Last weekend was my first full-sized baking event. Ever. (Well, beyond the occasional school bake sale that I may or may not have volunteered for.)
Slight overachiever. (In case you’re wondering, medical school does not require one to be an overachiever. I’d actually classify myself as an underachiever in that regard seeing as how I obviously spend more man-hours baking than studying.)
- Bake almond cakes for snacking while baking on Friday.
- Bake cake to make animal heads.
- Bake sugar cookies.
- Make royal icing for the first time ever (what a time-consuming spontaneous idea).
- Ice cookies in green, brown, and blue.
What really happened: I did all the above with a two-hour break to have dinner with an old roommate. Dinner was good. Consequences of leaving the kitchen for 2 hours in the midst of baking were not-so-good. I had to stay up until 1 and still wake up at 5.30 to drive an hour to the hospital. Icing cookies with royal icing took MUCH longer than anticipated (a.k.a. all night). No one warned me of this!
- On call at the hospital until midnight.
- Attempt to get some sleep.
What really happened: Got out of call at 10 but was exhausted due to the lack of sleep the night before. When did I turn into an old fart? On my Surgery rotation (the first one of the year) I got 4-5 hours routinely and made it through the 6-day work-week! Now? Give me 8 hours or someone’s going to lose an eye (which translates into: Give me 8 hours or I’ll repeatedly whine via texting to Boy the next day which I’m sure makes him want to poke his eye out.) After having 4 cups of coffee that day I still had to chug a Mountain Dew in a last ditch effort to stay awake while on my 12th hours at the hospital. And yet, with all that caffeine, I slept like a log (when I got home).
- Bake green tea cupcakes (subject of this post), fill, and top.
- Bake banana chai cupcakes and ice.
- Coach Boy and friend (Ashley) on how to make animal heads and hope it turns out okay.
What really happened: A 6-hour baking event complete with misplacement of sanity, sneaking pizza slices, and the Gaga challenge on America’s Best Dance Crew, a million and one dirty dishes, monkeys that looked genetically deformed, veritable wars against chocolate, heavy cream, exhaustion, and the clock, and sugar overload.
- BABY SHOWER!
What really happened: Success! People loved the cupcakes and the animal heads (which also tasted delicious)! Yay!
Moral of the story: It was all worth it.
Seriously. I’d do it again. Chalk it up to the little-engine-that-could-overachiever in me. Or perhaps I have yet to find my sanity.
But really I put the green tea cupcake together piece by piece, pulling and adapting from various recipes, JUST for the shower and am elated with the results. It’s the first time I’ve ever come up with a concept on my own and carried it to fruition. The green tea flavor is there but it’s not overpowering, the strawberries add just the right amount sweetness and creaminess, and the mint whipped topping gives it a hint of freshness. It’s well-balanced and crazy good. (Oh! Do you hear that train? That big, loud obnoxious train? I believe that’s the Sharlene Happy-train and I’m tooting my own horn.) They’re absolutely delicious. Go bake them NOW!
Note on the animal heads: I didn’t take pictures while I was prototyping them and was too busy to take pictures while Ashley and Boy made them proper so sorry about that. Essentially, I took Bakerella‘s cake pop posts and created a lion, a tiger, and a monkey. The balls were made of crumbled yellow cake from a box, lemon frosting from a tub, melted chocolate candies, sweat, tears, and perhaps a few drops of blood. They were refrigerated for about an hour and then covered in various melted chocolate candies: dark chocolate for the monkey with a peanut butter face, peanut butter for the lion, and orange chocolate for the tiger. Ears for the lion and tiger were made of diamond shaped sprinkles pressed into the ball so that only a triangle was seen. The lion mane was made of caramel popcorn pressed on while the chocolate was still wet and the monkey ears were made of dark chocolate candies. Facial features were painted on with melted dark chocolate. Instead of putting them on sticks, since the plan was to have them rest atop the cupcakes, we coated them and laid them on parchment figuring the bottom wouldn’t be visible anyway. Holler if you have questions.
Note on photography: For fear of the whipped cream melting before the actual baby shower, I sent Ashley home with the whipped cream in an airtight container, 2 disposable decorating bags, decorating tips, and 35 un-topped green tea cupcakes. As such, the only finished product pictures I have are Ashley’s photos of the baby shower. The green tea ones have ridge-less tops (as in the picture below).
Green Tea Cupcakes with Strawberry Mascarpone Filling and Mint Whipped Cream
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c sugar
2 egg yolks
3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp matcha
1 c milk [I used 2% because it’s all I keep stocked.]
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1/2 c thawed and drained frozen strawberries
1/4 c sugar
Juice of half a lemon (approximately 1 tbsp)
1 2/3 c heavy cream
5-8 fresh mint leaves [or a few drops mint extract]
1/3 c sugar
Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs/egg yolks one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and matcha. Mix 1/3 of flour mixture into batter followed by 1/2 of the milk. Repeat and then add in last of the flour mixture, each time mixing until just combined.
Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
In a food processor [or blender if you want to make your life difficult but have nothing else in your tiny kitchen; for this, I suggest chopping up the strawberries into small pieces and let the mascarpone soften a bit and you’ll be just fine] , combine mascarpone, strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice until smooth.
Bring 1 1/3 cups cream and the mint leaves to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pull the pan from the heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes, then pour into a bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. [If using mint extract omit this step.]
Strain the cream into a measuring cup and add as much additional chilled cream as needed to measure 1 1/3 cups. Working with a stand or hand mixer in a medium bowl, whip the cream and sugar [and mint extract, if using. Use 1-2 drops to start and increase as you taste. You don’t want the mint flavor to be too overpowering, just enough to give the cupcakes a fresh taste.] until the cream holds firm peaks.
[forgot to take pictures! whoops!]
Using a filling tip, pipe several areas of the cupcake with strawberry filling. [I piped 4-5 in a circle and then 1 more in the middle.] Alternatively, you can use the cone method by cutting out a cone from the cupcake, filling, and reapplying the cone (you may want to cut the bottom of the cone off so it all fits, or keep the bottom on to give your cake extra height). Top with the whipped cream.
Get to baking! You’re missing out!