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

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Happy Birthday Grammy!

Today is my Gram’s 83rd birthday so I traveled to CT yesterday for a little family cookout to celebrate.  I really wanted to make her something special so I looked to my new book that I got from my brother and sister-in-law for my birthday, What’s New Cupcake?.  This is the second book to Hello Cupcake and they are both awesome!  I thought some bright flowers would be perfect for her so that’s what I went with.

I made a basic buttermilk cupcake and filled with pastry cream (see basic recipes for both).  To fill cupcakes I just cut a “cork” out from the center of the cupcake and fill it with the cream which is basically like the filling for a Boston cream doughnut…and seriously, do you now anyone who doesn’t like those doughnuts?  Because I’m going to be really sad if you do because those things are the best!

Now, the book marked these as EZ cupcakes but I’ve had enough experience with Martha to know that this isn’t always true.  I was extremely surprised to find out that these in fact were really easy cupcakes, even though they they are super time consuming.  I had to cut 22 mini marshmallows in half on the bias and dip the sticky side into colored sugar.  If it wasn’t for the help of my roommate Lenny’s little baby fingers, I’m not sure I would have been able to get through this myself.  I will admit that I was a little nervous to let her help because she was drinking wine, but Lenny was a lifesaver!

Once the exhausting part of being hunched over a table of mini marshmallows and colored sugar was over, it was time to get the flowers growing.  Sadly when I made the Swiss meringue buttercream (I told you this was my favorite frosting!) I tried it out and it was horrible!  For some reason it tasted super salty and disgusting.  Turns out stupid me bought salted butter for the frosting.  Yeah, not a good thing in baking.  I had to run myself out to the convenience store down the road and pay $4.99 for another pound of unsalted butter, I was kind of hoping the butter was made from gold for that price but no such luck.

I was finally able to let out a sigh of relief and remake the frosting which turned out delicious the second time.  Spread a thin layer on top of the cupcake and you’re ready for the flowers to bloom.  This part is super easy, you’re just sticking those marshmallows into the frosting in three layers and putting a few candies in the middle (I used Good and Plenty candy for this).  And viola!  You’re done!  And you have a bouquet of pretty flowers that are going to impress the pants off your friends and family, but not literally I hope.  

I’m telling you, if you want to impress people, these are the ones to make.  The sunflowers are a real show stopper too but take a little more time and effort to make.  I have to say this adventure was a success!

xoxo,

~CurlyCupcake

Buzzzzz

Yet another adventure into the world of Martha Stewart cupcakes.  I’m so inspired by all of the glossy pictures of the pretty cupcakes in this book but the honey bee cupcakes were one of the ones that really caught my eye.  Martha can make pretty much anything easy, she could make an ice sculpture with a butter knife and I’d think I could do it too after watching her.  These though were definitely not the easiest cupcakes to make.

The cupcake base is pretty much a piece of cake, since it’s pretty much a spice and honey cake but it’s very sweet with the honey.

Ingredients

(Makes 20 cupcakes)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons good quality honey (get the good stuff at Whole Foods, it seriously makes a difference)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 and line standard cupcake tins with paper liner.  Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

With an electric mixer on high, beat eggs and sugars until pale and thick.  Whisk together honey, milk, oil, and zest.  On low speed, mix together honey into egg mixture.  Add flour mixture in two batches, mixing until just combined.

Divide batter among lined cups, filling each 3/4 full.  Bake, rotating halfway through, until golden brown (about 25 minutes).  Cool on wire rack.

I made these cupcakes about two weeks before we actually ate the cupcakes (I kept them in the freezer though so don’t worry Kristin- I know you’re reading this).  I had attempted to frost them with some leftover Swiss meringue buttercream which did not go well.  The frosting separated so I decided I could save it by adding powdered sugar.  Yeah, not the case.  The frosting had to be dumped and I was so frustrated that I had to put the cupcakes in the freezer for a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile in cupcake land, I made up those little bees that top the cupcake.  They were just about the easiest part of the cupcake, just tinting marzipan and putting little balls of alternating colors together and sticking almond wings in their sides.  Easy peasy!  I’m telling you, the frosting was the hardest part of this cupcake.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve completely messed up this frosting but it’s my favorite so I’ll never stop making it.

The frosting was supposed to look like little petals with the bees on top but that just wasn’t working for me.  I decided just to dismiss Martha go ahead and do my own thing.  Let me tell you, it was a good thing.  So it didn’t look as pretty but it made it so much easier and they still looked pretty good so I wasn’t too concerned about it.

I ended up bring these to a work thingy and people oohhhed and ahhhhed over them (but I’m pretty sure it was just because of the little bees on top).  I think these work people would like anything I brought them though.  I can’t tell you how much these doctors love their sugar (and we’re talking diabetes doctors).  And who doesn’t like a cupcake?  They’re the perfect pre-portioned dessert!

xoxo,

~CurlyCupcake

You Are My Sunshine

I knew when I started taking pictures of all of my cupcake creations that I probably should have started a blog then, but let’s face it, I’m lazy.  It’s taken me over a year to get around to actually doing this, so there are going to be lots of back posts so I can post my pictures and such.  And here we go:                                  

Last year while browsing in Williams and Sonoma, my eye caught one of the most beautiful cookbooks that I had ever seen, the book that has practically become my bible for cupcake making.  I know you’re wondering what it could possibly be so brace yourselves…it was the Martha Stewart Cupcake book.  Now the cheap side of me had a little debate with the baker side of me.  Seriously, it was like a little devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.  This book was going for something in the neighborhood of 30 bucks, which isn’t all that bad but if you knew how much I got paid at my job you’d understand.  Needless to say, the baker devil own the argument and I went ahead and bought the book (it was an early birthday present to myself, okay?).  So totally worth it, and I’d buy it again if I had to.

The first gem I decided to conquer from this book was the sunflower cupcakes.  I pretty much decided to go all out, balls to the walls on my first attempt here.  Armed with my wonderful roomie’s Kitchen Aid stand mixer and my set of piping tips I went to work on the recipe for the cupcake base, which are one bowl chocolate cupcakes.  This is about the only time Martha lets you use only one bowl during your baking, she loves to torture you with multiple bowls.  It’s not a good thing Martha.

INGREDIENTS

Makes 18 to 24 (this recipe always makes me exactly 18 cupcakes)

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (I’ve done them with plain skim milk and have been fine)
  • 3 tablespoons safflower oil (you can use any kind, I use canola)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.
  2. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

These are by far the best chocolate cupcakes I’ve made to date and have officially become my go to chocolate cupcake base for so many cupcakes I make.  I topped them with a Swiss meringue buttercream.  This is an awesome frosting because it’s not super sweet and it doesn’t get that grainy texture that you can get when using powdered sugar.  I’m sure you’re all eager to make this stuff but be warned, this recipe is not for the faint of heart.  It’s a bit time consuming and pretty hard to do without a stand mixer (I’ve tried and it takes FOREVER).  Also, forget it if you’re on a diet because there’s a pound of butter in this recipe.  No really, I’m serious…literally a POUND of butter:

INGREDIENTS

Makes about 9 cups, enough for about 28 cupcakes. (you can totally half this recipe, I often do)

  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 10 large egg whites
  • 4 cups (8 sticks or 2 pounds) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.
  2. Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don’t worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla, and beat just until combined.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.

I tinted my buttercream yellow and went to work doing my magic.  I’m not going to go into details about the piping because I’m a little to lazy to post the directions, and lets face it this is already a pretty long post.  Anyway, not to toot my own horn or anything (okay, maybe a little tooting) but I’m going to say I did a pretty good job for my first piping job.  Here’s another view of the cupcakes:

Add some mini chocolate chips in the middle and there you have it cupcake lovers, a sunflower cupcake to impress your friends.  Share them with your friends and family and be sure to post pictures on Facebook because I can tell you you’ll get lots of good compliments to boost your ego.

Until our next cupcake adventure.

xoxo,

~CurlyCupcake