Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Retry of the Blood Orange Cupcakes

I was so bummed all day about last night's cupcakes. Despite my best googling efforts, I was unable to find anyone that has ever had the similar problem with a beige batter inexplicably turning blue-grey in the oven. My first efforts to blog about my baking were just sadly lacking, and it was almost an embarrassment being as I consider myself a better baker than producing moldy-looking cupcakes. So tonight I was determined to avenge these baking mishaps by straightening out the blood orange cake recipe.

My dad was in town for the night because he's working in my neighborhood these past few days, and after meeting him for a drink after work, I took him to Garden of Eden, one of my favorite places in Hoboken and also the best place to find exotic fruits and vegetables. I picked up a few more blood oranges, and we perused the wide array of produce. There are a lot of great cupcakes to be imagined out of all those different fruits.

My first change in the recipe was instead of adding the orange juice directly to the milk, I first added additional sugar and reduced it down to a syrup on low heat on the stove. I think the original recipe was too wet, and this helped cut some of that, plus add some sugar that was lacking in the original. Once this syrup cooled, I added it to the milk to comprise the wet ingredients. Other than that, the only change I made was to add some red and orange gel food color to the batter before the egg whites as a preventative measure against the grey. I would have preferred just the natural ingredients, but I wasn't about to serve a something that looked so awful (except to my coworker Kara today, but I gave her fair warning it wasn't supposed to look like that). The end result was a much, much better cupcake. Not only was the color much improved, but the orange taste was more pronounced and less bland.

These cupcakes are making the trek into the city with me tomorrow for work. I get some really weird looks when I walk onto my bus with my cupcake carrier. One girl in the streets of NYC followed me down a block yelling at my back "YO! Can I have some cupcakes?!?!" last time I brought cupcakes to work. Let's hope tomorrow's transport doesn't provoke that sort of anxiety again.

Wooooo...Finally a success!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Grey Orange Cupcakes???

For the past couple days, I have had this image in my mind of blood orange cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream. I don't really know where this idea came from, being as I've never even had a blood orange before. There's a gourmet grocery store near my apartment though that has every fruit imaginable and ones I did not even know existed. So after frantic searching there today (for some reason, they were buried in the mountain of apples), I found some blood oranges.

Cross-section of the orange

I have been unable to find a citrus cupcake recipe that I'm 100% happy with. The last lemon cake I made turned out like a cake brick. I feel like the juice in the recipes really weigh down the cake. I wanted something lighter and airier. After doing some research, I was convinced that the correct way to go about this was incorporate beaten egg whites into the batter, rather than just mixing in the eggs as usual with the butter and sugar. Despite the questionable outcome of these cupcakes, one thing is certain, and that is the cake itself had a great texture.

The batter was a light pinkish color before it went into the oven. Originally, I anticipated it being a deep pink-red, but the juice was not as opaque as I thought it was going to be. If I wanted them to be darker, I would have had to add food dye to the batter, which I didn't want to do this time. It was quite a surprise when I took the baked cupcakes out of the oven, and they were bluish grey. I have absolutely no idea how this happened. It must have been some reaction between the ingredients, but I'm really unsure what it was. The only thing I can think of is maybe it was the egg whites. It's a total mystery though.

The grey!?!?

The color of the cupcakes made me think they were going to be awful tasting. I mean, how many grey things taste great? I can't think of any off-hand. They actually tasted quite good. Like I said earlier, the texture was right, and the orange taste was subtle, but really good. Combined with the vanilla bean buttercream, it was one of my favorites I've made. If I could work on the cake color, this would be even better. The frosting was awesome. I really like vanilla, and the combination of vanilla beans and vanilla "crush" (available from Sonoma Syrup - I found mine at Marshall's) really made the frosting taste like vanilla ice cream.

Finished product - tastes better than it looks

I feel like starting this blog has brought my cupcakes bad color luck. Neither the cosmo cupcakes nor these turned out nearly the color I intended them to be. Here's the recipe for anyone brave enough to try it (really, it's kind of an awesome cupcake, it just needs food dye to override the grey).

Blood Orange Cupcakes
makes 9 cupcakes

1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
2/3 stick butter, room temp
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg yolk, room temp
2 egg whites, room temp
1/3 c. whole milk, room temp
1/3 c. blood orange juice
1/2 tsp. orange extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place liners in cupcake tins.

2. Beat the butter in a mixer on high. Add the sugar and beat on high until it is light and fluffy.
3. Add egg yolk and beat well. Add orange extract.
4. Sift dry ingredients together.
5. Mix milk with orange juice.
6. To the butter mixture, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Add 1/2 the milk mixture and mix. Continue alternating the dry and wet ingredients, ending with the dry.
7. In a separate, clean bowl, whip the egg whites into a light foam.
8. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
9. Scoop batter into cupcake trays, 2/3 full.
10. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until cake springs back when touched.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream

1/2 stick butter, room temp
2 oz. cream cheese
1/3 pound confectioner's sugar
1/4 vanilla bean, beans scraped out
1/2 tsp. vanilla crush

1. Cream butter and cream cheese together
2. Add scraped vanilla beans and bean crush. Beat well.
3. Slowly add confectioner's sugar

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I'm Officially Anti-Zest

It's been on the fence for a while now, but after the lime frosting I made Sunday, I'm officially declaring myself anti-zest. This probably should come as no surprise to me or those who know me very, very well being as I loathe tiny things with weird texture (don't even try to put parsley on my food or I will pick it off one tiny leaf fragment at a time), but the discovery seemed somewhat novel to me. As I had thrown about half a tablespoon of lime zest into the frosting, I started to question what purpose it served. Isn't the rind garbage? Why am I suddenly incorporating it into perfectly good icing? Or any food for that matter.

Mainly though, as with a lot of foods for me, it ultimately came down to the texture. As I sampled a spoonful of the delicious, sherbet-like frosting, I kept getting tiny pieces of zest that ruined the entirety for me. So as sad as I am to do this, I will likely be retiring my $15 microplane zester I recently bought. While it is fantastic, and I do love kitchen gadgets, for the time being, I have determined zest is just not for me.

On the texture front, I recently thought to make blood orange poppy seed cupcakes, but was unsure how the poppy seeds would fit in with my texture dilemma. I really hate to make cupcakes I won't eat (thus my lack of enthusiasm for anything with nuts, coconut or banana), and I shy away from most seeds. Look for my attempt at blood orange (no poppy for now) with vanilla bean frosting cupcakes tomorrow!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cosmo Cupcakes - Take 1

For my first baking post, I decided to recreate the Crumbs cupcakes I was sad to miss when Sex and the City premiered. As anyone who has seen SATC can attest, the most prominent drink in the show is the Cosmopolitan, and the bakery made a non-alcoholic cupcake rendition. Their creation was a hot pink raspberry cake with pale lime frosting and a rim of pink sugar. Unable to find a raspberry cake recipe I trusted, I adapted the Sprinkles' strawberry cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart Living. By accident, I used double the raspberry puree than the recipe called for, but it turned out better than when I made the strawberry ones for my birthday this year.

Straining the puree into the milk

Cupcake Ingredients:
2/3 cup raspberry puree (either fresh or frozen-thawed- works)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

Cupcake Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Line a 12-cup cupcak
e tin with paper liners
3. Puree raspberries in blender or food processor

4. Strain puree to remove seeds and combine with milk and vanilla

5. Cream butter on medium-high speed in mixer until pale and creamy. Add sugar and beat on high until well-combined and fluffy (about 5-7 minutes). Add eggs one at a time and bea
t well
6. Whisk dry ingredients together to combine

7. Slowly add dry ingredients to mixer on low. Alternate with with puree/milk mixture. Do not overmix!!

8. Divide batter evenly among cups. Bake until cupcake tops spring back when touched- Approximately 20-24 minutes. Let cupcakes cool completely before icing

Frosting Ingredients
1 stick butter

3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 pound sifted confectioner's sugar (1/2 a standard bag)

3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 drops green food coloring

Frosting Directions
1. Cream together butter and cream
2. Slowly add sugar, mixing well
3. Add lime juice and food coloring

My friend Lauren was entirely skeptical when I called her this morning to let her know what kind of cupcakes she could expect to find when she came over tonight for the Oscars. She wanted more vanilla (which is my favorite, but I just made them last week), and claimed that because she doesn't like red velvet (for the record, my red velvet are the best), she wasn't going to like these. The only similarity between the two is the color family, and the batter even turned out to be more purple than pink.

My purple raspberry cake batter

Next time I make this cake, I would like for it to be more bright pink and less purple. The only way I could think to achieve this would be substitute the raspberry puree with raspberry extract and a lot of pink dye. Even if I keep the raspberry puree next time, I think I'm going to add at least 1 tsp raspberry extract for a more pronounced raspberry flavor.

Slightly blurry, but fully cooked

The frosting was perfect. What made a big difference, I believe, was that I sifted the powdered sugar before adding it to the butter/cream cheese. It had a less granulated feel than a lot of frostings usually have. Lauren and I both agreed it tasted like lime sherbet. After frosting the cupcakes, I rolled the edges in pink sugar to replicate the sugar that rims a martini glass.

This was actually one of the easiest baking experiences I've had in a while, probably because I wasn't attempting to make 120 mini cupcakes in a 4 hour period before 20 guests arrive like I usually am. Additionally, I was very conscious of keeping my kitchen clean during the baking process so everyone didn't have to know what state of disaster my kitchen is usually in during my baking experiences. I'm trying not to embarass my mom here and lead her friends to believe she taught me poor housecleaning skills.

The finished product

I even won Lauren over with the cupcakes; she took three home with her. She probably would have still preferred vanilla, but these were pretty good considering it was my first attempt at this recipe and flavor combination.

Welcome to Cupcake Obsessed!

Hello and welcome to my first endeavor in cupcake blogging. Why cupcakes? Well, if you're asking, you clearly don't know me and that means my mom isn't the only one reading this. I am completely and totally obsessed with cupcakes. Honestly, I spend an embarrassing amount of time thinking about cupcakes, but I hope to one day turn this preoccupation into a career as a professional baker. As for now, I have a "regular" job in the media industry that I enjoy and pays for all the sugar and flour.

Kitchen area where I do most of my baking. The vodka is for when things get ugly in
the kitchen, and the Diet Coke is standard to keep me going.

I've always been interested by baking, but I started getting serious about cupcakes a little over a year ago. Working in NYC, it seems there's a cupcake bakery on every corner, and it inspired me to ditch the box mixes for once (although I still think nothing beats a good Funfetti mix) and attempt some of my own. Over the course of the year, I've accumulated more cupcake cookbooks than I could have imagined existed and like to modify some of those recipes into my own.

My collection of cookbooks, mostly baking-specific

So whether you're an amateur baker, professional, or somewhere in between like myself, I hope you enjoy my (sometimes unintentionally humorous) forays into baking.

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