Breakfast Cupcakes: Spice Cake with Maple Buttercream, Candied Bacon and Buttermilk Pancakes

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Tuesday mornings are one of the best times of the week for me because I attend a morning Bible study. I love studying God’s Word with others but the other reason I love this study is that breakfast is always provided. Every week groups of ladies take turns bringing breakfast to share with everyone. We have had some of the most amazing egg bakes (who new there were so many different types out there!), hash brown casserolles and other yummies that I never make for myself.

Last week was my group’s turn to provide the meal. I contemplated all the traditional breakfast foods I could bring and then decided to stick with one of the things I know best, cupcakes. I was a little concerned how people would feel about having cupcakes for breakfast but then I remembered that donuts and cinnamon rolls aren’t really all that different. So I decided to create a Breakfast Cupcake. If I used breakfast flavors and added some bacon and pancakes to it I was pretty sure I could get away with it. I’m happy to say it went over really well. In fact, I brought about 60 mini cupcakes and came home with an empty tray and lots of compliments.

So I thought I’d share with you my Breakfast Cupcake creation. (Now I’m not suggesting you feed these to your kids. You should probably still give them their oatmeal and eggs and then you can bring the cupcakes out for yourself after they have left for school.) These cupcakes are made with a buttermilk spice cake, topped with maple buttercream icing and adorned with candied bacon and mini pancakes. Spices and maple are flavors that you find in lots of breakfast foods, and bacon and pancakes are, of course, breakfast foods. So I am giving you total permission to call these Breakfast Cupcakes. Okay, enough justifying my dietary choices and let’s get on with how to make them.

I made mine mini sized since I was taking them to a large potluck type meal but you could always make them full sized cupcakes as well. Look how cute they are as a mini though.

Start by making your adornments first. I didn’t include a pancake recipe in my recipe card since most people have their own favorite pancake recipes but if you want to use the same Buttermilk Pancake recipe I did you can find it here. If you decide to make yours heart shaped like I did, you will want to use a thicker batter that is more likely to hold its shape. You could also just do them as little rounds. In order to make the hearts I put the batter in a decorating bag fitted with a #10 tip. (Any round tip around that size will work.) I piped the left side first, applying pressure as I made the top round part of the heart and then letting off my pressure and swiping the tip down to the point. I then repeated that motion on the right side to create the heart. Unfortunately I didn’t get photos of this motion since I didn’t have someone else to take the pictures while I did it. The trickiest part is trying to keep them small. I used a small off-set spatula to turn them because they were too small for my usual pancake flipper.

As you can see, the batter left a messy point on the bottoms of them. It really isn’t that big of deal since you will just be sticking them in the icing but the OCD in me couldn’t allow them to stay that way. I ended up using my kitchen shears to trim them to a point.

Sorry for the bad photo below but I didn’t take an intentional photo of the trimmed hearts so I cropped one of my other photos so you can see the difference between trimmed and untrimmed. Obviously the untrimmed are on the left and the trimmed are on the right.

Set the pancakes aside and now lets get on to the candied bacon. By the way, if you are still wondering about the existence of God, you will have complete belief in Him after you have tasted candied bacon! I mean just look at this tray of amazing sweet and salty pork goodness!

Please note that this photo was taken after the bacon had cooled and I placed it in a new pan with clean parchment paper. When it first comes out of the oven the parchment is full of melted sugar and fat so it is a mess. I didn’t want you to think there was something wrong with your bacon if it didn’t come out of the oven all neat and tidy like in this photo. You will find the recipe below. When the bacon is completely cool, use kitchen shears to cut it in strips. I cut mine on the diagonal to give them an angled look on the cupcakes.

Now that all the adornments are prepared and set aside, it’s time to make the Buttermilk Spice cake. I love this cake. It is light, moist, and has a wonderful balance of warm spices. One of the most difficult things for me about baking cupcakes is knowing how much batter to place in the liner. Some recipes only need to be filled half way, others 2/3 and some 3/4 full. The best way to know for sure is to make a couple of sacrificial test cupcakes. Fill one half full and the other 2/3 or 3/4 full and bake then see which is best. Unfortunately I never do this and I tend to overfill my cupcakes. So I filled all of my first batch of liners a little over 2/3 full and it was definitely too much. They all rose too much then spread out on the sides. It doesn’t make them inedible or anything but they sure aren’t as pretty as they should be because the tops flatten out and the spread batter is always uneven and slightly burned from resting on the pan.

Once I saw what happened to the first batch I made sure to fill my second batch only half way. Look at what a big difference it made. The cupcake on the left is 1/2 full and the one on the right was 3/4 full.

A couple of notes on the recipe; first, I listed that it makes 60 mini cupcakes. To be honest, I think I got closer to 66 minis, even with overfilling over half of them, so you will probably get more than 60 but I put 60 just to be safe. Plus that allows you room to remove the ugly ones from your batch.

Second, I live at an altitude of 4500 ft. That isn’t extremely high but it is high enough that I usually have to make adjustments to my baking. The recipe is written in the original, sea level, format but I included notes at the end of it for the adjustments I made for my altitude. If you live at a higher altitude than me you will probably even have to make some more adjustments.

Before we get to the Maple Buttercream, lets talk about maple syrups for a minute. There are different grades of maple syrups and, since maple syrup can have a pretty mild flavor, it is best to use the strongest flavored syrup for baking. Ideally you want to use a Grade B syrup. Except, they recently (like 2 or 3 years ago) changed the names of the grades and Grade B syrups are now called Grade A Dark Color Robust Taste. Frankly, I think it was much easier to just say Grade B but maybe people thought Grade B meant it was lesser quality. So some bottles of syrup, like the kind I use, will have both references listed on their labels. If yours doesn’t say Grade B anywhere then just look for Grade A Dark Color Robust Taste.

What is the difference in this grade as opposed to the others, you ask? Well, it has to do with when they are harvested. The earlier in the season the maple is harvested, the lighter and milder the flavor. Most of the syrups in my grocery store are from the earliest tap and are called Grade A Golden Color and Delicate Taste. The Grade A Dark Color and Robust Taste (also formerly called Grade B) is harvested a little later in the season and is darker in color and has a stronger flavor. By using this grade in baking you are more likely to get the maple flavor to come through than you are with the prior. If you can only get your hands on the prior then that is fine too. If you don’t feel like the flavor is coming through strong enough with it you may also want to add a splash of maple extract.

Unlike a traditional American Buttercream, this icing is made by first making a boiling sugar syrup and then incorporating that into egg yolks. It makes for a silky, buttery icing which greatly reminds me of the flavors of butter and maple syrup on my morning pancakes. (See, once again, these are totally fine for breakfast.) Be careful when making this though, as you are working with boiling sugar. When you add it to your mixer be sure you are on the lowest speed setting so that you don’t get burns from boiling sugar flying in your face.

Once you’ve made your buttercream, use it right away to ice your cupcakes. If you have to make it ahead of time, store it in the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature when you are ready to use it. Rewhip it again just before using. The butter in the buttercream causes the icing to get really hard while in the refrigerator so you always want to allow your cupcakes to return to room temperature before eating for the best flavor and mouth feel.

I put my icing in a decorating bag and used a tip #4B to pipe the swirls of icing on top of my cupcakes.

Then you just adorn each with a pancake and a piece of bacon and you are all ready for a healthy…um, I mean… yummy breakfast!

Enjoy!

Here’s to sweet dreams and sugar highs!

Breakfast Cupcakes

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.

Servings 60
Author Sweet Dreams and Sugar Highs

Ingredients

Candied Bacon

  • 12 slices bacon 1/4 inch thick
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

Buttermilk Spice Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Crisco shortening
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk

Maple Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups or 4 sticks, salted butter cubed and room temp
  • 6 egg yolks room temp
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup preferably Grade B
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Candied Bacon (adapted from Food Network)

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. 

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Spice Cake (*See notes below for high-altitude adjustments)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place cupcake liners in mini cupcake tins.

  2. Sift together in a large bowl flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, ground cloves and nutmeg. Set aside.

  3. 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. 

  4. 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. 

  5. 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.

Maple Buttercream (*see notes below for high-altitude adjustments)

  1. Place egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle and set aside.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. 

Recipe Notes

*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.

 

 

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