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!

Advertisements

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.

594RiBm4RFDM-yzSlbMGg4ISMjxnz0VPvodEQrX2PDApX92IB

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.

ODNa-Aq-qVN2TRmdxBckUAo89huZkmeLBrZRlQIBT2gpX92IB

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.

QtA8f36JtqJLawveL1z2d-U0G9KG3qqy0MAp1n82jY4pX92IB

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.

FzdcWj8gs7Htrog5g6F27nWX_dCjnH5UBojQZcH8A6EpX92IB

I made: Carrot cake!

Belated hoppy Easter to all!  I am really trying to work on my layer cake skills now that I know I don’t have any.  I looked at a million different carrot cake recipes before settling on this one from King Arthur’s Flour, which is a surprisingly reliable & comprehensive baking recipe resource.

This recipe has two components: the cake and the frosting.  I added a third component, which was the decorative carrot curls on top.

Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease two 9″ cake pans.
  • Beat together 1.5 cups vegetable oil, 2 cups sugar, 1 tsp salt, 4 large eggs, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, and 2 tsp baking soda.
  • Stir in 2 cups flour until just blended.  Then stir in 3 cups finely grated carrots and 1.5 cups chopped nuts.  Pour into pans.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes and allow to cool before frosting.

Frosting:

  • Beat together 1/2 cup room temp unsalted butter and 8oz room temp cream cheese until smooth.  Add 1/4 tsp salt and 2 tsp vanilla.
  • Add 2.5-3.5 cups confectioners’ sugar gradually and beat until smooth, add a little bit of milk if it’s too liquidy.  Frost the cake.

Carrot curls (I used this recipe as a guideline):

  • Take about 2 large carrots and cut 15-20 strips using a peeler.
  • Bring 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil in a saucepan.  Place carrot strips in the water and reduce heat to a simmer, let simmer 15 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 225 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Once carrots are done simmering, drain and lay out on a baking sheet (not touching).  Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Working quickly, remove carrots from oven and wrap around a wooden spoon handle to curl.  Allow to sit a few seconds then slip off.
  • Sprinkle with extra sugar if you want, let cool, and then use to decorate as you wish.

k1jYb-eZFkLLdTkEQiQqdihiIcBLdFwI_fOz7u-FsuwpX92IB

OVERALL:

  • This recipe tasted good and was VERY rich.
  • I did a few things differently from the recipe.  Mainly, I cut the layers in half so that I had four layers instead of just two.  I used a mixture of pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts because I didn’t have enough of any single nut.
  • I also multiplied the frosting recipe by 1.5 because I figured I needed more due to the increased number of layers.
  • Lastly I made more carrot curls than called for because I figured some of them would look ugly so I’d need more.

NEXT TIME:

  • Okay so this recipe tasted good and looked okay but there are a LOT of things I need to think about or work on.
  • First of all, I had a cake crater AGAIN.  I am getting so frustrated by this.  Both of my cakes had fairly sizeable craters.  It’s a big reason why I cut them in half, because I was kind of worried they weren’t totally cooked and wanted to check.  I have researched and researched and tried multiple solutions and I’m still having this issue.  I’m not giving up yet though.
  • Also, I am very inexperienced at cutting layer cakes in half, as demonstrated by the mess of the middle of the cake pictured below.  I think part of the problem is that it’s tricky to cut cakes with chunks of nuts in them.  I’m going to try just a smooth cake next time.
  • Grating carrots is TERRIBLE.  Next time I would do this in advance, or enlist someone else to do it.
  • I’m getting better at spreading the frosting but still not great.  I want a turntable.
  • The carrot curls didn’t quite work as imagined.  Only a few of them really maintained their curl.  Some of them just snapped completely.  It ended up okay looking but not what I had hoped.

Xy-iKwkgD95LlyeMaNbvljgOMGWCa0fXPKbA0Ar1pjkpX92IB

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.

Vgt106WEkOoTIzG7R3_akJ0XFqGDxVzXhF69XsqG6LwpX92IB

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.

RRymjd0JgTZMNeCg4fx6uBA28tMbV-obXUAqfX4wpVopX92IB

  • 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!

ICwdxKalB7f9vL7HDZIj6a5aGeool4VSOTgI1nb1ozwpX92IB

  • 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!

AXSEOd1sIdsiEnYiyxyZ0zVGjlaaWzDiRkF31KmB3I4pX92IB

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!

PsqoLZ1mdfpcn4Tv9hN2k5AUpW47Tu-4rAlntHKS6vspX92IB

  • 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.

YrcJ65neeNYMrtqgQr3MaVdelMZLfd5dDgMdGayz9WApX92IB

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!

PyayYRK6CYHQUGqbOWJcWQyjiyYQitreVwrVDaDhf-EpX92IB

 

I made: Hummingbird cake!

Hummingbird cake is a Southern classic comprised of a banana/pineapple cake with cream cheese frosting.  Y’all, I’m now up to TWO cakes for the year, which is about as many as I made in the entirety of last year.

I got this recipe from The Kitchn, which is my favorite professional-quality resource for baking.  The recipes from The Kitchn don’t just explain how to do things, they explain WHY they work and they provide very detailed photo step-by-step instructions.  Also, they almost never include dumb personal details about people’s kids that you have to scroll through before the actual recipe.

There are three parts to this recipe: the cake itself, the frosting, and the decorative pineapple “flowers.”  (Sadly, these are not potato chips, as many have thought.)

Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350F, coat 2 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line bottoms with parchment paper rounds.
  • Mix dry ingredients in large bowl: 3 cups flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt.
  • Mix wet ingredients: 3 eggs, 3/4 cup canola oil, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 8-oz can crushed pineapple, 2 cups ripe mashed banana.  It’s ok if lumpy.
  • Combine wet and dry ingredients then fold in 1 cup chopped pecans.  Don’t overmix.
  • Pour the mix evenly into the 2 pans and bake for 35-40 minutes.  (I checked at 40 and felt like it could use another 5 minutes which seemed fine.)
  • Cool the cakes in pans for 10 minutes then flip out to finish cooling.

ZYhD2eUT3OoLtRpjgZv5Ca2PtRQaEald9lvP_E2kTV0pX92IB

(You may recall that in my previous post, I discussed having problems with my 9-inch cake pan.  Well, that’s because I’m a moron and I thought I had a 9-inch cake pan but it was actually clearly a much smaller pan.  I realized this when I went to the store and looked at the actual 9-inch pans.  Problem now solved.)

Frosting:

  • Beat 1 cup room temperature butter for about 1 minute until smooth.
  • Add 8 oz room temperature cream cheese and beat for about 3 minutes.
  • Add 1 pound sifted powdered sugar, about 4.5 cups, gradually adding 1 cup at a time and scraping down sides.
  • Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp salt.
  • Beat again for 3-5 minutes.
  • Once the cake is cool, frost it.  It’s a pretty simple layer cake frosting.  Put one layer of the cake on the stand and anchor it down with a smudge of frosting on the very bottom.  Then put 1/3 of the frosting on top of the cake.  Then put the other layer of the cake on top and put another 1/3  of frosting on the top layer.  Finally put the last 1/3 of the frosting on the sides.  It’s definitely more than enough frosting so you won’t run out, just mush it on as well as you can.

Pineapple flowers:

qki4fuESZPOQjea83hS-Y4UGyalQ42U5Zr5UROMouJ4pX92IB

  • Set oven to 200F.  If you just baked your cake, leave the door open for a little bit to bring it down from 350.  Put a rack on the lowest part of the oven and remove the other racks.
  • Take a WHOLE PINEAPPLE, cut off the top and bottom, and peel it.  Trim off the “eyes.”
  • Thinly slice the pineapple into 1/8 inch thick rounds.  The recipe says that it should yield 24-36 thin slices.
  • Pat the slices dry with paper towels.
  • Set up the slices on wire racks on a baking sheet.  The recipe suggested using multiple wire racks stacked using foil balls as spacers so that you can fit all the pineapple on one baking sheet without overlapping them.
  • Bake for 2-3 hours.
  • Once you remove them, you can shape them around muffin tins, glasses, or your hands if you want.  Then put them on top of the cake!

gxdY2QSzulhMx6ByGGNVee3h9wasTm9GdzrxAxAHzYkpX92IB

OVERALL:

  • This cake tasted really good!  It was kind of like banana bread, but sweeter and more cakey.
  • The cream cheese frosting was also amazing and went REALLY well with the pineapple flowers.  If you don’t want to make a cake I recommend just making pineapple flowers and dipping them into the frosting yum yum.

NEXT TIME:

  • I need to order some of those pre-cut parchment paper rounds if I’m gonna keep making round cakes. It’s really annoying to cut them out by hand.
  • The most difficult part of this was the pineapple flowers.  I think my problem was that some of my slices were too thick.  But even the ones that weren’t as thick definitely weren’t ready at 3 hours.  It took about 4 hours for the thinnest slices to get to a consistency I liked for decorations.  I had to get somewhere so sadly I left behind about half the slices in the oven.
  • I would want to get fancier with decorations.  You could do fun stuff with toasted pecans, or piping the frosting on top in prettier ways!

8TQw69NEuY-947E9ZcrnAA7Hn9DhLYebHo5bJkvekgwpX92IB

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.

ly7WHCtJvhEkn3YTd3Q3flP-XweYWjgT0BpjZNBqrB8pX92IB

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.

LF6ha4lQLav-h6Qm7Dt7dPKSYZ69nkY1vFTRCzC14u8pX92IB.jpg

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.

AjlkqRFN6xC_dCGAfg1opAWqUcZgnqMe3uqklfz9rdopX92IB

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.

hwz_msyuttdIrwTn5ip-QNGmLiMvEf66rPytPdPyi_IpX92IB