Tag Archives: cupcakes

Crazy for Cupcakes

20 May

I graduate tomorrow.

Since I’m leaving, I knew I would have to bake something special for all my teachers and special faculty.

Without any real finals (I took a lot of AP classes), I had time last weekend to brainstorm my game plan. I knew I had to bake for a lot of teachers and faculty and I had recently been inspired by the current cupcake frenzy, so I decided to bake my own cupcakes from scratch.

Naked Cupcakes

The (mix) red velets are at the top. The toasted bananas are the brown ones. The lemons are the ones in the red cupcake pan.

My original plan included four cupcakes for each recipient in a cute plastic container made specifically for cupcakes given out by Kara’s Cupcakes or Cako. I did get the four varieties done, but the cute plastic container was out. Instead, I found a round 8-inch foil container with a plastic lid – not too far off from the original idea. Still, transporting them was a pain. Thanks to my friends Amy Ruth and Michelle all worked out well.

I don’t have too much time to write about the whole story and process so I’ll just show some photos instead.

Recipes can be found below their corresponding pictures.

The Pretender

This cupcake wishes it were homemade, but it’s not. I had to make these from a mix to present a newspaper party on short notice.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (all mix)

I love the paper liners, don't you?

1. Toasted Almond Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon Brown Butter Frosting

If this title doesn’t get you drooling, then maybe this photo will.

Cupcake Recipe from Simple Daily Recipes: here
*I use this banana cake recipe for banana bread too
Brown butter frosting from My Kitchen Addiction: here

Toasted Almond Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon Brown Butter Frosting

Yep, those are bits of toasted almonds on top as a garnish. S'mancy, yes?

Cinnamon Brown Butter Frosting

First time making brown butter at home. I wasn't sure if I was cooking it right at all, but it turned out brown and unburned!

2. Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting

I didn’t used to be a fan of lemon baked goods until I tried a piece of lemon pound cake from the corner store near my school. Now I can appreciate such lemony goodness. For those who’ve never tried lemon baked goods, they’re usually not too sour. Rather, they’re tart but sweet at the same time. The lemon cuts the sugar like a hot knife in butter!

Cupcake recipe adapted from Joyofbaking: here
*I did not add the lemon curd or use the whipped cream topping

Buttercream Frosting adapted from Joyofbaking: here
*I only added 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and added 1 tsp of lemon extract

Lemon Cupcakes

This reminds me of something I'd see at a baby shower or Easter party because of the pastel colors.

3. (Fightin’ Irish) Mint Cupcakes with Mint Chip Frosting

I have mint chips at home so I thought, “Well, I’ll just make some kind of mint cupcake – easy!” Ah hah hah – No.

Instead all the recipes I found called for peppermint extract, which I didn’t have so what do I do? Improvise using a red velvet cupcake as the base; substitute in melted mint chips; and cross my fingers that the ooey gooey mud colored batter I just created actually turns out edible let alone delicious.

Red velvet recipe and frosting adapted from Joyofbaking: here
*I melted about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of mint chips shown below and added this to the batter. For the frosting, I added a little less than 1/4 of melted chips.

Melting Mint Chips

I just microwaved them so they're glistening. Right after this picture, I smushed them with a fork. By the way, like my fat cat bowl?

Mixing the Mint Cupcake Batter

It was so pretty before I mixed it! You can actually see green mint butter-egg mixture underneath the flour-cocoa powder mixture. After I mixed it, it turned a hideous forest green color.

Mint Chip Cupcake

Even after it baked, you can see the gross green color underneath but at least the frosting turned out good and more importantly, the whole cupcake was delicious!I had to taste test this one because if it tasted bad there was no way I was going to give this to my teachers or friends.

Mint Chip Cupcake

Ta-dah!

 4. Cookies-n-Cream Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

These were my inspiration for doing cupcakes. When I found this recipe, I knew I had to do it especially since it seemed easy enough.

The cool part of this cupcake besides the obvious garnish was the cookie bottom. I split the Oreo and took the side with the cream and placed it frosting-side up in the bottom of each cupcake liner. I believe it was Beantown Baker who came it with this ingenious idea.

Original Recipe from Beantown Baker: here.

Oreos on bottom of cupcake liners

Beantown Baker's ingenious idea

Oreo bottom of cupcakes

Oreo bottom of Cookies-n-Cream Cupcakes

Oreo bottom of cupcake (sideview)

Sideview of Oreo bottom

Cookies-n-Cream Cupcake

Isn't it beautiful? I'm so happy it turned out the way it did.

The Packaging & Finished Products

All the tins of cupcakes

All the tins of cupcakes. There were 15 total.

The finished cupcakes

The finished cupcakes. Cute, right?

In the Kitchen with Sarah Lodick (Sur La Table)

9 Aug

When I got back from UC Davis, I did not have much planned except for doing homework. How lame, I know.

So by Tuesday night, I had pretty much finished my summer reading assignment to read and respond to online questions regarding the chapter themes of “The Axemaker’s Gift” by Burke and Orstein. Don’t misjudge the book by my unenthusiastic attitude though. It’s a rather interesting take on how technology has changed man’s perspective of the world and how man can get back in touch with his more natural roots. If you’re looking for a serious read, this is a good choice.

Luckily, my mom already had things planned for me for the rest of the week. She had apparently called the Sur La Table in San Francisco Union Square to see if there was still room in the Teen Baking Camp; and luckily for me, there was not only room available but Chef Sarah Lodick was still willing to let me join the class for the rest of the week! Sarah had remembered me from last year and knew that I was not a troublemaker and readily let me join.Sur La Table Kitchen

Monday was apparently “Breakfast Creations” and Tuesday had been “Shortcakes, Cobblers, and Crisps”, but I don’t mind having missed these classes because Sarah gave me the recipes for the savory scones, nectarine and blueberry crisp, cherry almond crisp, (and more!).

Wednesday, “Pies and Tarts”

When I came in on Wednesday, the theme was “Pies and Tarts” so we – the 12 teens – made a banana cream pie with a Nutella Crust (delicious!), an all american apple pie, a chocolate pecan pie, and a lemon tart.

Chef Sarah putting the final "burn" on the lemon tart

Chef Sarah putting the final "burn" on the lemon tart

Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart - my student partner and I actually made this!

The Apple Pie

The Apple Pie - check out the cute apple cut-outs!

The Chocolate Pecan Pie

The Chocolate Pecan Pie - filled with toasted, nutty pecans and chocolate chunks

Even though the class was nice to take because we got to eat whatever we made, I think what I enjoyed the most was the quick baking lessons Sarah taught us.

On Wednesday, Sarah clarified the single difference between a pie and a tart, which is that a pie is meant to be served in the decorative pie ceramic/tin while a tart is meant to be served on a plate to show its decorative crust.

The second lesson of the day was between the different kinds of salts used in cooking and baking. The first shown to us was Kosher salt, which is what is primarily used in cooking because it does not have a very salty taste. This is why in cooking shows you’ll see the chef put in what seems to be a large amount of salt. Because Kosher salt is not as salty, the chef can put more of it in the dish.

The second salt was sea salt because it was going to be used in a chocolate chip cookie recipe the next day. This salt is often used in baking rather than cooking. The third salt was Morton’s iodized table salt – the salt that is in the salt shaker at a table. This is the saltiest of all the salts so it is only used in small amounts. Sarah then showed us flavored salts, flaky salts, and a block of pink salt. Who knew that there were so many kinds of salts?

Amazingly enough, when I went to check out the open house of the Art Institute in San Francisco, the chef had prepared a similar salt tasting.

Thursday, “Chocolate Overload”

On Thursday, the theme of the camp was “Chocolate Overload”. Simply by reading the name, I should have known what kind of overload I would be in for. But no, I barely considered what kind of overload would be presented to me when I arrived.

The recipes for the day included: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt, Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes with Ganache Glaze,  Chocolate Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Hazelnut Bread Pudding, and Chocolate Soufflés. That’s what I call an overload of chocolate.

Chocolate Souffles

Chocolate Souffles and Chocolate Chip Cookies (in background)

Chocolate Profiterolesand Chocolate Bundt Cake Slices

Chocolate Profiteroles and Chocolate Bundt Cake Slices - it's like a work of art with the light reflecting off the chocolate sauce!

Before any of the desserts were made, Sarah treated us to a mini chocolate tasting. Using E. Guittard chocolate, she gave each of us semi-sweet, bittersweet, milk chocolate, and white chocolate pieces. She explained the difference between all these kinds of chocolate, which is the ratio of  chocolate liquor to to cocoa butter. Best of all, she explained the whole chocolate process. I’ll repeat it here in case you don’t know how chocolate is made. :)

  1. The cocoa beans are taken from the cocoa plant pod and roasted in a large oven after being sorted out for quality. The roasting dries the bean to bring out the aroma and flavors.
  2. The cocoa beans are then cracked and the inside of the beans are broken into bits called cocoa nibs. These nibs taste just like chocolate except they’re extremely bitter. However, they are sometimes used to decorate the sides of a cake.
  3. The cocoa nibs are crushed and thickened into a paste called chocolate liquor – it has no alcohol! The cocoa nibs can also be made into cocoa liquor through a hydraulic machine that will separate the cocoa from the cocoa butter.
  4. The chocolate liquor is then mixed with different amounts of  cocoa butter according to the manufacture’s taste. Milk, vanilla, and sugar are added as well. To make white chocolate, one must only add these ingredients to the cocoa butter – leave out the chocolate and cocoa liquor.
  5. Finally, through a refining and tempering process, the chocolate is made to have the texture of the chocolate bars we know today.

And there you go! The chocolate process.

For more information on the chocolate making process, check out: How Chocolate Is Made

The last lesson in chocolate Sarah taught us was the difference between Dutch-processed cocoa and unprocessed cocoa, which is that Dutch-processed cocoa is treated with alkali to neutralize the chocolate’s acids. Again, I was happy to know that I was doing more than just baking with Sarah at Sur La Table; I was learning too!

Chocolate Tasting

Chocolate Tasting - the small little jars are chocolate at its different phases; the larger boxes are the types of finished chocolate.

Friday, “Cupcake Madness”

When I realized that Friday was “cupcake madness” I was not looking forward to it initially. I have had so many bad attempts at making cupcakes and then frosting them at home that I was not particularly excited about Friday’s class. Not even the recipes for the day really intrigued me except for the coconut raspberry cupcakes. The rest seemed medicore at best.

Oh, but boy was I wrong. (See, this is why I try to keep an open mind because the rare times that I don’t, I am always pleasantly surprised!)

Because of the small size of the class, I only worked with one other student and we got to bake TWO recipes instead of just one! My partner and I baked up the coconut raspberry cupcakes and the brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. The rest of the groups made the red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (my second choice), caramel cupcakes with caramelized frosting,  and black and white cupcakes.

Cupcake Madness

Cupcake Madness - the big front three are caramel cupcakes; the front small minis are the brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting; the back are the coconut raspberry mini cupcakes, red velvet, and black and white cupcakes. These lasted my family and I a good three days to finish. My dad agreed on the superb taste. :)

I have to say that one of my favorites (with no bias!) was the coconut raspberry cupcakes because they had a distinct texture and taste. I had never tasted anything like it before so the mingling of raspberry and coconut was new to me. The caramel cupcakes were pretty good. I’m not much of a caramel fan so this could be why I didn’t find it that great. But it did taste like caramel and the frosting paired well with the cake part.

The brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting seemed to be an odd pair. I remember reading the recipe and thinking, “Really?”, but the peanut butter actually complemented the brownie. This combination worked well texture-ly because the peanut butter and brownie are both dense.

Another good reliable cupcake was the black and white  variety. I did not help make these cupcakes so I didn’t know what it would taste like but when I tasted it, I was very pleased. The white and black frosting on the top had a distinct sweetness like I had expected, but the cake itself was lemon so it cut through the sweetness and balanced it out. I’m not sure if you’re a lemon cake fan, but this was good. As of recently, I’ve begun to enjoy the taste of a lemon cake. Not of the lemon tart though because the liquidy lemon-ness of the tart was too much for me. But a lemon cake is beautiful.

Of the cupcakes, I did have a “first”.

Before Friday, I had never tried a red velvet cupcake. I know that sounds strange for a baker, but I’ve never actually tried one. The only red velvet cupcakes I had seen before were in Starbucks, but I never thought of buying on there because I didn’t want my first red velvet cupcake to be from Starbucks of all places (no offense to Starbuck fans).

The special ingredient of red velvet, as Sarah explained, is the addition of cocoa in it so basically a red velvet cupcake has  a hint of chocolate flavor in it but it colored red. Apparently, the new fad is blue velvet cupcakes, according to Sarah, but I have yet to see a blue version of this cupcake.

Trying the red velvet cupcake was an experience for me. I took a bite not knowing what to expect, but it was good. The subtle cocoa flavor does the trick with this cake. I can now say that I am a fan of red velvet cake. And this was my favorite of all the cupcakes. :)

Another small tip for making frosting and cupcakes different colors, use gel food coloring! It helps keep the shape of the batter.

So that has been my baking adventures so far. It had only been four days since I got back from Davis and I was already in the kitchen. In fact, the night I got home, I made a pound cake but it was from a box so that doesn’t really count. It’s nice to be back home, but I’m still missing my YSP friends.

"YSP" in frosting

I got a bit distracted and wrote "YSP" in frosting during the time we were waiting for the cupcakes to bake.

If you are interested in the recipes of any of the foods I mentioned above, send me an email/comment and I’ll be happy to send you the recipe. :)

‘Til next time ~

Happy Halloween Treats!

31 Oct

Banana Cupcakes & Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Banana CupcakePumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Halloween has not really been my favorite holiday as a kid, but I always did enjoy dressing up and eating candy. But last night and tonight in order to kick up the Halloween spirit, I decided to make some fall-halloween-themed desserts. I decided to make banana cupcakes and pumpkin spice cupcakes. The smell of cinnamon, cloves, and pumpkins truly make fall the fall season I know.

I haven’t frosted the pumpkin cupcakes yet because I’m planning to bring them into class on Monday to share with my friends, but I have some pictures that you can look at for now. :) And of course, I’ll have the recipes up. (The banana one is coming later).

The pumpkin spice cupcake recipe came from Sur la Table and the cinnamon-y Banana Cupcakes came from another great blog.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcake

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

from Sur la Table’s book The Art & Soul of Cooking

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 stick ( 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened (65 – 68 degrees F)
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ( 8 ounces ) canned pumpkin puree (not spiced pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 cups ( 7 ounces ) sifted cake flour (or substitute 2 cups minus 2 tbl spoons all-purpose flour)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking power
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice (Could possibly use Pumpkin Pie Spices as a substitute for allspice, nutmeg, cloves)
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup ( 4 ounces) buttermilk, at room temperature (or substitute 1/2 milk with 1/2 tbl white vinegar; let the mixture sit for at least 2 minutes)

Frosting (Personally, I was a bit lazy and bought Pillsbury’s Easy Frost of Cream Cheese; I recommend it if you’re in a rush!)

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/8 (3 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tbl ( 3 1/4 ounces) pure maple syrup, preferably Grade C
  • 7/8 cups ( 21/8 ounces) sifted confectioners’ sugar

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and position an oven rack in the center, or if the oven cannot accommodate all of the muffin tins, then position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Place the muffin liners in the muffin tin.
  2. Cream the butter with the sugar: beat the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer on medium-high until very light in color, 4 to 5 minutes. If you do not have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer to beat the mixture though it will take longer. Personally, I didn’t have either so I did it by hand completely.
  3. Add the eggs: beat the eggs and vanilla in the small bowl to blend. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tbl at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next. About halfway through, turn off the mixer, and scrape down the bowl, then resume adding the eggs. Scrape the bowl down again then ad in the pumpkin. Blend well.
  4. Sift the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves in a medium bowl and whisk together.
  5. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, beginning with one-third of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk; repeat then finish with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand.
  6. Fill each liner with a tablespoon of batter to 1/4 inch from the top of the liner. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the tops are form to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the centers come out clean.
  7. Prepare the frosting by placing the butter in a clean bowl of your mixer. Add the sugar and mix for several minutes until well-blended. Finally the syrup and cream cheese and blend well again.
  8. Cool the cupcakes before you frost; frost the day you wish to serve them. To store, keep the cupcakes in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  9. Cupcakes are best served at cool room temperature so be sure to take them out of the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes before serving.