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!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Another New Direction

I am trying (once again) to get back to blogging regularly. I left my extremely neglected Livejournal for Blogger in the midst of my engagement, in full wedding-fever mode, and started afresh here with the intent of chronicling my wedding planning and actual wedding experience. That pretty much failed miserably. After the wedding, I shifted my intentions to blogging about my life in general. That pretty much failed miserably. Experience has shown me, many times, that I am a very incosistent blogger, but for some reason I am always drawn back to blogging. I thought of starting a photo-a-day blog (which I still think is a very cool idea) on my 25th birthday a couple weeks ago, but then I had to face reality and admit to myself that there was no way I would keep up with that. But I still want to blog. So I thought of what I've been spending most of my time doing lately, and very easily came up with a new direction for The Wright Report: I will chiefly be writing about what I cook, bake, or otherwise create in the kitchen, with some splashes of life in general thrown in.

Ideally, I'll be back tomorrow with some chocolate salted-caramel cupcakes for you :)