Hoo’s arriving in April?

I’m excited to announce that our “special guest” arriving in April is my first niece! My sister is expecting, and I recently went home to visit and to host and attend her baby shower. I was really excited to bake something for her shower. At her request, we went with lemon cupcakes with a raspberry cream cheese filling, topped with lemon buttercream frosting and an owl fondant decoration. Her theme for the baby shower and my niece’s new bedroom will be- you guessed it- owls.

These are the lemon cupcakes. I love the pink and green wrappers. I procured a cool little tool for myself as well- a cupcake corer! It’s a simple little gadget, really. It’s no more than a ¬†long circular cookie cutter with a fun flower design at the top for the “gripper,” but it works surprisingly well. I got this size and a larger one (1 inch diameter) as a set at Wal-mart for 1.84.

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See? In less than 5 minutes, I had cored 24 cupcakes. I ate the bowl of cupcake holes, but I guess you can replace them after you fill the cupcakes… if you are feeling generous and not hungry like me!
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The cupcakes are filled with the raspberry cream cheese filling. I just piped it in with a good ol’ ziplock baggie:

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I covered cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting:

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Here’s where it got a little tricky AND labor intensive. I made homemade fondant with lemon meringue flavored marshmallows that I found at Wal-mart. (They are freakin’ delicious)…. and then colored the fondant with gel food coloring. The bonus was lemon flavored fondant!! Yum. The owls are a product of “creative” cookie cutter manipulation, led by my two faithful baking helpers, my parents. (Shout out and props to them for staying up until 2 AM making cupcakes with me, now THAT’s love). ūüėČ

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Ah! The final product: a hoard of owls. Is it a hoard? … I just looked it up. I think it’s a “stare” of owls. I don’t know, that’s what the Audubon and BirdNote partnership say.

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I’m not sure if you can see the filling, but it’s in there:

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Here are a couple of “bonus” pictures from the shower.

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The favors were baking related! It’s cookie mix. (I tried out the mix from an extra jar they had made. The cookies were delicious!)

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And… just because I thought it was cute… Make a bib for the baby! haha.

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Congrats Mel (& Pezz)! Thanks for making me an Aunt-to-be!

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When life gives you lemons….

…you turn them into cupcakes and cookies. Becky and I have started these periodic bake-capades, as I’ve dubbed them, and this time around the focus was lemon! Light, fruity, and versatile, we decided to tackle two recipes: Lemon drop cupcakes (from the Better Homes and Garden 150 Cupcakes issue) and Lemon Ricotta cookies (courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis, of Everyday Italian).

Lemon Drop cupcakes (in amazing pirate themed, double lined with aluminum cupcake wrappers). I found the recipe online at the Better Homes and Garden recipe index. I’ll paraphrase and paste it here. But if you want the real deal without buying the magazine and misplacing it (like I did, I think it’s in my car)… here’s the link.

Making the frosting. It’s pretty sweet, and doesn’t have a strong lemon flavor, but combined with the cupcake? Scrumptious!

We sorta improvised on the piping. Plop!

Lemon Drop Cupcakes

Makes: 20 ( 2-1/2-inch) cupcakes
Prep: 40 minutes
Bake: 18 minutes
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup¬†butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cups¬†all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon¬†baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon¬†baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon¬†salt
  • 2/3 cup¬†milk
  • 1/4 cup¬†limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur) or milk
  • 1-1/2 cups¬†sugar
  • 1 tablespoon¬†finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 recipe¬†Lemon Frosting

Directions

1. Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line twenty 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups. In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup combine milk and limoncello; set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and lemon peel; beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about three-fourths full. Use the back of a spoon to smooth out batter in cups.

4. Bake about 18 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin cups. Cool completely on wire racks.

5. Up to 1 hour before serving, generously spread or pipe Lemon Frosting on each cupcake.

Lemon Frosting: Allow 1/3 cup butter to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a large mixing bowl beat butter, 1/3 cup shortening, and 1 teaspoon vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Slowly add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating well. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Gradually beat in 2 cups additional powdered sugar. Beat in 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until frosting reaches a spreading consistency. Makes about 2-1/3 cups frosting.

What surprised me the most about these cupcakes is how absolutely lemony they were! I was skeptical at first of how the flavor would be, as I’ve been dissapointed in the past with other lemon recipes. But I think the addition of the Limoncello, along with a healthy amount of fresh lemon zest and juice, lent to a moist, flavorful cupcake. I’ve decided this will be my go-to lemon cake recipe from now on.

 

Lemon Ricotta cookies

This recipe is from Giada de Laurentiis, as I mentioned above. Same deal- paraphrased recipe and a link.

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cookies:

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Glaze:

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. 

Sorry guys, no process photos. Just trust me, these are tasty.

I’m usually afraid of eating cookies because (this sounds bizarre considering how much I love to bake and how big my sweet tooth is) I don’t like things that are too sweet. This cookie struck the perfect balance for me. It had a nice light lemon frosting (which was a good touch) but could go either way. I felt like it was more of a food cookie rather than a dessert cookie, as in, it had substance as well as was fun to eat. The ricotta gave¬† it that oomph to bring it from being a nutritional wasteland to something that could pass as the occasional breakfast treat. Try them, and you’re in for a nice, dense yet soft cookie with a great flavor.

Bon Appetit!

 

55 cupcakes and counting…

I started this post in July… when I had baked 55 cupcakes in one night for a few events the next day (two job anniversaries at work, a birthday, a going-away)… but realized that I bake cupcakes pretty often and never blog about them because they aren’t cool enough or cute enough. So this has turned into my tribute to all those prosaic cupcakes that are lost to the depths of the stomachs of the people around me.

Another commemorative event is that I used up 250 cupcake wrappers as of last Friday. May not seem like a lot to those who watch “Cupcake Wars” on the Food Network, where they have to make 1000 in 2 hours, but for me? That’s a ton.

Let’s begin!

These are part of the 55 made for my dept at work. “30” for a 30 year anniversary at the company. “See you down the hall” for someone who was transitioning to another job, but right down the hall. . . Green and white, just because. They were all chocolate cupcakes and vanilla buttercream frosting.

Same goes for this photo below. 2 year anniversary and a “good luck!” for “see ya buddy, you’ll be missed,” job promotion. Thanks to Lala for helping with her impeccable piping skillz!

Next up? Decadent chocolate cupcakes with a rich chocolate ganache, dusted with a little cocoa powder and finished with a side of fresh strawberries. This was for a girl’s night, complete with puzzles and movies.

Below are some lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting. I tried to jazz up such a simple cake/frosting combo by piping different designs on them. I really like the flowery look, very wedding-esque. These were for a potluck though.

To continue with the lemon theme, I helped Bri bake her friend some Lemon cupcakes with strawberry puree filling and cream cheese frosting. See below for 1. the full cupcake and 2. the innards.

The cupcakes below are chocolate cupcakes, filled with a chocolate-raspberry ganache, and topped with vanilla buttercream and berries. Although I liked the fudginess of these chocolate cupcakes, I still prefer the ones above, as they are moist and lighter.

Ah, these little green guys are from way way way way back in the day. I just never posted them. They are green tea cupcakes, made for a “desert dessert” party. I basically took a white cake recipe and added tons of green tea powder (matcha) into the batter and the vanilla frosting. I like the color, though I’d have to say the flavor was a bit underwhelming. Texture too. Meh, maybe better luck next time.

Oh dears, I am expiring. Enough cupcakery for tonight.

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.

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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!