Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mistakes can still have happy endings

My friend Amy invited me to borrow her kitchen for a little "away from home" baking. So I looked in the book for a simple recipe that didn't require frosting. And alas, I discovered the Blondie Cupcakes! Super simple to make, no fuss, and no frosting. PERFECT! So I went to the local Hy-vee (greatest place on earth) and got my ingredients.

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup unsalted cashews, coarsely chopped (3 ounces)
1/4 cup toffee bits

Yay for fun ingredients! Wait... what? Peanut butter chips? DANG IT! Yes, it's true. I was on the phone with my mother, and was very distracted, and grabbed peanut butter chips instead of butterscotch. Okay. So sue me. The cupcakes still tasted great and the world didn't explode, so I think all is going to be okay.

Also, the batter looked a bit thick. So I added a couple of tablespoons of milk to wet it down a bit. We then got more cupcakes than the recipe said we would, but who is going to throw a fit about TOO MANY cupcakes? I thought not. They still were amazing. I'm a huge recipe changer today... sorry guys. They were still awesome, so I'm not too worried about it. I promise.

Fresh out of the oven! The baking time was less than what the recipe says, be forewarned.

Doesn't that look sweet?

These cupcakes are wonderful, because of the different chips and nuts in them. I loved the cashews. Great idea!

Amy definitely approved. These cupcakes are super sweet and super simple. THESE are the ones to make when you have to bake for a bunch of people. They are a great idea. However, if people don't like nuts, I can't guarantee that they'll be huge fans. Take these to meetings, functions, school parties, potlucks. They are a real winner. Happy baking!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yogurt makes everything better!

Lemon-Yogurt cupcakes with Raspberry Jam are elegant and simple to the pallet. It's really interesting how you don't need super crazy flavors to make a tasty cupcake. The lemon is powerful and almost makes you pucker, and the raspberry is sweet and really kick the cupcakes up to another level. You can't taste the yogurt in the batter, but it makes the cupcakes tender and moist. However it was still really easy to slice then when adding the raspberry jam. They appear fancy, but take no time at all. I love recipes like this!

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature plus more for tins
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for tins
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs separated, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 4 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice (FRESH!)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup seedless raspberry jam or preserves
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
I don't think I can emphasize enough how much of a difference FRESH lemon juice and zest make. These are the two ingredients that make these cupcakes, so do it right. It takes no time at all, and is so worth it.

YUM. And that turns into THIS!

Well... I guess I'm missing a few steps. First, the slicing.

Then the Raspberry-ing.

After fruit comes the dusting!

Of course the last step is the delicious-ing!

Don't they look all fancy with their sugar dusted tops and raspberry layers!?

These little guys were a total hit. They were simple flavors dressed up with pretty layers and a delicate presentation. They were a little time consuming with all the slicing and the spreading, so I don't know that I would recommend making these in mass quantities. However, I think they would be very lovely at your next tea party or coffee break. They really let people know that you went the extra mile to make something look almost as wonderful as it tastes! Happy baking.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Birthday Celebrations

My boyfriend, Kevin, recently celebrated his birthday. Of course every one knows there is no better way to a man's heart than through his stomach. Since he was the young fellow who started me on this extravagant adventure of baking my way through The Book, I felt that it was necessary to make him cupcakes for such a special event! He has told me that if he was stranded on a desert island and could only have one thing to eat, it would be peanut butter. This strange love for peanut butter made it very simple to pick which recipe to make for him. Peanut Butter filled Chocolate cupcakes were the perfect choice for my fella. They were delicious and easy. It's a win-win situation!

Chocolate Cupcakes
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Peanut Butter Filling
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

So basically this recipe starts out with some yummy ingredients...

Which then melt together and become even more yummy.

So then, you take all that yummy and add some sweet to it...

And maybe add a couple of friends to keep all that deliciousness company.

Of course you need something equally as yummy to fill those cupcakes of deliciousness... let's try PEANUT BUTTER!

Add a touch of Martha Magic and you've got some pretty rocking cupcakes!

They are messy, yet wonderful. I think these were the perfect treat for Kevin. But, now for the official taste test...

Well? Do they pass?

I think that's a yes! These cupcakes are fun and perfect for any peanut butter lover, like Kevin! It's really fun to share these little cupcakes for special occasions. I think his birthday was just a little more special because of them! So go home and make some cupcakes for your special birthday boy or girl. They will be a hit not only because of how tasty they are, but because people appreciate the time and effort you put in to make them feel special! Enjoy your tasty treats and special days!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chilly Cheesecakes... tasty!

I had a baking adventure with my friend Jolene a few weeks back. It was quite a bit of fun. there is nothing like baking with friends. Pick a simple recipe, have a little fun, and get a little messy! It's the best way to do it. We made Cookies and Cream cheesecakes. I know what you're thinking, and it's true, they're not cupcakes. But they are baked in cupcake tins, so I think it qualifies. Definitely. These little guys are super simple and super easy. The worst part of it is they have to set in the fridge for at least four hours. Once you take them out of the oven, you want to have a bite. Unfortunately, with this recipe, that isn't possible. But trust me. They are worth the wait.

42 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, such as oreos, 30 left whole and 12 coarsely chopped
2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
pinch of salt
I think the cutest thing about these cheesecakes are the crusts. When you bite into the cheesecake, you can see the whole oreo cookie at the bottom. They are the coolest thing. The really nice thing about this recipe, was that it was really simple, which made it easy to enjoy myself with Jolene.

There she is, helping me with the most important step of these cheesecakes, adding the crushed oreos. I think she had a lot of fun making these with me.

I know I had fun. And who wouldn't? These things are delish!

My mom has dinner parties all the time. She is always trying to think of time saving dessert tricks that are simple and delicious. I told her to make these cheesecakes ahead of time. That way, all she has to do is pull them out of the fridge and there is her dessert. If you want to fancy it up a bit, add unique cupcake liners. Your guests will love them.

And I bet they'll love them even more when they bite into an oreo cookie crust and moist, wonderful cheesecake. These adorable cheesecake cupcakes are a sophisticated way to remind your dinner guests of childhood, while catering to their sweet tooth! Happy dessert serving, you savvy hostess!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sweet and Simple

It's springtime. And with springtime comes warm weather, outdoor activities, and above all, FRUIT! I love fruit, especially during the spring. The fruit stand in our town just started opening up again and selling fresh fruit and vegetables. My mom and I went and while we were there, they had a great deal. You could buy an entire flat of strawberries for $15! What a deal. And so we did just that. Bought an entire flat of strawberries...

Don't they look beautiful? And of course, the minute I saw this many strawberries, all I could think about was Martha's Strawberry Cupcakes. So I made them. And they were amazing. You know, you can buy the box mix strawberry cake. And up until this point, I thought that was a pretty good deal. You didn't really have to do much, and the product was quite tasty. But now that I've had strawberry cupcakes made from fresh strawberries, there is no going back. EVER.

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour (not self rising)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure canilla extract
3 large whole eggs plus 1 egg white
1 cup milk
2 cups finely chopped fresh strawberries (about 20), plus about 10 more for garnish

Strawberry Meringue Buttercream
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries (8 ounces) rinsed, hulled, and coarsely chopped
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature

Now I'm not going to lie to you. By the time I was done making these cupcakes, I was sick and tired of looking at strawberries. There was a lot of washing and picking out and drying and cutting and slicing and chopping these little suckers. But don't let me turn you off of them. They were so worth it. Every last strawberry counts in this recipe! And, the even better part, is once you've gotten all of your strawberries cut up, the rest is simple. You're basically making a vanilla cake batter and vanilla frosting and then just adding strawberries to it to make it mind blowing. No biggie, right? And man, did they turn out amazing!

Simple as pie, or in this case, strawberry cake.

Just pipe on the frosting, and you're good to go!

I really think that using a pastry bag to pipe the frosting onto the cupcake adds something to it. Taking the time to make your cupcakes look pretty, even if they're as simple as strawberries, really makes them go the extra mile. I mean, they taste great, whether you take the time to make them look nice, but I really enjoy seeing the fruits of my labor pay off when I have beautiful cupcakes to give away to all of my friends and family.

Speaking of family, there is my Dad getting in on the cupcake action. He seemed to think they were pretty tasty! I hope you do too! Just remember, as sick and tired as you might get of looking at those strawberries, the final product is so worth it, it's ridiculous! Happy baking.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Perfume on a cupcake... TASTY!

Today's post is about one of the most unique recipes in The Book. Lavender- Iced Brownie cupcakes may sound weird and even gross, but they weren't either of those things. They were... different. I don't know that I could actually describe it, you'll just have to taste for yourself. It was pretty fun to make, though, let me tell you. Why was it fun? Because I got to crystallize flowers, dye my icing purple, and eat brownie cupcakes. I don't think it gets much better than that! The icing gave me a bit of trouble, not because adding the lavender was difficult, but because Martha didn't put enough milk in the original recipe and that frustrated me because I hate altering recipes the first time I try them.

Brownie Cupcakes
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (one stick) plus 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
3 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Lavender Icing
1/3 cup milk (I added 2 teaspoons to this... I know it doesn't sound like a lot, but it made a HUGE difference!!)
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender (you can find this at most health food stores)
3 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
Violet gel-paste food coloring

Crystallized Flowers
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon water
pesticide-free edible flowers, such as pansies and violas, stems removed
super fine sugar for sprinkling

If anything, make the brownie cupcakes ahead of time. That way, they are cool when you go to make the icing, because you have to use the icing immediately after you make it, or it sets and would be no good.

The greatest ingredients on earth:

chocolate and butter. yummmm...
I'm not kidding when I tell you that my mouth watered so much while making these cupcakes! The ingredients are so yummy. And who doesn't have a little bit of fun melting butter and chocolate in the double boiler? That might have been my favorite part! I'm weird. Get over it. Anyway, these cupcakes were really simple. The most labor intensive part was mixing in the semi warm chocolate mixture.

It doesn't seem to be stressing me out too badly, now does it?
So after you've made the cupcakes and you're waiting for them to cool, you should make your crystallized flowers. They are really simple, and make these cupcakes look extra fancy! I don't know that I would actually eat them... because... it's a flower, people. But they sure look fancy. And if Martha can do it, I can too. Martha says to delicately paint on the egg white mixture with a paintbrush, but that didn't really help, so I just ended up dipping the flowers in to it instead, and that seemed to work out just fine. We didn't have SUPER FINE sugar, so we just used regular sugar. I might look for ultra fine next time I decide to make these cupcakes. It was a little clumpy. But they turned out beautiful in spite of it!

The final step to these cupcakes is the lavender icing. The one element that gives them that unique twist. The icing is really easy to whip up. You would think that you would have to do something very labor intensive and difficult to end up with purple lavender icing, but really you just boil and steep the lavender and add some food coloring! Now, in these pictures, the icing looks blue, but I promise you, they were purple cupcakes!

Look how fancy they are with their cute little flowers!

Maybe I put too much purple in them and that's why they look blue?

The contrast between the dark of the chocolate brownie and the purple of the lavender icing made these little guys very intriguing.

It also made them very tasty! So go ahead, be adventurous and make some of these delightful cupcakes. Share them with your friends. They'll swoon. I promise. ENJOY!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

So is it a cookie or a cupcake?

Today's recipe was Snickerdoodle Cupcakes with seven minute frosting. And the question is: is it more like a cookie or a cupcake. Well, I'll tell you. It's a cupcake, however they taste exactly like a snickerdoodle (at least I think they do, you may beg to differ). These little guys were as easy as it gets. No double boiler, no melting chocolate, no tempering. Nothing. Well, at least the cupcake part was easy. I had a bit of difficulty with the frosting, but we'll get to that in a minute.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/2 teaspoon for dusting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk
Seven-Minute Frosting
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup water
6 large egg whites, room temperature
So the cupcakes were easy. Just mix your dry ingredients in one bowl, your wet ingredients in another and then combine, alternating flour mixture and milk. Simple as... well, simple as snickerdoodle cupcakes. Honestly the most difficult part of this whole experiment was the frosting. Problem A- I didn't follow the directions... I don't recommend doing that. My boyfriend's mother told me that it was easier to make this frosting in the double boiler, because it makes the frosting fluffier. But that's not what The Book says to do. So next time, note to self, follow The Book. Problem B- If you are going to use a double boiler (which I don't recommend) make sure it is big enough for all the frosting. Because there is a lot of it. Anyway, long story short, this frosting kicked my butt. FAIL.

But at least they turned out nicely!

See, just sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon-sugar on the top, and no one will ever know that the seven minute frosting kicked your butt like no other recipe had before.

And boy are they tasty!

So go and share these with your friends. I know they'll appreciate it. Because who doesn't enjoy a little comfort food? I know I'm always game for a little slice of childhood wrapped up in cupcake paper.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It has fruit on it, so it must be good for you!

I know it's been a while, but I don't have a kitchen at school, so really the only time I get to bake is when I come home, so just get over it. Today's recipe was Orange-Vanilla Bean cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream and topped with homemade candied orange slices. This sounds like a very Martha-esque recipe, and trust me it is. But I think it was well worth the time and effort. The cupcakes themselves were actually kind of dense, almost like pound cake. But not quite THAT dense. However, the buttercream frosting was the lightest most amazing frosting I've ever had, and I will never make any other kind of buttercream again. TRUTH.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup heavy cream (I added a bit more, probably 1/4 cup more)
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest, plus 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (FRESH FRESH FRESH!!!)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (i stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, halved length-wise, seeds scraped and reserved
2 large eggs
Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature (yes... an entire pound of butter makes the fluffiest lightest buttercream frosting I've ever enjoyed... I don't get it either)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Candied Orange Slices:
2 small navel oranges
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
INGREDIENT NOTE ABOUT CANDIED ORANGES: I doubled the water and sugar and put the oranges in a wider pot. The doubling of these ingredients allowed me to candy more slices at a time, and since they took forever, I recommend doing that.
So yes. It's a lot of ingredients, a lot of elements to one cupcake, and A WHOLE LOT OF BUTTER, but in the end, they look super fancy and are quite tasty. Honestly, the most difficult part of this whole endeavor, was the buttercream frosting. It takes a lot of time beating in the mixer before it begins to look fluffy and, well, like frosting. I must admit I got really frustrated with that stinking buttercream. But boy, did it rock on those cupcakes. Martha wanted me to level off the tops of each cupcake so that the orange can lay flat on the top of it but I said HELLS TO THE NO to that. I'm not about to spend all day making cupcakes just to cut half of it away. So my solution to all of this was simple. First I spread a thin layer of frosting on the top of the cupcake, just to give my piping a base. Then I piped little beads over top of the whole cupcakes, like so:

and then they looked like this!

ADORABLE!!! I honestly couldn't get over them. Then you just add your little candied orange slices, and you are good to go. You have even fancier cakes than Martha herself!

And they are quite delicious too, let me tell ya!

So yes, they are a bit time consuming, but if you're giving them away, they sure do bring in the compliments! Everyone I handed them too couldn't help but "ooooh" and "ahhhh" at these little cakes. So enjoy the cakes, and take pride in your hard work.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Brownies? Cupcakes?

I never ever thought to put brownies in cupcake tins to make little individual brownies. But dern, that wasn't a bad idea at all! Props to Martha on this one. The recipe is made from scratch (obviously, it's Martha people!! HELLO!) but you could totally do this with brownie mix if you don't have the ingredients or the time. Mint-Filled Brownie Cupcakes are full of surprised. As Martha puts it, "Each of these chewy brownie cupcakes has a secret center: a chocolate-covered peppermint patty.To ensure they have a dense, fudgy texture, be careful not to overbake." I don't think I could have put it better myself. These cupcakes aren't light and fluffy like the other cupcakes that I've baked so far, but they are just as delectable!

8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (we just used semisweet chocolate chips. Who doesn't just have those laying around in their pantry?)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch- process coca powder, sifted
12 small (1 1/2 inch) chocolate-covered peppermint patties, such as mini york peppermint patties (We had heart shaped ones left over from valentines day that had little pink centers. They added a cute factor to my cupcakes!)

This was the most intense part. Martha says to just wisk eggs into the hot melted chocolate, but I was really nervous that the eggs would start to scramble. Helpful tip: I am going to temper my eggs next time. That way, I won't get so stressed out about it. The rest of the recipe was a simple brownie batter. So first we put a tablespoon of batter in each cupcake cup. Then we added the "mint filling" peppermint patties.

How adorable is that? And then, you fill the cups with the rest of the batter and get THESE!

How awesome do those look? You really don't even need a frosting on them, because the tops of brownies totally look like that. In fact, I think frosting or any kind of embellishment would be TOO much for these rich little goodies. They really turned out well. Here is a single one:

Let me tell you. Milk is a must have for these cupcakes!

Like I said earlier, we used heart shaped peppermint patties and they had a slightly pink center. I think this added more character to my cupcakes. I think that these would be just as delicious with a regular brownie mix. They were super simple. My only two notes of caution: temper your eggs and don't over bake!! Enjoy.

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