Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes: A Canadian Treat

Before trying to find the perfect cupcake for a birthday, I had never heard of nanaimo bars.  Apparently they are a Canadian treat and since our birthday girl is Canadian, it was suggested I try to make them into a cupcake.  According to Wikipedia, nanaimo bars  were voted “Canada’s favourite confection”.

After doing a little research on these, I found out they are a triple layered bar…kind of like seven layer bars…with a layer of chocolate, coconut, almonds, and graham cracker, a custard layer, and a top layer of chocolate ganache.  Sounded good enough to me.  The only problem is that the filling calls for custard powder.  What?!  I’ve never heard of such a thing.  Well apparently they don’t sell it in the U.S. so I had to improvise with vanilla pudding mix.  I have a feeling it’s not exactly the same but hopefully it was close enough.

[Inspired by C&C Cakery]

Makes 18 cupcakes

For Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups graham crackers crushed (this was about 1 sleeve of graham crackers)
  • 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 Tsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a cupcake tin with 18 liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, graham, cocoa powder, coconut, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until they’re completely incorporated. Add and mix in the vanilla. Slowly incorporate the melted chocolate chips (make sure it is cooled to at least room temperature first).
  4. Add the flour mixture and the milk/yogurt mixture into your batter, alternating between the two. When your batter is just about mixed.
  5. Divide batter among cupcake liners and bake 20-25 minutes, or when your cake tester comes out clean.

For Filling

  • 1 stick of butter at room temperature
  • 4 Tbsp. vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 cups powered sugar
  1. Mix butter, pudding mix, and sugar together with an electric mixer
  2. Add in milk 1 Tbsp. at a time until it is fully incorporated
  3. Core holes into your cooled cupcakes, about an inch and a half around and at least half way in. Carefully spoon the custard filling into the holes and cover with the top of the cupcake that’s been cut out

For Ganache

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 7 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
  1. Place butter and chocolate in a microwavable bowl and microwave on 30 second intervals until melted, stirring between each interval
  2. Cool for at least 30 minutes before topping cupcakes and garnish with chopped almonds and coconut

These cupcakes definitely have a lot going on between all the stuff in the cake and the filling and chocolate on top but it’s a great combination.  The cake part was almost like an Almond Joy.

The birthday girl was really excited about it and had to tell everyone what nanaimo bars actually are…she even said the cupcakes were pretty close to the actual bars.  Yup, I’m brushing my shoulders off.  I can’t wait to actually try the real thing to see how they compare, especially since custard powder is nowhere to be found in the U.S.  I’m wondering if the pudding was a close substitute.  I guess we’ll see.

Until next time.

Xoxo,

~CurlyCupcake

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Nuts for Nutella!

Sunday was a dedicated day to try a recipe from the Cupcake Wish List so I could cross another one off.  I asked the great people of Facebook what kind I should try:

1. Oatmeal chocolate chip with cinnamon frosting

2. Nutella swirl with Nutella buttercream

3. German chocolate with coconut pecan frosting

It turns out that people really like Nutella, I had no idea it was going to be so popular.  It was almost a unanimous vote for Nutella except for my mom who voted German chocolate.  Sorry Mom, I’ll have to make you some of your own German chocolate cupcakes next time I’m home.

I had been wanting to try a recipe for self-icing Nutella cupcakes for a while now, so I thought I’d use this as my cupcake but can you really have a cupcake without a nice glob of frosting on top?  I can’t so I had to accompany it with a Nutella buttercream using my favorite Swiss meringue buttercream as the base.

[Recipe adapted from iheartcuppycakes]

Ingredients

For cupcakes:

  • 10 Tbsp. softened butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 Tsp. vanilla
  • 1 and 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 Tsp. salt
  • 2 Tsp. baking soda
  • 12 generous Tsp. Nutella

For frosting:

  • 5 egg whites
  • 4 sticks softened butter (cut into pieces)
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • Remaining Nutella from jar (about 3/4 cup)

Instructions

For cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and prepare cupcake pan with 12 liners
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until light and smooth (about 2 minutes)
  3. Add in eggs one at a time until fully incorporated
  4. Mix in flour, salt, and baking powder until just mixed together
  5. Divide into 12 cupcakes (about 3/4 full)
  6. Top each with with a generous teaspoon of Nutella and swirl into batter with a toothpick, folding some of the batter up and over the Nutella
  7. Bake for 20-22 minutes

For frosting:

  1. Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch. 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 peaks, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the softened 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. Once the frosting is smooth, fold in Nutella until incorporated and frost cupcakes.

The verdict?  Nutella cupcakes are awesome!  They had a little crunch on the top from the Nutella swirl layer and the buttercream was not too sweet with a nice hint of chocolate and hazelnut.  Boy Cupcake said “Two thumbs up” and “scrumdiddlyumptious” (he dared me to spell it.  Take that!) and I have to agree.

It also gave me the chance to try out a new frosting technique to make it look like a pretty flower.  It was super easy and it looks really pretty.  The only downside is that you don’t get as much frosting as you do with a big swirl.  I’ll admit it, I actually put a little extra on top when I ate mine.  Yum!

So what should be the next adventure off the Cupcake Wish List?  Let me know!

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