February 17, 2010

Streusel and a few words about toppings

Part of the fun of making cupcakes is the ability to get creative with fillings, frostings, and especially the toppings.  Once you start looking around, you'll see potential toppings everywhere.   I've topped cupcakes with everything from peanut butter cups to fortune cookies to bacon.  If it has some relevance to the flavor of cupcake or if it's going to contribute to the all-over flavor, then go for it!  Be creative!  But also be careful.....there are some things that shouldn't make their way onto cupcakes.  Here, I'll give you some examples.

Strudel.  Strudel shouldn't be a cupcake topper.  We love sweets around here, and usually I'm a "more is more" kind of girl, but not in this case.  Strudel is another dessert all by itself, so cupcakes + strudel = overkill.  

Schnitzel.  The only meat that should touch your cupcakes is bacon, and that's because bacon is awesome and can be eaten on anything.   Schnitzel, on the other hand, is breaded veal.  Baby cow is not bacon, so no matter how tempted you might be to slap a chunk of schnitzel on your pretty li'l cupcakes, don't do it.

Schnoodles.  People, we just don't put puppies on cupcakes.  Yes, puppies are cute.  Yes, cupcakes are also cute, so I know it seems like a natural fit, but I'm here to tell you that it just ain't right.   Leave the puppies alone.

So what does that leave us with?  

Streusel!  Streusel is a perfect cupcake topping.  It's not frosting, which I hate to give up, but it has plenty of other good qualities.  Streusel is crunchy and cinnamony and brown sugary.  It adds flavor and texture to the cake, and hey!  It's easy!  Heck, my preschooler was responsible for the application of all streusel topping you see in these pictures, and she has the attention span of a goldfish.

These cupcakes were almost like little hand-held coffee cakes.   They had a  buttery and tender cake base with mountains of crumbly streusel piled on top, and a drizzle of sugary glaze to finish them off.  The cake puffed up nice and high over the sides of the tins, and made the streusel break apart into chunks, just the way I like it.   I had mine without a chaser, but found myself really wanting a cup of coffee or tea to go with it because they're just that kind of cake.  Sweet, but not tooth-achingly so.  They're just the kind of thing you'd want on a February afternoon when the sun is shining and there's a crossword to do.  

I've adjusted the order of instructions a little below, since this morning I neglected to see that the streusel was supposed to chill for 30 minutes before you bake the cupcakes.  It seems like making that first would be the sensible thing to do, right?  Right.  

So by all means, make these some weekend morning.  You'll like having them around.  You'll like them even if you don't have any afternoon sunshine to bask in, or a crossword to finish.  So go ahead and have some schnitzel or spaetzle, pour yourself a glass of Schnapps, curl up with the Schnoodle, and enjoy the streusel.  

Streusel Cupcakes

Makes 24
Preheat oven to 350º

Streusel Topping

Whisk together in a bowl:
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp coarse salt

Using your fingers, blend  in:
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

Blend until combined, but still crumbly.  Chill 30 minutes.


In a bowl, whisk together:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt

In an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream until pale and fluffy:
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup sugar

Add, 1 at a time:
3 large eggs

Stir in:
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Stir into batter until just combined:
flour mixture
1 1/4 cups sour cream

Divide among 24 lined tins, filling each nearly half way full.  Sprinkle half the topping over the cupcakes, and press it into the batter.  Top with remaining topping.  Bake until tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Transfer tins to wire rack to cool completely before removing.  Drizzle with milk glaze.

Milk Glaze

Whisk together until smooth:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk

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