Mmmmaple: Maple Walnut Cupcakes

As the summer heat dissipates, I think it is only appropriate to whip out some autumnal creations. These Maple Walnut Cupcakes not only give off the perfect fall vibe, but also showcase one of my all-time favourite flavours: maple.

The nutty cupcakes are wonderful, but I'm going to talk about the icing because it really is "the icing on the cake." Its velvety butteriness amplifies the warmth of the maple flavour. I knew I had to try this frosting recipe because, well, it uses real maple syrup, rather than that artificial stuff in a bottle. It is not a speedy one-bowl powdered sugar buttercream; this is real, silky, luscious stuff. You will need to cook the maple syrup to make this version of a French buttercream so it's a little fussy, but the results are well worth it if you are a maple lover.

I made this on an unusually warm day. If you want to stabilize such a butter-rich frosting, beat in a few tablespoons of cool shortening and a tablespoon or two of sifted cornstarch. Add just enough to give it a little structure, but not so much that you lose the silky, fragrant character of the buttercream.

Maple-Walnut Cupcakes

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups walnuts chopped medium fine

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. With the mixer still on medium, add the flour mixture in two parts, alternating with milk (begin and end with flour). Stir in walnuts with a spoon.

Divide batter among the cups (about 1/3 cup each). Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Cool and frost. Cupcakes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Maple Buttercream:

Makes about 2 cups

3 large egg yolks
2 cup pure maple syrup
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat yolks on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring the syrup to a boil over medium high heat, cook until it reads 240F on a candy thermometer, about 15 minutes.
With the mixer running, slowly pour syrup down the side of the bowl in a slow, steady stream, until completely incorporated, about 1 minute. Continue beating until the bowl is just slightly warm to the touch, 4-5 minutes. Add butter, one piece at a time, until frosting is fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
Image property of beets and bites

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