Mini cupcakes made with a buttermilk spice cake, topped with maple buttercream icing and adorned with a piece of candied bacon and a tiny buttermilk pancake.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Put bacon slices in a bowl, season with pepper then toss with brown sugar. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange bacon in a single layer on top. Sprinkle any remaining sugar left in the bowl over bacon. Top with another piece of parchment and set another baking sheet on top of the bacon to keep it flat as it bakes.
Place tray in the center of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. Check by lifting top tray and parchment. You want it to be fairly crispy. Keep in mind that it will continue to crisp as it cools. If it isn't crisp at all continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes or so. Allow to cool completely then use kitchen shears to cut into small pieces for adornment.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place cupcake liners in mini cupcake tins.
Sift together in a large bowl flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, ground cloves and nutmeg. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle, cream together Crisco and both sugars on medium speed for about 2 or 3 minutes, until well combined. Turn mixer to low speed and add eggs, one at a time, waiting until fully incorporated before adding each.
With mixer still on low speed, add 1/3 of flour mixture and blend until just incorporated. Add 1/2 the buttermilk and blend until incorporated. Repeat, ending with the final 1/3 of flour. Stop mixing when just a little flour is still visible. Do not overmix. Remove bowl from mixer and use a spatula to gently mix until all flour is fully incorporated.
Fill cupcake liners half full. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cake springs back when touched or a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool on a rack for a couple of minutes then remove cupcakes from tin and allow to completely cool on cooling rack.
Place egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle and set aside.
In a saucepan, mix together sugar and water. Bring to a boil. When it reaches 240°F start beating the egg yolks in the mixer while keeping an eye on the sugar mixture. Yolks should become pale as they are beaten.
When sugar mixture reaches 248°F, remove from heat and, with the mixer on low, slowly drizzle the hot sugar into the egg yolks. (Be very careful not to burn yourself!) Once all the mixture is added continue to beat until the bowl no longer feels warm to the touch.
Add the butter, a cube or two at a time, until it is completely mixed in. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the maple syrup and vanilla. Continue to mix until it becomes a fluffy consistency.
Use right away or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator then allow to come to room temperature and beat until fluffy before using. Always allow this icing to come to room temperature before eating because the butter in it will cause it to harden when it is cold and it tastes much better with a silk texture then a hard crumbly texture.
*The following are the high-altitude adjustments I had to make to these recipes. My altitude is 4500 ft so you may have to make more adjustments if you live higher than that.
Spice Cake: Add 2 Tbsp of flour and 2 Tbsp of buttermilk. Decrease both baking powder and baking soda to 3/4 tsp. and remove 1 Tbsp of granulated sugar and 3/4 Tbsp brown sugar. Bake at 365°F.
Maple Buttercream: Begin beating egg yolks when sugar mixture reaches 230°F and remove mixture from heat when it reaches 238°F.