Sprinkles!

I’m usually not a fan of sprinkles- on anything- even if they are decorative and cute. Maybe it’s the utilitarian within, but they don’t serve a purpose, nor do they taste good. Maybe, just maybe if that crunch is desired, but they only seem to be awkward when juxtaposed with light, soft, decadent cake and smooth buttercream frosting.

Sprinkles the cupcake store, however, is a different story. As mentioned earlier in a post about Kara’s Cupcakes in San Francisco, Sprinkles really was one of the more impressive “professionally” baked goods. The cake was moist and dense, while still maintaining a good balance between sweet and too sweet. The simple buttercream was a nice touch without being overwhelming.

sprinkles!

Below are pictured the two cupcakes I tried when I went for the first time in June: Chai Tea and Pumpkin. Both along the same flavor profiles (spicy!), they were pretty tasty. However, I made the mistake of diving into the pumpkin first; it was a little stronger than the Chai and I couldn’t taste the subtle spices after that. Like drinking orange juice and then eating an orange after, I guess.

sprinkles cupcakes

I went back today to taste test some more, and decided that, though the texture is really nice- moist and chewy- it has an over-arching starchy flavor, and was surprised to learn that the texture really varies by flavor.

I tried a regular vanilla, peanut butter-fudge, and red velvet cupcake… probably due to the ingredients, but vanilla was definitely the driest, peanut butter a little better, and red-velvet: simply melt-in-your-mouth. Still had a weird aftertaste though, and that would be my only complaint. That, and I couldn’t tell that the frosting was cream cheese… It was just a wee bit sugary, but it wouldn’t have that “corporate-baked-good” feel if it wasn’t overly-something, know what I mean?

Advertisements

Wicked Cake Fail

This week was busy, hence the lack of updates. Good thing I’m not like Julie in Julie & Julia, who has an actual short-term goal and avid readers :). Just saw that movie and thought it was really cute, heart-warming and was a good-relax-and-yet-not-get-too-emotionally-involved-movie. Plus, who can hate anything with food involved?!

Anyways, I saved these photos from last weekend’s cake-tastrophe! My church was holding an Asian-themed international dinner, and I was supposed to bring in some sort of dessert. My mum has a recipe for this amazing, rich, comforting Pandan cake.

What is Pandan?: *Pandan paste is a green extract derived from the pandan leaf that tastes somewhat like coconut.

Fun Fact: The cakes are light green in tone due to the chlorophyll in the leaf juice

Countries of Origin: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines

This is what it’s supposed to look like:

pandan cake

Mum’s recipe is slightly different in that it’s less of a chiffon cake and more of a pound cake. As you can tell from this post’s subject, I was a little less than successful. In fact, I baked this cake three times in a period of less than 24 hours. Still unsatisfied with the results, even if they were edible.

Take 1: Lost in Translation

I procured the recipe over the phone- and having been baking for long enough to make the normal assumptions, didn’t bother to ask about pan size or how to split them. Recalling that it’s always been baked in two pans, I just split the batter between a square and a circle (9”) if I’m not mistaken, pan. The result? Two over-baked, dry, chewy, and flat cakes with no flavor. Ta da!

P8141098

Take 2: She’s Melting!

So, I revised and was back in the kitchen, this time making sure to pour all the batter into one nine inch pan, and also adding a bit more paste, for flavor. It started to look a bit more like Mum’s, at least until I cut it. If I could’ve seen Elphaba from Wicked actually melting, I believe it’d look something like this:

P8151106Check out that ooze on the right half. ick!

Take 3: The Panic Room

Thinking that I just couldn’t possibly serve either Option 1 or 2 to anyone, I took a new approach: brand new recipe. Found online, I raced off to the store to get all these new ingredients that I previously didn’t use, including coconut milk and pandan juice (not extract). This one was more of the chiffon-cake: relying solely on egg whites to enable it to rise. The outcome:

P8151110

Another disappointing, flat, super-green cake. I should’ve known better- the most difficult technique about these cakes is folding in the beaten egg whites evenly so that it will enable the cake to rise, while being careful to not over-mix into a goopy mess. Obviously I did one or the other because this was as flat as Kansas before the tornado.

26 eggs, 2 lbs of butter, and 24 hours after take 1, my kitchen had been defeated!

P8151119

Looks ominous, doesn’t it? Pointy green hat and all!

And my apartment reeked of pound cake. I did what anyone else in a bind would do- make do with whatcha got. Cake 2 was the closest to the real deal, so I cut off the edible parts and plated it up.

P8151113

It seemed to go over well at the event, but I think next time I’ll do something less ambitious…. Like buying a cake :-o!

San Fran…. Frisco…

Tis the season of birthdays! I love it, more excuses for cake! This guy was a little tough conjure up- from idea to execution, when you have a friend who loves everything. Lauren, Megan, and I have been like the “three amigas” ever since moving out here to the Valley of the Sun- and we took a trip together to San Francisco in May. Hence, a San Francisco-themed birthday cake for Miss Lauren!

We’ve got the famous twisted Lombard Street that people will wait an hour and a half just to ride down for 90 seconds in their cars, Muir Woods with the impressive 1000+ ft. tall trees, some funky colored houses, and the Powell-Mason cable car, of course. All this plus a giant mint-chocolate flavored cupcake, and topped off with a fondant-impersonation of my red-haired friend (which I can’t take credit for, it was done by our budding fondant expert, Nick). NOMnomNOM!

P8121066

 Lombard and the Trolley (Powell/Mason).

P8121064

 Muir Woods (Redwood trees) and funky houses, plus an overly-happy version of Laur.

P8121065

Just another random shot.

I finally busted out the fondant on mister cable car (should be practicing for more cake love to come). I think the difficult part for the entire look of the cake was getting the right colors! I guess you can’t do too much with four food colors in terms of brightness and hue. The entire cake was, therefore, a bit duller in color than I would’ve liked. Perhaps I’ll invest in the magenta/lime/cerulean/neon yellow set of food colors. Or a color wheel.

Lastly, we presented the cake at my community pool- in the dark! So details were difficult to make out. Always a funny back story, isn’t there? So my hour of hard work piping might’ve been in vain. But all is good, as long as everyone had a good time, some good cake, and I got my photos!

P8121092

Next challenge… tackling the mess in the kitchen.

messy kitchen

giant cupcake time!

I’ve had my eye on Wilton’s giant cupcake pan for quite a while (ever since I got sucked into the craze almost a year ago) but could never justify spending 30 dollars on a giant cupcake pan. I caved recently when one of my friends expressed interest in having a giant  cupcake for her groom’s cake at her wedding… plus it was on sale at Sur La Table for 20 dollars, what a steal! I couldn’t resist.

This is my blurb on Sur La Table as a side note: I LOVE THIS PLACE! I originally shied away from it because it looked so very classy and on the same level as Williams Sonoma. I follow the same rule of thumb for most shopping: never try on anything that you can’t afford. So I tend to avoid those more expensive places for wholesale supplies shops and one-off deals in discount stores. Howeverrrr…. I was pleasantly surprised by Sur, and will probably go back every time I’m in a grumpy mood, just because it’s full of reasonably priced goods with a nice, comfortable atmosphere. Not to mention, it’s in walking distance…. (A+++)

Just this past Friday was a friend’s birthday… Lucky Me! A reason for cake (and not a made-up one). Equipped with my new pan, my first-ever giant cupcakae was created:

giant cupcake on tablecupcake_in Fridge

I had to take photos both stand alone and in the fridge, just for a size comparison. (and yes, thanks to you observant ones, I now realize the overwhelming number of eggs that I have in the fridge.)

I was pleasantly surprised by the way the chocolate shell for the lining of the cupcake turned out (a friend directed me to another blog for this idea…Oh Sugar!) I love this idea, it’s so fun and there are a lot of ways to play around with it.  I’ll be practicing with this technique in the future, probably more on the actual cake and it’s flavors, along with decorating techniques.

It was also my first time using a buttercream frosting recipe that wasn’t simply butter-powdered sugar-milk-flavor (I’ve seen it referred to as American style and also ‘simple’ buttercream). I tried a meringue-style buttercream, where you start with a base of egg whites, add boiling sugar, and then butter. Despite my apprehensions, it turned out really well! I was pleased for a first go-round, and actually enjoyed tasting it on some of the cake crust trimmings. It’s much smoother, lighter, and less sweet than simple buttercream; plus- it doesn’t crust over! Fabulous, I’m sold.

The only major dilemma was delivering the surprise cake. I called the restaurant while I was making the cake, intending on showing up near the end of dinner with it as a surprise, only to find out that they only allow store bought cakes as part of health regulations! Though heartbroken, it all ended well, as we surprised her post dinner at the apartments. Another near miss for the super cupcake… 🙂

Fuzzy cupcakes

Texture is such an important component to the eating experience. A cupcake with a well balanced, delicate flavor would be ruined if it had the texture of dried cement. I noticed in my last post I tend to be very picky about “dry” cupcakes. Coincidentally enough, I came across a blurb about something called “the Duncan Hines Conundrum” (love that word, conundrum) in a cake book. (“Wedding Cakes you can Make, by Dede Wilson). It basically explains how America has come to love exceptionally high levels of moisture in their cakes, as opposed to how cakes used to be in the old day (I’m guessing much drier than now) due to the fact that box cake mixes contain a lot of artificial preservatives and chemicals that keep the cake super moist. This poses a lot of problems for home bakers, especially in terms of cakes that are worked on for days before being eaten, because they start out less moist and lose moisture over time. Her solution was moistening syrup.

 Anyways, just wanted to share that tidbit of knowledge, while on the topic of texture. My question now is: What about fuzzy cupcake?

fuzzy cupcake

This is a cupcake card that I just received for my birthday a few weeks ago. I thought it was so cute (the pink part is fuzzy!) and had to hang it up. I painted a square frame green and popped it on there for instant wall decor. I’m working on expanding the wall o’ cupcake.

I can’t leave without tying in a real baked good either! These are mini lemon cupcakes with lemon glaze and white-chocolate raspberry ganache. Someone had given me fresh lemons grown locally and I’m not a fan of lemonade.

pink_army

I didn’t originally intend on making the glaze, but ended up using it for a few reasons:

  1. Not enough lemon flavor, for sure. Without using lemon extract, I think the juice and zest just isn’t enough.
  2. Texture! or, moisture. These little guys came out a bit bouncy; less cakelike.
  3. I had an extra lemon half.

Having been inspired by chockylit’s amazing cupcake blog, the cupcake bakeshop, particulary her fabulous recipe for chocolate -strawberry ganache, I thought I’d try a white chocolate-raspberry ganache for a twist. Not sure if I really liked it as much as I liked the idea of it… I fail to remember how strong of a flavor white chocolate has. I think if I were to re-do it, I’d stick with strictly a raspberry buttercream.

Because the cupcake wasn’t fantastic, I won’t bother to put the recipe up. The lemon glaze was tasty, although sticky after sitting in the fridge overnight. I just whisked 1/4 cup of lemon juice with enough powdered sugar to the consistency of syrup.

For the ganache, I borrowed chockylit’s recipe (reprinted with different flavors below) 

  • 4.5 ounces white chocolate
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup frozen raspberries

Though ganache is made by boiling the cream, I sometimes cheat and use the microwave. So, I heated the cream for a minute or so and poured it over the white chocolate. Let that stand for a minute to heat up the chocolate and start the melting process. Whisk in the salt and vanilla. Add in frozen raspberries and stir to combine. Refrigerate until cool.

To make it fluffy and frosting-like, I used the whisk attachment on the Kitchenaid to aerate it for piping (like buttercream). It changes into a nice light pink color as the volume doubles.

To use the glaze, poke holes in the top of the cupcakes and dunk them (easier than spooning glaze over). Pipe on a swirl of ganache and voila!