This is why I will never be hired by tabloid news show TMZ:
Believe it or not, that is a photo of reigning pop queen Rihanna. She was staying at my hotel during a recent trip to New York, and she was on her way out to what was likely a super-glamorous star-studded affair. In my rush to snap a photo, this was the best that I could do.
Not exactly a photo that will earn me six figures (let alone six cents) from In Touch, now is it?
How was I clued in to the fact that Ri-Ri would be making an appearance? Take a gander outside of the hotel:
Again, another stellar shot.
Paparazzi central. They were camped out for hours in hopes of catching even the smallest glimpse of the diva, and they were audibly disappointed when I, in all of my post-cross-country-flight unfabulousness, stepped out of the hotel lobby earlier that afternoon.
**Collective sigh. Cameras lowered. I think that someone might have even said "Oh, that's nobody."**
Right. Like I'm going to let the opinion of someone who chronicles Lindsay Lohan's every move for a living put a damper on my day (it did sting a little.)
Fortunately, when I arrived back at the hotel, I learned that somebody out there thought that I wasn't a nobody. At least, I was enough of a somebody to receive complimentary cupcakes and a glass carafe of ice cold whole milk from Straus Creamery.
Now, if that's not the best damn hotel amenity ever, then I don't know what is. Some occasions just call for whole milk from a glass bottle, and free cupcakes is one such occasion. Also, I'm not sure if you are aware of this fact, but free cupcakes eaten in a hotel room do not have any calories. True story.
I've heard rumblings here and there among the culinary community that cupcakes are on their way out. I know that you've heard them too.
I mean, sure, there might be a few too many cupcakeries out there. I don't know if one shop for every five residents is truly necessary, but if business is booming, then who am I to judge? Just because something has become a trend does not mean that, at a certain point, elitist foodies need to declare said trend as being "out" or "over" (with the exception of cake pops -- I'm not really a fan, and I don't quite understand the draw.)
Cupcakes make people happy. They are cute, portable, and unlike a cake, it's OK if you eat the whole thing. There are limitless flavor inspirations and combinations which can be translated into a cupcake, and I love trying out new ideas.
Case in point: Blueberry Lemon Tres Leches Cupcakes
Tres Leches Cake is one recipe that I have never attempted to make, but it has been on my culinary bucket list. I thought that it would be interesting to translate the Tres Leches concept into a cupcake. But not just a plain ol' cupcake. A blueberry lemon cupcake (I'm still trying to use up all of those Meyer lemons from my back yard.) Most Tres Leches Cakes have a sweetened whipped cream frosting, but I thought a toasted meringue version for the cupcakes would be even better. Plus, I love any excuse to whip out my kitchen torch.
These cupcakes are super-moist, thanks to the sweet and creamy soaking liquid, and they are guaranteed to make any old non-Rihanna feel like a "somebody."
Here are my extra tips for making these sweet and toasty treats:
- The lemon flavor provided by the zest is not extremely tart. If you would like more of a tart flavor, I suggest soaking the cupcakes with a lemon juice simply syrup before you soak them with the milk mixture.
- These cupcakes are best served soon after they are frosted, as meringue frosting does not hold up well for long periods of time. You can keep the unfrosted cupcakes chilled for up to two days and frost them just before serving.
- If you don't own a kitchen torch you can serve the meringue frosting untoasted. You could also frost the cupcakes with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Blueberry Lemon Tres Leches Cupcakes with Toasted Meringue Frosting
Makes 16-18 cupcakes
6 large eggs, separated
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
3 tablespoons lemon zest
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon rum or vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
12 ounces evaporated milk
3/4 cup whole milk
For the frosting
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Spray two 12-cup muffin tins with nonstick baking spray or fill them with paper liners.
In the bowl of an electic mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and butter; beat for 2 minutes more. Beat in the rum or vanilla.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt, then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredient, mixing until just combined.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter until thoroughly incorporated. Carefully stir in the blueberries (try to avoid breaking them up and turning the batter blue!)
Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling them about halfway full. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until the cupcakes are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean.
While the cupcakes are baking, whisk together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk.
Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tins for a few minutes, then carefully transfer them to a wire rack placed over a baking sheet. With a serrated knife, cut 1/4-1/2 inch off the top of each cupcake, so that the top is fairly flat. Using a tablespoon, pour the milk mixture over the top of the cupcakes, one at a time, allowing the milks to soak in before adding more. Try to get about 2-3 tablespoons per cupcake.
Place the cupcakes on a plate or in a pan, cover, and chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Prepare the frosting: Combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a heat-proof bowl and place it over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture constantly until it is very warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved. Immediately transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat at medium-high speed until the mixture has cooled and stiff peaks form.
Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a large tip, and pipe the meringue onto the chilled cupcakes. Optional: Using a kitchen torch, toast the meringue frosting. Serve as soon as possible!