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Clearly I am not meant to have a regularly updated blog. I am meant to have a woefully neglected, guilt-inducing blog. Baking cupcakes is not as fun as eating cupcakes, and writing about baking cupcakes is not as fun as baking-then-devouring cupcakes. However, since I have not written about much of anything in months, and the lack of linguistic exercise is starting to show in my attempts at serious proposal writing, I am trying to break my writer’s block the best way I know how–with lots of baked goods.

 

Since my last post…over two months ago…I have made heaps of cupcakes and heaps of fail cakes. I have not been lax in my cupcake baking/eating duties! Below are a few of the recipes I’ve tried and quick reviews. Hopefully as my writing discipline improves I will flesh these out into full-blown posts. Over the past few months I have also made chocolate almond cupcakes, chocolate stout cupcakes, challa cupcakes (rolls really, let’s be honest), cherry vanilla cupcakes, and vanilla almond cupcakes. Lots and lots and lots of cupcakes, just, you know, not so much writing.

 

Ode to Vanilla Garlic

I have tried two recipes from a new favorite foodie blog that was initially linked by my friend The Amazing Graphic Designer/Project Manager Rebecca Flaum. The blog (also linked in the blogroll) is Vanilla Garlic, and while it is far far more than just cupcakes, I think the author has a special place in his heart for my favorite dessert. I totally have a crush on him. So far this is my favorite cupcake-related post. It made me laugh myself to tears and I have to admit, I have also charred the bejeezus out of cupcakes.

 

Chinese 5 Spice Chocolate Cupcakes (recipe is entirely Garrett McCord’s)

 

These cupcakes are awesome! If you’re looking for a grow-up chocolate cupcake, the 5 spice powder definitely gives these cupcakes a sophisticated edge. You can absolutely taste the flavors and they are very pleasant with the chocolate. Also, the cake isn’t overly sweet, but are nice and moist (a MUST for me to be pleased with a cupcake). I didn’t have candied ginger on hand when I made these (at about 100 ft ASL, btw, so don’t look to me for high elevation modifications, I suck at that) but I really really wish I did. Since these cupcakes I have been fantasizing about making a chocolate cupcake with coconut cream filling and a ginger frosting. I wonder how these would have tasted if I have used minced fresh ginger or fresh ginger juice instead of powdered ginger…
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

What You’ll Need…
200 grams of bar chocolate 62-70% cacao (Scharffen Berger is wonderful)
3 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
8 eggs
1-1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder 70% cacao
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of Chinese Five Spice powder

What You’ll Do…
1) Chop chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer, add the butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (a double boiler works great too). Stir until chocolate melts and combined with the butter.

2) Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes to thicken.

3) Place the bowl back into the mixer and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes.

4) Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds before adding the next.

5) Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and a pinch of salt into the mixture and mix until just blended.

6) Scoop into cupcake papers and bake at 350F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Be sure to rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes to ensure even baking.

5 Spice Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8oz. package of cream cheese
1/4 cup of butter
3-4 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger

What You’ll Do…
1) Cream the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes. Scraped down the sides and bottom.

2) Slowly add the powdered sugar. Add the ginger and five spice. Spread on cooled cupcakes. Decorated with chopped candied ginger.

Double Vanilla Cupcakes (also created by Garrett McCord…because he’s sexy AND brilliant)

These cupcakes really will get a full post, full of my bitter anguish of being passed over as a Vanilla Cupcake Explorer, and my own perverse quest for a perfect vanilla cupcake…plus I eventually decorated these cupcakes with fondant vaginas…yeah, you can see why a solo-post might be necessary here. I have to admit here, I was only able to eat one mini-cupcake of this recipe. And normally I’m all about chocolate cake. However, making these cupcakes made my kitchen smell like heaven, and I loved the speckled effect of the vanilla bean in both the cake and the frosting on these. Absolutely worth using one’s precious whole vanilla bean stash.

Cupcake

  • 1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg plus 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or one whole bean if you can spare it)

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)

METHOD

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. While the oven preheats cut open and scrape out the seeds of a vanilla bean. Place the seeds, empty bean, and the milk into a small saucepan. Heat to just under a simmer for a few minutes being careful not to scald the milk. Remove from heat and allow the milk to steep and cool. (Be sure to remove the bean after it cools. Wash it and then place it out to dry so it can be used again.)

2 Beat the butter for about 3 minutes on medium speed, then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat for 30 seconds. Add the egg whites, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds each.

3 In one bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another whisk together the vanilla steeped milk, vanilla extract, and sour cream.

4 Add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter sugar egg mixture in alternating additions (dry-wet-dry method), starting and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined being sure to not overbeat.

5 Divide the batter into cupcake papers in a muffin tin and bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Be sure to rotate the cupcakes after the first 15 minutes to ensure even baking. Be sure to keep a close eye as these can get overbaked quickly. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Frost when cooled.

Frosting

Beat the butter and slowly add in the powdered sugar. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean (or vanilla extract if using) and beat in.
Makes about one dozen cupcakes.

 

Some Cupcakes from The Cupcake Project

The Cupcake Project is my go-to for cupcake recipes. Probably about 75% of the cupcake recipes I bake come from this blog. In the early days it was very cupcake-focused because the blog grew out of the author’s project with a bride and groom who wanted cupcakes for their wedding. Week after week she baked different confections for them to try, searching for the perfect wedding cupcakes. This was repeated through Bride and Groom 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0. Now Stef is super-famous and the blog also includes product reviews, give-aways, charity fund-raising, and other baking recipes. She always comes back to the cupcakes, however, and this is the home of many wild flavor combinations. As Stef pushes the frontiers of cupcakery, the flavors get wilder, the product samples get more gourmet, and the ingredients become more specialized. These are the cupcakes that I someday aspire to. Sometimes my attempts fail (see a lesson in damage control), but I think that the elevation and my inattention can almost always be blamed. Below are some successes.

 

Gingerbread Cupcakes

These were a perfect cake. Moist, spicy, and easy to make. I topped them with a plain cream cheese frosting, but the frosting recipe included in the original post looks like a winner as well. Something that would pair well with carrot cake, spice cake, and pumpkin cake as well.

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 5 T unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 C white sugar
  • 1/2 C unsulfured molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 T cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 t ground ginger
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground allspice
  • 1/2 t ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 C hot milk
  1. Cream 5 tablespoons of the butter with the white sugar.
  2. Add the molasses and the egg and egg yolk.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt.
  4. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot milk.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until just combined.
  6. Stir in the hot milk mixture.
  7. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.
  8. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until cupcakes bounce back when touched.

 

Bailey’s Mudslide Cupcakes

I made these last St. Patrick’s day, in a fit of gluttony. Sometimes I still make Bailey’s whipped cream just so I can use the leftovers in my coffee for the next few days. The cake came out a little dry, and the kahlua is subtle. Also, I wasn’t keen on the grittiness of the ground coffee, but then again, I have that problem with nearly every coffee recipe I bake. I may break down and use coffee crystals in baking.

The Baileys Irish Cream whipped cream frosting is such an important part of this cupcake that I am putting the frosting recipe first!

  1. Whip heavy whipping cream until it looks like whipped cream.
  2. Mix in sugar and Baileys Irish Cream until just combined.

Note: You may find yourself wanting to double the recipe if you like gobs of frosting. I’d suggest stocking up on some extra heavy whipping cream.

Mudslide Cupcake Recipe

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 2/3 C sugar
  • 2 C flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 3 T ground coffee (your favorite kind)
  • 3/4 C unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 C melted vanilla ice cream (you could also make this with coffee or mocha ice cream)
  • 1/4 C homemade Kahlua (store-bought would work just fine)
  • 1/4 C homemade Baileys Irish Cream (store-bought would work just fine)
  • A little bit of chocolate for shaving on top (optional)
  • 12 chocolate-covered espresso beans (optional)
  1. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and coffee in a bowl.
  2. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl for 1 minute until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat eggs, ice cream, Kahlua, and Baileys into the butter/sugar mixture until blended.
  4. Fold in flour mixture.
  5. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.
  6. Bake at 350 F for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the cupcake clean.
  7. Top with Baileys Irish Cream whipped cream (see above), shaved chocolate, and a chocolate covered espresso bean

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Success!

Omg omg omg! My cupcakes worked! And not just the cupcakes, the whole shebang worked! Cake, frosting, ganache, decoration…it all worked! Mwahahaha!

The originally planned peppermint mocha cupcake post has been postponed in favor of…the same cake recipe, but with different garnishes.

I have been wanting to recreate these:

Photo from Casa Petrie, the ONLY photo I could find on the ‘net. And for the record, I think that Porn for New Moms is about the dumbest thing ever. Porn has sex. Women like porn. So there.

They are Peter’s devils foodcake cupcakes, found at Flying Star and Satellite locations in Albuquerque. They are moist chocolate, with chocolate ganache, and a buttercream filling and topper. When I lived in Albuquerque I ate about one a week. These cupcakes fixed bad days, sleepy days, PMS days, relationship fights, highlighted spa nights, and made grad school bearable. Now that I am up here in the wild mountains trying to create a coffeeshop in my living room, these cupcakes became top priority.

Every cupcake has an occasion, and for these it was a trip back to Albuquerque. I wanted to a) bring my lovely amazing hosts a gift and b) test out my faker cupcakes on knowledgeable locals. The base cake recipe comes from Crazy About Cupcakes, which is thus far an EXCELLENT cookbook, though I am learning that some recipes need elevation modifications, and some don’t. This recipe, not so much. Another note: I made these cupcakes on a Thursday night when I knew I also had to pack, clean apartment, prep for a committee meeting, etc etc. so I also made myself a 9pm latte and, um, ate some batter. Thus leaving me so freaking hyped up on caffeine that I couldn’t actually form proper thoughts and just stayed up until 2am (unheard of for me!) making an ass of myself online. So don’t eat to much batter…just sayin.’

My abode. My neglected research. My coffee. Why am I still awake?? Gaaaaah!

Mocha Cupcakes (p. 69…is this even legal? I have no idea)

2 cups sugar

2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temp.

2 large eggs, at room temp (I have never, ever done this, but I will admit that cold eggs fuck up the butter and don’t mix as well)

1 cup sour cream (the sour cream makes all the difference! Seriously, sour cream based recipes make for the moistest, densest, most-resilient-to-the-friggin’-altitude cupcakes)

1 tsp baking soda

2 cups flour

5 tablespoons cocoa powder

3 tablespoons ground coffee (I used hazelnut flavor, but it didn’t really show)

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup strong coffee (aka about 4 shots espresso whee!)

2 tsp vanilla extract

1. cream together butter, sugar, effs until fluffly. 3-5 minutes. Mix in sour cream.

2. In separate bowl mix together flour, baking soda, cocoa, ground coffee, and salt.

3. In a measuring cup combine coffee and vanilla. Resist urge to consume it as it will smell heavenly.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with the coffee mixture. Mix thoroughly. Cupcake shrapnel will likely get everywhere, to wear your bikini to avoid chocolate stains on your clothes.

5. Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.

* peppermint variation will make your house smell JUST LIKE a Starbucks peppermint mocha, which smells like Christmas. However, a whole teaspoon (as recommended) is a little overwhelming, so I recommend a smidge less.

Next I filled the cupcakes with a basic vanilla buttercream. Nothing fancy, although I am learning that part of the secret to a better buttercream is mixing the bejeezus out of it. Seriously, just put on your headphones and hang out with the mixer. The more the powdered sugar hangs out with the butter, the better the texture becomes. This was also the first time I got to use my super-cool cupcake filling tip! A gift from the most excellent Nora. Filling cupcakes with this tip…feels creepy. It feels a lot like you are a horrific alien violating each and every cupcake in a mechanical and disutopian manner. Wilton (who make, like every cake decorating thing ever) has pictures and instructions.

After violating all of the cupcakes (while they were still just a teensy bit warm, so they were soft enough to…er…accept the buttercream), I dipped them in a simple dark chocolate ganache. I am in the wilds, so the only real dark chocolate option for me is a 60% Ghirardelli bar. Not terrible, not the bestest.

My kitchen does not get enough natural light, so sometimes the flash washes things out, but lookit that shine! Lookit!

After the ganache had cooled a little, I polished it all off with the cute little buttercream nubs (which also conveniently hide any evidence of earlier violations), and viola!

Seriously! Look at these! They are perfection! Freaking perfection!

Some cupcakes worked! Hallelujah! I was completely ecstatic and awake for hours after this.

Ok, I know this post is super-late. I have excuses, I swear! First, I was moving–getting away from the terrifying kitchen! I’m in the same town though, still at 7,000+ ASL. Second, I was sent out of town for work, and didn’t really have internet. Third, when I got back to my new apartment full of still-untouched boxes, I had some amazing wonderful visitors! My dear friends J and G came to warm my house for me, and warm it they did! With their help everything was unpacked, arranged, cleaned and sorted. Next they restocked my new kitchen with a full compliment of condiments for cooking! Not ketchsup and mustard here, but the REAL condiments: oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic, sriracha sauce and cooking wine…the things this girl needs to REALLY cook! And cook we did! The tiny kitchen was a storm all weekend and we had some amazing meals. With their help, my funny little apartment, full of weird junk and bad smells from the previous occupant became a home! I am so grateful for their visit, their help, and all the amazing food we made together.

Even more exciting (and relevant for this blog) is the birthday gift G brought me! Crazy About Cupcakes is chock full of amazing recipes that have set my cupcake brain into overdrive. And of course we had to try a recipe that very night! Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes will be the topic of next Wednesday’s post, as I try to get back on a weekly schedule.

On to the real post!

Better than Sex Cupcakes from The Cupcake Project

The original Cupcake Project recipe calls for 5 degrees of chocolate (this is like a Chocolate Inception cupcake!): chocolate cake, with chocolate chips, a chocolate mousse filling, chocolate ganache topping and white chocolate drizzles. I FULLY SUPPORT THIS IDEA. I think both world peace and ending teen pregnancy can be achieved with a cupcake like this. Especially if you pair it with my favorite Bonny Doon framboise, Italian style. However, I was more in the mood for something like the Hostess cupcake look-alikes that have been floating around the internet (in no small part due to a delicious looking photo sent to me by my friend D). I decided to use the cake and ganache portions of the recipe, but to have a creamy rather than chocolatey filling.

Better Than Sex Cupcake Recipe Parts 1 and 2 – The Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Chips
The chocolate cake recipe came from Chockylit’s cupcake blog. I am reprinting it below with my added step of mixing in chocolate chips. Chockylit points out that this recipe will make flat cupcakes, not domed ones. Do not try to overfill your cupcake liner. She recommend filling it 2/3 full. I changed the recipe to reflect the fact that I only filled mine about 1/2 way.
Makes 16 regular cupcakes.
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (I have both this time! Mwah ha ha!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup milk (soy…yet again)
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Beat butter until softened.
  2. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.
  4. Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a small sized bowl and whisk to combine.
  5. Measure out the milk and vanilla and stir to combine.
  6. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine.
  7. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
  8. Stir in chocolate chips.
  9. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 1/2 full.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
You’ll note that this week I actually tried quite hard to follow the true recipe. However, the kitchen thwarted me yet again! There are no measuring spoons in this kitchen, and since I was moving in about 48 hours, I did not unpack my new adorable fishy measuring utensils. This left me to try to measure things like vanilla, leavening agents, and adjust for altitude by just sort of…working in splashes and dashes. Seriously, I don’t recommend it, because the results will generally look like this:

Noooo! It’s the dreaded crater cakes!
No no no no no!  Clearly my “splash and dash” method is flawed. I blame this ENTIRELY on elevation. The whole time these cupcakes were baking, the house smelled like heaven. Like chocolately, orgasmic heaven. I wish sex actually smelled like chocolate. Plus, the cupcakes themselves were delicious.
Just look at all that ooey gooey tastiness!
OK. Cratered failcakes. We’ve been here before. Hell, we were here just last week. This isn’t ideal, but the cupcakes are tasty, I have a potluck the next evening, and I’m out of cocoa so I can’t try again. It’s time for damage control.
Step 1: remove crispy halo from cupcakes. Devour the evidence.
Step 2: Fill the craters with a frosting that will not overwhelm. I had originally thought to use whipped cream. I thought, in my fantasy world, that maybe I could top/fill the cupcakes with cream, slap some ganache on top, and still have the Hostess cakes of my dreams.
Normally this technique works great. However, in the night that the cupcakes spent in my fridge, they fused to the paper liners, through some mysterious molecular transformation. There I was in my icky shared kitchen, already late for the potluck, whipped cream and ganache all ready to go, and I can’t get the damn cupcakes out of the liners! I can’t serve this to people! Not unless the like intentionally eating cupcakes wrappers (like I did when I was 5…lets face it, I wanted to get every last morsel of flavor out of those things!). The lesson: if you don’t have those awesome looking silicon liners, its worth it to spend more than 59 cents and get some decent paper liners. The cheap ones will only destroy you.
New plan! I have strawberries in the fridge. I have ganache. I’ll just make chocolate dipped strawberries and try to serve them with my straightest I’m-not-trying-to-seduce-anybody face.
Again I was thwarted! For some unknown reason, the ganache refused to stick to the strawberries. Seriously, it slid right off as if it was oil. I haven’t used ganache very much, so I have no idea why this happened, but by now I was so frustrated I damn near threw the whole thing across the room in a Julie and Julia temper tantrum.
Finally I ended up throwing the strawberries, whipped cream, and ganache (made with 85% cocoa Ghirideli’s chocolate, mind you) into separate bowls. My strategy was to abandon them all as soon as I got to the potluck, so that if the ganache continued to be incompatible with the strawberries…no one could trace it back to me.
So there we have it. My most epic fail yet. I took a perfect recipe and couldn’t even come up with edible cupcakes! Even more frustrating, I kept the failcakes in the fridge for a few more days, hoping I could come up with a solution. When I finally took them out to throw away, the tuperware smelled AMAZING. These truly wanted to be stunning cupcakes if I weren’t such an altitude fiasco!
Now that I am at my new digs, with my own kitchen, a full set of measuring tools, and an entire drawer devoted to cupcake supplies, I intend to try the recipe again. The FULL recipe, in all its chocolatey glory.
Next Wednesday: A tour of the new kitchen! My first Crazy About Cupcakes recipe–Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes! Finally, I get to blog about a success!

Hooray for my second post! First off I want to give shout outs to the newest additions to the blogroll. The uber-sexy Carly Miller recommended Fancy Flours, home of many beautiful cupcake and baking products. Also, my dear friend Ali has started her own blog, Eclectic Ali, which will occasionally include her own cupcake adventures. Ali is a gluten free baker–truly the final frontier! As yet I don’t have the courage to go there…the following post will probably show you why.

Pride Week–Even in my Tiny Town I want to celebrate!   Everyone has their baking boogieman. Maybe it’s some recipe that looks super-complicated, like brioche. Maybe it’s a technique or a mechanism. I know that any recipe with the words “double boiler” was a no-go for me for the longest time. So was “ganache.” We also have full blown baking nemeses, those foods that we come back to again and again, and that continue to defeat us, until we are locked in a never ending battle that defines our deepest character…

OK, so maybe Velvet Cake isn’t exactly the Joker to my Batman…but it’s getting there. Red Velvet cupcakes were actually the second cupcake I ever tried to bake. And really, that is when I started using the term “fail cake” (not saying I coined it, just saying it entered my own vocabulary with Velvet cake). These cakes turned into craters, collapsed in the middle, blurped out over the pan edges…they honestly looked like red blood cells. It got worse too. I broke off the crispy halos and still tried to frost the poor things, but this was also my very first attempt at cream cheese frosting, and I was using a very cheap vanilla extract that turned the frosting a disgusting dirty dishwater color.  In an attempt to disguise that failure, I tried to dye the frosting blue with food coloring…resulting in something approximately the color of a gross swimming pool. The perfect color clash to red velvet cupcakes.

Needless to say, these days I am always a little nervous whenever I attempt a velvet cake recipe.   But this weekend was Pride! OK, so maybe not in my Tiny Town, but nearby and in bigger cities everywhere people were gathering in joyful, colorful, beautiful parades celebrating sexual freedom, diversity, and community spirit. I wanted to participate! Not only that, but I wanted to share beautiful, colorful rainbow cupcakes with my co-workers. Again, my cupcake visions were filled with colorful rainbow confections, perhaps something along the lines of a King Cake with rainbow sprinkles. So I drug up my old nemesis, the velvet cake recipe, with the intention of making it in every color of the rainbow.

The recipe I used this week was an old word file on my computer and I honestly can’t remember the source. What I do know is that I made this exact same recipe in the exact same kitchen last year and had no problems, so I suspect that everything that went wrong had more to do with operator error than the recipe itself.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

1c cake flour

1/3c cocoa

1.2tsp salt

2/3c vegetable oil

3/4c sugar (I tried using Apriva, the Kroger knock-off of Splenda…HUGE mistake)

1 egg 2 T red food coloring (I held off on this step, in favor of separating the batter into several bowls and making red, blue, green, and yellow cake later)

1/2tsp vanilla

1.2c buttermilk (the internet says everywhere that milk+vinegar=buttermilk, even for soymilk….LIES!)

1/2tsp baking soda ‘

¾ tsp white vinegar (the only time I have white vinegar is for dying easter eggs in April…my absent housemate has apple cider vinegar, how can that not taste good?)

350 degrees. Line pans. Whisk flour cocoa and salt. Oil sugar in a bowl and beat at medium until blended.  Eggs one at a time. Very slowly add red food coloring (whatever dude). Add vanilla Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in 2 patches.  Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine. Baking soda in small dish with vinegar and add to batter while beating 10 seconds (the apple cider vinegar bubbled up the same way so it must be ok!). 2/3 full cake pan. Cook approx 25-27 min.

Cream cheese: Room temp cream cheese, three parts.

2 T unsalted COLD butter (coldish)

1T shortening

1/2tsp vanilla 1c powdered sugar (added some for a stiffer texture)

Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and combine very well.  Add first third of cream cheese (what is with cupcake recipes and thirds?? Always with the damn thirds! My brain works in halves, thankyouverymuch)and combine very well.  Add the shortening and combine very well.  Add remaining cream cheese one piece at a time, combine very well.  Gradually add surgar and combine until fluffy.

So despite one previous success, things went wrong. Very wrong.

Clearly there is a reason velvet cake is usually red...every other color looks a lot like deadly seaweed

Problem 1: the colors are awful. Now I know that velvet cake requires a certain amount of courage when it comes to adding shocking amounts of food coloring and committing to pooping that color for days afterwards, but really. Any color other than red looked gawd awful.

Problem 2: The different colors added and extra mixing step late in the game. I really think this affected the cake’s ability to rise. As in it didn’t. The cupcakes stubbornly stayed the exact same shape as when I put the batter into the cups. Right down to every lump and bubble.

Problem 3: Seriously. These cupcakes look awful.

Ew...my cupcakes look like pureed organs

However, I would never have cupcakes for anyone if I was actually deterred by ugly cupcakes. When confronted with this situation, denial and subterfuge is always best. Observe…

All things can be hidden with frosting....maintain!

Ok, so now the cupcakes are starting to look edible, if not the beautiful parade of rainbow Pridecakes I had originally envisioned. Next comes the final step…

Sprinkles cure everything!

This is a decoration technique I saw on the cover of a magazine. I like how it looks restrained, refined, like the decoration of someone who is mature enough to use rainbow sprinkles sparingly…

Oh who am I kidding? These cupcakes suck!  I decreed them unacceptable for public (ie coworker) consumption and did not pass them around. I myself ate a few of them. They weren’t bad, per say. They tasted a bit like cupcake shortbread. Dense and a little dry, not too sweet. The frosting helped a little but not too much. Luckily the recipe only made about 10 cupcakes. Not a huge waste in the end.

Ncxt week! Better Than Sex Chocolate Cupcakes from the Cupcake Project! I thought I wouldn’t have a post because this weekend I am moving (yet again) but I had a surprise potluck spring up, so Wednesday cupcake post it is! (provided I can find internet in the other Tiny Town work has sent me to)

I have been thinking about chocolate orange cupcakes for a couple of weeks now. In my mind’s mouth they were dark chocolate cupcakes; rich, moist and not too sweet. I pictured a dark chocolate orange frosting on top that was almost black. Very sophisticated cupcakes, these.

My dream was put off for a while because I’m very much in between two kitchens right now. One in Albuquerque, my former home base, which had the bulk of my supplies, and one here in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, which is in Forest Service housing and is furnished with every imaginable piece of beat up camping cookware from the 1960s and 1970s, but absolutely nothing useful for baking beyond an electric oven of dubious reliability.

lovely little notes like this all over the house...

Weeks one and two it snowed nearly every day (yes, in May). I would go home to Albuquerque on the weekends to thaw out, and have every intention of carting all of my cupcake supplies back with me the following Sunday. Unfortunately I forgot certain vital elements…like the god damn cupcake pans.

So by the time I actually carted everything up here, bowls, electric mixer, liners, flavors, flour, sugar, cupcake pans…the weather was warm again and I was running low on energy. I just wanted to make the fucking cupcakes at this point, and special trips to the store for extra ingredients wasn’t going to happen. My sophisticated dream shifted to “what is the easiest looking chocolate cake recipe on the internet? And it better use just plain Kroger cocoa, dammit.”

The recipe I ended up with is a Devil’s food cake from Chockylit, one of my favorite sources for cupcake recipes. It is a very simple, forgiving recipe, copied below with my modifications:

Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake
makes 24 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

2 cups flour (+2 tablespoons for altitude)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda (shit I don’t have any baking soda…c’mon now, is there really a difference between baking soda and baking powder? I’ll bet there isn’t. In goes a teaspoon of baking powder!)
1-1/2 cups milk (soy)
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla (plus a dash…for altitude?)
2 eggs (oh hey! There’s some baking soda in the fridge! Whoops, too late)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Measure out everything but the eggs directly into your mixer bowl.
2. Mix on low speed just until incorporated.
3. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
4. Add eggs, beat on high speed again for 2 minutes.

Measure out into cupcake pan lined with cupcake papers. A 2″ ice cream scoop works great for this. Bake for about 15-20 minutes (this oven doesn’t have a timer! This microwave timer won’t work! I guess I’ll just…pay close attention?) until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool slightly in the pan then transfer to a rack to cool completely before frosting.

After making the batter, I divided it in half, adding orange essence to one batch to test the cake-as-flavor-vehicle technique.

There are things I like about this recipe. 1) it is easy, no elaborate mixing stages or rituals required. No double boilers, no sifting flour. 2) clearly it was willing to let me do whatever the hell I wanted to it. That’s my kind of recipe.

There are also things I didn’t like about this recipe. 1) mini-cupcakes tend to get a little dry. I think a full sized cake is needed to really capture both the moisture and flavor of this recipe. 2) not terribly chocolatey. They even kind of lacked a nice dark color, although with some better cocoa this might be improved.

For a frosting I used a basic cream cheese frosting (the only kind I can reliably make so far) and also divided it into two batches. One to remain plain and be added to the cake-as-flavor-vehicle cakes, and the rest I added cocoa and orange essence to make a chocolate orange frosting for the frosting-as-flavor-vehicle test cakes.

Overall, both experimental groups turned out fairly well. I think I did a decent job of representing each recipe. That said, I was still underwhelmed. My lesson here is that for citrus flavors, that are not terribly exotic, it seems best to use actual orange rather than flavored oil to create the cupcake. These cakes tasted more like the chocolate oranges you buy at Christmastime (yummy in their own way) than anything resembling oranges. Next time I might experiment with some actual orange rind and a melted chocolate based cake recipe.

Experiment contamination! Cool frosting effect because I was too lazy to rinse the tube in between frosting types.

Also, I find that my personal preference with this flavor combination is to have the cake-as-flavor-vehicle rather than frosting. Another of life’s great mysteries solved with the power of science!

Still, these went well with my Sunday afternoon coffee, and I imagine they would also compliment after-dinner coffees, especially those with Gran Marnier.

Next weekend: Rainbow Cupcakes for PRIDE!