Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Baking

As I'm trying to get my business up and running, I'm trying a few test-runs, including selling holiday treats at my husband's office. I had quite a few orders, and they all turned out great!
I made mini Derby pies, red velvet cake balls, pumpkin cake pops, and red velvet cupcakes. I was a baking machine for a few days! Oh, and just for fun, I made sugar cookies, and decorated them too.
Check it out!
Sugar cookie snowflakes with royal icing and sanding sugar.

Sugar cookie candy canes with royal icing and sanding sugar.

Sugar cookie Xmas trees with royal icing, sanding sugar, and silver dragees.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting and holly berry sprinkles.

Mini Derby Pies: Chocolate Chip-Bourbon-Pecan.

Red Velvet Cake balls- dipped in Red (vanilla) and Milk Chocolate with holiday sprinkles.

Pumpkin Cake Pops- dipped in white (vanilla) candy and topped with holiday sprinkles.

I had so much fun baking all these treats, I can't wait until I get paid to do it all the time!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Cake Balls!

So I had a few leftover cupcakes from my holiday baking the other day, and what better way to use leftover cupcakes and frosting than to make cake balls!
I usually make cake pops, but decided this time to omit the pops. These look like little truffles, but are really cake, and are a bit easier to make than cake pops, since there are less steps.
I made two kinds, chocolate peppermint and gingerbread, both with vanilla frosting. I dipped them in dark chocolate, and garnished with either crushed up candy canes or holly berry sprinkles.
I was concerned with the dipping technique, since I usually have problems with this. The candy was smooth enough, and I followed the instructions in the Cake Pops book exactly. I found a good method, dip the cake balls, spoon chocolate over them to cover, and lift them out with the spoon. I used 2 spoons, the other one to take the ball off the first spoon and to drop it on the wax paper. I found that cut down on the amount of extra chocolate on the cake ball, so it didn't get too messy.

You have to decorate these immediately, since the chocolate starts to harden after only a few seconds. I learned that with the first one I did.
I packaged them up in little mini cupcake liners to bring to a friend's holiday party tomorrow. So cute! I'm thinking about making more next week to send with my xmas packages to family.
Super cute and yummy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Martha Challenge #48 and #49- Holliday cupcakes!

It's been a good long while since I've baked, not since Thanksgiving. I was sick for an entire week after, so I didn't think baking was the best idea. All better now!
I made two Martha recipes yesterday, Chocolate-Peppermint and Gingerbread cupcakes. Yum! Very festive.
First, the chocolate peppermint. These are very much like her one-bowl chocolate cupcakes, with the addition of peppermint extract instead of vanilla. I made a dozen regular and 24 minis, and topped them with a peppermint buttercream frosting. I also added mini candy canes on the big ones, and candy cane sprinkles on the minis.

These were great, made the whole place smell amazing too! Next time maybe I'll add some espresso powder to make them mocha peppermint. Yum!

Next up was gingerbread. I usually don't care for the smell of molasses, which is crucial to any good gingerbread cupcake, but these were excellent. The batter was so rich and creamy, it almost looked like peanut butter. I got 16 regulars and 20 minis out of this batch, and topped them with cream cheese frosting. I added holly berry sprinkles and mini gingerbread sprinkles on these. I just love themed sprinkles!These are denser, with a caramelized top, not as soft on the outside, but still yummy on the inside!

I am now fully in the holiday spirit, and can't wait to make some cake pops or bites from the leftovers.
Next week I might try french macarons. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Martha Challenge #47- Turkey cupcakes (fail)

So to get ready for Thanksgiving next week, I wanted to make cute turkey cupcakes. Turkey-looking, not turkey-tasting. Ew.

So Martha has a cute recipe in her book, I went out and bought all the ingredients, and got started.

These were the hardest cupcakes I've made in a long time. The first batch of chocolate cupcakes exploded in the oven. They all overflowed and merged into one big cake mess. Threw it out.

Second batch, I didn't fill the cups as much, but there was still some overflow, not nearly as much as before. I think it's because I used cake flour instead of regular flour. Weird!

So now I had chocolate cupcakes, and some leftover vanilla frosting from the vanilla taste test. I followed the instructions exactly, seen here. They look so cute, I couldn't wait to start decorating!
I couldn't find coconut marshmallows, so I used regular white marshmallows. I poked holes and inserted chocolate sprinkles for the eyes, came out perfect. Then I cut up the swedish fish and tried to attach the beaks. Didn't work. They didn't stick to the marshmallows. I tried wetting the cut end of the fish, tried attaching it with frosting, nothing worked. After seeing 21 droopy beaks, I gave up. Ate the marshmallows instead :)

I was tired and frustrated at that point, so I just made the vanilla frosting chocolate, spread it on top of the cupcakes, and rolled them in toasted coconut. So, turkey cupcakes became chocolate coconut cupcakes. Still yummy, less cute. OH well!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vanilla frosting taste test challenge

Yesterday was National Vanilla Cupcake Day. I have been wanting to try out a few different frostings lately, so this was the perfect opportunity.

I made 68 mini vanilla cupcakes and 3 different kinds of vanilla frosting.

First up was 7 minute frosting. I halved the recipe so I wouldn't end up with tons leftover. This frosting is made of egg whites and a cooked sugar syrup. It wasn't too hard, it just took a while to get the sugar syrup up to the right temperature.

The frosting is super fluffy and white, almost like marshmallow. I mounded it on top of the cupcakes and used some festive fall sprinkles.

Second was traditional American buttercream. This is the easiest to make, with only butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla.

I tinted it purple to distinguish from the other frostings. This is the frosting I use most often, as it is easy to make and use. It can be too sweet for some, since there's usually 4-5 cups of powdered sugar in it. I also added a tiny squeeze of lemon juice.

Last was swiss merengue buttercream. This is the trickiest to make, although it was a lot easier than in the past. This is made with a warmed egg white and sugar mix, which is beaten to stiff peaks, and then butter (4 sticks!) is added in gradually. I usually have trouble with this frosting, but it was perfect this time. After adding the butter, it looks all goopy and wrong, but you just beat it like crazy for a few minutes and it's perfectly fluffy and smooth.

I tinted this pink. It's much less sweet, but richer than other frosting. When Jason tasted it, he said it tasted fattier, and that's due to the pound of butter. This is also a recipe that I can easily adapt to be sugar-free.

Anyhoo, took these to be tasted this morning. The 7 minute frosting had flopped overnight, so I knew that wasn't going to get good reviews. I think most people like the american buttercream, which is good, since it's easier and cheaper to make than the swiss merengue buttercream. I'm glad to know that I can produce any of these frostings rather easily.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Johnny Cupcakes lecture in Denver- with cupcakes!

Last nite I went to a lecture at the Denver Art Museum held by Johnny Cupcakes, the T-shirt entrepreneur. It was very informative and really pumped me up to listen to him talk about how he started his business with no start up loans or investors. I left all fired up and jazzed to get started developing my own business.

Before the lecture, 6 local cupcake shops had samples for everyone and there was a contest to vote who was the best. The bakeries were:
Mermaids Bakery, Lovely Confections, Living the Sweet Life, The Shoppe, Cake Crumbs/the Denver Cupcake Truck, and Happy Cakes. I've tried a few before, so I was interested to see how the rest were. Everyone chose 1 mini cupcake from each place, and then we all voted.

From Mermaids Bakery, I chose the mexican chocolate cupcake. They also offered a vanilla-strawberry cupcake. The chocolate cupcake was great, but the frosting was best- chocolate cinnamon! It was a light chocolate, and was super fluffy and airy, but still with a lot of flavor. I could have eaten just the frosting!

From Lovely Confections, they only had sugar cookies with frosting. It was ok, nothing special. Kind of disappointed they didn't have cupcakes!

From Living the Sweet Life, they offered red velvet, chocolate, and carrot cake. I chose the red velvet. It was very red, the cake wasn't flavorful, and the cream cheese frosting was super tangy.

From The Shoppe, which I've tasted before, they had the biggest selection. Cookies n cream, banana caramel, pumpkin spice, strawberry, and chocolate salted caramel, which I chose.

Presentation was great. The chocolate cake was not flavorful and a little dry, plus there wasn't enough of it. I know these are minis, but there was 3 times the amount of frosting as there was cake. Speaking of the frosting, it was amazing! Super rich dark chocolate sprinkled with fleur de sel, piped over a caramel. Yum!

Cake Crumbs is the retail storefront of the Denver Cupcake Truck. They only offered one flavor, pistachio. I almost passed it up, but decided to try it to be fair. The cake was good, I liked the pistachio flavor, and there were bits of nut chopped up inside. The frosting was too sweet, I could barely tolerate one tiny bite.

Happy Cakes also had a good selection. They had a sweet potato cupcake topped with a mini marshmallow, a pumpkin one I think, and a chocolate peanut butter, which I chose. The cake was great, the peanut butter frosting was crazy rich, super thick. I like that it was topped with a chocolate covered peanut.

After much deliberation, I chose Mermaids Bakery as my favorite, although Happy Cakes came in a close second. Unfortunately, not everyone else agreed with me. The people's choice was The Shoppe. I'm just not impressed with their cake, although the frosting is very good.

After the cupcakes and the lecture, there was an after party outside where people could meet Johnny and ask questions. Before he came out, there were a few food trucks parked outside. One was a pizza truck (sorry I didn't get the name), and one was the The Biscuit Bus, operated by the Denver Biscuit Company. They served sandwiches on buttermilk biscuits. Yum! I had a fried chicken biscuit with a side of sweet potato fries. It was super yummy, although the chicken wasn't very flavorful, needs more seasoning.

Then I got the chance to talk to Johnny, and he posed for a picture too. It's a terrible quality picture, but I'm glad I got the chance to ask him a few questions, and he gave me some good advice.
All in all, it was a great night, learned a lot, stuffed my face, and now I'm ready to get going!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pumpkin Cake Pops!

The last of my Halloween treats were pumpkin cake pops. They look and taste like pumpkin. I made these Saturday while watching Back to the Future :)

I followed directions from the Cake Pops book by Bakerella. She uses green tic tacs for the stems, but I couldn't find green, so I used orange. Every time I make cake pops they turn out better than the last time, so that's encouraging.

I made the balls with pumpkin cake and cream cheese frosting. Before I started I made sure that the baking sheet I had fit into the freezer and fridge, a mistake I've made before.

I melted the orange candy gradually according to the directions, and it was quite smooth, not like the chocolate I've used in the past. I'm still not satisfied with the bowls I have for dipping, maybe I need to search more for the perfect one. The pop has to be dipped in and out straight up and down, and that's my biggest challenge.

Anyways, dipped the pops, added the tic tacs for stems, and let them dry. They were already super cute!
Then, I used a food color marker to draw on faces for the jack o lanterns. Or at least, I tried to. I don't know what it was, but the marker wasn't working properly. I could get maybe one or two lines out of it before it died. I tried cleaning it on a paper towel, as suggested, but that didn't really help. I gave up after 4 or 5 pops, it was too time consuming and frustrating. Maybe the pops were too cold, but I left them at room temp for a while to see if it made any difference, and none at all. Oh well!
I still wrapped up the plain pumpkin pops in fun Halloween treat bags. Gotta love the dollar section at Target! :)
According to my taste tester, these were "mmmmmmm". I love how it looks with a bite missing. Yum!
This project was certainly more successful than the last, and hopefully the next one will be even better!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Cupcakes- 2 ways

I love making holiday cupcakes! This year was difficult, because I couldn't decide what kind of Halloween cupcakes to make! I had so many ideas: mummies, graves, eyeballs, witches, pumpkins, etc. I finally decided on candy corn and jack o lanterns. Classic Halloween icons.

I made pumpkin spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, a recipe I have used before. I got 2 dozen cupcakes, so I decorated them half and half.

I found cute giant candy corn at the store, so I used that as my inspiration and topping for the candy corn cupcakes. I tinted some of the frosting yellow and some of it orange, and piped around the cupcake in the appropriate colors, ending with a dollop of white on top. I also used candy corn colored sprinkles, little balls and colored sugar, to add to the effect. Each cupcake was topped with the giant candy corn. Yum!

For the jack o lanterns, I smoothed on orange frosting, and used a black glitter icing from a tube to pipe on the scary faces. I tried t make a variety of looks, from traditional to goofy to scary. The glitter really sparkled in the light and adds that something special to the design.

I wish I had time to make more fun cupcakes, but I'll have to wait until next year.
Cake pops are still on the agenda, might make them tomorrow. Fun!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pumpkin Bonanza! Featuring Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

So this week, in honor of Halloween, I've decided to make all pumpkin desserts. Monday I made pumpkin chocolate chip bars and pumpkin swirl brownies. Forgot to take pictures tho :(

Yesterday I made pumpkin whoopie pies, and I did get some pictures! They were super cute and yummy, and a cinch to make. I've made them before, but it's been a long time.

I used my whoopie pie pan for these, even though you don't have to. I only have one though, so I had to bake only 12 whoopie pie halves at a time, and wash out the pan each time. Might be worth getting another pan :)

These are super cakey and moist, with a cream cheese filling. I'm never sure how much filling to put inside them, so I start with a little and see how it goes. I did have some leftover, so I probably could have used more filling in each one.

I love the cuteness of the whoopie pies, and they're a little different from cupcakes, but still in the same family. Second cousins, perhaps.

I have 3 more recipes to make this week: pumpkin chocolate chip loaf, pumpkin cupcakes with Halloween decorations, and pumpkin cake pops. Yum!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oktoberfest cupcakes- beer and pretzel

As October is winding down, I wanted to be sure and make some beer-themed cupcakes. I searched all over the internet for a recipe, and couldn't find what I was looking for! So I ended up inventing my own.

These are beer and pretzel cupcakes, make with Paulaner Munich beer (which we drank at the real Oktoberfest) and salty pretzels.

I adapted to recipe from my chocolate stout cupcakes recipe. I omitted the cocoa powder, and used a lager instead of a stout. I also crushed up some pretzels, about 1/2 cup, and added that as well. The batter was a good texture and consistency, and when I tasted it, it wasn't too sweet or too salty.
They baked up great, golden and delicious. A few spilled over a bit, but nothing too bad. The smelled like beer bread coming out of the oven.

I decided to top them with a beer glaze, made from powdered sugar and beer. yum! I also added a pretzel on top, to amplify the sweet/salty flavor combination.

These turned out pretty well, but there are a few changes I'd like to make. They were almost too much like a bread, not tender and flaky enough. So next time I'll use cake flour, and I'll pulverize the pretzels in the food processor to get a finer crumb. Maybe brown sugar will add some depth to these as well.

I'm always apprehensive when trying a new recipe, even more so when creating one! With a few minor changes, I think these will be perfect!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Martha Challenge #46- Black Forest Cupcakes

Keeping with the German theme, I made Black Forest Cupcakes. When we were in Baden-Baden, we samples some authentic Black Forest Cake, or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.
This is a decadent dessert, a chocolate cake layered with kirsch (cherry schnapps), cherries, and whipped cream. So good! I even found real Black Forest kirsch at the liquor store.

So I made Martha's version, but changed it quite a bit. She says to cut the cupcakes in half horizontally, like a layer cake, and layer it with pastry cream and cherries. I decided to make it more like the original cake, and used whipped cream.

So, made the cupcakes, a delicious dark chocolate cake. I also added a bit of kirsch to the batter, but it was too subtle to taste after they baked. They rose very high, and reminded me of the mountains in the Black Forest. Then I drained the maraschino cherries, and soaked them for a while in the kirsch. Half the cherries I chopped up to fill the cupcakes, and half I left whole to top the cupcakes. I made the whipped cream, and also a chocolate ganache for the tops of the cupcakes. Once everything was prepared, I set up a filling station.

I cut cones out of the cupcakes with a sharp knife, and took out some cake to make room for the filling. Then I added a few cherry bits, squirted the inside with a mixture of the cherry syrup and kirsch, added a dollop of whipped cream, and replaced the top.

To finish, I spooned chocolate ganache on top, let it set in the fridge, then piped on some more whipped cream, and added a cherry on top. So I have all the elements: chocolate, cherry, and cream.
They looked super cute, and I was so curious that I cut into one to see how it looked. The filling was great, evenly distributed.

My only concern is if the kirsch/cherry flavor is strong enough. I soaked the cakes directly in the kirsch, which has a 45% alcohol content, but I'd be interested to know if my taste testers thought it was strong enough.
Overall, I preferred my method to Martha's, since it stays truer to the original cake.