So, I owe you guys an apology. A big one. Because I made these cupcakes 2 months ago, and it’s taken me forever to share them with you! And that’s sad. Because you could have been making these cupcakes all that time. And these cupcakes, well, they’re worth it.
Let’s talk about crème brûlée for a second. Up until 6 months ago, I had never had crème brûlée. What?!? I know, crazy right? It just always sounded like something I wouldn’t like. I used to be a bit of a pickier eater, and I definitely have a weird thing about the textures of some foods, so my perception of this dessert was that the flavor would probably be fine but the texture would probably be ick. Then we went to Jamaica on our honeymoon. And stayed at an amazing all-inclusive resort, with loads and loads of delicious (free!) food. What better time to try crème brûlée, since if I didn’t like it, I could just get something else? Long story short – I can’t believe I waited so long to try it, AND I’m pretty sure I ate crème brûlée every single day of our trip. Yummm.
Then, a couple months ago, I was doing my daily reading of my favorite food blogs when I came across something amazing over on Annie’s Eats. Crème brûlée cupcakes. So basically, we’re taking one of my new favorite desserts, and turning it into a cupcake… how could you go wrong? You start with a fluffy vanilla cupcake, then fill and top it with some vanilla pastry cream. Of course, the vanilla pastry cream isn’t exactly the same as the traditional custard, but it holds up well on the cupcake and is a really yummy substitute. When you’re ready to eat, sprinkle some sugar over the top, break out the kitchen torch, and boom – crème brûlée cupcakes.
For the pastry cream:
- 3 cups whole milk, divided
- ½ cup (2 ounces) cornstarch
- ¾ cup (5 ¼ ounces) sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the cupcakes:
- 3 cups (12 ¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1½ cups (10 ½ ounces) sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1¼ cups buttermilk
- Sugar, for finishing
To make the pastry cream, combine the cornstarch with 6 tablespoons of the milk in a small bowl. Whisk to blend and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 2½ cups plus 2 tablespoons of milk with the sugar, salt, seeds from the vanilla bean and the vanilla bean pod itself. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. While the milk is heating, combine the egg and egg yolks in a large bowl or liquid measuring cup and whisk lightly. Add in the cornstarch mixture and stir to combine.
When the milk mixture just begins to simmer, remove the vanilla bean pod. Slowly pour some of the warm milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Continue to add the milk until most of it has been mixed in. Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, continue to cook until thickened- about 1 minute- stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent burning. Remove the pan from the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla and stir until smooth. Transfer to a bowl or storage container, top with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming, and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F and line 2 cupcake tins with paper liners. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Be sure to mix each addition just until incorporated.
Divide the batter between the prepared liners, filling each about half to two thirds full. Bake the cupcakes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To assemble the cupcakes, use a small paring knife to cut out a wide cone from the top of the cupcake. Transfer the pastry cream to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Fill the cones with a generous layer of the pastry cream, continuing until the top of the cupcake is covered. The cupcakes can be stored at this point in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Just before serving, sprinkle a layer of sugar over the top of the pastry cream and brûlée with a kitchen torch (being careful not to set the paper liners on fire!). Serve immediately.
Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes