I've had a very important objective for awhile now. I think there comes a time in every baker's life when they realize that they need perfect basics. I love to make new things, sweet things, and even the occasional odd thing, but you really need delicious bases on which to build. That's why I've been determinedly scouring the internet for recipes, reviews, wives' tales, photos, comparisons -- you get the idea -- for (drum roll, please) the PERFECT WHITE CAKE. Not a dry styrofoam white cake. Not a brick of white cakeness. I wanted a moist, tightly crumbed, perfectly dense white cake. It was my great fortune to find this very thorough white cake comparison on The Way the Cookie Crumbles during my search. I baked the author's adaptation of Cooks Illustrated's Classic White Cake, and I feel like I've hit the jackpot. I have a new perfect white cake base!
White cake does not a cupcake make, however, if you've got a hankering for experimenting and a reputation to uphold. For that reason, I decided to try a few new things along with my white cake: first, a sultry mango curd filling (the beautiful thing about filling a white cake with a curd is that white cakes typically use only egg whites, while curds use egg yolks -- what a perfect pair). Second, buttercream roses.
My first brush with a mango occurred at an intimate table with friends in the curried, rosy air of Jaipur. I wish I meant the Indian city, but actually, I mean the small restaurant situated in an unassuming, bustling Charlotte strip mall. A group of college friends and I drove 45 minutes one night to South Boulevard for the delicious buffet. Mike and I were regulars, so the waiter already knew to bring me a diet coke. On this visit, though, at my friend's suggestion, I also asked for a mango lassi -- a cool, sweet mango yogurt drink. Perhaps they should rename it ambrosia and nectar, the fabled food of Greek gods, because it was definitely divine. Since that fateful meeting, I've had delicious mango pudding at another Indian restaurant and a refreshing frozen mango sorbet from the Indian grocery down the street. Mangoes make me think of sitar music, bright orange marigolds, and a beautiful love scene in the rain under an umbrella of flowers (if you haven't seen Monsoon Wedding, you should!)
Monsoon Wedding: Dubey and his love in the rain under a marigold umbrella.
In short, I love mangoes. When I saw Smitten Kitchen's version of mango curd, I immediately knew that I had to stuff it in a cupcake. Why is my reaction to beautiful things sticking them into baked goods? That's probably a question for another day.
As for the buttercream roses, they answered my need for something pretty and simple on top of my cupcakes. I came across the beauties on Smitten Kitchen again, if it's any indication of how much time I spent perusing her blog this week. I'd never tried to make an icing rose, but after watching millions (no, really, ask Mike how many I forced him to watch with me) of videos on the topic, I thought I'd give it a try. I whipped up a raspberry buttercream, bought a flower nail and some rose tips, and went to work. While my frosting was an imperfect consistency and it proved harder than it looked, I think the technique was a success. I can't wait to try again with different frostings! I hope you'll try it (and keep trying . . . and keep trying) if you haven't already. If you want a great tutorial, I like this one and this one.
All of these delicious components -- the perfect white cake, the tangy mango curd, and the raspberry buttercream -- came together to form these Mango Raspberry Rosecakes.
Peekaboo! My mango curd is smiling.
The moist white cake envelopes the exotic and bright flavor of the mango and, topped with tart raspberry, forms a sweet, summery treat. The only thing I wonder, both because of my frosting rose difficulties and because the buttercream almost overpowered the mango, is if a raspberry cream cheese frosting might be a better choice. I'll leave that up to you to decide. Either way, I know you're going to enjoy these amazing flavors. Feel free to deconstruct these treats and use the perfect white cake base with other fillings and frostings, and the mango curd in other cakes (or even as a delicious spread for shortcake, shortbread cookies, or toast).
Mango Raspberry Rosecakes
Yields: 25-26 cupcakes, 1-1.5 cups of mango curd filling
Perfect White Cupcake Ingredients:
2¼ cups cake flour (9 ounces)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (¾ cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 inch vanilla bean seeds)
1½ cups + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (11.35 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1½ sticks), softened but still cool
Mango Curd Ingredients:
1 15-ounce ripe mango, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 - 1/2 cup sugar (depending on your preference for tart vs. sweet)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Raspberry Buttercream Ingredients:
(double this if you're planning on attempting roses)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (white)
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
1/2 teaspoon imitation butter flavoring
1/2 teaspoon raspberry extract
2-6 tablespoons sweet milk, depending on consistency
Food coloring as desired
Extra supplies needed to create buttercream roses:
Rose tips #104 (I used two, to create two-toned roses)
Make mango curd: This can be made a day in advance and refrigerated. Puree mango, sugar, lime juice and salt in processor, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally. Add yolks; puree 15 seconds longer. Strain through sieve set over large metal bowl, pressing on solids with back of spatula to release as much puree as possible. Discard solids in sieve.
Set metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); whisk puree until thickened and thermometer registers 170°F., about 10 minutes. Remove from over water. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time. Cover with plastic wrap (directly on the curd to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate for several hours (or overnight). Note: I'm freezing my excess according to Fine Cooking's instructions for lemon curd, that is, up to two months.
Make the perfect white cupcakes: Set oven rack in middle position. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cupcake pans with nonstick cooking spray or line with cupcake papers.
Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.
Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
Add all but ½ cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1½ minutes. Add remaining ½ cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.
Divide batter evenly in cupcake pans and smooth tops of cupcakes. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15-16 minutes.
Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Transfer to wire rack for cooling completely, about 1½ hours. To fill with mango curd, core the middle of the cupcake using something like the cone method (not easy with such a moist cake, but no worries -- your frosting will cover any mess you make). Pipe or spoon in as much mango curd as you can fit. Replace your cupcake "cone" and frost.
Make raspberry buttercream: Cream all ingredients (except milk) together. Add milk slowly as needed to produce desired consistency. If you're planning on making roses, you want a thick, stiff frosting (but still smooth). For the roses, frost cupcakes lightly with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Then create the roses on the flower nail and transfer to the top of the cupcake (use this tutorial or this one). Otherwise, frost as desired.
Mango curd finished.
Perfect white cakes fresh from the oven.
Stuffed with mango curd and ready for frosting.
First frosting layer finished.