Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Baking suggestions

So yesterday I was wondering, what should I bake this week? Without specific inspiration, sometimes it's hard to come up with something to try. So I asked my online friends for their suggestions. I got quite a few interesting ideas!

Apple Pie
Carrot cake
Red Velvet
Black Forest
Orange Creamsicle Cake balls
Pecan Pie cupcakes
Banana Cream Pie Cupcakes
Strawberry cupcakes with coconut frosting
Cream cheese brownies
Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
Meat Cake

Well, that's a lot of suggestions! My goal is to keep on baking new things, to expand my abilities. Most of those things I've made before, with the exception of banana cream pie cupcakes and the cranberry oatmeal cookies. Yes, I've even made meat cake, and cupcakes. And I'll never do it again, unless I'm paid very well. Meat is a lot more expensive than flour!

After all that, I decided to modify a few of my recipes to create a new one: peanut butter-chocolate chip-bacon cupcakes with chocolate frosting. Yum!

I used my go-to peanut butter cupcake recipe, added the candied maple bacon from the maple bacon cupcake recipe, threw in some chocolate chips, and topped it all off with a new chocolate frosting recipe.

The bacon gets roasted in the oven, with a sprinkling of maple sugar on each side to caramelize it. It's so sweet and crispy and salty! I also used some of the bacon drippings in the batter in place of butter.
The cupcakes turned out great, but the peanut butter kind of overpowers the bacon flavor. Even though there are chunks of bacon in the cupcakes, it's not a strong flavor.

I used a new frosting recipe as well. I'm never satisfied with my chocolate frostings, so I've been trolling the web for a new one. I found this recipe on many food blogs, so I don't feel bad about re-using it. It's pretty much the same as most chocolate buttercream frostings, but it's made in the food processor instead of a stand mixer.

Much quicker, but a bit messier to get it out of the bowl. It also makes a lot of frosting, I had enough left over for at least 3-4 more cupcakes.

All in all, these turned out pretty great. A quick dash of glittery sprinkles on top, and done!

So thanks to everyone for your suggestions, I'll save some of them for another time when I need inspiration.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Balsamic Strawberry Cupcakes

Last weekend, I walked down to Bi-Rite creamery, a local ice cream shop, and tried their new flavor, balsamic strawberry ice cream. It was super yummy! Tart and sweet, with fresh strawberries. So I was inspired to create the same flavor in a cupcake.

I walked up a huge hill to the grocery store to get some fresh, local strawberries. so yum! I already had a great strawberry cupcake recipe, so I simply modified it slightly. I first macerated the strawberries in balsamic vinegar and a bit of sugar, until they were super juicy. Then I pureed them as usual and added them to the recipe. The effect was subtle, but I could definitely taste the balsamic. I also used the balsamic strawberries to make the frosting.

To kick it up, I made a balsamic syrup by boiling balsamic vinegar with some honey until it reduced and got thick. After cooling, I drizzled it over the tops of the cupcakes. Fancy!

They tasted great, sweet and tangy. I was afraid the concentrated syrup would be too much, but it was great. I even have some leftover, which might get paired with some Grana Padano cheese tonight :)

PS- this was the second time baking in my new kitchen, and the oven takes some getting used to. The first batch was almost all burned on the bottom. Not sure if it was the temperature or the ingredients, but this time I baked at a lower temp and added a cookie sheet to block some of the bottom heat. Worked great! No burned bottoms here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cake Pops and Sprinkles

After donating the 800 cake pops a few months ago, I got a few calls to make more, but this time, I got paid!

These pops were for a last minute event, so I had less than 48 hours to get these together. The order was for 200 pops though, so it didn't quite take as long.

While prepping to make the pops, I set out my big tub of nonpareil sprinkles so I could easily access it when I needed. Well, a swift jab of the elbow and the sprinkles went flying!

It was so pretty I had to take a picture :) Fortunately, I was able to save most of them, but I was finding little colored balls on the floor for a while after that.

Anyways, finished the cake pops on time and delivered them. It gets easier and easier every time I do them, and I usually learn new tips and techniques too with more practice. Fun!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A non-cupcake challenge: eclairs!

My new favorite show is Martha Bakes, where the great MS bakes 3 different things all using one base recipe. After watching her show on choux pastry, I was so inspired I made it the very next day.

Choux pastry is a cooked dough that when baked, puffs up hollow inside so you can fill it with yummy things. It sounds terribly complicated but was truly easy to do.

I made both eclairs and cream puffs, the only difference being the shape. They were filled with a vanilla pastry cream and dipped in an espresso glaze. Yum! Everything was easy to make and assemble, although a bit time consuming.

After making the dough on the stovetop, I transferred it to a piping bag and piped out long strips and round circles, for eclairs and puffs.

When they came out of the oven all puffy and golden, I literally squealed with delight! It's always uncertain when baking something for the first time, and I couldn't believe they came out perfect the first time. I opened one up to see if they were indeed hollow, and they were! So I naturally had to eat the one I cut into :)
They were filled with vanilla pastry cream, which was then lightened with whipped cream, to make a truly heavenly filling. It was quite easy to fill them, just poke the tip of the piping bag in, and there you go! They're already hollow anyways.

After filling, the tops were dipped in a decadent espresso glaze. The glaze was just powdered sugar, milk and espresso powder. Yum! It smelled amazing.

Once complete, the pastries looked all professional and pretty! I still almost can't believe that I made them. It seems that they should be in the case of a French bakery in Paris, not in my kitchen :)

Now, for the taste: they were delicious! I hardly ever eat what I bake, but I could not resist. Soft and light, creamy and airy. How can something so decadent still be so light?

I had leftover pastry cream and glaze, so the next day I made another batch of pastry and used it all up. They were gobbled up quickly! Thanks Martha for inspiring me to try something new!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Belated Easter cupcakes

It's been quite a month! Found out we were moving to San Francisco, started packing, visited my parents for Easter, lost my kitty Felicia to kidney failure :( , and moved to the West Coast! Needless to say there hasn't been much time for baking (or blogging).

But now we're almost all unpacked, our new place is coming together, and I'm getting back on track.

As I said, I went to visit my parents in Charlotte, NC for Easter and my mom's birthday, since they were only a few days apart. They live in a huuuuuuge house, it's really more like a chateau. Very swank! So I had to try out the kitchen, since it's probably bigger than my entire apartment.

My cousin, his partner, and their adorable daughters were visiting as well. So for Easter, my 4 year old cousin Valentina wanted to make and decorate cupcakes. I baked the cupcakes and made the frosting, and we decorated them together. I decided on lemon cupcakes, since it was Spring, and everyone likes lemon. Also, the acidity cuts the sweetness a bit, and I know my parents aren't fans of sweets. Wonder where I got it from?
After the cupcakes were cooled, I tinted the frosting green so it would look like grass. We had pretty Easter cupcake papers and toppers, so all Vale and I had to do was pipe the frosting, add sprinkles, and insert topper. Very easy, and fun!

Valentina helped me direct the piping bag with the grass tip to pipe the green frosting all over the cupcakes. Then she added the sprinkles and toppers. It was so cute how decisive she was about which sprinkles and which toppers to put where. Everything was in her favorite colors, pink and purple. She is truly a little princess.

After we were finished, we put all the cupcakes on a lovely display stand, and covered them up. They had to be a surprise! After a lovely Easter dinner, we unveiled the cupcakes and everyone enjoyed them. She was a great little helper and has a great career as a decorator in the future :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day cupcakes

Once again, as is my yearly tradition, I made chocolate-Guinness cupcakes with Bailey's buttercream. This recipe is such a crowd-pleaser, I can't NOT make it every year :)

I just love the way these smell while baking, the slight beer aroma is so tempting! There was one small change to this recipe, as I couldn't find a mini bottle of plain Bailey's. A huge liquor store didn't have mini bottles, only regular sized ones, and I'm not buying a huge bottle when I only need 3-4 tbsp. So instead I got caramel Bailey's. I figured the slight caramel flavor would go well with the chocolate in the cupcake.

I also got to use my new green glitter! It's edible glitter, just for cake decorating. So fun!

I had some leftover batter after making 2 dozen cupcakes, so I used my new Babycakes mini cupcake maker to make some minis! I got this awesome creation for Christmas and finally got around to using it. It's an electric appliance, just for making mini cupcakes! It was super easy to use, and the cupcakes baked in about 6-7 minutes. It's great for using a little bit of batter, instead of the mini cupcake tins that I have that make 24 at once. This makes only 8 at a time, but sometimes that's all you need!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Birthday Cupcakes

After donating the cake pops, I got a few clients for cupcakes! Both ordered 2 dozen for birthdays last weekend. I had so much fun making these.

First up was a little girl's birthday. She wanted all pink and purple cupcakes. Her mom was planning an art-themed party, so I made various hues of pink and purple, and topped each with glitter.
At the party, when I delivered the cupcakes, I arranged them on a wooden artist's palette for the centerpiece. They looked so cute!

The second order was the winner of the auction at the ball. She wanted cupcakes for her daughter's birthday, but this girl was all grown up. See, grown ups love cupcakes too! I did one dozen red velvet and one dozen chocolate, both with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles. Yum!

I enjoyed making these orders, and am looking forward to doing more!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

800 Cake Pops!

Recently, I was asked to donate a certificate for cupcakes to a charity auction. The event was for the Bal Swan school here, where my friend's son attends. It's a yearly event, and they raise tons of money. So of course, I was happy to donate my services for a good cause!

I also inquired about desserts for the event, and offered to make cake pops and balls to have out in dishes for everyone to munch on throughout the evening. Since they expected about 500 people to attend, they asked for 800 pops and balls, a mixture of both. So I got dipping!

It was a fun project, although time consuming and exhausting. I did everything in stages, first baking the cakes, then forming the balls, then dipping and decorating, all while bopping to the music of the 80s.
They turned out great! I did half pops, half balls, both chocolate and vanilla with lots of fun sprinkles. And everyone said how wonderful they were at the ball. It was a great experience for me, and great exposure to a new community. Although I'd rather not see a cake pop for a while :)

PS- speaking of cake pops, I hear Starbucks has them now, 3 different flavors. Must try them out!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras

Last week my friend John challenged me to make King Cake cupcakes, for Mardi Gras. Last year I made a version of this, but it was a cinnamon vanilla cupcake topped with a glaze and colored sugars. This time, I wanted to make something closer to the traditional King Cake, which is more of a bread than a cake.

So I found a good recipe, from a real New Orleans chef, and tried to adapt it for cupcakes. It was a cinnamon and lemon- laced bread-like dough.

They looked cute, not much like cupcakes, more like little balls of dough. I had enough to make a King Cake as well, which turned out great. I love the braid, and working with dough is so fun and almost therapeutic.
I think maybe either the yeast wasn't fresh enough, or I was too impatient and didn't let it rise properly, because both the cake and cupcakes seemed kind of heavy and more like bread than it should have been. So some adjustment is needed in order to perfect this recipe.

The traditional topping for a King Cake is a sweet glaze, with purple, green and gold sprinkles. So that's what I did on both.

All in all, it turned out delicious, but this needs more work. There's always next year!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cakes and Pops

I recently did a birthday cake and pops for a real live paying client! I think it turned out great.

I've been doing more and more cake pops lately, everyone seems to love them! They're cute, bite sized, and a great way to use leftover cake and frosting. I made a big batch for Valentine's Day too. Any excuse to use more sprinkles :)

I'm currently working on a website, although I need a name for my cupcake company first. It's been the hardest thing to do, since everytime I think of a great name, I google it and find it's already been taken. I don't want to do anything that anyone else has already done, so it's been difficult with all the bakeries out there now!

More cupcakes and pops to come!