“But you are, my love, the astronaut
Flying in the face of science
I would gladly stay an afterthought
Just bring back some nice reminders”
This cupcake is based on one of my favorite songs ever – “Astronaut” by Amanda Palmer. It’s a song that grabs your attention and I think it’s the best song she’s written. Heck, I think it’s one of the best SONGS, period.
But how was I going to convey the idea of an astronaut in a cupcake? Simple – astronaut ice cream.
Yes, that dehydrated Neapolitan stuff you get in the gift shops of children’s museums. I decided I’d get some, crush it up and use it to flavor the cupcakes, splitting the batter in half for chocolate and vanilla and saving strawberry for the frosting.
It worked out exactly as I hoped and even though it took a bit of work (especially with the fact that I had scaled down the recipe a LOT since I don’t have so many people to share cupcakes with anymore), I think they are adorable, tasty and worth the effort.
These would be really cute for a space-themed party…or for a bunch of NASA employees, I suppose.
I really like the last-minute touch of sprinkling extra crumbled ice cream on the frosting. They’re kind of craggy and look like moon rocks or asteroids and add a nice textural contrast and a little boost of ice cream flavor.
An extra special thank you to Natalie at Bake & Destroy for making the super spiffy astronaut toppers for me, and for throwing in the little earths to remind the astronauts of home!
First, Make the Cupcakes:
- 1/4 cup butter, soft
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 1/2 cup milk, divided
- 3 packages of astronaut ice cream (more if you want to decorate with crumbled ice cream)
- 2 egg whites, divided
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, whisking until they are thoroughly mixed, then divide the mixture in half. Separate the three flavors of ice cream and crush each thoroughly (I used a mortar & pestle, which worked fine, you can use a small prep food processor if you like but crumble the ice cream a bit first and work light to dark – vanilla, strawberry, then chocolate – for the least amount of color contamination). Set the strawberry aside, and whisk the vanilla and chocolate into 1/4 cup milk each. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Remove half of the mixture and set aside. Add the vanilla milk and one half of the dry mixture into the butter-sugar mixture remaining in the mixer bowl. You’ll want to add them alternately, in three additions each, scraping the bowl down thoroughly after each addition. Once completely combined and homogenous, add one egg white and the vanilla extract and beat on medium-high for a few minutes, until the mixture has nearly tripled in volume. If you’re using a stand mixer and have only one bowl for it like I do, remove the batter to another bowl and set aside – no need to wash the paddle or bowl, just scrape thoroughly (if you have more than one bowl for your mixer or are using a hand mixer, just switch bowls). Return the reserved creamed butter mixture to the mixer and beat for a few seconds. Add the cocoa powder to the remaining dry mixture, then combine the chocolate milk, butter mixture and dry ingredients the same way you did for the vanilla, beating the egg in at the end. Spoon the chocolate batter into a lined muffin tin (white paper is important so you can see the different layers), filling them no more than one third full. Top with the vanilla batter. Bake for 15-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean. Allow to cool fully before frosting. Makes 10 full-sized cupcakes.
Then Make the Frosting:
- 2 egg whites
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 cup butter, soft & in small pieces
- 3 strawberry sections of astronaut ice cream, finely crushed
- Red food coloring
Place the whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a metal mixer bowl over simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture comes to a temperature of 160. Immediately transfer to stand mixer (or just start using a hand mixer) and whip until it reaches stiff, glossy peaks and is a warmish room temperature. Switch to the paddle attachment and beat in the butter, adding a few chunks at a time (I learned in class that OMG you don’t actually have to stand around and wait for each piece to get incorporated before adding another…what gives, Joe?) and beating until the mixture is homogenous and fluffy. Sprinkle in the strawberry ice cream and a little red food coloring (just a tiny droplet if it’s liquid and a couple blobs if it’s gel) and beat until completely combined. Spread on cooled cupcakes, sprinkle with small chunks of ice cream and decorate with little astronauts (rocketships are also acceptable).
I was originally going to make a French buttercream (made with egg yolks) for this out of a need to use them up, but I decided to switch to a Swiss meringue moments before I started it. Why? Color, my dears. As incredibly wonderful as egg yolks, sugar syrup and butter are, such a lovely unnatural pink color cannot be achieved without a whiter base. And Swiss meringue is just so gosh darn sturdy! Plus, I have a little something in mind for the leftover egg yolks now…and no, it’s not ice cream.
What I’m Competing For:
Our Generous IronCupcake:Earth Prize Providers: