Thank You Jesus

When I bought myself the Martha Stewart Cupcakes book, I fell head over heals in love with the picture of hummingbird cupcakes.  These girls were beautiful and I knew that I had to have them right away.  For months I kept trying to find just the right occasion to make these cupcakes but can you believe, it took me almost a year to actually make them?!?  Sure, I could have made them for any old occasion, but I really felt like these beauties had to be brought out at the perfect time and place.  It finally happened one day when my mom asked me to make cupcakes for our family’s Easter celebration.  A light bulb went off in my head and I immediately thought of these.  Thank you Jesus, literally, for giving me a reason to make these cupcakes.

If you’ve never had hummingbird cake, then you’re in for a treat.  I first had it at a work get together where someone made it as a cake.  I thought it was great, but that there were a few things I’d change about it to make it completely perfect.  I love trying to be a perfectionist most of the time, even though I’m almost always failing at that.  It never hurts to try, right?

To make the cupcakes, I pretty much followed Martha’s recipe, with a minor change…omit the nuts.  I hate nuts in cupcakes, cookies, etc, so unless someone really begs me to add them in, I am almost always going to leave them out of the recipe.  And you know what?  I think it makes it so much better!  Well, mostly because I don’t have to pick out the nuts as I’m eating.  So for those who haven’t tried hummingbird cake, it is a delicious, fruity spiced cake with smooth cream cheese frosting.  The combination of the banana, coconut, and pineapple really goes surprisingly well with the bit of cinnamon that is in the cupcake.  

The frosting for the cupcakes is just a traditional cream cheese frosting, but it really pairs well with the cake almost in the same way that carrot cake and cream cheese frosting go together.

The best part about these cupcakes is the garnish of dried pineapple flowers.  These are what really caught my eye about the cupcakes because they look so simple but make the cupcake look beautiful.  But in all seriousness, I should really know by now that anything Martha puts out there isn’t going to be simple for the most part.  I figured I’d make the pineapple flowers ahead of time and bring them to CT where I was going to make the cupcakes.  WARNING: You need a really good set of sharp knives and some serious knife skills to make the flowers!  Neither of which I have by any means.  It really helped me to watch the video of Martha making the flowers, but again, she makes it look so easy.  I could just not cut those pineapple slices thin enough to dry out properly.  I ended up with a bunch of thickish, soggy pineapple slices.

What to do, what to do?  Since my dad is a pretty good foodie with some nice kitchen utensils, I figured I’d wait until I was in CT to make the flowers.  Considering I didn’t get those knife skills overnight, I turned to dear ol’ dad.  He’s definitely got some skills, and got those flowers sliced as thin as they could possibly go (oh, and not only does he have the knife skills, but the photography skills to take the pictures of these cupcakes…thanks dad!).  Now this is where I take issue with Martha yet once again, even though I had almost paper thin slices, it took much longer than the 1 hour that she says to dry them out.  Since I was pretty exhausted from driving from Boston all day and baking cupcakes, my wonderful mom took charge.  She watched those flowers like a hawk and took them out of the oven before they got burned…well mostly.  We then molded them in empty egg cartons to dry overnight to they would set up.  What you finally get is a really beautiful flower but man are those things a lot of work.

The overall consensus was that these cupcakes were a hit, some people even had two cupcakes.  But lets get serious here, are there really any poeple out there who don’t like cupcakes?  If there are, I don’t think I want to meet them.

xoxo,

~CurlyCupcake

Pupcakes

In my dream of opening a cupcake shop, I thought it would be the cutest idea to make cupcakes for dogs and call them pupcakes.  Apparently lots of other people thought that would be super cute because there are already multiple bakeries around with pupcakes.  I guess I’ll just have to stick with cupcakes for people.  Besides, dogs can’t eat chocolate which would mean I’d have to make them out of carob, and no one really likes carob anyway.

After years of talking about our love of puppies, my friend/coworker Kristin got herself a golden retriever puppy named Bodhi.  GAWD is he just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen!  I mean I’m serious when I say he’s so cute you want to die.  You have to see him, so I went and stole a picture from her Facebook page. This is my absolute favorite of him because he looks a little like he’s in a fisheye lens and he has a little grass stuck to his lip.

Kristin and her husband had a puppy party to introduce little Bodhi to all of their friends (and to drink some sangria on a Sunday afternoon).  I was more than excited to go and spend some time with her cute little man (the puppy, not her husband).  Of course I have to bring cupcakes to the shindig because well, that’s what I do.

Again, I made the one bowl chocolate cupcakes but topped with with Kristin’s favorite frosting.  This is a mousse-like frosting and always gets compliments from people.

Ingredients

  • 1 package instant vanilla sugar free pudding (you can use any flavor but this time I used vanilla.  Chocolate is really good too)
  • 1 cup milk (I always use skim)
  • 8 oz. thawed Cool Whip (I usually use the Cool Whip free or light)

Directions

Make pudding according to the directions with the 1 cup of milk rather than the 2 cups the package states.  Fold in thawed Cool Whip.  Mix in food coloring if desired.

The cupcakes had to be garnished with a white chocolate bone because they would be puppy celebration cupcakes without some kind of dog relate thing on there.  I had printed out some clip art of bones and covered with wax paper to I could pipe the melted white chocolate on.  Since the bones look the same on both sides, unlike letters, you can just turn them over when you put them on the cupcakes so the smooth side is facing up.

The cupcakes were a hit.  I absolutely love the frosting on these cupcakes, and everyone else will too.  Don’t even tell them it’s made with instant pudding and Cool Whip.  You have to fake it and say that you made mousse for the frosting.  Trust me, they’ll believe you.

xoxo,

~CurlyCupcake

Mint Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip

What happens when someone has a birthday and another runs the Boston Marathon?  They get cupcakes, obviously.  My friend who I like to call Nipkins (yes my friends have weird nicknames, you’re going to get a lot of crazy ones through the course of this blog) ran the Boston Marathon this year.  Fairly close to marathon time, her boyfriend D-Train had a birthday.  Clearly they both need cupcakes to celebrate these momentous occasions.  D-Train had requested mint chocolate chip cupcakes for his birthday so I figured lets make a dozen of these and they can share them in celebration.

They were pretty easy cupcakes.  Because I like the one bowl chocolate cupcakes so much, I used this recipe and added some mint extract to it.  Only about 2 teaspoons though because I didn’t want too much mint flavor in the chocolate cupcakes…I was saving that for the frosting.  The frosting is where the mint lived.  It was a basic buttercream:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mint extract

All we’re doing here with the frosting is combining the above ingredients and adding just a few drops of green food coloring.  Not too much now, just enough so it looks like the color of mint chocolate chip ice cream.  That is what we’re going for after all, isn’t it?

I like to pipe on the frosting in a pretty swirl.  I used to do this with my #194 tip, but as you might remember it went down the drain, literally, so from now on it’s going to be hard.  Until I get another one that it.  Anywho, it is a must to finish off the cupcakes with a chocolate chip garnish because they are mint chocolate chip cupcakes, aren’t they?

So what was the verdict on these cupcakes?  Well Nipkins told me she liked them but D-Train wasn’t all that excited about them apparently.  I guess they weren’t exactly what he was looking for but he did request them, remember?  If you’re reading D-Train, I shed a single tear over this.  We’re going to have to have a long talk about this because I never got a good answer on why they weren’t great, but Nipkins did tell me that you ate a bunch of them.  Sooooo, I’m guessing they weren’t nauseating. Next time maybe chocolate chips in the actual cupcake?  I promise to try harder.

xoxo,

~CurlyCupcake

Strawberry, Meet Basil

While attempting to dream up new flavors of cupcakes, these ones just got into my head and wouldn’t leave.  My roommate Lenny bought a basil plant to put on our windowsill and I really wanted to incorporate some of the fresh basil into a cupcake.  For some reason the first thing that popped into my head was to pair it with strawberry and my mind was pretty much set on the combination.  

Since strawberry-basil cupcakes were here to stay, I did a little research to see if there were any other ones like this out there.  Well it turns out there were lots of basil combinations, but I was turning up dry on the strawberry combo.  Which means…drum roll please…I’m putting a unique cupcake out there!  I always get excited when I can make a unique cupcake (or at least unique to the internet cupcake).  I decided that this one would be a basil cupcake with a strawberry swirl on top and strawberry buttercream frosting.  Sounds good, huh?  Or at least it doesn’t sound horrible, does it?

For the cupcake base I used a recipe from the Cupcake Project (here) with a few changes made.  These cupcakes have wine in them which I’ve tried before but to be honest I’m not that big of a fan of wine cupcakes because when they’re cooked they have a bit of a sour taste to them.  Good for some cupcakes but not really what I wanted for these so I just subbed it out for milk (actually soy milk).  I also chopped up about 2-3 tablespoons of the basil that I had soaked in the olive oil and put it into the cupcakes.

To actually make these puppies a strawberry-basil cupcake, I made a strawberry sauce to drizzle on top before baked to get a sticky strawberry top.  Oh, and I also used the sauce in the frosting for strawberry buttercream.  For the sauce take:

1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

From here it’s super easy.  I know I say that a lot, but it really is.  Just combine everything in a medium sauce pan and stir together until liquidy and boiling.  Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth and strain through a sieve to get rid of those little strawberry seeds.  After filling the cupcake tins with batter I drizzled about a teaspoon on top of the batter and attempted to sort of marble it in.  After baking you get a sticky strawberry top on your cupcake.

Let’s move on to the frosting.  Once again, I frosted them with a swiss meringue buttercream but added the rest of the strawberry sauce it to make it strawberry buttercream obviously.  Anyway, you know how I’ve written a bunch of posts about how I always mess up this frosting.  Yup, I messed it up once again…and no, I didn’t use salted butter again.  The frosting was looking great right up until I put the strawberry sauce in it.  I had made the sauce the night before and refrigerated it.  Apparently it was still a bit cold, so when I mixed it into the frosting, the butter got cold and chunked up.  I know that sounds kind of gross, but it’s the best way to describe it, there were little pieces of butter in the frosting.  I do have to say though that it still tasted good, so I just went with it.  I wasn’t about to waste not only the frosting ingredients but the strawberry sauce ingredients too.

So what was the verdict on these cupcakes?  Well it was a little mixed.  Lenny liked them and my other roommate (for blogging purposes we’re going to call her Susical..don’t ask) said they were good too.  I brought them into work and a few people really liked them but others said they wished there was more strawberry in them.  I think next time I might do a center with strawberry jam in it.

Overall, they were pretty good.  When I ate them they were just out of the refrigerator so it wasn’t as good cold as it would have been at room temperature but I’d do them again as a summer cupcake.

Oh, and on a side note, my adventure into making my own vanilla extract is going very well.  I have it hidden away in a dark cabinet but I can’t help looking at it almost everyday.  The extract already has a really nice color after a week.  Seven more weeks and I’m going to have to make some vanilla cupcakes!

xoxo,

~CurlyCupcake

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Cupcake Program…

If you’ve ever bought vanilla beans at the grocery store you know that you’ll pay at least $12 for a little test tube of two vanilla beans.  I find this pretty outrageous and $12 is pretty much the minimum I’ve seen them for!  In reading a few cupcake/baking blogs recently, I discovered that you can easily make your own vanilla extract.  I was super excited because those little bottles are pretty expensive as well.  Man, you’d think vanilla was gold or something.

Anyway, my problem with making the vanilla extract was that those beans are so expensive and you need six beans for this!  Now I’m not the person who got a perfect score on the math section of the SATs but I’m pretty sure that’s about $36 just for the beans!  So not worth it.  Or is it?  Along with discovering I could make my own vanilla extract, I also discovered that I could order vanilla beans in bulk on Amazon!!

I spent a long time on Amazon trying to decide which beans to go with until I ultimately decided on these from JR Mushroom and Specialities.  I mainly went with these ones because 1/4 pound of beans would give me enough to make some extract and have plenty left over to use for vanilla bean cupcakes, frostings, etc.  I couldn’t believe that I ordered them on Friday and they were on my front door the next day with free shipping!  Now, I’m sure a lot of that has to do with the fact that I live in Boston and this company is located right neat by in Charlestown, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s good service too.  When I took the padded envelope out of my mail box, I could smell the delicious vanilla smell through the packaging and couldn’t wait to start making my extract.

Making your own extract is so super easy, you’re not going to believe it.  Basically all you really need is some vodka, a bunch of vanilla beans, a jar, and some time.  I just the recipe I found here and doubled it.  Pretty much every recipe that I found online was the same, although some call for cutting the beans and others don’t.  I went with a recipe that kept the beans whole just because I figured it would be one less step for me.

So, in two months time I will have my very own delicious vanilla extract to bake with.  And when I’m done with the beans I’m going to put them into a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar!  It really doesn’t get better than that.

xoxo,

~CurlyCupcake

Little Cupcake, Big Cupcake

Don’t you love having friends or family who live in a great vacation spot?  My niece and nephew live out in Lake Tahoe, and I love going out to see them since it’s so beautiful out there.  Even better though is when they make their once a year pilgrimage to the east coast for their multiple state visit.

This past fall when they came for their visit, it was just after my niece’s 3rd birthday and we were also going to have my nephew’s Christening so it was the perfect excuse for me to make a bunch of cupcakes!  For Z’s Christening cupcakes I thought it would be best to keep it simple and wow the crowd with the presentation.  I went with the Martha one bowl chocolate cupcakes (yes, again!) with a buttercream frosting and white chocolate lettering.  For her birthday, I kind of wanted to give C a funfetti cake (my absolute favorite boxed cake), but lets face it, cupcakes are much more my thing and everyone pretty much expects me to bring cupcakes to a party.

I’m assuming at this point in the blog we don’t need to go over the chocolate cupcakes, I’ve probably posted about them at least three times now.  I told you I loved them!  I made a basic buttercream frosting because to be honest, I tried to make the Swiss buttercream for both but ran out of ingredients for a second batch.

I used the recipe from allrecipes.com but used all butter instead of putting shortening in.  Personally, I’m not too much of a fan of using shortening in frosting unless I’m using vegetable shortening in a vegan frosting.  I’ve found that the shortening leaves a funny feeling in my mouth after that I don’t like.  I think it’s okay in a vegan cupcake when there are less options out there but I wouldn’t recommend it in everyday cupcake frostings.

When I started making cupcakes, I bought some concentrated food dyes so that I could decorate in pretty colors.  These are great because you only have to use a few drops of coloring to get a nice color.  I love the color of these cupcakes; they almost came out a Tiffany blue when I colored them.

Chocolate letters look great on top of cupcakes, and are super easy to make.  All I had to do here was print out what I wanted to say and cover with wax paper.  Then just pipe melted chocolate onto the wax paper and let harden and people will be ahhhhing over your pretty spelled out letters.  Lesson: if you want your letters to be smooth, you MUST pipe them backwards so they can be turned over when put on the cupcakes.  You can see in the picture with the big Z that they are a little bumpy, which they wouldn’t have been if I had thought first to do them backwards.  

Since I love funfetti cake so much, I figured I’d make everyone else love them whether they liked it or not.  I’m going to share a secret with you here, so don’t tell anyone…I would pick boxed funfetti cake with rainbow chip frosting over almost any homemade cupcake.  Shhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!  This must NEVER be repeated outside of this blog.

Moving on.  Giant cupcakes are not as easy to make as they look.  I used a basic buttermilk cake recipe and added rainbow sprinkles to make it funfetti (pretty easy, right?).  I made this cake, took it out of the oven, put it on the cooling wrack and saw liquid cake batter dripping from it.  Obviously you’re thinking I should’ve tested the cake before I took it out but I swear I did!  The toothpick came out clean but somehow there was still raw cake in there.  I really have no idea how this happened.  

On my second attempt, I mixed everything together and got the cake in the oven baking before I realized that I forgot to put oil in the cake.  Duh!!  Sometimes you just have to go with the mistakes, so at this point I just went with it and figured I’d see how it turned out.  The cake turned out a little dense but it still tasted good, and you know what?  I hate wasting good ingredients, so I wouldn’t have been happy throwing two cakes away.

From the pictures I had seen of the giant cupcake, I just didn’t like the look of the whole cake covered in frosting.  I had found a giant cupcake candy shell on oh, sugar! and loved the look because it made it look like the cupcake was in a wrapper.  It was super easy to do too as long as you follow her directions step by step.  Cover the giant cupcake in some Swiss meringue buttercream (which was hard to pipe on in a continuous circle, hence the gaps there) and throw on some of those leftover sprinkles and you’re good to go.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the cake, cupcake, and my nephew.  How cute is that little man?? I can’t even tell you how hard it was to get him to sit there and not stick his hand in the frosting, but we got him there long enough for a photo shoot.  I’m pretty sure he enjoyed those chocolate cupcakes, as did the rest of the party.

This weekend I’m going to be diving into a new cupcake adventure…strawberry basil cupcakes!  This is going to be a great summer cupcake, I can’t wait!

xoxo,

~CurlyCupcake

Chistmas in July

Merry Christmas in July!

I’m going back about about seven months here to the cupcakes I made for my friend/coworker Kristin for her family’s Christmas visit.  We talked a lot about what to make but she just went with “I’ll eat any cupcake you make.  I trust you”.  A lot of people say this when I make cupcakes for them and let me tell you, it’s a lot of pressure!

I finally suggested an adapted Martha recipe of spiced eggnog cupcake with eggnog frosting, and she seemed to love this idea (at least that’s what she told me).  I mean who doesn’t love this stuff, I can’t get enough of it at Christmas time.  My mom used to tell me that when she was little she would poke a pin hole in the eggnog carton and suck it out thinking her parents wouldn’t know since the carton wasn’t open.  So, I’m prettu sure my egnog love is genetic, thanks mom.

Martha’s recipe was just a spiced cake so I decided that instead of milk I’d use eggnog instead.  Now if we’re talking eggnog you obviously have to put rum (about 1/4 cup of spiced rum) in there…obviously I like to put alcohol in my cupcakes, huh?  I took a few things out of Martha’s recipe too.  I didn’t have allspice in my kitchen and since there were lots of other spices in there I just decided to leave it out.  I also didn’t have mace, and quite frankly, it kind of freaked me out to put something that’s I assume is in pepper spray in my cupcakes.  

How about the frosting you ask?  Well here it is:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 4-6 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons eggnog
  • 1-2 tablespoons spiced rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Basically I just mixed the butter and sugar together adding 1 tablespoon of rum then 1 tablespoon at a time of eggnog until you get to the desired consistency.  I’m going to admit something here though, I completely forgot to add the rum and didn’t realize until the cupcakes were decorated.  BUT, if I had added the rum, that is how I would have done it.

To decorate, I started by frosting all of the cupcakes with the white frosting, then tinted about 1/2 cup frosting red for the berries, and the rest green for the wreath.  I used a #102 decorating tip to pipe layers of the leaves around and finished them by adding berries with a #1 decorating tip.

I never got to eat these cupcakes since I only made a dozen and gave all of them to Kristin to share with her family but from what she tells me, she liked them.  But, she says this about most of my cupcakes so either she’s never met a cupcake she doesn’t like, or she’s just being nice.  But knowing Kristin, I’m inclined to believe the former.

These were a fun adventure to dive into on a snowy Boston Sunday afternoon.  I pretty much love making any cupcake that let’s me practice my piping skills.

xoxo,

~CurlyCupcake