For this month’s Cupcake Gauntlet, I decided to be straightforward with the secret ingredient and showcase it throughout the cupcake. No cleverness, no alchemy. No miniature pieces of cake fried up like French Toast (though that was pretty creative)
For those of you who might be new to the Gauntlet, here’s the breakdown (Much like the 2nd chapter in the Babysitter’s Club Little Sister series, which was ALWAYS the same in every book. In other words, skip this if you already know all the details):
- Taste testers suggest secret ingredient ideas the second week of the month. The ingredient needs to be seasonal, edible and not too rare or expensive.
- Suggestions and the name of the suggester get written on a slip of paper, folded and tossed into my mixing bowl. I draw one slip.
- I have the weekend to research the ingredient (if necessary) and come up with my cupcake recipe.
- On Monday I contact the taste testers and inform them of the cupcake and announce the winner (who gets a free cupcake that week).
This month, taste tester and Cipher Primer Nikko finally tossed an ingredient suggestion into the hat, and lucky for him, I selected it. His suggestion of cotton candy came from the idea of the start of summer and carnivals.
To prepare, I did some research and found that Darla of Bakingdom had come up with a wonderful Honeydukes Candyfloss cupcake (Honeydukes is a sweet shop in the Harry Potter universe, and candyfloss is cotton candy). Her process for integrating the cotton candy into the cake and frosting made the most sense to me, so this recipe is an adaption of hers. She warned against using cotton candy flavoring, since it tends to come out very artificial, so I followed her advice.
Unfortunately, I’m not super pleased with these cupcakes. I couldn’t pick up the cotton candy in the cake, and it’s faint in the frosting as well. The garnish is also troublesome—to keep it from dissolving into the frosting, you have to garnish it right before eating. But to complicate matters more, you need to keep the cotton candy all clumped together before garnishing. Why? Well, last night I measured out my cotton candy tufts and sealed them in with the cupcakes (maybe the cupcakes moisture played a part in this, though they weren’t touching), and I awoke to crystallized bits of cotton candy. So for my morning delivery to Cipher Prime, I crumbled those bits into crystallized cotton candy sprinkles, instead of possibly leaving them with a mess.
Nevertheless, it’s a lesson learned and a cupcake baked.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center. Line pans with cupcake papers.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
Whisk the egg for 20 seconds, then add the sugar and whisk an additional 30 seconds until thick and frothy.
Add the oil, vanilla, and almond extract, and beat until combined. Alternate the dry and wet ingredients and mix until combined.
If you plan to use food coloring (I did), I suggest doing it at this stage so you don't over mix the batter with the cotton candy in it.
FInally, tear up the cotton candy into small pieces and gently mix into the batter.
Divide the batter between 14 wrappers in the cupcake tins and bake for 18-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.
For the frosting, begin by tearing up the cotton candy and pouring the cream over it--this will dissolve it into a cotton candy goo. Let it sit 5-10 minutes, then use a silicone spatula to stir it and press out any lumps.
Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add 1 cup of confectioners sugar and mix to combine.
Add the vanilla extract, melted cotton candy, and remaining sugar. Whip until light and fluffy.
Top the cupcakes with the frosting and sanding sugar (to mimic the sugary crunch of compressed cotton candy). When ready to serve, top with a tuft of cotton candy.