B: Butter Lane Cupcake Class
This past weekend I basically spent my time trekking back and forth between Jersey and NYC. One morning it was for a fabulous brunch (Can you say unlimited mimosas? Oh yeah!) and the next afternoon I took a Cupcake Class with my friend Selvi at the utterly mouthwatering Butter Lane cupcake shop in Alphabet City.
We started out by making the icing for the Butter Lane cupcakes our instructor, a wonderful woman named Tracy, had premade for us. Selvi and I chose the chocolate icing station, but vanilla and cream cheese were options, as well. After adding a LOT of butter (a pound and a half!!!) and cream cheese (it cuts down the sweetness of the sugar and stops the icing from becoming crystallized the next day), we added confectioner’s sugar, melted chocolate, and vanilla extract until the icing’s consistency changed. It became fluffy and light, almost marshmallow looking. It was quite tasty, but the best part of making the icing was Tracy’s tips as she went around to the different stations.
While working with the vanilla icing group, Tracy introduced us to fresh vanilla pods and all the awesome things you can do with them. Not only will adding the seeds to the icing mix (or other vanilla things you cook) make the flavor really pop, but you can use the pod to make infusions. If you put vanilla pod into whiskey, bourbon, or vodka and let it sit for six months, you get vanilla-infused alcohol. Put a pod into seltzer water over night, and in the morning you have home-made cream soda! I cannot wait to get some vanilla pod and experiment in my kitchen. The pods can be found at Whole Foods, but you can buy them in bulk online (if you plan to use them a lot), which brings the cost down.
Another little tip I learned: You can never mix icing too much! So don’t worry, make sure it’s blended. When it comes to the cupcakes, though, you definitely need to make sure that you keep the mixing to a minimum. Once the flour has been added to your batter, mix just to blend and then chill it out or your cupcakes will suck.
After we finished our icing, the class convened at a big table and we learned how to ice cupcakes the Butter Lane way. Every student received four cupcakes and could have vanilla, chocolate, or banana. Tracy mixed a couple of additional flavors from the portions we made. She added cinnamon to some of the cream cheese icing and peanut butter to the chocolate icing (my FAVORITE!). Another tip: Fold the cinnamon into the batter (same goes for cocoa powder) because if you inhale the powder you can get sick. If you’ve seen the Cinnamon Challenge on YouTube, you get the idea.
Proper Butter Lane icing technique requires you to hold the cupcake from the bottom (not the side) with your less dominant hand. For example, I’m a righty, so I held the cupcake in my left hand. You scoop the icing onto your spatula and wipe it into the bowl and put it back on as necessary so that it’s almost in a ball shape. Then put the icing ball on the cupcake (more is better) and PAT the icing down as you turn the cupcake. We also learned how to make the signature Butter Lane swirl, but it’s just too complicated for me to explain. And complicated it is–it took their executive pastry chef two weeks to perfect the technique.
The Butter Lane class was only an hour, but it was worth it. I picked up some awesome practical baking tips that I can use at home, learned some new techniques, and had a lot of fun!