Stem Fest 2012 (AKA TulipTime)

Today, in honor of my Holland's Tulip Time, I give you - Tulip Cupcakes.  The base white cake is from an old recipe for White Buttermilk Cake.  This is the first time I'd ever come across a buttermilk cake recipe that wasn't chocolate.  And it's just fabulous - soft and pillowy.  On top is an American Buttercream - mostly because it was easily tintable to dramatic shades, with a Royal Icing center.
Read on, MacDuff.
I can't call Holland, Michigan my hometown.  But it's not far away, and - without any intention to - we seem to end up wandering down for the TulipTime festival every Spring.  The problem with a Tulip festival in Michigan is that the tulips don't always cooperate.  And, this year, the unseasonably warm snap of weather in March brought them out much too early.  Which means that by the time of the festival, the only tulips blooming were on my daughters' coats:

Scouring the downtown area did finally reveal a few remaining blossoms, doggedly holding on
But there's lots of other fun to be had.  As with most festivals, there are the ubiquitous food trucks everywhere.  Unlike most other places, you can actually buy olliebollen (Dutch fried doughnuts) at them - choosing your topping.
Grab one and go watch the Dutch dancers.

This is one of the few places you'll see Dutch dance these days.  A friend of mine from the Netherlands visited Holland, Michigan at one point.  She commented that traditional dance isn't much seen there anymore - there's been a stigma about any such cultural activities since World War II.  In fact, she'd never seen it herself until she came to the US.
Holland is a lovely city, and during the Festival the "cute" knob gets turned up to 11.  A lot of the residents dress their children in costume as well.  (Most of the adults in costume are part of the Festival staff for some reason...).  And, while I'm not local, I'm of Dutch descent myself and for me the city and it's heritage are as comfortable as an old shoe.  Maybe an old wooden shoe.

Notably, klompen (wooden shoes) are not allowed in the stores.  So the off-duty dancers leave them in front of the shops while they browse.  These two little darlings were just leaving the a cafe when I snapped their picture.  Next year, I definitely need to make outfits for mine.

However, I was still a little sad for the city that most of the tulips looked more like this:

So I decided to make some tulip cupcakes, in honor of the missing Star of the Show at this year's Tulip Time.

(Yeah, they should be on a Delft plate, but - believe it or not - I don't have one.)  By the way, if you need to make these dairy free as well as gluten free, just use shortening or dairy-free margarine for the butter, and 1 Tbsp vinegar + enough almond or soy milk to make 1 c. for the buttermilk.

White Buttermilk Cupcakes (ca. mid 1950's)

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 c. sugar
3 c. Fancy Flour Blend, other GF AP Flour, OR
1/2 c. millet flour
1/2 c. sweet rice flour
1 c. white rice flour
3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 c. buttermilk
4 egg whites, beaten until just foamy
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.
Comine flour, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum.  Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar.

Add about 1/4 of the flour mixture.  Blend until combined.  With mixer on low, add about 1/4 c. of buttermilk, again mixing until combined.  Continue alternating flour and buttermilk until all of both are integrated.

Add the egg whites, and beat on medium until all is smooth.
Portion into cupcake liners.  A 2 oz disher will give you a near perfect size, and nearly always 24 cupcakes.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool completely.


For the cupcake centers, I chose to make Royal Icing add ons, to represent the bold black portion in the bottom of a tulip blossom.  There are lots of recipes for Royal Icing, so go find your favorite.  I'm fond of the one by Callye of Sweet Sugar Belle.  Keep the consistency quite stiff, and tint the icing black.  Using a drop flower tip (the one that's shaped like a star, but has a metal rod in the center) pipe out 1" diameter "centers" for your tulips.  Let them dry thoroughly
Then, make a full recipe of American buttercream.  The one I usually use is below.  Again, if you want these to be GF and CF, use soy or almond milk and some dairy-free margarine.

1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
2 lbs powdered sugar
2-4 Tbsp milk
1 tsp almond extract

Cream together the butter and shortening.  Add about a cup of sugar.  Blend.  Add the almond extract and a tiny bit of the milk.  Continue alternating sugar and milk until all sugar is incorporated and the icing is a stiff, but pipable consistency.

Remove about 1 c. of icing and tint it green.  Place it in a piping bag with a large leaf tip, or just cut a parchment cone into a leaf tip shape.
Divide the remaining icing in half.  Tint half deep yellow, and the other half red.  Load a vinyl piping bag fitted with a large star tip with both colors of icing - placing one on each side of the bag.
Pipe a small star onto the center of each cupcake, and affix the centers.
Then pipe around each center with the red-and-yellow swirl icing.
Finally, use the leaf tip to pipe three large leaves around the edges of each cupcake.
So, even though this year was "Stem Fest"," you can still enjoy some tulips, wherever you are.

And next year, come visit Holland for Tulip Time.  We might even have tulips!


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