With the exception of a few that come and go sporadically, Dick's and my swim class at the Y consists of a core group. It's amazing how rapidly a group of strangers, brought together for a common purpose, become bonded. I love the water exercise but, just as much, I look forward to the people that create the comforting rhythm of the everyday. Today, Jack, who gives Dick company in a predominantly female dominated class, brought a large box of chocolates to share with everyone to celebrate Valentine's Day. How sweet! To pass the love on, I made Dick cupcakes when I returned home after swimming.
To make the cupcakes, I began by grinding almonds in a food processor and beating egg whites.
The egg whites produce a very fluffy batter. There is no baking powder or baking soda in the recipe, but you can see through the oven window how poofy the cupcakes rise in the oven as they bake. I chose a cake recipe from Martha Stewart's web site that was used to make Pinecone Cakes. They look as cute as can be but way too putzy, so I made cupcakes instead. In Dick's words, "This is good. Oooooh, this good! I think I'll have another." (The heart balloons cupcake topper and pretty-in-pink cupcake liners are available at my daughter Jessica's fortandfield shop.)
Makes seven regular-size cupcakes.
½ cup whole almonds
¾ cup sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 large egg whites
tiny pinch salt
Preheat oven to 350°. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Process almonds and half of the sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl, add flour, and whisk together. Melt butter in a small saucepan; remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool slightly. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar, beating to stiff glossy peaks. Fold the flour mixture into the egg-white mixture in three batches, alternating with the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake about 20 minutes until golden around the edges and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Spread icing over tops.
1 stick unsalted butter, softened (Martha Stewart’s Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream called for 2 whopping sticks butter. I chose to use 1 stick and it was plenty. Next time, I’m going to try reducing it to ½ stick.)
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
¼ tsp vanilla (I subbed 1 tbsp Montmorency tart cherry juice which added a wonderful flavor and a natural pink color.)
Put butter in bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium; add sugar ½ cup at a time, mixing well, about 5 minutes total. Add vanilla (or cherry juice). Increase speed to medium-high; beat until smooth, about 1 minute more. (Add milk or cream, if necessary, to achieve spreading consistency.) *For a reduced-fat icing, try Martha Stewart's Light Cream Cheese Icing.