Musical pairing – Just the Two of Us by Bill Withers
It was a perfect holiday weekend for The Professor and me; for several years, we’ve hosted a July 4th party at our home with 20+ invited guests. A whole lotta food and many hours later, we’re spent but very, very happy and content knowing we have such great family and friends. Last year’s July 4th, we were in Connecticut and didn’t have our party; this year we’ve traveled quite a bit and are now in the process of updating our dining room so we didn’t plan a party . . . not a big party anyway . . . but the perfect party for two which included these lovely Vietnamese Cupcakes.
The recipe comes from TastingTable and, having no experience with Vietnamese cooking whatsoever, I had no idea what made this recipe ‘Vietnamese’ – cake, a glaze which consists of cream, sweetened condensed milk and espresso, then frosting which also includes the same ingredients as the glaze, cooked to a spreadable consistency. Another call out to Twitter and I had my answer: Kim, of Rustic Garden Bistro, tweeted back ‘the Viet people have a VERY strong French influence. The espresso/condensed milk is a true Viet concoction.’
The cake is a sponge-type of cake – made light and airy by whipping the egg whites before adding the yolks; the flour is sifted and folded into the batter before pouring into cupcake liners and baked. The cakes are glazed and then frosted; the best part (in my humble opinion), is that the cupcakes are ‘regular’ size – meaning not those gargantuan-sized cupcakes that would feed a Third-world country. No, these are a smaller, 3-4 bite cupcake layered with a sweet/espresso flavor that is perfect for those times when you just need ‘a little sweet somethin’ – enjoy them with a cup of coffee or with David Lebovitz’ Vietnamese-Coffee Ice Cream as we did . . . that’s another post entirely but suffice it to say that Mr. Lebovitz is the Grand Poo-bah when it comes to ice cream!
And you have the perfect ending to a perfect party for two . . .
Makes 12 cupcakes
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
3 large eggs, separated
1?8 teaspoon baking soda
1?8 teaspoon salt
1?2 cup sugar
1?2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1?2 cup all-purpose flour
1?4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1?2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Make the coffee glaze: In a heatproof measuring cup, heat the cream in the microwave on high for 20 seconds. Stir in the espresso powder until completely dissolved, then stir in the condensed milk and set aside.
Make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 325°. Line a 12- cup muffin tin with paper or foil liners.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and baking soda on medium-high speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that the baking soda is incorporated, then add the salt. Continue beating at medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes longer. Add the egg yolks and sugar and continue to beat until pale yellow and thick, about 1 minute longer. Lower the speed to medium, pour the melted butter into the batter in a steady stream and beat until combined.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift one-third of the flour over the wet ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula until fully incorporated. Repeat twice more with the remaining flour.
Carefully pour the batter into the lined muffin tins, filling them about half full. Transfer to the oven and bake on the center rack for 20 to 23 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack, brush with the coffee glaze and let cool.
While the cupcakes bake, make the icing: In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stir the heavy cream and espresso powder until the powder dissolves. Add the condensed milk and whisk to combine. While whisking, bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook until thick, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes. Transfer the icing to a heatproof measuring cup, pour about 2 teaspoons of the hot icing over each cupcake and let cool to room temperature. Dust the iced cupcakes with the ground cinnamon.
Serve, or line a lidded plastic container with wax paper and pack the cupcakes in one layer.