Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New York State Upside-Down Ice Cream Cupcakes (for the 2011 Ice Cream Cupcake Contest)

I can honestly say I've been dreaming of entering a cooking contest since I was 10. I'd pour over every issue of the Lowell Ledger, our very local newspaper, and I'd imagine what recipe I'd make for the chili contest at the Kiwanis Club or the pie bake-off at the local fair. Last summer, I considered entering the Pie in the Park contest but never quite got around to it. The desire to enter a cooking contest never faded away.

This week, I finally took the cooking contest plunge (although in a slightly different, more virtual venue that 10-year-old me couldn't have imagined would be possible). I decided to participate in the 2011 Ice Cream Cupcake Contest created by Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious. The challenge: create a recipe for an ice cream cupcake (that combines cake and ice cream), photograph it and blog about it. I committed, but I just had to make my creation.

Then, the New York Times posted this recipe for rhubarb upside-down cake. The recipe has you create a quick brown sugar and butter sauce to spread in the bottom of the pan, add chopped rhubarb (uncooked) and top it with cake batter. The recipe promised a delightful layer of tender pink rhubarb atop a moist cake.

I created these New York State Upside-Down Ice Cream Cupcakes as a testament to this season's New York state produce. Rhubarb came into season first, and strawberries just joined it. After a winter of eating root vegetables and cellared apples, I was ready to celebrate! Ronnybrook Farm Dairy in the Hudson River Valley provided the dairy products I needed to make the complete project a success. 

I adapted the rhubarb upside-down cake into cupcakes that were loaded with rhubarb topping. I greased and re-greased the pans so the cupcakes wouldn't stick. Each cupcake was given a spoonful of brown sugar and butter, a full layer of rhubarb and then filled about 2/3 of the way full with batter.

As the cupcakes cooked, the brown sugar and butter mixture bubbled up a bit over the sides. The baking pan I placed underneath the cupcakes as they baked was a life saver and saved me from scrubbing burnt caramel off the bottom of my oven.

I still had a batch of roasted rhubarb ice cream, using some of the beautiful local rhubarb I picked up during a trip to the farmer's market. I sliced fresh strawberries and whipped up a quick batch of whipped cream.

Assembling the ice cream cupcakes was the fun part. There are countless ways you can assemble your cupcakes (Stef from Cupcake Project has a great list of options), but I decided to go with the slice-and-stuff idea. I sliced the cupcake in half, being careful to avoid the delicate rhubarb layer. I added a layer of strawberries, topped it with spoonfuls of rhubarb ice cream and put the top back on. A spoonful of whipped cream finished it off perfectly.

New York State Upside-Down Ice Cream Cupcakes
adapted from the New York Times

When converted into cupcakes, this recipe yields about 20 large cupcakes. If you have a miniature bundt cake pan, consider using that as well. It produces beautiful little cakes. Really hunt for the reddest rhubarb stalks you can find. When stalks with green bits are used, the green really stands out in the cupcakes and it distracts a little from the overall appearance.

Avoid cupcake wrappers at all costs. If the pans are well greased, the cupcakes will flip out easily on their own.

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for buttering the pan
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour (or cake flour if you have it)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the filling/topping:
1/2 batch of roasted rhubarb ice cream 
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Strawberries, thinly sliced

Prepare the pans: Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place a baking sheet in the oven to catch any drips. Line the bottoms of your cupcake pans with parchment paper circles (trace the bottom of the pan to make determining the size a cinch). Butter the paper and the sides of the pan.

Chop the rhubarb: Chop the rhubarb into 1/2-inch pieces. Mix the rhubarb, cornstarch and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar together in a medium bowl. Set aside, stirring regularly when you remember it to distribute flavors.

Prepare the topping: Mix the brown sugar and 1/2 stick of butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk the mixture until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Set aside. If your topping hardens, you can reheat it quickly before you need to use it.

Make the batter: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

With your fingers, blend the remaining 1 cup of granulated sugar with the lemon zest until the mixture is uniform in color. In a large bowl, whip two sticks of butter in a mixer for 2 minutes. Cream the sugar mixture together with the butter at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl halfway through. Add the vanilla and beat well.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scrapping down the bowl after each addition. Mix in the sour cream and then the lemon juice (the mixture may look a little curdled). With the mixture on low, add the flour mixture 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until well combined. Scrape down the bowl in between additions.

Assemble the cupcakes: Place one spoonful of the brown sugar and butter mixture into the cake pan. Spoon the rhubarb on top, covering the bottom layer completely. Press the rhubarb down to create a complete layer. Add some of the juices that have accumulated in the pan to each cupcake.

Spoon in the batter so it covers the rhubarb completely, filling to about 2/3 full.

Bake the cupcakes: Place the cupcakes in the oven. Check the cupcakes after 15 minutes to see if they are done. Mine ended up taking about 18 minutes, until the top of the cupcake was firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the middle came out without large crumbs.

Place the cupcake pan on a wire rack, and let it cool for 15 minutes (be exact about this!). Run a knife around the cake and place a plate or wire rack on top of the pan. Invert the pan and flip the cupcakes out.

Assemble the ice cream cupcakes: Slice the strawberries thinly. Beat the heavy cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla using medium speed until it forms soft peaks. Get the roasted rhubarb ice cream out of the fridge and let it sit for a few minutes to soften. 

Using a serrated knife, slice the cupcakes in half, being careful not to cut through the rhubarb layer. On the bottom layer of the cupcake, arrange a thin layer of sliced strawberries. Top with spoonfuls of roasted rhubarb ice cream. Feeling adventurous? Add another layer of strawberries on top. Or, try ice cream, strawberries and then more ice cream. It's up to you! Place the cupcake top over the strawberries, and top with a dollop of whipped cream.

If you can't serve the ice cream cupcakes immediately, place them in the freezer. Take them out of the freezer about 10 minutes before you hope to serve them. Add sliced strawberries to serve. These are best eaten with a knife and fork!


  1. They tasted great!

  2. The ice cream/cupcake combo was one I had never had before and I think it's now my favorite!

  3. I love that the ingredients are from the farmers market! So exciting!

  4. Your Blog should be called Making Michael Pollan Hungry. May I have a cupcake please?

  5. Or maybe Making Sue Clements Hungary!

  6. Katie, I almost can't stand how delicious this looks! I had to blog about it!

  7. Thank you Nancy! What a beautiful write-up! I'll have to see if I can find a way to transport some cupcakes down to you. Hmm....

  8. OMG, these look fantastic!! I adore rhubarb...that ice cream sounds so yummy, and love combining it with the upside down cake and the strawberries. Yum!!

  9. Thanks, Sara! Strawberries and rhubarb is definitely a winning combination.