Saturday, July 31, 2010

'Roll'ing with the Punches

Life is never without its challenges and the last few weeks have been no exception. While I’ve been under a considerable amount of stress I have also been making a ton of cupcakes but mostly for my own personal consumption. If I hadn’t been blessed with a decent metabolism I would have needed an air lift to be taken out of my house. Stress eating anyone? Sadly,I’ve been waiting for there to be a break in the storm but when none appeared I had to make my own. Tonight I had one of those nights where bedtime couldn’t come fast enough and I craved silence and solitude. Once my little sweeties were finally asleep I was met with 2 options; 1. clean stuff or 2. bake stuff. Obviously, I chose the second option. It’d been a while since I’d experimented with new recipes and even longer since I’d felt a strong sense of pride and accomplishment not associated with my kids. This cupcaking thing is mine and mine alone, I never realized how much that meant to me until tonight.

At 10:00 PM I starting mixing, looking at my revised recipes, scribbling new changes, and finally pouring my new concoction into little paper cups. I said a quick prayer that these ones wouldn’t sink like the previous 3 but at the same time wouldn’t come out with the consistency of sand. I nervously placed the first tray of cupcakes into the oven, typed 15 minutes into my timer and began working on my frosting. The frosting is so much easier. It is simple and if you add too much of one thing you can simply add a little of something else. Cupcakes, on the other hand, require all components to work perfectly and in the right measurements in order to turn out just right. About 6 minutes into their baking I peeked and I saw sinking. My heart dropped initially but I thought to myself “No, it isn’t over yet. Things can still turn around.” Such familiar words. Nine minutes later, while on the phone with my hubby, the timer went off. I nearly cried when I opened the oven to see normal looking cupcakes. I pulled them out immediately to cool (something that makes them turn out SO much better). I sort of skipped around the kitchen while waiting for them to cool enough to frost. I needed this win. I frosted the first cupcake and took the first bite. It tasted like VICTORY! This recipe I’d been battling for longer than I care to admit was DONE and DELICIOUS. Now I share it with you.

My Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes.

1/2 cup unsalted butter (I use the sweet cream unsalted)
3 eggs
2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil

I don’t know how you other professional bakers mix things but I usually mix the dry ingredients first and then add in the wet. Fill the cupcake cups 1/2 full (or empty if you prefer). If you want to make things a little more fun and cinnamon roll-like you can mix sugar and cinnamon and put a 1/4 teaspoon in the center of each cupcake, then use a toothpick to make a swirl. Fun.

Now for the Cream cheese frosting.

1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 heavy whipping cream
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (add to the butter and cream cheese 1/2 cup at a time)
8 oz softened cream cheese.

Use Philadelphia cream cheese. I am one of those people who usually says “the store brand is just as good”. Not here, totally worth it to just buy the name brand. If you like your frosting a little thicker just add more powdered sugar.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed FINALLY creating them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Oh dear, what have I done?

When I was in high school some little boys that lived on my street sold me some candies called "Mint Meltaways". I still believe to this day that they were the tastiest candies I've ever eaten. Those candies are what inspired me to make the following cupcakes. I have to warn you, they are going to ruin any diet you may be on and don't bother making them if you are on a bikini-ready body deadline.

The recipe is pretty simple if you don't mind using boxed cake mix. My scratch baking skills haven't really developed as quickly as I'd hoped so we are relying on Betty Crocker just a little while longer.

1 Box Devil's food cake mix (bake as directed)
1/2 teaspoon Mint extract
Large Package of Andes mints

Mix boxed cake as directed then add the mint extract and mix well. Distribute the mix into cupcake cups and then top with Andes mints. BAKE! As the cupcake cooks the mints will melt and end up being a yummy creamy center!
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I was told by my cupcake testers that this recipe was plenty delicious without the frosting but I loooove chocolate so I just used chocolate butter cream frosting. YUM!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A tribute to Funfetti

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After spending the last few days working on my first recipe I decided to take a break from "scratch" cupcakes and go back to an old favorite, Funfetti. I'd completely forgotten how delicious they were because I'd been eating my mutant concoctions all week. When you are making funfetti there is a certain point in the baking process that the smell of sweet cakey goodness hits you and you get excited for the dessert portion of the evening. Frankly, 90% of the reason I eat dinner is for dessert. The remaining 10% is so I don't have to eat a bowl of cereal in the middle of the night to tide me over until breakfast.

What is it about the Funfetti? Every time I go to take a bite it looks like something you'd serve at a 6 year old's birthday party... and it is....but I know there are other mommies like me making funfetti cupcakes under the guise of special treats for their kids just to devour them after the kids are asleep. They are the perfect cupcake.If they were to somehow incorporate chocolate into the recipe without losing the simplicity that makes it so yummy I would gain an extra 30 lbs in only a few months. Whatever it is, I love them and may never lose the baby weight because of them.

Here's to you Funfetti... You're the best!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Boxed cake mix - you’ve met your match.

How sad is it that I've struggled with something that so many consider to be easy? I really do hope that those who have had trouble with baking find some comfort in sharing my struggles. I threw my heart and soul into this project and HOORAY I got results!

As with all things in order to be successful you also have to work hard, but I never thought that baking would involve so much research. Over the last week I’ve spent hours looking for different ways I can improve my baking skills. It turns out that making slight changes here and there in the baking process can make a major difference in the outcome. When I first bit into my first carrot cupcake success I nearly cried, it was so moist, soft, and not burnt in the least. I took a big plate of them to each of my neighbors because I was so proud of what I’d done. Several of my female neighbors seemed almost angry with me once they tasted them and some became more obviously angry as I told them I’d be making A LOT more cupcakes for them.

Jealous of my cupcaking skills? Well her are some of the things that helped me bake a successful batch of cupcakes;

* Make sure all ingredients are room temperature - eggs should sit out for 20 minutes prior to mixing and water/milk should be room temperature when used.
* Only cook one pan at a time - the mix will keep while you are waiting for the first batch to cook.
* Remove the cupcakes from the pan as soon as they are taken out of the oven that way they don’t continue cooking.
* Check on them before they are supposed to be done and set the timer for a few minutes before the recommended amount of time.
* Only fill the cupcake cups 1/2 to 2/3 full to ensure that they cook evenly.

Now that I’ve mastered the art of the pre-made box cupcakes I’m going to give my own recipe a try.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cupcaking is for Everyone, Even Me.

I am not a professional baker... I wouldn't even say I have a gift for baking. I normally have my husband do the baking for me because everything just seems to come out better when he sticks it in the oven. It doesn't make any sense that two people can follow a recipe exactly and then end up with two very different results but here I sit, a cupcake fraud. My goal here is to improve. I'm going to start simple... with out-of-the-box cake mix and then *hopefully* I'll advance to making cupcakes successfully from scratch AND creating new recipes. If I can do it ANYONE can do it. Most importantly, I'll be sharing my newfound tricks and successes here so that others can benefit from my adventures in cupcaking and become skilled cupcakers themselves.

Why cupcakes? Wouldn't whole cakes be easier?
Yes, yes they would. Let be honest here, though. Cupcakes are special....Why?
1. They are portable. I like to keep a cupcake on hand at all times because you never know when you are going to need to eat your feelings on the go. Sometimes when things take a negative turn all I need is a few bites of funfetti and the world seems a little brighter and more optimistic.
2. They are no-nonsense. At nearly every special event, cake is a focal point. Most people spend a considerable amount of time thinking "I wonder what kind of cake it is. Hope it does/doesn't have nuts. If the frosting is brown that means there is a good chance for chocolate underneath right? I really don't want a corner piece, too much frosting , but the middle pieces don't have quite enough." Solution? CUPCAKES. They have exactly enough frosting, can be made in many varieties for one event AND no guessing games. You can see what kind of cupcake they are with very little effort.
3. They're like baby cakes. Everyone loves babies and most people like cakes. Cute little cakes = awesome and delicious treat everyone loves.
4. They make creativity less frustrating. In one batch of cupcakes you can try several different decorating techniques. If something doesn't look right or work out you can just pop that cupcake in your mouth and start on a new one with a fresh and delicious canvas.

By this point your mouth should be watering and you should be craving cupcakes.... so join me in my adventure. My first entry is not far away and I will be posting pictures of everything I do.