Polenta Birthday Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting

Fridays are usually when I watch the Food Network as I’m often in a foodie kind of a mood-I go grocery shopping on Fridays and often prepare slightly elaborate meals (the one day a week when I actually have the time and motivation to seriously cook). A couple of weeks ago I was watching a program with Michael Chiarello that featured Polenta Birthday Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting. Although I love traditional cupcakes, I am all for trying new things, especially a cupcake batter that featured polenta, a grain I don’t typically cook with. I located the recipe online, bookmarked it, and this past Friday made it for my birthday. (As I live five hours away from my mom and D doesn’t cook, it’s typically up to me if I want any homemade sweets).

The cupcakes were really good and a nice tasting contrast to the traditional soft and moist cupcake. I’d almost say they tasted like an extremely sweetened version of cornbread. The mascarpone frosting was also good since it’s not something I’ve ever had before with cake (mascarpone is Italian cream cheese). Of the many items I’ve made over the past couple of years, these were definitely one of the prettiest in terms of presentation and quality. If you’re looking for something different than just the vanilla or chocolate cupcake recipe, I highly recommend trying this.

Polenta Birthday Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting
Recipe courtesy Michael Chiarello
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup polenta, medium ground
1/2 teaspoon gray salt
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups sugar, plus a pinch for whipping egg whites

6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 lemons, zested
16 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 cups mixed berries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 cupcake pans with 12 paper muffin cups each. Sift together the flour and baking powder and stir in the polenta and salt.

In a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With the mixer running add the egg yolks, 1 at a time. Beat in the milk, vanilla and lemon zest. With the mixer on low speed add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture until just incorporated.

In a clean, dry bowl whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add a pinch of sugar while the whites are mixing. Add half of the whites to the mixture and beat with the paddle. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the remaining egg whites with a spatula to incorporate air and lighten the batter. 

Spoon the batter into the lined muffin molds to fill the cups about 2/3 full. 

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center. Cool the entire pan on a wire rack for a few minutes before removing the individual cupcakes. Cool the cupcakes completely to room temperature before frosting. 

Combine mascarpone with the confectioner’s sugar and beat together with a whisk until combined. Ice the cupcakes and decorate with the berries. 

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