A.'s cousin had a birthday party over the 4th of July weekend, and since I was told that his favorite dessert was a Napoleon, I got to thinking. I was originally planning on constructing a regular Napoleon with a few sheets of puff pastry and fondant on top; but then I thought, why bother with that when I can make things even more difficult by creating individual Napoleon cupcakes?? ;)
With that inspiration in mind, I searched around for that specific recipe, but couldn't find exactly what I was seeking. I did, however, find tons of resources that I used to create the end product. The cupcakes turned out to be very sweet and sugary, just like a good Napoleon should be :) I think they could have used more pastry cream, but other than that, they were just what I wanted to create. Everyone at the party loved 'em :)
makes around 30 (depending on how many cupcakes you get out of your base recipe)
-Filling the cupcakes
-Decorating with fondant and melted chocolate
CUPCAKES: For the cupcake base, I used Billy's Vanilla recipe. I really love this recipe. At first it seemed weird to put the butter into the dry ingredients without creaming it first, but it's been great each time I've used it -- the cupcakes come out very light and moist with a domed top. I still get a little scared when there are lumps of butter in my batter, but it always turns out OK.
If there is one thing I would suggest, it is that the poured fondant would be much easier to work with if the cupcakes were flat on top rather than domed. (Those Nut & Party cups would also be a great option here.) The dome looks nice, but it's a bitch to get the fondant to stop dripping down the sides. Just something to consider when choosing your cake recipe :)
PASTRY CREAM: I used Dorie's recipe for pastry cream from Baking (surprise, surprise). The cupcakes probably only needed a half-recipe to fill them all.
There are a lot of good pastry cream recipes around; if I didn't have Dorie's book already lying open on my counter, I might have used the one here, which is also from a Dorie book and probably the same thing.
POURED FONDANT: Grazie mille to Joe Pastry for his awesome picture tutorial on poured fondant! I had to make the first part of the fondant twice, because I misread the temperature and ended up heating the sugar to 258 degrees (hard ball -- BAD!) instead of 238 degrees (soft ball -- GOOD!). The second time around, it worked right and I refrigerated it overnight.
Of course, if you don't want to go through all of that trouble with the food processor, you can use Wilton's "Quick Pour" recipe using confectioner's sugar. (You still have to heat it up, but you don't have to go through the food processor step. Not sure what the results are like, since I didn't test it out -- I imagine there wouldn't be the same crystalline texture of the other fondant.) Alternatively, you could try a powdered fondant mix, sold at baking supply stores.
FILLING THE CUPCAKES: The best method for filling these cupcakes is to use a pastry bag. Since the cupcakes are dipped into fondant later on, this method keeps the top of the cupcake intact for dipping. You can fit it with a "cupcake filling" tip, like I've done, or try a star tip. Fill the bag with the pastry cream and just squeeze some out into the cupcake. A. made me weigh one of the cupcakes before and after filling -- there turned out to be 12g of filling inside.
DECORATING: I found an awesome tutorial on how to cover cupcakes with poured fondant here, which I attempted to follow. My fondant was extremely drippy, especially at the beginning -- I guess it was a little too thin. I ended up dipping each cupcake twice, and you could still see the cupcake slightly through the fondant. It was kind of a frustrating process, but towards the end it did get easier.
Before applying the fondant, brush on a layer of melted jam, which helps to even out the surface of the cake and help the fondant to stick. I used apricot jam, since it has a mild flavor (and it seems to be what everyone uses). I didn't taste the jam in the end product.
Once the jam is cool, heat the fondant in a double boiler and thin with a little simple syrup or water. (Refer back to the fondant tutorial for pics.) The consistency should be fairly viscous but still workable. I don't have much experience with it, obviously, so all I can say is that it is trial-and-error to get the right consistency. According to the tutorial, "If it gets too thick you will have difficulty to dip the cupcake properly, and if it is too thin it will look transparent on the cupcake."
For the chocolate decoration, I just melted some chocolate chips and put them in a small plastic bag with a tiny hole cut out of the corner. They stayed pretty much melted the whole time (one good thing about my warm apartment!) and I just had to microwave them for a few seconds towards the end. (You could also take part of the fondant, flavor it with chocolate and put it in the piping bag to decorate. I am not that much of a masochist.)
Dip a cupcake into the bowl of fondant. To minimize drips, hold the cupcake above the fondant for a bit so that the excess drips back into the bowl. Let it sit for a minute so the fondant begins to set. If you want, dip it a second time to get a thicker layer of fondant. Pipe three lines of chocolate on top, and then take a toothpick and drag it across the lines of chocolate so it creates a point in each line. Then, move the toothpick to the middle of the cupcake and drag the toothpick in the other direction across the lines. Finally, move the toothpick to the other side and drag once again in the first direction. This will create the signature Napoleon curly-bracket decoration.
--end of recipe--
Not the simplest of recipes, but I enjoyed making them and working with pastry cream and fondant for the first time (...and I'm sure it won't be the last!)