Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Holiday Treat Tins Available for Order

I know, it's a little scary: it's already mid-November.
It hurts every fiber in my being to talk about December holidays before it's their turn, but sometimes you just need a couple extra weeks to plan ahead. Specifically, I mean to entice you with some of my holiday offerings, now available to order. You can check out my Holiday Treat tins at This year's line up:

Holiday Cookie Collection
A balanced variety of flavors including spiced, chocolatey, fruity, and nutty; great for pleasing a crowd. Flavors include:
  • Molasses Chews - Warm spices with a hefty ginger zing are the striking flavors of these chewy cookies.
  • Black Forest Biscotti - Rich dark chocolate biscotti studded with chocolate chunks & sweet dried cherries.
  • Spritz - A simple, buttery flavor is the hallmark of this classic cookie.
  • Buttered Rum Meltaways - Delicate, shortbread cookies flavored with rum that gently melt in your mouth.
  • Pignola - A classic Italian cookie made with almond paste and covered in the warm flavor of toasted pine nuts.
  • Fig Swirls - A figfilling flavored with orange, honey and spice is elegantly enrobed by a warm butter cookie.
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkles - Rich, chewy cookies made with hazelnuts and chocolate, and coated in powdered sugar.
  • Raspberry Linzer - A nutty, spicy, crispy cookie sandwiching a tart raspberry jam filling, then sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Toffee & Brittle Tin
Crunchy, sugary bits of brittle, packed with tasty nuts and/or seeds. The toffee is not my own doing, but the mother/daughter team who makes this English Toffee holds their family recipe close, and there really is nothing like it.
  • English Toffee (by Mütti's Munchies) - buttery toffee filled with almonds, and topped with milk chocolate and chopped almonds
  • Maple, Chipotle, Pecan Brittle
  • Pumpkin Seed & Cocoa Nib Brittle
  • Vanilla Cashew Brittle

Caramel Popcorn
Enlisting the assistance of Mütti's Munchies once again, I have included this family's special recipe for homemade caramel popcorn into the gift tin options for this year. Sweet and salty, with a buttery crunch, this caramel popcorn is difficult to put down once you've started.

Spiced Nuts
2 unique varieties of nuts fill this tin.
  • Spanish Spiced Almonds - very savory, roasted, almost smokey in flavor, these crunchy almonds are a perfect pre-feast snack.
  • Chili Lime Cashews - an amazing combo of zesty lime, sweet brown sugar and sea salt completed with a little finishing kick.

And of course, you can order each tin individually, or go all out and get the 3 tier "Treat Tower" which includes the cookies, toffee/brittle, and your choice of the caramel popcorn or the spiced nuts.

Photography for these is by my friend Carol @

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween Partay Treats

Ok, this wasn't any official thing, but I made some fun treats for the Halloween get together Jonathan and I hosted last weekend, and wanted to share. No recipes are posted, but I could dig them up if you send me a message to that effect.

So, the non-baking prize of my spread was the cheese graveyard. The week I was coming up with the poached pear cupcakes with brie frosting I was looking at the little triangle of brie and had a revelation that with a few importantly placed cuts, you could transform that lovely brick into the perfect coffin shape. So wahlah: the brie graveyard was born... well... came to be ...

Anyway, I found a bunch of other fun recipes that were somewhat Halloween themed including cheddar "spiderweb" crisps, "devils on horseback" (prosciutto wrapped dates), deviled eggs (I gave mine little cyclops faces), devil's food cupcakes with little tuilie wafer flames, pumpkin woopie pies (omg), and caramel/pretzel/caramel bars (more like gobs than bars though).

A very tasty evening.

Poached Pear Cupcakes

Last week, I attended Iron Cupcake SF for the second time. So far, both times have been fun, sugar-loaded experiences, and again I took home a prize winner (well, actually I left them all there, in the bellies of the judges). I managed to pull off 3rd place, amongst some steep competition, as well as a duplicate poached pear cupcake entry.

My camera battery died, so my evidence of the event is minimal. There is this one picture Jonathan captured of me holding the tray of contestants.

In any case, there were some very notable entries. Winner was the pumpkin curry cupcake, which was very deserving of the prize. Second came the Chinese 5 Spice chocolate cupcake; a very unique flavor experience. One that didn't win, but I will remember forever was the chocolate raspberry pink peppercorn.

My recipe though, was a combination of a spiced almond cake filled with pureed poached pear and topped with brie frosting. I'm pretty sure this recipe made more than enough pears to fill 12-16 regular cupcakes. (Ok, I don't remember exactly how many it made)

  • 4-6 pears, peeled & cored
  • 1 bottle of red, fruity wine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp lemon peel
  • 1 clove
- Combine ingredients and simmer in large pot for 25-40 minutes, until tender.
- Remove pears and cool.
- Reduce wine mixture until syrupy.
- Puree pears with some of the reserved syrup.

Almond Spice Cupcakes
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp clove
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp.
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
- Whisk dry ingredients together in small bowl.
- In separate bowl or stand mixer beat butter & sugar together until smooth.
- Add eggs one at a time until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl.
- Add extracts.
- On low speed, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk to butter mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients, until batter is smooth. Do not overmix.
- Pour into prepared cupcake tin.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove from pan and Cool.

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp.
  • 6 oz. brie, rind removed
  • 2-3 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2-1 cup powdered sugar
- Beat butter and brie until smooth.
- Add powdered sugar slowly, beginning with half a cup and adding more per your preference.
- Add in mascarpone until just incorporated.

- Cut holes in tops of cupcakes and add puree.
- Pipe frosting onto each.
- Garnish with slice of poached pear if desired.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

About Brittle

I'm not an avid candy maker by any means, but I like to dabble. Last year for the holidays, I went crazy making all sorts of gift basket goodies, including a couple varieties of candies. Luckily most of them went well (thanks to the wonderful candy thermometer by boyfriend's family gave me- thanks!), but I preferred some over others. I was most intrigued by brittle. Last year I had found a recipe for pumpkin seed brittle that had a cinnamon in it, and it was pretty amazing, and also relatively consistent (unlike my taffy which on one attempt to make was as hard as a candy cane).

I'm just starting to plan out what I'm going to make for gift baskets this year, and brittle is definitely on the list. I searched online for a variety of recipes and inspirations, but ended up making 3 variations on one recipe. I'm calling it my "brittle base".

In medium saucepan, over medium heat, stir together:
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

until the sugar has dissolved. When it starts to boil, add:
  • 1/2 cup butter

Let it keep boiling until your candy thermometer reaches 230˚ F, then start to stir it constantly until it reaches 280˚ (somewhere around 10 minutes).

At this point, you can add in your key ingredient, usually nuts + (get creative) (ideas below).
Stir constantly until it reaches 300˚. Move quickly and have your ingredients ready because this sugar mixture can burn in the blink of an eye.

Remove from heat and stir in:
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (and whatever spice or flavoring you want)

Pour onto a greased or parchmented baking sheet or jelly roll pan and spread until fairly even. I learned a neat trick where you can put a layer of parchment over the brittle and use a rolling pin to lay it flat. The thickness of whatever nut mix you used will help keep it from getting too thin.

Let it cool, then break into pieces and store in an air tight container for a couple days. Be careful of how much moisture is in your home, too. The brittle can get a layer of stickiness on it if you don't have dry enough conditions. Weather can have a big effect on this, so if you can do it, try and make you candies on a non-rainy day.

Ok, so, here are the 3 variations I made today:

  1. 1-1/2 cups chopped cashews (simple)
  2. 1-1/2 cups pecans, 1 tbs maple extract (not the real stuff I'm afraid), 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp chipotle powder (a great flavor combo with a subtle kick)
  3. 1 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup cocoa nibs (I used Askinoosie), dash of cayenne pepper
I usually use pre-roasted and salted nuts, but you can always roast your own.

Yay for brittle!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Cupcakes

My favorite time of year: Pumpkin season! Mostly because it means I can bust out this recipe again, but also because everywhere I go I can order some pumpkin flavored something or other. Thai pumpkin curry is high on my list of tasty treats I look forward to.

But I digress. We're here for cupcakes, and I intend to fulfill my baker's duty by sharing this beloved recipe with you. I confess, I've already sort of posted this once before, in one of its many versatile forms.

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350˚
Line 2 cupcakes tins (approx. 24 cupcakes)

Whisk together dry ingredients in large bowl and make a well in the center:
3-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves

Mix together liquid ingredients in a medium sized bowl:
3 cups sugar
¾ cup oil
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
2 cups pumpkin puree

Add liquid ingredients to dry and whisk together until combined. Scoop out 1/4 cups at a time into prepared baking tins. Bake 20 minutes.

Once cooled, top with cream cheese frosting:

1 8 oz bar cream cheese
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

Whip together until smooth. Add:
~3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whip on hight until fluffy. Pipe on to cupcakes.

This is always a crowd pleaser, and one of the easier cupcake recipes around (probably because it's a muffin recipe in a cream cheese frosting disguise). It always helps to have fresh spices on hand though; it can make such a difference in flavor.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Website & Branding

Hey all!

No baking this time! Just wanted to invite you to check out my new website and branding.

Thank you to everyone who piped up and gave me their two cents; it is always appreciated! I have been contemplating the rebranding for quite sometime, and have been ridiculously inspired to go with a more nostalgic feel since some of my favorite flavors pay homage to an earlier era (see Orange Creamsicle & Soda Pop). And I've been over-watching some really classic TV shows lately, so I guess it's just on the brain (examples: Star Trek TOS, Bewitched & Get Smart). I love the funky designs and cool color schemes they played with back then, as well as space inspired imagery. It was an exciting time for "progress", and I ironically am looking back to it for the my own future. I guess for what's its worth, I also find that I am compelled to bake things that could be considered glorified bake sale items (have you tried my brownies???), so hailing back to the days of domestication seems appropriate.

As far as design, I wanted to keep things simple and straightforward. If you follow this blog, you know that I bake way more than what appears on the menu, and I'm always ready for a baking challenge if you throw one my way, but sometimes decisions are easier made when you aren't confronted with 1000 options (hello In-and-Out. Yes, I just compared my blog to the secret menu. I guess I'd better dream up an "animal style" cupcake now).

Also, I liked the idea that everything could be on one page, which is why I (with help) figured out how to get the thumbnail images, when hovered over, to pop up with their corresponding flavor. I am inspired to see what else javascript can do for me. Ideas include an order "form" page, instead of the mailto option that comes up when you click "place an order."

So, stay tuned for what's coming. I am excited to roll out the packaging and printed matter that accompanies this new branding - the holidays are already on my mind!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

S'more Cupcakes

As the summer season begins to wane, I begin to feel nostalgic about those last few days we used to have before school would start; trying desperately to hold on to the freedom and adventure we so foolishly took for granted in early July.

As an adult, the sense of panic doesn't get much better. I question whether or not I really appreciated all that the summer had to offer: did I enjoy the warm weather enough, the late daylight saving's evenings, or the fresh ingredients of the season, etc. And as much as I adore and eagerly look forward to what Autumn has to offer, I find I'm still scrambling to hold on to all the good things about summer before it's all washed away in the sea of Halloween Costume stores.

So, to keep it alive with just one more recipe, I fall back on family tradition: camping. And what makes camping really camping? Roasting s'mores over an open fire, of course.

I have over the past couple years been on a fairly epic quest to perfect a s'more cupcake recipe. Sadly, I don't think I'm 100% there, but this latest version does have a very appealing look about it. AND I got to use my little kitchen torch, which is always fun.

To start, I attempted to combine a vanilla cupcake recipe with a graham cracker twist:

Graham Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350˚
Line approximately 20 cupcake tins.
  • 2 C Flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C buttermilk
Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. In electric mixer, blend butter, sugar and honey until creamy, scraping down sides occasionally. Add honey and one egg at at time until incorporated. Beginning and ending with flour mixture, add flour and buttermilk alternately. Fill cupcake tins. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool.
Then dip each cup
cake top into

Chocolate ganache:
  • 8 oz chopped chocolate (I used semi-sweet) or chocolate chips
  • 4 oz heated cream (warm but not boiling)
Pour warmed cream over chocolate and let sit 1-2 minutes, then whisk together until smooth. I occasionally have to stick the mixture in the microwave for 10 second intervals until all the chocolate is melted. Be careful not to overheat, as it will begin separate. Bad.

Once your cupcakes have a healthy topping of chocolate, then comes the marshmallow! With a stand mixer, making marshmallows from scratch is a cinch, albeit messy. Luckily, I was able to get the freshly made marshmallow cream to my piping bag without much hassle, and it piped onto the tops of the cupcakes perfectly.

Marshmallow "Frosting":
  • 3 envelopes (1/4 oz) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
In bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften (about 5 minutes are needed).

In a heavy sauce pan cook sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 cup water, and salt over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. When it begins to boil, stop stirring. Boil until candy thermometer reaches 240°F. Pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

Beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, approximately 6-8 minutes.

In a separate bowl beat egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined.

Gently spoon this mixture into a large piping bag and start topping the cupcakes.

(To be honest, I think I only made half the recipe for this many cupcakes, but there's never any problem with too much marshmallow mix. See my marshmallow recipe for instructions on how to deal with the "leftover" if necessary. )

After cupcakes are topped, let them refrigerate for an hour or so until the marshmallow is set. It'll still be pretty sticky no matter how long you leave them for, so in the interest of not drying out your cupcakes, I recommend not leaving them in there too long.

Now it's time for the torch. Be careful, have supervision, all those disclaimers, etc, etc, and try not to overly scorch the cupcakes. Or, I guess it really just depends on how you like your marshmallow. I was going for looks, so didn't let it get too burnt or mushy.

As I was saying earlier, I don't think I'm quite there yet. The graham cracker cupcake wasn't bad, but it didn't quite fulfill the role of graham cracker, likely because there was no crunch, but was also a little dry. As well, many people thought it needed a higher chocolate to cupcake/marshmallow ratio. No complaints on the marshmallow, as far as flavor, but I did find that in some instances, the marshmallow was not completely adhered to it's ganache partner, which was noticed mainly when you took a bite of the cupcake, and the marshmallow stuck to your lip, popping right off the cupcake.

So, there is more work to be done, but all in all, I'm moving in the right direction.

With that, I will say adieu to the summer of 2010, and with a clear conscience, I can eagerly move forward into the brimming and wondrous season of Autumn.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Zucchini Cupcakes

For me, summer is incomplete without home grown zucchini. Growing up, it was the dinner-time staple. Sadly, my mother wasn't aware of the many delicious ways that zucchini could be prepared, so too many of those summer dinners had a side helping of boiled and wilted zucchini. Luckily, zucchini had one saving grace, and that was in her amazing zucchini bread.

I have adapted the recipe I got from her slightly by adding some vanilla, omitting nuts, and turning it into a cupcake.

Preheat oven to 350˚. Line cupcake tins with wrappers. Makes approximately 24.

Mix wet ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
Whisk together dry ingredients:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Mix dry ingredients into wet and fill cupcake tins. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool completely and frost with cream cheese frosting.

Beat together until smooth:
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
Gradually add:
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
and then:
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Monday, July 26, 2010

Iron Cupcake SF Contest

So it was a huge success. My friend, and fellow baker, Carol has been forwarding me Iron Cupcake emails for a couple months now and we just haven't quite made it. But when she sent me the email saying this month's ingredient was "alcohol," I decided to clear the calendar, and made a batch of my Margarita cupcakes.

And lo and behold, everyone loved them - I won first place! Rumor was, these events don't usually go over 30 people, but this time there was an influx of contestants and taste-testers, which caused the hosts of the event Leland Tea Company to rent a space nearby to accommodate the 24 bakers and over 100 testers. And it was steep competition too! There were some very creative and tasty creations to choose between.

Some highlights were the Absinthe, "the Hangover" a Bloody Mary cupcake with maple bacon mimosa buttercream, coffee candy, and chardonay toasted sea salt (!), "The Dude" which was a White Russian a la Big Lebowski, Violet Beauregarde which was a port and chocolate cupcake with ganache and a Zinfandel soaked blueberry, and of course "Sex on the Beach", which was a very clever decorating experience. Needless to say, I was proud to be in such good company.

Thanks to everyone for being so friendly and welcoming, it was a wonderful experience and am totally jazzed about future competitions! Special thanks to the hosts, the donators of prizes, and my friend Tom who came out to help sway the vote in my favor by at least one more opinion!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Margarita Cupcakes

So, I know Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday that has been blown way out of proportion here in America, but as always, I embrace any holiday that brings with it tasty treats and special foods just for the occasion. Not that you need much of an excuse to enjoy a good margarita.

My cupcake of the month is inspired by the quintessential Mexican beverage. Using a recipe that is a spin off of what I've done with my lemon meringue cupcakes, but I adjusted the filling and toppings a bit to bring out the best of a good margarita. Sadly, it is not best when served on the rocks.

First I made a lime yogurt cupcake, then filled it with a special lime curd that was made with a lot of fresh squeezed lime juice and good Don Julio tequila (thanks Heather for grabbing me a bottle while you were in Mexico!). I was missing the triple sec, but I don't think the flavor failed for it. I then piped the curd into the cupcakes and topped with a buttercream that was flavored only with lime juice. I then rolled the edges of the cupcakes in a special mix of lime zest, coarsely ground sea salt and a little bit of sugar.

I have had the pleasure of showcasing this cupcake at 2 large events and have had nothing but awesome reviews. It is a little more time consuming that your usual cupcake, but the pay off is so sweet. A great balance of zesty, tangy, sweet, and saltiness all in a moist cupcake that pretty much melts in your mouth.


I recommend making the filling a little bit ahead since it will take a couple hours for it to chill completely. You can make it a day ahead. I believe the curd lasts in the fridge for about 2 weeks, but let's not take my word for it. Maybe 1 week max to be safe.

Margarita Curd:
2 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
1/3 cup lime juice and tequila (you can choose what ratio, but I did 1 part tequila: 3 parts lime)
1 tbs lime zest (2-3 limes)
3/4 cup sugar

Whisk eggs and sugar together until creamy. Place over a double boiler and whisk constantly for about 20-25 minutes (tedious, yes, but don't quit too soon or else it will all be runny). The mix should be kind of thick. Add the liquid and zest and mix until pudding consistency, probably another 10-15 minutes. Cool completely with a layer of saran wrap touching the top of the curd so a crust doesn't form.

Lime Yogurt Cupcakes:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime zest (2-3 limes)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prep 12-18 cupcake liners in tins.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, and zest. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared tins and bake for about 20 minutes. Cool, and cut out dime sized holes in the tops of each cupcake. An apple corer works pretty well for that; otherwise a melon baller.

While cupcakes cool, make the buttercream frosting:

3/4 cups butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar

Whip on high until either crumbly or they start incorporating into a paste. Add a couple teaspons of lime juice at a time until the consistency gets fluffier.

You can also prep the zest rim by taking about 1/2 - 1 tbs of lime zest and mixing it with coarse sea salt (I dunno, maybe 2 teaspoons worth) and a tablespoon or so of regular sugar.

Then fill the cupcakes with the lime curd. I use a pastry bag, but if you just have a ziplock, go ahead and fill that and cut a small hole in the bottom corner and pipe it that way. You will probably have leftover curd. You can cut the recipe down by 1/3 and probably have enough for this recipe. Or just make more cupcakes. :)

Once the cupcakes are filled, frost with buttercream. This can be a smidgen tricky because any pressure on the filling will make it ooze out in directions you don't want it to. I used my pastry bag for this as well, and just made unpretty swirls on the top, then took my spatula and flattened the frosting. Then I rolled the edges of the cupcakes in the salt rim.

Buen Provecho and happy Cinco de Mayo!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tropical Carrot Cupcakes

Easter came a bit early this month, but I figured it was ok to accommodate the flavor of the month to it anyway. And who doesn't love carrot cupcakes? Ok, I know one person. She discriminates against vegetables in her desserts, and as much as I love carrot cupcakes and cannot be swayed against them, in a way I can see her point.

But she's missing out on these ones! A nice little variation on the original, this one boasts a variety of tropical flavors. It has pineapple, coconut, macadamia nuts, and ginger, as well as the usual carrot and cinnamon. Topped with a lightly vanilla flavored cream cheese frosting that is loaded up with toasted coconut flakes.

I was inspired by the recipe posted on epicurious but cut out the candied ginger and put a dash of powdered ginger instead. I also did my own cream cheese frosting and just added the toasted coconut on top.

Preheat oven to 350˚. Line cupcake tins with wrappers. Will make approximately 36 cupcakes.
Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl:
  • 2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup dry-roasted macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Mix wet ingredients together in medium bowl
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups finely grated, peeled carrots
  • 16 oz canned crushed pineapple in its own juice (I actually used 20 oz.)
Gently stir wet ingredients into dry until incorporated. Spoon into cupcake tins and bake 20 minutes.

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese
2-1/2 - 3 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Trying not to make a mess, gently add in powdered sugar. After about 2 cups of sugar, add the vanilla and continue to add more sugar. I find that cream cheese frosting usually holds its own without any other liquid, but if it really seems too stiff, go ahead and add a smidgen of milk to smooth it out. But be careful, as it can get runny all too quickly.

To toast coconut, spread about 1-1/2-2 cups of flaked coconut evenly on a baking sheet. Toast in 5 minute increments on the higher rack of a 300˚ oven. I think 15 minutes total does just the trick, and 20 minutes is pushing too far, so keep an eye on it. At each 5 minutes, mix the coconut around to get the best distribution of browning.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, frost them. I had the pleasure of making mine look like little birdie baskets with robin's eggs (um, I really just was looking for an excuse to finally buy the robin's eggs, which I'd been eying all season but couldn't bring myself to indulge in). So, if you don't need to make them look seasonal, just sprinkle the coconut generously on top of the frosting.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Guinness Cupcake

Happy March!

I'm ringing it in on time, with a lovely festive cupcake. Being that I'm about 50% Irish, I do take pride in the heritage, minus the incessant freckles, so am very happy to have found a way to celebrate it in cupcake form.

I did have the pleasure of visiting the lovely Emerald Isle, and on that trip, went on a tour of the famous Guinness Brewing Factory - a worthwhile venture, if you happen to be visiting the area. We got a special lunch of delightful Guinness beef stew and pints of a type of beer they don't export to the states. Not that it was appreciated by everyone.

When I was sent a Guinness cupcake recipe from a friend, I was intrigued. Knowing that the stout has a rather strong, roasted flavor, and seeing the combo of Guinness and chocolate before, I had a feeling the two would compliment each other well. And so they do! This cupcake is rich, very moist, and does have a lingering stout flavor - a truly unique cupcake experience.

I did see quite a few variations on the stout cupcake posted online, but seriously have no qualms with the recipe I used, so recommend it and would use it again in a heart beat.

  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line 2 cupcake tins.
  2. Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan and add the sliced butter. Heat until the butter is melted and remove from the heat. Whisk in the cocoa and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla. Add the sour cream mixture to the Guinness mixture in the saucepan. Finally, beat in the flour and baking soda.
  3. Pour the batter into the tins and bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
  4. Frost with vanilla cream cheese frosting (1 stick of room temperature butter whipped with 1 bar (8 oz.) cream cheese, along with 3 cups of powdered sugar and 1-1/2 tsp vanilla).
If you are too skeptical to try the beer-in-cupcake method, but still need a St. Patty's Day option, there's always Irish Cream Cupcakes.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Happy Nutella Day - CupCrepe™

Nothing better than a holiday celebrating Hazelnut Chocolate Spread. And to top it off, it's apparently Crepe month in France. Is there anything better than Crepes smothered in Nutella? And is there anything better still than a cupcake built with crepes and nutella? I think not, which is why I've been conniving a way to make that happen for quite some time. So with the news of this world wide holiday approaching, I decided to take action. I am proud to introduce: the CupCrepe™.

Many discussions of how to put the project together took place. Do I make a cup out of crepe, or cut rounds and stack the crepe? Do I cut the circles, put on the spread, then stack? Do I use fresh strawberries, puree, or jam? How will they stay together without falling apart? How will the crepes stay tender, and not dry out. What crepe recipe do I use? I don't think I answered all my questions this first time, but I do think the concept is genuinely tasty, so no harm in having a couple more rounds of experimentation to work out the answers.

To start, the crepe recipe. A lady in my office exclaimed to me about a week ago that a client of hers, who is officially 100% French (thick accent and poor English to boot), gave her the "official" French Crepe recipe, and she so generously passed it on to me. I feel the need to reiterate it verbatim, simply because it was that authentic:

Begin quote:
French Crepes

Make a dozen Crepes

2 Cup flour
2 cups of Milk ( 2% is good if you want light crepe)
3 eggs
1/4 cup of butter
2T sugar
2tsp vanilla
2 T Rum or other alcohol like orange liqueur. [I used Brandy]

Firstly, put all the flour in a bowl, add one cup of cold milk and mix slowly with a wisk until it's smooth.
Add all 3 eggs, already beaten in an other bowl, you have to mix again very carrefully.
Put the butter in a microwave for a few seconds after it's melted and add it in a mix.
Combine the rest of the cold milk with sugar and vanilla.
mix again until it's smooth.

it's almost ready.

If desired, you can add a hint of rum or orange liqueur to taste.

wait for an hour before baking or no if you have hungry............

To fry the French crepes, you need a pan with just a little bit butter for the first crepes.
French crepes are very thin so you could put only a small amount of mix in a pan just enough to coat the bottom.
When the crepe is golden (it should take only a few minutes), you should turn it over and cook the other side just another minute or two.
You can eat them with powder sugar or butter or fresh lemon juice or chocolate of course!
end quote

Shamefully she did not mention Nutella as a topping, but I allowed myself the option to deviate from the recipe slightly.

So I went ahead and whipped up about 10-11 crepes with that recipe. (I did let it sit for about half an hour... even though I did have some hungry). While they were still warm, I began to layer nutella on each layer. I tried to keep it pretty thin since there were so many layers. Truth be told, I still went through half a jar of nutella to put this project together, so yeah, there's a lot of nutella per bite. But then I also snuck in 2 layers of fresh strawberries. My hope hope was that the nutella would work as the glue to hold those strawberries in place, but I think the juiciness of the strawberries was too strong and ended up liquefying the nutella instead. Still tasty, but messy. That's where I thought maybe a jam would work better, but there really is no replacement for the taste of fresh strawberries.

After building the stack up, I wanted to stick the whole pile in the fridge to let it cool enough that the nutella glue would set, but it was getting late, so I just went in for the cut. I used the shell of a Linzer cookie cutter I have since it's about the same size as the bottom of a cupcake wrapper. Punched it down through the multiple layers and lifted the whole stack up to transfer to a new plate. I'd say for the most part it worked. The top layers got stretched a bit on the initial cut, but they seemed to recover (having a nice a spongy crepe helped). Some of the strawberry layers got eschewed and were popping out in places, but the column was mostly intact. I also would prefer a taller cutter to get through so many layers. In the end, I think this method saved me some time, but will have to try it again where I cut each crepe round individually, THEN layer them altogether. It will give me more control and less worry about squeezing the toppings out through the layers. It will definitely take more time though.

So, once I had cut through as many full circles as the crepe would allow, I had quite the mess of leftover crepe and nutella. Not that it's a bad thing, but It could be put to "prettier" use. I donated this pile to my dear friend and co-worker, and she didn't mind the presentation one bit.

For the final touch, I topped each round with a dab of nutella "glue", some strawberry slices and powdered sugar. After letting them refrigerate over night, I was able to easily scoop them up and put them into cupcake liners for final presentation.

Final thoughts: The strawberries look sad and dry the next day, so this is best served fresh. I think it would be good to do with banana and maybe make a puree for every other layer of nutella. If layered individually, I think it will stay together pretty well. The other thing I would do is make the whole thing single-bite sized. Call them mini-cupcrepes, but they will be much easier to just pop in one serving. Maybe the, you could just do nutella layers with the topping only on the top, too. Let the experiments continue!

So, happy nutella day, world. I hope you enjoy my offering!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Homemade Marshmallows

So it's apparent that I'm not a good blogger. I've gone over a month without a word, but certainly not without turning on my oven!
Alas, I'm back, and my first treat this year is homemade marshmallows. I have been eying the idea for some time, but after a few candy making snafus, I almost lost my nerve. Luckily I have been saved by the good fortune of this recipe. My dear friend Kristy sent me this beauty earlier in the weekend, Hot Chocolate Layer Cake with Homemade Marshmallows, but I was a little scared off by the intensity of the cake (I just had chocolate molten lava cakes for dessert 3 days ago and am still recovering), but was interested in the marshmallows. After cross-examining a few online recipes, I dutifully followed one of my favorite food bloggers, Smitten Kitchen, and found her recipe for marshmallows, which, unlike most others, included egg whites (as well as a couple key tips on how not to get your fingers involved in the sticky mess!)
I tried not to pull from her site verbatim, but I didn't change much in her instructions.

  • About 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 envelopes (1/4 oz) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Oil bottom and sides of 2 9x9x2 inch metal baking pans and dust bottom and sides with powedered sugar.

In bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften (about 5 minutes are needed).

In a heavy saucepan cook sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 cup water, and salt over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. When it begins to boil, stop stirring. Boil until candy thermometer reaches 240°F. Pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

Beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, approximately six minutes.

In a separate bowl beat egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan (it was suggested to not worry about scraping the bowl down - I was satisfied with how much of the solution I got out, so second the recommendation). Sift powdered sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.

Run a knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Gently loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife cut marshmallow into roughly one or two-inch cubes. Sift remaining powdered sugar over marshmallows, and roll the marshmallows through it, making sure to get the sugar on all six sides. Shake off excess.

Ok, so then you eat them. But I didn't have to tell you that.

I'm thinking of trying this again but with a different flavoring. I think the vanilla was a bit overpowering too, which I would consider cutting down on the amount. I saw a recipe for strawberry flavored ones, which sounded inspiring.

Homemade s'mores, anyone?