Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cupcakes Take L.A.

Over Spring Break, my fellow cupcake fiend, Amanda, accompanied me to 5 cupcake shops in Los Angeles. Although I never imagined it could happen, I actually suffered from cupcake overload for the first time in my life! We rated each place in terms of Presentation and Taste; here's a round-up:

Amanda outside Crumbs (oh, yeah, and a beautiful day in L.A.)

9465 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

We tried:
• Red Velvet
• Blackout
• Cookie Dough

Grotesque. They were just grossly enormous, and they weighed a pound each. Not appetizing.

Moist, but almost too moist. These cupcakes tasted almost . . . damp. The Red Velvet was so oily it sort of clung to the inside of my mouth. The flavors of all three were very bland. The marshmallow frosting on the Blackout cake was closer to elastic, and the frosting on the Cookie Dough left an unpleasant chemical after-taste.

The damage--hey, we had 12 more to go!

Bigger is not better: D

Vanilla Bakeshop

512 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

We tried:
• Spicy Carrot (Mini)
• Banana Chocolate Chip (Mini)
• Black & White (Mini)

Sophisticated and upscale, these cupcakes took the cake in terms of aesthetics. The wide selection of minis is also a plus.

With a mini cupcake, the delicate cake/frosting ratio is thrown out of wack, and one is left with much too much frosting and much too little cake. All three cupcakes were quite dry and not very flavorful. One reviewer discovered a hard clump of sugar in the frosting of her Black & White cupcake. A disappointment.

Form cannot replace function: C+

Yummy Cupcakes
313 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

We tried:
• Red Velvet
• Root Beer Float
• Brown Sugar Cinnamon

Messy and homemade. The shop looked more like a cafeteria, and with gloopy bowls of frosting strewn about, the cupcakes looked less than appealing.

The decor and staff were off-putting, but one reviewer called this Red Velvet the best he'd ever had. It was much more chocolatey than your classic Red Velvet, and had a delectable cream-cheese frosting. The Brown Sugar had both a crumb topping and vanilla buttercream—how could you complain? And the Root Beer Float tasted just like one.

The place was a bit off-kilter, but we can overlook that: B+


11708 San Vincente Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

SusieCakes had a lot more seating, but a lot fewer cupcakes.

We tried:
• Red Velvet
• Chocolate Mint
• Chocolate

Homey and classic. SusieCakes is a real bakery, and while they have a limited cupcake selection, it's much less a scene.

My favorite thing about SusieCakes: they had a pitcher of water and cups sitting out (hey, it's the small things).

Rich and buttery. The cake/frosting balance leaned too far toward frosting in this reviewer's opinion. The tangy cream-cheese frosting on the Red Velvet could have been sweeter. The Chocolate Mint had a nice, although artificial, mint flavor that did not overwhelm.

Oooh, sprinkles!

Old-fashioned deliciousness earns an: A-

The damage at Susiecakes.

9635 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

It's a scene at Sprinkles

We tried:
• Red Velvet
• Irish Chocolate
• Cinnamon Sugar

Sleek and simple. The only thing I don't like about the tiny decorations in the center is that although you can eat them, you really shouldn't.

On the left, we have Cinnamon Sugar; in the back is Red Velvet; and on the right is the St. Patrick's Day special, Irish Chocolate.
A delicate crumb. Rich, deep flavors. What more could you ask for in a cupcake? O.K. I will register a few complaints, but I don't really mean them: the Irish Chocolate, a Belgian dark chocolate cake topped with Bailey's Irish Cream Cheese Frosting, could have had a stronger Bailey's flavor; and the Cinnamon Sugar is really more like a muffin. (It's topped with sparkling sugar, not frosting.)

Yes, it's a scene. Yes, $3.25 for a cupcake is outrageous. But come on, live a little: A

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Adventures in . . . Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Ina, you have failed me. Not the kind of failure where I, like, stop making your pesto pasta or coconut cupcakes or peach blueberry crumbles--don't worry, it's nothing like that. It's a very minor kind of failure, the kind where, maybe, next time, when a whole bunch of wackos on the Food Network website tell me that your carrot cake is too oily, that the cooking time for it is drastically wrong, well, maybe next time I'll believe them. And I'll add to my list of complaints: they sank! I hate when cupcakes sink, but then again, they're so easily salvageable--I just slapped a whole lot of cream cheese frosting on top of them, made a little "x" with some extra grated carrot, and these guys were good to go. And, well, I'll just admit it, oily and sunken and slathered with much too much cream cheese frosting, these were pretty delicious.

Ina Garten's Carrot Cake Cupcakes

2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 extra-large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups grated carrots (less than 1 pound)
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
Cream Cheese Frosting--see the Coconut Cupcakes post

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line muffin tins

• Grate 3 C carrots, chop 1 C walnuts, and measure out 1 C raisins. Set aside together.
• Sift in separate bowl:
2 C flour
2 t cinnamon
2 t baking soda
1 ½ t salt
• In separate, large bowl, beat together with electric mixer :
2 C sugar
1 1/3 C vegetable oil
1 t vanilla
• Add 3 eggs, 1 at a time.
• With the mixer on low speed, add ½ of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Add carrot/raisin/walnut mixture to the remaining dry mix, mix well, and add to the batter. Mix until just combined.

Scoop batter into 22 muffin cups, about ¾ full. Bake at 375 for 10 min., then reduce oven temp. to 350, and cook for a further 15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean (I actually kept them in a little bit longer, just to see whether they would get some more structurally integrity--alas, they did not.). Cool on a rack.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Adventures in . . . Bleeding Heart Cupcakes

I just can't believe how fantastically disgusting these look, and how they manage to look even grosser on camera than in person. This is a particularly bloody looking one because as the frosting melted in the course of painstakingly frosting tiny nerves on two dozen cupcakes, the dye started to separate from the frosting. My vein-frosting skills were improving by such unexpected margins that I decided to appreciate the increasingly bloody veins rather than pause and refrigerate the frosting.

This recipe comes from Clare Crespo's book Hey There, Cupcake! , which I don't own, but I found this particular recipe on Epicurious. It was a fun recipe to make, and I might make veiny cupcakes once again, but probably not with this recipe. It is just a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting, and then you drop a little bit of strawberry jam into the cupcake to make "blood." So actually making the cakes was pretty easy, but the assembly was a bitch: removing little plugs from each cupcake, dropping in a little 1/2 t of strawberry jam, plugging them back up, frosting with pink frosting, then doing the blue and red veins. It was labor-intensive, to say the least. Plus I think that I should have found a strawberry frosting recipe to go with the strawberry jam, but I didn't think of that till it was too late.

Bleeding Heart Cupcakes
from Clare Crespo

Preheat oven to 350. Line tins. Remove butter and whole milk from fridge.

In a medium bowl, sift:
3 C flour
2 ½ t b.p.
½ t salt

In a separate, larger bowl, cream 2/3 C butter (1 + 1/3 sticks?).
Gradually add 1 ¾ C sugar, creaming until light and fluffy.
Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a small bowl, combine:
1 ¼ C whole milk
1 t vanilla

To the butter mixture, add ¼ of the flour mixture and mix well. Add about one quarter of the milk mixture and mix well. Continue alternating the flour mixture and milk mixture, beating after each addition until smooth.

Pour into tins. Bake 15-20 min.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

In a large bowl, cream ½ C butter until smooth.
4 C powdered sugar
½ t salt
1/3 C whole milk
1 t vanilla

Mix until smooth and creamy.
Keep 2/3 of the frosting in that bowl. Divide 1/3 of it into two additional bowls. Color the big bowl pink. Color the remaining bowls blue and red.


With a small paring knife, cut out a circle about the size of a dime in the center of each cupcake, going about 2/3 of the way in. Pull the little plug of cake out. Cut off the top of this piece (About ½ in. thick), and eat or discard the bottom. Use a teaspoon or a squeeze bottle to fill the hole partway with strawberry jelly "blood." Put the little cake plug back in.

Frost the cupcakes with the pink frosting. Make it super smooth by dipping the knife into a bowl of hot water and smoothing it over the top. With a pastry bag, use the red and blue frosting to make veins on the hearts.

Adventures in . . . Red Velvet Cupcakes

It was only three years ago that I had never heard of Red Velvet. And I have to admit, the first few times I tried it, I didn't understand it. But I have a new crush on Cream Cheese Frosting, and Valentine's Day is just around the corner, so I figured it would be just be wrong not to make Red Velvet Cupcakes.

I found this recipe on the Food Network Website, courtesy of Paula Deen. I adore her, but very few things she cooks ever appeal to me, so I was psyched to get to try one of her recipes. It turned out terrific, although Andrew said the frosting was "tangy." Not sure what that means.

Paula Deen's Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat oven to 350. Line tins. Remove 1 C buttermilk, 2 eggs, 2 things cream cheese, and 2 sticks butter from fridge.

In medium mixing bowl, sift together:
2 ½ C flour
1 ½ C sugar
1 t b.s.
1 t salt
1 t cocoa powder

In a large bowl, gently beat together:
1 ½ C vegetable oil
1 C buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 T red food coloring
1 t white distilled vinegar
1 t vanilla extract

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide into tins about 2/3 full. Bake 20-22 min. (I baked 24-25 min., but again, my oven is a relic from like the industrial revolution.)

Cream Cheese Frosting

In large mixing bowl, beat until smooth:
1 lb cream cheese
2 sticks butter
1 t vanilla

Add 4 C sifted confectioners' sugar on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase speed to high, and mix until very light and fluffy.

NOTE: The second time I made this recipe, I used the Cream Cheese Frosting from Ina Garten's Coconut Cupcakes (recipe on this blog), sans almond extract. I think it's better--it has less cream cheese, so it's a bit more subtle.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Adventures in . . . Orange Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes

This is my first time converting a cake recipe into cupcakes. I was a little bit nervous about it, but I think it was pretty much a success. I took Ina Garten's delicious Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake, made it pretty much exactly as the recipe says, but then scooped it into lined muffin tins. The only thing that was a little bit messy was spreading the orange-sugar syrup over the cupcakes; next time, I think I will do this with a pastry brush, because you can't just pour it over the cupcakes as you would a cake (it gets the liners all sticky!). I wanted to make candied orange peel, but to be totally honest, this recipe is sort of a "potchke" already (what with all the zesting and juicing and orange-sugar glazing), so I scrapped that ambition. I should also note that the consistency of this cupcake is more like a muffin or a breakfast cake--it doesn't have that light, delicate crumb that usually characterizes a cupcake. Anyway, I don't see this as a problem.

(Ina's) Orange Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes with Coffee-Chocolate Ganache
Makes 24 regular size cupcakes + 24 minis.

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tins. Take butter, buttermilk, and eggs out of fridge.

Zest 4 oranges to get ¼ C grated orange zest. Squeeze oranges to get 1/2 C o.j.

Sift in a bowl:
3 C flour
½ t b.p.
½ t b.s.
1 t salt

In another bowl, combine:
¼ C orange juice (half of the o.j.)
¾ C buttermilk
1 t vanilla extract

In a whole nother bowl, cream until light and fluffy (5 min):
½ lb unsalted butter at room temp
2 C sugar

Add 4 extra-large eggs, one at a time, and then orange zest.

Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in thirds to the creamed butter, beginning and ending with the flour.

Toss 2 C semisweet chocolate chunks with 2 T flour, and add to the batter.

Scoop into tins, and bake for 24 minutes. (Minis bake for about 12-14 minutes.)

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook ¼ C sugar with ¼ C o.j. until sugar dissolves. Spoon over cakes after removing them from pans.

Ganache (I altered this recipe to make more ganache)
Melt in a double boiler, stirring occasionally:
12 oz semisweet choco chips
3/4 C heavy cream
1 t instant coffee granules

Spread ganache over cupcakes once they're cool. If you're a better person than I am, top with candied orange peel. Otherwise, I stuck a slice of orange on top of each cupcake, which I don't really recommend (it was a little bit juicy, and it's just sort of weird.)

Second Adventure in Sweet Mandy B's Cupcakes

I decided that although my first batch of Sweet Mandy B's Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes were delicious, there was definitely room for improvement.

So I made a few small changes to the recipe:
(1) I upped the amount of baking powder and baking soda, just by 1/4 teaspoon each, to see whether I could get them to rise with a bit more confidence
(2) I raised the oven temp to 350, since the oven I'm using is from the 1950's anyway, so I figured it wouldn't hurt
(3) I baked them for only 22-24 minutes (22 for one pan, 2 minutes longer for the other)
(4) I made sure really to fill the tins only 1/2 full. This way I ended up with 24 regular size cupcakes + 24 mini-minis
(5) I realized that the first time I'd made the frosting, I'd used about 1/2 the amount of confectioners' sugar that the recipe had called for, so I pretty much stuck with this mistake, since I thought the frosting came out so great
and (6) I doubled the amount of frosting, because the other night I didn't have enough to pipe. This made about 30% too much frosting, so I will have to tinker with that in the revised recipe below.

So, the results: they didn't dome, but they didn't sink this time, so I considered this a triumph. Plus since I exercised some control with the scooping, they didn't look like muffins. All in all, it was a big success. I can't wait to make these again.

Here's the revised recipe:

REVISED Sweet Mandy B's Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Makes 24 regular-size + 24 mini-mini cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tins.

Sift into big bowl:
1 ½ C flour
1 C unsweetened cocoa
1 ½ t b.s.
1 1/2 t b.p.
1 t salt
2 C sugar

Turn mixer on low and add, in order:
¾ C hot water
¾ C milk
2 eggs
½ C vegetable oil
1 ½ t vanilla extract

Scrape down sides of bowl and beat on medium, briefly, to achieve a smooth batter.

Scoop into muffin tins. Fill tins about ½ full. Bake for 22-24 min.

Chocolate Frosting
3 sticks butter

Beat in:
4 1/2 T dark corn syrup
1.5 t vanilla
generous pinch salt

With machine off, sift in 1 C unsweetened cocoa. Carefully turn the mixer on low and avoid inhaling. Then turn off and sift in 1 lb (about 4 1/2 C) confectioners' sugar, in three parts. Last, add 3/4 C whipping cream, and beat until fluffy.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Adventures in . . . Vegan Graham Cracker Cupcakes

It's another recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World! Although I think it might be one of my last. While these recipes are reliable and easy, I'm just not crazy about the texture and consistency of the vegan cake. The vegan buttercream frosting, though, that was something. Yet, even the frosting is problematic, because it's made with vegan shortening that just sort of weirds me out. I think I'm going to leave the vegan confections to Sam, the vegan-cookie guy.

So on to this Graham Cracker Cupcake. They were a bit disappointing. They were pretty oily, and, like the other vegan cupcakes, lacked structural integrity. The cake itself is made with graham cracker crumbs, but in the end, it didn't really taste like graham cracker; it tasted more like molasses (there are molasses in it). Plus, these were supposed to be S'mores cupcakes, but the chocolate bar I bought to shave on top had milk fat in it. Plus it turns out that honey (as in, Honey Maid Graham Crackers) isn't vegan! I guess theoretically I could have figured that out (It comes from bees; bees are animals), but for some reason I didn't until Sam, the aforementioned vegan-cookie guy, told me. So I guess you have to find special vegan graham crackers and special milkfat-less chocolate. See what I mean? I'm done with the vegan cupcakes.

Here's the recipe:

S'mores Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World
Makes 12 regular + 8 mini-minis

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tin.

Make graham cracker crumbs by putting about 6 whole graham crackers into the food processor. Measure out 1/2 C.

Mix in a large bowl:
3/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C canola oil
2 T molasses
1/4 C soy yogurt
1 1/4 C soy milk
1 t vanilla extract

Sift in a separate bowl:
1 C flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt
Add 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs, and mix it up.

Add dry ingredients to the wet in three batches, mixing well after each addition.
Fill cupcake liners almost full. Bake for 22-25 min (I baked for 22 probably).

Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting (totally the best part, although not really s'more-like)

Beat until well combined and fluffy:
½ C nonhydrogenated shortening
½ C nonhydrogenated margarine

Add 3 ½ C confectioners' sugar, sifted if clumpy, and beat for about 3 more minutes.

Add 1 ½ t vanilla and ¼ C plain soy milk and beat for another 5-7 minutes until fluffy.

Adventures in . . . Sweet Mandy B's Chocolate Cupcakes

Wow. For opening night of the Motley Coffeehouse, I made a chocolate cupcake recipe that comes from Sweet Mandy B's, a bakery in Chicago. The best part, by far, was the frosting. It was the most amazing chocolate frosting I've ever had. I think this has something to do with the fact that I used Scharffen Berger Cocoa Powder (unsweetened), and you could really taste the bright, tangy bite of Scharffen Berger's chocolate. The cake part itself was a bit fussy, and none of the cupcakes really rose that well, and a fair number of them sank. My guess is that they were a little undercooked (I'm not complaining, though.), and that I probably shouldn't have piled so many in the oven at one time. Here's the recipe:

Sweet Mandy B's Chocolate Cupcakes With Chocolate Frosting
Makes 24 + a handful of minis.

Preheat oven to 325. Line muffin tins.

Sift into big bowl:
1 ½ C flour
1 C unsweetened cocoa
1 ¼ t b.s.
1 ¼ t b.p.
1 t salt
2 C sugar

Turn mixer on low and add, in order:
¾ C hot water
¾ C milk
2 eggs
½ C vegetable oil
1 ½ t vanilla extract

Scrape down sides of bowl and beat on medium, briefly, to achieve a smooth batter.

Scoop into muffin tins. Fill tins about ½ full. Bake for 30 min. Chocolate Frosting
1 C (2 sticks) butter

Beat in:
3 T dark corn syrup
1 t vanilla
pinch salt

With machine off, sift in 2/3 C unsweetened cocoa. Carefully turn the mixer on low and avoid inhaling (these were the instructions that I found--is this for real that it's dangerous to inhale cocoa powder?). Then turn off and sift in 1 lb confectioners' sugar, in three parts (I put in 2 C confectioners' sugar, all at once). Last, add ½ C whipping cream, and beat until fluffy.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Adventures in . . . Chocolate "Friands"

My new cookbook obsession is "Tartine," from the unbelievable bakery of same name in San Francisco. In the past few days I've made apple-pear galettes and chocolate croissants from it, but by far the best--and easiest--thing I've made has been these mini chocolate cupcakes. They are as easy to make as vegan cupcakes--it's amazing how much time you save when you don't have to cream butter and eggs--and they are as rich and intense as a flourless chocolate cake. I made them in very mini size, and I don't think that one could handle much more than that.

Here's the recipe for the mini cake:

Tartine Chocolate Friands (makes 24 very mini muffins--this is 1/2 of their recipe, which they claimed made 24, but those must be 24 medium-sized muffins)

Preheat oven to 350. Line 24 mini-muffin-cup tins, or butter and flour baking sheets.

Chop 3 oz bittersweet chocolate, and place in medium mixing bowl. (I put it in a giant measuring cup, so that I could pour straight from the cup. If you do this, they become pretty much one-bowl cupcakes, which is sort of fantastic.)

In a small saucepan, melt 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter over medium heat.

While it's melting, combine in a medium bowl:
3/4 C + 1 1/2 t sugar
1/4 C + 1/8 C flour
1 T cornstarch
1/8 t salt

Pour butter over chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in 3 batches, whisking well after each addition. Add 1 egg and whisk until combined. Then add 1 more egg and whisk just until incorporated.

Fill cups 3/4 full. Bake until cakes start to crack on top--I baked them about 12-13 minutes.

Now, for half of the cupcakes, I just left them as they were and sifted some powdered sugar on top, and they were terrific. I highly recommend this option.

For the other half, I tried to make them look like the ones in the book, and topped them with a chocolate ganache. Then I REALLY tried to make them look like the ones in the book, which had a light brown stripe on them.

I was very annoyed that the book didn't explain what was used to make that stripe, but I experimented by pouring some boiling cream over some heath-bar chunks, and then sticking them in the microwave to melt some more. This didn't really melt the heath bar, but it melted it enough that I could put it in a makeshift pastry bag and squeeze enough out to make the pretty decoration. Anyway, I think this was overkill, and that the plain ones with powdered sugar were perfect as they were. But here's the recipe for that:

Place 2 oz bittersweet chocolate in one bowl, and 2 oz heath bar chunks in another. Bring a little more than a 1/3 C of heavy cream almost to a boil, and pour most of it over the bittersweet chocolate, and some over the heath bar. Whisk the chocolate to form a ganache. Then put the heath bar in the microwave for 30-second increments, stirring or whisking at each interval. Scoop it into a ziplock and trim a teeny hole in one corner, and pipe it in a thin line on the side of a cupcake. Honestly, I don't think it's worth it, but I'm just letting you all know how I did it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Second Adventure in Green Tea Cupcakes

This week I tried the Green Tea Cupcakes recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, since I still had some matcha powder that I wanted to use up. The green tea flavor is intense--you must be a serious green tea lover--but I thought that they turned out great. The cake, like all the cupcakes from this cookbook, is so moist, and, also like all the cupcakes in this book, is ready in a flash (Everything I've made from this cookbook has been essentially a one-bowl cupcake). The glaze was perfect, too, although I added more rice milk to the recipe because I really wanted a glaze--not a frosting--since I knew the perils of a too-thick frosting on a delicate green tea cupcake. The only thing that would have taken longer would be if I had made the pretty little fondant flowers that they made in the cookbook, which, needless to say, I did not do. Instead, I toasted slivered almonds and arranged them three of them in the center of each cupcake--it looked cute (picture forthcoming).

Vegan Green Tea Cupcakes (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World)

Toast slivered almonds for about 4-5 minutes at 375, shaking the pan halfway through.
Lower the heat to 350. Line muffin tins.

In a large bowl, whisk together:
½ C soy yogurt
2/3 C rice milk
¼ t vanilla extract
1/3 C canola oil
½ t almond extract

Beat well to blend in yogurt.

Sift in:
1 ¼ C flour
1 t baking powder
¼ t baking soda
3-4 t matcha powder
¼ t salt
¾ C sugar

Beat a little longer to break up any large lumps.
Fill liners 2/3 full and bake 20 min.

Green Tea Glaze
With a fork, beat 2 T margarine to a fluff.
Mix in 1 C confectioners' sugar and 1/8 to ¼ t matcha powder to form a crumbly texture.
Slowly beat in 1 T rice milk, ¼ t almond extract, and a drop of vanilla extract. If icing is too thick, pour in an additional teaspoon of rice milk. (I added probably 2 or 3 more teaspoons of rice milk.)

Adventures in . . . Disaster

This week I made Mexican "hot" chocolate cupcakes, which I found in an article from the Chicago Tribune (Aug. 15, 2007). The recipe comes from Stephanie Samuels of Angel Food Bakery (never heard of it, but okay). I love mexican hot chocolate, so I thought I'd give the recipe a whirl.

I should have seen the warning signs. A mexican hot chocolate cupcake recipe that doesn't call for actual mexican chocolate? That's odd. A chocolate ganache that you add corn syrup to? corn syrup? That's gross. Plus, melting chocolate in the microwave? really? And then there were the bigger, glaring signs that I somehow ignored: a recipe that calls for 3 cups flour, 3 cups sugar, an entire container of sour cream, and yet says it yields only 18 cupcakes? Now that is just a lie. And for the final problem with this recipe: it said to bake the cupcakes for 15-18 minutes on 325 degrees. This is very strange, since almost all cupcakes bake on 350 for 20-24 minutes. And I did not want molten chocolate cakes--I wanted cupcakes.

Despite all the warning signs that there was something wrong with this recipe, I tried it anyway. It turned out okay. The big problem is the number of cupcakes it makes--I made 24 overflowing muffiny ones plus 24 minis (all of which sank) plus had a few cups of cupcake batter left (it was enough already). This recipe needs to be chopped in half, first of all. I baked them at 325 for what ended up being, oh, 30 minutes, and even then the toothpick never came out clean. Okay, so maybe these cupcakes aren't the kind that you can test that way. Either way, I would suggest hitting the temperature up to 350 and cooking for at least 20 minutes, unless you want something that more closely resembles soup.

Then I don't know what to say about the frostings. Definitely ditch the chocolate ganache recipe and use a standard one. Plus I just think making 2 frostings and piling them on top of each other is total overkill. On the one hand, these cupcakes were sort of gross. On the other hand, they were sort of gross in a good way . . . .

Well here's the recipe, most of which I wouldn't follow:

Mexican "hot" Chocolate Cupcakes

Get a mug of hot coffee (need 1 ½ C). Heat oven to 325. Line muffin tins.

In a microwave-safe bowl, put:
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 ½ sticks butter
Heat in microwave for 30-second intervals, stirring between intervals, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Combine in a large bowl:
3 C sugar
3 eggs
Beat with mixer on low speed.
Slowly beat in chocolate-butter mixture. Stir in sour cream; set aside.

Combine in a medium bowl:
3 C flour
1 ½ t baking powder
1 ½ t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
¾ t salt

Okay, now it's time to put it all together. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with the 1 ½ C coffee to the chocolate mixture—dry/coffee/dry/coffee/dry.

Fill tins ¾ full; bake 15-18 minutes.

Beat 2 sticks butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy.
Beat in 1 box (1 lb) confectioners' sugar and 2 t cinnamon until smooth. Beat in 1 t vanilla and set aside.
[I forgot to mention this in my earlier rant, but this frosting recipe is missing a key ingredient--anything to make this not just a huge lump of unmoveable frosting. I added a few tablespoons of whipping cream, since I had it on hand for the chocolate glaze anyway. It was still too thick to spread, so you have to pipe it.]

Spicy Chocolate Glaze:
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 8 oz bittersweet chocolate and ½ C whipping cream.
Heat in 30-second intervals until chocolate has just melted, about 2 minutes.
Whisk in:
2 T unsalted butter
1 T corn syrup
1/8 t ground red pepper
1/8 t cinnamon

Let glaze cool slightly. Spread frosting on cupcakes. Dip tops into glaze. Refrigerate to set, about 30 minutes (I never put cupcakes in the refrigerator; it screws up the consistency.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Adventures in . . . Chocolate Cabernet Cupcakes

I found these cupcakes on "iVillage." It's a recipe from one Martha Vining. I added a standard chocolate ganache, because what is a cupcake without frosting?

These were pretty good, and they had a perfect round top. I don't think I would make them again, though; they could definitely have been more moist.

Chocolate with Cabernet Cupcakes: (I made 12 regular size + maybe 12 or so minis)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup cabernet sauvignon
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare muffin pans with white paper baking cups.
2. Into the large bowl of an electric mixer, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cocoa powder.
3. Add the oil, vanilla, eggs and wine.
4. Beat with the electric mixer at low speed for 30 seconds. Turn the mixer speed to high and continue beating for three minutes, scraping the sides occasionally.
5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the dried cherries. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pans. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Chocolate Ganache: (this made more than I could use)
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 C half-and-half
2 T unsalted butter

Place chocolate in stainless stell bowl. Heat cream and butter in saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk.

Adventures in . . . Vegan Margarita Cupcakes

On the last day of classes, I had a party called "Death by Alcohol." It was a sort of twisted parody of the party that the college throws at the end of fall semester called "Death by Chocolate." I made all alcoholic cupcakes, including these Margarita Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. (They are the ones sort of in the back, with a sugared rim.) Something was weird with the consistency--maybe they were underbaked? maybe this is just vegan weirdness? Either way, like all the recipes I've tried from Vegan Cupcakes . . . they took about 10 seconds to make (I had squeezed the lime juice already to make something else), and the frosting was really the best part--wow.

Mucho Margarita Cupcakes (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tins.
In large bowl, beat together:
1/4 C freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 t finely grated lime zest
1 C rice milk
1/4 C canola oil
2 T tequila
1/2 t vanilla extract
3/4 C sugar

Sift in:
1 1/3 C flour
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

Mix until batter is smooth. Fill liners 3/4 of the way, and bake for 20-22 minutes.

Margarita Icing (YUM!):
Blend 1/4 C margarine (softened) with a fork till soft and fluffy, then stir in:
1 T rice milk
3 T lime juice
1 T tequila
a very tiny drop of green food coloring

(at this point, all I had was a glob of margarine and a liquidy puddle, but I soldiered on, and it turned out great.)

Sift in 2 C confectioners' sugar and blend with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy and smooth. Then attempt to roll the cupcake edges in sugar to give the margarita look (I sort of failed at this.).

Adventures in . . . Guinness Gingerbread Cranberry Cupcakes

This recipe comes from the blog Cut + paste the url to see the original recipe + photo:

These cupcakes were gorgeous, but I wouldn't make them again. For one thing, they took forever to make, and for another, they didn't have the greatest texture: the tops got sort of hard and chewy (maybe I overbaked them?).

Guinness Gingerbread and Cranberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 C Guinness
1 C molasses
1 1/2 t baking soda
2 C flour
2 T ground ginger
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/8 t ground cardamom
3 large eggs
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar (packed)
3/4 C vegetable oil
3 C fresh cranberries (this is a lot of cranberries! i might have put fewer in)

Candied Cranberries:
1 1/2 C water
1/2 C sugar plus more for rolling
1 C fresh cranberries

Cream Cheese Frosting--I used the recipe from Ina's Coconut Cupcakes w/o the almond extract--see below.

To make candied cranberries: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, dissolve sugar into 1 1/2 C water. Lower heat to barely a simmer. Add cranberries and simmer for 5 minutes, or until softened. Remove from heat and strain cranberries. Discard liquid. When cranberries are cool enough to handle, roll in granulated sugar. Place on waxed paper.

To make cupcakes: Heat oven to 350. Line muffin tins.
Bring stout and molasses to boil in heavy medium saucepan over high heat. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. Let stand 45 minutes to 1 hr to cool completely.
Whisk flour and next 6 ingredients in large bowl to blend.
Whisk eggs and both sugars in medium bowl to blend. Whisk in oil, then stout mixture.
Gradually whisk stout-egg mixture into flour mixture. Stir in fresh cranberries.

Fill tins 2/3 full and bake for 20-25 minutes. Frost with cream cheese frosting and garnish with candied cranberries.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Adventures in . . . Vegan Apricot Almond Cupcakes

Today I tried 2 recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. It is an amazing cookbook, and I can't wait to try every recipe in it. These first two did not dissapoint. They were ready in a flash (no eggs and butter to cream), and they came out perfectly. I was skeptical because the batter was much more liquid-y than that of non-vegan cupcakes, but fear not!

Apricot-Glazed Almond Cupcakes (makes 12)

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tin.
In large bowl, combine:
1/3 C canola oil
3/4 C granulated sugar
1/4 C soy yogurt (sort of yicky, but I tried not to look at it!)
2/3 C almond milk
1 t vanilla extract
2 t almond extract

Sift into that same bowl:
1 C + 2 T all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

Mix until batter is smooth.

1/3 C almond meal + mix until combined.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full.

Then this is the fun part: "Using a 1/2 t masuring spoon, add apricot preserves to the center of each cupcake. Tap lightly on the preserves to get them mostly level with the cupcake batter." (p. 89)

I baked them for 24 minutes. They will still look very light (they won't get golden), but they were definitely ready.

Apricot Glaze:
Boil 1/3 C apricot preserves and 1 T water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. (This is slightly less apricot preserves than the cookbook recommends, but I think it was all that the cupcakes needed.) Bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil for a minute. Turn the heat off and stir the glaze for another 30 seconds.

I used a flat wooden spoon to apply a small amount of glaze to the tops of the cupcakes, and then I put a layer of slivered almonds on top.