Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tiramisu Cupcakes (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

The Story:

I don't know why I always feel compelled to write these sections. I mean sometimes there is a really story behind why I made a certain thing, but sometimes the story is I just wanted to bake. Or eat. Or put someone in a sugar coma. No elaborate back-story, just plain and simple.

Anyway, I made these the same day as the banana bread because it was family night and we were going to be having my family plus my new brother-in-law and his family over for dinner as well. It was just enough people to warrant a "purposed" dessert...maybe making 24 cupcakes was a little overkill...but I figured I could swing an acceptable excuse if that's what it came down to.

I'm always looking for interesting ways to dress up a cupcake. So when in the brilliant corners of my mind the idea for tiramisu cupcakes emerged--I was extremely excited.

I found several different recipes-ranging from super simple to crazy complex. So taking into consideration all that I wanted these cupcakes to be--this one seemed like the best and way to go:
Tiramisu Cupcakes

The Method:

These cupcakes are not difficult to make, but they are time consuming as there transformation process requires several different stages.

The Cupcake:

I decided to go with the white cake box mix to save time. I'm sad I did because that was the one thing I disliked about this cupcake, but I was pressed for time so it needed to be done.

If time permits, making a vanilla/white batter from scratch could really take these cupcakes up a notch.

The liquid layer:
Tiramisu is cake soaked in espresso and rum. Because I don't keep rum in my house and I'm not a big fan of the strong liquor flavor, I opted to add a little rum extract to the coffee liquid recipe. This gave it a little bit of the original flavor without being over powering. (A little FYI: make sure you have instant coffee. I accidentally bought ground coffee in a can and ended up straining the whole concoction several times to get all the grounds out)

The soak:
I also don't like soggy bread, so drenching my cupcake creations in coffee was not an appealing option. I tried poking holes in the top with toothpicks, but I could tell that pouring the coffee over it was just going to create a huge mess. Instead, I opted to cut a small cone out of the tops of each cupcake (just like I did for the Strawberry Stuffed Lime Coconut Cupcakes I had made the week earlier).

This did the trick. I was able to pour a small amount of the coffee liquid into the cupcake centers to give it an authentic "flare," if you will, without completely destroying the integrity of the cupcake structure. No soggy mess. No stress. ;)

The filling/frosting:
This recipe (and all tiramisu recipes in general) call for mascarpone cheese in the filling. But I couldn't, for the life of me, find mascarpone cheese anywhere. I tried both of our major grocery stores, but with no luck. I decided to just use cream cheese, since it was already called for in the frosting. (I have since found out that Whole Foods carries mascarpone cheese...big shocker well as Trader Joes)
I ended up using the same recipe for the filling as I did for the frosting. I guess the cupcakes didn't really have a "special" filling then, but an overflow of frosting.

To frost the cupcakes, I spooned a small amount into a ziploc plastic bag, made a small cut in the corner, and piped the cheese frosting into (and onto) the cupcake.

The finishing touches:

For decoration, I dusted the finished cupcakes with cocoa powder and placed a small chocolate chip in the middle.

The Results:

I was very impressed with these cupcakes. I was pleased that the rum flavor was dialed down and that the inside of the cake was not soggy. Even the cream cheese frosting worked out very well (although I would use mascarpone next time). The only thing I would make sure to do to make the darn batter from scratch! I should have learned by now that I hate the box mix and that even when it saves me time, I always regret it. Honestly, a good "cake" recipe would have perfected this endeavor. But alas, I must make this journey again in order to taste a cupcake that meets my rigorous standards.

I must say though...they are kinda cool lookin'.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Search for the Best Banana Bread (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

The Story:

I don't know about you, but I'm extremely picky about my fruit. I have a preferred way to eat each one. Apples have to be firm and crisp. Grapes can't be mushy. Peaches need to be in a half-ripened stage. And Bananas...well, they're the most complicated of all. I've found that there is about a "two-day" window, in which bananas are edible. When they are almost ripen...mostly yellow, but with still a tinge of green. Before that they are tasteless and leave a sticky film in your mouth. After that, well there's not much you can do, unless, you freeze them right away. If you miss that window there is only two options: Garbage or Banana Bread.

...And that leads us into how this post came about. My sister was coming over for breakfast because she had just gotten back from her honeymoon...and I was in desperate need of some sister time. I had planned to just make coffee or maybe some pancakes because we are not big breakfast eaters, but I saw two bananas on the counter on the brink of extinction and I decided to take pity on them. Thankfully, my brother had my cousin and his friend over so I would have more than enough mouths to finish off the loaf.

I looked around for the best banana bread I could find. I searched cookbooks, the Internet, etc. And I came upon this recipe that people were raving about. It even called for sour cream. Sold. Hook, line, and sinker. Flours Famous Banana Bread

The Method:

I followed the recipe just as it indicated. I debated for awhile on whether or not to include nuts, because I know that often causes issues. Personally, I like nuts if they are cooked in the bread. So I did a quick "allergy" one? Good. :) The recipe only made one loaf. I'm used to the recipes I use making two loaves so I was a little sad. But then we didn't have days of leftover break getting stale and expanding our wastes so it worked out.

The Results:
The bread turned out really well. It was moist and delicious. I can't say that it's the best recipe out there, but it was a very good one just the same. My brother raved about it, and he's a professional banana bread connoisseur. So if you're looking for a new recipe or just something to save those pesky bananas then here you go!

...And there was enough to send home to my sister's husband!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

S'more Cupcakes Please! (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

The Story:
Well, by now we know that I'll use any excuse to bake...especially cupcakes. Because you can decorate them! It was my sister's wedding rehearsal dinner and I was trying to decide on cupcake that would fit the theme and "wow" the guests. Because sometimes you bake for the praise. ;)

Being the middle of July, I figured I'd do some sort of 'refreshing' cupcake--like strawberry lemonade (which I have yet to do, but mark my words--its on my list!). But that felt more like a 'bridal shower' cupcake as opposed to an event where there would be men involved. So what did that mean? Just one thing. Chocolate.

Chocolate + Summer = S'mores. It's a perfectly scientific equation.

I scoured the internet for interesting ideas and finally settled on these as my inspiration. A graham cracker crust? Singed marshmallow topping? Score!  S'more Cupcakes

The Method...
Because these cupcakes required a little bit of assembly, I decided to make the cupcake part the day before so I could just frost and decorate them the day of the rehearsal. I do this alot actually, which takes alot of the stress out. No more waiting till the cupcakes are cool enough to frost so I can finally leave the house with them. We have an extra dining room so I find that this is often where I store my bald cupcakes over night.

The Crust:
I made the crust according to the instructions on the "Holman..." blog. I actually found a shot glass in one of our cupboards to help pack the crust into the bottom. But before that, I was using a regular spoon and that worked just fine.

The Middle:
For the chocolate pieces, I used chopped chocolate chips because I had them on hand. It was nice to know that those were on the inside of each cupcake, but you couldn't really tell once they were actually cooked and finished. I knew this would happen because we used to cook massive amounts of marshmallows into our brownies, which gave them an extra moist gooey texture...but you couldn't actually SEE them. Same goes with the same amount of melted chocolate.

The Cake:
I decided just to go with a Devil's Food box cake mix, since I was going to have to make a crust. I didn't want to spend ALL day on the cupcakes. I find that Duncan Hines & the Betty Crocker Super Moist chocolate cake mixes are really good. So I default to those alot without feeling too guilty.

The Frosting:

Attempt #1-Fail.

Ideally, what I wanted was a marshmallow frosting that I could toast to get that "perfect" s'more look...with just a hint of brown, delicious crispness on the outside and gooeyness on the inside. Since my last attempt at marshmallow frosting failed, I decided to go a different route. My ingenious plan involved marshmallow fluff and a toaster oven. Needless to say, it didn't work. I had never used marshmallow fluff before so I didn't know that the second you open the jar the fluff deflates into a runny mess. Piling that stuff on a cupcake is a chore AND expecting it to magically fix itself and toast in the oven...well, that is just plain stupid. But try I did... and fail I did even more.

Attempt #2-Go To Success.
Since my dreams of the perfect marshmallow topping were obviously not coming true...I resorted to my trusty back up. Pillsbury Cream Cheese frosting. I try to keep one stashed in my pantry for such emergencies as this. I was a little worried about the cheese flavor ruining the s'more theme, but actually I think it tasted just fine...alot better than those way-too-sweet vanilla frostings.

Finishing Touches:
To me, this is the most important part. I'd even put it before taste. Because an ugly cupcake, is an uneaten cupcake. And an uneaten cupcake is a sad, pathetic, lonely mass incapable of fulfilling its life's destiny. And frankly...I just can't have that.

I wanted the top to convey the cupcake's theme/flavor so I decided to place a Hershey's chocolate square (this time I've got to go with the classic) and graham cracker crumbs. Because the original plan for frosting didn't work out I decided to put individual mini marshmallows on the tops as well. It still bothered me that I could have that authentic "roasted" look...I even went so far as to toast the mini ones in the toaster oven for a while...but they were too gooey to transport from the pan to the cupcake in one piece. Boy did I wish I had a kitchen torch.
The Results:

Some things don't turn out the way you plan...and if you are an obsessive planner like me, you'll find that more often than not that's exactly the case. So you've got to just roll with the punches. The cupcakes turned out great. I loved the way they looked, even if it wasn't my first choice. The crust on the cupcake was amazing. Definitely worth the extra time...and they tasted good. Win-win.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Strawberry Stuffed Lime-Coconut Cupcakes (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

As I've grown older, I've come to realize that being the oldest child sometimes comes with perks...but most of the time it just means more responsibility. Not that it's always a bad thing--Oh, how I love to be in charge. But sometimes I find I bite off more than I can chew. Like that time I thought it would be a good idea to make beef stew and a homemade apple pie for dinner one night after, we didn't eat till 10:00pm.
The Story:

Anyway, my sister was getting married and I was the maid of honor. My aunts we're already throwing her a bridal shower, but since we had so much family she couldn't really invite any of her friends. So I took it upon myself as her sister and honorly maid to throw her another "friends" shower. Now this was all good in theory, however, we had just gotten back from a week an a half road trip to Canada and I somehow found myself in charge of the other "family" shower as well. Needless, to say it was just one of those weeks.

I had planned to make it simple, but I'm a perfectionist. Which means that even the most seemingly "simple" task or arrangement will look effortless to the untrained eye, but we perfectionists know that careful thought, planning, and organized execution goes into each and every step. I set up a quick invite on Facebook and planned an outdoor movie night: Projector-check. Screen-check. Popcorn machine-check. Only thing left? Cupcakes!!

I wanted something light and refreshing, but completely different and unique. I came upon this recipe for Strawberry-Lime Stuffed Cupcakes that fit the bill. I was captivated. Strawberry Lime Stuffed Cupcakes

The Method:
I had seen some other strawberry stuffed cupcakes during my initial "research," but none seemed as good as these. One recipe actually baked the strawberry in the middle instead of placing a fresh one in, which seemed like a good idea...but the 'after' picture wasn't at all appealing so I decided to stick with the "fresh" method. See here.  However, in my internet-blog travels, I found that several recipes included coconut. Well, I had a bunch of coconut left over from my Red Velvet cupcake endeavor so I thought, "why not?" I don't like shredded coconut unless it's toasted...cause, frankly, it tastes like hair. So I bought some coconut flavoring to go into the cupcakes.


For Cake:
1 White Cake Box Mix (prepared according to instructions)
2 Tbsp Coconut Flavor (add more or less to taste)
  • Mix all together and pour into cupcake liners. Makes 24. (I kept adding more coconut flavor but it still didn't seem to show very strongly...even in the cooked cupcakes)
For frosting:
1 tub of cream cheese frosting (2 tubs, depending on how much you like to put on)
1 lime (juiced, add more or less to taste)
  • I just squeezed a half of a lime into the frosting at a time. I think I ended up using about one limes worth of juice. (Honestly this was the best was DE-lic-i-OUS! The lime helps to lighten the frosting even more...which could prove to be a dangerous thing if you have leftovers and a clean spoon nearby).
The Strawberry:
24 Strawberries (washed and completely dry. in this case the smaller the better)
  • Take a sharp knife (one that will easily cut the cupcake without smashing it) and cut a small cone shaped piece out of the top of eachBulleted List of the cupcakes. Then gently place...okay, lets be honest...shove a clean, de-stemmed strawberry into the middle of the cupcake. (Make sure the strawberries are not still wet from being don't want to accidentially make cupcake mush during this process). This "strawberry-ing" part is actually pretty easy. Just an fyi, you might have to cut the strawberries a little bit if they are too big and are protruding from the cupcake tops.
The Decorations:
  • Lime Rind
  • Toasted Coconut
  • Strawberry pieces (cut up)
I think I actually went a little overboard with this one. I think the strawberry on top was a little too much. The coconut and lime rinds were the perfect "delicate" decorations. I felt like the strawberry piece (as small as it was) kind of took away some of the mystery of the cupcake...and it kind of blew the surprise of the middle. Obviously, you can do as you want, but next time I'm going to learn from my own mistakes and let the concealed middle work it's magic.

The Results:
The cupcakes were amazing. Honestly, they were beautiful. The cupcakes turned out nicely...not even one deflated. The strawberries fit in the middle and the frosting tasted delicious. The only thing I wish I would have done differently was I would have liked to make the cupcakes from scratch. I hate the white cake box mix. It's too airy. I want to find the best basic vanilla cupcake recipe to replace this habit. But until then, this way is easy and they always look nice even if they aren't the best tasting.
Besides that, though, these cupcakes were perfect. I loved the way they looked and how unique they were. The strawberry in the middle really cinches the deal. This recipe makes some of the prettiest cupcakes I've ever seen

...and THAT's saying something.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Rockin' Rainbow Roller Disco Cupcakes (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

...Now say that five times fast.

It was still June and the birthdays just kept on coming. Next on the list was the one I'd been waiting best friend Marina's birthday. We had planned to have a 70's Themed Roller Disco party down at the local roller rink. Yes, there was only one left in town and it smelled a little musty. But if you know Marina at all you'd know that this was totally her type of party. We had discussed making some crazy good peanut butter cupcakes because well...peanut butter is awesome. But one day she called me up excited about her new, "brilliant" idea: Neon cupcakes. And I agreed. Neon + Cake + Skates = Good. 

I wasn't exactly going for anything fancy with these cupcakes. I just really wanted the color to be bright. As I was researching how to do this I came across this blog that had a recipe for "Rainbow Cake." She was trying to make a cake that was low in sugar, etc. because she was on a diet, but I LOVED her technique. The cake was extremely bright and rich in color. AND what also impressed me was that the different colors were not layered one on top of the other. They were swirled in no particular order without blending into each other. I knew I had to have cupcakes like this.

In order to achieve this look, you take the white cake batter (in this case I just used a white cake mix) and divide it into separate bowls. Then you take food coloring (I used McCormick's Neon Food Color...although I've read that Betty Crocker's Neon Food Color Gel is even better) and mix one into each bowl. To make sure your cupcakes don't have that "rainbow layered" look, spoon the individual colors into the corner of each cupcake liner...this way it will look more like colored splotches/sections instead of consecutive lines.

For detailed instructions and pictures (yay!!) here is my source: Rainbow Cake

The cupcakes turned out amazing! Better than I even expected. The colors were extremely bright and rich. I almost didn't want to frost them.

I ended up frosting them with cream cheese frosting from the store and dyeing them with yellow and red food color. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the frosting to be as brilliant as the cake. I think it was because I didn't have orange neon color so I had to make do with the original red and yellow I had. And the cream cheese frosting already has a slight tint to it so it wasn't a pure blank canvas. I think vanilla frosting would have worked with the color better in this case...even though I find the taste of it too sweet.

I always find cupcakes look better when they've been decorated...even if the cupcake is a decoration in itself. Someone brought in oranges to work that day and I decided to take one home and place thin slices on top. Just a little something...I didn't want to overpower the glory of the cupcake surprise. :)

The cupcakes were a hit! Marina and I commented on how they tasted like Lucky Charms. It wasn't necessarily about amazing taste for was about presentation. And these babies delivered. We had to move the whole party out to the car to eat them because the roller rink didn't allow any food. But the 100ft trek was worth it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fail: The Revenge of the Nutella Cupcakes (★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆)

I'll try to make this one quick because unfortunately I have no pictures. And if you're anything like me a blog without pictures is most likely a blog that goes unread...

As I mentioned before, I had a beautiful vision for Nutella cupcakes for my dad's birthday, but my dad isn't quite as adventurous and prefers to stick to the tried and true. While this is not a horrible tactic, you end up being stuck eating chocolate on chocolate cake your whole's not torture, but it's not necessarily exciting either.

Anyway, long story's finally Father's Day. The day the kids get to decide what to do for the dads. Every year I try to broaden my dads horizons...a more fashionable shirt, maybe some dark wash jeans...but this year--this year, I decided that his taste buds could use a little "broadening." And it wasn't like I was going to feed him some dark chocolate lemon-pepper cupcakes...we're talking Nutella here. European, hazelnutty goodness. Stuff my mom has to buy for him by the carload.

Since I had no idea how to make these cupcakes, I did some research and I came across this blog "Sweetest Kitchen." She had taken her peanut butter cupcake recipe and tweaked it for Nutella. I liked her method because she decided to top the cupcakes with marshmallow frosting. I had never made that before and it looked delicious.

Find the official blog/recipe here: Nutella Cupcakes

The Results:

Unfortunately, the Nutella cupcakes we're exactly a success. I think the Nutella made the batter too runny or it prevented it from rising properly. In any case, the cupcakes came out looking like a flattened crisp cookie on top of a slightly undercooked brownie. Mind you...the cupcakes themselves tasted amazing, but they looked atrocious and they didn't have a cupcake texture. If you were hoping for cupcakes they were an ultimate fail, but if you were willing to eat them with an open mind they were really quite good.

I don't have a double boiler. So I shouldn't have even tried to make this frosting. For some reason I thought I could make do or cheat the system somehow. I'm an oldest child. It's what we do. Make things work. Anyway, I tried to boil water in a sauce pan while I whisked the ingredients in a glass boil over the top, but I just couldn't get the hang of it. No matter what I did the frosting was a goopy, runny mess. BUT it wasn't too devastating, because the recipe was AWFUL. I don't know what was so wrong about it...I mean you'd think sugar + eggs + vanilla couldn't equal anything but = delicious. I thought I was crazy so I made everyone taste it, but they agreed. Maybe if it had fluffed like it should've then it would've tasted better? In any case, I won't be making that frosting again...and I'm going to be getting a double boiler to settle this issue once and for all.

I've made a marshmallow frosting that tastes delicious if you want to try these cupcakes but have been deterred because of my strong-yet honest-critique. You can find the recipe here:
FYI, it's very sweet and a little runny...meaning you can't pipe it on or expect it to be fluffy. BUT it tastes good and frankly that's the most important thing when it comes to baking.

I'll chalk this up to one of my failures...but it serves a good purpose
1) As I've said before, baking is amazing because even when it's a disaster it's still edible.
2) Purchase a double boiler. If I'm gonna be a "hobby baker" and keep a blog, I'm going to have to stop avoiding the recipes that call for one.
3) And the big Kahuna...sometimes (although not always) it is better to stick with what you know. Plain chocolate is a sure thing and if it's your birthday and that's what you want...then risk be damned.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Seeing. Baking. Tasting. "Red" (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

The month of June is a busy birthday month for me. There are three people in this very house who all have birthdays within 5 days of each other, and the month caps off with the birthdays of my very best friend Marina and her brother Thomas. Oh, what great excuses for more baking!!

I had planned to make a Nutella cake for my dad on his birthday. It's one of his many sugary vices. I thought I was going to be so ingenious for thinking of such a delicious treat and making it for him...but NoooOoOoo. Come to find out he wanted my mom to make him a plain chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting--even AFTER he found out about my amazing vision. WTeff?! Since it WAS his birthday after all, I let this happen...but, of course, not without making my sentiments on the matter painfully obvious. Boycotting the "sell-out" cake seemed an appropriate response. So resist I did.

Besides this unfortunate incident, the month of many birthdays passed without another confectionary glitch. As mentioned before, my bestie's birthday was at the end of the month and we already had big plans...we're talking sequence, fro's, and disco. Thomas' birthday is just a few days after...and being the humble guy that he is, his idea of a great birthday is having no one notice (unless it's just to allow him to spend all day locked in his room playing guitar :). But this is not, not at all. If nothing else: there must be cake. His fiance is an AH-maz-ing cook, but she's not too big on baking so I decided to make special cupcakes during our college home group to celebrate.

I really just wanted to try something different and maybe a bit more elaborate. I found this recipe for "Creamy Red Velvet" cupcakes. At first I was a little wary because 1) my sister got sick from this type of cake due to the high concentration of dye, and 2) the coloring seemed a little feminine and Valentine's-esque. But after reading the recipe and finding out it required a cream cheese mixture in the center...I was hooked. My friend would just have to take what he could get...I mean it's free cake after all!

Method to the Madness:
  • For this recipe I pretty much followed the directions to a "T."
  • It's from the Duncan Hines website so I bet you can guess what brand of cake mix it suggested...yep, Duncan Hines Red Velvet.
  • I made the cream cheese mixture from scratch and used store bought cream cheese frosting for the tops.
  • As decorations, I used chopped up chocolate chips and toasted coconut shreds. They came out amazing! (Unfortunately, I wasn't smart enough to take more pictures from a camera better than my cell phone).

    *A quick side note: the cream cheese, chocolate, and coconut mixture will rise to the top of the cupcake. It looks a little weird, but it tastes great and once you frost them no one will ever know that the tops once looked like the shriveled ear of an old man.

    To get the full recipe go to: Creamy Red Velvet Cupcakes

    It asks for a box mix and store-bought frosting!! Seriously, it couldn't get much easier.

    Happy Baking!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vampires! And Werewolves! Oh, ya! (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

I can't believe it's only been a little over a year since my obsession with Twilight began. I don't even like vampires. I'm a princess-loving, dress twirling kinda girl. But there was just something about the trailer that one fateful day, that spoke to me and made me feel like, "this is different. this is big. see this."

Obviously, it wasn't a huge feeling because I totally forgot all about it. I only ended up renting it because no one else was home one night and I had a spare dollar for the Redbox. Even then I wasn't really affected. It wasn't until my sister convinced me to read the books that the infection began to germinate and take hold. And I can honestly say, I've never been the same.

I work at a church and people generally like me, so I have access to a whole mess of cool stuff that normal people have to rent. Last summer I had my heart set on setting up a projector and screen in my backyard to watch movies...and once the vision is cast in my mind it's hard to stop me from trying everything I can to make it happen. I intended to use it for a week, but ended up planning all kinds of movie nights and facebook inviting everyone I knew...all summer long.

Well with this type of movie-watchege going on, it was inevitable that I would have a Twilight movie night. But it had to be different than the others. I couldn't just throw some chairs on the lawn and wait for it to get dark enough--at exactly 8:49pm--to start the movie. No. This was special. And I wanted to give it the attention it deserved.

At the suggestion of my best friend Marina (who at the time was just a girl who liked Twilight), I endeavored to find out how to make "Vampire Cupcakes." Being as I was uneducated in the workings of the "undead", let alone making treats worthy of them, I relied on Marina's emotional support alot. I guess you could say it was Twilight that first brought us together. :)

I found all kinds of different recipes: some with toy vampire teeth, some with cherry pie filling... But all these seemed too gruesome. I mean, it's a movie about so-called "vegetarian" vampires who are against violence. Plus, I generally like my cupcakes to taste good (I understand not everyone feels the same way). But I'm not really down with a cupcake that oozes gross, syrupy, fake cherry glop.

Soooooo, I decided to stick with simple chocolate cupcakes (made from a box of course) and cream cheese frosting (it's the only kind I can stand from a's not super sweet). For the decoration we decided to go with the classic and eerie "bite."

After making the cupcakes, I was still a little apprehensive about how to get the bite marks to look real without destroying the cupcake with an over-zealous poke or red smear. We decided to put a drop of gel into each hole...but it was Marina's genius to have just one, spine-tingling blood-red drip falling from the bite mark.
We bought red decorating gel from the supermarket. It's pretty easy to use and doesn't run. With Marina manning the blood, I took charge of the bites. I found that the perfect sized holes came from using a meat thermometer. It was easy to, accidentally losing it in the cupcake (i.e. the curse of the toothpick). An added plus--it was just the perfect size for the red gel.

I was really impressed with how they turned out and they were delicious...I ate at least 3. This was one of my first attempts at cupcakes in general so I was a little worried, but they were super easy. It was actually these cupcakes that helped reinvigorate my love for baking. I'll take any excuse to try something different and challenging now.
  • 1 Chocolate Cake Box Mix (make according to instructions)
  • 1 Container of Cream Cheese frosting
  • 1 Tube of Red Decorating Gel
  • 1 Meat Thermometer (or a kebab stick would've worked just as well)
P.S. I ALWAYS use cupcake saves so much time and it's less messy.
If you'd like to try the blood-filled cupcakes, here is where I got my inspiration: Vampire Cupcakes

Peanut Butter + Chocolate = Heaven On Earth (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

It was my sister's boyfriend's (now husband) birthday in March. Now, my sister "doesn't" cook or bake and James...well, he "can't." So with my parents being out of town, my "eldest child" syndrome kicked in and I took it upon myself to present him with some sort of edible item for his birthday. What a better excuse than to whip up a cake?! I remembered that James loves Reese's peanut butter cups so I set out to find a chocolate-peanut-butter cake recipe.

I found a sour-cream-chocolate cake recipe that sounded amazing. Anytime I see a recipe that calls for sour cream or plain yogurt, I'm hooked. It makes the cake super moist and gives it a creamier flavor. The recipe also called for homemade peanut butter frosting. Score.

I made the cake by taking a devils food box mix and adding about a cup of sour cream to it. It's supposed to be a 8' triple layer cake, but I just followed the 9' two layer recipe on the back of the box mix. The peanut butter frosting, however, I wanted to be delicious as I followed the recipe exactly. And boy was it GOOD!

The recipe I found also calls for a "chocolate peanut butter glaze," which I did not want to do. It looked too tricky and I didn't want to mess up the one cake I was making as a birthday present. The risk seemed too high. BUT my friend Trevor was here, and after making him help me and listen to Devo's "Whip It" over and over, he insisted we make it. I like to have things planned out and done properly, but when you ask for help you've got to give I gave him full reign on making the glaze. I even let him put it on the cake hurt me to do it, but I got over it eventually.

I didn't want to add peanut butter into the glaze because I didn't want the cake to have an over- powering peanut butter taste and we didn't have any of the other items. So we ended up just melting a bunch of chocolate chips over the stove. It tasted great, but as you can see by the picture--it was VERY thick.

Sadly, at this time in my life I was trying to suppress my "true self" by forgoing all sugary treats. So I only allowed myself to sneak one bite. But everyone else said it was really good. I'm of the mindset that one should know from experience before touting a baked good's praise, however, in this one case I have to go based off of second-hand information. But don't worry, from then on--I've personally taken the time to enjoy each of my baking matter the cost.

To make this cake yourself, please visit my source: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Her pictures are much better...and the glaze is thin and super shiny.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Baking: The Obsession, The Desire.

Cousin #9 and me!
I love desserts. No it goes deeper than that. It's an all-out, all-consuming passion. Ask anyone who knows me...they'll tell you (or just roll their eyes in agreement).

In either case, this obsession began long before I was given the authority to resist.

I got my Easy Bake Oven at 7. Much to my disappointment I wasn't able to make a batch big enough to feed...well anyone, I mean, if we're being honest.

My grandmother always had more baked goods around for us kids than should be legal. Ah, the good old days of the "cookie jar." I remember shaking the clear glass container in hopes of finding a hidden treasure. My grandmother had us so strung-out that my brother began referring to our visits with her as "cookie days."

As I got older, I discovered that not only did I enjoy eating desserts (which really is a great and wonderful discovery in and of itself) but I also enjoyed making these delectable treats. I was 8 or 9 when I started making muffins from scratch on Saturday mornings. I remember knocking on my parents door, waking up my mom to ask her baking questions. Still to this day I don't understand why one must make a "well" in the flour mixture in order to mix in the eggs, etc.

...Skipping to the present. I love to bake. And I love to try new things. I'm not afraid. That's one of the reasons I love baking because you can take a risk. Nothing earth-shatter or life-altering will happen as the result of a failed baking attempt. AND as an added bonus--most baking disasters still taste GOOD, even if it is "runny" "lumpy" "grey" or has contracted any other host of baked good diseases.

While it's true I enjoy trying new things, I also enjoy making things easier on myself. I've been through the whole "must make everything from scratch to be legit" phase and frankly -- I'm over it. It makes baking such a chore when you spend all day on a cake that should've taken an hour. I'm all about buying the boxed cake mix and pre-made frosting and then dressing up the desserts to give that special "touch."

That's what I'll be doing with this blog. I'm going to be chronicling my adventures in baking: one cupcake, cream puff, and creme brulee at a time. Hopefully, you will get inspired yourself to take some risks and to get creative. And don't be afraid to take little shortcuts...if it will make the experience more pleasant then I say--DO IT.

If all else fails, at the end of the day, we'll at least have a bowl of delicious tasting--albeit strange looking--goopy goodness with which to drown our baking sorrows.