Hello dear friends!
One of my absolute favorite things about summer (and living in the South) is the copious amount of fresh, local sweet corn that is everywhere in June, July, and August. And while my standard MO is 30 minutes in the oven at 425º before munching the delicious kernels straight off of the cob, this year, given the dessert blog and whatnot, I decided that it was time to add a bit of variety to my corn consumption habits by bringing bright and juicy sweet corn with my other favorite kind of corn: kettle corn.
In case you are among those who have been tragically deprived of this particular brand of perfection, kettle corn is basically the pinnacle of all that which is salty-sweet. Chocolate covered pretzels and French fries with milkshakes have nothing on the mindblowing combination of lightly salted popcorn packaged inside of perfectly crackled crunchy sugar shells. I could probably subsist off of kettle corn alone and be a happy camper.
(Ok, maybe not, since apparently future doctors are supposed to be mildly responsible with their dietary habits to avoid total hypocrisy, but I could probably go a solid week. Or two.)
But all addictive tendencies aside, kettle corn also makes for the perfect Independence Day treat, despite its notable lack of red-white-and-blue-ness. Whenever I think about things that are quintessentially a part of the American experience, I always get weirdly nostalgic about the ubiquitous drive-in movie theaters of the 1960’s. Have I ever been to a drive-in theater? No. Have I been indoctrinated about what should be considered American by Grease and the movie theater birthday parties of my childhood that have most likely now been rendered obsolete by the advent of Netflix? Probably.
But…there is still something comforting and undeniable rosy about drive-ins, and I think that’s the essence that we all try to capture and celebrate on Independence Day. And while every era, including and possibly especially the Age of the Drive-In Theater, was rife with its problems, there is a certain beauty in choosing glean something worth remembering fondly from any period in time despite acknowledging its troubles. And I choose to glean the simple pleasure of popcorn at the movies and reinvent the experience into something worth keeping (even in spite of Netflix).
The result? Mildly cornbready sweet corn cupcakes topped with American buttercream frosting and kettle corn, plus an additional drizzle of sweetened melted butter for an extra decadent touch. As far as I’m concerned, these adorable miniature treats are just as American as apple pie, and twice as cute to boot!
So this year for the 4th of July, put away the blueberry stars and strawberry stripes and reach for a bag of good old fashioned popcorn, find the nearest drive-in movie theater, and catch a flick under the stars with your friends, family, and a giant plate of these kettle corn cupcakes. Hope you enjoy – I know I will!
Happy almost 4th,
PS, to my fellow Canadians, while I’ve been an expat for the past decade, I haven’t forgotten about the extra special occasion coming up this Friday! Just substitute half of the sugar in the cupcakes by weight for maple syrup and drizzle on some extra maple syrup instead of melted butter, and you’re good to go for the perfect Canada Day dessert. After all, there’s nothing like an ungodly amount of maple syrup to celebrate the original unification of our beloved home and native land. Cheers!
Kettle Corn Cupcakes
Buttercream recipe adapted from Serious Eats
Makes 12 cupcakes
260 g flour
60 g corn flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsweetened butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream, any fat content
1 cup raw sweet corn, pureed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbs heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
Kettle corn (fresh is best, but bagged will do in a pinch!)
Melted sweetened butter (optional)
Pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 ºF and line a cupcake pan with liners.
- Sift together the flour, corn flour, baking powder, and salt until well mixed.
- In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until the mixture is fluffy and well combined.
- Beat in the eggs until well incorporated, then add the sour cream, pureed corn, and vanilla extract. Continue mixing until well combined.
Tip: The mixture may start to come apart at this point, especially if you used fat-free sour cream, since the water in the pureed corn doesn’t tend to mix well with butter. Don’t worry about it – just do the best that you can. Corn cupcakes are very forgiving, especially once you add in the dry ingredients!
- Fold in the flour mixture just until combined.
- Divide the cupcake batter among the liners until each one is nearly full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean or with dry crumbs only.
Tip: The cupcake liners should be much fuller than they usually are for regular cupcakes. Because of the corn flour and the water content from the corn puree, these cupcakes just don’t rise as much as ordinary cupcakes do, so pile in the batter to make sure you still get that nice tall, domed top!
- Set aside to cool!
- In a stand mixer, whip the butter until light and fluffy.
- Mix in the powdered, milk, vanilla extract, and salt at a low speed until no dry clumps remain on the surface. Continue beating on high until the entire mixture is smooth.
- Set aside for decorating!
- Using a piping bag and a large round tip (I used the Wilton 1A!), pipe a spiral of buttercream frosting in the center of each cupcake from the inside outward that is about 2/3 to 3/4 of the width of the cupcake.
Tip: To prevent the kettle corn from becoming soggy, frost all the cupcakes first before proceeding to the next step!
- Pile on the kettle corn in the center of each mound of frosting. Drizzle on the sweetened melted butter as desired (about 1 part sugar to 3-4 parts butter) and serve immediately. Enjoy!