Early July I walked into the heavily air-conditioned West Hollywood offices that housed my summer internship unsure of what I was getting myself into. What work would I be doing? How would my co-workers receive me? How could, or would, I succeed?
Despite being nearly four weeks into my job, all of these questions have yet to be answered, but I have I have definitely settled into a routine that makes the once-intimidating office a now comfortable environment for learning and gaining experience in the professional world. What aided in this transformation was a realization I had just a week ago.
If you bake muffins, they will come.
It was a slow Thursday afternoon in the office, giving two of my co-workers and me a lot of time to chat. Since this company produces food programming, food, restaurants, chefs, and things of that nature are often topics of conversation. Having told them about my love for baking (as well as observing their love for cubicle snacking), we all decided that I would bake a treat to bring in to the office the following week. What ensued was a relatively lengthy debate about what that sweet would be. Red velvet cheesecake bars? Peanut-butter cups? Cinnamon rolls? We were unable to come to a conclusion, so it was decided that I would just have to make the tough decision on my own. That seemed like a lot of pressure, and I headed home with my head swirling with ideas, recipes, or blog posts I’d stumbled upon recently.
After a good deal of thinking and perusing the hundreds of bookmarked recipes on my computer, I decided on coffee cake cupcakes, a recommendation made by a fellow-baker friend. This seemed a logical decision for a few reasons:
- Coffee cake is always delicious.
- Cupcakes are always delicious.
- Coffee cake cupcakes can totally pass for a breakfast pastry.
Although they were officially called cupcakes, my taste buds would say that they were closer to a member of the muffin family. The not-too-sweet, moist vanilla cake swirled perfectly with the rich, cinnamony, buttery streusel, and the icing on top was the perfect finish to leave you with a smile. Having watched my boss single-handedly eat four of these the following day (and going home 12 cupcakes lighter than when I arrived) I was pretty sure that they were a success.
It was in that moment that I discovered just how powerful a weapon the cupcake could be. The ticket to my assimilation in this office was no doubt via the stomachs of my co-workers, so I guess it’s time to get back to kitchen.
Coffee Cake Cupcakes
Adapted from The Shiksa in the Kitchen
Makes 12 cupcakes
For the streusel:
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)
1 tbsp melted unsalted butter
For the cupcakes:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt, room temperature
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract
For the glaze:
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 ½ tbsp. milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp melted butter
Preheat oven to 325° F.
In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
Add the chopped pecans and melted butter. Continue mixing with the fork until the sugar and pecans are fully mixed and evenly moistened by the butter. Set aside. This is your streusel topping.
(note: I left out the nuts in order to not risk the allergy-factor in the office. The streusel still came out delicious!)
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Cut the butter into cubes and place them in a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer on low speed, then increase to medium, to cream the butter for a minute until it becomes light and airy.
Slowly add sugar to the bowl and beat for 2-3 minutes more, increasing the speed gradually and scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula periodically, until the color becomes lighter and the sugar is fully integrated into the butter.
Beat in the eggs, then the sour cream, then the almond or vanilla extract.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet and stir till evenly moistened. Do not over-mix.
Line a cupcake tin with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each tin halfway with batter. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is with a small ice cream scoop– use one small (not heaping) scoop per tin.
Sprinkle 1½ teaspoons of streusel onto the top of the batter in each tin.
Fill the tins the rest of the way with batter, all the way to the top of the tin (another small ice cream scoop of batter in each tin).
Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of streusel on the top of each cupcake.
Bake the cupcakes for 30-35 minutes until they test clean with a toothpick or skewer. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.
When ready to frost, make your vanilla glaze.
Make Vanilla Glaze:
In a small mixing bowl, sift the powdered sugar.
Add the milk, followed by the vanilla and melted butter. Use a whisk to mix the ingredients until creamy frosting forms. You want the consistency of thick honey; if you need a little more moisture, add milk a few drops at a time, wary of not thinning it out too much.
Line a glass with a plastic bag, wrapping the edge of the bag around the outer rim of the glass. This will help you fill it with frosting. Use a spatula to scoop the frosting into the bag.
Place cupcakes on top of a piece of parchment paper or paper towels to catch drips.
Work the frosting into the corner of the bag and snip off a small corner with scissors. Gently squeeze and drizzle the frosting in a zig-zag pattern across the top of the cupcakes.
Let the frosting dry for at least 30 minutes to set, and enjoy!