Showing posts with label cakes and cupcakes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cakes and cupcakes. Show all posts

01 October 2014

Figgy-Figgy Fall Bundt Cake

Monday night, I was trying to reorganize my kitchen so that I could finally get rid of the rolling cart that holds all my vinegars, oils, and lunch boxes. I've owned the cart since 1994 (bought it at Ames, yo) and am well past any feelings of guilt about tossing it. Goodbye, cart. Hello, additional people space.

Because shuffling the contents of one cart eventually meant shuffling the contents of five cupboards, I ended up elbow deep (and a bit snarly) in my baking cupboard around nine o'clock. Why had I bought dried figs again? How many packages of raisins does a person need? And lets not talk about the bags of white chocolate chips! And the confectionery sugar! Oh, the confectionery sugar!! Clearly, I needed to Bake Something.

And I did! A dense cinnamon-y fall bundt full of figs, raisins, and pecans. It is more a quick bread than a cake, but you bake it in a bundt pan and "bundt cake" sounds right ... whereas "bundt bread" sounds decidedly odd. My recipe is based on "Healthy Fig Bread" from Nordicware's Bundt Entertaining, but I feel I've made it even more healthy (and delicious) with the use of buttermilk and white whole wheat.

Figgy!

My only complaint is that I can clearly see beige-y flakes of oatmeal among the darker cake and I don't like the aesthetic at all. Otherwise, it's a very tasty cake and a little piece, with a nice cup of tea, goes a long way. I love how the cake is absolutely studded with fruit -- none of that sunk-to-the-bottom nonsense I've had with some cakes and I think some of that success might be due to combining the fruit and nuts with the wet ingredients before adding the dry as this leaves the fruit kind-of suspended. Or maybe I'm just rationalizing baking magic?

Figgy Bundt Cake

A dense cinnamon-y fall bundt full of figs, raisins, and pecans.

Yield: 12-24 slices

Cook time: 00 hrs. 45 mins.

Total time: 01 hrs. 15 mins.

Tags: bundt cake, baking, cake

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup chopped figs
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup old-fashioned (rolled) oats
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. (The cake won't rise much so you're probably okay with an 8-cup pan, too).
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, and butter. Add figs, raisins, and pecans.
  4. Add flour ("dry") mixture to the egg ("wet") mixture, stirring until dry ingredients are just combined. Spoon into pan.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 30-45 minutes or until a cake tester jabbed into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on rack. Remove cake from pan and cool completely on rack.

As with many quick breads, this is better the next day.


I chopped the figs by removing their stems, slicing them lengthwise, and then crosswise into small pieces. They were very sticky and squishy and yum ... I may have eaten as many figs while preparing the batter as went into the finished cake. Whoops.

This coming Sunday, I'll bake up a bunch of white chocolate and pecan oatmeal cookies for work and that will use up one of the partial bags of morsels. I have only three or four recipes I make with any regularity that use white chocolate and even then they don't use that much ... so I really have no idea why I ended up with so many bags. Oh, I know! Poor organization skills!

01 August 2014

Edible Ball-Bearings. Genius!

We threw a Whovian social at work recently and, since it was my baby, I brought the cupcakes. And the Jammie Dodgers. And the bananas. And the satsumas (actually clementines, because SEASONALITY).

Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and silver Wilton sugar pearls.

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and Bananarama candies.

Being pressed for time, I bought these cupcakes from our Price Chopper and decorated them at home. I loved the Bananarama candies (found them at Sweet Factory, one of those pick-and-mix candy stores) as they actually tasted like proper bananas and not the hideous approximation of banana-ness I expected. The Wilton pearls were, however, slightly disappointing as I thought they looked more steel grey than silver. But, you know, supposedly you can't buy the real silver ones here anymore because of some (perhaps overly cautious) food regulations.

18 June 2014

Cake Baking As An Act of Contrition

Monday night, I had the house to myself. I had a fairly large to-do list and every intention of Getting Things Done. And then I decided to chuck it all and bake a cake. Because sometimes cake is the important thing. Sometimes, cake is love. Or, at least, an apology.

I haven't been sleeping very well lately. Some of it is caused by the Hamster Wheel of Useless Thoughts. And some by a tiny bladder. And, yes, some of it is due to The Husband's snoring. Still, there's no good excuse for sitting bolt upright in bed in the wee small hours of the morning and shouting at my best beloved that I am going to murder him if he doesn't stop snoring.


So, this cake? This cake is an apology. Baking it was an act of contrition. There is no crumb of this cake that was designed to please me. Every morsel was assembled with The Husband's tastes in mind. Chocolate sponge -- light, moist, and tender-crumbed. Chocolate mousse -- creamy, light, rich. Chocolate buttercream -- rich, dark, deeply chocolatey. And crunchy Maltesers for garnish, because every cake needs a little bling.

And, wow, did this cake go over well! It may very well be one of the best cakes I've ever baked.

Recipes used or adapted:

02 February 2014

Baking for My Love: Chocolate Madeleines

As the orange madeleines from William-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking (revised edition) went over so well, I decided to tackle the chocolate version. The recipes are almost identical, but the chocolate recipe obviously omits the orange zest and adds cocoa powder. Interestingly, it also omits the almond extract and uses a full teaspoon of vanilla. I'm pretty sure red raspberry extract would also work well and I may try that next time. Oh, yes, there will be a next time. I envision a monthly baking of madeleines. Chocolate raspberry madeleines. Ginger madeleines. Lemon poppy seed madeleines. Chai spice madeleines.

Except. I'm baking for The Husband and he's not going to want anything more adventurous that chocolate raspberry. Drat.

*sobs into her floury apron*

Chocolate Madeleines

I found it a bit odd that the two recipes were not found side-by-side in William-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking (revised edition), but fell 147 pages apart -- the first in the chapter on cookies and the second in the chapter on chocolate. Why did you do this, editors? All the recipes in the chocolate chapter could easily have been integrated into the rest of the book -- chocolate madeleines with cookies, chocolate opera cake with cakes, etc. Is it simply because chocolate is a big deal to most humans? Am I just being pedantic and weird?

Probably. And, yes.

As with the orange version, this recipe makes twelve madeleines and they are best served warm with a light dusting of confectionery sugar. I found them rather richer than the orange ones -- the orange ones were so light and fluffy and zesty that I managed to eat four without blinking, but the chocolate ones were darkly, deeply chocolaty (surprising, because I just used Hershey's dutch-processed cocoa) and two more than sufficed with a pot of Earl Grey. The Husband does not agree with me on this and he happily ate five chocolate madeleines with his afternoon cuppa. It's possible that it comes down to chocolate tolerance. If you love chocolate, you'll want to eat all the madeleines. If you don't, then you won't. I'm very much a citrus and berry girl.

19 January 2014

Baking for My Love: Orange Madeleines

I'm a bookish cook, so baking madeleines seems an obvious thing and yet I've spent years avoiding the things because they sounded tricksy and every resource seemed to have a different opinion about what they should be. Mostly, I think, because everyone wants to bake Proust's madeleines and no-one has that precise recipe?

As I don't want to bake Proust's madeleines any more than I want to read Proust, I was willing (purely out of love for The Husband) to attempt the two versions in William-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking (revised edition). The Husband seemed quite excited by the idea of madeleines -- they are very photogenic cookie-cakes (cake-cookies?), after all -- and they seemed high on his list of Things I Must Bake.

Since we had too many satsumas on hand, my first attempt was with the recipe for orange madeleines. A thorough read-through of the recipe actually left me feeling quite confident I could bake a decent madeleine -- they are surprisingly simple cookie-cakes -- and I was away.

Buttered, Floured Madeleine Pan

The recipe says to carefully and thoroughly butter and flour ever ridge of the madeleine pan, because the madeleines may stick otherwise, so I buttered and floured as if Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood were looking over my shoulder. And, you know, I think I might have gone a wee bit overboard, because when I went to flip and knock the pan against the cooling rack to release the cookies, they all fell out before I'd even completed the flip. I used a Chicago Metallic madeleine pan and it is, apparently, not joking around about being nonstick.

These madeleines came out looking and tasting just as Essentials of Baking said they should -- perfect little scallop shells of tender, spongy cake. I was so chuffed. We ate them warm, as recommended, with a dusting of confectionery sugar. The recipe makes twelve, which is perfect with tea for two as breakfast and elevenses.

Orange Madeleines

Really, I can't get over how well these madeleines came out and I look forward to baking the chocolate version. While I know a lot of my success has to do with improved baking skills due to time and practice, some has to do with the way Essentials of Baking's is written. It's as if the editors peeked into my brain and then wrote the book specifically for me. The recipes (at least the ones I've read through) all seem quite clear and straight forward and even go so far as to provide instructions for both hand and machine mixing. And amounts are giving in multiple forms of measurement! Honestly, I'm crushing pretty hard on Essentials of Baking.

Orange Madeleines

02 November 2013

He Baked Me A Cake

Saturday night, I came home from work to find the front door locked. I was a bit baffled, as The Husband was clearly home. I knocked, only to be met by unintelligible shouting. Eventually, The Husband let me in, mumbling something about not letting me in too soon. Apparently, he was desperately trying to finish this cake:

Birthday Cake

Yes, The Husband baked me a Victoria sponge for my birthday. He doesn't usually bake and, as he didn't know what any of "the shit" in my baking cupboard was (lots of unlabeled clear canisters only I know the contents of), he went out and bought more baking powder and more superfine sugar and more jam. He was very indignant that he had to go to two different grocery stores as Price Chopper did not have superfine sugar. He "had to go all the way to Stop and Shop" ... as if they are not within half a mile of each other. Adorable man.

To bake this Victoria sponge, The Husband used a mash-up of "Mary Berry's Perfect Victoria Sandwich" and Daniel C Duckett's "Classic Victoria Sponge Cake," because Berry had the right ingredients and Duckett had the right pan sizes. The Husband didn't use Duckett's buttercream, because "WTF? That shit have does not belong in a Victoria sponge!!!" The Husband has strong feelings about cake, you know.

Anyway, totes smashing first attempt. Two golden cake spoons, most assuredly. Sponge was a bit dry, admittedly, but still a good effort all 'round. I mean, look at that:

Piece o' Cake

Is it not a thing of beauty?

17 October 2013

Improv Challenge: Cake & Frosting

When I saw that October's Improv Challenge ingredients were cake and frosting, I immediately knew I wanted to try baking a boozy spice cake using beer in place of water in the mix. I've been wanting to try this method ever since one of my in-the-know coworkers mentioned it could be done with just about any beer or liquor and cake mix.

Ginger Beer Cupcakes w/ Ginger Beer Frosting

Keeping with the season, I used a spice cake mix, baking spice, apple sauce, crystallized ginger bits, and a bottle of Crabbie's splendorous Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Obviously, any beer you like will probably work. I might try this again with Woodchuck Pumpkin Ale in the spice mix and there's Guinness in the basement that would go well in a dark chocolate mix ...

Ginger Beer Cupcake Ingredients

It was my plan to make a dozen cupcakes and an 8-inch round. The round would be for me and the cupcakes would be for work. Alas, I did not grease the cake round well enough and the cake would not come out ... until I banged it really hard against the counter. Then it came out in bits. Well played, cake round, well played.

The cake was still pretty yummy, anyway, and I happily ate bits of it as I frosted the cupcakes.
Beery Spicy (Cup)cakes

Cake Ingredients
1 spice cake mix [Betty Crocker SuperMoist]
1 bottle seasonal beer, at room temperature
1 tsp baking spice blend [Penzeys]
Applesauce (in place of half the oil)
Whatever else ingredients your mix may call for

Cake Directions
Prepare your cake mix following the instructions on the back of the box, substituting applesauce for half or all of the oil and beer for the water or milk.

(I was a bit alarmed by how soupy the batter was but it thickened up considerably during the 2 minutes of medium beating).

Ginger Beer Cupcake Batter

Divide between a 8 or 9-inch baking round and a cupcake pan you've lined with cupcake liners. (It's easiest to fill all the cupcakes first (⅔ full) and then pour the extra into the baking round). Bake cupcakes as directed. Remove from oven. Put cake round in oven and bake as directed.

Allow everything to cool thoroughly before frosting.

Frosting Ingredients
1 cup shortening
½ tsp salt
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground ginger
6 Tbsp beer
Finely chopped crystallized ginger, as needed for garnish

Frosting Directions
Beat together everything but the crystallized ginger until fluffy. Add additional beer if the frosting seems too stiff to spread.

Use a cupcake corer or small spoon to scoop some of the center out of each cupcake. Fill and ice with the frosting. Decorate with a scatter of ginger.

Ginger Beer Cupcakes w/ Ginger Beer Frosting

The cupcakes were very light and fluffy with an excellent gingery bite. The frosting, too, was nicely gingery and, overall, I was very pleased with how well everything turned out. One of my coworkers said they were the best cupcakes she had every eaten which made me blush, to say the least. (They were good, but not that good).



22 March 2013

Birthday Bakery Crawl

Took The Husband on a bakery crawl for his birthday, because The Husband loves himself some baked goods and we live in an area full of bakeries we have not visited yet. You would think, considering how much money we spend on baked goods every year, that such a thing could not be true and yet it is.

While I'd plotted a great many bakeries thanks to Yelp and Google Maps, we only visited three before The Husband cried uncle! I have no doubt we'll visit the remainder soon ... a bakery a weekend would probably be the sensible method.

Sensible, schmensible. Visit all the bakeries. Eat all the things.

Cupcakes @ Sugarbelle
Cupcakes  from Sugarbelle

Mousse cake @ La Petit France
Chocolate mousse cake from La Petit France

Tarts @ Aby's Bakery
Assorted tarts from Aby's Bakery

03 February 2013

Banana Bread & The Cookies of Appeasement

Once again, our freezer suffered from a surfeit of bananas. Its salvation? Money Saving Mom's tempting "Freezer-Friendly Chocolate Banana Bread" (subbed peanut butter chips for chocolate). I don't know that this bread actually freezes well as it's going straight to work and into hungry librarian bellies, but it looks and smells fabulous. Indeed, its heady perfume made me feel a bit drunk after a while and I had to remove the loaf to a cupboard while I baked The Husband's Cookies of Appeasement.

Chocolate Banana Bread w/ Peanut Butter Morsels
My co-worker's could not get enough of this bread!

I'd already baked The Husband a beautiful almond bundt cake earlier this week (with homemade raspberry sauce even!), but he was still clearly displeased to come downstairs this morning and discover the delicious baking smells that had finally roused him from his snug nest were not for him. Oh, the betrayal in his eyes! And the scorn he heaped upon my poor, innocent banana bread.

Almond Bundt w/ Raspberry Sauce
Tender almond sponge with raspberry sauce, yum!

So I baked him cookies -- Betty Crocker's "Black Beauties" -- which allowed me to use up the bag of Betty Crocker double chocolate chunk cookie mix leftover from a work event, so yay for that. The cookies came out well, even though I omitted the nuts (meant to replace them with chopped hazelnuts but forgot) and did not dip the baked cookies in melted chocolate (clearly, I do not love my husband that much). They were best the first few hours out of the oven, when biting down on their crisp exteriors released warm, gooey chocolate centers. I suspect that tomorrow they'll just be a bit chewy and The Husband will lose a little of his ardor for them.

Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Can't go wrong with a warm cookie

Oh, fickle Eater of Cookies!

19 January 2013

Italian Homework: Italian Cheesecake

For "Lesson 11: Creating Sumptuous Italian Desserts," the penultimate class in the online Italian cooking course I've been taking through Universal Class and my public library, I made a fabulous ricotta cheesecake. It was my first cheesecake! And so blessedly easy! Fool-proof, even! No water bath! No crust! Just pure, unmitigated deliciousness.

Italian Cheesecake
My first cheesecake! So proud!
The cheesecake was light, creamy, and mildly sweet. Filling, but not heavy --- I love cheesecake, but it usually leaves me with an "Ohmygod, I need bigger pants and a nap" feeling. This cheesecake was almost like eating a dense lemon mousse and left my tummy content rather than overstuffed.
Ricotta Cheesecake
Serves 8. 8 Weight Watchers Points+ by my math, but ymmv.

Ingredients

6 large eggs
⅔ cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract [Penzeys Mexican vanilla]
1 32 ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese
Zest of one lemon

Directions

Pour the ricotta cheese into a colander lined with cheesecloth and let drain for an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Spray a nine-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

Separate the eggs, placing the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Beat the yolks by with an electric hand mixer or what have you until light yellow and thick. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat on medium speed for another 2 minutes. Add the ricotta cheese and lemon zest and mix well.

Clean your beaters and beat the egg whites on high speed until they make stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whites into the ricotta mixture until mixed well. Pour the mixture into the springform pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and the sides begin to pull away from the pan (start checking at about 50 minutes). Let cake cool completely before refrigerating. Cover with foil and let settle in the fridge for at least 7 hours before cutting.

Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream.
Next time, I'm trying this with orange zest! Bet it will be just as fabulous.

24 October 2012

Good-bye, bananas! Hello, banana bread!

Oh, sweet banana-y goodness in my oven and so much less banana-y goodness in my freezer! There had been too many bananas in my freezer and I was becoming quite annoyed with their propensity for leaping from the freezer whenever I opened the door to fall upon my poor toes. Yes, I could easily have rearranged the contents of the freezer, but baking banana bread seemed easier. Also, it got rid of half the bananas and that is a good thing as the freezer is not for Infinite Banana Storage.

My go-to banana bread recipe is for "Blueberry Banana Bread" from the defunct Genesis of A Cook. I have very real fears the originating blog will just up and vanish one day, so I'm posting my version of the recipe below.

Blueberry Banana Bread

You'll see I've omitted the streusel topping in my version and that's just a time-saving move on my part. Also, the streusel topping is good, but the cake stands up well on its own and doesn't really need the extra bling.

To get 1 cup of banana, I used 6 thawed frozen organic baby bananas. I just let the frozen bananas sit on the kitchen side for about on hour, then snipped the ends off each banana and squeezed the fruit out like toothpaste from a tube.
Blueberry Banana Bread

Ingredients

2 cups plus 1 Tbsp white whole wheat flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tsp Penzeys baking spice blend
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
½ cup low-fat buttermilk
1 capful Penzeys Mexican vanilla
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained, or frozen blueberries

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl or baggie, gently toss the blueberries with 1 tablespoon of flour.

In a medium bowl, blend flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and baking spice. In a large bowl, stir mashed bananas, buttermilk, butter, vanilla, and egg together. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture just until evenly moistened; the batter will be very thick. Gently stir in blueberry mixture.

Glop batter into a greased 8-cup bundt pan or 9x5 loaf pan. Bake bread in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Let bread cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and turn over onto rack to cool completely, about 45 minutes.
Best served warm with a big mug of tea.

07 August 2012

Crazy Cooking Challenge: Cheesecake

PhotobucketAugust’s Crazy Cooking Challenge was cheesecake. Cheesecake. In August. Eek! August means heat and stickiness. It means huddling over the air conditioner vent with a sweaty glass of iced tea, day-dreaming about ice cold melon and popsicles. There was just no way I was going to be able to bake or eat a cheesecake (The Husband wishes you to know that, if I really loved him, I would have baked a cheesecake and he, out of love for me, would have eaten it all).

I tried a couple no-bake cheesecake recipes, but they either just didn't turn out good enough for the Crazy Cooking Challenge or were so appallingly bad that I can't bear to think about them. August 7 crept steadily closer and I was still without a recipe. So what to do?

I turned, as I always turn, to my library’s cookbook collection and Jacques Pepin's More Fast Food My Way was my salvation. I would make "Mini Savory Cheesecakes on Arugula or Butterhead Lettuce" and my taste buds would be so happy. Yes, I would still run my oven, but only for twenty minutes and I could live with that, because ... blue cheese. Le fromage bleu. Délicieux!

Savory Mini Cheesecake

I know, you're thinking "Savory cheesecakes? What the heck?" Normally, we think of cheesecake as a decadent sweet to be enjoyed as a dessert, studded with chocolate or glazed with fruit. But, why not a savory cheesecake for a light lunch or appetizer?


If you're going to make this recipe, I strongly suggest watching the accompanying episode first as there are a few differences between how the recipe is written and how it is filmed. For instance, the video calls for adding about ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese to the cheesecake batter, plus some on top before baking and the written recipe just wants it on top. Claudine omits the bread crumbs (and I did, too). Also, the video says the savory cheesecakes can be served hot or lukewarm -- they fall as they cool, but they still taste good.

Boy, do the ever! Mine never puffed up as much as Pepin's, but they still taste outstandingly good. The strong blue cheese is tempered somewhat by the sour cream and cream cheese and the tangy salad vinaigrette partners well with it all. While I used reduced fat blue cheese crumbles and light sour cream in this recipe, the cheesecake still tastes rich and decadent -- also, unexpectedly light (almost fluffy) which it's squat, puck-like appearance belies.

04 August 2012

Imperfectly Delicious Oreo Cheesecake Pudding Bites

August's Crazy Cooking Challenge is cheesecake and straight away I knew I would need a recipe for a bite-size no-bake cheesecake, because ... August. August is not for baking nor is it for heavy food like cheesecake.

Happily, I found a recipe at Cooking Classy for no-bake "Oreo Cheesecake Bites" that looked like it would be perfect for the challenge. We like Oreos. We love cheesecake. We adore bite-size nibbles.

No-Bake Oreo Cheesecake Bites
So cute!

Unfortunately, I immediately ran into a big problem -- none of the grocery stores near me sold 3.4 oz packages of cheesecake flavored instant pudding mix. The closest thing I could find was 1 oz Jell-O brand sugar-free instant cheesecake pudding mix at Target.

I decided to give it a go but fudge the amount of liquid, because I worried that using the smaller box would mean a soupier filling if I used the original amounts of liquid. So, instead of 1 cup heavy cream and ¾ cup milk, I used 1 cup heavy cream and ¼ (1%) milk. This sounds logical, doesn't it? Well, it didn't work. My cheesecake filling was still very pudding like and leaving it in the freezer for 20 minutes (instead of 10) didn't noticeably improve it.

Mind you, it still tasted very good -- gooey Oreo cheesecake filling cannot taste bad as it contains both Oreos and cheesecake and those things are never bad -- and we were happy enough to eat the bites, imperfect as they might be.

Because the recipe made 30 and there are only 2 of us, I made 6 bites and stored the rest of the filling in my frosting gun in the freezer so that 1) the filling would hopefully set-up more as time went on and 2) we could make more bites whenever we pleased. If the filling doesn't set up more overnight, I'll just make cheesecake parfaits by layering the gooey filling with crushed Oreos and whipped cream.

Eek! Two days left to find another cheesecake recipe! To the library!

30 April 2012

Consolatory Cupcakes for Breakfast

Over the weekend, The Husband learned a terrible truth -- the prettiest cupcakes are not always the tastiest. He'd gone out Saturday afternoon and acquired sushi and cupcakes, so that I would not need to cook when I came home from work all tired and cranky. The sushi was delicious, but the cupcakes were not. They were yellow cupcakes filled with raspberry-flavored goo and topped with about three inches of pink raspberry buttercream decorated with a mint leaf and fresh raspberry. They were very pretty.

They did not taste good. The cake was dry and crumbly. The filling was the same red goo used to fill donuts -- there was a whiff of artificial raspberry about it, but otherwise it was just overwhelmingly sweet and sticky and red. The vanilla frosting tower was stiff and almost gritty with sugar. Overall, they were simply Unfortunate Cupcakes. I felt sad for The Husband, but it was a lesson he had to learn sometime. You shouldn't buy baked goods based on pretty.

So I woke up Sunday morning with cupcakes and The Husband's happiness on my mind. I had a box of Betty Crocker Fun da-Middles "Chocolate Cupcake with Creamy Vanilla Filling" mix squirrelled away in my baking cupboard since before Christmas. They couldn't possibly come out worse that Saturday night's cupcakes and might make a nice breakfast. Yes, indeed, cupcakes for Sunday breakfast!

It was easy to make this mix as it goes together like every other Betty Crocker cake mix -- eggs, oil, water, cake mix, stir, stir, stir.

Cupcakes

Put two tablespoons of cake batter in each cupcake liner.

Cupcakes

Add a splodge of filling to each cup.

Cupcakes

Top with the remaining batter. The box says it's important to completely cover the filling which was a bit of a bugger for me as my "two tablespoons of cupcake batter" had been a bit on the heaping side and there nearly wasn't enough batter to go 'round in the end.

Cupcakes

Since I was using a non-stick pan, I baked the cupcakes at 325°F for 26 minutes and they came out perfect. Not very pretty, mind you, but pretty delicious.

Gooey Cupcake Middle

Fluffy and chocolaty with a marshmallowy middle, these cupcakes were significantly better than Saturday's bakery cupcakes. Which is kind of a sad thing to write, really, but think of all the money we'll save.

Of course, now that I've made these cupcakes, I'd like to try making some filled cupcakes from scratch. I'm thinking that all I really need in order to clone these particular Betty Crocker cupcakes is a good chocolate cupcake recipe and a container of marshmallow cream ...

08 January 2012

First Cake of '12

Started 2012 on a sweet note with "Raspberry Buttermilk Cake" from the June 2009 Gourmet.  This is  a dynamite emergency cake for those days when you crave a fast, fruity, homemade cake. What? You never have cake emergencies? Well, we have them a lot in our house! Cake goes with everything, you see. So everything needs cake.

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, Ingredients

Although the recipe calls for vanilla extract, I used Cook's pure red raspberry extract for extra raspberry-ness. You could just as easily use orange or almond or what have you depending on the kind of berry you use in the cake. Yes, it's officially "Raspberry Buttermilk Cake," but there's no reason it couldn't be blackberry or cranberry, instead. The recipe is a forgiving one -- just mess about and make what you like!

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, Oven-ready

While still warm from the oven, we ate this cake plain and then, when properly cooled, with vanilla ice cream and more raspberries. It's good either way. A lot depends on whether you're eating it as breakfast or as dessert.

19 November 2011

A Mix A Week(ish): Barefoot Contessa Brownie Pudding Mix

Alright, so it's been over a month since my last Mix a Week post! No excuse for it, but I haven't bought any more mixes in the interim so I'd say I'm still doing pretty well. I finally decided to get back on track by making up a box of Barefoot Contessa's "Brownie Pudding Mix" that I picked up, ohhhh, last year at one of Stonewall Kitchen's clearance sales.

This mix was extremely simple to prepare and assemble -- all I needed, besides the mix, was two sticks of butter and four eggs. Everything comes together in under ten minutes and bakes for an hour. The cake is ready to eat as soon as it comes out of the oven, which is awesome for us impatient type -- no standing around the kitchen, staring at a cooling cake, and wondering just how soon we can nom it.

Woo-hoo, water bath!
Baked in a bain-marie! I feel sophisticated!

Chocolate Pudding Cake
Ooey-gooey chocolate decadence.

Chocolate Pudding Cake
Yum!

And pretty tasty, too -- crusty on the top with a soft, sweet center -- but it still can't hold a candle to King Arthur Flour's lava cakes which have a richer, deeper flavor.

And, happily, I still have two boxes of King Arthur's mix in my pantry!

16 November 2011

Easy Autumnal Bundt

Tuesday was National Bundt Day and, to celebrate, I made an apple-walnut bundt using About.com's recipe for "Apple Cake." I substituted King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour for half the all-purpose and added in a ¼ teaspoon each of ground allspice, mace, cinnamon, and ginger, but otherwise followed the recipe as written.

This bundt bakes at 325°F for 90 minutes and I was worried that it wouldn't bake through at such a low temperature, but the cake tester came out clean at the 90-minute mark and the cake certainly looked done. I let it sit in the bundt pan for about 10 minutes, then slid it out and let it cool on a rack for an hour.

Apple-Walnut Bundt

When I bring a cake to work, I usually slice it and arrange it on a platter as unsliced cake will just sit, untouched for hours, on the staff table while sliced cake immediately disappears in an explosion of crumbs and discarded napkins. I presume it's a psychological thing -- no-one wants to cut their own slice lest they be declared greedy guts by their coworkers, but if the cake is already in slices, then it's not their fault?

Breakfast

27 September 2011

A Mix A Week: Stonewall Kitchen Peppermint Whoopie Pie

I had planned on baking up a box of King Arthur Flour's Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars this past weekend to keep up with my Mix A Week Challenge, but The Husband complained so bitterly about me not baking anything he could eat (hello? last week's cookies?) that I caved and offered to make up the boxes of Stonewall Kitchen's Peppermint Whoopie Pies mix instead. My offer was not completely altruistic as I realized baking whoopie pies meant I got to try out my new whoopie pie pans!

Making Whoopies

Aren't they cute? Nonstick, lightweight, and perfectly sized. Stonewall Kitchen sells 'em, but I bought mine off on Amazon -- $13.36 each plus free Prime shipping and no sales tax.

The mix was extremely simple to prepare and assemble. It took five minutes to make each batch of batter and only ten minutes for the cakes to bake. Yes, they did have to cool for about half an hour before I could fill and assemble them, but that gave me plenty of time to make the filling and read a little of Emma Donoghue's Inseparable. Indeed, it took so little time to make these whoopie pies that I ended up making both boxes. That's sixteen peppermint whoopie pies -- enough for The Husband and work.

Stonewall Kitchen Peppermint Whoopie Pies

My only complaint was that the mix did not provide enough crushed peppermint candies to properly coat the edges of all the whoopie pies, but this was easily fixed by crushing up some peppermint candy canes I found in the back of our candy cupboard.

Yes, we have a candy cupboard. Doesn't everyone?

Nine baking mixes down, eight to go!

31 July 2011

A Mix A Week: Stonewall Kitchen Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

This weekend, in keeping with my Mix A Week challenge, I made a batch of Stonewall Kitchen's Red Velvet Whoopie Pie mix. Whoopie pies and red velvet everything were incredibly trendy last year and I'm guessing Stonewall Kitchen thought to cash in on two trends with one mix. Certainly, I remember snatching up a box of the mix as soon as I walked into the shop.

Is it a cake mix? Is it prettily packaged in Stonewall Kitchen bling? Is it on sale? I will purchase it and bring it home. Then I will shove it in a cupboard and ignore it for six months. Oh, Stonewall Kitchen, I wish I knew how to quit you!

Other than by developing a terrible food allergy.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pie Mix


The mix was extremely simple to prepare and assemble. It probably took five minutes to make the batter, once the butter was softened, and only ten minutes for the cakes to bake. Yes, they did have to cool for about half an hour before I could fill and assemble them, but that gave me plenty of time to make the filling and do the washing up.

Red Velvet Batter

I liked these whoopie pies pretty well. While filled with the anathema that is vanilla butter cream frosting ("true" whoopie pie has a marshmallowy frosting, imho), they were very light and flavorful in an inverted-cupcake way. I was also really pleased with how precisely the recipe worked out -- it really did make twenty-four cakes and enough filling to make exactly twelve whoopie pies. I thought, with my skills, I would surely end up with half an unfilled whoopie pie!

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

The Husband said that, while these whoopie pies didn't taste that chocolaty, he would be happy to eat a lot of them. Indeed, he went on to say he could eat a lot of them every day -- although that might get a bit samey, so I should probably mix them up with another kind of whoopie pie! Oh, The Husband, he is so lucky I have two boxes of Stonewall Kitchen's Peppermint Whoopie Pie mix waiting to be made up.

Four mixes down, thirteen to go!

14 July 2011

A Mix A Week: Barefoot Contessa Orange Pound Cake

Sometimes, after getting a cookie or cake mix home, I experience a bitterly unhappy "WTF??" moment when I realize that preparing the mix is almost as complicated as baking it from scratch. Blame it on years of Betty Crocker cake mixes, but I don't want to do much more than add liquids and stir when using a mix. I don't want have to zest or juice two blessed oranges or bring eggs to room temperature. Frankly, I'd be ecstatic if I didn't have to bring a stick of butter to room temperature.

Yes, when it comes to mixes, I am the laziest baker that ever lived.

So there was a lot of cussing and bitching in my kitchen when I finally got around to making Barefoot Contessa's orange pound cake mix. I softened butter, I put eggs in a bowl of warm water, I zested oranges, I juiced oranges, I made glazes, I swore bitterly about fiddly f-ing mixes. I vowed I would never make this mix again.

And, you know, it is a pretty decent pound cake. Dense, moist, fragrantly orange. We've enjoyed eating it (The Husband said it was just as good as Sara Lee!), but baking it made me so completely and irrationally annoyed that I don't think I'd attempt it again.

Barefoot Contessa Orange Poundcake

We've been eating the orange pound cake with unsweetened whipped cream and berries from the farmers market -- a combination that would make any mix-based cake seem quite awesome, I kid you not.

And that's two mixes down, fifteen more to go.