A Taste of Fall

So this happened to Tristan and I recently:

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Afterwards, Tristan and I got to spend two enjoyable weekends celebrating with our families. Even though the idea was that Tristan and I wouldn’t be responsible for any part of the parties, I just couldn’t help myself – I had to bake some cupcakes!

In honor of the fall season, I made Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting. This was the first time that I ever made caramel from scratch. I have to admit that it required two attempts to get the caramel right; Tristan had to save my first batch – luckily this didn’t affect the final product one bit. These cupcakes were… SCRUMPTIOUS. They were my favorite cupcakes to date. Tristan really liked them, too. He said they reminded him of gingerbread more than pumpkin though, which I didn’t really agree with. Regardless, these cupcakes were to die for.

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Afraid that I didn’t make enough cupcakes for the party, I sent Tristan out for an emergency cupcake-ingredient-shopping spree. I had him buy supplies to make Raspberry Swirl Cupcakes with a vanilla confectioners’ sugar-based frosting. To make these fruity cupcakes, I just added a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of raspberry pie filling to each cupcake, prior to baking, and then I swirled the filling in using a knife. The pie filling worked really well, as opposed to jam or jelly, because the large nearly-whole raspberry pieces were great to bite into when eating the cupcakes.

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Cupcakes With A Kick

Today I made…

Jalapeno Corn Cupcakes

with Cream Cheese Frosting!

I wanted to make Tristan a more savory cupcake, since he (despite my best efforts) is not a lover of all things sweet like me. I long for the days of popping open a fresh container of icing with him and digging into it with a huge spoon, but, alas, I know that day will never come. I will always have to enjoy this simple pleasure alone…

The recipe that I used (from Taste of Home) was very simple to make and produced fantastic cupcakes that blew Tristan and I out of the water (I must admit to feeling a bit smug since just this morning Tristan said he thought “user-submitted” recipes from home cooks would most-likely produce second-rate minicakes – since there is no one around to review and validate their quality)! I can definitely say that this is the first time that I’ve made a cupcake with olive oil, cornmeal, corn, and jalapenos.

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These cupcakes were not too dense, they had the perfect amount of moisture, and the corn and jalapeno pieces were delightful to bite into and taste. The cakes even rose (and retained their shape post-cooling) better than any cupcake I’ve made to date!

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The best part about this recipe is the amazing flavor. But, another unexpected benefit, it is that if you don’t add the icing you actually end up with one of the best cornbreads I’ve ever tasted – so much so that I plan on making these for Thanksgiving!

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Cupcake Fun

I know it’s been awhile since I last posted; I apologize. I am teaching 3 university labs this semester, studying for the GRE, looking into Ph.D. programs, and planning my wedding so that might help explain the situation! However, Tristan and I went “home” this weekend to go a greyhound picnic with my mom and her/our retired racer named Jude. Naturally, I thought I would surprise her with cupcakes.

Almond Cupcakes with Vanilla Whipped Frosting

I love almond flavored baked goods – like, a lot. So, I was excited to try almond emulsion with my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, substituting the inferior vanilla extract with almond – the superior, nearly divine flavor favored by those of us with the most highly evolved taste buds!

Then, my aunt sent me a recipe idea for frosting that I wanted to try out and almond cupcakes seemed like the perfect time to go for it. This recipe was for a whipped frosting that calls for Cool Whip, instant pudding mix, milk, and flavor extract (unusual, I know). The most awesome part of this recipe, besides how fast it is to make (seriously – you just mix and you’re done), is that the pudding mixes come in so many flavors! You can make a variety of yummy frosting flavors just by substituting different types of pudding mixes – cool, huh?

I put some glitz on my little puffs of mouthwatering delight and this is what I came up with: 

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I decided to get the dog’s opinion of the frosting since it had a light, pup-friendly design. I think he approved.

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Thanks for the Recipe Aunt Kathy!

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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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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