Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spekuloos Cupcakes

A dear friend and fellow blogger, Kristy, gave me a jar of Spekuloos cookie spread for Christmas. One spoonful was enough to know I was in trouble. Belgian cinnamon cookies ground into a spreadable paste? Impossibly delicious.

I had never actually had the cookie in its natural form before, so no comparison, but the consistency of the spread is akin to peanut butter, and it occurred to me moments after taking my first spoonful that it would work perfectly as a cupcake frosting flavor. So, I did just that.

I took a basic vanilla cupcake and added a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, then topped them with a spekuloos infused buttercream. Simple. Delicious. I dare you to try it and not find yourself face first in a dozen of them before you figure out how to actually pronounce Spekuloos.

Slightly Spiced Cupcake 

- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 3 large eggs (variation that's more like a yellow cake)
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Set rack at the middle level in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Prep 20-24 cupcake tins.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time (scraping the bowl in between) and then add vanilla. Whisk together flour, baking powder, spices and salt. Set aside. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture then add half the milk. Continue to alternate beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scape the bowl and beater often.
Pour the batter into prepared tins (about 1/4 cup per cupcake liner). Bake 20 minutes, or until the top of the cupcake springs back slightly when touched.
Cool completely.

Spekuloos Buttercream Frosting
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup Spekuloos spread, give or take
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar, give or take
- 2 tsp milk, give or take

Beat butter and Spekuloos together until combined. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until mixture is light and fluffy (I tend to put less sugar, but you can adjust as you like it). Add milk to smooth out the texture.

Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes. I came up short of having a cute cupcake topper that worked well with the theme, but I suppose a nice Spekuloos cookie would work well, if you can find them. I have no doubt they will be gobbled up even if you don't find a cute decoration for them though.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cake Pops

So I've seen these all over the place, but have actually only ever tried them 2 times (by trying, I mean tasting, not making). Most recently, while on a little vacation in New Orleans, one of the companions on our trip brought down some "cake bombs" from a place in Chicago called Bleeding Heart Bakery. Though I'm not sure how they made theirs, I was pretty sure it was similar to what I'd heard went into a cake pop (minus the popsicle stick), and I adored how they covered some of their flavors in cocoa nibs and hazelnuts, so that's what I opted to try when making my own.

So, I think you're supposed to mix cake with frosting until mushy enough to form into a ball. I didn't have any leftover frosting, but did have some leftover strawberry curd, so figured I'd give that a shot instead. Can't say for sure that the treats have a very strong strawberry flavor, but they are delightfully chocolatey. I made my basic chocolate cake but in true 9x13 inch cake form instead of cupcakes (and baked for 45 minutes, instead of 20). I crumbled some pieces into a bowl and mixed with the curd and formed them into balls. Sorry for the lack of precise measurements; true to form, I wasn't really keeping track. I put mini popsicle sticks into the balls and froze them for about 10-15 minutes, then coated them with melted dark chocolate. I didn't bother too much with tempering since I was going to cover them all over with topping anyway, but I would recommend adding a little vegetable oil to the chocolate so that it cuts down on the bloom (something I have a huge problem with, but hear tell that some people don't struggle with it nearly as much as I do). I let the chocolate drip off and then rolled them in nibs and chopped hazelnuts and laid them out to dry on parchment paper. They only took about 10 minutes to harden.

I will test them out at the office tomorrow, and say that they are a Valentine's day treat. I mean, it is chocolate, right?  Chocolate = Valentines Day.  If they go over well, I will probably keep it in mind if I ever have any leftover cake and frosting, that these would be a good way to use up leftover ingredients. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

National Nutella Day, 2012

It's that time of year again! Not wanting to miss out again like I did last year, I whipped together some tasty Nutella cupcakes this time. Albeit not the most creative, as I (and hordes of others) have done the same before, but sometimes you really just don't need to go reinventing the wheel.

Chocolate Cupcakes
(a recipe I've been using forever, and don't even remember where I first found it)

  • 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup nonalkalized cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup milk

Preheat to 350 degrees F. Prep Cupcake tins.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and slowly add the sugar. Continue beating until light and smooth, about 4 minutes. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the cocoa powder and vanilla and beat at medium speed for 1 minute more. (Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl again, if needed.) With the mixer running at medium-low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Combine the water and milk in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat. (Or microwave 2-3 minutes).
With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture, about a 1/4 cup at a time, carefully alternating with the hot liquid into, the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake tins. Lightly drop each pan onto the counter to settle the batter.
Set the pans on the middle rack in the oven. Bake 20 minutes, or until cupcake tops spring back when you gently touch them.

Nutella Frosting

(ripped off from inspired by Smitten Kitchen's Fudge Frosting)

6 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
4 cups confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup nutella
6 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate, then process until the frosting is smooth. (No really... that's all you have to do. It's kind of amazing. I recommend reading Deb's comments about it on her blog for more info and tips on making it).

Happy Nutella Day, everyone!

Thanks to the (webby) organizers of this stupendous holiday: Ms Adventures in ItalyBleeding Espresso, and World Nutella Day.