Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Applesauce Spice Cupcakes: Happy Flocking Birthday!

In our family pink flamingos have taken on a life of their own.  What started as a youth group fundraiser many years ago, in which the youth would load up some poor victim's lawn with pink flamingos in the middle of the night, has developed into a tradition among my sisters and her friends when ever there is a celebration.  So what better way to celebrate my sister-in-laws birthday than to leave a flock of flamingo cupcakes on her doorstop, ring the bell, and run away.

Not to mention, it gives me another opportunity to try a new cupcake from Martha Stewart's Cupcake book.  Since I got a later start in the Martha Stewart cupcake club, I need to catch up on the ones I've missed right?

For the first time, I really got to play around with decorating.  This was my first attempt to play with gum paste.  I made the flamingo toppers, used royal frosting for the wings with some edible glitter, and then made the flowers which I painted with luster dust.
And now for the good part!  The baking!  I used the recipe for Apple Spice Cupcakes.  This recipe used unsweetened applesauce for flavor and especially for a nice moist cake.  However, I had a secret up my sleeve!  I found this unsweetened cider sauce from a local orchard.  North Star Orchard makes this applesauce by actually cooking the apples in cider.  It's this amazing blend of both worlds!  I used half regular applesauce and half of my special stuff (I only had one jar and didn't want to use it all up).  If you are an applesauce person, you must get this stuff if you can!
These smelled so good in the oven, I could barely wait!

They came out perfect, and I could not stop sniffing them!  All the spices in the air were just amazing.

I made a brown sugar cream cheese frosting...then tinted it a pretty green.
It was a bit warm in the kitchen, and I was having some problems getting them to ice nicely, but once they were iced and decorated, I had a cute little flock in my kitchen.

I had so much fun making these.  And the best part is that they tasted delicious.  Little mini spice cakes, perfect for a birthday flocking.

Martha Stewart’s Applesauce Spice Cupcakes

Makes 18 cupcakes

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups unsweetened apple sauce

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. On a low speed, add applesauce and then the flour mixture, beating until just combined.

Fill each cup 3/4 full with batter. Bake 20 minutes. Frost with Brown Sugar, Cream Cheese Frosting (see below).


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar

In the clean bowl of electric mixer, mix cream cheese with 1 stick butter and 1 cup light brown sugar on medium speed until smooth. Spread cream-cheese frosting on cupcakes. Cupcakes can be refrigerated in airtight containers up to 2 days.

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MSCC: Triple Citrus Cupcakes

So I joined this Martha Stewart Cupcake Club and I am so excited!!  This "club" is a group of bakers who are baking their way through the Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook.  Each month a different cupcake is selected, and everyone bakes and blogs all about it.  The August cupcake is this summery Triple Citrus.

Let me start off by saying that while I was thrilled to have the opportunity to do this, I was not thrilled with the flavor of the month.  I'm really not a huge citrus person.  Well ok, the yellow and green Mike 'n Ikes are my favorite, but they don't count.  But I'm willing to give it a whirl and see what I wind up with.  After all, this may be another recipe to earn a coveted plastic page protector in my 3-ring recipe binder.

So I started gathering my ingredients together, flour, sugar, 1lb of butter and 9 eggs....   Seriously?!  I was floored by the amount of butter, until I read 9 eggs!  Mentally I kept repeating "divided over 36 cupcakes".  It's a protein packed snack!

It's the recipe of large quantities.  I began zesting my lemons, limes and oranges.  9 TBS of zest is quite zesty!

I began mixing the ingredients just as I was told, then I went through the recipe again just to make sure I didn't miss anything.  That's when I noticed that this recipe doesn't call for any leavening agent, no baking powder, no baking soda...nothing.  Just 9 eggs.  This would be when my stomach sank.  Did my Martha leave out a key ingredient?  No, not her meticulous self.  This must be the reason for the eggs right?

Surprisingly the batter came out really thick.  It smelled amazingly good.  I was a little concerned that with all the zest that it would a bit too over-the-top citrus tasting for me.  I wasn't about to sample.  You can't have good odds with 9 raw eggs.

I began filling the liners and was really stumped as to how high to fill them.  For a normal batter I fill them 3/4 of the way full.  Which is what I wound up doing this time.  However, I was concerned that these would not rise and I'd wind up with little squatty cakes that didn't reach the top of the paper.  The recipe said to tap the tins after they were filled to level out the batter.  I tried slamming those suckers, and that batter was so thick it wasn't budging.

So off in the over they went.  My fingers crossed that this would not be a huge disaster.  I honestly didn't have high hopes for these cupcakes.  20 minutes later and I was surprised by the result.

They rose!  Although as you can see they still didn't come to the top of the paper.  These are supposed to be dipped in the glaze and it would be a little more difficult with them so short.  I let them cool then attempted the citrus glaze and lime zest garnish.

Now for the big test.  Unleash them on the masses.  These cupcakes went flying!  People came back for seconds!  Even the nutty marathon runner who eats healthy all the time (yes I'm talking about you).  The cake wasn't super heavy like I feared, although it definitely was a denser cake.  It wasn't greasy at all, which I was worried about from the butter.  And it had just enough citrus taste to make it refreshing without being overbearing.  This is an awesome cupcake!  The only thing I would change is that I would reduce the quantity from 36 cupcakes and make fewer larger ones.  I'd definitely fill the liners higher.  Overall, it is worthy of one of my plastic page protectors.

In case you want to venture into making this citrus indulgence, here is the link to the recipe:

Triple-Citrus Cupcakes


  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt

  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 3 lemons)

  • 3 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (from 2 oranges)

  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lime zest, plus more for garnish (from 3 limes)

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 9 large eggs, room temperature

  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt

  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 3 lemons)

  • 3 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (from 2 oranges)

  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lime zest, plus more for garnish (from 3 limes)

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 9 large eggs, room temperature

  • Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

    Ok this is the second cupcake I've attempted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.  The first one was a chocolate banana that left me completely disappointed.  This one has Nutella in it, how could it be bad?  It sure does look pretty!

    I started measuring everything out in my Kitchen Aid mixer bowl like the recipe called for, the only addition I made was that I added 3/4 tsp espresso powder.  I find that espresso powder really makes chocolate "pop".  However, the first thing I noticed was that I was only adding 2 1/2 TBS of cocoa powder.  I was a little bit worried at that point that maybe it just wouldn't be chocolate enough.  And I debated if I should use the dutch processed cocoa, but stuck with natural cocoa powder instead.

    After mixing I wound up with a very thick batter, and when I tasted it, all I could really taste was the espresso.  I thought maybe the chocolate would really come out once baked them.  So I lined my tins with a dozen liners because the recipe says it makes a dozen.  I then became very confused when I could barely scrape together enough for 10 cupcakes.  Oh well, maybe I just overfilled the tins.

    They sure did smell good baking, and after 5 minutes longer than the recipe baking time, they were ready to come out of the oven.

    That's when the fun really began!  After letting them cool, I carved out small indents with my nifty small cookie scoop and then added a dollop of Nutella.  Of course we don't want to waste any cup-cakey goodness, I covered up my secret stash of Nutella with the removed portions.  Basically, I plugged it back up.

    I wasn't worried about the cut out since it was just going to be covered with Nutella icing.  So on to the icing!  I must say I absolutely love Nutella.  Preparing these brought back some great memories of eating Nutella and toast for breakfast and Nutella sorbet when I was in Italy.  However, Nutella must come in small doses because it's just so incredibly sweet.  I was a bit nervous to see I was making an icing with 2 cups of sugar and adding the Nutella to that.  I beat and beat and beat that icing like it said, it never did get real light and fluffy though.  In fact, it stayed a bit grainy.  I added the Nutella, and tasted.  Pretty much what I expected, super sweet icing overload.  But the cupcake itself isn't that sweet, so maybe it would be an excellent compliment to the cake.

    I'm still working on my swirling techniques, but I iced them all and garnished them with chopped hazelnuts.  Then it was time for the taste test...my favorite part. 

    There we were, our moment of truth.  Cupcake divided between us, anxiously waiting to see the reaction of the other as we first bit into the chocolate hazelnut goodness.  Sadly, it was what I feared.  We couldn't taste chocolate, the crumb was falling apart, and the icing was overly sweet.  The icing reminded me of grocery store bakery icing.  The best part of the cake was that little hidden portion of Nutella.  However, I didn't make the Nutella, so I don't want that to be the highlight of a homemade treat. 

    Needless to say this recipe does not earn the coveted plastic page protector.  This cupcake was not worth it for us.   In fact, since this is my second recipe that disappointed me from this book, I think it's time to put the book to rest.  I'm hoping that the issue with this book is that when it was converted from metrics to the USA version, that the conversions were just not done properly.  I certainly hope a bakery isn't selling these! 

    For those of you who still want to try it for yourself here's the recipe:

    For the cake:

    3/4 c plus 1 TBS all-purpose flour
    2 1/2 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
    a scant 3/4 c sugar
    1 1/2 tsp baking powder
    pinch of salt
    3 TBS butter, room temperature
    1 egg (the fine print in the front of the book says medium, but I used large)
    1/2 c Nutella
    36 whole shelled hazelnuts for garnish

    2 c confectioners' sugar sifted
    5 TBS unsalted butter, room temperature
    2 TBS whole milk
    1/3 cup Nutella

    For the cupcakes:
    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
    2. Put flour, cocoa, sugar, powder, salt and butter in freestanding mixer bowl with paddle attachment.  Beat on slow until you get a sandy consistency.
    3. Slowly our the milk into the flour mixture. Beat well until all ingredients are mixed well.  Add the egg and beat well, scraping down as needed.
    4. Spoon the batter into paper liners until two-thirds full and bake for 20 minutes or until cake bounces back.  Let the cupcakes cool in pan slightly before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
    For the Icing:

    1. Beat the sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with paddle attachment on medium-slow until it is well mixed.
    2. Turn the mixer down to a slower speed and add in milk.  When it's incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes.
    3. Sir in the hazelnut and chocolate spread by hand until evenly mixed in with the frosting.  When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the frosting on top and garnish.

    Oh no, it's begun...

    Those were the words my fiancé Brian used when he watched me start gathering ingredients in one hand and my blackberry to take pictures in the other hand. See I love to bake, and he knows how crazy things get when I get into my baking mojo. We call Christmas time “cookiepalooza” due to the 19 different types of cookies I whipped out last year.

    I am not trained in any way shape or form on baking, I’ve learned by reading and watching. And I confess I have a tearing habit. Meaning, if I see something I want to attempt baking, I tear out the recipe, and usually throw it in my pile. Brian did the most wonderful thing and bought me a three-ring binder and those plastic page protectors so that I could organize my recipes (and pecan pie wipes off of plastic much easier). I am always looking for an excuse to bring a baked good, but of course before an item is bringable (it’s a word now), it must be tested!

    In my binder I store all my tried and true recipes in the plastic protectors, and ones yet to be made are in the little pocket on the side. But it takes a lot for a recipe to earn the coveted plastic protector. See, we are also dessert snobs. Meaning, noise has to be made when someone takes the first bite. We’ve all seen the cakes and cookies that look beautiful, but in the end are just “ok” tasting. Not good enough. I want the recipes I make to be worth every single calorie, every single minute I spent making it, every single mile I have to run to work it off. Desserts need to be worth every single bite!

    So in an attempt to work through my assortment of recipes still waiting to see if they have earned their spot in my book, maybe get through that Martha Cupcake book I’ve been dying to bake through, and just give me an excuse to bake…I’ve started this blog. If there is ever a tip or trick you want to send me, please do. If there is a recipe that just makes you go “Oh my God” when you first bite into it, send it my way. I’ll be baking through my arsenal of goodies that are always a must when I need to bring desert, as well as testing some recipes that have intrigued me.