Peppermint is the one flavor that transforms itself at the holidays. Some of the traditional tastes, eggnog, fruitcake, even gingerbread, hardly make an appearance at any other time of the year. But not peppermint. I eat peppermint candy all year. The little hidey-hole in the arm on the door of my car is always filled with peppermints pilfered from bowls at restaurants and shops around town. I love peppermint ice cream in summer. But somehow, around Christmas, peppermint seems so utterly of the season. There are starlight mints stacked up on store shelves, even the major candy companies go wild with peppermint bark, candy cane kisses and peppermint hard candies in every shape and color. The standard, plain candy suddenly becomes a classic symbol of the season when December begins.
So I try to incorporate peppermint in my holiday baking as much as I can, before it is once again relegated to the car door. This is the perfect holiday recipe, because it is easy to make, with spectacular results. And you can leave these little cakes simple and plainly adorned, or really go to town on decorating. Crushed up candy canes, mini mints, edible glitter. I found the little round mints pictured above at the dollar store.
I very, very rarely made any kind of angel food cake from scratch, until I discovered liquid real egg whites for sale at the grocery. Remove the step of separating loads of eggs and finding a use for the yolks, and angel cake and cupcakes are a breeze to make.
This recipe makes a little more batter than needed for 12 cupcakes – about 1 cupcakes worth. Feel free to make that extra cupcake, but I don’t usually bother.
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 ½ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups liquid egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Few drops of red food coloring
2 cups powdered sugar
4 Tablespoons milk
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with baking liners.
Sift together the sugar, flour and salt and set aside. In the large bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar on high until stiff peaks form. Reduce the speed to very low and gradually sprinkle in the sugar mixture. When it has all been added, stop the mixer and fold by hand with a spatula to incorporate all the ingredients. Gently fold in the peppermint extract.
Using a large spoon, spoon about half of the batter evenly among the prepared baking cups. Add a few drops of red food coloring to the remaining batter in the bowl and very gently fold it through to get an even pink tint. Spoon the remaining batter over on top of the white in the baking cups, filling each cup to the top. There will be more batter than needed. Using a thin-bladed knife, gently swirl the batter in each cup.
Bake the cupcakes for 12 – 15 minutes until the tops are firm and a tester inserted in the center of a large cake comes out clean. Remove the pan form the oven, and immediately use a small knife to loosen the tops of the cupcakes from the pan. Turn the cupcakes quickly out onto a wire rack, then immediately return to the pan to cool. Set the pan on the wire rack for cooling. This step prevents the cooled cupcakes from sticking to the pan, which would make them impossible to remove.
When the cupcakes are cooled, whisk together the glaze ingredients. Spread the glaze over the cooled cupcakes and leave to set. If you want to add any decorations, do so while the glaze is still soft, then leave to set.
Makes 12 cupcakes