I made: Classic birthday cupcakes

I have this long list of “classic desserts” to practice.  Basically in the event that I ever make it onto a baking reality show, I’ll have at least a few classic recipes under my belt.  One of these is the traditional yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting.  Unfortunately there just aren’t really a TON of occasions where it makes sense to bake someone a full on cake; cupcakes are a lot more appropriate, so that’s what I went for.

I used, again, a Kitchn recipe, which was good for the cake part itself.  I have some quibbles with the frosting (see more commentary below).

First, the cake!  Pretty simple:

  • Preheat oven to 350F and prep cake pans (or cupcake liners, in my case).
  • Cream 8 tbsp room temp butter with 1.5 cups granulated sugar, for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Add 3 large eggs until mixed.
  • Combine dry ingredients: 2 1/4 cups flour, 1 tsp fine salt, 3.5 tsp baking powder, and mix into butter/sugar mixture.  Then add 1 1/4 cups milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  (I used buttermilk.)
  • Beat for about 3 minutes, scraping down as needed.
  • Fill the cake/cupcake pans and bake 25-30 minutes for round cakes, less for cupcakes (maybe 18? It’s been a while… I don’t remember how long I baked them.)
  • Cool for 15 minutes then remove from pans to finish cooling.

Next, the frosting:

  • Beat together 1.5 sticks room temp butter, 2 tbsp mayo, and 1/3 cup Rich Chocolate Ovaltine powder until mixed, about 1 minute.
  • Add 2.5 cups powdered sugar, about 1/2 cups at a time, until fully mixed.
  • Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp fine salt.
  • The recipe also suggests adding 2 oz melted chocolate (optional).  I didn’t do this and I regret it.
  • Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • Frost cakes/cupcakes when cooled.

OVERALL:

  • The cake recipe is good and tastes good.  I think I overfilled the cupcakes.  There’s a LOT of baking powder in this recipe and with the substitution of buttermilk, they rose a lot.  I had spillover on almost every cupcake and they came out messily as a result (but a tasty mess).
  • The frosting recipe is weird.  I don’t know if other people like Ovaltine more than me or what, but I found it off-putting and strange.
  • Also, there’s not nearly enough frosting.  At least for cupcakes.  I ran out and had to mix up a last-minute batch of cream cheese frosting to finish almost half of them.
  • The good news: I finally figured out which frosting tip got the effect I desired, which is something I’ve been working on through trial-and-error for months!  I’m still learning about using frosting/decorating tips, but I’m glad I figured this problem out.  (It’s the biggest size closed star tip, by the way.)  I also used again the trick where you mix a few different sprinkle types together, for a fun, more customized look.
  • Not gonna lie, I also wanted to make cupcakes specifically to use my cool new traveling cake/cupcake carrier.  Check it out.

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NEXT TIME:

  • Definitely a usable cake/cupcake recipe, although be careful about the rise.
  • I probably wouldn’t bother redoing the frosting normally, but I do have this whole thing of Ovaltine now, so I guess I might as well try again, to get the proportions right.  I would try mixing in the melted chocolate as suggested.  Also maybe only use half the amount of Ovaltine recommended and replace the other half with cocoa powder?
  • Also, double the frosting recipe.

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I made: Cinnamon sour cream coffee cake

I’m finally making progress towards my baking resolution to make more cakes!  This is my first official cake of the year.  I decided to make it because it seemed pretty easy, and I could make it with stuff I had on hand, while using up some sour cream I was getting worried about.

The recipe came from Baked by an Introvert, same as the banana nutella cupcakes I made last week.  It has three components: the cake itself, topping, and glaze, all of which are relatively easy.

Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray & flour, place a round piece of parchment paper in the bottom and spray a little more.
  • Beat 1/2 cup softened butter with 3/4 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy.  Add 2 large eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup sour cream until well combined.
  • Combine dry ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, and spices.  Now, as y’all know, if a recipe tells me “add 1 tsp cinnamon” I consider that a suggestion.  I also added:
    • 1 tsp cardamom
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp ground clove
    • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • Alternate adding 1/2 flour mixture to the butter mixture, followed by 1/2 cup buttermilk, followed by the remaining flour mixture.  Mix until just combined.
  • Pour the batter into the pan.

Topping:

  • Combine 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed), and spices in a bowl.  (Recipe says 1 tsp cinnamon, I used that + 1/2 tsp cardamom + a sprinkle of ground ginger)
  • Cut in 1/3 cup softened unsalted butter until it is like wet sand.  (Recipe says use a pastry cutter but I HATE cleaning my pastry cutter so I just used a fork it was fine.)
  • Sprinkle the topping on top of the cake in the pan.
  • Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes.  (Recipe says to start checking at 20 minutes but that seems insane to me?  It took 40 minutes.)
  • Cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around outside edge to loosen, then remove from pan to cool completely.

Glaze:

  • Combine 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, 2 tbsp sour cream, and 1 tbsp milk in a small bowl, stir until smooth, then drizzle on top of the cooled cake.

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I was too lazy to drizzle from a decorating bag so whatever, this was drizzly enough.

OVERALL:

  • This was a good cake and both my husband and workmates liked it.
  • I figured out how to take a cake to work!  I just cut it up into little bite-size pieces and put the pieces into cupcake liners.  They were all gone before lunch.  This wouldn’t work for very tall cakes, obviously.
  • Now, here is the downside of baking while sad or distracted.  I used what I THOUGHT was a normal 9-inch cake pan.  Then, when all the cake batter + topping more than filled the pan, I thought, “Hm, that’s a little odd,” then thinking nothing more of it, popped the almost overflowing pan into the oven.  I ended up with mushroom cake:

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  • And as you can see especially from the glazed picture, the center fell in a little.  I am going to blame this entirely on my cake pan.  I guess I need a different 9-inch cake pan?  There’s something wrong with mine!
  • It still tasted fine though, and not raw or anything.
  • Oh also, I ran out of sour cream before I got to the glaze, so instead of 2 tbsp sour cream + 1 tbsp milk, I used 1 tbsp buttermilk + 2 tbsp milk.  It was fine but I’m sorry I didn’t get to make the sour cream glaze.

NEXT TIME:

  • Well, like I said, I need a new cake pan, I had a problem here.
  • I liked the glaze, I would try to be a little more fancy with it if I felt like I had the time & energy.
  • I also really liked the streusel-y topping!  I would make this and just put it on top of random stuff.  Ice cream, maybe.

I made: Tide pod vanilla buttermilk cupcakes

I keep looking at these cupcakes and giggling to myself.  These cupcakes were primarily inspired by a very silly joke meme/trend, and fortunately ended up tasting reasonably good.  I used this recipe for the cupcakes themselves, and because I didn’t have enough cream cheese to follow the frosting recipe, I used this frosting recipe instead.

Cupcakes:

  • Preheat oven to 350F and line cupcake pans.
  • Mix dry ingredients: 2 3/4 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Beat together 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, and 2 cups sugar.  Beat in 2 tsp vanilla and 4 eggs.
  • Alternate adding in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 cup buttermilk, then more flour, then buttermilk, then the last of the flour, mixing until completely incorporated but not too long.
  • Spoon batter into muffin pans and bake 20-25 minutes (mine took 25).  Cool in pan for at least 15 minutes before removing to rack.

Frosting:

  • Beat 4 sticks unsalted butter until creamy.
  • Gradually add in 6 cups (!) powdered sugar, sifted.
  • Mix in 1 tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.

And that’s about it!  I frosted the cupcakes with a base layer of white frosting first, then split the remaining frosting in half to add the different food colors to each.  I just eyeballed the colors, I was hoping for a darker blue, but this was with quite a few drops and it was about as blue as it got.

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OVERALL:

  • The cupcake recipe is excellent.  These are nice, fluffy, tasty cupcakes.  Definitely more special than cake mix cupcakes.
  • Because of my various issues with my oven, I kept a really close eye on how they were cooking.  I was using 2 different pans and rotated them halfway through.  I set the timer for 25 minutes exactly and was ready to keep going, but they seemed good to go at 25.
  • The frosting recipe was a good consistency for what I was trying to do with it.  I can’t say I absolutely love sugar/butter frosting, but it’s a good version of what it is.

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NEXT TIME:

  • Well, considering this was a joke recipe, I doubt I would repeat exactly.  But I think I would quite happily use the cupcake recipe as is.
  • I would love to get one of those cupcake scoops to help ensure evenness. Some of my cupcakes were much larger than others so they were of varying doneness.
  • Like I said above, the frosting was fine, just not totally to my taste.  I prefer cream cheese frosting.  I’d also love to play with meringue frostings at some point.
  • I’m still a beginner with frosting so I know they aren’t perfect, I feel like this is just the kind of thing that takes practice!

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I made: Biscuits!

Still going with my theme of “stuff with buttermilk,” I decided to make plain classic biscuits this morning.  I actually have never made biscuits from scratch before; in my family, biscuits came out of cans.  But they aren’t very hard to do as long as you’re careful with the butter.

This recipe came from the Kitchn, which is a resource I really like for simple recipes with very clear step-by-step instructions that explain why things work the way they do.

Make ur biscuits:

  • Cut up 6 tbsp butter and put in the freezer.  Preheat oven to 425F.
  • Mix dry ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda.
  • Cut in butter.  The recipe says to use a food processor, which I don’t have, and a pastry blender seemed like too much trouble, so I just used a fork & my hands.  Then I put it in the fridge for a minute.
  • Mix in 3/4 cup buttermilk until roughly combined.  I’m paranoid about cold-butter recipes so I put it back in the fridge again.
  • Now the fun part!  Roughly press out the dough into a rectangle.  Cut into 3 equal size pieces and stack, press to combine.  Then cut into 3 pieces again and stack again.  This was my favorite part!
  • Roll out into a rectangle and cut into 8 pieces.  Put on baking sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes or so.  (I rotated the sheet halfway through and also baked for 15 minutes because my oven sucks.)

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OVERALL:

  • This recipe is straightforward, simple, and almost impossible to screw up if you just follow the steps.
  • The biscuits taste good and have a good texture.  They’re a little boring but they’re regular biscuits, so they’re not supposed to be fancy.  They are pull-apart soft and flaky!
  • I like the way that the recipe has you cut them into rectangles instead of circles!

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NEXT TIME:

  • I would turn the heat up to 450 and bake for 12 minutes.
  • I could get a little better at shaping the biscuits.  Some of them are a little funny and triangular.
  • Other than that I don’t think I’d make many other adjustments, this is a good, quick, well-honed recipe!

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With honey and butter heck yeah

I made: Banana buttermilk muffins

You know the drill.  Buy bananas, fail to eat all bananas before they turn black, put bananas in freezer in hopes that someday you’ll be a person who makes banana muffins.  Well, I’m really happy to report that for the first time in my life, I am finally that person.

I used (more or less) this recipe but seriously guys, it’s banana muffins, there are approximately one million recipes and all of them are basically fine.

Steps:

  • Prep: preheat oven to 375 and spray/line muffin tins as you prefer.
  • Mix dry ingredients: 1 3/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda.  (The recipe called for whole wheat flour, which I don’t typically have, so I used regular AP flour and it was fine.)  I also added 1/2 cup chopped walnuts at this time.
  • Mix wet ingredients: 1 cup buttermilk, 1 cup mashed bananas (2-3 bananas’ worth, depending on the size of your bananas), 2 tbsp canola oil, 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla.  (This recipe called for low-fat buttermilk, which is stupid.  I use normal buttermilk like a normal person.)
  • Add wet to dry and mix until just blended, don’t overmix.
  • Add 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips and fold, don’t overmix.
  • Fill muffin cups.  Press more mini chocolate chips on top of the muffins if you want.
  • Bake 15-18 minutes.  Now I took mine out at 18 minutes and they were still not done (more below), but use your judgment.
  • Cool in pan for at least 10 minutes then remove to rack to finish cooling.

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OVERALL NOTES:

  • I am noticing a pattern in general that my oven does not tend to cook things within the times recommended.  If it does, it’s always the highest possible time.  I’m mystified because I really have checked various sections of my oven’s temperature with an oven thermometer.  It is possible that maybe one section of my oven doesn’t heat evenly and maybe I missed that section when I was checking.  It does seem like the back half of the muffins cooked okay, and it was mostly the front half that remained slightly underbaked.  Or maybe my oven thermometer is also wonky idk.
  • Another issue I’ve had AGAIN with muffins is that even though I followed the recipe almost exactly, I still had WAY too much muffin batter.  I don’t think this is explainable by the extra 1/2 cup walnuts.  I forgot to take a picture of it, but when I first took them out of the oven, it was basically a solid mass of muffin that had almost spilled over the sides of the pan entirely.  Is it possible that my muffin tin itself is weirdly non-standard?  Like, the cups are just a tiny bit too small?

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  • Regardless, these tasted pretty good anyway so I’m not complaining.  I LOVE the combination of chocolate + banana.  Add some peanut butter and I’m in heaven.

NEXT TIME:

  • I would still make banana muffins to use up frozen bananas but I might like to try another version of the recipe just to see if different combinations are even better.  This recipe seemed slightly inspired to be “healthy” which is not a quality I’m particularly looking for in baking.
  • If repeating exactly, I would bake longer.
  • I’m going to try rotating things in my oven to see if that helps the uneven baking issue.
  • Maybe some peanut butter?

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Gooey slightly underbaked muffins.  Still ate them