Musical pairing – Carolina by James Taylor
I had been a fan of Virginia Willis long before I had the opportunity to meet her; perusing her blog is like grabbing a cup of coffee or tea and settling in to catch up . . . to see what’s been happening since the last time I visited . . . warm, inviting and one of the best storytellers I know, Virginia’s writing cuts to the chase and speaks to my heart . . .
We met somewhat by accident at the Atlanta Food Blog Forum last year; I knew Virginia would be speaking but I certainly never expected that we would come face to face. But the universe has a way of showing up when you least expect it . . . there were close to 100 people gathered that Friday night in Atlanta, and we were waiting to see a pork demonstration. There was a bit of a line as people were shuffling to take a seat and when I turned around to look for The Professor, Virginia was directly behind me. Completely caught off guard, I kept walking as I sputtered, ‘Oh my God, you’re Virginia Willis!’ and, like Sandra Bullock, in ‘Miss Congeniality’, nearly mowed down the person in front of me . . . I turned back to see Virginia’s eyes dancing and a big grin spread across her face as she tried to stifle a chuckle. I laughed. She laughed. I introduced myself and now I’m an even bigger fan.
Virginia is an accomplished French-trained chef and author of ‘Bon Appétit Y’all’ which was nominated for the IACP Best American Cookbook award; she has been featured in many award-winning publications and has held many a prestigious job – all of which are to be celebrated. Virginia has worked hard and earned every good opportunity that has come her way. But what I simply adore about Virginia is that she is real, she is genuine . . . there is nothing pretentious about Virginia or the fabulous recipes she creates . . . what you see is what you get.
This recipe, Coca-Cola Cupcakes, is from her new book, ‘Basic to Brilliant Y’all’ – she’s taken an old Southern classic and makes it ‘brilliant’ with the addition of toasted meringue; I will also share that I’m not necessarily a baker and these were a huge success!!
If you’d like to purchase the book, Virginia is offering Smith Bites readers a personalized and signed bookplate. The holidays are coming up fast and if you’re looking for a nice gift for a friend . . . or, ahem, yourself . . . purchase a copy of the book and then fill out this form by October 12, 2011 and Virginia will get the bookplate sent to you.
COCA-COLA CUPCAKES W/TOASTED MERINGUE
Reprinted with permission from Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company by Virginia Willis, Copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
Makes about 20 cupcakes
FOR THE CUPCAKES:
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup Coca-Cola
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
FOR THE TOASTED MERINGUE (SEVEN-MINUTE FROSTING):
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
- 6 large egg whites
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
FOR THE CAKE:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; line 20 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
- In a bowl, sift together the granulated sugar and flour.
- In a saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa, and Coca-Cola. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Pour over the dry ingredients; stir to combine. Combine the baking soda and buttermilk in a liquid measuring cup. Add the buttermilk mixture, eggs and vanilla to the flour mixture and stir to combine.
- Divide the batter evenly among the lined cups, filling each cup three-quarters full.
- Bake, rotating the tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
- Remove the muffin tins to a rack to cool slightly, then remove the individual cupcakes to the rack to cool completely.
FOR THE MERINGUE/FROSTING:
- Combine sugar, water and light corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of the pan.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves; continue boiling, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 230 degrees F
- In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 6 large egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, add 2 Tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.
- As soon as the syrup reaches 230 degrees F, remove from the heat; with the mixer on medium-low speed, pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a slow, steady stream. Increase the speed to medium-high; whisk until the mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes.
- Spoon frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a large open-star tip. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling the tip slightly and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Hold a small kitchen blowtorch about 4 inches from the surface of the frosting and wave it back and forth until the frosting is lightly browned, like a toasted marshmallow. Serve immediately.