Archive | July, 2012

Cupcake Wars

22 Jul

After the adorable cupcakes I made for Elizabeth’s shower, my dad put his request in for his birthday. “Can I have cupcakes?” Sure dad, as long as I can be creative.

What’s the best way to be creative with cupcakes? Multiple flavors and frosting.

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My dad’s first request was a classic birthday cupcake – yellow cake and chocolate frosting. I’m still searching for a great classic yellow cake recipe, but this one is definitely a contender. I found this Glorious Treats recipe after searching the phrase “perfect vanilla cupcakes.” Verdict – delicious, I love anything with buttermilk in the recipe, but I think there may be something more perfect out there. Also, the batter was runny, they baked fine, but it was hard to portion out evenly.

For the frosting, I thought I’d venture from the recipe I always make and search “best chocolate buttercream for cupcakes” I know I was real creative with my search phrases this week. Verdict: it wasn’t anything special, but I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate buttercream.

I topped these little birthday cakes with assorted sprinkles, because that’s what a classic birthday calls for!

Next up  – chocolate cupcakes.

I’m not a huge chocolate cake fan, I mean I LOVE chocolate frostings and fillings, but sometimes chocolate cake ia just too dry. My dad asked for a chocolate cuppie to be included and I decided this is where I’d get most adventurous with Better Homes & Gardens’ Salted Caramel-Chocolate-Bourbon Cupcakes. Sounds intense, and they were – and SO delicious!

One negative on these guys, they didn’t stay circular after I took them out of the pan, they started un-peeling from the liners, but I got creative and just double liner-ed them. The cake part of these were amazing. Absolutely the best tasting chocolate cupcake out there. I used Crown Royal as the liquor, but I really couldn’t taste it. The cake didn’t even need frosting, that’s how yummy is it! I didn’t make the exact frosting that the recipe called for here, first of all I forgot to buy sour cream, second of all I was running out of powdered sugar, and most importantly, I had a bunch of the previous chocolate frosting leftover and hate wasting it, so I mixed the leftover first frosting with extra melted dark chocolate, about 3 1/2 ounces of honey flavored Chobani Greek yogurt and additional powdered sugar. Would I write that down to repeat? No, but it was still chocolate frosting. No complaints. I made the salted caramel as the directions said to, subbing half and half for the whipping cream, which may have made it lighter in color. I’ve made salted caramel before without the easy use of wrapped caramels. It tasted fine and was quick so that’s good, but it wasn’t authentic.

The final cupcakes for my wars were snickerdoodle flavored. I think I got this recipe from Pinterest. The actual recipe  is for a 3 layer cake, but I just halved it and cupcaked it. This cake is very dense, but it was pretty yummy. A great third cupcake and just as delicious for breakfast this morning.

Now for the buttercream frosting. The flavor was great, I added a few drops of cinnamon extract to heighten the flavor – plus I have cinnamon extract and never use it so I thought this was a good place to sneak it in. My problem was my frosting was grainy. Is it possible that I wasn’t very careful on my seventh recipe of the night? Absolutely. But the other culprit is my mixer. Even though I have a KitchenAid, I have the lowest version of it and sometimes it takes a few extra scrapes of the bowl to cream the sugars. Since this recipe had brown sugar in, I’m thinking I didn’t get all of it mixed in well before I continued to add ingredients. I will probably try this recipe again so I’ll be sure to check that next time.

After 4 hours of cupcaking, cleaning and decorating, I ended up with my trio of baby birthday cakes for my dad, exactly what he asked for, and perfect for party favors to take home. Happy Birthday, Dad!

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“You Made Me Dirt Cake??”

18 Jul

Yes, yes I did, Michael.

My brother got his MBA recently and his fiance decided to reciprocate the surprise party he threw her in early June. Of course, I volunteered to make desserts for the party.

Even though I love making cakes, Michael doesn’t love eating them, but he’s asked me on more than one occasion recently for dirt cake, so that’s what I made!

I decided to put my own spin on dirt cake by adding a brownie base. Gooey chocolate always adds deliciousness to anything.

After the brownie layer I combined crushed Oreos, 4 cups of chocolate fudge pudding, 1 16 ounce of whipped topping,

and topped that with a monstrous amount of crushed Oreos and the most important element, gummy worms!

I found some adorable CONGRATS candles that matched the worms perfectly.

Since dirt cake is a dessert you have to serve, I wanted to make something else for dessert snacking, and went to one of my go-to cookies, Pretzel M&M and Sea Salt.

I mistakenly assumed I had the ingredients in the cabinet for the original recipe, but I ended up doing some great swapping and making a lighter, fluffier cookie.

The original recipe called for 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.

Oops, I had to lessen the flour to 1 1/2 cups, and substituted the final cup with cake flour and a handful of oats. I swapped the brown sugar with granulated sugar which resulted in the lighter colored cookie – still super yummy. I also used mini chocolate chips instead of regular, making the cookies look more choc-ful.

Successful party on Erin’s part, and desserts on mine. Congratulations, Michael!

Brownie Cookie

14 Jul

There was an accidental inside out Oreo purchase at my house last week, so I needed to figure out something to do with them. I remembered I’d read about pouring batter on cookies and I decided that’s how I would spend last Sunday afternoon.

Step 1: Take whatever cookies you have and lay them in a 9×13 pan lined with foil.

Step 2: Make brownie or cake batter. This part was slightly experimental too because I didn’t have enough oil for the brownies. I subbed a little extra water and room temperature Crisco.

Step 3: Notice how strange it is that there is a STOP sign on the Oreo package.

Step 4: Pour your batter evenly over the cookies.

Step 5: Bake as you would normal brownies (or cake if that’s what you choose to use), and let cool.

Step 6: Cut into pieces and admire your awesome dessert. Then bring them to work.

Carrots

8 Jul

I’ve always meant to try making cupcakes in ice cream cones. I can’t say that any longer, and I also can’t say it was successful. But from my pictures you’d never be able to tell. Photography is the best!

My mom is an avid quilter and decided to hold a quilt show in her garden last week. Technically it’s the second year for her garden showcase, but the only guest last year was Sonny, so I’m gonna go ahead and call this her inaugural Quilt Show in the Garden.

She can tell you the highs and lows of the show, and I can tell you the highs and lows of the dessert. No surprise here, I found these cupcakes on Pinterest and made note to make them for her show. They looked like the perfect addition to an outdoor garden party.

As I mentioned above, I was interested in making ice cream cone cakes, but had only really seen them in cake cones, I think we should all stick with that, making cupcakes in sugar cones was a huge mess and almost a disaster. I’m pretty sure 98% of the cones fell over in the oven and lost some insides. Thankfully I mad a boxed mix carrot cake for these, so it wasn’t a whole lot of time, money or good ingredients wasted, but we were still not happy.

We recovered the cones mid way and kind of let them bake sideways. Good thing frosting makes most things much, much better. My fave buttercream did the honors of topping (or filling up) the sugar cones and then I popped them in the freezer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile it was time to melt orange candy melts. Melting the chocolate was fine, but finding a container to use so that the cone would be covered was trial and error, and error and a little more error, then finally just sucked it up and used a spoon.

Thankfully the sprinkle part was easy and fun, I think that if you covered everything in life with sprinkles (or glitter) you’d never notice the flaws. Life lesson.

Anyway, despite the earlier issues, the carrots actually looked like they were supposed to, and tasted fine. It was like a game to find a cupcake with more cake that frosting inside! We set the carrots atop crushed cookies that were attached to the plate with peanut butter, so the carrots were sitting in ground and dirt.

Would I do this again? Probably not, but then again they were so cute!

Not Exactly a Cheesecake

7 Jul

More like a cake of cheese.

To continue this Pinterest post week, I will share the appetizer I made for Elizabeth’s shower – a cake of cheese. Cheeseballs and crackers are a super popular party snack and this one is ridiculously adorable for a shower.

Or pretty much for anything. You can shape and mold your cheese to anything, and you can make it in advance! The garlic, almond flavor was just enough for the cheese mixture and the white was very bridal. Kudos, Pinterest, kudos.

Mine was not as perfect as the Hungry Happenings appetizer, but was still cute and yummy – and I got to use my cake tools to pipe the cream cheese swirls. Happy wedding season!

Swirly Shower

6 Jul

One of my bestest friends, Elizabeth, is getting married in September and showered her with showers in June. Her sister and Maid of Honor, asked me to make the cake for her Illinois shower and I, of course, said yes. I love anytime I get a chance to really decorate something, and wedding showers are a GREAT opportunity!

Elizabeth is not a fan of traditional wedding cake, so we decided to maker her number one choice of dessert – FunFetti cake. Yes, most of the time I like to make cake from scratch, but I was happy to please the bride and it was actually pretty delicious. I realized that it’s more canned frosting that I dislike than cake mixes, though I still prefer scratch baking.

I decided to make a smaller cake and a batch of cupcakes for the shower because it’s easier to transport and then guests actually taking leftovers with them is much more of a possibility. I topped the Funfettis with my favorite buttercream frosting, mixed with cocoa powder and melted chocolate – to match the wedding colors, brown and pink!

My grandma actually suggested decorating the cake with fake flowers, which ended up being the perfect addition to the creamy frosting. I took some more Pinterest inspiration from this cake, with a wedding cake my sister-in-law to be loves.

I took the fake flowers and swirled them around the cake and topped the cupcakes. Probably the quickest decorated cake ever and absolutely fit the occasion!

Pinterest at its best

5 Jul

I love Pinterest. 

I used to be really into Twitter, but then it made me anxious. Yep, I’m admitting it, Twitter makes me anxious because it’s so constant and makes you feel like you need to catch up. Pinterest on the other hand, is a leisurely place to pretend to have a bunch of money to buy awesome shoes, a bunch of time to be crafty, a bunch of energy to be fit and, most importantly, a bunch of ingredients (and people to feed) and be chef-y.

I just realized that all three of the desserts I haven’t posted about were Pinterest inspired, so let’s start with my Father’s Day dessert.

This recipe comes from Willow Bird Baking. My mom found this and pinned it to me. I immediately started salivating and knew it would be on my to-make list. I figured Father’s Day would be a good time to mix cookie dough, chocolate and pretzels, and I was right. I was SO right that Tommy put his cookie dough cubes on his pulled pork sandwich. Some would call this disgusting, but others know it’s pure genius.

The recipe is basically egg-less cookie dough, on a shortbread crust, topped with mini pretzels and melted chocolate. In retrospect, I think I was supposed to use super mini pretzels, because the girl’s picture online looked like bite-size pieces, while mine were handfuls.

I’ve made egg-less cookie dough before and made it into truffles and other delicious desserts, but never used cream cheese in the “batter.” Probably because I don’t like cream cheese, which in turn means that I really didn’t like this dessert. Others did, so I think it was a good recipe, but I’d rather keep cream cheese far away from me at all times.

In her recipe, she talks about doubling what she had written, I did this but actually only brown buttered half and creamed the other half. Also I used regular sized chocolate chips and probably didn’t measure them.

Would I make it again? Absolutely, it was a great idea and super cute, I would just use a different filling recipe.

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