This past weekend I celebrated my 39th birthday. 39....a number that doesn't scare me or depress me, but rather baffles me. How? When? Wasn't I just 26 yesterday? I wonder where all the years have gone and think back to when my parents were 39 - I remember that time vividly. Am I really as grown-up now as they were then? Wow...I guess so? I have a home, a family and responsibilities so I guess that means I've been a grown-up for some time now. But...39? I guess the best part about turning 39 is not feeling 39! I feel happier and healthier than I ever have in my life before! Part of that is due to me trying to find inner peace and life and in parenting (that's a biggie). I attribute the other part to my dedication to fitness and exercise. I've always enjoyed exercising, but in my younger days I felt like it was a chore...something to check off of my To Do list. The last few years I've embraced exercise (especially running) as a way to have some time to myself or time with friends. A time to really push my body to its limits and a little bit farther. A time to work on achieving goals I could only dream about a decade ago. With all that being said, I'm working on a Birthday Resolution of sorts - I'm trying to stop worrying about the number on my scale and start paying attention to how good and strong my body feels when I treat it right! I plan to hit 40 happier and healthier than I hit 39!!
BUT, before we do all that....LET'S EAT SOME CUPCAKES!! I, unapologetically, decided to bake myself cupcakes for my birthday again this year since I enjoyed last year's cupcakes so much. I had no plans on a party or a small gathering, I just wanted to enjoy baking my own birthday (cup)cake and eating more cupcakes than I want or need. I looked through lots of blogs and cookbooks trying to find this year's perfect cupcake. I ended up settling on this Almond Cloud Cupcake I had at a cooking class I took many years ago at Crate Cooking School. This was the perfect choice because it is a rather simple recipe - ie, I had most of the ingredients on hand and would be enjoying cupcake satisfaction in a very short amount of time. The cake itself is light and airy with a hint of almond flavor - the almond flavor really comes through in the icing. I decided to top it off with some toasted, slivered almonds which gives the perfect amount of crunch.
Almond Cloud Cupcakes
Makes about 24 cupcakes
For the cupcakes
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups 2% milk
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
5 egg whites
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line 2 standard cupcake pans with liners. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, butter and almond extract. Beat on low sped for about 30 seconds to combine. Adjust the speed to medium-high and beat another 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add egg whites and beat on medium-high for another 2 minutes.
Scoop the batter into the prepared liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in pans for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the Almond Buttercream
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (I prefer Plugra, European butter)
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 tablespoons cold water
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream the butter for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 cups of confectioner's sugar and mix on low until well combined. Add almond extract and water, mixing for about 30 seconds. Add the remaining 2 cups of confectioner's sugar and mix until just incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes.
Transfer buttercream to a pastry bag fitted with a wide tip and frost cupcakes. Top with toasted, slivered almonds, if desired.
Barely adapted from Crate Cooking School
Pittsburgh area mom striving to provide clean, healthy, REAL food for her family!