Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Great White Cupcakes with Strawberry "Chum" Filling


HAPPY SHARK WEEK!! I have been OBSESSED with sharks ever since I was around age 8 and saw Jaws for the first time (yup, my parents let me stay up late and watch it). Since then, I have collected and studied shark books and watched Shark Week religiously before it was ever trendy. I hosted "shark parties" to watch Jaws while noshing on festive dishes before it was ever a fad.


And right by my side since childhood, sharing a love/obsession for sharks is one of my very best friends, Allen. He and his wife have hosted a couple Sharkapalooza parties to date in honor of Shark Week, and this year's party was definitely the best one yet!


From the decorations to the themed menu and even to the fun party favor bags (which each contained shark water bottles and gummies) and the duo of Mega Shark Slip N' Slides, every detail was fitting of the world's most majestic and fearsome predator, the almighty shark. They even played videos in the background from previous Shark Weeks while the entire Jaws soundtrack played as well (my iPod takes credit for that one, haha).

Chomp chomp chomp!!

In honor of this occasion, my contribution to the party was in the form of dessert. Specifically, I created Great White Cupcakes with Strawberry "Chum" Filling, or Chum Cakes for short. I used a simple but wonderful cupcake recipe adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook which utilizes an unusual method for mixing the batter that is supposed to prevent overmixing. The result is easily one of the best basic cupcake recipes I've ever tried. Between the springy and moist texture to the delicious buttery vanilla flavor, these cupcakes are perfection.


The filling is simply strawberry, sugar, and lemon juice thickened with a bit of cornstarch to hold it all together. Finely chopped strawberries in a sea of glistening blood red sauce is strangely reminiscent of a miniaturized version of chum if you really think about it :) Or maybe you don't want to think about it... in any case, it tastes better than actual chum, of that I'm sure.


Creamy blue buttercream is the final element, and although it errs on the sweet side (as does all American-style buttercream), I never frost my cupcakes too heavily. The ratio of frosting to cupcake is just right, like Goldilocks. It's ample to cover the filling and create a bed for some shark cupcake toppers in case you want to go all out.


These cupcakes were a huge hit at the party, and I definitely plan on making them again, whether or not they are for Sharkapalooza in future years or simply for a summery treat. The basic cupcake recipe is one to hang onto, but especially with the not-too-sweet filling, and the buttery frosting, it's a combination fitting the title Great White, in honor of the ocean's most fascinating creature.


As I mentioned earlier, the decor and menu for this party was so much fun! I couldn't resist sharing lots of photos from the event. It's not too late to host your own party in honor of Shark Week since it still continues through Saturday. Let me know if you try these cupcakes or any of the other ideas featured in the photos! I hope you all have a JAWSOME Shark Week ;-)


Duuun dun. Duuun dun. Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun....



I volunteered my snorkel equipment to help decorate the mantle :)



Life Preservers (made from mini powdered doughnuts) and party favors!



Customized rice crispy treats from a local bakery

Shark cake pops, also from a local bakery

Shark fins and slow swimmers ;-)









My nephew Alex playing with Bruce, the mechanical great white shark!


Duel shark Slip-N-Slides... because one is not enough.


Posing with the hosts in our Shark Week shirts!

A Jaws poster serves as a "guestbook" that people can sign

Great White Cupcakes with Strawberry "Chum" Filling
Makes 1 dozen
(Cupcake recipe adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook)

Strawberry "Chum" Filling:
1 cup chopped strawberries (about 1/4-inch dice)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Cupcakes:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Buttercream:
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
Blue liquid gel food coloring, as needed

To make the filling: Add all the ingredients to a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir occasionally for about 5 to 7 minutes until the mixture thickens. It will actually become a more vibrant red color once this step is achieved. Cool the filling completely in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the cupcakes: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 cupcake cups with paper liners.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix together the milk and vanilla; set aside

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and mix on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until thoroughly combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the cubed butter a few pieces at a time, mixing for about 2 minutes, until the mixture resembles coarse sand.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Turn the speed to low and gradually add the milk and vanilla, then mix for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, incorporate any ingredients hiding at the bottom of the bowl, making sure the batter is completely mixed.

With a large ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared cupcake cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for at least 20 minutes.

To make the buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup at a time, and continue to beat until smooth. Add the vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons of milk, and a couple drops of the blue gel food coloring and beat until smooth. If the frosting is too thick, add a bit more milk. If you desire a darker blue color, add another drop or two of the food coloring. Continue to beat until smooth.

To assemble: Use a melon baller or paring knife to scoop or cut out the center of each cupcake about 1-inch deep and 1-inch wide. Use either a piping bag or small spoon to fill the cavities with the strawberry filling. Transfer the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip and pipe frosting on top of the cupcakes to hide the filling.

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