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

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

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

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

The Perfect Marriage

What could possibly go better together than peanut butter and jelly?  I say it’s peanut butter and chocolate.  For me this is the best combination; peanut butter and chocolate are a match made in heaven.  Hence my journey into a PB cup cupcake.

I used my go to one bowl chocolate cupcake recipe for the base  (I told you I use this recipe all the time) and then went from there.  Since I was trying to get as close to a PB cup as I could, I decide to put a mini cup inside the cupcake for a nice little surprise.  And it’s a pretty good surprise if I do say so myself.  This proved to be a little trouble for me though because those little suckers sunk to the bottom of the cupcake and got a little stuck to the wrapper.  I know, I know, you’re probably going to tell me that I should have put flour on the PB cups so they wouldn’t sink but I did!  Yup, still didn’t work.  I’m going to assume that the issue here is that this is a very runny batter.  The first time I made these cupcakes I thought I must have messed the recipe up but I trusted Martha and they came out perfectly (someday I’ll do a post with pictures of the baking of these gems).  I digress.  Back to the prefect combo cupcake.  Next time I think I’d go with a thicker batter so the PB cups don’t sink and you get a perfect bite right in the middle.

Now part that really makes the PB/chocolate combo; the peanut butter frosting.  Once again I went one of Martha’s recipes because most of them are good things, and lets face it, Martha can almost do no wrong (not counting insider trading here).

INGREDIENTS

Makes about 3 cups.

  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Beat cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar with a mixer on medium speed. Add salt, then peanut butter, then vanilla. Whisk cream until soft peaks form, and then fold into peanut butter mixture. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. (Bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth before using.)

I’m going to admit it here that I wasn’t really into this frosting.  I think this was one of the first times Martha led me wrong, but don’t worry there will more to come.  For me the frosting was a little too salty and I prefer just a plain buttercream with peanut butter mixed in.  I don’t think it was all that bad though because one of my roommates (who will be known as Lenny through my cupcake adventures) was really into it and will still tell me almost a year later that she liked that frosting.  I’m going to have to trust her on this one.  It is a good combo for if your looking for that salty sweet thing but that wasn’t quite what I was going for here.  Anyway to finish it off I just had to put another PB cup on top.  Those things are so addictive I could have eaten them all before they even made it into the cupcakes.

Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the frosting, these cupcakes were still pretty good.  I’m telling you, you really can’t go wrong with any chocolate/peanut butter combination.  People are going to love it no matter what unless they are crazy or have no taste buds.

Next adventure…chocolate covered hi hats.  These are pretty amazing so stay tuned.

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