Burnt Butter and Pecan Cupcakes

Source: The Island of Dr. Gateau

Burnt Butter and Pecan Cupcakes

220g unsalted butter
80g finely chopped pecans
335g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
3 tablespoons lukewarm water
400g (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbs white vinegar

Start at least an hour or two ahead of when you’d usually start as the burnt butter takes up a bit of extra time.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat until liquid. Stir the butter frequently with a wooden spoon. After a while it will start to foam quite a lot. Keep stirring and scraping the bottom of the saucepan. The butter will start to turn a dark golden brown, although you’ll have to keep pushing the foam out of the way to see it. When it smells nutty and kind of caramel-y, pour it into a bowl and leave to cool for 15 minutes, then put it in the fridge to solidify. Once it has solidified, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature to soften.

While you’re waiting for the butter to solidify then soften, heat the oven to 180°C. Toast the chopped pecans on a baking tray for 5 minutes, then allow to cool.

Cream the burnt butter and sugar together in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment until fluffy and light (about 5-10 minutes). Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each one. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula if necessary. Add the salt and lukewarm water and mix well.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the toasted pecans and stir through. Add about 1/3 of this into the other mixture and start beating, then slowly add about 1/3 of the buttermilk while the mixer is running. Add the next third of the dry ingredients and beat, followed by the next third of the buttermilk as before, and then repeat for the last time. Once the mixture is well combined, get a small bowl and put the bicarbonate of soda in it, then add the vinegar and whisk with a fork to make sure any lumps dissolve. Add this into the cake mixture and beat on medium speed for about 10 seconds.

Spoon the mixture into miniature cupcake papers lining the holes of a miniature cupcake pan, then bake for 8-10 minutes. Put a cake tester or skewer into one of the cakes to check if it’s done — the skewer should come out clean. If you’re making normal sized cupcakes, they take about 13-15 minutes. Once out of the oven, leave the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes (they’re very delicate when still hot) then carefully remove them onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Pretzel icing
100g pretzels (the hard, crunchy sort)
500g cream cheese, softened
100g butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup milk

Process the pretzels in a food processor until they’re a mixture of coarse pretzel dust with a few small fragments of pretzel. Set aside.

Beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Scrape the sides of the bowl down once or twice. Add the sugar and beat until well combined, then the vanilla and beat again, then the pretzel dust/fragments and beat again. The mixture will be very thick, so add the milk a quarter cup at a time, beating for a couple of minutes after each addition, to thin the icing out a bit and make it smooth.

Ice your cakes, decorate with pretzels if you wish, and you’re done.