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Category Archives: Cupcakes

My Take on Take Five Bars

Not much could taste better than the combination of peanut butter, caramel, pretzels and chocolate. The Take Five Bar is literally the most perfect candy bar; it has everything that is wonderful and glorious in the world. So, I decided to translate the Take Five Bar into a cupcake. I know it has been done before, but I decided to make my own without looking at any other recipes. I would have loved to make these all for myself, but that is incredibly dangerous. I had been sitting on this for a few weeks when finally a couple friends of ours threw a house warming party! I finally had an excuse! Take Five Cupcakes Hooooooooooooo!

Scrumdiddlyumptious!

Scrumdiddlyumptious!

These turned out pretty well. I started with a Devil’s Food cupcake. Once they were baked and cooled I injected a salted caramel filling. I frosted them with a peanut butter cream cheese frosting upon which I then sprinkled crushed pretzels and then drizzled caramel over that. I think the only issue was that the pretzel bits soaked up moisture from the frosting and ended up tasting a bit stale. Next time I make these I might sprinkle the top with chocolate covered pretzels to avoid this same issue. Either way, these little buggers were ridiculously decadent and ridiculously tasty.

Take Five Cupcakes
A Cara Original

Devil’s Food Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about 32 cupcakes

Ingredients:
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¾  cup hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ¼  teaspoons coarse salt
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 ¼  cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 oz 60 or 70% cacao chocolate –I usually use Ghirardelli
1 ½  cup sour cream, room temperature

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth.

2. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

3. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined.

4. Melt the 4 oz of chocolate in a double boiler (place a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water) or in microwave – I prefer double boiler method because it reduces the chance of burning the chocolate

5. Add flour mixture in two batches of the butter-sugar-cocoa mixture, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.

6. Add in melted chocolate and stir until combined.

7. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

8. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.

Salted Caramel
From Brown Eyed Baker
Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients
2 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 tablespoon fleur de sel (or any other flaky sea salt)

Directions
1. Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, heavy saucepan. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. You’ll see that the sugar will begin to form clumps, but that’s okay. Just keep whisking and as it continues to cook, they will melt back down. Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.

2. Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slight toasted aroma. This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, cook the sugar until it reaches 350 degrees F.

3. As soon as the caramel reaches 350 degrees, add the butter all at once. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Again, be careful because the mixture will once again bubble up ferociously. Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. If you find you have large clumps in the sauce, put back over low heat and whisk vigorously. Add the fleur de sel and whisk to incorporate.

5. Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl.

6. Set the sauce aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour into your favorite glass jar and let cool to room temperature. You can refrigerate the sauce for up to 2 weeks. You’ll want to warm the sauce up before using.

7. Once cool, put a long filling tip into a pastry bag, filly pastry bag with caramel and then inject each cooled cupcake with the caramel. Stop filling the cupcake when you see the top bulge out. Reserve left over caramel sauce for drizzling on top of the frosted cupcakes.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients
18 ounces cream cheese
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups heavy cream
2 cups (or so) crushed chocolate covered pretzels

Directions
1. Beat cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar with a mixer on medium speed. Add salt, then peanut butter, then vanilla.

2. Whisk cream until soft peaks form, and then fold into peanut butter mixture.

3. If using a stand mixer, put on the whisk attachment and whisk the frosting until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

4. Frost the cupcakes as you desire. Sprinkle crushed pretzels on top and then drizzle with remaining caramel sauce.

These cupcakes may cause an instant coronary or possibly a diabetic coma, but they are worth it.

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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Cupcakes, Dessert

 

Pumpkin “Sage Student” (at least I hope) Cupcakes with Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Frosting

I am writing this blog post as my students take their final exam. Literally, I am watching them all with their heads down, pens furiously writing and brows perpetually furrowed. This class has had a rough semester so I thought I would ease the pain for their final exam by making them cupcakes. I figured a cupcake with sage in it would give them wisdom…get it? Har har! Honestly, though I have found baking makes students far more receptive to both the teacher and to knowledge. It lightens the situation, earns the teacher some goodwill and perhaps, just perhaps they will learn more. I truly believe teachers, especially at the collegiate level, need to do it more often (class size permitting). I have had students tell me I am a legend among their friends because I brought the class some leftovers from my Compass Improv catering. They were doing me the favor by eating the leftovers and yet I somehow became the good teacher! But in the end, students just give me a wonderful excuse to bake.

Trio of Cupcakes

Look at those lovely vanilla bean seeds nestled in the frosting. Yum!

 

For this recipe I wanted some sort of Fall/Winter flavor without too much work. I have made these Pumpkin Sage cupcakes (and even a cake) before and they have always turned out flavorful and moist. They aren’t too sweet and even have a nice earthy flavor to them because of the sage. The typical recipe calls for fresh sage, which I normally always get but there seems to be a run on fresh sage in the grocery store – perhaps people are reattempting their failed sage-stuffing recipes from Thanksgiving in time for Christmas? So, this time I replaced the fresh sage with whole dried sage leaves and there seemed to be no difference in flavor or texture. DO NOT USE POWDER SAGE! In the end you get about 20 cupcakes. As for the frosting I tinkered a little bit by adding vanilla bean paste and some heavy whipping cream to lighten up the traditionally heavy base of a cream cheese frosting. I would recommend this for all cream cheese frostings to be honest. Makes things a bit more airy.

Anyway, here is another picture and the recipe. It is wonderful. Go try it

So pretty!

So pretty!

Pumpkin Sage Cupcakes with Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted fro Martha Stewart

Ingredients for Cupcakes
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup fresh (or whole dried) sage leaves cut into chiffonade
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 can pumpkin puree
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

Directions for Cupcakes
1. Preheat oven to 325° and line a standard cupcake tin with wrappers.
2. In a saucepan over medium-low heat melt the butter. Once the butter has melted add the sage and cook until the butter turns golden brown. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves into a bowl.
4. In a very large bowl combine the pumpkin pure, brown sugar and white sugar. Whisk until combined and then add the butter sage mixture. Whisk until incorporated. Beat in eggs one at a time.
5. Slowly whisk flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until just combined.
6. Evenly distribute batter among the cupcake tins.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean
8. Make the Frosting

Ingredients for Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
16 oz cream cheese and room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Direction for Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Frosting
1. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth.
2. Add in vanilla bean paste and beat until distributed.
3. Beat in heavy whipping cream and continue to beat until the frosting become a bit more fluffy and airy…yes I know this is rather subjects.
4. Frost your cooled cupcakes as desired!

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Cupcakes, Dessert, Frosting

 

Compass Cooking Part I: Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Orange-Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

Recently, I successfully pulled off my first large guest event. I have a hard timing bringing myself to call it a catering job because that sounds like it is my job, like I am a professional and like I knew what I was doing the whole time. Nothing could be further from the truth. When it was all said and done I provided food for about 200 people over 4 nights at several different venues for the Compass Improv Festival performers. It went more smoothly than I could have ever expected. Amazingly, I was not stressed while doing this and the cooking and baking all went off without a hitch. The only tragedy was breaking one of my small vintage Pyrex bowls. No worries, it has already been replaced!

Aaron and I behind the spread at the first night. The turkey pepperoni pizza pinwheels were probably the biggest hit. I stood there and watched one performer eat 3 in quick succession.

When asked if I would be willing to volunteer my time to make food for the performers during this Festival, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! I of course did not bother to think about all the time and effort it would take to pull this off in my small kitchen all by myself. Why would I ever think of that before agreeing? I had about a month to plan it all out, but to be honest I had no idea it would work until it did. I decided on a fairly simple menu that could be easily replicated each night during this four night Festival. I didn’t know the dietary preferences of any of the performers ahead of time, so I had to make it an accessible spread. I went with turkey pepperoni pizza pinwheels, basil pesto pinwheels, homemade Chex mix, caramelized onion dip with fresh veggies and crackers, buttermilk-vanilla bean mini-cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting and Devil’s food mini-cupcakes with orange-vanilla bean buttercream frosting. I will not go into detail about the calculation of ingredients and timing of cooking, though do feel free to ask if you are curious. However, I will show you a few fun pictures leading up to the cooking

I had to borrow 3 Kitchen Aid Mixers from 3 very generous friends to get the pinwheel dough and mini-cupcakes done in a timely fashion.

My army of Kitchen Aid Mixers

These are just the ingredients to make the cupcakes. I kind of wish I had stacked in the onions for the dip, fillings for the pinwheels, and endless boxes of cereal for the Chex mix. Oh well, next time…

Soooooo much butter!!!!!

All of the baked mini-cupcakes lined up, waiting for frosting.

At the time, the lines of cupcakes seemed never ending.

The recipe I share with you today is one that you already half know. I used my Devil’s Food cupcake recipe. You can find it here. I will note, that one batch of this batter makes 24ish normal sized cupcakes and 96 mini cupcakes. I kind of thought it would only make 48 mini cupcakes – I was WAY off. This just meant I had lots of extras with which to delight my boyfriend and students. One final note on the cupcakes: reduce cook time to 10-12 minutes if using a mini cupcake pan.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Orange-Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

Orange-Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting
I came up with this frosting recipe by adding to my base buttercream. It tasted like a creamsicle! It was unreal and complimented the Devil’s Food to a “T”!
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon Vanilla Bean Paste
1-2 teaspoons Pure Orange Extract – adjust this to taste, I prefer a stronger orange flavor

Directions:
1.  Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers, I test it by putting a small drop of the mixture between my fingers. If it is still gritty, it needs to stay on the heat longer, if it is perfectly smooth then move on.
2. Remove from heat, and whisk on high speed until mixture is cool and stiff peaks form, about 6-10 minutes. It is very important that stiff peaks form otherwise your frosting will fall apart. If butter starts to clot, put over heat a little bit until it goes back into solution.
3. Beat in vanilla bean paste and pure orange extract.
4. If you like, add in food coloring at this time
5. Decorate the cupcakes with this frosting as you choose

Next time, I shall regale you with Pinwheel tales!

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Cupcakes, Dessert, Frosting

 

CULINARY BLOWTORCH…and S’more Cupcakes

For my birthday Aaron got me something I have been wanting since February; something that is super awesome and also something that makes me feel super pretentious. He got me a culinary blowtorch. Why would I want such a rarely used kitchen utensil (at least rarely used in my kitchen)?  More importantly, why would Aaron be so willing to get it for me?

My de”light”ful new kitchen toy!

We had a massive Oscars party in February. I made a dish themed to match each of the best-nominated films. One of these were lemon meringue cupcakes. These cupcakes had a seven-minute frosting that needed to be lightly browned to get that meringue effect. At that time all I had were a couple of lighters to produce this browning effect. I was busy making 8 other dishes for this party, so Aaron got stuck taking the lighter to 42 lemon meringue cupcakes! Each cupcake took at least 2 minutes to properly brown. His hands ached for weeks. I think he was planning on getting me a culinary blowtorch from that moment on before I even mentioned it.

The infamous Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

So, the other night I decided to bust out that birthday blowtorch and use it for the first time! Woof! Does it ever make browning something SUPER easy. But this post is not solely about my blowtorch, only about 85% of it is. I made S’more Cupcakes! No clue why, but I have wanted to try one of the ba-jillion s’more recipes I have come across recently. I decided to go with one from Annie’s Eats. She always has lovely recipes and they are presented beautifully. She sells her food well! I followed her concept, but completely changed the cupcake part of the recipe. Her recipe called for oil based cupcakes and I try to steer away from that, so I swapped that portion out and used one I heavily adapted from Martha Stewart. But the general scheme is the same and is as follows: graham cracker crust bottom → sprinkled chocolate → chocolate cupcake → seven minute frosting (which is very marshmallowy) → browning the frosting for that fire toasted effect.

These little buggers are just delightful! They really do have a s’more flavor. They even leave toasted marshmallow carnage all over your face just like real s’mores! Might make a fun 4th of July dessert!

Finally, S’more Cupcakes. Sorry for the crappy picture.

S’more Cupcakes
Idea from Annie’s Eats
Cupcake Recipe heavily adapted from Martha Stewart.

Ingredients
Graham Cracker Crust
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Chocolate Cupcake
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3¼ cup + 2 tablespoons hot water
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoons coarse salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
4 oz 60% cocoa chocolate melted
¾ cup high quality chocolate syrup

Seven Minute Frosting
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

2. For Graham Cracker Crust: In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter; mix well with a fork. Drop about 1 tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner and press down to line the bottom. I used a small drinking glass to compact it down.

3. Sprinkle a small amount of the chopped chocolate on top of the graham cracker crusts. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, and maintain the oven temperature.

4. For Cake Batter: Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

5. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl.

6. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined.

7. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.

8. Stir in melted chocolate and chocolate syrup.

9. Divide batter evenly in the graham cracker crust filled cupcake lines. Bake for 20 minutes.

10. Once cupcakes are cooled, begin the frosting.

11. For the Frosting: combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler. (Note: I just set my clean, dry mixer bowl over simmering water, to avoid dirtying two bowls.) Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it reaches 160° F with an instant-read thermometer. Or, if like me you do not have an instant-read thermometer put a dab of the mixture between your fingers. If the mixture is smooth (you do not feel any grains of sugar) you are ready to move on to the next step.

12. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Mix in the vanilla until combined.

13. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

14. Brown using…CULINARY BLOWTORCH!!!!!

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Chocolate, Cupcakes, Dessert, Frosting

 

Zombies and Babies – Devil’s Food Cupcakes

I attended a baby shower for a couple of friends of mine who are delightful people with wicked senses of humor, so I do not think they will mind a post that is a combination of zombies and their baby shower. When I asked the husband what the very pregnant mother-to-be was craving he replied, “Anything chocolate”. So, I turned to a recipe I used last Easter. Sadly, I do not have pictures of the beautifully decorated baby shower cupcakes – they resembled mums – but I do have a picture of Zombie Jesus cupcakes. I have mentioned before that I am a graduate student and in my department, Anthropology, the graduate students love to get together at holidays whether they celebrate that holiday religiously or not. It is always a good, rousing time. For this Easter celebration, I made Devil’s Food cupcakes with Swiss meringue butter cream frosting piped in the shape of brains and then topped with a little decoration that said “Zombie Jesus Loves You” – a common joke around Easter (I do apologize if this offends anyone). So, this post is about a recipe I changed for the baby shower, but has a picture of the unchanged recipe with brain frosting. Though part of me thinks the mom- and dad-to-be would have been perfectly ok with brain-topped cupcakes: they are both psychologists. Since I wrote this post, they have since had their wonderful baby boy who is happy and healthy! Congrats to them!

Zombie Jesus Loves You!

This is a great recipe, but when I made them for Easter, they were a little dry. So, for the baby shower I made a few adjustments, and they were much more moist. I increased the amount of sour cream and added some melted 70% cacao chocolate. For the baby shower I also filled the cupcakes with almond cream. That recipe is at the end of this post. Every component of both cupcakes came from Martha Stewart, and I have to say that her baking recipes have never failed for me. I make adjustments and improvisations here and there, but her baking recipes are always good solid recipes to keep on hand.

BWAINS!!!!

Devil’s Food Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about 32 cupcakes

Ingredients:
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¾  cup hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ¼  teaspoons coarse salt
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 ¼  cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 oz 60 or 70% cacao chocolate –I usually use Ghirardelli
1 ½  cup sour cream, room temperature

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth.

2. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

3. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined.

4. Melt the 4 oz of chocolate in a double boiler (place a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water) or in microwave – I prefer double boiler method because it reduces the chance of burning the chocolate

5. Add flour mixture in two batches of the butter-sugar-cocoa mixture, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.

6. Add in melted chocolate and stir until combined.

7. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

8. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.

Swiss Meringue Butter Cream
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
Any food coloring you desire

Directions:

1. Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers, I test it by putting a small drop of the mixture between my fingers. If it is still gritty, it needs to stay on the heat longer, if it is perfectly smooth then move on.

2. Remove from heat, and whisk on high speed until mixture is cool and stiff peaks form, about 6-10 minutes. It is very important that stiff peaks form otherwise your frosting will fall apart. If butter starts to clot, put over heat a little bit until it goes back into solution.

3. Beat in vanilla.

4. If you like add in food coloring at this time

5. Decorate the cupcakes with this frosting as you choose

Almond Cream Filling
From Martha Stewart
This is the full recipe – you should halve it if you are just filling cupcakes

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons almond paste
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:

1. Bring 2 cups half-and-half, the almond paste, sugar, salt, and cornstarch to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.

2. Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Whisk egg yolks, extract, and remaining 1/2 cup half-and-half in a medium bowl; add one-third of the hot half-and-half mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Pour into saucepan.

3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking, until mixture coats the back of a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes. Pass through a fine sieve into a bowl set in ice-water bath. Stir in butter, several pieces at a time. Let cool completely, stirring occasionally.

4. Put cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed just until stiff peaks form. Fold into custard.

5. Prepare a pastry bag (use Wilton tip 230 or 12) and fill with almond cream. Stab each cooled cupcake with the tip and fill. It may spill out the top and you can clean that up with a paper towel or spoon.

Oh, and this is the Devil’s Food recipe used to make a skull cake with candle-lit eyes!

Devil's Food Skull Cake - it had strawberry buttercream brains in side!

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Chocolate, Cupcakes, Dessert, Frosting

 

Champagne Cupcakes and Cowboy Dreams

From the end of May 2011 to mid-December 2011, I was conducting my dissertation field work in the mountains of Wyoming. Field work has its moments, but it is usually filled with lots of missing friends and loved ones. It turned out that I would not have any data collection during October, so I decided to head back to St. Louis for the month. This meant not only awesome Halloween times in St. Louis, but that I would also be in town for my best friend, Diana’s, birthday. I had not seen her since before I left, and I was so excited I would get to help her celebrate her birthday. I asked what kind of gift she wanted, and she told me to bring back a Wyoming cowboy for her (see very bottom of this post) and to have some sort of celebration. We decided on gathering at a local bar with lots of friends. Such an occasion demanded high quality, high fanciness baked goods, and the birthday girl’s only request was that it includes strawberries. The plan: champagne cupcakes with a strawberry-champagne Swiss meringue butter cream, and oh why not add a chocolate ganache filling and some fancy vanilla Swiss meringue butter cream roses with chocolate mint leaves. Now that is some decadent baked good awesomeness.

The final product!

This recipe – well, cohort of recipes – was part adapted from others and part completely improvised. WARNING! All the butter used in this recipe needs to be at room temperature. I usually leave butter on the kitchen counter over night. If you forget, put butter on a plate and microwave at 10 second intervals until the butter is soft but NOT melty. The champagne cupcake recipe was a simple white, vanilla cake with champagne added to it. I added more champagne than the original recipe called for, and the batter truly tasted sparkling and bubbly, but when the cupcakes came out there was no detectable champagne flavor. This disappointed me, and I am not sure how to rectify this and truly pull out the champagne taste. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. The frosting I made was delicious, but difficult to work with. Next time I make a strawberry-champagne butter cream, I will go with the powder sugared based frosting since it is less temperamental and has an easily adjustable consistency. I am a huge proponent of Swiss meringue butter cream because of its light texture and subtly sweet flavor, but it is just not durable enough to withstand the heavy liquid content of both strawberry puree and champagne. It spread easily, but I could not use decorating tips with it and at times the strawberry juice and/or champagne sweated out. But again, it still tasted lovely. The Swiss meringue butter cream roses were gorgeous, but I think the chocolate mint leaves with the biggest hit. The chocolate ganache was just a nice little surprise in the cupcake. Despite all my criticisms, people loved these cupcakes, and the birthday girl herself called them “divine”.

All of the finished products! That would be me off to the left picking up a cupcake

Champagne Cupcakes
Adapted from With Style and Grace

Ingredients:
6 eggs, separated
2/3 cups butter room temperature
2 vanilla beans, split with seeds scooped out
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup champagne

Directions:

1. Separate eggs. Discard four yolks – leaving you with six egg whites and two yolks.

2. Line (or grease) your cupcake pan, set aside.

3. For vanilla bean, use a sharp knife or a spoon to scrape the seeds from vanilla bean halves; set seeds aside.

4. In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Set aside.

6. Using you electric mixer, beat butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in the reserved egg yolks and the vanilla seeds. Alternately add flour mixture and champagne to the butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Fold half of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten; fold in remaining egg whites.

7. Fill each cupcake cup about three-fourths full.

8. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the centers and if it comes out clean, it’s ready. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin cups. Cool completely on wire racks.

Chocolate Ganache Filling
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:
¼ cup heavy cream
1.5 oz semisweet chocolate

Directions:

1. Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour over chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Slowly whisk until smooth. Let cool completely, stirring often with a rubber spatula.

2. Once cool, prepare a pastry bag (use Wilton tip 230 or 12) and fill with chocolate ganache. Stab each cooled cupcake with the tip and fill with chocolate ganache. It may spill out the top and you can clean that up with a paper towel or spoon.

Swiss Meringue Strawberry-Champagne Butter Cream
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes about 36 cupcakes

Ingredients:
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ – ¾ quart of strawberries
½ cup champagne

Directions:

1. Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixing bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers, I test it by putting a small drop of the mixture between my fingers. If it is still gritty, it needs to stay on the heat longer, if it is perfectly smooth then move on.

2. Remove from heat, and whisk on high speed until mixture is cool and stiff peaks form, about 6-10 minutes. It is very important that stiff peaks form otherwise your frosting will fall apart. If butter starts to clot, put over heat a little bit until it goes back into solution.

3. Beat in vanilla.

4. In a blender or food processor combing strawberries and champagne until smooth. Fold this into the frosting

5. Decorate the cupcakes with this frosting as you choose

Swiss Meringue Butter Cream Roses

Following exact recipe above, just omit the strawberries and champagne. This will yield far more frosting than you need, so you can halve the recipe. Use a Wilton #104 decorating tip.

Chocolate Mint Leaves

Ingredients:
1 package fresh mint leaves
3 oz semisweet chocolate

Directions:

1. Melt chocolate either in microwave or a double boiler.

2. Pluck all mint leaves, place on a waxed paper lined cookie tray, and place with the veins bumpy side up.

3. Paint each mint leave with the melted chocolate using either a small paint brush or a small spoon – do not layer it on too thick

4. Once all leaves are painted, put leaves in the freezer for 15 minutes.

5. Peel and discard the mint leaves. After you get through about 10 leaves you may have to put the remaining ones back in the freezer before you can peel the mint leaves off.

6. They look like perfect little leaves, and the mint flavor becomes infused in the chocolate.

7. Place around the roses as you like!

These cupcakes are labor intensive – I am not going to lie – but the result was stunning! And as for the cowboy my friend asked for, well here he is. His name is Austin and he is quite the sexy cowboy-gentlemen.

Austin the Cowboy!

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Chocolate, Cupcakes, Dessert, Frosting, Strawberry