Thursday, October 28, 2010

Week 5 - Candy Corn Cupcake

Candy corn flavored cake with honey buttercream frosting.

This is an adorable cupcake. I love the orange and yellow cake, and I love the piece of candy corn nestled in a swirl of creamy white frosting. The flavor is not complex, and there's a hint of food coloring flavor to it, but to be fair... there's a hint of food coloring flavor to candy corn, too.  I made these yesterday for a friend's business meeting, and I'll be making hordes of them this weekend for a Halloween party.

To achieve candy corn flavor, I used a honey flavored cupcake recipe with a tiny bit of almond extract added for that candy flavor.  The recipe is slightly adapted from one I found on Oprah's website.   You can easy this up by using a white cake mix with food coloring and canned frosting. They'll still be adorable!
Candy Corn Cupcakes
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • orange and yellow food color gel
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake papers.
In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in honey, eggs, buttermilk and extracts. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix into the batter until just blended.
Separate batter into two bowls equally. Tint one bowl of batter orange and one bowl yellow, stirring to mix well. Fill white cupcake liners 1/3 full of yellow batter. Tap pan gently on counter to help settle the yellow, then fill to 2/3 full with orange batter.   Note: Be sure your cupcake pans are very clean when you put the liners in. Any residual oils will stain your liners and ruin the effect of the colored cake.
Cupcakes are ready when the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes (15 - 17 for mini cakes).  This recipe makes 12 regular sized cupcakes or about 28 mini cupcakes.
Do not over bake these cupcakes. I can not stress this enough. Three minutes before you think they should be done, station yourself next to the oven. Check them every minute. I kid you not, they dry out really, really quickly. I ruined half of my batch in the matter of two minutes.  If they overcook, they are garbage, unless you are my husband. He put a couple in a bowl, poured some milk over them, squeezed a little dollop of frosting on top and ate it like cereal. For the love of all things cupcake, do not ever do that. *gag*

See how pretty the colors look?

For the frosting, I used a honey buttercream. I usually use only butter in my buttercream as opposed to the shortening version you get on grocery store birthday cakes, but this time I added a little shortening for the sake of stability. This batch was being transported two hours to a meeting then sitting out for a while, and the all butter version of buttercream tends to get droopy if it gets warm. It's warm in Florida today. It's actually pretty hot... in late October. I mourn the absence of autumn. 

Anyway, here's the buttercream recipe I used. If you're making them at home, you can use all butter instead of the shortening/butter mix and they will be super yummy.

Honey Buttercream Frosting
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar
  • milk for thinning out frosting
Cream butter, shortening and honey until light and fluffy. Mix in powdered sugar one cup at a time until frosting is fluffy but firm. Add milk as needed to thin the mixture enough to blend it.  Pipe on top of  the cupcakes using a star tip or a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off. Top with candy corn.

Look how cute they are, all lined up like an army of candy corn cupcakes. Yum.

Added 11/1/10: Just a note for future reference: I tried a version of this cupcake over the weekend with a cake mix. I used a yellow cake mix and replaced 1/3 cup of the water called for with honey, then added a couple of drops of almond extract. I made the same frosting, but this cake was really easy and really good!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Death of a Cupcake Ghost - A Pictorial

Once, there lived a gang of cupcake ghosts. They were bad. Bad to the bone.

Pumpkin was the leader of the gang.
I'm bad. You know it.

Pumpkin is sooooo bad. *swoon*

One day, Pumpkin wandered into the lair of a radioactive cupcake eating spider.
I can take this spider! I'm bad to the bone! Bring it, spider!

The gang looks on in horror as Pumpkin's situation becomes dire.
Hey, spider! Get off our leader! We'll smoosh you like a bug!

It suddenly becomes obvious that Pumpkin and the gang are no match for a radioactive cupcake eating spider.

Nooooooooooo! Pumpkinnnnnnn!

The End.

The cupcake: Pumpkin Spice, using the same recipe as Week 4's chocolate pumpkin, but with spice cake. They're mini cupcakes rather than big ones. You can get abot 60 minis from this recipe.
The frosting: Cream cheese, also using the recipe from Week 4.
The faces: Mini chocolate chips. Good for mimicing the horror of ghostly prey.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Week 4 - Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcake

Chocolate pumpkin cake with chocolate chips, topped with cream cheese frosting.

This is the easiest cake you will ever make. I've shared this recipe more times than I can count. It's delicious and adaptable and cheap and easy, and I love it.

This cupcake is not a light and fluffy cake. It is dense and moist and substantial. It's also a great way to sneak a veggie into your kids.  I usually make these without frosting and call them muffins, but cream cheese frosting gives it that little extra that takes it from muffin to cupcake. Really, what is the difference between a muffin and a cupcake? It's frosting.

You need three ingredients. Seriously. I would not kid about this. You can even leave out the chocolate chips and have a two ingredient recipe.  I know, right?  It's also a very versatile recipe. You can use spice cake instead of chocolate and have pumpkin spice cake. You can use yellow cake and really bring out the taste of the pumpkin. You can add nuts instead of chocolate chips, or white chocolate instead of semi-sweet. You can do anything with this recipe. Make it yours.

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes/Muffins

  • 1 box cake mix, chocolate (or spice... or yellow... make what you like)
  • 1 can pureed pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350.  Dump the can of pumpkin into a medium bowl. Open the cake mix and take a tablespoon of the mix out, stirring it into your chocolate chips (this keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the cakes). Dump the rest of the mix on top of the pumpkin and stir until well mixed.

At this point, the batter is THICK. It's like brownie batter, only thicker. If you have trouble stirring, you can add a little water. I usually add about 1/4 cup of water to make it easier to mix.

Stir in the chocolate chips and fill your cupcake papers. This batter doesn't rise a lot, so I fill mine a little over 3/4 of the way full to get a nice, rounded top.  If you do not use papers, you must grease and flour your tins.  

Bake the cupcakes for about 20-25 minutes, or until the tops spring back when you gently touch them. The toothpick method doesn't work well with this cake because it is so moist, so just give the top a little nudge and see if it sinks. If it does, pop it back in for a few more minutes.  Cool completely in the tins before frosting.  This makes about 16 cupcakes. You can fill them less and squeeze a few more out of the recipe if you like.

At this point you can either eat them as they are, or you can frost them. If you're feeling plucky, you can do both. They have pumpkin in them... it's okay if you eat two at once. Or three.  I went with a cream cheese frosting, and it works with the pumpkin. You could also do chocolate frosting for a triple chocolate pumpkin cake!

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 8 oz block cream cheese, cold
  • 4 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
Cut cold cream cheese into chunks and beat with softened butter until well mixed and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixing after each addition just until mixed. Be careful not to over mix the frosting or it will break down and be too soft. When a good spreading/piping consistency is reached, stop mixing. If you want to add color, stir it in carefully by hand just until mixed. I used Wilton gel colors blue and rose to make this purple.

I dumped the entire bowl of frosting in a large ziploc bag and cut the corner off to pipe the frosting on these cupcakes. Stick on a spider ring and call it a Halloween cupcake. Easy peasy.

Make these, then eat them. Look at the rich, chocolate goodness. It's calling you.

There are more Halloween cupcakes coming this week, including Candy Corn. I'm making a couple hundred cupcakes for a Halloween party next weekend, so cupcakes will be taking over around here. Keep checking in for more decorating ideas, including how to make white chocolate spiderwebs!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Week 3 - Strawberry Mascarpone Cupcakes

Pink strawberry cake filled with strawberry mascarpone, topped with
strawberry cream cheese frosting and a pink gum paste ribbon

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Most of us know someone who has been touched in some way by this disease, be it a victim, a survivor, a mother, a daughter, and aunt, a sister, or a friend. If it hasn't touched your life, it has probably touched the life of someone you know. 

One of my dearest friends is a breast cancer survivor. She fought it and she kicked its ass, and I'm so glad to have been a part of her life while she fought this battle. Love you, Kellie.

I have this other friend who is neither a victim nor a survivor, but she fights for those who are. She's heading out on Friday morning to walk nearly sixty miles over three days to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure fund. She raised well over two thousand dollars, and she's walking a very long physical and emotional road this week. She's doing it for all the people who can't. Love you, Kelly.

If you would like more information about breast cancer, visit this site


Ok, so now let's talk about the cupcake. I combined several recipes to get this pink delight, and I was a little unsure of it.  I'm not a huge fan of strawberry (much to the horror of my husband), but this was a tasty cake. My taste testers loved it. I filled the cupcakes when they were a little warm, so the filling soaked in to the cake a little more than it would have if I had waited, but patience is not my strength.

I used a cake recipe that I hoped would hold up to the adding of ingredients and filling. The filling was not super thick, so a little density in the cake worked well.  The frosting was a little softer than I liked, but I may have left the bowl sitting next to a warm oven before I frosted the cupcakes. Don't do that. If I hadn't been rushing to take them to my sister's for dinner, I would have refrigerated it for a while.

Strawberry cake

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup pureed strawberries (fresh or frozen, pureed in food processor)
Preheat oven to 375.  In a large bowl, cream softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix salt, baking powder and flour. Add to butter mixture slowly, alternating with the milk. Beat for two minutes on medium speed until well blended. Add strawberries and, if desired, food coloring and beat just until mixed.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake about 20 minutes, or just until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out dry. Cool completely.

Mascarpone filling

  • 8 oz tub of mascarpone cheese*
  • 1 cup pureed strawberries
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Mix all ingredients well. Mixture will be thin, so don't panic. Spoon mixture into a pastry bag with a small tip or a filling tip.  Press tip into the center of each cupcake and gently squeeze the bag until the top of the cupcake expands a little, then pull the tip from the cake. Be careful not to overfill, or the cupcake may crack in half.

Most of the recipes I read for this type of filling called for lemon juice, but also came with a lot of complaints about the cheese curdling after mixing. I skipped the juice and added a little zest. Problem solved!

*If you can't find mascarpone cheese, you can substitute cream cheese.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz tub strawberry cream cheese
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup strawberry puree
  • 3 - 4 cups powdered sugar

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Mix in the strawberry puree. Slowly add the powdered sugar until the frosting is fluffy but firm enough to frost with. If you want a more pink frosting, add a little color now until you get the shade you want.  Frost your cakes.

I topped mine with gum paste pink ribbons, because I happened to have gum paste that needed to be used. You could use fondant. You could put some pink sprinkles on it. You could put a strawberry on top, or leave it plain. You can not go wrong with a decoration here. Well, unless it's bacon. This might be the single place in the universe that bacon does not belong. Anyway, have fun with it!


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Week 2 - Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

My husband looked at me one night last week, mouth stuffed with ganache, and said, "Could you... I mean... would you... what if... mint chocolate chip."  This one's for you, babe.

The cupcake:  moist chocolate cake with mint chips, topped with mint buttercream and a chocolate mint.

I already had a chocolate cake recipe, but I impulsively tried the one from the back of the can of Hershey's cocoa powder. The recipe says, "batter will be thin," but I panicked when I was done mixing it. It was the consistency of a mostly melted milkshake (say that five times fast).  So much for scooping neat little scoops of batter into my cups. I had to pour it, and I was worried.

I worried needlessly. The cake is moist and chocolately and wonderful! Because of how thin the batter was, I did not fold in the mint chips. After the batter was safely nestled inside its paper liners, I sprinkled the chips on top of each cup. The cake baked right up around them.

Here's the recipe:

Mint Chocolate Chip Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • mint chips (or mini chocolate chips)

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill muffin trays with paper liners (or grease and flour).
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water. Batter will be really, really thin. So thin you'll want to feed it a cheeseburger. Don't worry, it will be fine. 
3.Pour the batter into prepared liners, filling the cups 2/3 full. You can fill them a little more if you want big, overflowing cupcakes. I like mine to sit neatly within the liner, so I fill them 2/3 full.  Right before you put the pans in the oven, sprinkle each cup with about a few mint chips. I used Andes mint chips, available in the baking section, but if these are not available to you, mini chocolate chips would be fine.
4. Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Set pans on wire racks. Cool in pans until completely cooled. This keeps them from falling completely apart when you pick them up. 
For the frosting, I added mint extract and green coloring to a basic buttercream recipe. Go easy with the mint flavoring at first... you can add more, but you can't take it away.  You can use your favorite buttercream recipe, or even canned frosting if your conscience attacks when you get out the butter. Use whatever works for you.
Mint Buttercream

  • 1 cup butter, softened

  • 1/2 teaspoon mint extract (or more to taste)

  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar

  • 2 tablespoons milk

  • green food coloring or gel colors

  • Beat butter until light and fluffy, then add in the sugar. Beat until well mixed, then add the milk and extract. When the frosting is light and spreadable, start adding food coloring until you reach your desired color. I was out of green gel, so I used regular food coloring, about 6 drops.

    Frost your cupcakes after they are completely cool. If they're even a tiny bit warm, the frosting will melt and slide right off. This angers the cupcake gods. Cool your cakes. Pipe on your frosting, and garnish with an Andes Candy or a sprinkle of chips. Eat and enjoy.

    Potential changes to the recipe (or, how to make this recipe easier if the thought of making all this from scratch makes you tremble and cry):

    • You can absolutely use a boxed cake mix for these. I'd suggest a fudge flavor. If you use a thicker cake mix, fold in the chips rather than sprinkling them on top.
    • Use canned frosting and add color and flavor to it. I don't love canned frosting, but it would certainly work.
    • Spread the frosting instead of piping it. If you want to pipe it but don't own a pastry bag, dump the frosting in a large Ziploc bag, cut off the corner, and pipe it with that.
    Now go, and make your family, friends and coworkers happy!

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Week 1 - Malted Milk Ball Cupcake

    Let me preface this post by confessing that this picture was not taken in my kitchen. It did not occur to me to take a picture of these cupcakes before they were gone, so I had to search for one. I will say, the cupcakes I made looked very, very similar to this. I solemnly swear to take pictures of every cupcake produced in my home from this point on.

    Now that we've gotten that out of the way, on to the recipe. These cupcakes were good. Very good. The cake is a basic vanilla cake jazzed up with a hint of malt and pieces of malted milk ball, topped with whipped chocolate ganache and a whole malted milk ball. About the time you swallow the first bite, the malt flavor jumps up and says, "Hello!" They're a cake version of the Whoppers candy I loved as a kid!

    Malted Milk Ball Cupcakes

    2 1/4 C cake flour*
    1 1/2 C sugar
    4 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/3 C malted milk powder
    3 large eggs
    1/2 C unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 C milk
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
    1/2 C chopped malted milk ball candies (tossed in 1 teaspoon of flour)

    Preheat oven to 350°.  Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, malted milk powder and salt. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Add the vanilla and stir. Adding eggs one at a time, beat on low until combined. Slowly add milk, then mix on medium speed for two minutes.

    Stir 1 tsp of flour into the candy crumbles, then stir into batter. The flour helps the candy to not sink to the bottom of the cake. I chopped the candy by pulsing it in the food processor a few times.

    Fill cupcake papers 2/3 full. Be careful not to overfill them... I overfilled a few of them, and they overflowed the cups.  Bake 15 - 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then remove and move to cooling racks.

    *If you do not have cake flour, you can use regular all-purpose flour. The texture is lighter and fluffier with cake flour, but all-purpose would work. You can make flour with this conversion:  For 3 cups of cake flour, add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and sift together.

    Whipped Chocolate Ganache

    1 pint heavy cream
    1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (the better the quality, the better the ganache!)

    You can start the ganache before you start the cupcake batter, because it needs to cool quite a bit before you whip it. Pour the chocolate pieces in a glass bowl. Heat the cream until it starts to simmer, then pour it over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is well mixed and glossy. Cool completely.

    When you are ready to frost your cooled cupcakes, whip the ganache. I like to put my mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for about 10 minutes before I whip the frosting. If it's cold, it will set and whip faster. Pour the cooled and slightly thickened ganache into the bowl and beat at high speed until the frosting lightens in color and takes on a more fluffy consistency. 

    Spread or pipe the frosting on cupcakes that are completely cool, then top with a malted milk ball. If the cupcake is warm, it will melt the frosting and create a very, very big mess.


    If this recipe seems like way too much work, you have a couple of options. You could stir the malt powder  and candies into a prepared cake mix. You can smear on a can of chocolate frosting. You'll still have a delicious cupcake, but the effort to make the homemade cake and frosting is worth it. I promise.

    Anyone who has ever loved Whopper candies will adore these cakes!

    Welcome to A Year of Cupcakes!

    If you look up the word cupcake in the dictionary, you'll find the following:

    cup·cake  [kuhp-keyk]

    a small cake, the size of an individual portion, baked in a cup-shaped mold.
    a tiny bit of joy topped with sweet, sweet love, best when shared with others
    I've set out on a mission to make a different type of cupcake each week for an entire year.  Join me on my journey to experience 52 blissfully sweet treats!