I made: Coffee cupcakes with Nutella frosting

The month of June was actually pretty great for me, overall, but wow was it busy!  I baked a few things, but I’ve completely flaked on the writeups.  So, to start off… back in early June I made too much coffee by mistake, so I decided to cook it down to a concentrate and use in cupcakes.  I don’t remember the specific recipe I used.  For the frosting I made Nutella frosting from the earlier banana cupcake recipe.  These cupcakes were yummy!

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I made: Chili chocolate cupcakes!

One of the best things about posting pictures of stuff you bake on social media is that on your birthday, people give you cookbooks!  I basically doubled my cookbook library last month (it was not large to begin with haha).  Anyway, one of the books was a cupcake specific cookbook.  It has lots of fun ideas in it and this chili chocolate concept seemed promising.

I don’t have the recipe on me right now, but basically it was a simple chocolate cake recipe with added chili powder and cayenne pepper.  Then the frosting recipe was a chocolate buttercream with cinnamon.  (I’ll try and update with full details when I get back home to the cookbook.)

OVERALL:

  • My husband and father in law REALLY loved these.  I was unsure how I felt about them at first, but by the second day I decided I also liked them a lot.
  • Kudos to my husband for the idea of sprinkling with red sugar.
  • They make a really dense, almost brownie-like cake.
  • Either I’m getting better at judging how much batter to pour, or these cupcakes just don’t rise as much as others (maybe both).  I didn’t have the messy problem that I often have with cupcakes overflowing during the bake.
  • Check out that crackle.

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NEXT TIME:

  • Make a little bit more frosting than recommended, or don’t be quite so generous – I ran out of frosting and had to leave three cupcakes naked.
  • Try mini cupcakes maybe?
  • Honestly this was a really solid recipe, doesn’t need a ton of tweaks.

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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: Irish cream cupcakes with italian buttercream

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day and I got together with some friends and family, so I was excited to make these cupcakes!  They were pretty involved and I made three silly mistakes.  But one of the things I love about baking is that even if you make mistakes, you can usually keep going and figure out a way to make it work anyway.  Sometimes the mistakes even taste better than the “correct” version.

These cupcakes have two components: the cake itself and then the frosting.  The cake wasn’t too complicated, but the Italian buttercream frosting was tricky, at least for a first-timer!

Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350F and line a cupcake tin.  (It ended up being enough for 24 mini cupcakes and 5 regular cupcakes.)
  • Mix 1.5 cups cake flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup room temp butter, 2 eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/8 cup chopped dark chocolate.  Blend in the mixer for about a minute.
  • Combine 3/4 cup brewed coffee with 1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur and mix into the other ingredients.
  • Scoop into the cupcake tins and bake for 10-12 minutes for mini cupcakes, 15-18 minutes for full size.
  • Cool and core out the centers.  Now they’re ready for the next step.

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Frosting:

  • Okay so making an Italian buttercream is really complicated.  The recipe for the cupcakes wanted me to use something called “meringue powder” which sounded very silly, so I found another recipe instead.  Unfortunately, I forgot to save that one, but I’m pretty sure it goes like this:
  • Separate 4 eggs and put the yolks away for another day.  Put the whites in a big mixing bowl, add 1/3 cup sugar, and get ready to mix with whisk attachment.
  • Meanwhile, set up a small saucepan with 1/3 cup water and 1.5 minus 1/3 cup sugar.  Attach a candy thermometer to the side and set to “soft ball” setting.

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  • Start the mixer at medium speed and the saucepan at medium height at the same time.  You’ll want to get the egg whites to soft peaks and the sugar syrup to 240 degrees F.  Don’t stir the sugar.  This will probably happen at about the same time but if not just turn off whichever one gets done first.
  • Slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites while beating.  Don’t pour it right on the beaters, just to the side.  Continue whipping for 10-15 minutes until firm peaks form and bowl and beaters are cool.  Add a pinch of salt.  Congrats, this is Italian meringue!

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  • However, it isn’t buttercream yet.  To make it buttercream, gradually add in FOUR STICKS OF BUTTER (!!!), cubed.  Then 1 tsp vanilla extract.  The structure of the peaks may change at various times but just keep going.
  • Okay so the next step is to divide the buttercream and flavor it with two different flavors.  To fill the cored cupcakes, make an espresso flavor buttercream: mix 1 cup of the frosting with 1/2 tsp espresso powder dissolved in 1 tbsp water.  (This actually wasn’t quite enough frosting to fill my cupcakes; I would suggest doing 1.5 cups frosting instead and adjusting the other ingredients accordingly.)
  • Lastly, make Irish cream flavor frosting: 2 cups frosting with 2 tbsp liqueur.  (Again, this wasn’t quite enough for me.  3 cups/3 tbsp should do it.) Frost the cupcakes as you like and decorate!

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OVERALL:

  • Well like I said, this was a very involved process.  My husband helped at the buttercream stage because I was nervous about screwing it up.  The buttercream was the one aspect I didn’t mess up though!
  • Mistake #1: I forgot that I had cake flour and googled “how to convert regular flour into cake flour” and spent 10 minutes sifting together flour & cornstarch.  Oops.
  • Mistake #2: I completely forgot to add the cocoa powder.  The good news is that as I was mixing the batter, I kept thinking “this is such a wet recipe, this seems so weird.”  The bad news is, I didn’t follow that instinct enough to re-check the recipe.  Luckily, it tasted fine even though it wasn’t chocolatey!
  • Mistake #3: I kept screwing up separating the eggs.  I ended up going through 10 eggs just to get 4 clean egg whites.  I usually don’t have a problem with this, I was just careless and then I kept psyching myself out.  So I have a lot of leftover egg yolk to make a custard tomorrow!

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  • Another baking blog gave me the idea to make a custom sprinkles mix, which was super fun!  I really like how these ended up looking.  I’m still not getting QUITE the results from piping the frosting that I wanted, but I’m getting better at it!
  • Oh, I also figured out a better technique for distributing batter into the mini cupcake tin.  The last time I made mini cupcakes this process was extremely annoying.  So instead of trying to spoon them individually, I simply poured the batter into my glass Pyrex measuring cup with a spout, then poured the batter into the cupcake wells from there.  It was much easier and less messy.  I wouldn’t recommend it for a batter that had big chunks, but since this one was mostly smooth with only tiny chocolate shards, it worked well.
  • These cupcakes were really rich and super tasty.  I can’t say I would go to all the effort to make the Italian buttercream all the time, but for special occasions, it’s worth it.

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NEXT TIME:

  • Although they were really good as they were, I’d like to try it with the cocoa powder.
  • I also am not sure what’s the point of making two different flavors of the buttercream.  Instead of doing that, I think it would make just as much sense to mix the espresso & Irish cream together and then use that as the frosting.
  • Oh, I guess the reason is because the espresso powder makes the buttercream darker, so if you use that as the filling and then cover it with the Irish cream flavor frosting, it still looks very bright white against the cupcakes.  Ehhh I don’t think I care that much about that, though.
  • Honestly these were great.  The process was a little involved, but I think that’s more a matter of practicing it than anything else!

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I made: Banana cupcakes with Nutella frosting

This is a fairly simple, and yet outstanding, flavor combination.  I would totally recommend adding this to the list of recipes to use up extra bananas.  Also, as a person who’s often ambivalent about frosting, I’m OBSESSED with this Nutella frosting and would eat it with a spoon (and may have).

I found a new baking blog (new to me) which is where I got this recipe.  What makes a cupcake a cupcake, rather than a muffin, anyway?

Cupcake recipe:

  • Preheat oven to 350F and line cupcake tin.
  • Brown 1 cup butter in saucepan over medium heat.
  • Combine browned butter, 1 cup mashed banana, and 3/4 granulated sugar.  Add 2 large eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Combine dry ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp cinnamon.  (You can put more cinnamon.  I mean if you’re only gonna put in 1/8 tsp what’s even the point.)
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients together alternating with 1/2 cup whole milk (or buttermilk).  Don’t overmix.
  • Spoon batter into cupcake tin and bake for 20-24 minutes for regular big cupcakes or 15-18 minutes for mini cupcakes.
  • Remove from tin immediately and allow to cool on rack.

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Frosting

  • While the cupcakes are baking…
  • Beat 1 cup softened butter in stand mixer until smooth.  Add 3/4 cup Nutella and 1/8 tsp salt and beat for another 2 minutes or so.
  • Add 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, 1 cup at a time, until sugar is moistened.  Turn up the speed to medium-high and beat for another 2 minutes or so.  Frost the cupcakes once they’re cool.

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OVERALL:

  • I liked these a lot!  The cupcakes are very good.  As hinted above, I went a tiny bit off-recipe by adding more cinnamon than suggested and substituting buttermilk for milk.  This made a good, sweet banana cupcake that wasn’t too banana-y.
  • I thought about chopping up some nuts and adding them in too, but decided against it for the time being.
  • I made mini-cupcakes instead of giant, which was a good call, I think.  You have to keep a closer eye on mini-cupcakes when they’re baking, but the color of these makes it easy to tell when they’re done.
  • The FROSTING on this is killer.  I was a little suspicious of adding 2 cups sugar to the recipe, since Nutella is already pretty sugary, but I’m not gonna pretend it’s not good.
  • I used a large glass to help fill the frosting bag, which made it less of a pain.  I only included the pretty cupcakes in my pictures here but let’s just say I’m still working on learning how to frost.

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NEXT TIME:

  • I would make this recipe again exactly as I did. Some other things I thought about include: adding nuts, making big cupcakes instead of little, adding chocolate bits on top (I actually tried to do this but they didn’t stick easily and I was too tired).
  • I would also put this Nutella frosting on other bases.  It would work well on a plain white or yellow cake or probably AMAZINGLY on a chocolate base.

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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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