Pistachio Cupcakes with Pink Champagne Frosting

My new boss is crazy about her birthday. One birthday celebration lasts until the next birthday. That kind of partying calls for the fanciest of cupcakes, especially when the birthday girl loves cake as much as I do.

I know she loves her birthday, and I know she loves cake. But there was one small problem: I wasn’t sure what kind of cake. With aspirations of fanciness, I couldn’t settle for just chocolate. So, through Facebook, I sent her boyfriend on a covert op to find out, and he reported back the results: pistachio.

I found a lot of easy recipes for pistachio cupcakes, using white cake mix and pistachio pudding. That might cut it for some, but where’s the fun in that? I was raised to bake from scratch, and this festive occasion was certainly no exception. I want to bake pistachio cupcakes from scratch.

Some made-from-scratch recipes for pistachio cupcakes use pistachio extract or pistachio oil, and I don’t even know where to find those. I was considering substitutions until I finally tracked down this recipe that incorporates ground pistachios and almond extract, which tastes nutty just the same.

So, Pistachio Cupcake Recipe from Scratch, here we go. The directions for baking these cupcakes start from the top down, with this recipe for Pink Champagne Frosting, which I found paired with pistachio cupcakes here.

I recommend starting the frosting before you start making the cupcakes. The very first task is simmering 1/2 cup of champagne to reduce it to a couple tablespoons, making your champagne extract. I used Dibon Brut, but a rose would probably be nice. There, you have homemade champagne extract to sub into the frosting recipe, ’cause I dunno where you’d find that in a store.
how to make champagne exxtract for pink champagne frosting

 

 

But wait — you’ve just popped a bottle of champagne only to use half a cup, and you know it won’t keep. What to do? This is actually smart planning by the baker, because this way you can sip some bubbly while you bake. You also need to cook then chill the first few frosting ingredients, so you can work on the cupcakes while the frosting cools and you throw back a few.
Here’s the full recipe for Pink Champagne Frosting (of course, you can make it any color you want.)

Champagne Frosting Recipe:

  • 2 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup half + half
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons champagne extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla

In a saucepan, whisk half + half, extracts and flour until the lumps disappear. (Instead of half + half, I mixed heavy whipping cream and 2% milk after teaching myself the substitutionality of dairy.) Then, heat the saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly until it boils. Keep whisking and cooking until it thickens. Remove from heat and stick in fridge.

I recommend making the cupcakes now while this cools. We’ll come back to the rest of the frosting directions at the end.

Now, for the cupcakes, the first step is to ground the pistachios, which I bought shelled to save some work. As you can see, my method for grounding nuts is the same way I crush ice: with a Ziploc bag and a hammer. Good aggression release, too. If you don’t need to release any aggression, you could always buy ground pistachios to start with, but I like having extra pistachios, extra coarsely ground, to top the cupcakes.
Tackle the rest of your baking prep work now, too: heat the oven to 350 and line cupcake tins with adorable papers, like these from Paula Deen (and she’d be proud, because together, these two recipes use almost a whole box of butter.)
a balanced diet is a cupcake in each hand paula deen cupcake liner
You’ll have several different bowls going to stir up your ingredients for pistachio cupcakes, so clear some space. Here’s a list of all the ingredients you’ll need to make room for:
Pistachio Cupcake Recipe from Scratch:
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup ground pistachios
The first bowl is for dry ingredients. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into this one.
flour salt dry ingredients for baking pistachio cupcakes from scratch
In bowl No. 2, whisk milk and egg whites. Of course, I only use free range, hormone-free brown eggs (right from the coop when I can) and milk just as fresh, local and natural in jugs I can return to be refilled. Keep that in bowl #2.
eggs and milk baking pistachio cupcake recipe
 Now get bowl No. 3 (the dirty dishes are stacking up in your mind,  I know, but it’s worth it),
beat the sugar and butter for about 3 minutes, till creamy.
pistachio cupcake ingredients
Beat the ground nuts and almond extract into this bowl with the sugar and butter.
pistachio cupcake nut
Now, you alternate ingredients from the three bowls you’ve collected. Into a fourth and final bowl, beat in a third of the dry ingredients, then beat in a third of the milk mixture, then a third of the nutty butter, and so on, until it’s all mixed together. Keep beating for a couple minutes to make sure it’s good and blended.
Spoon the batter into your prepared cupcake tins, between 1/2 and 2/3 full. Pop into your heated oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cupcakes are springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let them cool while you finish whipping up your cooled frosting.
Start by beating the butter and sugar 5-7 minutes until it’s fluffy and glossy. Take your cooled mixture from the fridge and add it to this. Beat 5 minutes. Add color, if you want, and frost. I added red and blue food coloring to make the frosting purple, my boss’s favorite color. Because this is such fluffy frosting, I packed it into a Ziploc bag, nipped the tip, and used that to pipe the frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes.
To finish, I ground some extra pistachios to sprinkle on top. The green and purple look really springy, great for an early April birthday.
Ta-da: Purple Pistachio Party Cakes.
pistachio cupcakes with pink champange frosting from scratch
So, you’re dying to know: What did she think? She was speechless. But maybe that was because her boyfriend orchestrated her birthday, down to the flavor of the cupcakes, all the way from Afghanistan. When it came down to the cupcakes, though, her reaction was simply one word: Perfect. She snapped this delicious picture of her Purple Pistachio Birthday Cupcake, before swiftly devouring it.pistachio cupcake recipe from scratch with pink champagne frosting

Christmas Cookies: The Rest

After several trips to the grocery store to supplement decreasing supply and a baking flurry that filled all the flat surfaces in my small kitchen, my Christmas baking is done.

At least for now.

The grand total was well over 100 cookies. Here’s the run down:

1. Aunt Leora’s cut-out cookies

3. Rolo Cookies (New recipe this year, made of very simple dough wrapped around a Rolo candy, which melts into a caramel filling.)
4. Rolo Candies (since I already had the Rolos and pecans. Note: Make tons more of these next year, because no one can have just one.)
5. Peppermint Shortbread Cookies (another new recipe – not as sweet or gooey as I like my cookies to be, but you can’t knock peppermint, especially this time of year.)
And when their forces combine…
Merry Christmas to all! May the food only comprise part of the memories you make this holiday season.

Christmas Cookies: Round 1

It started with Great Aunt Leora’s recipe for Cut-Out Cookies. Next, Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies from the old church cookbook — possibly my favorite cookie of all time. And one batch just didn’t seem like enough, so I made a second.

If you ask me nicely, maybe I’ll add the recipe. Maybe. For now, here are the pictures to get your attention.

Here’s what they look like out of the oven:

And the finished product:

OK, so I gave away part of the secret. You would never know by looking at these gorgeous cookies that there’s a marshmallow hidden aside…well, aside from the name of the cookie. If you didn’t know what it was called and you were just looking at it, you would never know there was a marshmallow inside.

And the best news: I’ve only eaten one.

So far.