It’s kind of weird.
Or maybe it’s just rare. Yes, we’re going to go with the more PC term and say that I am of a rare breed. Hm. As if we didn’t already know that.
So here it is, full disclosure: I’m not that into bacon. I mean, I like bacon. Don’t get me wrong. It’s alright. I eat it on occasion and I appreciate it as part of a weekend breakfast, nestled right next to some pancakes, or even cold and on a BLT (though I always find the BLT to be missing…something; I’m always a little hungry at the end).
I’m sure there are those among you who are aghast at this statement. Bacon, even I can admit, is a bit of classic, and has been enjoying a particularly high level of attention these days. Some might say to the point of being overdone. But I don’t know. I get the whole salty/sweet combo that is all the rage and we certainly know that I’ll go to extremes for things like, say, salted caramel. Nonetheless, I was invited to a party that was very seductively entitled, “BaconFest.”
And even though I’m not that into bacon, I am into cupcakes and I’m definitely into experimenting with different techniques and new recipes. And anyway, I figure, when else are you going to get the opportunity to make maple bacon cupcakes without seeming a bit…decadent? (well really, has it ever stopped me from making something yet?) And BaconFest seems like the right moment.
I did some research and found most recipes out there to be a bit disappointing. I wanted the cupcake to incorporate maple and I also wanted to incorporate the bacon inside the cake batter. In fact, I was surprised at how many recipes didn’t actually use bacon in them at all. Most of them were some sort of pancake cake, with bacon simply used as garnish...which, well, kind of feels like a cop out, doesn’t it?
After a quick google search, I saw that one of the original maple bacon cupcakes (which, by the way, incorporates bacon in the batter) was dreamed up by none other than Sactown’s very own Vanilla Garlic. Unfortunately, his recipe was too small and I was taking them to a party. Luckily, I found a very similar recipe from broma bakery that ticked a lot of the boxes: maple frosting, bacon within the actual batter recipe and enough to feed more than just me and a friend. Success!
So I whipped them up. You know, like you do.
Truth be told, these cupcakes are a bit savory for my liking. In my dream maple bacon cupcake world, the batter is sweeter with sharp bites of bacon throughout to hit you with some smoky, saltiness. I would have cut out the extra salt in the recipe and while the original recipe calls for milk, I substituted for buttermilk that I had on hand, which may have lent to the savory bent. Additionally, I would consider adding slightly less confectioners’ sugar to the frosting and a little bit of milk (or maybe even more maple syrup) to loosen it up a bit for piping. Finally, I cooked the bacon in the oven using Ina Garten’s technique (though I only maple glazed the garnish bacon) and found that it made the bacon the perfect texture to crumble.
All in all a beautiful cupcake (do you like my rose piping technique??), but with all the pricey extras: the maple syrup and an entire package of bacon to start, just a little extravagant for your average, everyday cupcake needs. (What, you don’t have everyday cupcake needs?)
Maple Bacon Cupcakes (slightly adapted from broma bakery)
For the cupcakes:
12 strips high-quality uncured bacon, and reserve 1/2 cup bacon drippings
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup maple syrup (real maple syrup, not imitation)
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
First, cook the bacon, either in the oven or a frying pan, until very crispy and brown. Reserve all the cooking liquid and allow to cool (I poured it directly from the sheet pan into a heat proof measuring cup. Be sure to save it all, as I had exactly the right amount of drippings). Allow bacon to cool, then, using scissors, cut 7 of the strips into small bits, about the size of small peas (I cut the strips in half, then snipped them up from there). Cut the remaining 5 strips into quarters (these will go on the top of the cupcakes). Set everything aside.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, cream the butter, solidified bacon drippings, sugar, and maple syrup. Then add the eggs, one at a time and the milk. The texture will look clumpy/separated this is normal, don’t worry. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in thirds. Do not over mix. Finally, using a spatula, fold in the reserved bacon bits.
Pour the batter into lined cupcake molds. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (The original recipe calls for 30 minutes. Mine were completely done when I checked them at 20 minutes).
While the cupcakes are baking, make the frosting. Cream the butter, and then add the vanilla and maple syrup. Lastly add in the confectioner's sugar. Mix until combined on low speed. If you are piping, you don’t want air bubbles!
Once the cupcakes are cooled, frost using a 1M (or 2D) frosting tip to create a rose or swirl. Or, use a knife/off-set spatula and garnish with the bacon pieces.