If you’re looking for a special cupcake which is as delicious as it looks then you’ve come to the right place! Allow me to introduce you to this scrumptious rhubarb and strawberry curd filled cupcake topped with a swirl of marshmallowy Italian meringue.
Seriously, if you’ve never tried rhubarb and strawberries together can I suggest you buy some this weekend and give it a try. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Italian meringue, which is cooked with the addition of a hot sugar syrup, needs a sugar thermometer. The one I’m loving at the moment is this silicone Thermospatula from Lakeland. Not only is it constructed as a spatula (though perhaps a little too rigid) which is great for moving ingredients around, for instance when tempering chocolate for these Hazelnut Noisette Chocolates, but it’s digital thermometer helps with accuracy and is perfect for making homemade fudge like this Coffee and Walnut Fudge or this Cherry and Almond Fudge.
The great thing about Italian meringue, other than being seriously marshmallowy and delicious, is that it doesn’t need to be baked in the oven. As mentioned already, the hot syrup cooks the egg whites for us, therefore making it safe for those in the community who may be vulnerable, like the elderly or those who may be convalescing. A quick flash with a cook’s blowtorch (or even a minute or two under the grill, like we did) provides a lovely toasted appearance which is very inviting.
Over the past couple of months I’ve been weighing the eggs for my Victoria sponge batters. It may sound as though I’m scratching my OCD itch a little too much by weighing them, but I’ve found I’ve been getting better results by doing so. As we know, Victoria sponge is made with equal quantities of the principal ingredients. Many recipes call for different sized eggs, and although we can buy varying sized eggs very easily from the supermarket these days, let’s face it there is still variation between say the large eggs. Plus as well most households will routinely buy their preferred sized each week rather than a half dozen of each size. By weighing the eggs first, you’re then able to weigh the sugar, butter and flour to the same value giving you the precise ratio!
Tips for Making Perfect Italian Meringue
As when making any meringue it is critically important that use a scrupulously clean bowl and beater. Any residue grease will inhibit the ability of the egg whites reaching their full volume when beaten.
Use a stand mixer if you have one. If using a handheld whisk place the bowl on a folded tea towel or damp cloth to prevent it moving when pouring in the sugar syrup.
The eggs need to be whisked to stiff peak before adding the sugar syrup. If you whisk them too far in advance the meringue will begin to collapse. So have everything ready before starting the sugar syrup. then when the sugar syrup has reached 110℃ / 230℉. you should have enough time to quickly whisk the egg white before the syrup reaches its final temperature of 121℃ / 249℉.
When measuring the temperature of the sugar syrup make sure the thermometer is not touching the base of the pan or you will get a false reading.
Take extreme care when whisking the sugar syrup into the egg whites AVOID POURING ONTO THE BEATERS AS THIS MAY CAUSE THE SYRUP TO SPLASH BACK AT YOU! which will give you a nasty burn.
Once all of the syrup has been poured onto the meringue increase the speed of the beaters and continue beating for at least 5 minutes when the temperature of the meringue will have cooled and the meringue will be very thick and glossy.
For piping, you will find it easier if you do not overfill the bag. Fill about half full and refill as required – You are much less likely to get into a sticky mess. To make filling the bag easier, stand in a large glass ( pint glass is perfect) and open the bag over the edge of the glass to hold it open.
So, here’s how to make Rhubarb & Strawberry Meringue Cupcakes!
Rhubarb & Strawberry Meringue Cupcakes
For the cupcakes
- 200 g butter softened (7oz)
- 200 g golden caster sugar (7oz)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 medium eggs lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp milk
- 200 g self-raising flour (7oz)
For the rhubarb and strawberry curd
- 450 g rhubarb 3 – 4 stems (1lb)
- 225 g fresh strawberries (8oz)
- 1 lemon juice only
- 2 tbsp water
- 120 g caster sugar (4oz)
- 50 g butter cubed (2oz)
- 3 medium egg yolks
For the Italian meringue
- 3 medium egg whites
- 175 g caster sugar (6oz)
- 5 tbsp water
To make the cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 190℃ (170℃ fan)/375°F/gas mark 5. Place the muffin sized cases into the muffin tray.
- Place the butter and sugar into a good sized bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon or electric beaters until very pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and beat again to combine. Gradually add the beaten egg a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk. Sieve the flour into the mixture and gently fold in.
- Fill the muffin cases half to two-thirds full with the cake mixture. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 – 23 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To make the rhubarb and strawberry curd.
- Wash the rhubarb. Trim the ends of the stalk and discard. Cut the rhubarb stems into pieces about 2cm (1in) long. Wash and hull the strawberries. Cut in half. Place the rhubarb and strawberries into a heavy-based pan with the water and lemon juice. Cook the fruit until very soft, stirring frequently.
- Strain the fruit through a sieve into a heat proof bowl. Press as much of the juice out of the fruit as possible, then discard the pulp.
- Add the sugar and cubed butter to the bowl and set the bowl over a pan of water, ensuring the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Cook over a medium heat. until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.
- Turn the heat down to its lowest setting. Add the egg yolks to the mixture. Stir continuously until the curd has thickened. This will take at least 15 minutes. You should be able to draw a line through the curd on the back of the spoon without the curd trickling back into the traced line. Pour into a bowl and set aside to cool and thicken further.
To make the Italian Meringue.
- Place the egg whites into a scrupulously clean bowl.
- Place the sugar and water into a heavy based pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved . Increase the heat and boil the sugar syrup until it has reached 110℃ / 230℉.
- Whisk the egg whites until standing in stiff peaks. Continue heating the sugar syrup until the mixture reaches 121℃ / 249℉ take the pan off the heat.
- With the whisk on its lowest setting slowly pour the sugar syrup onto the whisked egg whites. AVOID POURING ONTO THE BEATERS AS THIS IS LIKELY TO CAUSE THE SYRUP TO SPLASH BACK AT YOU! Once all of the syrup has been poured onto the meringue increase the speed of the beaters and continue beating for at least 5 minutes until the temperature of the meringue has cooled and is very thick and glossy.
- Using a small paring knife cut a plug of cake out from the top of each cupcake. Spoon 1 – 2 teaspoons of curd into the hollow, avoid over filling.
- Fit the large star nozzle to the piping bag and spoon in the meringue. Pipe a generous swirl of meringue on top of the cupcakes.
- Either use a blow torch to carefully colour the meringue. Alternatively, use the grill.
- 12 x Muffin Sized Paper Cases
- 12 hole Muffin Baking Tray
- Sugar Thermometer
- Piping Bag
- Large Star Piping Nozzle
- When making the cupcake batter, consider weighing the eggs first to ensure the batter has equal weight of butter, sugar, flour and eggs. Simply weigh the butter, sugar and flour to the same weight as the eggs. Of course the value may be slightly different to the 200g listed in the ingredients above.
- Consider warming your lightly beaten eggs over a bain marie especially if they feel particularly cold. Warm them until they feel luke warm. This should help prevent the batter from curdling and produce a better cupcake sponge.
- The curd will cool faster in a large shallow bowl, like a pasta bowl.
- If using the grill, like we did, pre-heat it and position the grill pan in the centre of the oven so the cupcakes aren’t too near the grill element. Place the decorated cupcakes under the grill for 1 – 2 minutes allowing the Italian meringue to colour, you may need to rotate them after just a minute. They will colour very quickly.
- Any leftover curd can be covered and stored in the fridge It is delicious for spreading on toast or in a sandwich.
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