Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cupcake Wine

This week on Cupcakes Take the Cake, I saw a post about Cupcake Vineyards wine. Seriously, what could be better?? This just combines two of my favorite things. On a whim, I decided to stop in a liquor store while out buying cupcake groceries Saturday and managed to find it. They make Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. I went for the Sauvignon Blanc.

That night, a friend came over, and I opened up one of the bottles to try it out. Let's be honest; even if the wine wasn't any good (3 buck Chuck?), it probably would have been constantly stocked in my wine rack regardless. Fortunately, it was a really good bottle of wine for the price ($11). Now I can justifiably keep spending money on this. Sunday in the midst of my near cupcake breakdown, I was about to open up that second bottle of wine (at 7:00 am), but pulled through and that bottle is now on my kitchen counter. You know, just in case of the next baking emergency.

Also, it might be worth mentioning that this wine is not made from cupcakes. At least two people (who will remain anonymous...) have asked me if it was.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Potential Wedding Anniversary Cupcakes

A friend of my mom's asked me about cupcakes for her parents' 50th wedding anniversary which is taking place in North Carolina in a couple weeks. Because I was already baking today for the baby shower, I told her that I would put together a few samples. She didn't really give me much to go with, but the 50th anniversary is a gold anniversary, so I started with that and tried out some things I've been wanting to. I had some fondant and luster dusts at home, so I covered the tops with embossed fondant and then painted on the luster dust. For two of them, I painted the whole top with iridescent white and the imprint with gold. I liked them, but they're definitely for someone who was looking for something ornate. And they were pretty time consuming. For the other two, I painted them with a pinkish champagne color and topped them with some dried fondant flowers I had painted gold. These were the winning pick for the actual anniversary party with some slight modifications.

The winning cupcake

I'm really loving fondant. You can do so much more with it than regular buttercream, and it's been way easier to work with than I thought it was going to be. I don't think I'm quite ready to bust out any Ace of Cake-style cakes just yet, but I'm definitely getting a feel for it, and I have a ton of ideas I want to try out. The taste is eh, but I don't think it detracts from the overall flavor and definitely adds to the overall appeal.

Embossed and hand-painted

Baby Shower Cupcakes

Top tier of the stand

This weekend was my first big order. I was hired to bake 5 dozen cupcakes for a baby shower. It was five different types - vanilla/strawberry, cookie dough, chocolate chip/chocolate, red velvet, and chocolate/peanut butter. To say this was a learning experience is definitely an understatement. Initially I was having a problem where some of the cupcakes were rising way over the pans and spilling over and some of them were not rising at all. I was tearing out my hair, about to cry, and ready to give up my dreams of being a professional cupcake baker, when I finally diagnosed the problem being with the oven. I suspect that the temperature was fluctuating, causing these problems. Sure enough, once I switched to the bottom oven (we have a double oven at my house), there were no more problems. Unfortunately, it took 4 batches of cupcakes that saw their way to the bottom of the trash can before I figured it out. All in all, I think they came out really well. I ate some of the "rejects" for breakfast (I had gotten up at 6 am to start baking), and even the mangled ones tasted great.

I made that cupcake stand!

I've been getting a lot more large orders coming up. It's really exciting, especially since all this started about a month ago. Although I've been baking basically since I can reach the stove (which contrary to popular was NOT last year...), but my first cupcakes I made not from a box were only last August. I'm really looking forward to taking more orders, trying more recipes and hopefully this all leads to my own cupcakery.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

S'Mores Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes last Thursday night to bring to work but got excited about the prettier cupcakes I made this weekend and posted those first. While these cupcakes are definitely not as beautiful as the flower ones, they were pretty awesome. I had first attempted S'mores cupcakes this past summer, and wasn't thrilled with the results. I tweaked the recipe a bit for the reattempt and was much happier.

For the base, I used a mixture of crushed graham crackers, melted butter, and a tiny bit of sugar. I pushed that into the bottom of cupcake liners, and then poured the chocolate cake batter over it. Last time I made these, I used plain chocolate frosting (being a "vanilla girl," this is probably why I wasn't crazy about the first cupcakes) with a toasted marshmallow on top. This time, I used a 7 minute frosting (it's made by cooking egg whites, sugar, corn syrup and water over a double boiler) because the taste and consistency is basically marshmallow. I sprinkled some leftover graham crackers on top.

Extra cupcake sitting on my desk

Making the frosting was pretty cool. My friend Todd and I were standing over this double boiler, watching the initial mixture and thinking there was no way it would be enough frosting for 16 cupcakes nor taste and look like marshmallow. Paula Deen did not let me down though, and within 7 minutes, it was white, shiny and fluffy.

My friend Todd modeling the cupcakes

I made these with a dark chocolate cupcake recipe with less sugar (ok, full disclosure: so really there was less sugar because I was slightly tipsy while baking and mismeasured the sugar). It actually worked out pretty well, and I think it was a more "adult" cupcake with a sophisticated flavor.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

First Time Playing with Fondant

I love cake decorating shows like Ace of Cakes on Food Network and Amazing Wedding Cakes on WE. One of my favorite elements of these shows is watching them roll out and use the fondant. Fondant is a smooth, shiny sugar-based covering for cakes. I ordered some online from www.fondantsource.com last week. While you can make your own fondant, most professional bakers suggest buying it because it's easier and tastes the same as homemade.

The flowers are iridescent

I was so excited when my fondant came in last Wednesday, but I had to wait until the weekend to play with my new toys. I went a bit overboard with buying cake supplies this week, and spent over $150, which is pretty ridiculous. Friday after work, I rolled out some of the fondant for the flowers I wanted to have on my cupcakes. My initial impressions of the fondant were how smooth-feeling it was and also how easy it was to roll out. I cut out the flowers using cutters and then put them in an empty egg carton carton so they dried in a more natural curved shape.

Today I resumed this set of cupcakes. The flowers had dried nicely, and I painted them with a mixture of lemon extract and luster dust. I covered the tops of the cupcakes I had baked (chocolate chip) with a layer of buttercream and then fondant. Then I placed the finished flowers and some leaves on the tops. These are definitely the fanciest cupcakes I've ever made.

The teal one was my favorite

Purple flowers

I'm thinking about attempting some larger, fondant-covered cakes in the future. I took a bunch of cake decorating books out of the library and am now wishing I had some occasions to bake for.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cupcake Truffles

Last weekend when I was home and made the rainbow cupcakes, I also made some of these cupcake truffles. I initially got the idea from Bakerella's blog. Bakerella is known for her cupcake pops (she appeared on Martha - basically living my dream), and the cupcake truffles are a simplified, non-lollipop version of those.

These are made by mixing a baked cake with icing, rolling the mixture into balls and then dipping them into two colors of chocolate. I absolutely drove my mom crazy by making her drive all over Central Jersey looking for the chocolate molds that form the cupcake "liners."

These were a huge hit at my office. The instructions for these are here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

First Cupcake Sale!

So my cupcake obsession has recently led to a very small start-up cupcake business. My first real purchase was ordered for delivery in NYC tomorrow. A close friend of mine is leaving her job for another and requested a dozen vanilla cupcakes to be sent to her company's NYC office as a good-will gesture. Just in time, my new business cards came in the mail today! Although, I have mixed feelings about expanding (or starting) in NYC being as delivery is significantly trickier than in the NJ suburbs with a car.

I wish someone would send me cupcakes at work!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rainbow Cupcakes

My mom has been asking me to make tie dye cupcakes forever. So this weekend while I was home, I decided (a.k.a. was coerced) to finally bake the tie dye cupcakes. The end result ended up being more rainbow than tie dye, so I'm going to call them that. These were really pretty, and they're perfect for Easter/Spring coming up.

Dyed batter

In order to make these, I started out with a white cake batter and dyed it five different colors. For the recipe, I just modified my vanilla recipe, eliminating the things that made it more beige than white - the egg yolks and some of the vanilla. I also used cake flour instead of all purpose flour because it's whiter. It was my first time using cake flour, and I think it gave the cake a really nice texture. In the future, I will definitely be playing around with trying recipes with cake flour vs. all purpose. The drawback to this is that cake flour is more expensive and comes in smaller quantities, and being as baking cupcakes has yet to draw an income for me, the ingredients tend to consume an already embarrassing portion of my discretionary income.

First three colors in

I used Wilton gel food dyes here, but I'm pretty sure that liquid ones would work as well. The color probably just wouldn't be as intense, and you would need to use more of them. I've seen these pretty awesome looking neon gel food colors in the supermarket, but I'm not sure who makes them. I think they would make pretty interesting looking colors.

After I dyed and mixed all the batter, I alternated spooning it into the cupcake trays. Suspiciously, despite it being my mom that wanted these, I was all alone when it came to the huge clean up using 6 different bowls caused. Hm...interesting.

End result - pretty!

Inside look at the cupcake

Because the cake was so colorful, I just paired these with plain vanilla frosting. I wish I had some neon sprinkles to put on top of these, but I think they looked good even without.

The white cake recipe (makes 24 cupcakes):
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 C sugar
7 large egg whites
3 C cake flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C whole milk
2 tsp vanilla

1. Cream together butter and sugar
2. Add egg whites and beat well
3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt
4. Add 1/3 of flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until incorporated. Add milk and vanilla alternately with the flour mixture, ending with the flour
5. Divide batter between into lined cupcake trays
6. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until cake springs back when touched

Monday, March 9, 2009

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

For some reason, Hoboken celebrates St. Patrick's Day on the first Saturday of March, way before the traditional March 17. I had heard a lot about the craziness of the day, and I felt there was only one possible cupcake I could bake to celebrate the day-Chocolate Guinness cupcakes. The original recipe came from Feast by Nigella Lawson. I had used this recipe once before, and it came out really well so I was happy to revisit it. While the batter is made with beer, the Guinness taste is not very strong and combined with the cocoa powder, it makes for a very dark-colored cake.

Guinness with the more conventional ingredients

You can see that the cocoa powder in the picture is Hershey's. Usually, I think you should use the best ingredients you can find. At my grocery store, that happens to be Ghiradelli, but I've been meaning to locate even better quality cocoa powder. Ghiradelli has been working out pretty well for me, but I really don't like Hershey's.

The cupcakes straight out of the oven

Because I was unsure of exactly how many people my roommate and I were expecting for the festivities, I doubled the recipe and made 36 regular sized cupcakes and 24 mini cupcakes. This reminded me how tricky mini cupcakes are. Due to the small size, it is very easy to over bake them. I frosted them with cream cheese frosting, and I think they looked like a pint of poured Guinness.

Frosted cupcakes-intended to look like poured Guinness

Chocolate Guinness Cake Recipe
makes 24 cupcakes

1 cup Guinness stout
1 stick unsalted butter, sliced
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups granulated 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 degrees. Place cupcake liners in tins.

2. Pour Guinness into a large saucepan, add butter and heat until melted. Whisk in cocoa powder and sugar.

3. In a small bowl, beat sour cream with eggs and vanilla and then pour into butter-beer mixture and then whisk in flour and baking soda.

4. Pour batter into cupcake tins and bake for 17-20 minutes until cake springs back when touched slightly.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Along with the raspberry-vanilla cupcakes I took to my sister's college last Saturday, I also recreated one of her favorite ice cream flavors in cupcake form-mint chocolate chip. I had made chocolate chip frosting before, so I knew I wanted to add mint (and a bit of green dye) to that for this cupcake's frosting. I've been experimenting with a few different chocolate cake recipes, but I decided to try the chocolate buttermilk recipe I saw listed on Martha Stewart when looking for something else. I tend to think that cupcakes made with buttermilk (like the vanilla and red velvet recipes I use) come out better in general, and was hoping this chocolate recipe would be a winner. In the end, however, I just didn't love it. It wasn't a bad recipe, but I think the one I've used from chockylit's Cupcake Blog found here is much better. The Martha one just didn't rise that much and was much drier than I would have expected from a buttermilk cupcake.

Another thing I realized while baking these is that I really don't like the foil cupcake liners. I had bought them for some S'mores cupcakes this past summer, and hate them then, but ran out of paper liners this time and had to use them. They separate from the cupcake too easily and get all out of shape.

Here's the recipe for the frosting (frosts 16):
1 stick butter
2 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. mint extract
1/2 pound confectioner's sugar, sifted
3 T whole milk
1/2 bag Nestle's mini chocolate chips, semisweet

1. Cream together butter and cream cheese until fluffy
2. Add in mint extract. Mix well.
3. Add confectioner's sugar slowly, beating well.
4. Add milk as needed
5. Add 2-3 drops green food coloring
6. Once frosting is mixed properly, stir in chocolate chips

Apparently Victoria's Secret gift boxes fit 16 cupcakes perfectly

Monday, March 2, 2009

Raspberry-Filled Vanilla Cupcakes

I really love the unexpected surprise of biting into a cupcake and finding some sort of filling. When my sister asked me to bake her cupcakes and bring them with me to her college on Saturday, I knew I would be doing a filled cupcake. She initially asked for raspberry frosting, but older sisters know best, and I went with a vanilla cupcake filled with raspberry with vanilla frosting. Plus I knew she'd be psyched to get whatever I baked her. I also made some mint chocolate chip ones that I will post about later this week.

I enlisted Morgan to watch me bake these. What a crazy and exciting Friday night for both of us, especially for Morgan. Being as I'm bad at delegating tasks, she was forced to just sit there and watch me. I don't trust anyone to help me with cupcakes, unless it's cleaning, and no one ever wants to do that. If I did pick a baking assistant though, it would be Morgan being as she was a chemistry major in college, and I always liken baking to chemistry. Plus, she was my high school lab partner, and I was usually the one dragging her down in labs.

I used the vanilla recipe from Sweet Revenge that was featured on Martha Stewart. The recipe can be found here. After trying every single vanilla recipe I could find (literally) and attempting to create my own, this recipe was a godsend. Most vanilla recipes produce cupcakes that are dry and bland, but this is way above the rest.

There are two methods of filling cupcakes. The first is marginally easier; you just inject the filling directly into the cake using a pastry bag or injector set. I think this is good when filling mini cupcakes. I prefer to cut a cone shape out of the cupcake with a paring knife, cut the bottom triangle off the cone, fill and then recover and frost. This allows more filling into the cake.

After I've cut the cone out of all the cupcakes, I usually eat all the extra cupcake scraps. This isn't a crucial step in the process, but I'd recommend it. Then I fill a ziploc baggie with the filling (in the case, Polaner seedless red raspberry preserves), cut the tip off the end, and squeeze the filling into the cupcakes. After that's done, I place the tops back on, and they're ready to be frosted.

Cupcake filled with raspberry

Frosted Cupcake

I had some vanilla frosting frozen from the last time I baked my sister cupcakes for her birthday, so I just thawed that out, snipped the end off the ziploc bag, and piped it onto the cupcake in a swirl. This is a good technique to make cupcakes look more professional with minimal effort. I still had some extra raspberry left over, so I piped that on top of the frosting in the grooves of the swirl. I really liked the way these looked and tasted, and I'm hoping my sister shared the 30 cupcakes I brought her with her friends, rather than her usual pattern of eating them all by herself (I brought her about 75 mini cupcakes for her birthday, and I think she ate them all on her own. Being as I know her friends are reading this blog, I guess I'll just have to wait and see what they say.

Blog Design by Delicious Design Studio