How NOT to Make Maple Buttercream

Apparently there’s a big football game on today. Perhaps that makes it a bit cliché that today is the day I chose to make a more masculine dessert. Well, a dessert with bacon in it. Perhaps it’s also cliché to assert that bacon is manly. And perhaps I’d be digging myself into a hole if I told you I chose to capitalize on my recent cupcake obsession to make the “manliest” cupcake on the planet.

Maybe I should mention that a co-worker, upon recently discovering I keep a food blog approached me with a desperate, almost feral look in her eyes–a look that only an affinity for bacon can produce–and begged me to make maple bacon cupcakes. And so such is the subject of today’s post.

Lest your brow crinkle in confusion at the mere suggestion of adding bacon to a dessert, answer me this: have you ever been so fortunate as to enjoy chocolate chip pancakes with maple syrup and a side of bacon? It’s really not so unusual a flavor combination, and its transformation into a dessert is really a simple evolution away.

I did do a bit of research on this one before settling on a recipe. My co-worker complained that she had tried to make these before but wasn’t as satisfied with them as she was with the memory of a similar cupcake she had once enjoyed at a farmer’s market. In other words, I had some big expectations to fill.

Maple Bacon Cupcakes (adapted from Vanilla Garlic’s recipe here)
Yum Factor: Alex – 5, Jessalyn 6

– 7 thick strips good quality bacon
1. Cut bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet over medium-low heat to help render out the fat. When the pieces are just about done, carefully drain the bacon and set aside on paper towels. Carefully pour the drippings into a clean glass jar and place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to set.

– 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
– 1-2 tablespoons of above bacon solids
– 2 eggs
– 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
– 1/2 cup maple syrup
2. Beat the butter and lard together until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until combined. Add the sugar and maple syrup and continue to mix until combined.

– 2.5 cups “self-rising” flour (Note: Vanilla Garlic’s recipe calls for self-rising flour. I made my own by combining 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1.5 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt for each cup of self-rising flour. However, in the future, I might just substitute cake flour instead of self-rising flour to hopefully result in a lighter texture cake. As it is, the texture of these cupcakes turned out more like muffins–which makes us wonder: is it breakfast? Is it dessert?)
2 teaspoons baking soda

– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– additional pinch of salt
– 1/2 cup buttermilk
3. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add to the sugar/egg mixture alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (i.e., dry/buttermilk/dry/buttermilk/dry) and mix just until combined.

– 1/2 cup minced cooked bacon from step 1
4. Fold in the chopped bacon (and a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, if desired). Scoop into prepared muffin tins and bake at 350F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

After I had let the cupcakes muffins cupcakes cool, I tasted one to help me determine a) how maple-y it already was, and b) whether maple frosting would be the best choice. I had also been thinking about the possibilities of a brown sugar buttercream as well as a chocolate-cinnamon buttercream. In the end, I decided I would try for a brown sugar-cinnamon Swiss buttercream and a maple buttercream.

Here’s a low-quality, time lapse video of me (mostly headless) putting together the brown sugar-cinnamon buttercream. Honestly, watching someone make frosting is a bit like watching paint dry, but I wanted to post this because remember one of my blog’s New Year’s resolutions was to include more multimedia, including video, and this represents my first video editing effort on It Started with Yum. I will tell you that something pretty entertaining happens once I zoom in on the stand mixer. Let the still photo below serve as a portent:

Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Buttercream (adapted from Martha Stewart, but it’s really just a Swiss Buttercream)
Yum Factor: Alex – 8, Jessalyn – 8

– 1.5 sticks European-style unsalted butter (about 84% butterfat)
1. Bring the butter to room temperature.

– 2 egg whites
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
– pinch of salt
2. Whisk gently over a pot of simmering water for 10-15 minutes. You’ll know when the mixture is done when it’s hot to the touch and the egg whites have started to thicken slightly.

3. Pour into the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk until it holds stiff peaks.

4. With the mixer running with the paddle attachment, add 1.5 sticks of butter, a tablespoon or two at a time. It will seem to deflate or separate slightly, but let it keep beating until smooth.

This frosting turned out delicious and pairs nicely with the salty savory bacon. But, because my co-worker had requested maple frosting, I attempted to use the same formula to make maple buttercream, replacing the 1/2 cup brown sugar with 1/2 cup maple syrup.

It looked promising at first, but something happened and it just wouldn’t come together after I started adding the butter. I was disappointed, certainly, but at least one frosting turned out beautifully.

I know that Swiss buttercream tends to seize up a little bit once you start adding butter. But this sucker was mixing for well over 10 minutes and only seemed to be separating worse. So I abandoned it and continued frosting with my brown sugar concoction.

So what do you think? How might you enjoy bacon in a dessert? Is a bacon-laden dessert inherently masculine? What are you eating this evening as you watch the culmination of that American male-dominated sport and cheer for your favorite team commercial?


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