Cupcake Hero: Cocoa Cupcakes with Zebra Frosting

May 29, 2008 at 12:49 pm | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 37 Comments

cocoa cupcakes with zebra frosting 

There has been something conspicuously absent from my diet the last few weeks.  Yeah, that’s right, where’s all the chocolate?  Trust me, I have noticed this and I aim to correct it now, thanks to Laurie and her cocoa powder-themed May Cupcake Hero event.  What’s more, Laurie has a prize from Askinosie Chocolate up for grabs!  Even if I’d been stuffing myself with the food of the gods lately, that’s all the incentive I need to make up a batch of cocoa cupcakes.

First things first, I had start with a good cake, and I knew I wanted it to be cocoa all the way through.  I poked around for a chocolate cupcake recipe that would incorporate cocoa as well as buttermilk (whenever I have an already open container in the fridge, and I really try to use it up).  Of course it was Ina to the rescue!  She had one that sounded pretty good in her book Barefoot Contessa at Home, but it made 14 to 15 cupcakes.  What a weird amount, and I certainly didn’t want that many…I didn’t even want half that.  So I cut it back to a third and somehow still wound up with six cupcakes.  I was a math major in college and even though those skills are a little rusty these days, I’m pretty sure six times three doesn’t equal 14 to 15.  But six was actually perfect, so don’t think I’m complaining.

The frosting was a little trickier, as I didn’t have any good gimmick planned ahead for my cupcakes.  Suddenly last week I realized it would be Memorial Day weekend back in the States (which you can forget all about when you’re so far away that it’s almost winter where you live), and in New York all the Mister Softee trucks would be out in force.  I began to feel quite sad thinking about the annoyingly catchy tune broadcast from the trucks’ speakers and my favorite soft-serve twist cones (which I have always called a “zebra” cone).  So zebra frosting it was gonna be, in buttercream form, of course!

cocoa cupcakes with zebra frosting

I used a favorite whole-egg buttercream from Baking Illustrated.  The amount yielded in the recipe I provide is likely more than you will need for six cupcakes (it’s probably better suited to 12), but I’ve found that trying to do a really small amount in the KitchenAid doesn’t work well. One egg isn’t enough for the whip to pick up and aerate. Just use what you think you will need and save the rest as plain to flavor and use for another batch anytime with the next couple weeks. Although, if you have a hand-held mixer (I do not), then you may have fine results making just half the provided amount.

The trick to piping it zebra-style is to first set aside half the frosting you are using in one bowl (to be left as plain vanilla). Put the remaining half in another bowl, and to that, whisk in sifted cocoa (a teaspoon at a time) until you get the desired color and taste.  Then take a piping bag fitted with a wide tip and hold it wide open in one hand. Spoon in the vanilla frosting down one side of the bag and the chocolate down the other, so that the two are divided down the center. If you look into the bag, it will essentially look like a black and white cookie. You may have to squeeze out the first little bit into a bowl until you get the two halves coming through the tip.

The twisty frosting was oh-so-cute, and the cakes were moist and black as night. I didn’t even recognize the pastel cupcake liners I used!  They held up well in the fridge, too.  We ate ours over the course of three nights, bringing them up to room temperature first.  And I don’t know if it was because we’d been so chocolate-deprived, but we inhaled those cocoa things in all of two bites!

Cocoa Cupcakes- makes 6 regular-size cupcakes
adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home (here’s a link to the original)

4 T (2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 T + 2 t granulated sugar
3 T + 2 t light brown sugar, packed
1 medium or large egg, at room temperature
3/4 t pure vanilla extract
1/3 c buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
2 T + 2 t sour cream, at room temperature
2 t brewed coffee
1/3 c + 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c good cocoa powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/8 t kosher salt

-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

-By hand, or using a hand-held mixer, cream the butter and two sugars until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Add the egg, then add the vanilla and mix well.

-In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

-Add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

-Divide the batter among the cupcake pans. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (keep an eye out so you don’t overbake).

-Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely on a rack before frosting.

Zebra Frosting - makes about 2 cups
adapted from a recipe for vanilla buttercream in Cook’s Illustrated’s Baking Illustrated

2 large eggs
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) sugar
1 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt
16 T (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into pieces
cocoa powder to taste

-Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepot. In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Set the bowl over the simmering water (making a double boiler). Whisk gently but constantly until the mixture reaches 160°F. It should be thin and foamy.

-Transfer the bowl to the mixer and whip until light, airy and room temperature. This should take about five minutes. Reduce the speed and whip in the butter, piece by piece. If it looks curdled halfway through, it should come together as you add the remaining butter.

-Once all the butter is incorporated, beat on high speed for about a minute until light and fluffy. You can refrigerate, covered, for a least a couple weeks, or flavor straight away.

 -To flavor, eyeball the portion of buttercream you will need for the amount of cupcakes you have.  Let come to room temperature if chilled.  Set aside half the frosting you are using in one bowl (to be left as plain vanilla) . Put the remaining half in another bowl, and to that, whisk in sifted cocoa, a teaspoon at a time, until you get the desired color and taste.

-Take a piping bag fitted with a wide tip and hold it wide open in one hand. Spoon in the vanilla frosting down one side of the bag and the chocolate down the other, so that a line basically forms down the center, separating the two. If you look into the bag, it will essentially look like a black and white cookie. You may have to squeeze out the first little bit into a bowl until you get the two halves coming through the tip. Then frost your cupcakes in a twisty swirl.

Cupcake Hero: Rhubarb-Filled Yogurt Cupcakes for Mother Earth

April 30, 2008 at 5:55 pm | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 28 Comments

rhubarb-filled yogurt cupcakes

Kermit the Frog summed it up best when he sang, “It’s not easy being green.”  I tell ya, you want to buy organic products, but they’re nowhere near local.  You take your own tote bags to the grocery store, but you still have to practically wrestle the plastic ones out the the cashier’s hands.  You try to recycle as much as possible, but then your neighbor throws her baby’s dirty diapers into the plastics recycling bin (nice!).  And it’s expensive, even more so in Sydney than in New York.  You should see the amount of cazash I plonk down at the growers’ markets here ($27 for an organic chicken last week!), and the enviro-friendly cleaning products cost a small fortune.

What’s a little frog to do?  The best she can, I guess.  I’m happy to see that a lot of bloggers have gone green during April to celebrate Earth Day.  These may not be the most kid-friendly cupcakes, but I wanted to make something earthy, delicious and maybe even slightly healthy for Cupcake Hero‘s own celebration of the planet.  We all know that cupcakes make the world go ’round! 

These should be called “rhubarb-filled yogurt cupcakes with lemon butter icing and pistachios,” but that’s a little long, don’t cha think?  To make these, I used as many organic and/or local products I could.  The exceptions are the baking powder and baking soda (which I think exist in organic form, but I couldn’t find them at the health food store) and the icing sugar (which although not organic, and certainly not local, is unrefined).  The pistachios, lemon and rhubarb came from a local farmers’ market, and everything else from either the regular grocery store (which stocks a good range of organics) or the health food store.  None of these items even required a car ride…all were picked up within reasonable walking distance from my place.   And, while I am the first to admit that my giant collection of cupcake papers borders on the crazy, in efforts to make as little waste as possible, I baked these au naturel .

rhubarb-filled yogurt cupcakes

The cupcakes are delicious, moist and not too sweet.  Their brown color comes from Alter Eco’s organic ground cane sugar.  This is more like a soft brown sugar than a white granulated one.  The cupcakes domed a bit in the oven, which at first had me a little peeved, but then I used it to my advantage, as they appear to have a huge mound of frosting on top, but really the amount is quite modest. My favorite part is hidden inside–the rhubarb compote, which you can modify according to your own sweetness preference.  I made a big bunch, because whatever doesn’t get used in the cupcakes is amazing on top of oatmeal or with granola and yogurt.  The icing is so simple, and it is great with the rhubarb.  The refined icing sugar (I used Billington’s) is less harshly sweet, if you know what I mean, than regular powdered sugar and it is and a beautiful ivory color…I should always use this stuff.

rhubarb-filled yogurt cupcakes

Rhubarb-Filled Yogurt Cupcakes- makes 6 regular-size cupcakes

-Start by making and chilling the rhubarb compote (process below).

-Bake and cool the yogurt cupcakes (recipe below).

-If your pistachios have papery skins on them, blanche them for a minute in boiling water.  Drain them, and once cool enough to handle, slip off the skins.  Chop them roughly.

-Make the lemon butter icing.

-To fill the cooled cupcakes, use a small knife or round cookie cutter to cut a plug out of the center of each (going in from the top).  Save the top bit of each plug.  Fill each cavity with rhubarb compote.  Cover with the top bit so the filling is not exposed.

-Top with the icing and sprinkle on the chopped pistachios.

Rhubarb Compote
Note:  This is more of a process than a recipe, and can be adjusted depending upon the amount of rhubarb you have and how sweet you would like it to be.  I’d use at least 6 stalks, and any leftover compote is great on oatmeal or with yogurt.

-Trim off the tops and bottoms of each stalk of rhubarb.  Use a pairing knife to peel away any strings. Cut into 1-inch pieces. 

-Weigh the cut rhubarb.  Measure out sugar equal to 1/4 to 1/3 of the weight of the rhubarb, depending on how sweet you’d like it.  If you don’t have a scale, you can eyeball or use cup measurements.

-Put rhubarb pieces and sugar into a heavy-bottomed pot.  Add a small splash of water (just to keep the rhubarb from burning) and place over medium heat.  Stir frequently to keep from sticking to the bottom.

-Simmer for several minutes until the rhubarb releases its juice and the sugar is dissolved.  The rhubarb will soften and break down and the liquid should be reduced (although if you have an excessive amount, you can tip it out).  All this will probably take about 10 minutes, unless you are working with a very large quantity.

-Transfer to a container and chill.  This will keep for a week or two.

Yogurt Cupcakes- makes 6 regular-sized cupcakes
heavily modified from The 1997 Joy of Cooking

Note: I used salted butter in this recipe, as it is the only organic kind sold here (therefore, there is no added salt in the ingredients list).  If you are using unsalted butter, add a 1/4 t salt in with the dry ingredients.

1 c sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
2 1/2 T salted butter, room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1/2 egg (break egg into a cup, whisk it and pour out half)
1 egg white
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 c plain yogurt (full or nonfat), cool room temperature

 -Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and spray and flour six cavities of a muffin tin (or line with six paper cups). 

-Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Set aside.

-Beat the butter in a large mixing bowl until creamy.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until light in color and texture.  (The amount was too small for my stand mixer, so I did it by hand.  Handheld electric beaters would also work well.)

-Whisk together the 1/2 egg, egg white and vanilla.  Gradually beat into the butter/sugar mixture until thoroughly combined.

-Add the dry ingredients and yogurt in three parts, alternating and beating smooth after each addition. 

-Divide the batter in the tin, and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the tins for a few minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.  

Lemon Butter Icing- makes enough to generously frost 6 cupcakes
adapted from Everyday by Bill Granger

4 T butter (salted or unsalted), room temperature
3 3/4 oz powdered sugar, sifted
2 t lemon zest (finely grated)
2t lemon juice

-Beat the butter until very soft and white.  Beat in the powdered sugar, lemon zest and juice.  (You can adjust consistency with either extra powdered sugar or lemon juice.)

CH#6: Rum Punch Cupcakes

February 24, 2008 at 5:40 pm | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 18 Comments

rum punch cupcakes

If you ask me, any time involving rum punch is a good time.  It may have been a decade (or more!) since spring break in Cancún, but rum punch is just as much fun today as it was back then.  For this month’s liquor-laden Cupcake Hero event (hosted, as always by Laurie, and this time with the assistance of Tempered Woman), I wanted to make a cupcake that, while maybe didn’t have quite the same GGW effect (totally kidding–that is not me at all!!) as knocking back a few plastic cups o’ rum punch, at least incorporated some the flavors.  Pineapple, orange, and of course rum, were what I was going for.  And please don’t forget the paper umbrella…

To start off, I made some modifications to Billy Reece’s Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcake recipe, which I used in my cherry-lime rickey cupcakes awhile back.  By modifications, I mean I dropped the vanilla, vanilla and made them rum, rum.  I swapped out all of the vanilla extract and one-quarter of the milk for Caribbean rum.  They did have a different texture than Billy’s original recipe.  Not dry at all, but more dense…almost like a rummy poundcake.  I’m guessing this is because when I substituted 25% of the milk for rum, I took out a portion of the fat component.  I didn’t expect that to happen, but I didn’t entirely mind it either.

rum punch cupcakes

I wanted to make a filling for the cupcakes, but didn’t want to do a lot of work.  I decided to spruce up some more of that Bird’s custard powder I have in the cupboard (any custard mix would do and homemade would be great) with orange zest and Grand Marnier.  I set aside a portion of the cooled orange custard and mixed crushed pineapple into the rest.  (I bough a fresh pineapple and roughly crushed up a good sized chunk of it in my mini food processor.)  Filling done.

Coming up with a frosting was a tricky one.  Meringue didn’t sound right…too sweet and not enough flavor.  And buttercream was too heavy and fussy.  I really liked the whipped cream topping on my cappuccino cupcakes last month.  It was super easy and light, but also needed a bit of tropical flavor.  I took that plain orange custard I had set aside before and folded that into whipped cream, and my frosting was ready to go.  Since whipped cream is not the most stable stuff in the world, I’d recommend doing this part shortly before serving.

These were quite nice; pleasantly boozy but not too overpowering.  And I love anything with a little umbrella!

rum punch cupcakes

You may notice that the recipe below is rather vague in measurements (quite bogan as they say in Australia).  This is because I quartered the cupcake recipe (this gave me four cupcakes, but I could have squeaked out five if I’d made them a bit smaller), and then I basically eyeballed what I’d need to fill and frost them, since there were so few.  I trust that you have good judgement, and if you make too much of something, then consider it an extra snack.

Rum Punch Cupcakes- makes as many as you want

-Start with a batch of baked and cooled Billy’s Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes, substitute rum for all of the vanilla in the recipe and up to 25% of the milk.  (Not wanting 30 cupcakes, I did a quarter batch, which yields four or five.)

-Make and cool some rum simple syrup.  See here for the recipe for plain simple syrup.  To flavor it, add a splash of rum as soon as you take it off the heat.  (You can make a full recipe of plain syrup and just flavor a portion with rum.  The rest can be saved in the fridge for a month or so and be used to sweeten iced tea or coffee, or to moisten other cakes, etc.)

-Make and chill some orange custard, using your favorite pudding recipe with orange zest and Grand Marnier added to taste, or prepare custard powder according to package instructions, flavoring with orange zest and Grand Marnier.  Set aside about 1/4 of it for filling and the rest for topping.

-Into the filling portion of the custard, stir in some drained crushed pineapple.  This will probably be a couple of spoonfuls, depending on how many cupcakes you are making.  You can used canned crushed pineapple or roughly crush some fresh pineapple in the food processor.

-To fill the cupcakes, use a small knife or round cookie cutter to cut a plug out of the center of each (going in from the top).  Save the top bit of each plug.  Spoon a small amount (about 1/4 teaspoon) of rum simple syrup into each cavity.  This is just to keep the cakes moist…don’t drown them.  Fill each cavity with pineapple-orange custard.  Cover with the top bit so the filling is not exposed.

-Make the frosting from lightly sweetened whipped cream folded together with the reserved plain orange custard (about equal parts).  You can whip it up a bit more if it is not stiff enough to sit nicely on top.

-Top and decorate as you see fit.

CH#5: Cappuccino Cupcakes

January 21, 2008 at 11:11 am | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 25 Comments

cappuccino cupcake

In my dream life, I spend my mornings sipping cappuccinos in a café while reading The New Yorker and watching the world go by.  In my real life though, The New Yorkers pile up on the kitchen table, and a cappuccino is a rare treat usually consumed on the go.  Laurie of Quirky Cupcake had her husband, Jaos, pick Cupcake Hero’s theme this month.  He chose coffee, so I thought I’d celebrate my favorite morning drink in cupcake form.

Now, I heard that Jaos likes his cupcakes kept simple, and since it is his birthday (happy 29th!), I kept that in mind.  This is a simple little cupcake (no filling this time), but it has great flavor, thanks to a double shot of espresso in the batter.  A little bit Kahlúa soaking syrup boosts the flavor and keeps them really moist.  The “foam” on top is just whipped cream, sweetened and flavored with an extra splash of Kahlúa.  And finally, because I like cinnamon and coffee, I sprinkled a bit on top.  I made a small batch of just six cupcakes, but the recipe could easily be doubled for a whole tin.

cappuccino cupcake

 Cappuccino Cupcakes- makes 6 regular-size cupcakes

-Start with a batch of Kahlúa syrup (recipe below).

-Bake the espresso cupcakes (recipe below).  Lightly brush warm cupcakes with Kahlúa syrup, then cool completely.

-Whip some cream, sweetening to taste and adding a splash of Kahlúa (or other coffee liqueur) to flavor.  Note that, because whipped cream doesn’t keep well, it’s best to just top the cupcakes you will be eating that day.  If you have extras, make new whipped cream to top them as needed.

-Top with whipped cream and garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Kahlúa Syrup- makes more than you will need, but keeps for a long time and has many uses (like sweetening iced coffee)

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
splash of Kahlúa, or other coffee liqueur

-Combine sugar and water in a small saucepot.  Mix gently with your finger so sugar isn’t stuck to bottom or corners of pot.  Try not to get a lot of sugar on the sides of the pot above water level (cooking time is short, so it shouldn’t crystallize, but just to be safe…)

-Bring just to a full boil, at which point all the sugar should be dissolved.  Shut off heat and add in a splash of coffee liqueur to taste. 

-Transfer to a jar or airtight plastic container for storage.  This will keep in the refrigerator for weeks.

Espresso Cupcakes- makes 6 regular-sized cupcakes

1/2 c plus 3 T all-purpose flour
1/4 t plus 1/8 t baking powder
pinch of salt
3 T brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature
1 T milk
1/2 t instant espresso powder
2 oz butter, room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1 egg

 -Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and line a muffin tin with six paper cups. 

-Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

-Combine the espresso and milk.  Dissolve the instant espresso powder in the mixture and set aside.

-Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until smooth, fluffy and pale.  Add the egg, beating well. 

-Add the dry ingredients and espresso mixture in three parts, alternating and beating smooth after each addition.  Add the liquid additions a little at a time to avoid splitting the batter.

-Divide the batter among the paper cups, and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the tins for a few minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.  

CH#4: Minty Chocolate Cupcakes

December 17, 2007 at 10:02 pm | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 19 Comments

minty chocolate cupcakes

Mint is a really friendly herb.  It gets along with so many things…coconut, almond, citrus, berries, melon, blah blah blah.  So when Laurie of Quirky Cupcake announced that this month’s Cupcake Hero theme is mint, I really had a hard time deciding what to pair it with.  In the end, I maybe went with the most predictable thing–chocolate– but only because I love it so. 

The combination of chocolate and mint around the holidays makes me think of Andes mints.  My mum rarley bought us candy, but for some reason every Thanksgiving and Christmas, she’d bring out Andes with dessert.  My brother and I would go nuts and eat them by the dozen, accumulating a huge mound of the shiny green wrappers next to our plates.  I haven’t had them in at least a decade…I wonder if they would taste so good to me today.  They probably would.

I made a plain chocolate cupcake, from a recipe (called “Peerless Chocolate Cake”) in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book that I have made a zillion times.  I worked the mint flavoring into both a white chocolate whipped ganache frosting and a pudding filling.  For the ganache, I infused a bunch of fresh mint into the cream.  I swirled a couple drops of red gel coloring gently through the finished frosting before putting it into a piping bag in hopes that it would look a little candy cane-like.

minty chocolate cupcakes

For the pudding, I’m not embarrassed to admit to taking a shortcut (hey–cupcakes should be easy, right?). I have this giant tub of Bird’s custard powder in my pantry from when I made Nanaimo bars. I followed instructions on the package to make what I needed for filling, and then mixed in some melted bittersweet chocolate and a couple drops of mint extract. At that point, it tasted pretty good on its own. You could use any brand of packaged mix, or make homemade if you can’t stand the thought of it.

minty chocolate cupcakes

This cake recipe makes a great cupcake.  And mint and chocolate really are perfect together.  The frosting had an earthy mint flavor from the fresh herbs, while the pudding had a snappy mintiness to it.

Natalie from Bake and Destroy! is co-hosting with Laurie this month. Thanks Natalie and Laurie…I’m looking forward to the round-up!

Minty Chocolate Cupcakes- makes 12 regular-size cupcakes

-Make and chill some minty chocolate pudding, using your favorite chocolate pudding recipe with mint extract added to taste, or prepare custard powder according to package instructions, flavoring with melted chocolate and mint extract.

-Bake and cool a batch of chocolate cupcakes (recipe below). 

-Make the minty white chocolate whipped ganache frosting (recipe below).

-To fill the cupcakes, use a small knife or round cookie cutter to cut a plug out of the center of each (going in from the top).  Save the top bit of each plug.  Fill each cavity with minty chocolate pudding.  Cover with the top bit so the filling is not exposed.

-Top with whipped ganache and decorate as you see fit.

Chocolate Cupcakes- makes 12 regular-sized cupcakes
adapted from Marion Cunningham’s The Fannie Farmer Baking Book

1.5 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/4 c water
1 c plus 2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 c butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 c buttermilk

-Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and line a muffin tin with paper cups. 

-Combine the chocolate and water in a small saucepan.  Over medium heat, stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  Set aside to cool.

-Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

-Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until smooth and well-blended.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well.  Add the vanilla and chocolate mixture and beat until blended.  Add the sifted dry ingredients and buttermilk in three parts, alternating and beating smooth after each addition.

-In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry.  Gently stir one-third of the beaten whites into the batter.  Fold in the remaining whites.

-Divide the batter among the paper cups, and cook for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the tins for a few minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.  

Minty White Chocolate Whipped Ganache- makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes

1 cup heavy cream
couple handfuls of fresh mint leaves, picked from stems
7.5 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
7 T butter, very soft

-Put mint leaves in a medium bowl.  Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepot.  Pour hot cream over the mint leaves and let stand until room temperature to infuse.  

-Strain the cream into a measuring cup, pressing gently on the leaves to extract as much cream as possible.  Discard the leaves.  Measure the infused cream…if you have less than 1 cup, add cold cream to make up the difference.

-Put chopped white chocolate in a medium bowl.   Reheat the cream to a simmer in a small saucepot.  Pour hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes to begin to melt.  Gently whisk chocolate and cream together to form a perfectly smooth ganache.  If the taste of mint is not strong enough for your tastes, you can boost it with a couple drops of mint extract.

-Cover and refrigerate for about 45 minutes, until the ganache  is cool and begins to firm up, but is still soft enough to whip.

-By hand with a whisk or with an electric mixer, whip until fluffy frosting consistency.  Whip in the soft butter, piece by piece.  If it starts to look split (mine did), chill it a couple more minutes and it should come together with a bit more persistent beating.

CH#3: Cranberry Bliss Cupcakes

November 30, 2007 at 2:47 am | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 24 Comments

cranberry bliss cupcakes

A couple of months ago, my cherry lime rickey cupcakes were chosen buy Quirky Cupcake Laurie as the winner of the first-ever Cupcake Hero event!  What an honor!  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to come back and defend my title for last month’s clove edition.  I did make two different types of cupcakes for it and both were awful!  Well, I’ve put that mess behind me and come back with a vengeance for this month’s event with a cranberry theme.

My inspiration for these cupcakes is the Cranberry Bliss bar that Starbucks sells around the holidays.  Yes, even in Australia you can find these in the display case at this time of year.  If you are a seasoned Cranberry Bliss bar eater, you will probably recognize me for the fraud that I am.  I have never had one…don’t even know what’s actually in one.  So this is a loose interpretation, containing things that I think are blissful with cranberries!

cranberry bliss cupcakes

I seem to be a fan of filled cupcakes lately (there were the rickeys, the Bostinis and the linzers), and I knew I wanted to make a cupcake that would be filled with Thanksgiving-style cranberry sauce.  I actually even used my leftover sauce for this!  The bar from Starbucks has a cake or cookie base that looks to contain brown sugar, so I went poking around for a brown sugar cupcake recipe.  I found one from Nigella, the beautiful Domestic Goddess, for burnt butter brown sugar cupcakes.  I liked the sound of that–brown butter gives beautiful flavor to baked goods.  I also liked that the batter is quickly blitzed together in the food processor…not a lot of technique involved there.

cranberry bliss cupcakes

The Bliss bars also appear to have a white chocolate topping, so after baking and filling my cupcakes, I frosted them with a white chocolate whipped ganache, into which I had folded toasted pecans and dried cranberries.  I sprinkled some toasted unsweetened coconut flakes and more dried cranberries over the top to finish.  Lush!  The tart cranberries really balance out the sweet frosting and cake.  And the next day, cold out of the fridge, OMG!  My brother declared the cold cupcake to be “f-ing amazing” (please excuse his language).

I don’t find the pictures of cupcake insides to be all that appealing, but here’s a picture of the “guts” anyway…

cranberry bliss cupcakes

Thanks, Laurie, for another fun event!  Can’t wait to see December’s theme!

Cranberry Bliss Cupcakes- makes 12 regular-size cupcakes

-Make and chill the cranberry sauce filling (recipe below).

-Bake and cool a batch of burnt butter brown sugar cupcakes (recipe below). 

-Make the white chocolate whipped ganache frosting and flavor it with pecans and dried cranberries (recipe below).  

-To fill the cupcakes, use a small knife or round cookie cutter to cut a plug out of the center of each (going in from the top).  Save the top bit of each plug.  Fill each cavity with cranberry sauce filling.  Cover with the top bit so the filling is not exposed.

-Top with whipped ganache and garnish with lightly toasted unsweetened coconut flakes and more dried cranberries.

Cranberry Sauce Filling- makes about 1 cup

just under 1/2 cup sugar
just under 1/2 cup water
2 t orange zest
pinch of salt
6 oz whole cranberries, fresh or frozen

-Bring sugar, water, orange zest and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepot.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and add in the cranberries. 

-Simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cranberries pop. 

-Transfer to a nonreactive bowl and cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate until using.

Burnt Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes- makes 12 regular-sized cupcakes
modified from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess

1/2 cup plus 2 T unsalted butter
3/4 cup self-rising cake flour
3 T sugar
5 T brown sugar (I used dark, but light would be fine, too)
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla bean paste (can substitute vanilla extract)
1 t baking powder
pinch of salt
2-3 T milk

-Preheat the oven to 400°F/205°C and line a muffin tin with paper cups. 

-To brown the butter, put it in a small saucepan on medium heat, leaving it until it turns light golden and has nutty-colored brown bits on the bottom (will only take a couple of minutes).  Take the pan off the heat and pour the butter into a bowl or cup, scraping the brown bits (if you have accidentally gotten your butter too dark, strain it, leaving the dark sediment behind). Let the butter begin to solidify again, but you need it to remain soft for the cupcakes.  You can do this by either leaving it at room temperature, which will take awhile, or putting it in the fridge for about 10 minutes.   You want it to be the consistency of regular softened butter.

-When the butter is solid but still soft, put all the cake ingredients except the milk in a food processor and blitz to a smooth batter. As normal, add the milk down the funnel, pulsing sparingly to form a soft, dropping mixture.

-Divide among the paper cups, and cook for 15-20 minutes.  FYI, this does not make much batter, and the cups will not be very full.  Don’t worry, as the combination of self-rising cake flour and baking powder give it a lot of oomph in the oven.  They should rise to normal cupcake size!

White Chocolate Whipped Ganache with Pecans and Cranberries- makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes

7.5 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
7 T butter, very soft
handfull toasted pecans, cooled and roughly chopped
handfull dried cranberries

-Put chopped white chocolate in a medium bowl.  Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepot.  Pour hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes to begin to melt.  Gently whisk chocolate and cream together to form a perfectly smooth ganache.

-Cover and refrigerate for about 45 minutes, until the ganache  is cool and begins to firm up, but is still soft enough to whip.

-By hand with a whisk, whip until fluffy frosting consistency.  Whip in the soft butter, piece by piece.  If it starts to look split, chill it a couple more minutes and it should come together with a few more strokes.  Don’t overbeat the frosting, however, or it may make it too firm.

-Gently fold in pecans and dried cranberries before topping the cupcakes.

Leftover Bostini Cream Cupcakes

October 31, 2007 at 6:58 am | Posted in cupcakes, sweet things | 12 Comments

Bostini cream cupcakes

Boy, even though I scaled back that Bostini cream pie recipe I made along with the Daring Bakers, I still had a ton of stuff leftover!  Enough to make Bositini cream cupcakes!  I had baked my chiffon cakes in a muffin tin, so they were in cupcake form already.  I just cut a bit out from the center of each, filled them with leftover custard and topped them with glaze that had cooled to frosting consistency.

Bostini cream cupcakes

I may be too old to knock on doors for candy, but I still like Halloween treats!

Cupcake Round-Up 2: Linzer Cupcakes

October 19, 2007 at 4:57 pm | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 12 Comments

linzer cupcakes

I always like making the traditional versions of my favorite classics, but I’m game for a bit of a switch-up, too.  Reinvention using seasonal ingredients is actually the theme for the second Cupcake Round-Up, co-hosted by two cupcake bakers extraordinaire: Garrett of Vanilla Garlic and Cheryl of Cupcake Bakeshop.  Inspired by a packet of raspberries in the fridge, I thought the flavors of a linezrtorte would translate well into a cupcake.

I admit I’m a little confused about seasonality here in Australia.  Things that I would never think I would find at certain times of the year pop up in the framers’ market unexpectedly.  And some things, like rhubarb, seem to be widely available year-round.  I have started to see Aussie raspberries, while still outrageously priced (I’ve had to get used to the fact that produce in general is much more expensive here than in the US), being sold for about half the super-outrageous price they were sold for a couple of months ago.  Based on cost, I have decided that raspberries must at least be coming into season (it is almost summer here).  I haven’t had a fresh raspberry since I moved here nine months ago, so I bought a packet. 

I began my little linzer cuppies with a recipe for hazelnut cake from Gina DePalma, pastry chef of the excellent Babbo Restaruant in Manhattan.  As written below, I tweaked it a bit to incorporate some of the other flavors found in a linzertorte (and to use up some sour cream I had in the fridge), but if you want Chef DePalma’s original recipe, you can find it here on Babbo’s website.  The recipe, originally for a single 8″ round, makes twelve perfect cupcakes…I was so pleased.  I made sure they stayed moist with a little douse of simple syrup and filled them with fresh raspberries.  Topped off with raspberry buttercream and garnished with more fresh berries and candied hazelnuts, they were every bit as good as the real thing, and without any fussy lattice work or soft dough. 

linzer cupcakes

The cupcakes take several steps, although none are hard.  But, if it’s one of those days, and you don’t feel like futzing with buttercream and candied nuts, everyone will still love you if you do a simplified version…

linzer cupcakes

Linzer Cupcakes- makes 12 regular-size cupcakes

Note:  If you don’t have seedless raspberry jam for this recipe, just press jam with seeds through a strainer to remove.  Or if you want the seeds, use seeded jam instead.

-Start with a batch of simple syrup (recipe below).

-Bake the hazelnut cupcakes (recipe below).  Lightly brush warm cupcakes with simple syrup, then cool completely.

-Make and cool the candied hazelnut garnish (recipe below).

-Make the raspberry buttercream (recipe below). 
 

-Prep the fresh raspberries.  Depending on size, estimate 3 or 4 raspberries for filling each cupcake, plus extras for decoration.  Loosen few tablespoons (or as much as needed to coat your berries) of raspberry jam with a squirt of lemon juice.  Toss the raspberries into the jam, turning them to coat.  Keep them whole– try not to smash them up.

-To fill the cupcakes, use a small knife or round cookie cutter to cut a plug out of the center of each (going in from the top).  Save the top bit of each plug.  Spoon a small amount (about 1/4 teaspoon) of simple syrup into each cavity.  This is just to keep the cakes moist…don’t drown them.  Put a few jammy raspberries into each cavity.  Cover with the top bit so the filling is not exposed.

-Top with buttercream and garnish with candied hazelnuts and jam-coated raspberries.

Simple Syrup- makes more than you will need, but keeps for a long time and has many uses

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

-Combine sugar and water in a small saucepot.  Mix gently with your finger so sugar isn’t stuck to bottom or corners of pot.  Try not to get a lot of sugar on the sides of the pot above water level (cooking time is short, so it shouldn’t crystallize, but just to be safe…)

-Bring just to a full boil, at which point all the sugar should be dissolved.  Shut off heat.

-Transfer to a jar or airtight plastic container for storage.  This will keep in the refrigerator for weeks.

Hazelnut Cupcakes- makes 12 cupcakes 
adapted from a recipe by Gina DePalma

Note:  If you can’t find hazelnut flour in stores, you can make your own by toasting 1 cup of skinned hazelnuts for five minutes in a 350°F oven.  Cool them completely and pulse them along with 1/4 cup all-purpose flour in the food processor until finely ground but not pasty.  Substitute this mixture for the hazelnut flour in the recipe and only use 1 cup of all purpose flour when proceeding with the third step (as the extra 1/4 cup is already accounted for in your hazelnut flour mixture).

1 cup hazelnut flour
1 ¼ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
10 T (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1 1/2 t lemon zest, finely grated
2 T hazelnut paste or hazelnut butter
3 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 t vanilla extract
½ t kosher salt
1 t baking powder

-Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line your cupcake tin with paper liners.

-In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, lightly whisk together the eggs and sour cream.

-In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar until very light.  Beat in the spices and lemon zest first, followed by the hazelnut paste or hazelnut butter.  Then gradually add the egg and sour cream mixture.  Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula and beat in the vanilla extract.  In a small bowl, mix together the hazelnut flour, all-purpose flour, salt and baking powder.  Beat the dry ingredients into the batter until just combined.

-Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.  Lightly brush tops with simple syrup while still warm.  Then gently remove from the tin and cool completely on a rack.

Candied Hazelnuts

handful of skinned hazelnuts
simple syrup to coat (couple tablespoons probably)

-Preheat oven to 350°F.

-Pop hazelnuts in half by sticking the tip of a small sharp pairing knife into the tops of each one.

-Toss them with enough simple syrup to lightly coat (just to make shiny).

-Turn them into a small sheet pan or baking dish, keeping them in a single layer. Bake just until golden and simple syrup hardens, about 10 minutes. 

-When cool enough to handle, separate them so they don’t stick together and cool completely.

Raspberry Buttercream- makes about 2 cups
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe for vanilla buttercream in
Baking Illustrated

2 large eggs
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) sugar
1 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt
8 oz unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into pieces
 
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam, loosened with a squirt of lemon juice
1/4 t cinnamon

-Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepot.  In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt.  Set the bowl over the simmering water (making a double boiler).  Whisk gently but constantly until the mixture reaches 160°F.  It should be thin and foamy.

-Transfer the bowl to the mixer and whip until light, airy and room temperature.  This should take about five minutes.  Reduce the speed and whip in the butter, piece by piece.  If it looks curdled halfway through, it should come together as you add the remaining butter.

-Once all the butter is incorporated, beat on high speed for about a minute until light and fluffy.  Add the raspberry jam and cinnamon and beat until just incorporated.  You can refrigerate, covered, for up to five days.

CH#1: Cherry-Lime Rickey Cupcakes

September 29, 2007 at 5:03 pm | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 8 Comments

cherry-lime rickey cupcakes

I can’t really pretend to wax nostalgic about 1950s soda shops.  Sure, I’ve been to couple of old-school diners and lunch counters in NYC, but they aren’t exactly the type of place where I picture my dad shared a malted with his best girl on a Saturday night as Bobby Darin sang out from the jukebox.  I totally have a thing for soda fountain drinks though.  Besides a good egg cream, there is another classic I adore– the cherry-lime rickey.  Since Laurie from quirky cupcake has just kicked off a new event called ‘Cupcake Hero,’ and this month’s theme ingredient is lime, I thought I’d take a stab at recreating a cherry-lime rickey (non-carbonated, of course) in cupcake form. 

I started with a basic vanilla cupcake, flavored with a bit of lime zest.  Lots of other bloggers have had great success with Billy Reece’s Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcake recipe (he made it on the Martha Stewart Show awhile back),  so i thought I would give it a try myself.  It was easy to make, and the cupcakes baked up fluffy and nice–don’t overfill them though!

While the cupcakes were baking, I made a batch of lime curd and parked it in the fridge to chill.  Then I whipped up some vanilla buttercream, portioned out what I needed for the cupcakes at hand, and refrigerated the rest for another time.  To give the buttercream flavor, I added a bit of cherry jam, some chopped cherries  and some chilled lime curd.  I filled my cooled cupcakes with cherry jam and lime curd, topped them with cherry buttercream, and added a little garnish.  A cherry-lime rickey cupcake…coolsville.  I dig it.

cherry-lime rickey cupcakes

Cherry-Lime Rickey Cupcakes- makes 12 regular-size cupcakes

-Start with a batch of baked and cooled vanilla cupcakes flavored with lime zest.  (I used Billy’s Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes.  Not wanting 30 cupcakes, I did a half batch and mixed in the zest of one lime at the end.)

-Make and chill the lime curd (recipe below).

-Make the vanilla buttercream (recipe below).  Flavor it with a spoonful of cherry jam, 1/4 cup of lime curd and a handful of chopped cherries (fresh or canned).

-To fill the cupcakes, use a small knife or round cookie cutter to cut a plug out of the center of each (going in from the top).  Save the top bit of each plug.  Put a small blob of cherry jam at the bottom of each cavity, then fill the rest up with lime curd.  Cover with the top bit so the curd is not exposed.

-Top with buttercream and garnish with a cherry and a lime slice.

Lime Curd- makes about 1 2/3 cups

2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup strained lime juice 
zest of 1 lime
pinch of salt
4 T unsalted butter
 

-Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepot.  In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, lime juice and zest and a pinch of salt.  Set the bowl over the simmering water (making a double boiler).

–Whisk frequently until thickened.  Becasue it’s over a double boiler, you can walk away for a minute or so if need be.

-Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, a bit at a time, until it is fully incorporated.

-Pass through a fine sieve into a clean bowl or container.  Press plastic wrap directly on surface and refrigerate until cold.  Either use it up or transfer to an airtight container, keeping plastic wrap on the surface for storage.  This way, it can keep in the fridge for about a week.

Vanilla Buttercream- makes about 2 cups
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Baking Illustrated

2 large eggs
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) sugar
1 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt
8 oz unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into pieces
 

-Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepot.  In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt.  Set the bowl over the simmering water (making a double boiler).  Whisk gently but constantly until the mixture reaches 160°F.  It should be thin and foamy.

-Transfer the bowl to the mixer and whip until light, airy and room temperature.  This should take about five minutes.  Reduce the speed and whip in the butter, piece by piece.  If it looks curdled halfway through, it should come together as you add the remaining butter.

-Once all the butter is incorporated, beat on high speed for about a minute until light and fluffy.  You can refrigerate, covered, for up to five days.

Back to School: Celebration Cupcakes

September 17, 2007 at 10:07 am | Posted in around sydney, classes, cupcakes, sweet things | 25 Comments

celebration cupcakes

I took another course at Planet Cake in Balmain this weekend.  This time, the theme was “celebration cupcakes.”  Obviously, these are for celebrating something very girly!  They were a lot of fun to make…a little time-consuming, but really not very hard.

celebration cupcakes

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