Sunday, June 19, 2011

I've Got a Lovely Bunch of... Coconut Cupcakes

You can imagine my displeasure when I turned the page to find that my next cupcake was coconut. Less that thrilled would be accurate. I thought about skipping the recipe entirely. I knew I wasn't going to eat them because I detest coconut and I don't know many people who are a fan of it, so pawning cupcakes off on someone else wouldn't be an option. Just reading through the recipe and seeing coconut milk, coconut extract (when am I ever going to use that again?) and flaked coconut (gross!) was almost too much to handle. And when I saw that I had to chop the coconut flakes into fine pieces, the amount of work combined with knowing I wouldn't like the result just didn't make this idea any more appealing. But, in the spirit of the project, I powered through.

To finely chop the coconut flakes I used a blender instead of a food processor because my food processor is on the larger side and I didn't picture the finely chopping of the coconut going so well using that particular kitchen appliance. Bring in the blender! I dumped in the coconut and shook the blender a bit in between pulsing to shake down the pieces that hadn't been chopped yet. It took a few minutes, but it did the trick. The rest of the batter preparation was easy. Of course I performed a taste test before baking and surprisingly, I didn't hate it. Could I like coconut after all?

I baked the cupcakes for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through and letting them cool for a few minutes afterwards before taking them out of the pan and putting them on the cooling racks. I'm very diligent with Martha's instructions (sometimes).

If there was any saving grace for the fact that I had to make coconut cupcakes it was that I finally got to use my stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Life does not get any better. Not only did I get to use my stand mixer, but also my candy thermometer, which I've never used before because it intimidates me, as does the whole candy-making process. I've never made a frosting that didn't incorporate butter so the Seven-Minute Frosting was going to be a first and I had my doubts. In fact, I actually thought there was no way it was going to be a success.

The most annoying/frustrating part of making the frosting was the egg whites. I even took the time to let the eggs get to room temperature, something I never do, because I wanted everything to be perfect for my attempt at a non-butter frosting. Separating those egg whites was a giant pain in the arse. There has to be a better way than the method I employ, which is simply cracking the egg and sloshing the yolk back and forth from one half of the shell to the other, getting out as much egg white as possible without getting any yolk in the bowl. Of course there were at least 2 occasions when I dropped an egg yolk into the whites and had to fish it out with a spoon. Thankfully the egg yolks stayed whole and I was able to fish them out. Bring on the stand mixer! I have whisked egg whites by hands until soft peaks form and let me tell you, I will not be doing that by hand any longer. I dropped those egg whites into the mixer, turned the speed to medium high and let that whisk do its thing. In 2 minutes my egg whites turned into soft peaks. Pure magic.

While my mixer was doing all the work I stared at the candy thermometer waiting for it to get to exactly 230 degrees. I didn't want to let it get a degree hotter because the recipe said as soon as the mixture reaches 230 degrees remove from heat and pour into egg whites. I'd come this far, I didn't want to mess up now. When the sugar mixture was ready I poured it into the mixer, turned it on and hovered over it for 7 minutes until I thought it was at a satisfactory consistency. It took a little longer than 7 minutes, but I just wanted to be sure the frosting was firm enough.

Now the taste test... it was disgusting, at least by my standards. Way too cocnutty for me, there was no way I was eating any of these cupcakes once they were frosted. I have never wanted to spit out frosting in my life. I wanted to spit out this frosting. I didn't think that was possible. Despite hating the frosting I did try a completed cupcake, minus the flaked coconut garnish because Martha said it was optional (God bless her), and I still couldn't get past the frosting, but the actual cake I enjoyed. Had there been vanilla buttercream frosting on top, I would have devoured the whole cupcake. Luckily I have a friend who loves coconut as much as I hate it, and she now has several coconut cupcakes in her freezer. That's what friends are for!