Monday, June 29, 2009

Cupcake Challenge #11- Blueberries and cream cupcakes

Blueberry-Vanilla cupcakes topped with Whipped Cream and Blueberries. I made 24 minis and 24 regular sized.
These were simply vanilla cupcakes, with blueberries mixed in, topped with fluffy whipped cream and fresh blueberries. The recipe called for 2 cups of blueberries for the batter and more to put on top. I used a whole 2 pints in total, because I wanted to make sure each cupcake had enough blueberries. The regular ones had 3 or 4 a piece, but the minis had only 1 each.

Here they are right out of the oven, smelling fantastic!

I dug around my cupcake cabinet and found these blue striped liners. I love how you can see the blueberries through them, it lets you know what to expect when you take a bite! These would have been good also with just a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Here's a finished cupcake all by itself.

This was a good recipe for the summertime, as blueberries are in all the markets. The whipped cream on top is light enough to not take away from the fresh taste of the fruit. The minis can be devoured in one bite!

Here's the inside, with the yummy blueberries.

I was concerned that they'd all fall to the bottom of the batter, but that didn't happen. I'm guessing it's because the blueberries are light enough, as opposed to a heavier fruit such as raspberries. In that case, most recipes recommend dusting the fruit (or whatever else) with flour before folding it in, so they will remain suspended in the batter and not fall to the bottom.

So, next recipe coming up is zucchini-spice, but I may hold off. When baking today, it got sooo hot in the kitchen, it was really unbearable, being 110 degrees outside. We'll have to wait for a day when it's only 105 before baking again :)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cupcake Challenge #10- Banana pecan cupcakes with caramel buttercream

Banana-pecan cupcakes with caramel buttercream. A brand new experience for me! Never made banana cupcakes or caramel buttercream before. These smelled so warm and homey while baking. I used fresh bananas of course, and toasted pecans both in the batter and on top as a garnish. This recipe made 33, instead of the indicated 28, and cooked in under 15 minutes!

Here they are right out of the oven, smelling so fantastic. I don't actually like to eat bananas, but the smell is great.

These were so moist and delicious, almost like a muffin. They would be great eaten as-is, with no frosting, but Martha recommends frosting, so that's what I did!

This frosting recipe was complicated, a variation on Swiss Merengue Buttercream, which always gives me problems. Since there were multiple steps, I really could have used an extra mixer bowl so I didn't have to clean it out before each step. First I had to cream the butter, and then make the caramel, which I had never done before. I may have let it cook a bit too long, but it still tasted great. Caramel is made by boiling a sugar syrup until golden brown, then adding heavy cream. once cooled, it's a gooey sticky mess, but oh so good.

Here's the finished caramel in the pan.

It actually wasn't as hard as I thought, and easy enough to clean up. Although I did use a trick I'd seen somewhere before. The recipe says to wash down the sides of the bowl with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystallization. I had seen a trick, where you simply put the lid of the pot on top whil it's boiling, and the condensation will trickle down to prevent the sugar crystals from forming. It worked like a charm!

While the caramel was cooling, I made the Swiss Merengue. I have made this a few times before and screwed it up a few times too, so I knew what to look for. Although I was a bit disappointed that Martha did not include any descriptions or pictures of what it's supposed to look like during the process. Once you beat the egg whites and sugar, then you add the butter, and the mixture usually looks curdled and all wrong. I've learned from experience to chill the mix before beating the ever loving shit out of it. Then it turns out great!

Here is the finished frosting, with caramel added:

Swiss Merenge Buttercream is a lot lighter and less sweet than an American buttercream. Although it uses sometimes twice as much butter, there's also a lot less sugar. It relies on beaten egg whites for volume and stiffness, while the other relies on a pound of powdered sugar. My mom prefers the Swiss Merengue Buttercream for its taste, but I prefer the American buttercream for its ease to make and its durability.

Here's a finished frosted cupcake, sans pecan topper.

All in all, this was a very challenging recipe, and I feel more confident about making Swiss Merengue Buttercream now. This would be a great trest for the fall, and these cupcakes could even be eaten without frosting for breakfast.
Next up: Blueberry cupcakes with whipped cream. So summery!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cupcake Challenge #9- Tiramisu cupcakes

Tiramisu cupcakes: vanilla sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup, topped with mascarpone frosting, sprinkled with cocoa powder. Deee-lish! I have made tiramisu cupcakes before, but I just used my regular vanilla cupcakes and topped them with mascarpone frosting. These are a little more involved. First of all, the cake itself is a sponge cake, very very light and airy. And this recipe called for infusing a vanilla bean in warm milk before adding it to the batter, which leaves little specks of vanilla in the baked cupcakes.

Here they are right out of the oven:

Then, I made a coffee syrup. The recipe called for adding marsala wine too, but I omitted that, mostly because I'd have to buy a whole bottle for only 1/4 cup worth. If I were making more than one batch of these, I'd do it, but not for just one use. The cupcakes were brushed with the coffee syrup multiple times. The recipe says to use 1/3 cup coffee and let it absorb into the cupcakes. I used maybe half of that, and they were soaked through.

Here are the cupcakes after brushing them with the coffee syrup:

They look a little messy and soggy, but they smelled wonderful! The mascarpone frosting was next, which was simply whipped cream folded into the cheese with a little bit of sugar. I also added a drop of vanilla, because it makes all frostings taste better :) I dolloped the frosting on top of the soaked cupcakes.

Here they are, so fluffy and mouth-watering!

The final step was to sprinkle cocoa powder on top, just like real tiramisu. These must be eaten the same day, because the coffee syrup makes the cupcakes too soggy to keep overnight. I like that the cake and frosting are both light and airy, it makes you feel not as bad when eating them! Although this recipe was a lotmore work than my own, I think it's better, and would definitely use it in the future.
Next up: Banana-Pecan cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream. Tasty!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cupcake Challenge #8- Chocolate Malted cupcakes with vanilla frosting

Chocolate malted cupcakes with fluffy vanilla frosting. I've never made anything with malted flavor before, because I don't really like it. Although I know chocolate and malted are a classic flavor combination, because my husband used to make chocolate malted milk a lot, back in the day :) These cupcakes rose quite high, with a nice domed top. Sometimes chocolate cupcakes tend to over-rise and then deflate in the middle, but these didn't. The batter was very runny, which made it difficult to scoop into the tins. This was due to the use of oil instead of butter. The recipe called for 1 cup of sour cream as well, but I only had a half cup. It didn't seem to make a big difference. Sour cream is often used in chocolate recipes to add tang and moisture, since they tend to dry out more than vanilla does.

Here they are out of the oven, not too dark chocolate, just enough.

And here's the final result, frosted and sprinkled. I thought chocolate sprinkles were an appropriate topping. The frosting is just your typical vanilla buttercream. Although, I used only 2 sticks of butter instead of 3, and had the perfect amount of frosting for 27 cupcakes.

These were a new recipe for me, and I'm glad to have tried it. The malted powder mixed with milk didn't smell very good to me, but I assume that's how it's supposed to smell. Now I have a whole contained of malted milk powder and no other use for it! Didn't try these, gonna get opinions from other people.
Next up is tiramisu cupcakes! I have made these before, using my own recipe. Let's see how Martha's stacks up!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cupcake Challenge #7- Devil's food with chocolate ganache

Cupcake recipe #7- chocolate overload!!! ( You can wipe away the drool now!)

Soooo delicious! Devil's food cake with a rich chocolate ganache frosting! The answer to any chocoholic's wish. These were a cinch to make, although the instructions were a little different than I was used to. The recipe called for melting the butter and sugar together before beating it, and the cocoa powder to be dissolved in hot water before adding it to the mix. Usually butter and sugar are creamed together and the cocoa is added with the flour as a dry ingredient.

Here they are fresh out of the oven:
These turned out very moist and light, I could eat 5 or 6 of the cake alone. The frosting however is super rich, and that I can only have a bit of. A ganache is only chocolate and cream, melted and cooled to the proper consistency. The cooling takes the longest amount of time, and waiting is difficult! But it turns out glossy and thick and easily spreadable without being too runny.

Here is my dessert this evening:

A glass of red wine and a chocolate cupcake.... a perfect pairing! :)
Next up is malted chocolate cupcakes, although I need to buy malted milk powder still, the store I was at today didn't have it!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cupcake Challenge #6- Rhubarb cupcakes

Ok, so this one was a real challenge. Rhubarb cupcakes? Never had rhubarb before! Its consistency is like celery, but softens when cooked.

Here it is all chopped up:
The recipe called for 2 cups diced in the actual cakes, then one additional cup chopped on top. The topping was whipped cream with a sugar syrup and rhubarb, but it said to serve immediately. The sugar syrup would no doubt make the cupcakes mushy if left out too long. Well, since I didn't know when they would be consumed, I opted to forgo the topping, serving them as is. I tried to think of some other kind of frosting to put on top, but I didn't want to take away from the rhubarb flavor itself with a super sweet buttercream. So these were naked. :)
They turned out great, a good choice for summertime, and I'd like to try them again with the recommended topping.
Next up: Devil's food cupcake with ganache topping. Chocolate overload!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cupcake Challenge #5- Red Velvet with Cream Cheese frosting

Ok, Day #5 of the Tania/Martha cupcakes challenge is red velvet, everyone's favorite. I've made this flavor quite a few times, with many different recipes. This one isn't the best recipe I've ever used, but it's good, very reliable, and likely to please everyone.

These are super red! The recipe called for oil instead of butter, which makes for a lighter cupcake, but the batter is also runnier, so it's a bit harder to scoop into the liners.

I glittered them! I had more frosting left over again. I usually pipe frosting on, it's faster and looks nicer I think, but this section of the cookbook is called "Swirled and Sprinkled", so I've been putting the frosting on with an offset spatula. Honestly, I think the only reason people love red velvet cupcakes is becasue they are red, and they are a cream cheese frosting delivery system.

I on the other hand, prefer to cake to the frosting. This one was super yummy! The slight cocoa taste to the cake is perfect, and the tangy frosting (just a bit) offsets that nicely. Tomorrow... rhubarb!! That will be a new experience!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cupcake Challenge #4- Triple coconut cupcakes

So, I took a bit of a break over the weekend, but here I am back again! These are coconut cupcakes with coconut frosting topped with shaved coconut, hence triple coconut cupcakes! The cakes themselves were easy enough, but the frosting was difficult. It's a traditional 7 minute frosting, except mine took more like 20 minutes. Although I had a few mishaps along the way, these turned out great! I didn't have a can opener to open the can of coconut milk, and my candy thermometer broke just as I was ready to use it, so I had to eyeball the cooked sugar mixture for the right temperature. The frosting took much longer than expected, and made a lot more than I needed. Unfortunately, you can't save this kind of frosting, it must be used immediately. I needed about 6 more cupcakes to use it all up. Oh well! They all turned out great anyways.

The cupcakes right out of the oven. This recipe made exactly 20.

Whipping the frosting- 20 minutes (or more) at full speed! My poor tired mixer!
One cupcake frosted, pre- coconut flakes.
A few comments on Martha's recipes so far: I like how each recipe yields exactly the right number of cupcakes, but some are 20, some 24, and some 36! I would have preferred just a dozen. Also, when the instructions say, beat till soft peaks form, an estimated time frame would be nice too. So if I think they're soft peaks but it hasn't been as long as the book recommends, I'd go a little longer. See what I mean? Tomorrow, everyone's favorite... red velvet!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Challenge Day 3: Yellow Buttermilk cupcakes with Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

Day 3: Yellow buttermilk with fluffy vanilla frosting. These were fairly simple, plain cupcakes, a great crowd pleaser. I had run out of cake flour, so I used regular all purpose flour. I think the cake flour yields a more tender, lighter cake, but these were great anyways.
They baked for 17 minutes in my convection oven. The batter made 38, instead of the 36 indicated. A few cupcakes melted over, but most of them came out with a nice domed top.

I frosted them with your traditional american buttercream, butter and powdered sugar plus vanilla, and topped them with yellow sanding sugar. Very cheery I think! This is what people think of when you say cupcake: sweet frosting, great moist cake, very nostalgic.
Probably going to take a few days off, start again on Monday. Next up is coconut cupcakes, although I'm having a hard time finding all the ingredients: I still need coconut milk and coconut extract (they're very coconut-y).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cupcake Challenge Day 2- Carrot cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting

Day 2: carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. They turned out so well! The recipe called for golden raisins, which I usually don't add, but I did this time. Again, the recipe yielded exactly what it said it would: 24 cupcakes. And they baked for 19 minutes at 325 degrees convection, instead of 24-28 minutes at 325 conduction as instructed. These were not as heavy as most carrot cake recipes are, and they smelled divine. Although I'm not a fan of carrot cake, I do so love the smell.
Here they are after baking. A few got too big and collapsed, I may have overfilled the cups, even though I used the same scooper for all of them.

Here are a few all frosted and decorated. I love sprinkles! :) These were a cinch to make, didn't even need a mixer, except for the frosting. Also, no butter in carrot cake, just vegetable oil. But the frosting called for 2 sticks of butter and 12 ounces of cream cheese, which seemed like a lot. I did have a bit leftover, which I'll save for the red velvet cupcakes next week !

I brought them to another local fire department, and they were very excited to have them. I'm excited for tomorrow, yellow buttermilk cupcakes with fluffy vanilla frosting. A classic! So far, I'm really having a good time with this project, although I am going through a lot of butter :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cupcake Challenge Day 1- Chocolate Chip cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Frosting

Day 1 is complete! After picking up ingredients for the rest of the week this morning, I got started on recipe #1. These are chocolate chip cupcakes with a dark chocolate frosting. I followed the recipe to the letter. The only problem I had was with the egg whites. You're supposed to beat them to stiff peaks, but I wasn't sure what that was, and there wasn't an explanation of what it's supposed to look like or how long it takes. When it got to the stage I thought it should be, I added the rest of the batter, but it all turned liquid again. The cupcakes turned out fine, so I guess I did it well enough. I ended up with 30 cupcakes, just as the recipe indicated. I usually end up with more than usual, so it was nice that this turned out great. I baked them for 16 minutes in a convection oven, although the recipe calls for 22 minutes in a regular conduction oven. The convection really speeds up the baking time.
Here are the cupcakes before they go in:
And after...

Making the frosting was different than I'm used to. The recipe called for 4.5 sticks of butter and 1.5 pounds of chocolate. Wow! The result was a super rich chocolate frosting, although it was a little too runny for my liking. Maybe because it was so hot today? But it tastes amazing! And I love how the chocolate is super shiny and glossy.
Frosted cupcakes:Scrumptious! And I had to sample one myself:All in all, a great recipe. The cupcake is light and airy, since it uses only egg whites, and the frosting is decadent. I piled a lot on, because I had a lot, but it could do with much less, as to not overpower the cupcake. I dropped the 29 cupcakes off at the local fire department, those guys could use a sugar rush :)
Tomorrow... carrot.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tania/Martha Cupcake Challenge

In honor of the new cookbook, Martha Stewart's Cupcakes, I challenge myself to re-create each of the 175 recipes in the book. This challenge is also inspired by the new movie, Julie/Julia, about a woman who blogged about recreating all of Julia Child's recipes. Since I prefer baking to cooking, I plan on cupcakes only. I'll post pictures each day of my results, along with comments and observations. I plan to give away the cupcakes I make each day to senior homes, firestations, or to anyone who'd like to have them. I look forward to this challenge, and hope that I will inspire others to get in the kitchen and start experimenting. Happy Baking!