Early morning bike rides are probably one of my favorite things. Around 7:00am, the streets begin to fill with commuters, joggers, dog walkers, and the like. But at 6:00am, they are so quiet. Lights at usually busy intersections blink red and yellow. People on the sidewalk nod and say hello. I coast through stop signs, slow down to ogle gardens, and try to get the attention of the occasional cat wandering the streets. (NB: My research indicates that cats do not respond well to strangers on bicycles.)
Last summer, morning bike rides were a necessity, being my only form of transportation from J’s apartment back to my own. I’d ride most of the way on a road called Riverside Drive which does, indeed, run alongside a river. This sounds nice in theory, but the river was actually out of sight for most of the ride. Additionally, there was a half-mile gradual uphill climb; something that doesn’t seem all that bad until you realize you’re out of shape, which is probably why you’ve slowed down to the pace of a casual jog and are currently [and unsuccessfully] attempting to stifle the pathetic gasping sounds that have replaced your normal breathing. And at this point, you’re only halfway up the hill. On these rides home, there was a Dunkin’ Donuts that served as my beacon of hope. First, because it stood right where the hill leveled out. But second, and most importantly, because the smell of hundreds of doughnuts was probably one of the few things capable of eclipsing the stench of the wastewater treatment plant, which was located at the beginning of my uphill climb. After sucking wastewater wind for almost half a mile, sweet doughnut air is pretty much tops.
This year, a.m. bike rides are recreational. (Actually, they could still be considered a necessity, as I’d say it’s pretty necessary that I whip my butt out of winter relationship shape and into summer single lady shape!) But they’re still the highlight of my morning, providing me with some peaceful outdoorsy time before I spend the majority of my day tethered to a computer. After a northeast winter that always seems to last far too long, I go crazy for doing anything and everything, as long as it involves walking or biking.
The warm weather has also brought on my cravings for lighter foods. (Did that feel like an acceptable segue? I had an especially enjoyable bike ride this morning, and it put me in the mood to talk ALL about my recent biking history.) Anyway! Now we’re going to talk about important things: CAKE. Angel food is one of my favorite types of cake, overall. But it is my most favorite dessert in the summertime, especially when accompanied by fresh berries and whipped cream (or some heady vanilla ice cream on an especially hot day). And if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have already seen the awesome sample pack of spices that Reese and Mark of Season with Spice sent me from their new spice shop. Everything looks and smells wonderful, but I was particularly excited about the lemongrass powder, and finding a way to incorporate it into some sort of baked good. I also had a jar of coconut sugar from Old Salt Merchants, and I decided that it would be excellent if the two joined forces in some sort of frosting.
The whipped cream with the lemongrass and a hint of coconut worked so well with these little cupcakes. Everything about them is light and airy, and especially awesome with the freshness of the lemongrass. Now, I realize that not everyone has these ingredients on hand, so I’ve offered up some alternatives for flavoring the whipped cream below. Of course, you can always purchase the lemongrass powder here, and the coconut sugar here. (And give a look through both shops while you’re there! Both have lots of other great goodies.)
This recipe makes around 16 little cupcakes when all is said and done. They will come out of the oven at normal size, but deflate as they cool. I don’t believe there is a way around this if you use cupcake wrappers. You could always try adding the batter to the pan sans wrappers, and then inverting the whole tin when they’ve finished baking as you would with a standard angel food cake tin, but I can’t say whether or not this would actually work. (I’ve tried baking angel food cupcakes sans wrappers before and totally mutilated them while attempting to get them out of the pan, but that was also a long time ago, so I may not have know what I was doing.) If you haven’t read about the intricacies of baking angel food cake, I highly recommend checking out Willow’s post on the matter. If you do figure out a way to keep the cupcakes normal cupcake size, you will want to double the frosting recipe below.
Alternative whipped cream flavoring methods:
- Roughly chop a 2-inch bit of lemongrass. Let infuse in the cream overnight, then strain out before whipping.
- The teeniest dash of coconut extract. (A little goes a long way, and I liked having a subtle coconut flavor in this recipe.)
- Half lemongrass infused whipped cream and half coconut whipped cream. (Just make sure to whip the two separately, then fold them together.)
Angel Food Cupcakes with Coconut-Lemongrass Whipped Cream
(adapted from Cooking Classy)
For the cupcakes:
- 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp of granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup cake flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 6 egg whites, at room temp
- 2 1/2 tbsp warm water
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350° and line a muffin tin with wrappers.
Pulse sugar in a food processor for a couple minutes, until super-fine. (Alternatively, you can use caster sugar.) Divide sugar in half. Sift together flour, half of the sugar, and salt. Repeat sifting two more times, then set aside.
Whisk together egg whites, water, cream of tartar, and vanilla extract in a large stainless steel (or copper if you’ve got it, fancy pants) bowl until well combined. Use a hand mixer to beat whites at a medium speed, gradually add in the other half of the sugar, until medium peaks form. Dust the top of the egg whites with the flour mixture, then carefully fold in. Repeat until all of the flour mixture has been incorporated.
Spoon batter into muffin wrappers, filling each on to nearly the top. Bake for approximately 18 minutes, or until tops have begun to brown and are springy to the touch. Let cool completely, then frost.
Coconut-Lemongrass Whipped Cream
- 1/2 cup of chilled heavy cream
- 1 tbsp of coconut sugar
- 1 tsp of lemongrass powder
Whip cream in a medium bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed. When soft peaks form, add sugar and lemongrass powder. Continue whipping until stiff peaks form.