we decided on the type of cake we started talking flavors.  He's not a chocolate fan, so anything involving chocolate was out.  I asked what some of his favorite desserts were and she threw out a few options and then said something about butter pecan ice cream.  When I heard that my mind zoned in on those flavors.  I threw out the option of a butter cake with a maple butter frosting, topped with chopped pecans and a caramel drizzle.  That was it; the design was final and now the flavor was.
I was so excited about this cake.  Not only because it would be another cupcake cake and I could let my creativity come out, but also for the flavors.  I had never made this combination of flavors so I couldn't wait to see how it turned out!  I was beyond pleased with the final result. 

To really make the cake come alive I started by covering a cake board in melted chocolate to resemble the wood the deer rack is mounted on.  Once that dried I laid out the cupcakes and played with the positioning until I got it exactly how I wanted it.  Then I placed a 6 inch cake between the rack to resemble the green felt on the mount.  Once I got everything frosted and topped off with the finishing touches I couldn't have been happier.  I had so much fun making this cake, and the birthday boy couldn't have been more happy.  Not only did he love the flavor but he was so surprised with it being a specialty cake!
The flavors of this cake exceeded my expectations.  I started out with a basic butter cake, I kept it simple so it would compliment the flavors in the frosting rather than compete with them.  The frosting was a basic buttercream frosting with the addition of maple syrup, butter flavor and a splash of rum extract.  To really pull the flavors together a sprinkle of chopped pecans were spread over the top followed by a drizzle of caramel.  This cake really did take all the goodness and warmth of butter pecan ice cream and made a delicious cake. 
I had fun making this into a specialized birthday cake, but this would also be an amazing layer cake or cupcakes.  Perfect for dessert at your next party or your Thanksgiving meal.

Butter Pecan Cupcakes
For the cupcakes-

1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 1/2 Cups cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 Tsp salt
2 Cups sugar
4 Large eggs, room temperature
1 Tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tsp butter extract
1 Cup whole milk

For the butter pecan frosting-
1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2-2 1/2 Cups powdered sugar
2 Tsp milk
1 1/2 Tsp butter extract
1/4 Tsp rum extract
1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
Pinch of salt
1/2-2/3 Cup roughly chopped pecans
10 caramel candies


For the cake-

Preheat oven to 350.  For cupcakes: Line a mini cupcake pan with liners and set aside.  For a layer cake: spray 3 (9 inch) pans with non-stick cooking spray, dust with flour and set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.  Set aside.

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until lighter in color.  Add the sugar and mix on low to combine, once incorporated increase the speed to high and beat for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is light an fluffy.  Reduce speed and add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and butter extract and mix to combine.  Reduce the mixing speed to low add the flour in three batches, alternating with milk in two batches. 

Once the flour and milk are incorporated thoroughly remove from mixer.  Fill the cupcake tins with batter, filling each tin 2/3 full.  Place in oven and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool completely.  Repeat with remaining batter.  For cakes, fill each pan 2/3 full and smooth the tops.  Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow to cool in pans for 5 minutes, transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

For the frosting-
Place butter in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium-high for 1 minute.  Add the powdered sugar, gradually and mix to combine.  Add the milk and mix to incorporate, once the milk is incorporated increase mixing speed and beat on high for 2 minutes.  Add the butter, vanilla and rum extracts and mix to combine.

Frost cupcakes or cake.  If making a cake, sprinkle 1/4 of the pecans between each layer then the remaining over the frosted cake.  For the cupcakes, sprinkle the pecans over the frosted cupcakes. 

Place caramel candies and 1/4 teaspoon of water in a microwave safe bowl and heat in 15 second intervals, stirring after each interval.  Drizzle the caramel sauce over the cake or cupcakes and serve.

*I halved the recipe.  It yielded 1 (6in) cake and 2 1/2 dozen mini cupcakes.

Recipe source: Butter cake-adapted from Martha Stewart  
                         Buttercream- A Lynsey Original

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