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Valentine Cupcakes

9 Feb

These were amazing. I revisited a frosting recipe that I haven’t used in a few years. I forgot how completely heavenly it is, and you really must make it.  But before I get to that recipe, let’s talk about the cake. I told you in my last cupcake posts that what I usually do for my cakes is use Betty Crocker cake mix, but I substitute buttermilk for the water, and add flavorings. This time I used a new cake mix. I buy a lot of my supplies for resale from CK Products, and recently they added some “Premium Cake Mixes” to their line of products.

I bought a few with my last order to try them out. I was a little skeptical, because they seemed exactly like any other store-bought cake mix that I’ve ever bought. You add the exact same ingredients (3 eggs, 1 1/4 cups water, 1/3 cup oil), and I figured it’s probably more of the same, just repackaged and re-branded. Well I have to tell you, I am pleasantly surprised. I’ve made the chocolate and the yellow so far, and mixed exactly as directed on the bag, and they really are something special. I don’t sell them in my store yet– I’m not sure if there’s enough interest among cookie decorators, but you can get them at Country Kitchen. They’re more expensive than regular cake mix, plus you’ll probably have to pay some shipping, but I think its worth the extra money. Let me know if it’s something you’d like to see in my store, too.

Anyway, back to the frosting. This is a super simple chocolate whipped cream recipe that is so very delicious. I found the recipe years ago in this book:

I think it might actually be the frosting that’s on the cover cake. It only has 3 ingredients:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup granulated sugar (superfine is great for this)

1/3 cup cocoa

I really really love this with Dutch Process Cocoa. I think it is significantly better than regular cocoa. Unfortunately, Dutch Process Cocoa can be kind of hard to find, and I’m having a tough time finding it in my town. I did find this:

Which is a mixture of regular and Dutched. It was a good substitute. But if you can get pure Dutch, try it! It is so delicious.

What you’ll do is pour the whipping cream in a bowl (metal is the best).

Add the sugar

And the cocoa

Stir around with the beaters (they don’t have to be connected to the mixer yet) until everything is nicely combined.

It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth– just so all the dry ingredients get mixed in. Refrigerate the mixture (along with the beaters) for at least 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, get it out of the fridge and beat until thick and creamy and stiff peaks form.

Oh man, this is so good! It tastes like chocolate ice cream, only a lot less cold. You really don’t want to under-beat this, so take it pretty far with the whipping. If you under-beat, it will soften up and break down. If you take it farther and make sure it’s really good and stiff, it has remarkable stability.  In fact, I accidentally left a small bowl of this on the counter last night, and when I got up this morning it was still holding strong, and hadn’t watered out. That was 10+ hours at room temperature. You don’t want to do that on purpose– definitely refrigerate this, but just as a point of interest…. 🙂

Anyway, then you can use a decorating bag and large tip to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. I used a 1M tip here, but if you want a round swirl, you could use a 1A or a 2A.

Yum. I wish these weren’t all gone.

I sprinkled half with mini hearts sprinkles (which I LOVE. Aren’t they the cutest?), and half with red non pareils. They were super cute all together on my cake stand.

When I got these all together for a picture, I really wished I had a party going on because they look so fun and Valentine-party-like. But we just ate them instead.

Oh, and I baked these in the red gingham baking cups, but because this was such a dark chocolate cake, it made the cups harder to see after baking. So I slipped them into a second cup because I thought they were so cute and wanted them to show up better.

I gave some to my friend in this cute box

Isn’t that fun? Mmm… cupcakes make me happy lately.

Cupcake Frosting

11 Jan

I found this recipe quite a while ago, printed on the giant box of meringue powder that I get from CK Products. I filed it away, and while looking for a good cupcake frosting recently, I decided to dig it up and give it a whirl (hardy har har). The original recipe called for shortening instead of butter, but that sounded really gross to me, so I took a chance and tried it with butter.  Luckily, it was a winner! If you’ve ever tried making Italian Meringue Buttercream, this is kind of the same idea. I made Italian meringue a few times back in my cake decorating days, but I always worried about the safety of it (does the sugar syrup REALLY cook those eggs?), so back then I went with another option. This one appealed to me because it’s the same idea– sugar syrup, whipped egg whites, butter– but instead of fresh egg whites, you use meringue powder.  Here’s what you do:

Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. When it comes to a boil, pour in 3/4 cup granulated sugar.

Remove from heat and stir gently until all sugar crystals are gone.

You’ll know when it’s all dissolved because you won’t feel the sugar crystals scrape on the bottom of the pan while you’re stirring, and the liquid will be clear. Make sure there aren’t any sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Set it aside to cool. You can let it cool for 1/2 hour, or a whole day– doesn’t matter. Just as long as it’s cool to the touch.

Pour into a mixer bowl and add 1/4 cup meringue powder.

Using the whisk attachment, (or beaters of a hand mixer), beat at high speed for several minutes.  This is what it looks like at first:

As it goes, it will get thicker and thicker. You’ll see that the beaters will start to leave distinct “tracks” behind as it mixes.

When it’s done, it will form stiff peaks when you lift the beater(s) out of the bowl.

When you have it at a nice, fluffy, stiff peak, beat in 1 lb. powdered sugar (about 4 1/2 cups, but I recommend weighing if possible).

Mix slowly at first to keep the powdered sugar from flying all over the place, and then increase the speed. When the powdered sugar is all incorporated (it will look pretty stiff and dry), beat in 2 cups of butter. I just leave the mixer flying at high speed and throw in a stick at a time.

As it turns out, it’s pretty tricky to get a shot of that! Ha ha! If you look closely, you’ll see a cube of butter to the right of the beater that just landed. If you used unsalted butter, throw in a couple of pinches of salt at this point, too.

Beat until smooth and creamy and beautiful.

It’s pretty much done at this point, except you’ll notice that there is no flavoring yet. That’s where these come in:

Plus a few things I forgot to put in the picture, including maraschino cherries, crushed pineapple, and orange zest. I’ll get the hang of this yet…

So for this experiment, I divided up the one batch of frosting into several small containers and mixed in small amounts of flavorings to get different kinds of frosting. Unfortunately, because of that, I don’t have exact measurements to give you. I plan on eventually making full batches of each of these so that I can give you some exact measurements, but let me tell you right now: That’ll take a while. So if you want to try this yourself soon, I recommend experimenting like I did and come up with some good combos. Just start with small amounts of flavoring and add more if it needs it. It’s a lot easier to add more flavoring than to take some out! Here’s what I did for each:

For Raspberry/Vanilla, I flavored the cake batter (see my previous post about how to mix up the batter) with pure vanilla extract. For the frosting, I used LorAnn Raspberry flavoring and a teeny drop of Fuchsia food coloring. The little raspberry thing on top is just a raspberry candy. I really wanted a real raspberry, but they were about $5 for a half a cup, so maybe next summer!

For Chocolate Mint, I used plain chocolate cake batter for the cake, and for the frosting I added a couple of drops of LorAnn Peppermint Oil and a tiny drop of Mint Green food coloring. I topped it off with an Andes mint cut on the diagonal. They’re a little tricky to cut, but if you run your knife under super hot water first, it helps to get a clean cut. If that doesn’t work, microwave it for about 5 seconds and then cut.

Yummmmmmmm… the Pina Colada was sooo good. I flavored the cake batter with Coconut Emulsion. For the frosting, I took some canned crushed pineapple and squeezed every bit of juice I could out of it by putting it in a mesh strainer and pressing out the juice with a spoon. I stirred the dry(ish) pineapple into the frosting, along with a tiny bit of vanilla. After frosting the cupcake, I dipped the top into shredded coconut, and topped it off with a well-drained maraschino cherry. When I make these again (and I will!) I think I’ll try toasted coconut.

For Chocolate Raspberry Cream Cheese, I used a plain chocolate cupcake. For the frosting, I softened a little bit of cream cheese and mixed it into the frosting along with a spoonful of raspberry jam. I really wished I had some homemade raspberry freezer jam, but I didn’t, so I used store-bought. It was still very good! I didn’t add any coloring to this one. The jam made it a nice, natural pinkish color.

Cherry Almond. I flavored the cake batter with Almond Emulsion. For the frosting, I chopped up some maraschino cherries, and left them pretty juicy. I stirred those into the frosting, along with a tiny drop of almond extract.

Chocolate/Chocolate. This one was just ok. I need to experiment some more. I just made plain chocolate cakes and stirred some cocoa powder (Dutch process) into the frosting. I wonder if some melted chocolate stirred in might be better. I’ll experiment some more, and you should, too!

This one was awesome! For the cake, I added Lemon Emulsion to the batter. For the frosting, I really wanted to make some lemon curd to mix in. I LOVE lemon curd, and I really enjoy making it, but when I went to the store to buy lemons, they were almost a dollar a piece! I knew I would need 5 or 6 of them, so I decided not to. Then when I was in the peanut butter and jelly aisle, I spotted this:

Um… Yum! It tastes exactly like homemade! And much cheaper if lemons are almost a buck a piece. So I stirred some of this deliciousness into the frosting and added just the tiniest drop of lemon yellow food coloring. It was so good!  Before I frosted the cupcakes, I used a bismark tip to fill them with a bit of raspberry jam, then frosted with the lemon frosting. So good!

For Orange/Orange, I flavored the cake batter with Orange Emulsion and the zest of an orange.  For the frosting, I added LorAnn Orange Oil and a little bit of orange zest. I also added a teensy drop of orange food coloring.

This one is as easy as it gets. The cake is just plain chocolate cake, and for the frosting, I mixed in a spoonful of creamy peanut butter. For the topper, I cut a mini peanut butter cup in half and plopped it on there. For being so simple, this was completely delicious.

To frost all of these, I used a pastry bag and a #12 tip. I think any tip from 10-12 would work great, but if you add chunks (like the pineapple or cherries), you’ll probably want the 12. These are mini cupcakes. If I were making standard-size cupcakes, I would use a much larger tip.

Whew! That was a long one! I assure you that most of my posts won’t be this long.

Have fun and experiment!


10 Jan

I know, I know… I said that most of the posts on this blog would be about decorated cookies, and they will be! But I’ve had this recent obsession with cupcakes, and I just had to try a few things.

We live in a pretty small city in southeast Idaho. The trends that hit the big cities tend to hit Idaho Falls about 2 years later. So guess what? The cupcake craze has ARRIVED! Just over the last couple of months we have gone from zero to 3 cupcake shops in our town. THREE. In a town of about 50,000, that’s a lot of cupcake shops. But between the opening of the shops, and seeing super-cute, scrumptious cupcakes on blogs like Glorious Treats, I got a cupcake itch.  So I bought a few cupcakes from the locals and tried them out (you know… research! Somebody’s gotta do it.) They were ok, but it made me think that I could come up with something more than ok. So I came home, rolled up my sleeves and got in the kitchen where I belong!  I made:

Raspberry Vanilla

Chocolate Mint (my 2nd favorite!)

Pina Colada (my favorite!)

Chocolate Raspberry Cream Cheese

Cherry Almond

Chocolate Chocolate

Lemon Raspberry (wait! Maybe this was my favorite)

Orange Orange

I had way too much fun experimenting with these, and believe it or not, it was one frosting recipe and only 2 kinds of cake. I just spiffed them up with this loveliness:

Because I was in experimental mode, I just divided up the frosting into about 10 small containers and added itty bitty amounts of flavorings to get some fun flavors. I’ll tell you more about that in my next post, where I’ll be posting the recipe and flavoring ideas.

Now a word about cake. For the cake, I used….  um…. Betty Crocker cake mix. Here’s the thing. For 7 years (the height of my cake decorating career), I lived in Oregon, pretty much at sea level. I made excellent scratch cakes, if I do say so myself.  Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible was my, well, cake bible, and I had excellent results with most of her recipes (have you tried her White Chocolate Whisper cake? Yum!) Then I moved to the mountains (high desert) of Idaho, and I have had NO luck with scratch cakes since I’ve lived here. I’ve been here for almost 6 years, and still no luck. What am I doing wrong, mountain dwellers?? Somebody help me! So anyway, I’ve gone back to box cake mix because it never fails, and then I don’t have to throw away batches of ingredients, which makes me crabby. I do doctor them up a bit. For chocolate, I add a couple extra tablespoons of cocoa powder (Dutch process) to the mix, and use buttermilk instead of water. For white, I use whole eggs (which makes it a tiny bit yellow), also sub buttermilk for the water, and I always add some kind of flavoring, usually vanilla. Personally, I think they’re great cakes. They’re consistently moist and light, and with some added flavoring it tends to hide the fake vanilla flavor that I don’t like in box mixes. For the cakes above, I divided up the batter and added these:

Orange Emulsion, Lemon Emulsion, Pure Vanilla Extract, Almond Emulsion, and Coconut Emulsion

They were all amazingly delicious, and combined with the frosting variations that I’ll show you in my next post, I think I found some definite winning combinations. YUM.

I ate three for breakfast.

Cupcake frosting recipe coming up next!