At Long Last

Tristan has finally returned home from Atlanta, my triumphant hero. He really seemed to enjoy his three weeks working on a new project, with a new team, in a new place, with lots of new restaurants to try – huh, I wonder why? I am definitely going to force him to post about his food experiences; one was really unique and another involved gift-giving!

Now that he is home, we will have to get back into the swing of posting more regularly. I can definitely say that I am excited to stop living off of microwave meals now that he is back (though I did go crazy and cook up some fresh Ethopian for my mother when she visited).

I thought we might try a new Indian dish, but, unfortunately, all of the recipes I looked at required asafoetida (a spice) that we need to travel back to D.C. to purchase (along with more Ethiopian groceries – we are all out of injera, which is tantamount to a national crisis in this house).

So, be on the lookout for more delicious meals (and who knows what else)! I’ve gotten some great inspirational recipes for cupcakes from family this week so hopefully more sweet treats will make their way to the blog, too! Happy Last Week of July Everyone!

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Guest Baker & Carrot [Cup]Cakes

This weekend, my mother came for a visit. I think it was equal parts wanting to keep me company while Tristan is in Georgia and wanting to be extremely close to the beach and a large pool! We went to the beach, the VA zoo, a local farmers market/restaurant that was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, and…we baked cupcakes! Last week, my mom emailed me a recipe for Carrot Cake Cupcakes that she found and thought I should try. I figured she should join me in the kitchen and help me make them as my very first guest baker! Fortunately, she agreed (and footed the bill).

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Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

My mom located this recipe in her Real Simple magazine. You can find the recipe online at Real Simple’s website. I did alter the recipe by using vegetable oil instead of canola oil and by adding 1/4 teaspoon of allspice to the batter (something I had seen in many other carrot cake cupcake recipes, but was not present in the Real Simple recipe).

Carrot Cakes!

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Opinion Breakdown

  • Me — I am pretty sure that this is the best tasting cupcake I (we) have made thus far. The cupcakes were moist and not too dense, which I originally thought might be a problem (as we were converting a traditional cake/loaf dish into cupcakes). The crunch factor, made possible by all the pieces of pecan in the batter, was delightful. The flavor was out of this world and the cream cheese icing didn’t overpower the cake flavor, but complemented it nicely instead. This cream cheese icing was so good that I’m making it my go to cream cheese icing recipe! My only cupcake criticism is that the cupcakes could stand to have more carrot in them. I want to see carrot in every bite I take of a CARROT cake cupcake.
    • On another note, it was super fun teaching my mom how to use our mandolin and stand mixer. I also enjoyed showing her how to pipe icing using professional tips! Not surprisingly, she was a quick study and easily perfected the technique.

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  • Mom — “My favorite part was the crunchy cupcake top. The cupcakes were light and the sweetness was perfect, not overpowering. The cream cheese icing was a great complement to the cupcakes. I agree with Ambre that we could probably add more carrots in the future; I am just concerned how that would affect the moisture or texture. It’s a pretty damn good cupcake.”

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Thanks for your help Mom! I Love You.

Calling All Cupcakes

When my grandmother told me that she found some cupcake recipes I should try, I realized that I should call for submissions from everyone. It would be fun to have all of you researching new recipes, instead of doing it all alone. We can all be contributors.

If you come across an intriguing recipe that you would like to me to try out just provide me with a link and I will take a look. If I like the recipe, I just might bake it and post my findings on the blog!

Send those recipes in! Happy Baking!

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Vanilla Cupcake Remix

The Cakes

I was on a baking binge this week. While randomly searching the internet, I found two new vanilla cupcake recipes that I couldn’t wait to try.

Recipe #1, from Recipe Girl, was absolutely intriguing. It used two unconventional ingredients – boxed cake mix and sour cream. I had to try this recipe out if for no other reason than the fact that it is was so unique.

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Recipe #2, from Cookies & Cups, caught my eye because of its backstory (and because it was m first yellow cake recipe). This baker’s husband has taste-tested all sorts of cupcake recipes that his wife has made, but none of them ever impressed him more than standard box mix. He always had a complaint about the homemade recipes (too dry, too dense, not enough flavor, etc.). However, this particular vanilla cupcake recipe blew him away. After reading that description, I knew that I had to give this recipe a try, too.

The Icing

I have found my perfect buttercream icing. However, for these new cupcake recipes, I didn’t want to make the same old buttercream. So, I found several fun icing recipes online and made small batches of each to taste test.

Icing # 1 – Brown Eyed Baker’s Peanut Butter Frosting

Icing # 2 – Martha Stewart’s Honey Cinnamon Frosting

Icing # 3 – Sally’s Baking Addiction’s  Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting

Icing # 4 – Eat, Run, Read’s Cherry Frosting

Baking Marathon 

Cupcake Recipe # 1 made a batter that was very runny (see below). However, it produced a moist cupcake that rose well. Unfortunately, the texture was too spongy and sticky for my liking and, like my previous vanilla cupcake recipe, the flavor was not prominent enough. Once iced, I couldn’t taste the cupcake flavor at all.

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Cupcake Recipe # 2 turned out to be exactly what I’ve been searching for! I got a super fluffy, moist, medium-crumb cupcake with a wonderful flavor. In the future, I would still add a bit of extra vanilla extract to enhance the flavor even more, but overall I was very impressed with this recipe.

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ICING!

The honey, cinnamon icing was my favorite flavor, without question. However, the honey makes this icing very sweet. If you don’t have a well developed sweet tooth, you might want to try a different flavor. — The peanut butter icing was rich, smooth, and flavorful, as you would expect. However, as you might also expect, the peanut flavor tends to overpower the cupcake flavor, so this should be kept in mind when crafting your cakes. — I love mint chocolate chip anything, so that icing was bound to be a winner. It totally delivered. — Cherry is also one of my favorite flavors. I supplemented the online recipe with a bit of cherry extract to kick up the cherry flavor, but it still fell flat. I liked the color of this icing, but found the taste to be mostly disappointing.

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Country Breakfast

Being in suburban Atlanta on business is a good excuse for me to try as many new things as I can. Last Saturday I visited Gritz Family Restaurant and ordered the Country Sampler. As you can see below, for $7.69,  it is quite impressive. Everything was delicious; the biscuits were straight from the oven!  I ate it all.

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Except for the Streak-O-Lean. My first taste was unlike anything I’ve had before.  Later research confirmed that one serving was 7 times as salty as bacon. 85% of your daily value of salt! I like my salt but there was so much I could see it on the surface.

I’ll be back.

For the Love of Cupcakes

Well, the big birds certainly approve of the vanilla cupcakes. I gave them a few pieces as a little treat yesterday. Boy, I have never seen them enjoy food so much; they even “fought” over who would get the crumbs and, surprisingly, Ben was the winner (he stole entire chunks of cupcake right out of Sera’s beak).

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Don’t worry, birds can pretty much eat anything humans can (with a few exceptions thrown in). However, eating junk food for them is the same as it is for us (unhealthy). So, they only get little nibbles of things like pizza crust, cookies, and goldfish from time to time. Goldfish were their favorites prior to this cupcake experiment (I think I might have created monsters now though and goldfish will probably be so “last week”).

Battle 2: Vanilla Cupcakes

Recipe

Yes folks, the time has come for my next cupcake battle. This time I will be facing off with a vanilla cupcake recipe from Laura’s Sweet Spot (adapted from Taste of Home). I scoured the internet (specifically baking blogs) for the recipe with the most potential. Based on taste tests, this recipe was the clear winner.

These cupcakes are white cake instead of yellow cake. In case you don’t know, the difference between the two type of cake is that white cake uses egg whites, while yellow cake incorporates the egg yolk. Of course, this creates a color difference between the two varieties, too (“white” vs. yellow).

Goal

My goal with this recipe is to find a versatile white or yellow cupcake base that I can add pretty much any flavor extract to in order to create a wide variety of cupcake types.

When I first told Tristan about this recipe, he was weary because it called for buttermilk. He doubted how the tartness of the milk (due to the acid in it) would work out in a cupcake. However, I think he will be pleasantly surprised.

Directions

This recipe was very simple. I creamed the butter and sugar first. Then, I added the egg whites one at a time. Next, I mixed in the vanilla.

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Then, I added in the dry ingredients and buttermilk in alternating batches (with the dry ingredients being added first and last). Finally, I filled the cupcake liners and baked! One thing I have learned since I started baking is that in my next kitchen I need an oven with an interior light. I never again want to have to check my baking goods with a flashlight like this:

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Results

I am going to have to call this battle a TIE. The cakes were large, super moist, and had a good crumb. The cupcake was fluffy, but strong enough that it would easily hold icing. However, the vanilla flavor just did not impress me. Before fully committing to this recipe, I would like to give it another try with a bit more vanilla extract. In order for me to fully embrace this recipe, I have to be sure that it will successfully produce a cupcake with an appropriate flavor punch. This first time, the cakes just didn’t have that perfect one-two combo of awesome texture + delicious flavor.

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