Flavorful pistachio cupcakes made from scratch and topped with the best brown sugar buttercream.
My dad isn’t a dessert person.
I know, cover your mouth in horror! Him and my sister both… my mom and I, we are just made differently. Actually, I relate to my dad in a lot of other ways. His math and science-geared brain, his smile, and his stubbornness, to name a few.
When I was growing up we used to get in such arguments where we would fight it out all the way, each of us standing firm on either side until the very end when one person was clearly “right”. But at that point, we would resolve it, both content in how the conversation was finalized. Yes, I did deserve the nick-name “Last-Minute Lauren” and yes, real chemists probably do know better than my idiotic 10th grade chemistry teacher.
Well, it is that stubborn part of me that refused to let his birthday go without making some dessert that he would like. There are a few that we all know he enjoys from time to time- angel food cake, pecan pie, and very crispy cookies. Well, sorry, but those are just not exciting enough for a birthday dessert.
Knowing that he does love pistachios I decided to try to win him over from that direction. The result: WIN for me! He loved the cupcakes. Well, win for him too, then. He just might have skipped the buttercream and passed his along to my mom, but hey, I’ll take it.
- 4⅜ ounces (~1 cup) roasted and salted shelled pistachios (plus more for garnish)
- 9⅝ ounces (~2½ cups) cake flour
- 3½ ounces (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 1½ cups ice cold water
- ½ pound (1 cup / 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 13⅛ ounces (~1¾ cup) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 4 x-large egg whites, separated
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 4¼ ounces egg whites at room temperature (~4 large egg whites)
- 1 pound 0.5 ounces light brown sugar (~1 cup, packed)
- pinch of salt
- ½ pound (1 cup / 2 sticks) of room temperature unsalted butter sliced into tablespoons
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pre-heat oven to 325; line muffin tins with cupcake liners and set aside
- In a food processor, pulse the pistachios just until they are coarsely chopped; remove 2 tablespoons and place in a large bowl
- Continue to pulse remaining pistachios until they are finely ground; be careful not to grind too long or they will begin to turn into more of a paste; add to bowl with other pistachios
- Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the bowl of pistachios; whisk mixture and set aside
- In the large bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on high speed until light and creamy (at least 5 minutes)
- Add 1 egg white and vanilla and mix until combined; scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula
- Turn mixer down to the lowest speed and slowly add part of the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients; do not overmix
- Remove bowl and set aside
- Use a clean bowl (I wipe mine down with white vinegar) and whisk attachment and whisk the 3 remaining egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form (several minutes on medium-high speed)
- Carefully fold egg whites into batter just until combined
- Use a large cookie dough scoop or small ladle to evenly distribute batter into prepared tins
- Bake 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from center of cupcakes (I usually test 1 or 2 towards the center of the tin)
- Wipe down your metal mixing bowl, whisk attachment, whisk and candy thermometer with lemon juice or white vinegar to make sure they are all grease free
- Place mixing bowl over pot of shallow simmering water (do not want bowl in the water) with candy thermometer attached
- In that bowl, combine brown sugar and egg whites, whisking continuously until temperature measures 160 degrees (if you do not have a candy thermometer, you want the mixture to be warm and the sugar to be dissolved); this will take about 5 minutes
- Place bowl back on mixer and place a bowl of ice directly underneath to help the cooling process; use whisk attachment and beat meringue in medium speed until a creamy meringue is formed, it should be thick but not stiff; bowl should also cool down while you are mixing
- Once texture is right and bowl has cooled, reduce speed to low; add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it is completely combined; whisk in vanilla
- Pipe or spread buttercream over cooled cupcakes as desired; sprinkle with extra chopped pistachios
So what if I ate more cupcakes than he did. Happy (belated) birthday, Dad!
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