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The perfect celebratory or holiday cupcakes, combining fluffy angel food, decadent white chocolate buttercream, and décor fit for a winter wonderland! The recipe includes all the details and tips you need to make successful angel food cake from scratch.
For the cupcakes:
While the eggs are cold, separate and reserve whites. Adjust the quantity of eggs if needed to reach 3/4 cups of whites. It’s very important that the whites are completely free of yolk and shell, or they may not “fluff” when beating later. Cover the bowl of egg whites and bring to room temperature (around 70 F) which will take around 1½ to 2 hours.
While egg temperature rises, measure flour and powdered sugar, then sift them together with the salt. Measure cream of tartar, sugar, and vanilla each into separate bowls so they’re ready to add to the mixer while it’s running. Have a 12-count non-stick cupcake pan ready (see note below regarding pan prep).
When the egg whites are ready, preheat the oven to 350 F and add egg whites into a completely clean metal or glass bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium low speed (40%) until frothy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, add cream of tartar, increase speed 1 “notch” (60%) and beat until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. You should turn off the mixer to check this when the eggs look close, to make sure you don’t over-beat them into stiff peaks. After confirming, resume beating at medium low speed (40%), adding a tablespoon of sugar about every 30 seconds. Beat another minute after adding the last of the sugar, then check for only slightly stiffer peaks. They should not be completely stiff. The process of adding sugar and beating for an additional minute took me 4 minutes. Egg temperature will impact mixing times, so watch for the signs indicated, even if it takes a minute or two longer to get there.
Gently drizzle vanilla over surface of the egg mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated. In four batches, sprinkle the dry ingredient mixture over the surface of the batter and use a rubber spatula to gently fold in by hand until incorporated smoothly. Be patient with the folding—it’s necessary to keep the air pockets.
Use a spring ice cream scoop or one third cup measure to evenly distribute batter into the 12 cupcake wells. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until tops are golden and spring back slightly when touched. Don’t open the oven until you suspect the cakes are close to being done. Remove from oven when done.
If using an unlined non-stick pan, cool the cupcakes upside down, with the pan carefully propped at each corner on a can or other level items. Remove cupcakes from pan once cooled. If you are not using liners, slide a small paring knife around the outside of each cupcake to loosen it. I also used a large spoon to gently scoop the cupcake out of the well.
Once cooled completely, frost or wrap individually in plastic wrap.
For the icing:
Place white chocolate in a completely dry glass bowl set over a saucepan of water (water shouldn’t touch bottom of bowl). Heat over medium (to eventually simmer the water), stirring more frequently with a rubber or silicone heat-safe spatula as chocolate begins to melt. When almost completely melted, remove bowl to a towel or potholder, being careful not to get any water in the chocolate. Continue stirring until fully melted, then allow to cool while you start the icing.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a bowl using a hand mixer, beat butter at medium high speed until lightened and creamy, a minute or two. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla until incorporated.
Add powdered sugar a little at a time, reducing mixer speed to low when initially adding the sugar, so it doesn’t fly everywhere. Increase speed to fully incorporate, then repeat the process until all the sugar is added. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
With the mixer running on low speed, constantly drizzle in the melted, cooled white chocolate until fully incorporated. Don’t turn up the speed on the mixer; the goal is to stir in the chocolate. Add milk or cream and beat on low speed, to soften the frosting slightly. If you prefer a more liquid consistency, add more milk a teaspoon at a time.
Work with the frosting immediately, frosting the cupcakes by hand or using a bag and frosting/decorating tip. Alternately, refrigerate icing in airtight container, then bring almost to room temperature before using, to soften the frosting. Decorate cupcakes with sprinkles of your choice!
1. When baking such a delicate recipe, precision is key, which is why I took to weight measurements for some dry ingredients. I got my kitchen scale for $15 at Costco, and it’s one of my most used kitchen appliances—very much worth the small investment.
2. Angel food cupcakes don’t stay fluffy for long. When making these for company, bake them a day in advance at most. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container.
3. You can microwave white chocolate, but I find it’s very prone to burning, so I prefer the double boiler method. I don’t use an actual double boiler—just a glass bowl set over a saucepan.
4. I’ve never had a problem using room temperature eggs or egg whites; however, be advised that this may be contrary to the most conservative food safety precautions.
5. I tested baking both in an un-greased, non-stick cupcake pan and in paper liners. I was happy with both results. The cakes baked right in the pan have a traditional cupcake shape, while those baked in paper sucked the wrapper sides up so they were completely vertical, with no issues of the cake sticking to the liner. Use either method, but so not use a greased pan—it may result in flat cupcakes.
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