Happy Halloween!

 CupcakeHappy Halloween to all!  I didn’t get a chance to carve pumpkins this year but the picture above is from a friend’s pumpkin carving contest last year.  Can you guess which one is mine??  I’m sure it’s pretty obvious.  And I won the contest!

I’m not making any cupcakes this year for Halloween but came across these cute ones from Bakerella:

cupcakes_halloween_02

Maybe next year I’ll have to try out some of these decorations.  The pumpkins and spider webs are particularly cute!

I hope you all have a happy and safe Halloween!

Pear Spice Cupcakes with Honey Mascarpone Frosting

FallFall is the best time of year.  It’s finally cool and no longer humid, boot wearing weather!  Plus it’s leaf peeping time!  Looking at the beautiful colors of the fall is one of the few times that I love the weather in New England.  

Pear

Going apple picking is one of my favorite fall activities.  If you spend any time on Pinterest you know that apples and pumpkins get all the credit in the fall recipe arena.  The apple and pumpkin definitely dominate most of the recipes you see at this time of the year.  But everyone forgets that fall is also pear season!  I love pear picking just as much as apple picking.  Plus pear recipes at this time of year seem so much more unique than an apple or pumpkin recipe.

For Cupcakes

[Inspired by Annie Eats]

Makes 16 cupcakesPear spice

  • 3 medium pears peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar plus 3 Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 1 and 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
  • Dash of ginger
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 2 Tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. salt
  • 1 Tsp. vanilla bean paste (found on Amazon)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  1. Heat oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of water in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in the pears, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook mixture until the pears are fork tender, about 7-8 minutes.  Set pear mixture aside.
  3.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light in color.
  5. Add eggs one at a time and mix to combine.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed.
  6. Add in half of the flour mixture into the sugar, butter, and egg mixture and mix to combine.  Add in half of the milk.  Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and milk until all ingredients are combined.
  7. Fold in cooked pears until well combined in the batter.
  8. Divide batter among the cupcake pans and cook the cupcakes for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For FrostingPear spice

  • 1 stick of butter at room temperature
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp. milk (as necessary)
  1. Cream together butter and mascarpone cheese until combined.  Add in honey.
  2. Add in powdered sugar one cup at a time until well combined.
  3. If the mixture is too thick, add in a little bit of milk at a time until you get your desired consistency.
  4. Frost cupcakes.

These cupcakes taste like a bite of fall!  The pears make it so these cupcakes almost can’t dry out.  I had one when they were fresh and one from the freezer a week later and they tasted just as good as the first day.  The honey mascarpone frosting is pretty sweet but the actual cupcake isn’t super sugary so it balances out when you eat them together.  I brought these cupcakes into work and someone told me the cupcakes reminded her of her childhood.  She couldn’t quite pin point why but I’m going to assume that is a good thing!

Key Lime Pie Cupcakes

My mom is a big fan of key lime pie.  And I don’t blame her, a buttery graham cracker crust with a tart lime Key Limefilling, and soft whipped cream on top.  There’s a lot to like there if you make it right.  This year I wasn’t going to be able to spend Mother’s Day with my mom so I decided to drive down to Connecticut the weekend before for a surprise Mother’s Day celebration.  On a side note, you can see how overdue this post is since I’m talking about something that happened in May.  Since we weren’t going to be spending actual Mother’s Day together I wanted to make her some special key lime cupcakes based on one of her favorite desserts.

For Cupcakes

[Inspired by Annie Eats]

Makes about 18 cupcakes

  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5  Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 16 tbsp. (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Zest and juice of 4 key limes
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1¾ cups milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Key Lime

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tins with 18 liners.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter; mix well with a fork.
  3. Drop about 1 tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner and press down to line the bottom..
  4. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, and maintain the oven temperature.
  5. For the cupcake batter , combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
  6. Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.
  7. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.  Add in the lime zest.
  8. Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  9. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
  10. Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
  • Zest of 6-8 key limes
  • 4 tbsp.  unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  1. In a saucepan, combine the eggs and sugar.  Whisk together until well blended.
  2. Whisk in the key lime juice.
  3. Place the pan over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring or whisking constantly, until the mixture is warmed through.  Be careful not to heat the mixture too quickly to avoid curdling the eggs.
  4. Whisk in the butter a little bit at a time, stirring in each addition until completely incorporated before adding more.  Continue to cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens and a spoon or spatula leaves a path when drawn through it.
  5. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.
  6. Cut holes in the center of your cupcakes and spoon or pipe in filling until it reaches the top of the cupcake.

For FrostingKey Lime

  • 1 Tsp. unflavored gelatin
  • 1 Tbsp.cold water
  • 1 cup cold heavy or whipping cream
  • 3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small dish and let sit for a few minutes until the gelatin absorbs the water.
  2. Microwave the gelatin for about 30 seconds at high heat.  The gelatin will be clear and melted.
  3. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream until it gets thick and starts to form peaks.
  4. Gradually add in your sugar.
  5. Mix in the melted gelatin and water mixture into the whipped cream.
  6. Add in vanilla and mix well.
  7. Pipe a ring of whipped cream frosting around the outer edge of the key lime cupcake so that you can see the lime filling in the center of the cupcake.

Key LimeThese cupcakes taste almost exactly like a slice of key lime pie!  I had seen other recipes that were just key lime flavored but I think the graham cracker crust on the bottom of these really gives them the essence of the pie.  They are tart and sweet with a little bit of crunch from the crust on the bottom.  I think my mom was very happy with her special Mother’s Day cupcakes.

Biggest Baking Adventure Yet

Back at it after some WordPress problems that have kept me quite delayed.  And first up now that I’m back up online is the long over due post of my biggest baking adventure to date.  IMG_1396

When I was asked to make birthday cupcakes for a 40th birthday celebration, I’m not sure I realized what an adventure it would be.  I was thinking maybe two dozen each of two different flavors like chocolate and vanilla.  When I got to talking to the hostess she said there would be about 75 people at the party…wow, I knew this would be the biggest haul of cupcakes yet.  And then once we ironed down flavors, I realized that it was going to be a little more complicated than I thought.

The hostess decided on a few flavors, some of which I had made before and some of which I hadn’t.  Cookie dough, Hostess, and red velvet I had made before and peanut butter and white chocolate were completely new for me.  And even thought these weren’t particularly tough recipes, I didn’t realize what making nine…that’s right nine dozen cupcakes was going to entail.

Cupcakes 4It look three days and possibly some tears and meltdowns.  Because I’m never overly dramatic or anything (sense my completely sarcastic tone), I definitely didn’t flop down in my bed and cry to Boy Cupcake that I wasn’t going to finish them.  Our conversation may have looked something like this:

Me: “I can’t do it.  Whaaaaa”

Boy Cupcake: “What are you going to do, give them a hundred unfrosted cupcakes?”

Me: “Yes.  Whaaaaa”

Boy Cupcake: “You have to finish them so get up and I’ll get you more ingredients for the frosting you messed up.”

Me: “Fine.  Humph.”

See?  Not overly dramatic at all.  But in the end it was totally worth it all and our hostess was so extremely grateful and I was happy to make her happy.  Besides, then I got to listen to her praise my cupcakes to other people at the party which I definitely don’t hate.

 

If Life Gives You Limes, Make Margarita Cupcakes

Who doesn’t like a cold margarita on a hot summer day?  If you’re not a margarita lover you better stop right here because these are for those of us who not only like to drink their liquor but eat it.   

As usual, I got some inspiration from Martha for these cupcakes.  She has these beautiful orange vanilla bean cupcakes with candied oranges that I had been wanting to try.  Since it was summer time (back in the day when I actually made these) and I was bringing these to a BBQ I was pretty sure that orange vanilla bean cupcakes didn’t scream summer BBQ.  Sadly, I was still pretty desperate to make some candied citrus fruit so the wheels in my brain started turning.  Since my friends like a good frozen drink or three every now and, margaritas came to mind and these cupcakes were born!

Ingredients (Makes 24 cupcakes)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 limes, zested and juiced
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup tequila (plus at least a shot to drink while baking)

Directions

  1. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir with a fork to blend.  
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the lime zest, lime juice, tequila, and vanilla.  
  4. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.
  5. Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ full.  Bake 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Be warned, these are pretty time consuming because they require you to put candied limes on top.  It’s a bit of a process, but this is how Martha does it: http://www.marthastewart.com/candied-citrus-slices  but she does it with oranges/grapefruit (I used about 4 limes for this).  You need to be able to cut the limes really thin for this, which is hard for me since I don’t really have sharp knives or  knife skills despite thinking I do from watching so much Top Chef.

While the limes are cooking in their little hot tub of sugar water, it’s time to make the frosting. 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 6 egg whites at room temperature
  • 3 zested limes
  • 3 tablespoons tequila

Directions

  1. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.
  3. As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Fold in lime zest.  Stir in tequila one tablespoon at a time making sure frosting doesn’t get too runny.  Use immediately.

The cupcakes simply get frosted with a thin layer then the little beads are pipped on the edges with a #4 piping tip, which is pretty tedious and can practically make you go blind but looks to good, it’s worth almost losing my vision over it.  Top with one of those candied limes (I hope you took them off the stove to cool and didn’t forget about them!) and you’re good to go. 

I say all of my cupcakes are good, but I like them so I might as well give myself a little pat on the back right?  So, these were very good with a few minor problems.  I definitely didn’t cut those limes thin enough or cook them long enough for them to be eaten.  They did look great on top of the cupcakes, but I had to warn people to pick them off (but at this point they had drunk so many margaritas it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway).  My other issue was that I wouldn’t pair these with the 7-minute frosting if I was to make them again.  The frosting tasted a little too “eggy” to me so I’d definitely go with the Swiss meringue buttercream with the lime and tequila mixed in.

All in all though I’d say it was a success.  It was quite an adventure making these cupcakes but those candied fruit slices look so pretty!

xoxo,

~CurlyCupcake

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