Lychee Rose Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling

From 6 Bittersweets
Adapted from Tartelette, Une-deux Senses, and The Baker's Dozen Cookbook
Makes 12 cupcakes

XIAOLU'S NOTES: The raspberry custard filling can be made up to 1 week in advance and refrigerated covered until ready for use. The recipe below makes extra, which would be delicious to serve alongside the cupcakes, use in a parfait, or use to fill some other baked good. Alternately, you can halve the recipe.

3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp ground almonds
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
6 Tbsp milk
1 1/2 Tbsp rosewater
12 whole lychees or 24 halves if big (canned is fine)

Raspberry Custard Filling (Recipe below)
Buttercream Frosting (Recipe below)
Fresh raspberries, to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin pan with 12 baking liners. In a small bowl, combine the flours and set aside.

In a large bowl, on medium speed using an electric mixer, cream butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and rose water. Do not overbeat. Using a flexible spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.

Carefully spoon half the batter into the liners, place one lychee in the center of each and top with the remaining batter, leaving a 1/2-inch space to the top for the cupcake to rise. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely.

Once cool, cut a cone in each cupcake and spoon in 2-3 teaspoons of the raspberry custard filling. Replace the cone and spread or pipe on buttercream frosting. Kick back and enjoy!

Raspberry Custard Filling
Makes about 1 3/4 cups

1 1/4 cups milk
3 large egg yolks [save whites for the frosting]
4 to 6 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh raspberries, mashed

In a non-reactive medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium just until bubbles form around the edges but it's not yet boiling.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks (or whole egg and yolk) and sugar until pale yellow. Beat in the flour. On low speed, gradually add in half of the hot milk, beating constantly. Pour the mixture into the saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the pastry cream comes to a full boil, making sure it doesn't scorch. Remove from heat.

Strain the pastry cream through a wire sieve into a medium bowl (to get rid of any egg or flour lumps). Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and poke a few holes in the plastic for steam to escape. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Fold the mashed raspberries through the pastry cream just before filling the cupcakes.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
3 large egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
14 Tbsp unsalted butter, cool room temperature and cut into 10 pieces
1- 2 drops of food coloring (optional)

Combine the sugar and egg whites in the stainless steel bowl of an electric mixer. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water making sure the bottom does not actually touch the water. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (I just whisked by hand and cooked it until the sugar was completely dissolved and the top became foamy). Be careful not to curdle the egg whites, remove from heat if this starts happening.

Remove the bowl to your stand mixer and beat on high speed with the whisk attachment for at least 3 minutes, until the mixture holds glossy, marshmallow-esque peaks and the bowl is completely cool (Very important - the frosting's consistency will be off otherwise).

With mixer on medium-low, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition (about 10 seconds between each addition). Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, at least 3 minutes. (You'll hear a distinct slapping sound and visibly see the buttercream go from soupy to a cohesive, pipeable consistency.) Reduce speed to low, add the vanilla and food coloring (if using), and continue beating 1 minute to incorporate the additions and reduce air bubbles.