‘Tis the season of Girl Scout cookies and there is none more famous and beloved than the thin mint, at least in my house. I love Girl Scout cookies, both for the memories of being a scout and for what they represent; empowering kids is always a good thing. Sadly, the days of my 13-year-old metabolism are long gone, when I was capable of eating an entire box at a sitting. Now just a couple cookies will do me and the thin mints are still my favorites. They just seemed to have the perfect ratio of chocolate to mint, and go down easy with a glass of milk. I have to act quickly, because my boys are still at the age when they can polish off an entire box, even though mom would never allow such a thing.
This cupcake recipe manages to be light, fluffy and moist, all at the same time. It starts with a true all-American white birthday cake. The recipe is made with whipped egg whites and no yolks, so the color is bright white. It’s perfect for adding color, but this time I left that to the mint icing. A thin layer of ganache between the cake and icing makes these just a touch more sophisticated, in case you are looking for a St. Patrick’s Day treat to bring to work. The super creamy icing is one that I made from Vintage Cakes, an adorable addition to my cookbook collection. It is made by thickening milk and flour together into a smooth paste, then adding it to creamed, sweetened butter. The thickened milk and flour gives the icing body and a luxurious texture. Despite the extra step, it is an easy recipe, my 11-year-old made it start to finish with perfect results. The basic icing takes flavors really well, so a bit of mint extract and a few caps full of Crème de menthe and these cupcakes taste just like a thin mint.
Thin Mint Cupcakes:
2 3/4 cups (8 ounces) sifted cake flour – sift the flour into the cup when measuring, not after it’s measured.
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 egg whites
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon mint extract
Mint Icing adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson:
1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar (sold as baker’s sugar or you can make your own by pulsing sugar in a food processor. Using regular sugar may result in a grainy icing.)
1 teaspoon mint extract
1 tablespoon Crème de menthe
1 drop green food coloring
Green sprinkles to decorate
To make and bake the cupcakes:
Prepare muffin tins with 24 cupcake liners.
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in the middle of oven.
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup sugar and oil. Add 1/3 of the flour and whisk to incorporate. whisk in 1/2 the milk. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour, and the remaining milk. Finish with the last of the flour, add the vanilla and mix until well combined.
Whip the egg whites in a clean bowl until foamy, then gradually sprinkle the remaining sugar over them and beat until eggs are soft peaks. You can see in my picture that they will not droop off the whip when lifted out of the egg foam, but they won’t have a stiff peak either.
Gently fold the whites into the batter.
Divide the batter in to the cupcake liners.
Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes or until just starting to turn golden on the edges and a tester comes out clean.
To make the ganache:
In a saucepan heat the cream to a simmer, turn off the heat and add the chocolate and butter. Swirl the pan to make sure the chocolate is totally covered by the hot cream and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Add the salt and mint, gently whisk until smooth.
Spoon 1 tablespoon of the ganache over the cupcakes and smooth it to the edge, without going over.
Allow the cupcakes to sit in a cool spot so the ganache will harden slightly. If you are in a rush, refrigerate them for 10 minutes.
To make the icing:
In a saucepan whisk together the flour and half-and-half over medium heat.
Continue whisking until the mixture thickens.
Put the mixture into a container and cover the surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until just cooled to room temperature, about 20 minutes or 15 in the freezer. Cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the cooled flour/milk mixture and whip until perfectly smooth. Add the mint extract, Crème de menthe and green food coloring.
Once the ganache has set, fill a pastry bag, fitted with a large star tip, with the icing and decorate the cupcakes. Leave a bit of the ganache showing under the icing.
Sprinkle with the green sprinkles.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!