Archive for October, 2012

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!

 

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October 25, 2012

I Just Joined Smiley360

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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.

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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!

October 2, 2012

Chocolate Cookie Dough Cupcakes

When I first started working in student affairs, I liked to bake chocolate chip cookies for students on their birthdays.  I felt a special tie to this particular cookie because it was invented by a woman who graduated from the same University that I did.  Along the way, and mostly by accident, I had perfected my recipe by insisting on only using real butter, a specific baking pan, and a timing technique that made them perfect.  It was easy to make a batch, bake up a dozen, and freeze the rest of the dough for another time.

This whole cupcake baking happened by accident.  I baked some one day because I felt like it, and realized I couldn’t go off and eat a whole 12 cupcakes. So, I brought them to work in hopes that people in the office would eat them.  I posted them on Facebook in hopes that my newest team of students would be lured into my office even if it was just to get one and leave.  And they came.  And the cupcakes went.  I was excited to try new flavors and test them out.  I liked seeing a bag of candy for a perfect topper and more and more I wanted to make really fabulous looking and tasting cupcakes.

Last week, I found a recipe for cookie dough frosting on Pinterest that was actually eggless cookie dough and another pin about adding cookie dough to the center of cupcakes.  With two cookie dough themes in one week I knew it was finally time to combine my first baking specialty with my new baking obsession!

After reading the cookie dough inside the cupcake post, I realized I’d need to find a vanilla cupcake recipe that worked with the ingredients I had on hand.  I’m not going to share it here and you’ll find out why shortly.  If you need a cookie dough recipe, look no further than the back of the bag of Tollhouse chocolate chips.  Oh, and use real butter.

While making the cookie dough for cookies and frosting seems like a lot of work, I just mixed the butter and dry ingredients together, then split the mixture in half and added egg to one and heavy cream to the other.  Freezing the cookie dough before you bake it in the cupcakes will ensure it stays in shape while baked.  I loved how mine created little cracks through the cupcake tops!

Oh, the cookie dough frosting.  How disturbingly delicious (and safe to eat).   I used the recipe from Cupcake Project as my basis, but found that my dough wasn’t coming together without more liquid and I kept going back to the directions to see if I missed a step.  Finally, I decided to apply typical frosting making methods and add some heavy cream.  It’s what I would do to thin a recipe of butter cream frosting and it was perfect.  I probably used 1/3 cup of cream total in my frosting, but I didn’t measure.  I just added a little at a time until it was piping consistency.

The Results…

Welp, the reason I don’t want to share the vanilla cupcake recipe is because it was terrible.  It made dense, unflavored cupcakes.  This seemed to work in my favor in two ways though.  First, it was so dense that the cookie dough didn’t drop to the bottom making it look great after the first bite.  Second, not carrying much flavor allowed for the cookie dough ball and frosting flavors to really shine.

As the baker, I tend to be more critical than my eating audience.  Only one person (my best critic) also noticed the poor quality of the cake itself.  Everyone else loved it and many people came back for another.  That is my universal sign that it was good to others taste buds.  Maybe the best compliment was the student who asked if I could make the cupcakes again for Family Weekend on Saturday.  Saturday is not Monday and I don’t duplicate my cupcakes, so thanks for the compliment, but no.  Lol.