Monday, November 15, 2010

Chocolate Chip Sesame Street Cupcakes

Usually, on the 15th of each month, I will post a cupcake that has been chosen by a member of the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club. This month, I just had too much going on, what with throwing my youngest son and his cousin a birthday party this past weekend. I decided to skip the MSCC for this month, as much as it pained me to do so. However, it just wouldn't be the 15th without a new cupcake recipe to post here! So I'm going to tell you about the cupcakes I made for my son's birthday.

Since the birthday boys were turning 2 and 1 this year, I decided to throw a Sesame Street-themed party, and to decorate some cupcakes to look like a few Sesame Street characters. In honor of the Cookie Monster (my son's favorite), I made some of Martha Stewart's Chocolate Chip Cupcakes. I'd been itching to try them anyway, and now I finally had a bona fide excuse to do so! I browsed the internet briefly, just to see what other creative souls had done to design Sesame Street character cupcakes. In this post, you see the results of my searches, adapted to represent my own style. I'm pretty proud of these little guys, because when it came time to actually decorate them, I did it all freehand, without a picture in front of me as a guide.

Here's the lowdown: I whipped up 2 dozen regular-sized cupcakes and 3 cupcakes that were baked in oversized muffin cups (because the recipe yield was 30 cupcakes, and each jumbo cupcake was the equivalent of 2 regulars). Meanwhile, I had tinted some of Martha's Fluffy Vanilla Frosting (which I love, and have posted about before, here) in various colors, to represent Elmo, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, and Ernie. I sliced some large marshmallows in half, and these served as eyeballs for Elmo and Cookie, as well as for jumbo Oscar. I would use mini marshmallows for Oscar's and Ernie's eyes, and jumbo marshmallows, sliced thinly, to represent the eyes of jumbo Elmo and jumbo Cookie.

When it came time to decorate, I used a Wilton piping tip that is used to create "hair" (tip 233) for Elmo, Cookie, and Oscar. For Ernie, I just piped medium-sized dots for his skin, but I used the hair tip again to give him his black patch of hair on top of his head. Then came eyes, noses, and mouths. Instead of a mouth on Cookie Monster, I inserted half a chocolate chip cookie into the cupcake, to make it look like he was in the middle of eating a cookie. Those ended up being the biggest hit, and were the first to disappear. I can see why; you get a cupcake and half a cookie, all in one fell swoop!

I gave the giant Elmo cupcake to my one year-old nephew, and the giant Cookie Monster to my two year-old son. I wish I had a picture of him actually sticking his face right down into the cupcake (because he totally did that) but this picture of his blue mug will have to suffice. He loved the cupcakes, but I think he loved the cookie more!

I know they're not perfect, and I have a long way to go before my cupcakes look bakery-ready, but I was happy with these. More importantly, the birthday boys enjoyed the whole experience, so my goal was accomplished. Oh, and the cupcakes were pretty delicious, although I have to say that they almost reminded me more of chocolate chip muffins than cupcakes. That was fine with me, but just be warned about Martha's recipe. Good, but not super light and fluffy.

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Fluffy Vanilla Frosting
from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
makes 30 cupcakes (or in my case, 24 cupcakes and 3 jumbo cupcakes)

3 1/4 cups plus 1 Tbsp. sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. milk
1/2 cup plus 6 Tbsp. (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature
2 cups (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
Fluffy Vanilla Frosting (recipe found here)
Gel-paste food coloring
Various-sized marshmallows (mini, large, jumbo)
3 small chocolate chip cookies, halved (or more, if you want to make more Cookie Monsters)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together 3 1/4 cups cake flour, the baking powder, and salt. Stir the vanilla into the milk to combine.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter until smooth. Adding the sugar in a steady stream, beat until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk mixture, and beating until just combined after each.

3. In another bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form (do not overmix). Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining whites until just combined. Toss chocolate chips with remaining tablespoon cake flour, and gently fold into batter.

4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean and the tops are springy to the touch, about 22-24 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes (although I removed mine after 10 minutes). Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

5. Prepare Fluffy Vanilla Frosting. Divide the frosting into 1/2 cup black, 1/4 cup brown, 3/4 cup orange, 1 cup red, 3/4 cup blue, and 3/4 cup green. Using a Wilton 233 tip (or hair/grass tip), pipe fur onto 6 cupcakes in green, 6 cupcakes in blue, and 6 cupcakes in red. Using a Wilton 21 tip, pipe skin onto 6 cupcakes in orange. (I then piped fur onto 3 jumbo cupcakes to make one Elmo, one Cookie, and one Oscar.)

6. Using the Wilton 3 or 4 tip in black, pipe smiles onto the red, green, and orange cupcakes. Place halved large marshmallows on the red and blue, and mini marshmallows (whole) on the green and orange for eyes. Pipe small black dots onto the marshmallows for pupils. (When I did my jumbo cupcake characters, Elmo and Cookie had jumbo marshmallows, sliced thin, for their eyes. Oscar had large halved marshmallow eyes.)

7. Complete Elmo by placing an orange nose underneath the eyes. Complete Cookie Monster by placing half a chocolate chip cookie towards the bottom of the cupcake, to look as though it is sticking out of his mouth. Complete Oscar by piping his brown eyebrows over his eyes with a Wilton 16 tip. Complete Ernie by piping his nose with a Wilton 21 tip in red, and give him some black hair with the Wilton 233 tip. There you have it: Sesame Street cupcakes!

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