November 9, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

Well, I found this fun little tool at Walmart for $1.87.  When I first saw these cupcake corers on the internet,  I assumed it would be way more expensive and wrote it off as a useless gimicky gadget (say that five times fast!)  But, for the price, how could I pass it up.  It wasn’t exactly a life altering investment.

Well, good thing it wasn’t. I bought it the weekend I made the apple crisp cupcakes which I already knew I’d be filling with apples.  Perfect time to try it out.  Unless I used it wrong, it basically just cuts through the cupcake, but it doesn’t pull the middle of the cake out when you take it out.  After three attempts, I grabbed my paring knife and finished coring my cupcakes.

Moral of the story – this is not a gadget that you need to make filled cupcakes.

November 2, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

I find baking cups and indispensable tools for baking cupcakes.  If not just for the actual baking, at least for the serving.  I wouldn’t like for people eating my cupcakes to not have a clean surface to hold on to when they select one to eat.

I also think cupcake wrappers can add personality to otherwise bland or monochromatic cupcakes.  And, when needed they can hide out in the background to allow for a cupcakes splendor to rise up.

For that type of situation, I love the white wrappers I found at Dollar Tree.  They are super thin and waxy, and I usually need to double up, but I love how they almost become invisible.

Then, for looks or a special occasion, I like to find wrappers that are more festive or share a message such as the Class of 2012 ones I used for celebratory cupcakes during graduation season. The mini blue ones with the lighter blue circles seemed so perfect for blueberry cupcakes.

When I make mini cupcakes, I usually bake them in straight in the pan and then put them in the wrappers for serving.  This is mostly because my mini cupcake pan in wider and more shallow than the standard wrappers.

I find foil wrappers useful too when I need something really sturdy, and sometimes I’ll double my luck with them and use the white inside paper for one batch and bake cupcakes in the foil leftovers.  I don’t find the paper a necessary component when baking in them.  After all they are on the pricey side, so why not stretch the buck a little.  For a while, I was using them by request because one of my students had an issue with eating the paper wrappers!

I don’t tend to spend on the really fancy and intricately designed baking cups found in the craft stores because that just seems like a waste of money to me.  I mean, if an occasion really called for something extra special, I might splurge, but not on a regular basis.

My favorite place to buy cupcake wrappers is from the dollar bins from Michael’s.  They are cheap and cheerful.  When I run into a time when I have a few odds and ends left around, I’ll just make a batch of cupcakes using up all my leftover wrappers.  I’ll be creating a cupcake tasting for a bride and groom soon, so I can use up my extra baking cups to distinguish flavors, etc.

I received the set of red silicone baking cups as a gift, but found that they are extremely hard to clean so I don’t use them much for baking.  However, they are perfect for putting smaller items in a lunch box when you don’t want things to mix.

For storing, I’ve seen cute ideas where cupcakes cups are stored in mason jars, etc.  I find it just as easy to stack them on top of each other and sometimes I’ll reuse the Reynold’s cups they cup in for additional storage.  That’s what I did with the white cups from Dollar Tree.

November 1, 2012

November Foodie Penpal Revealed!

I think I’m late…so I hope all will be forgiven, but it’s time to reveal my October Foodie Penpal.  I think this program might be one of the main reasons I started a food related blog to begin with!

Anyhow, it’s a fun program started by the Lean Green Bean.  You get matched with someone who sends you a box of food goodies, and you get matched with someone else to send a box to.  I sent a box to Alicia over at Persnickety Snits so go check out her blog and see what I sent her.

I got a great box of goodies from Kim full of Trader Joe’s fall goodies and some gorgeous cupcake wrappers.

I got pumpkin pancake and waffle mix, pumpkin bread mix, chocolate chips and cupcake liners.

It all looked so good, I wanted something right away! So, I pulled out my muffin tin and put the liners in and mixed up with pumpkin mix, then dumped the entire bag of chocolate chips and plopped them in the oven.  Yup, I did it and it was a good idea.  Then, I knew the fate of me eating all the muffins by myself, so I did what I do and brought them to work.  Everyone was pleasantly confused by the treats in the office on a Wednesday, but that didn’t stop them from eating them up.

Now that the weather has severely cooled down in Atlanta, I’m thinking pumpkin pancakes will be the perfect breakfast on the weekends!

And now it’s time for some details about Foodie Penpals. In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:

  • On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
  • The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
  • You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
  • Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
  • Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents. Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.

If you’re interested in participating for November, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by November 4th as pairings will be emailed on November 5th!

October 26, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

An essential tool for the cupcake baker is a carrier to transport the little gems from place to place.  There are all different kinds and some are great for presenting the cupcakes as a gift or for those who are serious sellers.  That’s a post for another time.  The carriers I am referring to today however are for the home baker who may be bringing small batches to a party or the office.

My favorite one is the one pictured below that I got at Walmart for just under $5.  It can also hold deviled eggs, a whole cake or pie and maybe a few other treats.  With removable trays, it’s easy to clean and dishwasher safe.  The only thing that would improve it’s functionality is if it could hold up to 24 cupcakes instead of 12.  It has also proved useful for hosting a number of mini cupcakes snugly.

I wish I would have as many great things to say about the 24 count carrier that I recently got from My Coke Rewards.  I saved caps and entered codes all summer for it and my students helped a great deal with getting me caps.  It’s not terrible, but the tray that holds the upper 12 cupcakes bends in the middle and squished the cupcakes in the pan.  But hey, it was free with a little easy labor and when all else fails, I still got another cupcake baking tin out of the whole deal!


October 25, 2012

I Just Joined Smiley360

I just became a Smiley360 member! Discover and review exciting brands for free, too! Sign-up at #smileymember *Please remember the FTC requires you to mention that you received a free sample courtesy of Smiley360 when sharing.

via I Just Joined Smiley360.

October 24, 2012

Atlanta Cupcake Tour: Small Cakes

After writing my first cupcakery review, I didn’t really feel good about it.  Taste is completely subjective and making a judgement about the offerings at Cloud Nine in such depth and detail has not sat right with me since.  Therefore, I’m going to keep up with the Atlanta Cupcake Tour and blogging about the delicious cupcake shops I encounter, but with less definitive judgement.  I’ve been to three cupcakeries since my first tour post…here goes!I ended up at Small Cakes because I found myself with just enough time left on my Zipcar reservation to make a stop and take the back way home from there.  But, I didn’t quite have enough time to really look at the menu and make a careful selection.  In fact, it wasn’t until after I ordered that I realized they had more cupcakes than what appeared on cake stands on the counter.

Another decision I made about this  tour was that I had to stick with no more than two cupcakes per visit.  I’m using vanilla or birthday cake as my standard and picking one other flavor to try.  If the shop has a house or specialty flavor, I choose that one.  If not, I look for the most interesting, over-the-top, or something that just looks simply divine.  The latter is what I did at Small Cakes and I choose a french toast like flavor that had maple and cinnamon.

I’d like to go back to Small Cakes again because I felt too rushed in my decisions the first time around.  The birthday cake flavor was so good, and I found out later that they do have a signature pink vanilla flavor that I feel it is my duty to try.  Plus, this shop has a rewards card program so you can earn free cupcakes!




October 19, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

As part of my full-time employment, I get to go to a lot of trade shows where promotional item companies give samples in droves in hopes that we will order something imprinted with our university logo on it.  I love these events and I get a lot of useful goodies including ones I get to take home and use in the kitchen.  I have things like pizza cutters, adjustable measuring spoons, etc.

That’s where I got this little pointed spatula that is probably one of the handiest tools I have not just for cupcakes, but for many food preparation needs.  The pointy ends get in the tiniest measuring spoons and down into the last drops of products in jars.  Ever since I got it, I’ve been hoping to score another one at the trade shows, but no luck yet.

October 12, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

Bakers may have noticed a new product in the grocery store aisles sometime in the last 6-9 months.  Little packages of flavoring for a new fangled pre-made frosting from Duncan Hines.  They come in fun flavors like Cotton Candy, Bubble Gum, White Chocolate Raspberry and many more.

I first bought the mint flavored packet and the accompanying frosting.  I made chocolate cupcakes and topped them with Junior Mints.  The cupcakes overall got a relatively poor rating from my tasters.  I almost didn’t buy the packets again because of that and I found the frosting had a really odd consistency…gooey, but not in a good way.

Then, this summer when I was dying to make Cotton Candy cupcakes I turned to the packets when I couldn’t find the liquid flavoring from any of the stores that sell extensive baking supplies in my area.  I just figured that the packets could be thrown into a cake mix and they could also flavor a homemade butter cream despite the directions to only use Duncan Hines frosting formulated to work with it.  Don’t believe the hype!  The flavor packets worked quite well in both the cake mix and homemade frosting.

As a cupcake baker, I’ve come to love them because they are pretty cheap, they are single use so I’m not stuck with a bottle of flavoring I’ll probably not use again, and the range of flavors is great.  I just picked up some seasonal apple flavored packets for next week’s cupcakes!

October 9, 2012

Tropical Sunrise Cupcakes

It is the time of year when we are thinking about pumpkins, apples, cinnamon, and hot chocolate.  I’m definitely ready to dive into the flavors of fall and transform them into great cupcakes…I have the candy corn in the cupboard to prove it.  But, this weekend it got uncharacteristically cold and somehow, instead of making apple pie or hot chocolate cupcakes, I went in the exact opposite direction and ended up making a tropical inspired cupcake!

You know by now I love a good semi-homemade recipe so I found this one that called for replacing the water for pineapple juice in a vanilla cake mix.  I went a step further and used a white cake mix instead.  I like how white cake mixes allow an added flavor to come through a little bit more.  I used coconut oil instead of canola oil too.

When it came to the frosting, I was going to try a new flour based frosting named “the best frosting ever” until I realized too late I didn’t have any milk in the house.  I shuddered at the thought of another boring butter cream, and then again realized milk was still a problem.  Until I realized I could substitute pineapple juice for the milk and it worked perfectly.  There was just enough of a difference in the frosting to make you go “hmmm…what’s different about this”.

The inspiration pin for this cupcake was gorgeous and had a toasted coconut rim, but I just did not have my act together enough to go the extra mile.  I also know that coconut is a polarizing flavor.  People love it or hate it, so I decided to make different toppings with combinations of sweetened, shredded coconut, and pineapple chunks.   That way people could choose one without it if they didn’t like it.

Cupcake Recipe

  • 1 white cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake tin with liners.  Mix all ingredients until combined.  Fill wells 2/3 full and bake for 20-23 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Frosting Recipe

  • 3 sticks of softened butter, room temperature
  • 5 cups of powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3-5 tablespoons pineapple juice

Combine butter and sugar with an electric mixer until combined.  Add vanilla, then add pineapple juice 1 tablespoon at a time mixing until you get the desired consistency.  Pipe onto cupcakes and top with shredded coconut, maraschino cherries, and pineapple chunks.

The Results…

I didn’t feel confident serving these at first.  The were light, moist and had the perfect hint of tropical vibe.  I warned the first taster not to get too excited, but her face was priceless after the first bite, and she immediately declared it was in the top three of all time.

October 5, 2012

Tools of the (Cupcake) Trade

I’m not big on fancy tools and gadgets, though I do find some of them useful.  This particular item is not very special, but I find it immensely helpful in filling frosting bags, spreading frosting, and sometimes the are more helpful than an actual spatula.  It’s also excellent for getting down to the last bits in a peanut butter jar.

They are just plastic spreaders and I found them at the Christmas Tree Shop on one of my visits home.  Two sizes for $1.69 have become an invaluable tool in weekly baking sessions.  I’m sure they could also be found at kitchen store, but might not be as cheap!