Happy Mardi Gras! Last year, I baked a King Cake flavored with cinnamon and lemon. This year I opted to bake King Cake cupcakes flavored with nutmeg and lemon. The slightly different flavors had nothing to do with my choice, but the lack of a sweet yeast dough did. The cupcakes offered the path of least resistance.
I got the idea from a recipe that came through in a King Arthur Flour email. They offer readers a great blog post complete with step-by-step photos of baking and decorating as well as a mention of Fiori di Sicilia. Huh?
I have never baked with it, but from what I understand, Fiori di Sicilia (Flowers of Sicily) is a flavor extract that combines vanilla, citrus and floral flavors and aromas. A descriptor I frequently found accompanying it was “creamsicle.” Sounds delicious. Has anyone else used this in their baking?
Since I did not have any Fiori di Sicilia, and since I was willing to bet the majority of people who want to bake these cupcakes would not have it either, I improvised. I used what I had in the form of vanilla and lemon extracts,and the cupcakes turned out just as delicious as I expected. Orange extract would be a fine substitute as well. As for the spices, if you are not a nutmeg fan, simply swap out the nutmeg with cinnamon instead.
In my post last year, I wrote a bit about King Cake history. This year, I wondered about the colors. From the official Mardi Gras website I learned purple represents justice, green faith and gold power. The King of Carnival, Rex, both selected the colors and assigned their meanings in 1892. On to another tradition. That baby.
It is easy to keep up with the tradition that whoever gets the piece of King Cake with the baby baked inside makes the cake next year. Simply bake the plastic baby into one of the cupcakes. King Arthur Flour suggested using a chocolate kiss or similar candy in place of a plastic baby since, like Fiori di Sicilia, most of us probably do not have bite-size plastic babies hanging around with our baking supplies. But if you do, get to baking.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
- For the Cupcakes
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1⅔ cups all-purpose flour
- 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- ⅔ cup milk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
- 2 large eggs
- For the Icing
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 4-ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
- purple, yellow, and green colored sugars
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.
- Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed until the mixture looks grainy like sand.
- Add the milk and flavor extracts and increase the mixer to medium speed.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each egg until fully incorporated.
- Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl as needed to ensure the ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter. Mix just until the batter becomes smooth.
- Scoop the batter into paper liners sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and placed into the wells of a muffin tin. The batter should fill the papers about ¾ of the way.
- Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cupcakes are light golden brown around their edges and they spring back when pressed gently on top.
- While the cupcakes cool, prepare the icing.
- Beat the butter, cream cheese and flavor extracts in a medium-sized bowl until light and fluffy.
- Continue to beat while gradually adding the confectioners' sugar.
- Add milk as needed to create a spreadable consistency.
- Spread each cooled cupcake with icing, then immediately decorate with the colored sparkling sugars.