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.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


To begin this post, I feel like I must admit that I do not like lemons. I DO NOT LIKE LEMONS. Lemons and I do not mesh very well. However, that being said, Martha's Meyer Lemon cupcakes and I are best friends. Unfortunately, we couldn't find Meyer lemons (sorry Martha), so really they were just lemon cupcakes. But they were delicious none the less. They were a little time intensive but over all, quite simple. Make the lemon curd in advance though. If anything, do that. The longer it sets up, the better it is. The cupcakes themselves are quite simple to make (Shocking! I have a feeling I'm going to be saying that for every recipe I make).

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (I always feel like sifting is optional)
2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice (OMG FRESH IS THE WAY TO GO! FYI!!!)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (we just used sea salt... it was big.)
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
7 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Lemon Curd Ingredients:
2 whole eggs plus 8 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces room temperature

They are so cute, especially with some confectioners sugar sprinkled over the top. Martha tells you to just put your pipping tip into the cupcake to fill it and then add a dollop of curd to the top. I had a better idea, and used an apple corer to make little holes in the tops of the cakes. That way, you don't get a bunch of cupcake stuck in your pipping tip. They looked so funny with little pieces missing!

They're funny looking, right?

And now they look DELISH!

And trust me, they were! I highly recommend them. The curd was a little too lemony for me, but everything else was super. The cupcakes tasted like poppyseed muffins without the seeds. Martha says that this recipe makes 42 cakes, but we didn't get quite that many. I think if you doubled the recipe, it would be perfect for parties or get-togethers. Everyone will be so impressed with you and think that you spent hours and hours in the kitchen, slaving away. I love making people think that, especially when I didn't take any time at all on them. Is that lying? No. It's letting people believe whatever they want to believe. And making yourself look like a CUPCAKE QUEEN! Enjoy your cakes, your highness.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Can you say YUMMY!

It helps a lot that all of the recipes in The Book are decadent, moist, and super yummy. The first recipe we tried was Martha's Coconut-Pecan cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache. I know, it sounds like a heavy first attempt, but it was so rewarding.
The Ingredients:
1 cup firmly packed sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup pecans (about 3 ounces) toasted and cooled
2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (and no, thats not a mis-type. 1 whole tablespoon)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup creamed coconut (or 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature)
1 tablespoon pure coconut extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted for garnish
For the Chocolate Ganache
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

So basically, all of those different ingredients come together to form delicious little dollops of goodness that look like THIS:

Now, doesn't that look delish? well it was, as you can see here...

Plus, these things were super easy. They were light and fluffy, but super rich and decadent at the same time. One of the things that makes this recipe super light is putting the pecans and the shredded coconut in the food processor and make sure they are both finely ground. This gives the rich flavors, without the big chunks. Also, another big thing: TOAST THE PECANS! It only takes a minute, and oh my gosh, it makes all of the difference. The rich nutty flavor is so complimentary to the coconut. Because we live in a small town, we couldn't find the creamed coconut. It was no big deal, butter is wonderful, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Don't they look wonderful? The ganache is so shiny and wonderful, and the toasted coconut flakes really make them look classy. So I had never made ganache before, and honestly, I was a bit nervous about it. DON'T BE! It is the easiest thing in the world (well, eating these cupcakes was the easiest thing in the world, so I guess making the ganache was the second easiest thing). See, look. Do I look too stressed out about it?

I definitely look intense. But not stressed out.

I couldn't help myself. Teehee. Well, there you have it, folks. Great cupcakes, super easy, super fun. Give it a try. I promise, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

First weekend of baking= SUCCESS!

This weekend was the first weekend of baking for this idiotic project that I have made up. I went home to visit mi madre and all we did was make cupcakes. It was WONDERFUL. We literally spent 30 minutes contemplating which recipes to make first from The Book. My oh my, was it wonderful.
But, I have a few complaints. First. I realized that if I'm not careful, I'm going to gain 50 pounds due to Martha's wonderful ability to turn pounds and pounds of butter, sugar, eggs, and other artery clogging goodies into light and fluffy mounds of goodness. I'm going to die early because of this, Martha, I hope you're happy with yourself.
My second complaint is the fact that if you don't have a Trader Joe's or something close to one, it is very difficult to find some of the obscure ingredients that are used in the more unique recipes. And, seeing how my family lives in a small town, if Walmart doesn't carry it, you can pretty much bet that you aren't going to find it for another 100 miles (aka the closest city that has specialty food stores). I have two solutions to this problem; MOM- move somewhere cooler or SMALL TOWN- get big. I have a feeling that none of my solutions will be used to ease my baking pains.
My third and last complaint is that I was unaware that my body was going to sustain injury during such a seemingly simple process. NOTE TO EVERYONE OUT THERE: OVENS PRODUCE HEAT. DO NOT TOUCH THEM DIRECTLY. THE OUTCOME IS NOT PRETTY. I am currently sporting not one, not two, but three super attractive burn marks on my hands. Oven mitts? psssh, those are for LAME-Os! At least, that was my thinking until recently. My recent google history consists of "Oven Mitt Patterns" and "Bulldog Puppies" but thats only because I'm a fan of puppies (don't judge me! secretly you like them too, just admit it and move on with your life).
So, airing of grievances aside, I had a great time baking. Who would have thought that such a simple thing as a cupcake could be so heart warming? Ask mom, she'll tell you that the bonding that occurs over a mixer with flour FLYING out of it (because I put WAY too much in the first time... Ooops...) is far greater than the bonding that occurs over whatever it is boys do. Fishing? Hunting? Do either of those activities produce small, hot, blobs of heavenly goodness? No. Besides, my mom likes passing the "baking baton" down to me. I mean, it's about flippin time! Her mom loved to bake, she loves to bake, and finally the bug has bitten and you can't pay me enough to get me out of the kitchen (unless it's over $20. I am a starving college student, people). She is enjoying the learning process, by making fun of my awkward ways of doing things. Whatever, that's what moms are for. I'm completely okay with it.
Well, tomorrow is approaching entirely too soon, so I had better sign off for tonight. What's that you ask? Yes, yes, I'll tell you all about what we made, but tomorrow, okay? We even took pictures. Mom and I might have gotten a little picture crazy, but hey, who doesn't want to see all of the amazingness that we baked up this weekend? Exactly. Tomorrow. They'll be here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Introductions are always awkward

I kind of feel like the first post of a blog is a lot like the first day of school. You have to play that stupid "game" where everyone goes in a circle and has to say what their name is, what they are majoring in, and a random or "interesting" fact about themselves. I am always annoyed by what other people deem "interesting". "Hi, my name is Cindy, I'm a communications major, and an interesting fact about me is that I own two cats!" Congratulations, Cindy... you and 37.5 million people in this country own cats. That's not interesting at all. Well, I am always awkward when it comes to this game. For the longest time, I never could figure out what my interesting fact was, so that people wouldn't judge me like I just judged Cindy McMeow over there. Then finally one day it hit me. Hi, my name is Alexandra, I'm a theatre major, and I like cupcakes.
When it comes down to it, EVERYONE likes cupcakes, but I seem to be the only person in my classes that will fess up to enjoying the sweet three bite concoctions that were brought to school on birthdays in the third grade. Oh man, do I miss those days. No one ever bakes for fun or to share anymore. Well, being a college student, it seems that no one bakes EVER, but I feel that's because there are no satisfactory kitchens within a 100 mile radius of my campus.
So here I am, trying to live up to the high blogging standards that I seem to have given myself due to all of the other high quality baking blogs that are out there (thanks a lot bakerella!) I may not be as original as she, but I know how to bake, and really when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter who's recipe it was, it matters how freaking good that little cupcake tastes.
Attention cupcake idiots around the world, I'm here for you. I myself have made cupcakes from scratch a total of like... 3 times. Which is why I have decided to go totally Julia Powell on you and try to make every cupcake recipe out of the only book that I deem capable of teaching me everything there is to know about cupcakes; Cupcakes by Martha Stewart. Wish me luck, and let the baking begin!

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