Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Pop Rock" Cupcakes

Those of you who have never heard of pop rocks, go out there and grab a pack now! Just for giggles if nothing else.

Pop rocks were something I grew up on as a kid. It comes a shiny black packet in all these bright fun neon colors with "Pop Rocks" jumping right at you. My favorite thing to do was to rip open the bag and pour the entire thing into my mouth. Then, the magical explosion of these candy rock crystals would start popping everywhere within my mouth causing me a little pain which I gleefully bore. Hitting the top of my mouth, sides, down into my tonsils and bouncing all the way into my head it was simply the best thing...EVER.

So when I saw them for the first time in about 15 years in the Target $1 bin, I had to grab the pack of 3 immediately. Originally, I was going to just eat them straight from the pack like when I was a child. But, then I started brainstorming and decided they would make a wonderful surprise treat for Thanksgiving.

I am not a baker even though I enjoy it. So I used Amy Sedaris' cupcake recipe as a base and riffed off it. You can use vanilla extract, but the vanilla beans add a richer taste and looks so pretty with all the little seeds.

The vanilla bean cupcake base with the fluffy cream cheese frosting was the perfect foil for the berry flavored pop rocks. It is a sensory experience. As your guests bring the cupcake towards their mouth, they get a whiff of the vanilla. When they first hear the crackle, you'll get a strange look from your guests. Then the first bite into the moist cupcake...silence and slow chewing as they try to figure out what exactly is going on. And lastly, the smiles and giggles as one person finally asks: "What is on this cupcake?!?!!" Truly, the most fun eating a cupcake!

I hope you enjoy the experience as much as we all did. Just make sure to top them on the cupcakes right before serving as they lose all of their magical pop after about 10 minutes and melt into a gooey pink mess.
Adapted from Amy Sedaris' recipe
Makes 12

For cupcakes:
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 fresh vanilla bean, cut in half and scrape seeds out
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups milk
2 packets pop rocks

For cream cheese frosting:
1/2 stick low fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cupcake pan with paper holders.

2. Add butter to mixer and beat at medium speed until somewhat smooth. Pour in sugar and eggs, mix well.

3. Then, add vanilla beans, baking powder, salt, flour and milk. Mix thoroughly and use an ice cream scooper to evenly distribute the mixture among the lined cups. Bake for 20 minutes until golden on top. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

4. In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to whip the cream cheese. Slowly add in powdered sugar. When incorporated, add juice. Continue whipping for another minute until it is mixed. Cover and reserve until ready to use.

5. Frost each cupcake to your liking. I am not a big frosting person, so I usually only have a pretty thin layer.  If you want to make it look prettier, feel free to use a piping bag.  I just used an icing knife to smooth it over.

6. Top with pop rocks and serve immediately.

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