September 27, 2011

all aboard!

I may have missed the cupcake train, but never fear--I hopped aboard a jigger and finally caught up.


My cupcake guru, so it would seem, is Martha Stewart. Specifically, I've been very much inspired by one of her books and find myself wanting to make the majority of the recipes. I've done her snickerdoodle cupcakes, coconut cupcakes, and hummingbird cupcakes, and have had no beef (in both senses of the word) with any of them.


Here are two more creations from my Cupcake Bible, one of which was far more successful than the other. The first is a take on the good ol' peanut butter cup--chocolate cupcake and peanut butter frosting. Simple, but oh-so-satisfying. The second batch was blueberries and cream, which seemed to give me lots of problems, not the least of which was that all the blueberries sunk to the bottom. The batter seemed stiff enough to hold them up, but it just didn't happen. As my standards with Martha's cupcake recipes go, this one was a disappointment.

I hope you don't mind that I was late to the party--those jiggers are hard to maneuver!

Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes (I love redundancy!)
(tweaked a bit from here and here)
(makes 12 cakelets)

Cupcakes:
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Frosting:
6 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners. Into a medium bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, then beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour.
Pour batter into cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool in pan 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar with a mixer on medium speed. Add salt, then peanut butter, then vanilla. Whisk cream until soft peaks form, and then fold into peanut butter mixture. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Blueberries & Cream Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (there it is again!)
(more Martha)
(makes 30 standard or 60 mini)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature
2 cups fresh blueberries, plus more for garnish

cream cheese frosting

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard or mini muffin tins with paper liners.
Whisk together both flours, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each. Fold in blueberries by hand.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until pale golden, about 25 minutes for standard and 15 for mini.
Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature in airtight containers.

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September 20, 2011

calorie shmalorie

I read somewhere that one of the most calorie-laden beverages at Starbucks is the white chocolate mocha. Naturally, it's one of my favorite drinks there.


I'm the kind of person who would rather eat her calories than drink them, so that smooth, rich, luscious drink was the inspiration for my latest cake creation. Here's my end result: The base consists of thinnish layers of soft, fluffy chocolate cake moistened and enriched with a Kahlua-flavored simple syrup. This was tasty on its own, but it was made even more decadent with the addition of a velvety white chocolate mousse between each layer. This was so easy to make, it almost seems unfair that it was so incredible to eat. To finish things off, I brought back my current favorite frosting, a coffee-tinged cream cheese pile of heaven.

With these components combined, I modestly state that I've left Starbucks in the dust. Now, if only I can come up with some way to make it in less than 5 minutes. Also, some sort of drive-through experience might be nice as well...

Double Shot White Chocolate Mocha Cake
one recipe of your favorite chocolate cake

Kahlua simple syrup:
6 oz sugar
6 oz water
4 oz Kahlua coffee liqueur

White Chocolate Mousse Filling:
6 oz white chocolate chips
2 cups heavy cream
1 tbsp sugar

coffee cream cheese frosting

Prepare your chocolate cake and bake it in two 9-inch round pans. Once cool, cut each round in half horizontally.

To prepare the simple syrup, combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring it to a boil, then remove it from the heat. When cool, stir in the Kahlua.

To prepare the mousse, carefully melt the white chocolate and set it aside. Place the heavy cream and sugar in the well-chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the chilled whisk attachment. Whisk on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Remove the bowl from the mixer. By hand, whisk to combine 1/4 of the whipped cream into the melted white chocolate until smooth and completely incorporated. Add the combined whipped cream and chocolate to the remaining whipped cream and use a rubber spatula to fold together.

Prepare the frosting and set it aside.

To assemble, liberally brush the four sides of exposed cake with the simple syrup. Slather the mousse between the halved and syruped layers (stacking as you go), then frost the sides and top in a decorative fashion. Chill for a bit to let things mingle, then slice and serve!

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September 13, 2011

i've been aunted!

Yes, just as Sean Connery became Sir Sean Connery and Judy Dench became Dame Judy Dench, I shall henceforth be known as Aunt Grace Gigglebottom. (No, that's not my real last name, but wouldn't it be fun?)


My brother and his wife recently added a little, itty-bitty girl to their family, naming her Lydia (wait for it) Grace. Lydia Grace! Isn't it a lovely name? Apparently, my sister-in-law had been fond of the name long before she even knew my brother or me, but I'm still flattered and thrilled.


Some of you may be unfamiliar with the story of Lydia from the Bible. She was, among other things, a seller of purple. So, in honor of Lydia Grace, I made some cupcakes and topped them with glorious purple frosting (and sprinkles!). Yes, more cupcakes. Specifically, more banana cupcakes. This is a different recipe, though, and in my opinion, a better one. The crunch and flavor of the toasted pecans is marvelous, and the cake is much more tender than that of the one making use of roasted bananas. The rich, smooth, outstanding caramel buttercream certainly didn't hurt, either. Another win, Martha!


Banana Pecan Cupcakes with (Purple!) Caramel Buttercream
(twists and tweaks to this recipe)
(makes 28 cupcakes)

Cupcakes:
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
4 very ripe large bananas, mashed (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

Caramel Buttercream:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the cupcakes, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla.
Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the banana mixture and ending with dry, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. Stir in the pecans by hand. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks.

To make the buttercream, first bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook, undisturbed, until caramel is dark amber. Remove from heat, and slowly add cream, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let cool.
Beat the butter with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Place the whites and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. (Isn't the stand mixer a marvelous invention!?!) Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add beaten butter, cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in the vanilla.
Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add caramel, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Use immediately, or cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth before using.)

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September 6, 2011

roasting in more ways than one

We seem to be experiencing one last push of summer's heat here in good ol' southwestern Virginia, and I'll gladly take it, as I'm not quite ready for a complete cool-down yet.


I ask you, though--what rational person cranks up her oven to full force when it's 90 degrees outside and already 85 degrees in her kitchen? Well, I never said I was a rational person, particularly when it comes to food. I decided I wanted to make roasted banana cupcakes, so I did.

I've never roasted bananas before, and to be honest, I couldn't tell that doing so made the flavor any different. It was fun to blacken the peels, though, and I liked how the innards became all pressurized and liquefied. It's the little things.


Although I didn't set out to do so, it seems I'm baking through Martha's book of cupcake recipes. So far, I've not been let down. I didn't use her honey-cinnamon frosting (contain your shock--I put my cinnamon in the batter), but instead opted to go with my latest obsession, a cream cheese frosting flavored with coffee and rum. Random? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely. I guess it's a bit like an addict's dream--caffeine and alcohol!

Roasted Grace's Roasted Banana Cupcakes
(based on a recipe from this book)
3 ripe bananas
2 cups cake flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To roast the bananners, preheat the oven to 400°F. Place 3 whole unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. The peels will darken and become very, very taut. Remove from oven and allow to cool before peeling.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Line a regular muffin tin or two with 16 paper liners. Sift together cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add roasted bananas and beat to combine. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of sour cream. Beat until just combined after each. Beat in vanilla.
In another mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks; fold one-third of the whites into the batter to lighten. Gently fold in remaining whites in two batches.
Divide the batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting:
4 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
4+ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon rum
4 to 6 tablespoons strong coffee

Beat the cream cheese and butter together until well-blended. Beat in the powdered sugar. Beat in the rum and then add the coffee a bit at a time, until the right consistency is obtained.

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