03 Aug Food Truck Fantasy: Cupcakes on wheels
As the fair rolls into town with its Guttbusters, Vikings, fried Twinkies and melt-in-your-mouth mini donuts flying out of food trucks up and down the midway, so too do my fantasies of having a mobile cupcake cart of my own. Granted, I have given this one some thought.
It all started last fall with the announcement of the 2010 Chocolate Adventure Contest landing in my email inbox. Having a soft spot for recipe contests, especially this one whose prize included $10,000 and the opportunity to distribute the winning cupcake on one of the Sweet Trucks in New York, I dove right in to a sea of chocolaty-delicious cupcake recipe development.
Contest criteria called for the use of Scharffen Berger chocolate and at least one of the following adventure ingredients: stout beer, ricotta, buttermilk, coconut butter, coconut milk or coconut cream, saffron, molasses, adzuki beans, fresh beet, sweetened condensed milk, fresh or whole dried chili pepper, bee pollen, Meyer lemon, almond flour or Sumatra coffee beans. My kitchen magically morphed into a cupcake bakery for weeks on end, turning out freshly baked cupcakes in a constant stream, one after the other, based on a few of my favorite things.
Before I knew it, I was soaking adzuki beans, dipping chili peppers in chocolate and candying lemon slices. This was an adventure, all right. My poor pal Karen got the worst of it on our morning field trips with the dogs hearing about the Coco Loco, the Beanie Baby, oh, and the Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love, not to mention having to taste-test more than one of these crazy cupcakes along the way.
Visions of cake, ice cream and meringue mingled as one and emerged as the Fire and Ice cupcake. A bittersweet chocolate cupcake filled with coconut curry ice cream and topped with broiled coconut meringue, this was an adventure in chocolate not to missed, I thought. This was the one I could picture making in my fantasy food truck. Baking the cupcakes ahead of time, topping them with coconut curry ice cream and keeping them in the truck’s freezer, prepped and ready for peaking glossy coconut meringue atop, I would blissfully broil those Fire and Ice beauties to order for eager customers, in my dreams of course. (A naïve notion in the food service industry, I know.)
Right smack in the middle of this cupcake creation craze, my friend Gail dropped off a bag of gorgeous golden beets on my doorstep, a stroke of luck adventure ingredient fresh from her garden. Golden beets then starred in The Aussie Slider I invented, an ode to the Australians’ custom of including a beet slice as a regular accompaniment to burgers, only better-on a chocolate pound cake cupcake with molasses ricotta, browned butter frosting and saffron threads. Yum.
Last but not least was born the Bon Lemon in honor of my brother Tyler’s girlfriend Amy who graciously allowed me to use the name of her traveling boutique, Bon Lemon, for the lemon ricotta cupcake flecked with dark chocolate chunks, frosted with lemon butter cream and garnished with lemon peel and a chocolate-dipped candied lemon slice. Downright delightful.
Long after all the cupcake crumbs had disappeared from our freezer came a mention in the tuttifoodie newsletter that my Fire and Ice cupcake had been named one of the top 15 semifinalists, not the grand prize winner featured on a well-known New York cupcake truck I had dreamed about, but frosting on the cupcake for me and fodder for a food column, nonetheless.
With fair food favorites calling your name this week, I give you the Special of the day: Food Truck Fantasy Cupcakes with recipes for The Fire and Ice Cupcake, The Aussie Slider and The Bon Lemon Cupcake. Happy Baking!
The Fire and Ice Cupcake(makes 12 cupcakes) Make the coconut curry ice cream: 1 cup cream ½ cup cream of coconut ½ cup ricotta 3 teaspoons red curry paste (Asian foods aisle) Blend all ice cream ingredients. Chill. Freeze according to ice cream maker instructions. Make the chocolate brownie cupcakes: ½ cup butter ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa ½ cup sugar 1 cup almond flour ½ teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon salt ¼ cup cream of coconut 3 eggs Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in medium glass bowl in the microwave. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine thoroughly. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners and divide batter equally. Bake in preheated oven for 15-17 minutes, just until set. Cool completely. Spread 2 tablespoons coconut curry ice cream on top of each chocolate brownie cupcake and return to freezer. Freeze until firm. Make the coconut meringue topping: 4 egg whites ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar 2/3 cup sugar 1 teaspoon coconut extract Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff. Beat in remaining ingredients. Meringue should be thick and glossy. Spoon meringue over ice cream-topped cupcakes, lifting the spoon to form peaks. Slide into upper rack of preheated oven and broil until meringue is browned.
The Aussie SliderMakes 12 cupcakes Make the Mocha Marbled Bittersweet Chocolate Pound Cake Cupcakes 1 ½ cups butter, softened 2 ½ cups sugar 8 eggs Using electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Sift together dry ingredients: 2 ½ cups flour ¾ cup cocoa ½ teaspoon salt Fold sifted dry ingredients into butter mixture. In small mixing bowl, dissolve 1 tablespoon finely ground coffee in 1 tablespoon hot water. Add 4 ounces melted bittersweet chocolate and 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir to combine. Marble mocha mixture into chocolate batter, using a rubber spatula. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Divide marbled batter among cupcakes, filling 2/3 way full. Bake in preheated oven 15 minutes or until set. Cool completely. Roast the golden beets: 3 medium golden beets Wrap beets in foil and roast in 375 degree oven for an hour. Let cool. Peel and slice into ¼ inch thick slices. Make the molasses ricotta: ½ cup whole milk ricotta 1 tablespoon molasses Stir molasses into ricotta. Make the Browned Butter Frosting: 1 cup butter 2 cups powdered sugar ¼ cup heavy cream 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Cook butter in medium saucepan over medium high heat for 6-8 minutes, until browned. Transfer to glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill until solidified. Beat powdered sugar, cream and vanilla into browned butter, adding 1-2 teaspoons additional cream if necessary to achieve a light fluffy consistency. To assemble: Slice Mocha Marbled Bittersweet Chocolate Pound Cake Cupcakes in half horizontally. Top bottom half with roasted golden beet slice. Spread molasses ricotta over beet slice and top with top half of cupcake. Pipe browned butter frosting over cupcake and garnish with bittersweet chocolate curls and saffron threads.
The Bon Lemon(makes 12 cupcakes) Make the candied lemon slices: 3 lemons, thinly sliced 2 cups sugar 1 cup water Heat a medium pot of water to boiling. Add lemon slices and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove lemon slices and drain pot. Add 1 cup fresh water and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar and bring to a simmer. Cook lemon slices for an hour. Remove lemon slices from syrup and let dry overnight on a cooling rack. Melt 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Dip candied lemon slices in melted chocolate. Let dry on cooling rack. Make the cupcakes: ½ cup butter, softened ½ cup sugar 3 eggs ¼ cup lemon juice ½ cup coconut cream 1 cup flour ½ cup almond flour ½ teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ cup buttermilk ½ cup ricotta 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate baking bar, chopped Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using electric mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients (except for chocolate) and beat until thoroughly mixed. Stir in chopped chocolate. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Fill 2/3 way full with batter. Bake in preheated oven for about 19 minutes, until set. Cool completely. Make the Lemon Butter cream Frosting: ½ cup butter, softened 2 cups powdered sugar 2 tablespoons heavy cream 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice Frost cupcakes with lemon butter cream frosting. Garnish with lemon peel and chocolate-dipped candied lemon slices.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at email@example.com