I love the Fourth of July! Especially in Michigan. I really can’t imagine spending the Fourth of July anywhere but Michigan. For those of you who aren’t Michiganders, you might remember a very popular song Kid Rock sang called Summertime. While the melody was similar to Sweet Home Alabama, it became an anthem for all of us Michiganders who are so familiar with the “up north” lifestyle. For many of us, when we want a weekend getaway, we go “up north.” This general term can be anywhere north in Michigan, but it implies a certain lifestyle that drips of relaxation.
For me, when I go up north, I know that I will be staying in a quaint 10 by 10 cabin with rooms separated only by a couple pieces of paneling. The kitchen is the size of a small bathroom and the bathroom is the size of a tiny closet. The beds take up the majority of the tiny bedrooms leaving only a few feet of walking space and the doors are replaced with curtains. That’s the beauty of up north. My small house is probably six times the size of the cabin, however, it’s the simplicity of the cabin that makes it my own little retreat. There is a TV, but no cable. We have a VCR and only a few old Mighty Mouse videotapes for the kids. And there is hardly any cell phone service. So for the three to five days we spend up there each July, we are totally cut off from the things we deem vital in our normal lives….and it’s wonderful.
Our cabin is situated in a private community called Canada Creek Ranch. Memberships are passed down from generation to generation. Our little cabin was built around 1941 by my great-great grandfather. My great-grandmother and her sister inherited it and soon after my great-grandmother bought it out from her sister. My grandparents then bought it from them and it finally ended up with my parents around 1999. Growing up, we went to the cabin every Fourth of July for the big Ranch-wide beach bash celebration. There were games for the kids, swimming in the lake, a raft that all of the tweeners played king of the mountain on, basketball courts, and tons of families! Each year, we would recognize the same kids from the previous years – even if we only saw them once a year – and made new friends.
Since my mom has five brothers, we have a huge family. And the majority of us would go up north and either stay in various cabins or camp. There were about five of us cousins all within years of age and among the rest of the beach kids, we became known as the “cousins gang.” We’d hang out at the teen bonfire, swim out to the far raft and play beach volleyball. Yes, up north is a very special place.
This year is no different. I look forward to going up north for the Fourth. My son is now 11 (going on 16) and he’s doing the same things that I did at his age, making friends, playing games (and hopefully staying the heck away from the girls!) My daughter is 1 and I can’t wait to take her for her first real dip in the lake! Sure, I love vacations and going to the ocean and seeing national monuments. However, when I want to truly relax and feel at peace, up north is where my heart is.
So, in celebration of this amazing holiday and all of the memories that it evokes, I created the most American and classic cupcake I could think of: Apple Pie. I started with a rich cinnamon vanilla cake. I filled it with apple pie apples and topped it all with German buttercream and a crisp streusel. I’ve made American buttercream (which is pretty much butter and powdered sugar) and Swiss buttercream (which is a cooked meringue then beat with butter), however I just stumbled upon German buttercream in my cupcake research this week. I figured, heck, I’m about 80% German, I’m probably really good at this one. German buttercream is a thick vanilla custard cooked on the stove and then cooled completely down and finally beat with butter. It’s fluffy, it’s rich, it’s amazing. While Swiss buttercream is smooth and creamy, the butter taste is very prevalent. However, German buttercream is dangerously delicious and tastes reminiscent of rich vanilla ice cream. It’s the perfect finishing touch to my apple pie cuppies.
Apple Pie Cupcakes
For the cake:
In the mixer, add 1 ½ cups of flour, 1 ¾ tsp of baking powder, 1 cup of sugar, and 2 tsp of cinnamon. Mix together, then add 1 stick of butter. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until a soft crumb forms. In a separate bowl, mix 2 eggs, 1 tsp of vanilla, and ½ cup of heavy cream. Slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. It will be a little thick, but make sure it’s completely mixed. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.
Apple Pie Filling
In a saucepan, add 6 apples (peeled and diced), 1 tsp of cinnamon, ¼ tsp of nutmeg, ¼ cup of flour, ¼ tsp of salt, zest of one lemon, juice of half of the lemon, and mix well. Add 1 cup of apple juice and 2 tbsp of brown sugar. Heat the apples until cooked through. It will be thick and delicious, just like pie filling.
I used the recipe found on one of my new favorite bloggers, “BraveTart” by Stella Parks. You can find the recipe here: http://bravetart.com/recipes/GermanButtercream. However, I made a few modifications. First, Ms. Parks only uses weight measurements. I’ve never used weight measurements, simply because I don’t own a scale. So, I converted all of the measurements so that I could use cups and teaspoons. For example, when she refers to 16 ounces of milk, just use two cups. And when the recipe calls for 10 ounces of sugar, just use 1 ¼ cups of sugar. However, the recipe asks for 32 ounces of butter. That’s a lot of butter – it equals eight sticks of butter! However, I used only 4 sticks of butter and found that the frosting was still super delicious and suited my cupcakes just fine. However, you will have to run the mixer on high and definitely follow her tip on adding the butter one tablespoon at a time.
In a bowl, mix ¾ c. brown sugar, ½ c. flour, ½ c. oats, and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Cut in 1/3 c. of butter. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, it will crisp up more after it cools too.
Cut the middle out of each baked cupcake, fill each cupcake with the apple pie filling and top with the little piece of extra cupcake. Frost with the German buttercream and sprinkle streusel on top. Enjoy!