Pink Champagne Pomegranate Cupcakes

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#TBT to that time I baked cupcakes for my sweet friend Christyn’s bridal shower that we hosted last April, promised to share the recipe and feature the shower, then never finished the blog post. Cringe. That was such a fun, happy day, and these pictures always remind me of DC and my wonderful friends there that I love and miss so much. So, since I’m going back to DC this weekend for the first time since the move (WOO! Hel-LOOO Zengo, Georgetown strolls, and dinners on 14th Street!), let’s throw it back on this Thursday to these festive, feminine, fruit-filled cupcakes, infused with bubbly and fit for the celebration this obviously calls for.  Another reason they’re so timely (as if we needed another excuse)? It’s finally time to “spring forward” into warm-weather baking! So yeah, they might be a year late, but better late than never! Amirite?

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When I set about figuring out what to bake for Christyn’s (or CPK, for short) day, I knew it had to involve fruit. CPK looooves lemon. Fortunately, CPK also loves champagne (what girl doesn’t?), so I had that to work with as well. A lemon sugar cookie recipe I came across just screamed “CPK,” so those were an easy choice. Since the lemon was covered, I decided to get creative with the cupcakes. I wanted to use a champagne buttercream for the frosting, so I knew I could get away with something a little more tart to balance out the sweetness. Pomegranate. That was different, and seemed sophisticated too. With a lot of other things going on in one bite, I stuck to classic vanilla for the cake. And, not only would the flavors of this particular cookie-cupcake duo pair well, but their looks would too.

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I will say, the trickiest part about these is – you guessed it!- the pomegranate curd. The steps are a little involved, but just study it beforehand and see it through, and you will be fine! Although it turned out just fine for these cupcakes, I will say that I’ll likely try out a different recipe next time. Pomegranates are a little more tart by nature, but I’d like to find a recipe with a hint more sweetness to it. That being said, the champagne buttercream piled on these beauties certainly has enough “sweet” to be a perfect pairing, especially since I went with a rosè (because, well, “pink”).

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As you can see, the dessert display took center stage with these festive tiered cake stands. It did not, however, outshine all of the other beautiful accompaniments that my co-hosts made for the occasion. We had a beautiful salad, fruit kebobs, a cheese board, chicken salad and croissants, and a wild orzo salad. It was a perfect bridal shower spread, and the leftovers sure didn’t hurt! Paired with an adorable mimosa bar, it made for an afternoon almost as lovely as the then-bride-to-be. It was such an easy, fuss-free shower that came together seamlessly, and that made the day that much more special. Teamwork really does make the dream work. And the cupcakes? Given all the classy ladies in attendance, these were very well-received.

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Thinking back on all of this is getting me even more excited for this upcoming weekend. There will be much less baking (and much more wine and cheese consumption) and Christyn is no longer a bride (#mrslansing), but there will still be some serious quality time with my girlfriends to catch up and do all of our favorite DC things. I should really stop thinking about it or I’m not going to make it through the workday.

DSC_0028This delicate, dainty dessert will be perfect for any weddings or showers you have coming up this season, or just as a sweet spring treat. So go snag some pomegranate and rosè, because we’re going to toast to an awesome friend-filled weekend with these Pink Champagne Pomegranate Cupcakes! DC squad – I’m comin’ for ya!

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Pink Champagne Pomegranate Cupcakes 

INGREDIENTS

Pomegranate Curd (from Amandeleine)

1/2 teaspoon powdered gelatin (you should be able to just find this in the grocery store)
1 tablespoon 100% pomegranate juice
3/4 cup 100% pomegranate juice
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup superfine sugar
6 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1-2 tablespoons grenadine

Vanilla Cupcakes (from Life, Love and Sugar)

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup salted butter, room temperature
3 egg whites
3 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk

Champagne Buttercream (from Life, Love and Sugar)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
4 cups powdered sugar
4-5 tbsp champagne (I used rosè for sweetness!)

INSTRUCTIONS

1. In a small heat proof bowl or cup, sprinkle gelatin over the tablespoon of pomegranate juice, and let it sit until it softens into the juice. When it’s ready to go, place the cup or bowl in simmering water until the gelatin is completely melted, dissolved and smooth.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together yolks and salt, and set aside. In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, combine the 3/4 cups pomegranate juice, lemon juice, and sugar. Stir and heat to just below boiling. Temper this hot mixture into the bowl with the yolks, whisking constantly, and then pour everything back into the sauce pan. Over medium heat, whisk constantly and fairly quickly until thickened. A good rule of thumb is that it’s ready when you can draw a line through the curd on the back of a coated spoon with your finger, and the line stays.

Once thickened, stir the melted gelatin into the curd, followed by the butter, and mix until combined. Strain the curd into a clean bowl or large glass measuring cup. Stir in grenadine until uniform in color and allow to cool for a bit. Cover the curd with plastic wrap, pressing it on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and place in the fridge until chilled and fully thickened.

2. Cupcake time! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with liners of choice. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder. Add butter, egg whites, vanilla, sour cream and milk, and mix on medium speed just until smooth. Do not over-mix! Fill cupcake liners a little more than half way and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 1-2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to finish cooling.

3. Time to sneak in the pomegranate surprise. Using a paring knife or cupcake corer, core a cone-shaped hole in each of the cupcakes, reserving the tops of each of the pieces you carve out. Spoon a dollop of the pomegranate curd into each cupcake, replacing the reserved cupcake top when finished. Repeat for each cupcake.

4. Now for the frilly frosting. Add butter and shortening to a mixing bowl and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix for another minute or so until smooth. Next, add the bubbles (the champagne) and mix until smooth. Add remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Don’t be afraid to let it mix for a couple of minutes to get it extra fluffy. If the frosting is too thick, add a little more champagne (no more than 1 tablespoon at a time) until desired consistency is reached. Fit a pastry bag with a piping tip and pipe this deliciousness onto the cupcakes!

5. Devour! In a ladylike fashion, of course.

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