So, you win some you lose some. This weekend I lost,  a lot. I guess I have been getting pretty cocky with my cooking and baking lately and I decided to try out not one, but two recipes that were a little bit more involved that I am normally used to.

Unfortuntately, the purpose of trying out both of these recipes was for Father’s Day. Stu’s dad consistently raves about my baking,  so I selected some recipes that feature some of his favorite things: Margaritas, Pretzels, Caramel, and Beer.

Margarita Cupcakes
From Annie’s Eats

For the cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 limes, zested and juiced
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

For the frosting:
2 cups sugar
8 large egg whites
Pinch fleur de sel (coarse salt)
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2-4 tbsp. tequila

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir with a fork to blend.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the lime zest, lime juice and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ full.  Bake 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  If desired, brush the cooled cakes with tequila to emphasize the true margarita flavor.

To make the frosting, combine the sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don’t worry, it will come together, though it may take a long time!)  Stir in the lime juice and tequila and mix until fully incorporated and smooth.

Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

Frost the cooled cupcakes with the buttercream.  Garnish with lime zest and lime slices as desired.

Something went terribly wrong for me in this recipe. It could be because I halved it. I didn’t want to make 24 cupcakes, which is what the recipe yields. The cakes themselves turned out okay, but the frosting was all wrong. I don’t have a candy thermometer (this will also become an issue for the other project I was working on for Father’s Day, read on,) so I’m not sure if the temperature of the egg and sugar mixture was the cause of the problem. My butter cream frosting did not come together. I whipped and whipped until the motor of my KitchenAid nearly burned out, but still, butter creamy soup. I blame the heat and humidity. It was about 90 degrees and humid on Sunday, so who knows? I ended up dipping the cupcakes (which did come out a little teeny bit dry) into the frosting and topping each with a lime. A pretty pathetic attempt to cover up an obvious kitchen mishap, but they looked okay. And I suppose they tasted alright, too. The definitely did not distract from the pink in my cheeks as I handed them over to Stu’s dad for a Father’s Day gift.

To read more about my Father’s Day gift misfortunes, click below:

Although I thought that the Margarita Cupcakes were enough, I had stumbled upon an awesome-looking recipe for Caramels. I’ve never tried Caramel’s before, but the recipe seemed easy enough and it had two of Stu’s dad (and mom’s) favorite treats: Beer and Pretzels. I decided to give it a try.

Ale and Pretzel Soft Caramels
From Sprinkle Bakes

1 12 oz. bottle of brown or pale ale, divided
2 cups sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1 8 oz. package pretzel rods (can use pretzel sticks too)

1 roll of wax paper

In a small saucepan bring 1 cup of ale to a simmer and cook until reduced and syrupy.  This will take about 20 minutes and yield about 1 tsp. of concentrated ale flavoring.  Set aside.

Butter a 13 x 9 inch pan or 2 -9×9 inch pans and set aside. Combine remaining beer and all other ingredientsexcept ale reduction in a heavy 4-5 quart pot.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Butter will melt and mixture will begin to boil.

Continue to cook until candy thermometer reaches 244 degrees, this will take about 30 minutes.  You can test your caramel in a bowl of ice water to check the consistency.  It should form a firm ball.

When the correct temperature has been reached, stir in the ale reduction and remove from heat.  Pour into prepared pan(s) and top with pretzel rods.  Let cool for several hours or place in fridge until firm.  Remove caramel block from pan and turn pretzel-side up on a cutting board (if refrigerated, let caramel block warm up a little for easier cutting).  Cut between pretzels and then into 1″ pieces.  Cut wax paper into approx. 5 x 5 inch squares and wrap caramels.

NOTES: Caramels must be wrapped or they will lose their shape over time. Use silicone pans for easy removal.

I’m not entirely sure what went wrong with this recipe, but I can guess that it had something to do with the fact that I didn’t have a candy thermometer, and my mixture did not come to 244degrees, which is a pretty specific temperature. I did test the caramel in a bowl of ice water, and it came together pretty well, but not exactly a firm ball. I poured the caramel into a dish and let it sit out for a while. It didn’t harden much after an hour so I moved it into the fridge, thinking it was the heat. After sitting in the refrigerator over night, no improvements. It came out liquidy and syrupy instead of thick and soft. I dumped the whole thing in the trash and cried large juicy tears.

So instead of Ale Caramels and Margarita Cupcakes, I hit up the beer cafe and grabbed a bottle of AleSmith Brewing Company Horny Devil and The Great Divide Dunkel Weiss.  Stu’s dad is big into Belgian Strong Ales and Wheat Beers. Happy Father’s Day!