Friday, September 28, 2012

Let's Pretend it is Cinco de Mayo

I know it is the start of Fall, but a friend from church told me about a local bakery's Margarita cupcakes and asked me if I could bake one as good.  I am always up for a challenge.  I did some research on different cupcake recipes and found one that made some great tasting cupcakes.  I topped it with some Margarita-flavored buttercream and a lime wedge and I think I accomplished my goal of making a great tasting Margarita cupcake!
The majority of the recipes I researched used tequila. I have always heard that when you cook or bake something with alcohol in it, the alcohol will cook or bake out. However, I did some research on the topic and I found that it's not necessarily true that the alcohol will bake out. I decided to try an alcohol-free cupcake, especially since many of my friends and family don't like the taste of tequila. I bought a margarita mix and just replaced the tequila. I did the same for the buttercream frosting and then topped it with a fresh lime slice. Yum...and I think if you are a margarita drinker, you will love these and not even miss the tequila! 
So, even though the weather is getting chillier and I saw Christmas decorations already displayed at Target the other day (no joke, it was behind the Halloween stuff!), you can still enjoy a taste of the warm weather!

Tip of the Blog:

My favorite frosting is buttercream.  I enjoy the Italian Meringue and the whipped cream, but I would pick buttercream over any other frosting any day of the week.  However, I am not a fan heavy of buttercream frostings.  I found a little trick to make buttercream a little fluffier and a little lighter, while keeping the sweetness.  Instead of adding milk to the frosting, add some heavy whipping cream and whip the butter and powdered sugar and any other ingredients with the cream until it starts to form soft peaks.  Then, you will have a lighter, but still delicious buttercream frosting to complement your cupcake!
We are getting closer to opening a cupcakery!  Unfortunately, all the paperwork and waiting for a health license takes time, but soon I will be able to offer all the decadent treats I have been blogging about (and many more) at my Internet Cupcakery!! 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fall is coming!

The Women's Committee at my church holds an annual sign-up for all the ministries the church offers.  We usually have a breakfast, so the ladies can enjoy some good food while learning about the opportunities that are available.  This year, however, we decided to have a dessert night instead.  I signed up to make cupcakes (I love a chance to make new cupcakes and to share them!).  Since I am usually ready for Fall to start by the beginning of September, I thought what better cupcake flavor to make than pumpkin?  And because I am always wanting to expand my decorating skills, I made fondant Fall leaves as a topper.

How yummy do these look?!
The cupcakes were pumpkin with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting-sometimes it is nice to stick with a traditional favorite.  These cupcakes were particularly moist and light because sour cream was added, and who doesn't like pumpkin?  Cream cheese is a natural complement to the pumpkin, and now you have a Fall-inspired cupcake.  I could have left them undecorated and they would have still tasted great, but I have really been wanting to work with fondant and making leaves made perfect toppers for these little treats.

Fondant is edible, but I don't really like the taste. But it is a great medium for making decorations, it is pliable, holds its shape well and versatile. I have only worked with fondant once before, to make a stem for a flower cake I made for my daughter's 1st birthday party. This time, I wanted to use a fondant cutter or mold to make the leaves. I found this nifty little contraption at the store and thought I would give it a try...
The fondant rolled out and marked for putting in the press.
After removing the excess fondant, you are left with three little leaves, ready to be painted.
While I was at the store, I found this cool stuff called Color Dust.  It is an edible dust that you can use to paint your fondant or gum paste decorations.  I had a great time making all the leaves, and then painting them. 

Here they are before they are painted...
and after...

 and the final product again...
My friend, Lisa, took a picture for me of the cupcakes on the cupcake stand at the dessert party.
Tip of the Blog:
When you roll out fondant, powder your work surface with powdered sugar and occasionally pick the fondant up to make sure it is not sticking to your work surface.  Also, just like when rolling out dough for bread, make sure to powder your rolling pin (with powdered sugar).

I was given the challenge of making a Margarita Lime cupcake that would taste as good or better than a local bakery's version.  I am up for the challenge and will let you know what happens!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tackling the Red Velvet Cupcake

I am a huge fan of Cupcake Wars on the Food Network, and I always notice that when a contestant makes a red velvet cupcake, it is almost always a failure.  The judges are very particular about how red velvet should taste, and it seems very few bakers meet their standards.  I have had red velvet maybe three times in my life, and I can say I have never been left with a great impression.  The cake is usually dry or extremely dense.  I recently became obsessed with the idea of baking a dye-free red velvet cupcake.  I have some friends who can't give their kids red dye because it is known to cause hyperactivity, and others I know are actually allergic to the stuff!  So, I set out on a moist-but-not-dense-no-red-dye-red-velvet-cupcake mission, and what a mission it was!  I think I tried about 6 different recipes and drove my poor husband up a wall making him taste the finished products (some of which were not good AT ALL!).  I gave up on the idea of having a bright red cake without using red dye, because it really isn't possible.  I instead settled for a more natural-looking reddish-brown cake, using...beet juice.  Take a look at what I came up with and then I will explain how it all came together.

Aren't the little hearts cute? I will get to those in a minute, but let 's start with the cake.
The reason I wanted to make a red velvet cupcake that had no red dye in it is because I have friends and family who can't use red dye, either for themselves or for their kids. But everyone should be entitled to this yummy, decadent dessert.  The original recipe (after some research, although even this seems unclear) is from a recipe at the Waldorf-Astoria, and it used red food coloring. However, some of the stories I read claim that the original red velvet cake was made before that and used natural food colorings, such as beetroot. I decided to try some different recipes and substitute either beet juice or beet puree for the food coloring to see what would happen.
Let me start by saying if you are going to use a puree, use only a small amount as the puree will make your cupcake almost gelatin-like. I tried several recipes which called for puree, and they all came out mushy (it really isn't appetizing). So, I decided to stick with beet juice. Again, after some experimenting and deciding that I was never going to get that "fake" red color from beet juice, I found a recipe that came out moist, light and not greasy. The cake does have a reddish-brown hue, and you CAN NOT taste the beets. This is very important because I dislike beets a great deal (as does my hubby), and I didn't want a beet cupcake. These cupcakes have a subtle chocolate taste which works really well with the white chocolate cream cheese frosting.  I used beet juice from canned beets, but another method is to boil fresh beets and use the juice from that.  From my research, the outcome is the same, as far as color.  If you were to use a beet puree, fresh beets would probably give a more vibrant color.

The lighting in this picture isn't the greatest, but these do have a slightly red tint. But isn't it the taste that matters more than an unnatural red color?!
After finally deciding on a cupcake recipe, I decided to increase the decadence in this cupcake by making the white chocolate cream cheese frosting.  It is so smooth and works perfectly with the chocolate hint in the cake.  Then, because I wanted to try a new decorating technique, I free-handed some pink chocolate hearts (for my friends who had the dark chocolate hearts, I ran out of dark chocolate, so pink it is!).  And yes, there is some red dye in the candy, but you can always take those off.  I plan to experiment with beet powder in the future to color my white chocolate, I just didn't have any on hand.
 These little hearts were fun to make, I simply melted some colored chocolate, let it cool slightly and then filled a piping bag.  I have a couple of cutting boards that are a flexible, light plastic and I used those as my "drawing" surface.  Then, I let them set in the freezer and then very carefully removed them with a spatula.  I like the free-form look of them, and it is a skill I can continue to improve.

I hope these look appetizing enough that you won't even miss the bright red cake part! 
Tip of the Blog:
If you make a cream cheese frosting, you might have better results piping it onto your cupcakes if you stick the frosting in the fridge for a little while to set.  Then it will be a little stiffer to pipe nicely on your cupcakes!

As I mentioned on my last post, I am in the process of starting my own cupcakery, appropriately named YellowRoses Cupcakes.  It will be an online cupcakery, and I will be happy to deliver cupcakes to you for any occasion, or I can host a baking party or cupcake decorating party.  I will keep you informed of how the set-up is going.  And once I am officially open for business, I would love to share my cupcake creations with you and your friends!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to School with some PB & J

My son, Ethan, started Kindergarten this past week.  It is sad that my little boy is old enough to start elementary school!  To get in the school mood, a couple of weeks ago I decided to make a Peanut Butter and Jelly cupcake, what's more back-to-school than that?!  Take a look at my yellow cupcake with strawberry center and peanut butter frosting creation (complete with strawberry syrup drizzle!)...
Part of the reason I made these particular cupcakes is I have been trying all different vanilla cupcake recipes to find the most moist and delicious, and I think the recipe I used here is my winner.  To complete the cupcake, I made a strawberry jam (because nothing is store-bought if I can help it) center with cream cheese peanut butter frosting and, as I said before, a strawberry syrup drizzle (again, homemade).  The first bite into these cupcakes was like taking a bite of a gourmet PB & J sandwich! 
The strawberry jam center is sweet and works perfectly with the vanilla cupcake!
I made the frosting with cream cheese to cut down on the sweetness, but it was still a very indulgent topping to this cupcake!
I think these cupcakes would be great for a kid's birthday party, or a end of the summer picnic!
Tip of the Blog:
When using a filling for a cupcake, make sure both the cupcakes and the filling are cooled completely before filling the cupcakes.  Otherwise, you might end up with a soggy mess!
I have some exciting news-I am in the planning phase of starting my very own cupcake business!  It will be an Internet-based business for the time being, with the goal to expand to farmers' markets and a store-front as the demand grows.  I would love to share my cupcake creations with you and your friends, so I will let you know when my business officially opens!!