Sunday, January 27, 2013

Streaking Vanilla Cupcakes

Ok, so these cupcakes are not naked and running down the street. I totally drew a blank when naming them - I mean vanilla cupcakes with blue-streaked buttercream isn't the most enticing name is it? My daughter suggested the name and thought it was really funny, so I decided to go with it.




My daughter couldn't play basketball this year so she is the team manager for both the Junior Varsity and Varsity teams. A few days ago was Senior Night and she wanted to bring something to help the team celebrate. She decided that cupcakes would be popular with the team, and that we could easily incorporate the team colors - white and blue.

I love this recipe that I found on Martha Stewart's site.  All I had to do was swap out the strawberry for vanilla extract in both the cupcakes and the frosting.  This cupcake recipe produces a really nice soft crumb and a moist cake.  After mixing up the batter I separated about one cup and dyed it blue.  To produce a tie-dye effect I filled the cupcake liners with some vanilla batter, then blue batter, topping them off with a little more vanilla batter and then swirled it with a toothpick.






To top the cupcakes I decided to try and put blue streaks around the side of the piping bag so that I would get a swirl effect.  It probably would have worked out better had I used a small paintbrush, rather than a toothpick, but I had to go with what I had in the house.  In the end I used the toothpick to swirl the blue color straight into the buttercream, and then spooned it into a ziploc bag to pipe it.

The team was thrilled with the cupcakes and even better, they won the game.


I could have swirled this one a little better


Streaking Vanilla Cupcakes  
(Printer Friendly Recipe)

Ingredients
Cupcakes
  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • blue gel paste as needed
Buttercream
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ¾ pound (3 sticks) butter, softened, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • blue gel paste as needed

Preparation
Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350℉. 
  2. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. 
  3. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. 
  4. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Reduce speed to low. 
  5. Mix remaining wet ingredients in a bowl. 
  6. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry, scraping the sides of bowl between each addition.
  7. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each full (or tie-dye as suggested above).
  8. Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes.
  9. Let cool in tins on wire racks.
Buttercream
  1. Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  2. Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. 
  3. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes.
  4. Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition. 
  5. Add vanilla and whisk to combine.
  6. Use immediately, or cover, and refrigerate. 
  7. If using gel paste either dye buttercream or use a small paintbrush to line a piping bag before decorating cupcakes.
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.  Makes approximately 30 cupcakes.





Tuesday, January 22, 2013

To Try Tuesday - Browned Butter Snickerdoodles




With folders overflowing with recipes that I have either snipped from my magazines, or bookmarked on my computer, it was about time that I got back to my To Try Tuesdays.  Today's recipe is actually a recent one that appeared in my reader just over a week ago.  Three little words got my immediate attention - Browned Butter Snickerdoodles.

This recipes comes courtesy of The Spiced Life.  I love this blog because it is so eclectic.  Laura is always thinking outside the box so you never know what might be on the blog next - how fun is that!  One day you may see a Lentil & Potato Casserole with Pumpkin & Tomatoes topped with a Phyllo Crust, then you could see something like a Lime Basil Bundt Cake, a Chicken Noodle Soup with Mushrooms, Ginger, and Chinese 5 Spice, and so much more.



Browning the butter gives a lovely nutty flavor to the cookies, and I loved the spices. A few years ago I made Chai Snickerdoodles, which had similar flavorings, but did not call for browned butter.  Special note was made of the suggestions regarding these cookies - make sure you keep whisking the butter as it is browning, chill the dough for at least an hour, and do not crowd the cookie sheet.

These cookies are absolutely delicious.  As soon as they came out of the oven I had to try one - quality control you know.  Actually, that is so not the truth.  The reality is that they just smelled so inviting I couldn't stop myself.  There is nothing better than a cookie warm from the oven.




Browned Butter Snickerdoodles

Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • ¼ ground ginger
  • pinch finely ground black pepper
  • pinch cloves
  • pinch allspice
For the cinnamon-sugar:
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preparation
  1. In a saucepan, preferably stainless steel so you can see the butter, melt the butter on medium heat.  Whisk constantly until the butter turns reddish-golden brown.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, vanilla, eggs, and cooled butter.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and spices in a bowl. 
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined.
  5. Chill your dough for 1 hour (or as long as possible, preferably overnight) in the refrigerator.  
  6. Preheat the oven to 350℉. 
  7. Meanwhile mix ½ cup sugar and the 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a bowl. 
  8. Once dough is chilled measure about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.
  9. Bake the cookies 11-13 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. 
  10. Cool the cookies on the sheet for at least 2 minutes. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheet after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Repeat with remaining dough.
  12. Makes about 30 cookies.

Recipe by The Spiced Life, slight adaptations by ATLATC.



Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Cake Slice Bakers January 2013 - Banana Cake with Coffee Walnut Buttercream

I can't believe how quickly the time has gone by.  It seems like only yesterday that December's cake was being voted upon and baked.  Here we are in a new year and we actually had a tie in the voting between The Classic and Banana Cake with Coffee Walnut Buttercream so we were able to chose which one we wanted to bake.  Since I am a huge fan of banana cake it was an easy choice for me, although I will probably bake The Classic at a later time.





We always seems to have an abundance of bananas in our house, so it was easy to grab a few extra-ripe ones for my cake.  I decided to bake the cake on one day and refrigerated the layers overnight, and then make the buttercream and assemble the cake next day, which worked out really well.

Since my girls aren't huge fans of walnuts I decided to change the frosting a little bit. I saw that Vintage Cakes also had a recipe for Coffee Buttercream (1 tablespoon instant espresso and 2 teaspoons of water to make a paste and add to basic buttercream) so I went with that and also added ⅓ cup of melted dark chocolate so I ended up with a Mocha Buttercream.  I also decorated the top of the cake with chocolate covered coffee beans, well I decorated the top with what I had left because I seriously can't stop eating them once I start.  I used the basic buttercream recipe from the book which is slightly different to the coffee walnut buttercream.

At first I found it difficult to find a saucepan that I could put the metal bowl of my mixer into without it touching the water.  My solution was to get out my pasta pot that has a metal insert to drain the pasta.  I filled it just until the water reached the insert, I turned the insert handles in towards each other, and then I balanced my mixer bowl on the top of the insert handles, slightly tilting the bowl.  By doing this the water could simmer away without the bowl touching the water.



This type of buttercream is known as a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and I was looking forward to trying it since I had only made a regular buttercream previously.  It is funny when you shy away from attempting something because you think it sounds too difficult, and then when you try it you wonder what all of the fuss was about.  That is what happened to me with this buttercream.  I am such a baking nerd that I was even excited when it curdled (just as the author said it would) and then came back together again.  The end result was a deliciously fluffy mocha-flavored buttercream.



As I was assembling the cake I realized that I should have trimmed it a little as the layers had baked up a little uneven, but I had already topped it with the last layer so I pressed on.  In the end the cake was a little lopsided but I think it gave it character.  Well, that is what I told myself and I knew that it wasn't going to affect the taste of the cake.  And a few chocolate-covered coffee beans on top sealed the deal.

This cake was definitely a winner.  The cake had a deep banana flavor and the mocha buttercream was a nice accompaniment to it.  It is the sort of cake that you could top with so many different flavors and it would still be great.




Click here to check out the blogs of my fellow Cake Slice Baker's to see which cake they chose to bake - was it The Classic or the Banana Cake with Coffee Buttercream?


Banana Cake with Coffee Walnut Buttercream
(Printer Friendly Recipe)

Ingredients
Cake
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3)
  • ¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature

Coffee Walnut Buttercream
  • 1 cup toasted chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt

Preparation
Cake
  1. Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350℉.
  2. Grease three 8 by 2-inch round cake pans, and line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper circles.
  3. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda, then whisk the ingredients with a hand whisk.
  4. In a small bowl combine the banana with the buttermilk.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together on high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping the mixer frequently to scrape the sides and the paddle with a rubber spatula.
  6. Blend in the eggs one at a time.
  7. With the mixer on low add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the banana mixture in two parts, beginning and ending with the four.   After each addition scrape the bowl well.  Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula.
  8. Divide the thick batter equally among the prepared pans, and tap the pans on the counter to settle.
  9. Bake until the centers spring back when lightly touched, 28 - 30 minutes.
  10. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Flip them out and let them continue to cool on the rack, top side up, until they reach room temperature.  Leave the parchment paper on until you assemble the cake.
  11. To assemble the cake lay one of the cakes top side up on a cake plate.  Using a metal spatula frost the top with ¾ cup of buttercream out to the edge of the cake (filling will be about ¼ inch thick).  Stack the second cake top side up on top of the frosted cake and spread another ¾ cup of buttercream on top of it.  Stack the last layer of cake top side up on top.  Look for any frosting that may have oozed out the sides and spread it along the sides of the cake.  Apply a thin layer of frosting all over the cake to create a "crumb coat".  Place the cake in the refrigerator until the frosting is firm, about 10 minutes.  Take it out and frost the cake with the remaining buttercream, using your spatula to make decorative swirls.

Buttercream
Walnut-Espresso paste
  1. Puree toasted, chopped walnuts in a food processor until they just begin to form a paste. 
  2. Add corn syrup, bourbon, and espresso powder and blend until combined.  Set aside.

Basic buttercream:
  1. Using a hand whisk, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Place the bowl over (not in - do not let the bowl touch the water) a saucepan of simmering water.  The egg mixture will be gloppy and thick, but as the mixture begins to warm, it will become more fluid.
  3. Continue to gently whisk the mixture until it is very hot to touch (130℉ on a candy thermometer).
  4. Move the bowl to the stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, whip the whites on medium-high speed until they have tripled in volume and are thick and glossy and hold stiff peaks (like meringue).  Turn the mixture down to medium-low speed until the mixing bowl is just cool to touch, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Kick the mixer back up to medium-high speed and and add the butter one piece at a time, adding the next piece just as the previous one has been incorporated.Stop the mixer every every now and again to scrape down the sides. At some point the buttercream will appear curdled, but this is normal, so keep mixing until it all comes together again.
  6. Once all of the butter has been incorporated and the frosting is fluffy and creamy, add the vanilla and salt and mix until fully combined.
  7. Covered with plastic wrap this frosting will last 2 days at room temperature or 7 days in the refrigerator.  If refrigerated, the frosting will need to come to room temperature before use, and will need to be re-whipped (by hand if at room temperature, or machine if refrigerated), before frosting a cake.
Cake from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson, adaptations by All That's Left Are The Crumbs.



Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Cake Slice Bakers December 2012 - Mississippi Mud Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting




This month the Cake Slice Baker's are making Mississippi Mud Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting from Vintage Cakes: Timeless Recipes for Cupcakes, Flips, Rolls, Layer, Angel, Bundt, Chiffon, and Icebox Cakes for Today's Sweet Tooth by Julie Richardson. When I first saw that these cupcakes had won the vote for December I was thrilled.  Just the name alone sounds delicious and brings to mind a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows on top.  I know what you are thinking, why would I need to have hot chocolate where I live? Well, when those trade winds start blowing at 30 miles an hour from the Alaskan direction, and the temperature drops in the low 60's and it is raining, I need something to warm me up.  Don't laugh - yes, I can see you laughing - when you are used to high 80's or above every day I get cold when the temperature drops.

I had very high hopes for these cupcakes since I wasn't a big fan of last month's cake. Also, I have never made homemade marshmallow so I was excited to try out my candy thermometer.  I have been told that once you try homemade marshmallow you will never want to eat the commercially-made ones again, so we will see.

I started grabbing ingredients and chose to use some of my black cocoa from King Arthur Flour because it has a really deep flavor and would make the color of the cupcakes almost black and more "mud-like".  I decided on using 1/2 cup of black cocoa and 1/4 cup of dutch-processed cocoa to get the desired result.  Dutch processed cocoa has been treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity. Being neutral, it does not react with baking soda, and it must be used in recipes calling for baking powder (unless there are other acidic ingredients in sufficient quantities used). It has a reddish-brown color, mild flavor, and dissolves easily in liquids.  After mixing some of my morning Ka'u coffee with the cocoa I felt like I had struck oil.  The combination was just like liquid gold.  I had a feeling that I was going to like these cupcakes.

Next I went searching for my chocolate chips.  I know I have semi-sweet, white, and bittersweet in my pantry.  After I quick look I could only find the bittersweet.  Everything else was ready, and I could have spent the next 15+ minutes searching for them in the pantry, but I made an executive decision to just use the bittersweet chips.  I was going for a dark cupcake anyway so these could only help the cause.  I also made the executive decision not to use the pecans in the recipe this time - well I had a little help from the peanut gallery stating they did not like nuts and showing me their sad faces - so out they went.

After they came out of the oven I could not resist trying one.  OMG, so good!  They are exactly want I want in a chocolate cupcake - deep, dark, and delicious.  I almost decided to forgo making the marshmallow because they were so good on their own, but I was determined to christen my candy thermometer, so on I pressed. And I am glad I did because it was good.  I added vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla essence so the frosting had some really nice flecks in it.  At first I thought that I may have burned the sugar mixture - watch it because mine came up to temperature really quickly and turned a little dark - but it worked out just fine.  A drizzle of chocolate on top completed the cupcakes.




These were definitely a winner for me.  I can imagine so many variations that I could make using the base recipe.  I loved the flavor and the fact that they were so easy to put together.  They will definitely we making an appearance again very soon.




Click here to check out the blogs of my fellow Cake Slice Baker's and see all of their cupcakes.


Mississippi Mud Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting
(Printer Friendly Recipe)

Ingredients
Cake
  • 1 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Marshmallow Frosting
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 egg whites
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Preparation
Cake
  1. Center oven rack and preheat oven to 350℉.
  2. Line a standard-size muffin tin with 24 paper cups.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the hot coffee into the cocoa. Set aside to cool
  4. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Whisk the mixure together by hand to ensure that the ingredients are well mixed then stir pecan and chocolate chips.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and cooled cocoa mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir batter together with a rubber spatula until just combined (too much mixing will cause the tops of the cupcakes to be unevenly domed).
  6. Pour batter evenly among prepared cupcake tins, filling each well about 3/4 full. Place cupcake tins in middle rack of the preheated oven. 
  7. Bake until cupcakes have domed nicely and bounce back when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes.
  8. Cool the cupcakes in their tin on a wire rack. 
  9. Once they have cooled, remove them from the pan and pipe a mound of marshmallow frosting on each.
  10. These cupcakes will keep for 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature.
Marshmallow Frosting
  1. Combine the sugar, cream of tartar, and water in a small saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid. Place the pan, uncovered, over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, the cover and cook for 2 minutes. Uncover the saucepan and continue to boil until the sugar syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 242 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  2. While the syrup is heating to the desired temperature, combine the egg whites with the salt in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat beginning at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed. Beat the whites just until soft peaks form. Timing is crucial at this point in the game; if the syrup is close to reaching 242 degrees, continue whipping the whites to firm peaks. If the syrup is not this warm yet, let the whites wait at the soft-peak stage before whipping them into firm peaks as the syrup approaches the desired temperature.
  3. Once the sugar syrup has reached 242 degrees and the egg whites are whipped to firm peaks, run the mixer at medium-high speed and begin slowly pouring the syrup down inside the bowl. Continue whipping until the frosting becomes thick and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and whip to combine.
  4. This frosting should be used immediately.
From Vintage Cakes

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Cake Slice Bakers November 2012 - Shoo-Fly Cake



The good news is that I re-joined the Cake Slice Bakers.  The bad news is that everything seemed to conspire against me to get my baking done.  In all honesty 2012 hasn't been my favorite year, so I am really looking forward to 2013.

For those who may be unfamiliar, The Cake Slice consists of a dedicated group of bakers from all over the world.  Every year we bake from a different cake book.  In 2012 - 2013 we are baking from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson.  Each month a selection of cakes are presented and we vote on which cake to bake next from our current book.  We then have a month to bake it in secret before we all blog about it on the same day each month – the 20th – never before. We never reveal to anyone outside of the group which cake it is until this date.  There are a few rules that we follow but the most important one is to have fun and enjoy eating cake!  We have a blogroll which is open to anyone to view and it lists all the members.  We link to this at the end of our cake reveal posts each month and it can be also be found at The Cake Slice Blogroll.  


I was a little apprehensive about making this cake as molasses is not one of my favorite ingredients.  There is just something about the taste that makes me shudder.  Still, I was curious to see how it would turn out and committed to being faithful to the recipe for my first cake back in the group.





After mixing all of the ingredients together and getting ready to pour it into the prepared pan for baking, I was surprised at how thin the batter was.  It was not like any other cake batter I have ever made and reminded me a little of a crepe batter.  Into the pan it went, crumbs sprinkled on top and fingers crossed.     My cake did take longer than the suggested 45 minutes.  When I checked it it looked very "soupy" in the middle so I left it in for approximately 15 extra minutes.  In hindsight maybe an extra 10 minutes would have been better because it ended up a little dry.

The general consensus in my family was that this recipe would not be repeated.  Lets just say that there were a lot more than just the crumbs left on the plate.




Click here to check out the blogs of my fellow Cake Slice Baker's and see their cakes.

Shoo-Fly Cake
(Printer Friendly Recipe)

Ingredients:
Crumb Topping
  • ⅓ cup firmly-packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
Cake
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ cup unsulfured blackstrap molasses
  • 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup warm coffee

Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350℉ and grease a 9x2-inch round cake pan with butter.
  2. To make crumb topping: combine the brown sugar and flour in a small bowl. Toss in the butter cubes and using your fingertips pinch it into dry mixture to form crumbs.  Place the bowl in the freezer while you make the cake.
  3. To make the cake: in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat the sugar, butter, molasses, and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Blend in each egg one at a time.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; then whisk to ensure they are well blended.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, stir the flour mixture into the batter in three additions, alternating with the coffee in two additions beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  6. Pour the thin batter into the prepared cake pan and sprinkle with your crumb topping.
  7. Bake in the center of the oven until the top is firm, about 45 minutes.
  8. Cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes before serving warm from the pan.
Recipe from Vintage Cakes