Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm back, and I have cute animals!

I have internet again! Well, okay, I've had internet again for a couple weeks. The hubs and I recently bought our first house, and we're slowly getting moved in. more slow satellite internet! Hooray! I'll be back after Christmas with a post or two recapping what I've been up to since October, but for now, here are some farm animal cupcakes I made last night :) I've actually been wanting to try making farm animals for a long time now, so I was super happy when a friend ordered these! I hope she liked them ;)

So, what did old MacDonald have on his farm? Cows, of course...
And pigs...
And sheep! BAAAAA.
I love the little sheepies. I think they look like the guys from Wallace and Gromit :)
Here they are, living happily together until the time comes for them to be eaten, like any good farm animals. Except these ones are way yummier because they're made of chocolate and vanilla buttercream. Mmmmmmm.
But wait--MacDonald is raising turtles too! So I know turtles aren't exactly a farm animal, but I made these lil guys for a birthday a few weeks ago and they are four-legged critters, so I thought I may as well tack them on to this post. They were super simple, but I think they came out really cute!
The cuppies are vanilla with chocolate frosting, and the turtles are made from fondant with candy melt shells :)
I might pop back in quickly before Christmas, but I might not, so Merry Christmas! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Don't Use Satellite Internet

Hello! So, I know I said I'd be around this week with some posts about the goodies I've been working on lately. Unfortunately, I've been having some technical issues. The issues are:
1. I live in the middle of nowhere right now.
2. Since there are no phone lines or anything, we have satellite internet.
3. Satellite internet sucks.
Aside from being totally awful to begin with, the internet has not liked the amount of time my brothers have spent recently playing WoW, and it has decided to go on strike. It is now running at glacial speeds (if it works at all), a significant downgrade from the snail's pace at which it normally runs. Having Blogger load at all right now is slightly miraculous, so I'm not even going to attempt to upload photos.
I'll be back as soon as the internet decides to cooperate again, which I hope will be soon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

I love pumpkin. Funnily enough, pumpkin pie isn't terribly high on my list of loves, but I love pumpkin muffins, pumpkin scones, pumpkin cheesecake, and of course pumpkin cupcakes!

I'm particularly proud of these cupcakes because this is the first recipe I've created myself; the first time I've gone beyond simply baking someone else's recipe or making just tiny modifications to existing recipes. I'm still not terribly confident in making my own recipes, so I did reference a couple cake recipes to be sure I had decent amounts of flour, sugar, butter, etc, but I still feel this is a recipe I can call my own :)

The cupcakes are moist and flavorful, and I think they certainly fall within the "cake" category, rather than being something that could be mistaken for a muffin. But that's just my opinion.

Ready for the recipe?

1 1/2 c sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
10 tbsp butter
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar, packed firmly
2 eggs
1 c pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare cupcake trays.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and powder, and spices.
In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter and sugar.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating about 20 secondss after each.
Add the pumpkin and beat until incorporated; the batter will look curdled.
Reduce your mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and beat for an additional 20 seconds.
Bake for about 22 minutes.
Makes 12 cupcakes.

And there you have it! Yay!

I made a ginger cream cheese frosting for these cupcakes. I highly recommend adding ginger to your frosting (for these particular cupcakes)! The slight kick from the ginger really enhances the cake. As usual, I don't actually have a frosting recipe. I started out with an 8 oz package of cream cheese and 6 tbsp (or maybe 8?) of butter, added powdered sugar and milk until I liked the consistency, and ginger until I liked the taste. I had enough to frost 24 cupcakes.

I don't have a lot of pumpkin cupcake pics, so here is a little bonus picture! These are vanilla confetti cupcakes with chocolate frosting that I made for my friend's boyfriend's birthday a few weeks ago :)

I've been super busy the past few weeks, so I apologize for my absence here! But stay tuned, I'll be back later this week to share some more of the goodies I've been busy baking!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Raiders Cupcakes

I had an order a couple weekends ago for some Raiders football cupcakes. It was a lot of fun to make the little jerseys and helmets and all :) I had to have my husband help me out with these because I don't follow football at all, and I needed someone to tell me who was worthy of being on a fondant jersey. Luckily, even though he's a Niners fan, he agreed to lend me his expertise ;)

I made eight jerseys:
Aren't they cute? I need to find some teensy block number cookie cutters, because I had to cut these out by hand and it wasn't always easy! But I was quite pleased with the result.
Then I made some little helmets. For being made out of gumpaste, I think they look pretty darn good ;) You can't really tell in the picture, but they're even shiny silver! Gotta love luster dust.
Here's everything together...see my little football?
Finally, boxed up and ready to go!

The cupcakes were half vanilla, half chocolate, and all were filled with ganache and topped with vanilla buttercream. Yum!

Coming soon: pumpkin and caramel apple cupcakes! I'm hoping to make these early next week, but I actually have a large cookie order for next weekend, so they may have to wait for the week after. In any case, sugar cookies and Halloween cupcakes are coming your way soon!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Great American Dine Out

We interrupt normally scheduled programming for this announcement...

If I told you you could help to fight childhood hunger in America by going out to dinner, would you? I would! And we can!

This coming week, September 19-25, is the Great American Dine Out, put on by Share Our Strength, an organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger. All you have to do to help is find a participating restaurant and eat out during Sept 19-25! Easy-peasy! Click here to see some of the ways the funds raised during the Dine Out will help.

This event is all across the nation! Unfortunately, thus far the only restaurants in my little valley area here that are participating are Chevy's, Elephant Bar, and Boston Market, all in Modesto. But hey, at least those are good restaurants :) There are a few places in Fresno and Stockton as well, but all in all, a very poor showing from the central valley. Ah well.

Click here to find a participating restaurant near you! Then, eat out as much as you can from September 19-25!

Finally, please check out Cupcake Rehab! She's got some great, great info about the Great American Dine Out and hunger in America in this post (plus some awesome pics of her homegrown vegetables). And browse around the rest of her site to see some mouth-watering cupcakes!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yummy-Nummy-Scrummy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mmmm, who doesn't love chocolate chip cookies? I've always been happy with the recipe you find on the back of the Nestle chocolate chips bag, but when I saw these big, thick, yummy-looking cookies on How To Eat A Cupcake, I had to try them! Here is a link to the recipe I (mostly) followed, and here is my very, very slightly modified version:

Preheat oven to 375.

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 1/2 c dark brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
2 eggs, straight from fridge
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 c chocolate chips
Mix together butter and sugar on low speed until combined. Add eggs one at a time, and vanilla, and beat on low speed until combined.
Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Scoop great big gobs of cookie dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Like 3-4 tbsp.
Bake until edges are slightly brown and the tops are lightly golden. The original recipe says this will take 15-20 mins. My cookies took 11-12 mins, and I know they weren't smaller because she got 21 and I got 18. The point is, keep an eye on your cookies!

As you can see, if you read the original recipe, my only changes were to use dark brown sugar plus regular granulated sugar instead of light brown (which I only did because we didn't have any light brown sugar), to add a half-teaspoon of vanilla, and to leave out the walnuts. Just not my thing.
I loooooove pictures of stacked-up cookies. I don't know why. Just love them :)
Anyway, apparently these cookies are copy-cats of Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookies. I've never heard of Levain before, but it's in New York and apparently has quite a following. If these cookies are decent copy-cats, and if the rest of their goodies are just as scrumptious, I can certainly see why! These cookies are so tasty and, in my opinion, just the perfect chocolate chip cookie consistency. They aren't cakey, or too gooey, or too crispy. Just right. Mmmmmm.
All that's missing from this picture is a tall, cold glass of milk :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Day at the (Cupcake) Beach

Just a quick post to show off some pictures here! ;)

I made these cupcakes for a 50th birthday last weekend. The lady who ordered them was throwing a surprise party for her sister. The sister wanted to go to the beach, but of course ended up with a party instead, so I was asked to make beach-themed cupcakes. I've only recently started working with gumpaste (it's sort of like edible modeling clay--similar to fondant, but stiffer), so I was quite pleased with with way these turned out :)

We've got a nice beach umbrella and some towels, and of course a picnic basket for a yummy lunch!
Every girl needs her accessories! I was asked to make some high heels and a handbag as well as the beach cupcakes. I wasn't sure at first how to make high heels that would be cohesive with the rest of my beachy cupcakes, but I decided on some nice espadrilles :) I added in a sun hat as well, and I actually ended up liking that the most out of all the accessories.
Then we have some sand dollars, a starfish, a crab, and a sand castle! Everything is out of proportion, but really, does anyone mind? I don't think so.
When everything was done, the sand castle was my absolute favorite piece. So here's a little extra picture of it :)
The others (like my mom and aunt) who were around all seemed to love the crab, so here's a bonus pic of him as well. He was actually fairly quick and easy, and turned out so well!
Here is everything together in the box, ready to be delivered! Happy birthday Jeanette, and I hope you loved your cupcakes!

Coming up next week: Raiders football cupcakes!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ice Cream Cupcakes

Ice cream cupcakes! Yum! Ice cream cupcakes seem like the perfect summer treat. I'm running out of summer, so I figured I'd better make some now! I know lots of people have made ice cream cupcakes, and in lots of different ways, but here is how I made mine :)
First, of course, you've gotta bake some cupcakes! To make sure everything holds its shape, it's easiest to use these nut and party cups instead of regular cupcake liners. I got a whole bunch at Smart and Final. You can also buy them in smaller packages at Michaels and specialty baking stores. If you don't have these and don't want to get any, you can use regular cupcakes liners, just keep everything in the muffin pan the whole time to hold the shape.
Turn the cupcakes out of the liners. I ran a toothpick around each cupcake then sort of pushed them out from the bottom. Keep the liners! As you can see, all of my cupcakes came out in one piece, but there was some resistance. A much, much easier way to do this would be to unpeel the wrappers like normal, and get out a new set. I will do that next time. I only did it this way this time because taking the cupcakes out and putting them back in their same wrappers is the idea I orginally had in my head, and I was just plain being stubborn about it.
Cut the cupcakes in half. For some of my cupcakes that were a little tall, I cut out a strip of cake from the middle as well so the finished product wouldn't be teetering over the top of the cup. Put the bottoms back in the cups.
Make some yummy frosting. I made a plain, sweet buttercream, because a) that's the type of frosting that usually comes on ice cream cakes from the store, and b) I know regular buttercream freezes and unfreezes well. Oh, and c) I didn't want a strong frosting flavor that would compete with the ice cream. If you're going to pipe your frosting on, get it ready in your piping bag so you can frost the assembled cupcakes as quickly as possible.
Take your ice cream out of the freezer and let it sit for a couple minutes. Turn it out into a bowl and mush it around a bit until it's just soft enough to easily scoop. It's inevitable that some will melt, but you don't want this super-thin, like a milkshake; you want softened but still kinda solid ice cream. I hope that makes at least a little sense.
Get a spoonful of ice cream and put it on top of the cupcake bottoms. Smooth it out with a spatula or the back of the spoon.
Put those cupcake tops back on!
Finally, frost your cupcakes and stick 'em in the freezer! I wanted to put some chocolate jimmies on my cupcakes, but they weren't sticking very well, so I gave up on that pretty quickly :(

I made these on Thursday and we ate them Saturday night, but if you want to eat them the same day, a couple hours in the freezer should be sufficient. Take them out a few minutes before you want to eat them. YUM!

So, here are my final thoughts about ice cream cupcakes: Most importantly, these were yummy!! I definitely will make ice cream cupcakes again some day, but I will try to do a few things differently. First of all, everyone who ate one agreed that there is too much frosting. It's just too much extra sugar. I would put probably only half as much frosting on them next time. I actually really didn't mean to put quite so much on them this time, but I still have trouble not ending up with ridiculous amounts of frosting when I pipe. With most of my cupcakes it's not a problem, but this frosting was much sweeter than I usually make, and something about it being frozen and being combined with the ice cream made it too, too much.

I will also try some different ways of getting the ice cream on there. I don't know if you can tell in the bottom picture, but there is a fair bit of ice cream on the side of the cupcake. I have a couple ideas to try and prevent this. First, maybe stick each cupcake in the freezer as soon as you get the ice cream on it. Once they're all filled, take them back out one or two at a time to put the tops on and frost them, then back to the freezer. I filled all my cupcakes, put the tops on, and frosted them all before getting them in the freezer. Since the ice cream was already mushy, it of course got a little melty before I got the cupcakes in the freezer. My second, and more complicated, idea is to smooth the ice cream out in a pan, re-freeze it, then use a circular cookie cutter to cut out the ice cream and put it on the cupcakes. Of course, I'd still try and get the cupcakes in the freezer right away, and this would also require working quickly so the ice cream in the pan doesn't get too melty. Option 1 seems like a better idea, but who knows?

So that's that. Make ice cream cupcakes, they're good!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cookies N Cream Cupcakes

Friday evening was the start-of-the-schoolyear potluck so (of course) I brought cupcakes. Dan requested margarita (those seem quite popular lately!) and I also made a dozen each of vanilla and cookies n cream. I've seen a lot of cookies n cream cupcakes online which are vanilla cake with cookie bits in it, but I really wanted to do a chocolate cake because, well, chocolate is good! I also thought that a vanilla cake with cookies n cream frosting might be too sweet. So I whipped up Martha's chocolate cupcakes. I debated for a long time about putting crushed-up Oreos in the batter and eventually decided against it, but I did put half an Oreo at the bottom of each cupcake liner.
Since I was making chocolate cake and not putting any cookies in the batter, I decided to make some whipped cream to fill the cupcakes so it would be more like an Oreo--you know, chocolate with cream center. This turned out to be wholly unnecessary and next time I will definitely skip the whipped cream. It just got lost in the cupcake and frosting; it wasn't bad, but, like I said, just unnecessary. I made a cooked flour buttercream for the frosting because I thought that would taste more like an Oreo cream center than an American buttercream. Now, I know having flour in your frosting sounds wrong, but it is suuuuuuuch good frosting! Trust me! It comes out fluffy and creamy and delicious. Cooked flour buttercream is pretty simple -- click here for a good recipe/tutorial for it if you're interested in making some. Anyway, I put some Oreos in the food processor to chop them and added the really fine powdered bits to the frosting early on, then folded in some bigger chunks once the frosting was done. Unfortunately I was in a bit of a hurry getting these done so I don't have any frosting pics.
I piped the frosting in a simple swirl [note: if you're going to pipe your frosting, make sure your cookie bits are all small enough to fit through the tip! I had a few get stuck and mess up my swirls] and finished the cupcakes off with a mini Oreo on top :)
I don't know what it is about mini things that makes them so appealing...
Anyways! The cupcakes were really, really good! I highly recommend putting the half-Oreo at the bottom of the cupcake; it brought in a nice cookie crunch (well, okay, it was actually fairly soft after being baked) that definitely made the whole cupcake say "Cookies N Cream!" Also, personally, I think I made the right choice with the frosting, it really tasted like cookies n cream as well. And how could a mini Oreo topper ever be wrong? :) YUM!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Peach Cupcakes Three Ways

I love peaches. I am so excited about peaches finally being in season; I wait all summer for them to start appearing at the fruit stands. I generally prefer fresh fruit to any sort of baked/cooked fruit, but how could I resist peach cupcakes? I was so excited about peach cupcakes, in fact, that I couldn't settle on just one type, but had to make three!
Mmmmm, yummy fresh peaches chopped up and ready to make delicious cupcakes! Will they become filling? Frosting? Cake? So many exciting and noble destinies await them.
The first cupcake is peach cake with mascarpone cheese frosting. The cake recipe is this one from Smitten Kitchen, and it is wonderful! The cake is light and fluffy and so tasty! I used Martha Stewart's mascarpone cheese frosting on top.
I was worried about the frosting at first, because it just seemed so stiff and thick. But when I put some on a cupcake and took a bite, all my worries melted away as the frosting melted in my mouth. When you eat it, it is so much lighter and creamier than it appears. I don't like whipped cream, and this frosting tastes extremely whipped-creamy, so it's not my favorite, but despite my personal tastes I was able to recognize that this is good. Everyone else who's had one of these cupcakes loves, loves the frosting.
And here's a little tip for you all: to keep the peach slices on top from turning brown, I dunked them all in some triple sec before putting them on the cupcakes. People often use lemon juice to prevent fruit from browning, but I don't like the way that tastes, so I try and use liquers. I poured the triple sec onto a plate and quickly put in the slices, turned 'em over, and took 'em out. No need to let them soak. The triple sec worked beautifully (two days later, the peach slice on the one cupcake we have left still is not brown) and I don't think it altered the taste of the peach at all. Of course, if you had some sort of peach liquer that would be the best option. (Does anyone even make peach liquer?)
For the next two cupcakes, I used my favorite vanilla cake recipe, Amy Sedaris's Vanilla Cupcakes. I added 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/4 tsp each of nutmeg and allspice to make these vanilla spice cakes, which I thought would pair nicely with the peach.
This one is for people like me who don't like fruit chunks: vanilla spice cake with peach buttercream.
For the frosting, I pureed some peaches and added a half cup to the buttercream. I know I used two sticks of butter, and I think I used 1/2 tsp each of vanilla and almond extract, but I just added powdered sugar until I liked the consistency, so I'm sorry to say I don't exactly have a recipe to share. But I ended up with enough frosting for 24 cupcakes, if that helps anyone at all.
The last cupcake is the one I was most excited about: a peach cobbler cupcake. I made a quick streusel topping for half of the vanilla spice cupcakes and sprinkled it on before they went in the oven. I chopped up some peaches and cooked them with a bit of sugar and cinnamon (and a smidge of cornstarch to thicken the filling up a bit-- but I don't think I used enough to actually make much of a difference).
Mmmm, peach filling :) Once the little cakes were all filled, I made some vanilla bean whipped cream to put on top, and finished them off with a little drizzle of pureed peach.
Peach cobbler cupcakes! Yay! I have to admit that I haven't tried one of these, since I don't like whipped cream and am also not a big fan of cooked fruit fillings (or fruit chunks with cake), but they've gotten very good feedback. I am told they do, indeed, taste like peach cobbler, so I consider that a success. We have one left, so maybe I'll try it today. I suppose I ought to eat my own creations :)
UPDATE: Okay, so I tried it....and it's gooooood! I think the flavors of the brown sugar in the streusel and the cinnamon in the cupcake & filling stood out a little more than the actual peach flavor, but I only had a quarter of the cupcake, so maybe the peach would be more evident if you had the whole thing with all the filling. Maybe they just need more filling. Maybe I should use less cinnamon. In any case, they are very, very tasty, and the peach comes through enough that I can agree they're a pretty good representation of peach cobbler.
I boxed up most of these and passed them out to some friends and family, because having four dozen cupcakes in the house is not beneficial to anyone's waistline ;)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chocolate Salted-Caramel Cupcakes

I made two dozen cupcakes this morning for my parents to take to their horse club meeting this evening. My dad requested a dozen margarita cupcakes, his favorite, and I got to choose the other flavor. I've been wanting to try some different peachy cupcakes since peaches are in season now, but it just seemed wrong to not have a chocolate option, so I went with something else I've been wanting to try for a while: chocoalte salted-caramel cupcakes. YUM.

The original plan was to just have a chocolate cupcake with a salted caramel buttercream frosting. Then I thought it would be fun to have a caramel center. Then I thought, well, if I'm adding more caramel, I probably ought to add more chocolate somehow (because we all know more chocolate is never a bad idea). So, I started with
Martha's One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes, my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe. To get my extra chocolate in there, I made a quick ganache and coated the cupcakes in it.

Ganache bath! Yay! Mmmmmmmmm :) I didn't want to take the time to spread the ganache on the cupcakes, so I just dunked 'em in and swirled 'em around.

Next order of business was to make the caramel filling.

Nice smooth caramel. Yummy! I also made some fancy decorations using caramelized sugar, something else I've been wanting to try for a while. It so happened that the blogger from whom I took the salted caramel buttercream recipe had made sugar decorations for her cupcakes, which reminded me, hey! I wanna do that too! So I did.

I made sugar stars for half the cupcakes, and poured the rest of the sugar out flat to set. When it was hard, I broke it up into pieces and put it into the food processor to make caramel dust, which looks like gold dust, and which, since I had star cupcakes, I deemed "star dust." :) I sprinkled this on the other 6 cupcakes. [Btw, I got that technique from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible, which I very highly recommend to anyone interested in baking.] Anyway, I piped some caramel into the center of each cupcake then piped on some frosting and stuck my decorations on there like so:

Et voila! Beautiful chocolate salted-caramel cupcakes! I must make a note about the frosting. I used this recipe from Sprinkle Bakes, and it is simply divine. Sooooooo good. It's like eating a Werther's Original, except fluffy and creamy and way more amazing and delicious. The caramel flavor comes through very well, and the saltiness, while not overwhelming, is noticeable (which is good, since it's salted caramel), and balances out the sweetness very nicely. I love this frosting. Love.
Here's a shot of one cupcake cut open so you can see the caramel filling:

And here they are, boxed up and ready to go! Enjoy, horsey club!