Cupcakes are good for your eyes…

… when they are made out of carrots!

My buddy Dan requested carrot cake cupcakes for his birthday. Seriously, I love carrot cake. But I honestly thought that other people didn’t, and that it was something you’re just born with tastebuds for. Like coconut.

Anyways, I leaned on good ol’ Martha Stewart for  some guidance with this one. It’s a terrific recipe, but just reading how much sugar in it made me cringe. I always do a little less than, because it tastes the same and the frosting definitely makes up for 1/4-1/3 less cup sugar in the batter. As far as I know, no other baking catastrophes have resulted from a little less suga’ so that’s how I’ll leave it.

Here’s the recipe (copied and paraphrased from “Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes”)

Cake:

  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled + finely grated (I do mine differently, see below)
  • 3 large eggs @ room temp
  • 1/3 c. buttermilk
  • 2 cups sugar (I use at least 1/3 cup less)
  • 1.5 c. oil
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 c. A.P. flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • (P.S. cheated on the spices, just used 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice instead of ginger n cloves)

Oven: 325 degrees

Whisk wet ingredients together in a bowl (includes carrots). In another bowl, dry ingredients. Stir dry ingred. into the wet ingred.

Bake till toothpick comes out clean, 23-28 min. (I believe mine were good at 23 exactly)….

Makes 24 scrumptious cupcakes! 

Frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp.
  • 12 oz cream cheese, room temp.
  • 1 lb. (4 c.) powdered sugar
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter and cream cheese with electric mixer till light n’ fluffy. Add in powdered sugar, a little at a time, then vanilla. Yum!

Megs and I baked these at her place, so that’s bonus #1: A different setting with non-fluorescent lights in the kitchen for photos to follow. Bonus #2 is…. the photos weren’t taken by me! These were taken by none other than Miss Lauren, who made the cupcakes look gooooooood. Thanks to these girls!

Let’s get the show on the road… First things first, grate the carrots.

Yep, I use a peeler. I find that grating is a pain, and peeling the carrot is faster. Additionally I think it creates a better cupcake. I figured this out when I lived in my beloved teeny 300 sq. ft studio apt in Chicago, and didn’t have space to have BOTH a grater and a peeler. Well, ya can’t peel with a grater, but you CAN grate with a peeler…. (of sorts). Anyways, this produces longer thinner strands, but I use my industrial strength scissors to just cut ’em up once they’re all bunched in a bowl. Sounds tedious, but it literally takes seconds.

So, we have carrots. The other key? Cream-cheese-frosting- Y-U-M.

Cupcake, slightly domed and delicious smelling:

Mmmm. More cupcakes!

Frosted generously with the swirl by the back of a spoon. No fancy tools needed for these ones, and they still look pretty nice 🙂

This just leaves one problem… what does one do with the leftover frosting?!

Bust out the animal crackers… and a *few* sprinkles for a *little* fun:

Orrr… a LOT of sprinkles for a TON of FUN!!!!!!

Can’t hold me back… party animal 🙂

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Chinese Sponge Cake

I noticed my blogging is very sporadic- I’ll do two or three entries at a time, then stop for a month or two. Quite consistently inconsistent, indeed! Anyway, I actually tried to make this sponge cake over Christmas break for my Dad (he loves the sweets, it seems)! So this is a bit dated. Plus where they live it’s hard to find any good Chinese bakery goods. I searched for these recipes long and far across the world wide web… (I know, a rough journey it was)… and surprisingly didn’t come up with that much. It truly is the “elusive Chinese Bakery sponge cake.”

Well here’s my recipe (found online at a Chinese forum):

Chinese sponge cake

  • Ingredients:
    1 c Softasilk flour (cake flour)
    1 c sugar
    6 eggs, separated
    1 ts vanilla
    1/4 c cold water
    1/2 ts salt
    1/2 ts cream of tartar
  • Directions: Preheat oven to 325. Beat egg yolk and sugar till creamy. Stir in vanilla. Add flour and water alternately till mixed well. In a spearate bowl, beat egg white till foamy. Add salt and cream of tartar. Beat until stiff peak. Fold egg white into batter in batches. Pour into ungreased springform pan. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Turn upside-down to cool.

I was also testing out my baking core- used for 10″ cakes or larger. It’s basically a little metal cup that you place in the middle of the cake to ensure even baking (so the outside isn’t burnt by the time the inside is cooked through). The metal draws heat evenly into the center of the cake. (Sorry for the repeat of the baking core… but too late, the photos are already in! ha!)

The hole that the core makes is filled by the little bit of batter that you pour into the middle of the baking core:

For the cream, I just used whipping cream and 1/2 cup of sugar… I think. I don’t remember…. And because there’s always some fruit, I used canned peaches because Dad loves them! He actually goes to Costco and buys the 5 lb. can, and opens it up and keeps a giant tupperware in the fridge for easy access. It’s nuts, but leaves plenty of peaches for me to use!

Split the cake into two layers:

Stack and fill:

Final Product:

 

 

 

Overall- I think it was decently successful. It definitely wasn’t the same as the kind you find in the bakery, but between my Mum, Dad, brother and me, finished this in less than 4 days! That’s pretty amazing, considering there are usually cake leftovers. I think the difficult part was incorporating the whipped egg whites in with the rest of the batter without worrying that it would lose volume, since there’s not really any leavening ingredient in it. Plus it’s really eggy- reminds me of the pandan cake recipe from earlier.

There was also discussion both online and in my Auntie’s Malaysian recipe book of this thing called “emulsifier” that apparently “tenderizes” this cake. It’s called Ovalette, and somewhat difficult to get in the U.S. But I found an Indonesian Supplier and purchased four little 2 oz. tubs of it. I’ll let you know how it goes, once I recieve it in ze mail!

Blog-forest cake

Haha. Couldn’t come up with a better title… rely on the good ‘ol puns!

I’m home for Thanksgiving break (love it) and Dad does so enjoy the Black Forest cake (Chocolate cake with cherry filling, often soaked in Kirsch. [Definition: Kirschwasser (pronounced /KIRSH-VAHS-ər/, German for “cherry water”) is a clear, colorless fruit brandy traditionally made from double distillation of morellos, a dark-colored cultivar of the sour cherry.] Copied and Pasted verbatim from: Wikipedia’s definition of Kirsch.

Before I got into the whole “only making things from scratch,” I used box cake mix and jazzed it up a bit… and that has become the standard for Black Forest. So why not, it works and is an easy dessert for holidays.

The Cake (from Jean Pare’s “Almost a Scratch Cake” recipe)

  • 1 box Devil’s food cake mix
  • 1 small box of instant pudding mix (vanilla or chocolate both work)
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 4 eggs

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 min depending on the size of the pan. This time I did two loaf pans (9×5) and 40 min worked well. Usually I’ll do one 10″ round and that takes around 45-50 min. Use a toothpick to test for done-ness.

For the cherry filling, I use a can of cherry pie filling and add a few tablespoons of sugar to taste (sometimes it’s really tart). Optional is some sort of liquor, like Kirsch, Sherry, or Rum. My parents like the flavor, so I’ll add in maybe 1/4 cup.

For the frosting I just use a tub of Cool Whip! Easy 🙂

Cut the loaf into 3 layers. This time I used a dish of the same size and did it tiramisu-style- adding layer by layer instead of making it more of a cake, which is what I usually do. (Again, going for the easy-factor).

Layers go like so: Cake–Cool Whip– Cherry mixture–Cake–Cool Whip–Cherry–Cake–Coolwhip (Top). If you decided to do a stand alone cake, same thing, except in the last step you’d cover the entire outside of the cake.

(3 layers)

If you do it nicely (unlike my image), it can turn out to have a very pretty layered effect, almost like trifle.

Today’s lunch was cake and black cherry ice-cream… 🙂 yumm… with a cup o’ tea!

Diabetic coma and Scones Galore!

I got a little Costco-happy… with the wedding project, all the fondant that I’ll be making, butter cream, and icings… let’s just say, I had to get some extra help to haul this purchase up 3 flights of stairs:

Indeed. 5 lbs regular sugar, 25 lbs flour, and 50 lbs of confectioners sugar…

It’s obsessive. But also marking a serious step forward in my commitment to baking.

Next up: Scones for a Bridal Shower. The theme was “tea and tarts..” What better than a variety of scones?! Yum. My first time making scones! They went over pretty well for two recipes that I adapted, so I’ll post those here.

I had a request for Pumpkin Scones, and I do love the pumpkin. I heard on the radio that there might be a shortage of canned pumpkin this year because the weather was so brutal that pumpkin growers had a hard time making their quotas. So I shouldn’t feel bad about indulging right now, if pumpkin is going to be hard to come by next year! I adapted the recipe below from Pinch my Salt, just changing some ingredients. Her method is the same (I just paraphrased a bit.)

Mini Pumpkin Chip Scones

  • 1 C. all purpose flour
  • 1 C. cake flour
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1.5 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 6 T. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 C. cinnamon chips
  • 1/3 C. pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 C. sour cream
  • 6 T. brown sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Get out a baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Cut the butter into small pieces, put it in a small bowl and put it back in the fridge. In a medium bowl, combine both flours, baking powder, salt, and spice. Whisk together well. Place bowl in freezer.

2. In another bowl, combine pumpkin, sour cream, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk together well. Put this bowl in freezer. Take the other bowl back out. Get the butter pieces out of the fridge and dump them into the bowl with the flour mixture. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry blender or rub it in with your fingertips until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the cinnamon chips.

3. Get the liquid mixture out of the freezer and pour into the flour mixture all at once. Stir with a spatula until just moistened. Turn the mixture out onto the counter and push the pile together with your hands. Knead it just a couple of times until it comes together, but don’t knead it too much or the dough will get too sticky and you’ll lose the flaky pastry layers.

4. Pat the dough out into a rough rectangle, 3/4 to 1 inch thick. (My picture is a circle because I messed up first)… Cut into 8 rectangular pieces. Cut each of these in half on the diagonal forming two triangle pieces. Place pieces on the baking sheet so that they are not touching. Bake scones for about 9 minutes at 425 degrees. They should be light brown on the bottom; the tops will darken as they cool.

(Pre-bake):

Post-bake:

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 2 TBLS milk (I used 1% at least. Don’t go skim)
  • 1-2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 C. powdered sugar
  • Dash of Cinnamon
  • Squirt of Honey
  1. Put milk and cream cheese in a small bowl. Microwave for 10-20 sec., or until cream cheese can be whisked with milk into a smooth mixture.
  2. Gradually whisk in the cup of powdered sugar (sifted probably leaves less lumps, but I was lazy.)
  3. Add cinnamon and honey to taste.
  4. Spoon into a piping bag or Ziploc bag, cut the tip, and make pretty designs. Or if lazy, drizzle with your whisk or spoon.

With Frosting:

Tasty, flaky, bursting of spice and pumpkin, I love these mini scones. They aren’t too sweet and perfect with tea or coffee.

Chocolate-Chip and/or Cranberry-Orange Scones

(This recipe forms the base dough, then you can add whatever flavor you like)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 egg

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, blend the sour cream and baking soda, and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in the butter. (I rubbed it in with my fingers)  Stir the sour cream mixture and egg into the flour mixture until just moistened.
  4. At this point I divided the dough into two bowls. To one bowl I added half a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. To the other bowl I added 1.5 tsp grated orange rind, the juice of half of an orange and ½ cup of craisens.
  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly. Roll or pat dough into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle. Cut into rectangles/squares (roughly 2 in. x 3 in.) and then cut on the diagonal to make small triangle scones. Place 2 in apart on baking sheet.
  6. Bake 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown on the bottom.

Orange Glaze (for Cranberry-orange scones)

  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • Juice from 1/2 orange
  • 2 tblsp milk
  • Same method as above

Cranberry-orange dough rolled out:

A sampler of the three scones:

Finally- set out at the Bridal shower! Cranberry up top, chocolate on bottom:

and Pumpkin on top:

Monkey Food…

I almost never finish a bunch of bananas before they start getting too soft and brown to eat… so I’ve had a few trials with banana cupcakes.

I wanted to replicate the roasted banana cupcake I had in San Francisco at Kara’s Cupcakes… so tried roasting bananas and then adding them to the batter (recipe from Martha Stewart’s Banana cupcakes).

P9111050

Cut banana’s lengthwise…

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Brush with melted butter…

P9111052

Roast them in melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey in a 400 degree oven for 15 min. or so.

After they cooled, I mashed ‘em up with a fork and folded them into the batter.

The combination of Honey-Cinnamon and Cream Cheese in frosting sounded so enticing that I decided to experiment a bit. Wanting a light consistency other than simple buttercream (powdered sugar and butter), I opted to add a slight twist on buttercream made with whipped egg whites, boiling sugar syrup, and butter. I cut back on the 2.5 sticks of butter and added 1/3 c. cream cheese. Then a few squirts of honey and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon.

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The result was a light and fluffy cream cheese frosting. The only thing is- the cupcake turned out more muffin-like and too dense for the frosting.

Second time’s the charm, right? I adapted this banana cupcake recipe from The Cupcake Project:  

The Banana Cupcake Recipe (Makes 16)

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3-4 bananas, pureed

Cream butter and sugar
Add eggs
Add sour cream, flour, and baking soda
Add vanilla and pour in bananas.
Bake for 20 min at 350

PA211063

 

I adjusted the sweetness factor (the original was too sweet for me) and also upped the banana content, because I happened to have more at the time. I also used my handy dandy Magic Bullet to puree the bananas, because I didn’t want to risk having dense chunks that turn cupcake-into-muffin.

This time, I just did the regular cream-cheese buttercream frosting, with ratios slightly off and in favor of the cream cheese, because I had leftover whoopiee pie filling!

Frosting:

  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • ¼ cup butter
  • Approx. 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Dash of cinnamon (to taste)
  •  Squirts of honey (to taste)

Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and honey. Whip until light and fluffy.

I got some good feedback on these guys- I liked them myself texturally- quite light and more cakey than muffin-y. Though overall a bit too sweet for me. Next time… perhaps caramel?! Yummmmmm.