Whenever I have the opportunity to talk about Benjamin Harrison, I can’t resist the urge to refer to him as the meat in the Grover Cleveland sandwich.
Go ahead. Take a minute; unpack that.
Benjamin Harrison could be described as a heritage president. Great, now I sound like I’m talking about turkeys. His great-grandfather was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His grandfather was President William Henry Harrison. His father was a state representative for Ohio. Suddenly, you understand my urge to call him a heritage president, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
Speaking of holidays, Benjamin Harrison’s White House was the one that established the tradition of the White House Christmas tree. That was a large part due to his wife, Caroline. She was all about the social side of things. In fact, the Harrisons remind me a bit of the Madisons. Benjamin Harrison was more comfortable among books than among people. In his defense, he had seven siblings. Who can blame a guy for appreciating a little quiet time. His contemporaries weren’t as compassionate though. They likened his personality to that of an iceberg. Like Dolley Madison before her, Caroline’s gift of the gab and love of social gatherings helped her husband as chief executive.
There are dozens of interesting things about Benjamin Harrison’s life and legacy. He was president when the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was passed. This was the first law that tried to limit monopolies. He was all about expansion which we associate more with McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. In fact, his work influenced President Roosevelt. Harrison also went against his party and declined supporting anti-Chinese immigration measures. Finally, Benjamin Harrison is also the first president who’s voice is known to be preserved.
With all of this, I shouldn’t just think of him as the meat on Grover Cleveland’s sandwich, but I just can’t help myself. I couldn’t even restrain myself to saying it just once.
I was discussing Head of State Cakes with someone a few weeks ago, and Benjamin Harrison came up in conversation. By the way, if you know anyone else who can honestly say, “Benjamin Harrison came up in the conversation,” please introduce us; we’re cut from the same cloth. Anyway, I talked about his sandwich filling status, and I may have uttered the words, “cupcake-appropriate sandwich.” With that, I knew that his cupcake would be a take on the fluffernutter sandwich. This is a vanilla bean cupcake with cinnamon marshmallow creme filling. It is topped with peanut butter cream cheese frosting.
I liked this cupcake. The frosting is not sweet in comparison to a buttercream frosting. However, my son found this frosting to be highly suspect. He asked permission to scrape the frosting into the sink. That wasn’t enough. About 10 minutes later he asked me if the frosting was “some sort of salty frosting.” He was straight up bewildered. I think that it was a nice balancing act to the marshmallow creme center.
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- seeds of one vanilla bean
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 ounces cream cheese
- 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Stir together the sugar, corn syrup, water, cinnamon, and salt in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer.
- Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Start whipping the egg whites to soft peaks on medium speed. (You want to have the egg whites whipped and ready, waiting for your syrup to be drizzled in. If they’re whipping faster than your syrup is coming to temperature, just stop the mixer until the syrup is ready.)
- When the syrup reaches 240°F, reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly drizzle about 2 tablespoons of syrup into the egg whites to warm them. (If you add too much syrup at once, the whites will scramble.) Slowly drizzle in the rest of the syrup. Increase the speed to medium high and whip until the marshmallow creme is stiff and glossy, about 7 minutes. Add in the vanilla and whip 2 minutes more. Use immediately or refrigerate stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake papers.
- In a small bowl, combine flours. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the vanilla. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
- Cool before icing.
- Beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar with a mixer on medium speed. Add salt, then peanut butter, then vanilla. Whisk cream until soft peaks form, and then fold into peanut butter mixture. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. (Bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth before using.)