Earth Cupcakes

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My second, and final, entry into the solar system cupcake contest is one dozen Earth cupcakes.

A section of our beautiful home planet is represented in cupcake form. This edible Earth is a brown sugar cupcake, filled with two layers – a layer of chocolate ganache to represent Earth’s solid rocky core and a layer of caramel cream to represent Earth’s molten core. The cupcake is then coated in a layer of chocolate ganche to represent Earth’s crust. On top of the “crust” on half of the cupcakes is a layer of ocean blue-tinted vanilla frosting to resemble Earth’s oceans. The other half of the cupcakes have been frosted in caramel cream and sprinkled with finely ground golden Oreos and green sprinkles to resemble Earth’s land and vegetation. The mountains, as well as the volcano, have been structured with the caramel cream and coated in regular chocolate Oreos and the snowcaps are made from melted white chocolate; a few orange sprinkles sit inside the volcano to resemble molten lava. Marshmallows have been hand-formed to resemble clouds hanging above this section of Earth.

Recipes:

Brown Sugar Cupcakes
Makes 12-16

Ingredients
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds after each.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Measure out milk and vanilla together.

Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine. Add about one third the milk/vanilla mixture and beat until combined. Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.

Bake for 20-22 minutes until golden and the cake springs back when lightly touched.

Chocolate ganache
Makes enough to fill and frost 16 cupcakes with a thin layer

Ingredients
4 oz semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
4 oz heavy whipping cream

Method
Place chocolate and cream into a saucepan and heat on low heat. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and the chocolate and cream are fully combined. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature for 2 hours or until a spreadable consistency.

Fill the cupcakes by cutting a cone shape out of the top of the cupcake, and place a small amount (1/4 tsp, approx.) of ganache inside.

Caramel cream
Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
Pinch of coarse salt
2 cups heavy cream

Method
Prepare an ice bath; set aside. Cook sugar, water, and salt in saucepan over medium heat, stirring once, until sugar is dissolved. Continue cooking, without stirring, until sugar turns golden amber. Remove pan from heat; slowly pour cream down sides of pan in a slow, steady stream (it will spatter). Return pan to medium heat, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.

Transfer caramel cream to a mixing bowl set in ice bath; let sit until very cold, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Mixture can be refrigerated overnight. Before serving, whip the caramel cream until stiff peaks form. Use immediately.

Place a small amount (1/4 tsp approx.) on top of chocolate ganache layer inside of cupcake, then place the top of the cone shape back on top of the cupcake. Use the rest of the cream to frost the “land” cupcakes and sculpt mountains.

Vanilla whipped frosting
Makes enough to generously frost about 16 cupcakes

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method
Put cream, sugar, and vanilla into the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until medium peaks form. Use blue food coloring to turn the frosting an ocean-blue color and use a knife to kick up some waves.

Notes
*Use golden Oreos and chocolate Oreos with the cream fillings removed to sprinkle the “land” cupcakes – simply place them in a food processor until finely ground, or place them into a strong ziploc bag and roll a rolling pin over the bag until the cookies are finely ground.

*Use green sprinkles to resemble vegetation on the “land” cupcakes and a few blue sprinkles on the “ocean” cupcakes.

*For white chocolate mountain snowcaps, simply melt a couple squares of white chocolate for 20-30 seconds in a microwave, then use a spoon to place a small amount on the mountaintops.

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