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.