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Cupcake Smash!!

So I’ve been pretty busy getting everything together for an event I’m participating in this Saturday – The 3rd Annual Cupcake Smash! 

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Each competitor is tasked with making an original cupcake creation based on an item from the menu of PYT, located right next to where the competition will be held this Saturday, April 27th, from 2pm to 5pm, in the Piazza at Schmidts (1050 N. Hancock St., Philadelphia), Not only will you get a chance to sample many Über delicious cupcakes, but the event also benefits Philabundance, which is a major player in the fight against hunger in the Philadelphia area. So just think – you get to eat sweets while simultaneously helping an awesome charity. It’s a win-win.

I’m not going to give anything away as far as my creation goes – you’ll just have to come out to the event to find out for yourself! I will, however, provide you with the link to getting yourself some tickets– http://www.philabundance.org/2013/01/08/cupcake-smash-2013-at-the-piazza-at-schmidts/

And check out the facebook event, where you can find all the info and RSVP that you’re coming!!

I forgot to mention that not only do you get to sample the cupcakes, but you also get to vote for your favorite – so let your sweet tooth speak for itself!!

See you there!! :)

 

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2013 in cupcakes, events, Indulgences

 

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Sugar Chicks.

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I actually got the inspiration for these cupcakes from a pin I came across on pinterest (the best site for inspiration, EVER).

I was looking for new ideas for Easter cupcakes. I didn’t want to make the same ones I’ve done in the past, especially since I knew for sure I would be making the Lamb Cake again. At the same time, I had an assignment from my photography class involving shutter speed. I had this grand idea that I’d incorporate the assignment into my cupcake baking. How, you may ask?

Like this:

whip in motion - long shutter speed.

whip in motion – long shutter speed.

And this:

whip in motion - short shutter speed.

whip in motion – short shutter speed.

We were instructed to take pictures of something moving – falling water, a bird flying, etc. The first thing that came to my mind? My mixer (aka “H.A.L.”) in action of course.  While the cake mixed – it was a Lemon Genoise (Italian Sponge) Cake, so it took a while – I snapped a bunch of photos on different shutter speeds.  It was a true learning experience – especially since I had to lug the mixer around the kitchen until I found the spot with the best natural light. H.A.L. is rather heavy, especially with a bowl full of batter in tow. (FYI – in both of those photos, the whip was moving at the same speed – it’s truly amazing the difference the shutter speed can make!)

After the photoshoot, I baked the cupcakes. They were light and spongy and lovely. They were splovely.

like a sponge.

like a sponge.

I whipped up some buttercream, colored it a very light yellow, and gave them each a layer of frosting.

ice, ice, cupcake.

ice, ice, cupcake.

I then dipped them in bright yellow sanding sugar. It created a “Peep effect.”

not a peep!

not a peep!

I gave them all eyes using inverted chocolate chips, and let them sit for a bit.

eyes without a face.

eyes without a face.

Finally, I piped on some yellow wings, an orange beak, and little orange feet.

DSC_1088

I shared the results with friends, and all was right with the world. Happy Easter!

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in cupcakes, holidays, Indulgences

 

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Never Too Late for Love.

Yes, I know Valentine’s Day was 4 days ago….but I was busy playing Cupid and never got the chance to post the pictures of my 2013 Valentine’s Commemorative Treats. Instead, I spent the day giving them out, and helping make others’ Valentine’s Day a little more special. I can totally get into this Cupid thing.

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Cupid, draw back your bow…

Anyway,I had been having so much fun dipping cookies in chocolate, that I decided to keep the fun going with some cupcakes. So, the night before Valentine’s Day, I whipped up a batch of pound cake cupcakes, and because it was a special occasion, even added a little something extra to the batter…

liquid love.

liquid love.

I baked these little love gems, and allowed them to cool completely.

and it begins.

and it begins.

Once cooled, I dipped the tops of them in melted chocolate, dipping half of them in red…

red, the color of desire.

red, the color of desire.

…and half of them in pink.

think pink.

think pink.

I topped each with a conversation heart, and hand delivered them to folks the next day as my personal “Valentines.” I had really wanted to give out Valentines this year anyway, and was going to have cards made up, however converting desserts into Valentines seemed like a much better way to truly spread the love. And who doesn’t love a cupcake?

 

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Stevia. Sweet Stevia.

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I assumed that baking with Stevia, the all natural herbal sweetener, would be simple enough. I’ve baked with Splenda before, and the results frankly, were splendid. I just did some minor adjusting to the quantity used compared to that of regular old sugar (I used less Splenda), but everything else remained the same and the cakes all turned out just fine. In fact, one could hardly tell that no real sugar was used in the making of those cakes. I figured baking with Stevia would be exactly the same. It even says on the package to use half the amount of Stevia that you would use of regular sugar (i.e., 1/2 cup Stevia for every cup of sugar). I don’t think so, Osbourne.

I figured I’d try a pound cake, because, really, how can you screw that up? Well, apparently you can, and I have the cake to prove it. I can’t really even figure out exactly what the issue is. It looks like it might not be cooked all the way through – but it was starting to burn on the edges, and no batter stuck to the toothpick when I inserted it, multiple times. i wound up taking the cake out, and cutting a hole in the bottom to see if it cooked all the way. I still couldn’t tell. I ate some. It tasted relatively cooked, but something seemed “off”.

if it looks like a cake, and it smells like a cake...

if it looks like a cake, and it smells like a cake…

This cake was not the quality I’ve become accustomed to, so I decided to cast it aside, and try again .It’s a shame, too – it looked rather pretty, on the outside.

stevia: my new pet peevia.

stevia: my new pet peevia.

Well, I had to try again. No only to save my pride, but because this cake was supposed to be for my diabetic friend’s birthday tomorrow. I began flipping through the recipe binder, and settled on an apple cake – one of my specialties. I had apples on-hand, so it seemed like kismet.

stevia success.

stevia success.

This time it worked. I don’t know if was because it was an apple cake, or because I switched from bundt cake to cupcakes, or because the sun was out – the world will never really know. All I can say for sure, is that apple cupcakes baked with Stevia work and taste like regular cupcakes.

even better than the real thing.

even better than the real thing.

There are many brand names out there for Stevia – I use Truvia. I also use it in my coffee, and have been for a few years now. So, give it a try in your favorite cake recipe – you may wind up with a winner! But you can’t win unless you try.

 
 

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The Curious Incident of the Red, Red Velvets.

I have a funny story to share, and all you bakers our there will really appreciate this having, I’m sure, been there and done that at some point yourselves. The other night, I was making red velvet cupcakes for a dear friend’s birthday, as red velvet is her favorite. I planned on topping them with a sour cream buttercream I had made once before, that was uber delicious. So I got to work.

i hope i didn't just give away the ending.

i hope i didn’t just give away the ending.

Everything was going along well – I’ve made red velvets from this recipe a handful of times, so I knew what results to expect. I started measuring, mixing, pouring, and beating. When all was said and done, I added the red food coloring and mixed well. At this point, I realized something was amiss. It looked very red – too red. This was a clown-nose red, as opposed to a deeper almost maroon red – the color red velvet batter should be. I tasted the batter, and it tasted good – a little sweeter than previous batches, but still a good batter. Did I use too much food coloring? No, the bottle is always the same size! Maybe there was something wrong with the food coloring and it was heavier on the dye. I convinced myself that must be it and lined the pans with cupcake papers. I grabbed my trusty scoop and was about to dip in for the first cupcake, when I paused, and contemplated the extreme redness one more time. “What would make the batter darker?” I silently questioned. Then, like a bolt of chocolate lightning from above, it hit me – I forgot to add the cocoa powder.

nearly lost you.

nearly lost you.

Hoping that it wasn’t too late, I quickly added the key missing ingredient, and tasted the batter again. This time, it looked and tasted like a red velvet should. The mystery of the red, red velvets was solved. I scooped, baked, iced, and served. And all was once again right with the world.

simply red.

simply red.

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in birthday, cupcakes, Indulgences

 

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Recipe Saturday: Storm Cakes.

What do you do when the thing you’ve feared more than anything since you were about 5 years old is finally about to happen in the form of a superfreak “frankenstorm” with a path that appears to have curved intentionally to slam dead smack into your house? Bake, of course.

Enter: The Storm Cake.

I figured maybe by making a cake in honor of the storm, it would ease the blow – you know, the old “offerings to the angry gods to keep them from unleashing their wrath” kinda thing. Anyway, I began thinking, what kind of cake could live up to such a great task? What goes into a “storm cake?”  More importanly, what doesn’t? I couldn’t just frivolously use up my storm-essentials like eggs and milk. Not at a time like this. No, this cake must be egg and milk-free. But what to add? Chocolate chips seemed like a good choice. And coconut. Oh, and oats. And how ’bout some crushed oreos? So far so good. But a storm has clouds, and lots of them. Marshmallows seemed like a good cloud-representation, however, I had absolutely zero marshmallows in the house, and I was not about to go to the supermarket in the midst of the storm-preparation frenzy for mere marshmallows. So, I improvised.

peep no more.

I mixed it all together, and the batter looked like a jumbled mess – which was rather storm-like.

the wrath of cake.

I opted for cupcakes, and baked them up. When I took them out of the oven, they were bumpy, with things sticking out here and there – yet they rose to life as any normal cupcake should. These were truly Frankencupcakes.

it’s alive!

I topped them with a swirling cloud of cinnamon whipped cream, of which I originally made as topping for the Pumpkin Rosemary Pie, but still had a ton left over.

here comes the twister.

I had to eat one, to see if they lived up to the hype. And unlike I hope the real storm does, they did. The Storm Cake of the Century, I’d say. Give it a try and see for yourself. And if you don’t have all the ingredients, that’s ok – use what you’ve got. No two storms are exactly alike.

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Storm Cakes.

What you’ll need:

2 cups warm water

3/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 1/2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup coconut

1 cup oats

4 crushed oreos

3 ghost-shaped marshmallow peeps (cut up)

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet, and mix until well combined and smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips, coconut, oats, Oreos, and cut-up Peeps. Scoop into lined muffin tins, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Should make about 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes. Cool, ice, and enjoy.

 

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For the Love of Baking.

I was in the midst of making a cake today, and I was just about finishing up, and upon looking at my near-completed work, I started to smile. I couldn’t wait to present the finished product to the intended recipient. I then asked myself, “why do you love baking?” And I came up with a list of answers, from practical, to chemical, to emotional. I’ve shrunk it down to 5 main reasons and of course now I’m going to share the list with you.

The Top 5 Reasons I Love Baking (in no particular order):

1. Chemistry.

I have a little obsession with chemistry. I love experimenting, and seeing how things interact with other things. A little known fact about me – my original college major was, in fact, Chemistry. Eventually, the arts won out, but I never lost that love for all things chemical. And baking, in it’s most basic form, is pure chemistry.

you gotta have the right chemistry..

2. Art.

As I mentioned above, the arts eventually won me over and swayed me from becoming a full-blown chemist. Well, guess what, folks? Baking is equal parts chemistry AND art! I love creating, and the possibilities for crafting an artistic masterpiece are endless in the baking world – from an artisan bread to a fondant birthday cake.

the next Mona Lisa.

3. Fun.

Baking is fun. Kids love it. I mean, I remember begging my mom to help her bake cakes when I was a kid! Maybe it reminds us of our youth; maybe it’s all the sugar and sweetness; but whatever the reason, baking is not considered work for most people. It’s something you do in your leisure time. And something I do in the majority of that time. I crank up the stereo, and dance around the kitchen, mixing, folding, stirring…and even catching myself using my whisk as a faux microphone. (Did somebody say “youtube”?).

some fun now.

4. Delicious.

Baked goods taste good. A sugary sweet buttercream…a warm sourdough loaf…a simple pound cake…whatever it is, I want to eat it, and just writing this is making my mouth water.

resistance is futile.

5. Love.

There’s nothing better than seeing the look on someone’s face when you give them something you’ve hand-crafted in the kitchen yourself – whether it’s a surprise birthday cake, something someone specifically ordered, or something you just felt like making. Baking creates joy – for both the baker and the bake-ee. And that’s really what this life is all about. :)

you get what you give.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in biography, cake, cookies, cupcakes, life

 

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Just Peachy.

Today I was talking with a friend about what to bake next and what flavor combinations might work well together. She said that she was shopping the night before, and saw one of those plug-in air fresheners that was lavender and peach scented, and that she immediately thought of me, and how I should bake lavender peach cupcakes. I agreed that this was an excellent idea.

I did not bake them yet – I’ll be doing that sometime in the next few days. However, this conversation reminded me of how much I love peaches, and don’t eat them nearly as often as I’d like to. So, I picked up a few at the farmer’s market near my office today, and realized what a lovely looking fruit a peach actually is. So, before I slice up my peaches and bake them, I wanted the world to bask in the beauty of the peach, fuzz and all.

Still Life With Peach on Red Laptop.

Kinda reminds me of a painting from one of the Dutch masters I studied in college. I also suddenly have the desire to move to the country…and eat a lot of peaches. Go figure.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in cupcakes, fruits, Indulgences

 

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We All Scream for Sour Cream.

I love experimenting with recipes – it may be one of my absolute favorite pastimes. So this weekend, I really wanted to try a new icing – a sour cream-based buttercream. I just needed the perfect cake to test it out on. It was kinda like getting a brand new pair of shoes and planning your outfit around them, rather than getting dressed first and choosing the shoes to match. I had my heart set on this new icing. So I picked up this tub of sour cream, and thought, “well I’m sure not gonna use this whole thing; I hope I can figure out another use before it goes bad.” And like a bolt of lighting to the brain, it hit me  – red velvet cake calls for sour cream in the recipe. Eureka! I’ve found my test cake!

I quickly went to work, and whipped up a batch of red velvet mini cupcakes, then proceeded to use almost all of the remaining sour cream for the icing. The result? One of the most-loved desserts I’ve created, to-date.

what comes is better than what came before.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in cake, cupcakes, icing

 

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Bowled Over.

I was asked by a friend to make bowling cupcakes this past weekend for a bowling party for her 6-year-old. She sent me this picture from the flickr album of a talented baker working under the moniker “hello naomi,” and asked if I could do something similar. I loved these, and couldn’t wait to try my hand at creating my own version of them, so I responded to the request with an exuberant “yes!” and the fun began.

She wanted chocolate, so chocolate is what she got, along with a layer of buttercream, and topped with fondant bowling accoutrements, such as…

…Bowling Balls…

have a ball.

…Bowling Pins…

pinned down.

….and Strikes.

very striking.

Throw them all together, and you’ve got a bowling party in a box (minus the ugly, smelly shoes). ;)

game on.

 
 

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