Archive for Cupcakes

Banana Cupcakes for Lovers

I know, I know. Two posts in two days. That’s never happened here. But I had to say something:

Stop the presses.

I mean STOPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP NOW!!

Before you all go running to make Valentine’s Day treats for yourself, for your hunnybunny, for your kids, for your friends, for the librarian, for the guy who found the cell phone you left in a cab, or for anyone else, I have a proposition for you.

Make. These. Cupcakes.

They are sweet but not too sweet, decadent but not too decadent, and perfect. Just perfect.

I had a friend ask me for this very cupcake several months ago. He had been to a cupcake truck in The City (that’s NYC for those not in the know) and had this very same flavor combination. He fell in love. He wanted them for the party we were having at my house that day. That day?! How was I supposed to come up with a recipe on the spot? But I agreed because if you know me at all, you know I have a hard time saying “no” to close friends. Within a few hours, these cupcakes had to be made.

They were good. But not good enough for my standards.

I’m not sure what it was that I didn’t love about them because everyone else seemed to be in heaven. I didn’t write down the recipe though because it didn’t strike me to do so.

So when, several months later, this same friend asked for the recipe, I had nothing to give him and I decided to give it another shot.

This time, I meant business.

It took a couple tries but I managed a banana-y cupcake that could hold up to the other bold flavors of the cupcake. The next issue was that the Nutella as a stand-alone filling was too sweet. “It hurt!” said my dark-chocolate-loving-molars. So I mixed in a little of the dark chocolate my teeth love so much and came up with a ganache that still tasted of Nutella but wasn’t nearly as toothache-causing. And then, when all was said and done, I decided Martha was the queen and how could I possibly come up with a better frosting than her own caramel swiss meringue buttercream? So that’s what I used.

The balance is there. You taste all three flavors separately and together they harmonize like a well-practiced glee club (LOVE GLEE!!). And really? What’s better for Valentine’s Day than something filled with bananas and Nutella, reminiscent of the crepes you ate (or want to eat) in France? Nothing.

You will thank me for these. I thank me for these!

Banana Cupcakes for Lovers
a STO original, frosting adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes

Makes 16.

Banana Cupcake:
Ingredients

  • 4 medium to large ripe bananas
  • 2 c cake flour (or 1/4 c cornstarch with 1 3/4 c flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 c milk

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Poke bananas several times with a fork, arrange on baking sheet, and roast for 15 minutes. Skins should be black.

Meanwhile, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, cream together butter and both sugars. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture and milk, alternating between 3 dry additions and 2 milk additions, mixing just until the ingredients are incorporated. When bananas are finished roasting, turn oven down to 350F. Peel and mash bananas with a fork. You should have about 1 1/2 c of banana mash. Fold this in to the batter.

Portion batter out among prepared cupcake liners. Bake 22-26 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Nutella Ganache:
Ingredients

  • 1/2 c Nutella
  • 3 oz 60% dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream

Instructions
In a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt Nutella, chocolate, and heavy cream together. Set aside to cool.

Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
Ingredients

  • 1 c plus 2 tbsp sugar, divided
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 c (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions
Combine 1/2 c plus 2 tbsp sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Then, continue cooking without stirring until the syrup comes to a boil and begins to change color. Use a wet pastry brush to brush down the sides of the pan and swirl the pan occasionally for even coloring. Once the mixture is a dark amber, remove from heat and add the cream in a steady stream while stirring constantly. Warning: the mixture will bubble up so be careful. Set aside to cool.

Set a heatproof bowl (that can accompany whatever electric mixer you have) over simmering water and combine remaining 1/2 c sugar with egg whites. Whisk constantly while heating until the mixture is warm to the touch and the sugar is dissolved. Then, using your electric mixer and the  same bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff, but still moist, peaks and until the egg whites are cool (you can touch the bottom of the bowl to determine this). Set aside briefly.

In a separate bowl, cream butter until it is pale and fluffy. Add butter, 1/4 c at a time to meringue, beating on medium-low. When all is added, mix in vanilla. Finally, slowly pour in caramel and continue to beat until fully incorporated.

If not assembling the day of making the buttercream, you can store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Using an electric mixer, beat the buttercream briefly prior to frosting.

Assembly: We’re going to use the cone method to insert the ganache into the cupcake. Take each cupcake and cut out a cone shape from the top, inserting your knife at an angle pointing toward the center of the cupcake and going around in a circle. Once the cone part is out, cut off the tip of the cone and/or scrape out a bit more of the cupcake. Place about 1 tbsp of ganache inside and top with the cone you just cut out. Frost with the buttercream by dolloping it on with a spoon, a piping bag/tip, or a ziploc bag with a hole cut in the corner. Due to the buttercream, cupcakes are best eaten day of assembly but can probably last a day in an airtight container.

I can’t handle the yum. Boy called this, “Killer.” (People still say that?!)

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Red Bean Mochi Cake

Happy Chinese New Year!!

I’m not Chinese but Boy is (actually, he’s Taiwanese and he makes a big fuss over the difference.. but they all still celebrate CNY) so I decided this year I would find a way to be a part of his tradition.

While we’ll be having our own little CNY celebration later today, he went back to his parents’ house last night (they live an hour away) and I wanted to send a little gift home with him. After several hours of researching about the traditions of CNY and looking at a whole bunch of Asian recipes, I settled on this one from Tiny Urban Kitchen. “Nian gao” can have a dual meaning of both “sticky cake” and “high/tall year.” The latter meaning is often used during CNY to signify reaching new heights in the new year. I also liked this recipe because it incorporates red beans, one of my favorite flavors and coincidentally the lucky color in Chinese culture. The recipe was quite simple to make with ingredients easily found at my local Asian supermarket. So I sent Boy off home with eight slices of the loaf.

Why eight?

Eight is the luckiest number in Chinese culture. I ended up cutting the loaf into 12 pieces but I got worried that 12 may be unlucky somehow and I didn’t want to chance offending anyone so I played it safe and went with eight. The loaf was well-received and thankfully no one made any comments that I had accidentally ruined their New Year.

CNY is a 15-day celebration so you’re by no means late if you make this within the next two weeks. Although, you can always just stick to the “sticky cake” meaning and make it all year round (which is what I plan to do anyhow)! If you’ve never had mochi before, it’s sticky in the best way possible, not very sweet, and just subtly flavored by the red bean in this version. I highly recommend trying it. You won’t be disappointed!

Red Bean Mochi Cake (Nian Gao)
adapted from Tiny Urban Kitchen

Makes 2 loaves, 1 9×13 cake, or 24 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Mochiko sweet rice flour (found in Asian markets or here)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 2 c milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 3/4 c red bean paste (also found in Asian markets)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. (No need to line your pans.)

Mix all ingredients except the red bean paste together in a large bowl. Add in the red bean paste. Divide among pans. Bake for 45 min – 1 hour, or until a knife comes out clean. Cut and enjoy either warmed or at room temperature.

HOW EASY IS THAT?!

Here’s to the Year of the Rabbit!

Gingerbread Cupcakes

I’ll be honest. I’m not the biggest fan of gingerbread in the world. I love spiced things but I think it’s the molasses. I’m not sure. For some reason, gingerbread’s just not my favorite.

But I saw this recipe and, knowing that gingerbread is a classic holiday treat, figured I’d give it a whirl for the holiday party I hosted this past weekend. I made multiple types of mini-cupcakes including these, the tiramisu cupcakes, and a peppermint mocha cupcake (look for the recipe later this week). I’ve been looking for the perfect time to make a slew of minis and this was it! Even for people who don’t like dessert, it’s difficult to pass up such a little teeny tiny cupcake (and once they eat one it’s hard to resist another).

So I tried out this new gingerbread application and wouldn’t you know, the cream cheese frosting perfectly offsets the dark molasses flavor and I popped more than my share of these minis! If you’re not a fan of gingerbread I highly recommend these babies.

Gingerbread Cupcakes
adapted from Full Circle, originally from Gourmet

Makes ~ 36 mini-cupcakes.

Ingredients
For cake:

  • 1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 c) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c molasses
  • 1 large egg, beaten lightly
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 tsp baking soda

For frosting:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted (more if you like your frosting sweeter)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions
For cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Line mini-cupcake tins with paper liners.

Sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, cream butter then add granulated sugar, mixing until fluffy. Beat in molasses and the egg until smooth. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a small pot. Once boiling, add in baking soda and stir to dissolve. Add this into the molasses mixture and mix. Add in the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Fill cupcake liners about 1/2 full with batter and bake for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For frosting: In a clean bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese. Add in the sugar and vanilla and beat until the fluffy and smooth. Taste and add sugar as desired. Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Are you a fan of gingerbread?

Cinnamon Cupcakes with Pumpkin Filling

“Tell me about yourself.”

What a difficult question! It seem so simple. There’s so much to say! I’ve lived for so many years, had so many experiences, but where does one start? Do you want to know about why I wanted to become a doctor? How about the time I puked in the hallway in second grade while everyone was walking for some event and I just kept moving as if it never happened? Do you want to know about my parents? Brother? Grandmother? Pet fish who died a few months ago?

Which self do you want to hear about, is the questions I should reply back.

It’s officially interview season for residency programs all over the country! My first one is tomorrow followed by my second on Wednesday right before my third on Thursday and my fourth on Friday. Yes, that’s right. Four full-day interviews complete with tours of hospitals in four days with an added “Meet the Residents” dinner the night before each and every one of those interviews.

And this is only the beginning?!

I have 13, possibly 14, scheduled interviews with the last on January 5 (for now anyway).

How I’ll keep sane with all the travel is beyond me at the moment. I’m stuck in the present. The present, where I still have these cupcakes to calm me down the second I start hyperventilating about how these interviews will decide the next four years of my life, what city I’ll be in, which hospital I’ll work at.

I’ve been thinking lately that it’s been awhile since I’ve come up with a new cupcake recipe. After much thinking and consideration, this idea came to me in an instant. Funny how things work that way, isn’t it? You spend all this time trying to plan it all out and, in the end, things just fall into place.

These came together perfectly on the first try and they are a taste of hearty fall. The cake itself is a bit dense, almost like a quickbread even. The filling and frosting are not overly sweet but are filled with spicy warmth. The combination is winning and every bit make me feel like I am home and settled into the autumn season.

I urge you to make these as is or leave out the filling and frosting altogether and you have a semblance of a cinnamon muffin on your hands!

 

Cinnamon Cupcakes with Pumpkin Filling and Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
a STO original

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Ingredients
For cupcakes:

  • 2 c cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 /2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c buttermilk

For filling:

  • 3/4 c pumpkin puree, I used canned
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger

For frosting:

  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a cupcake/muffin pan with lining papers.

For cupcakes: In a large bowl, sift cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, cream butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until completely incorporated before moving on. Add vanilla. Alternately add the flour mixture followed by the buttermilk in 3 and 2 additions respectively, mixing until well combined. Do not overbeat. When mixed, divide evenly among cupcake liners, each about 2/3 to 3/4 filled. Pop in the oven for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Once done, cool on wire racks.

While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the filling and frosting.

For filling: Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

For frosting: With a stand or hand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until creamy and smooth. Then add vanilla, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves and mix just until combined. Taste and adjust flavorings as needed.

To assemble: When the cupcakes are cooled, cut out tiny cones from the top of each one. Cut off the very tip of each cone to give a little more space for filling. Drop about 1 tbsp filling per cupcake. You should have just enough filling. Replace the cone and frost with the cream cheese mixture. For these I put the frosting in a gallon-sized plastic bag, cut off the tip, and piped the frosting on.

PS. Is anyone as excited about seeing the Pioneer Woman and Bobby Flay go at it as I am?

Black Pearl Cupcakes

Before I go on and on about the glory of these cupcakes, I have to mention how excited I am that CSN Stores has asked me to review a product from one of their websites. They have over 200 online stores where you can find everything from nesting tables to fitness equipment to cookware (personally, I’m all for the cookware). I can’t wait to show you what I do with my new apple peeler/corer/transformer. Look for the post soon!

And now for the cupcakes.

This past weekend celebrated my birthday, first dinner with friends on Saturday and then dim-sum with family on Sunday (my actual birthday). Since I always make birthday cakes for my friends and somehow never for myself, I decided this was the year.

So, as you all know, I looked around and asked you all for help and I ended up with two front-runners. Both of which looked delicious. Both of which came with good references. Both of which I had to make at some point in time except I wanted both of them NOW.

So that’s what I did.

I made one full recipe for my birthday dinner and one half recipe transformed into cupcake version for after dim-sum food coma. (PS Is my family the only family who eats themselves into coma at dim-sum?)

I had been staying in NYC for an elective month when I came across this recipe for Black Pearl Cake on epicurious. The inspiration for it is a Vosges Haut-Chocolat bar and as I read up on the recipe I realized I had just picked up a bar by the same company at the Whole Foods I happened to live next door to at the time. So what did I do? I ran right over to Whole Foods again and looked for the Black Pearl bar in question. And what do you know?

LOVED IT.

What’s in this elusive Black Pearl bar/cake?

Chocolate. Lots of it.

Wasabi.

Ginger.

Black sesame seeds.

I know it sounds strange but it’s actually a wonderful combination of flavors. The spices are subtle and yet very much present. Anyone who tastes it can’t identify what makes the chocolate taste so rich and delicious but if you tell them what it is they’re able to suddenly taste every ingredient and it becomes even more delectable with every bite.

If you’re looking for a cake to wow a crowd, this is it. It’s a bit involved with multiple components but worth every bit of effort. Also, I was afraid as I made and tasted the ganache that it would be too much flavor and/or “kick” because I took the advice of other users and used wasabi paste and doubled the amount. However, a little bit of it with a lot of cake created the perfect balance. I may have forgotten to use the ginger syrup to coat the cakes for added moisture. I think this could help as the cake is a tad bit dry but it isn’t necessary. It’s up to you. I do, however, definitely recommend using the whole amount of ground ginger for the whipped topping suggested in the recipe as I turned mine down a bit and the flavor was barely there in the end.

Coincidentally the theme for Regional Recipes this month is Japan so this recipe is perfect for it! Yay!

Black Pearl Cupcakes
adapted from epicurious

Makes 12-16 cupcakes. Double recipe for a 3-layer cake.

Ingredients
For ganache:
  • 3 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp wasabi paste
  • 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp butter, room temperature
For ginger syrup:
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into matchstick-size strips
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
For cake:
  • 1 c boiling water
  • 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 c + 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 c + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
For whipped topping:
  • 1 c chilled heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • black sesame seeds for garnish
Instructions
*Make ganache 1 day in advance so it can set overnight.

For ganache, place chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring cream, ginger, and wasabi to a boil in a small pot and the pour mixture over the chocolate. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes then whisk together until smooth. In the meantime, mix sesame seeds and corn syrup in a small bowl to coat. When chocolate is ready, stir into chocolate and allow to cool to lukewarm. Stir in butter. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight.

For ginger syrup, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, stirring over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2 minutes, remove from heat, and allow to stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Strain syrup (which can be used later on to coat finished cake for added moisture) and chop ginger. If making this the day before as well, refrigerate ginger and syrup separately until ready to use.
For cake, preheat oven to 350F and prepare baking pans either with cupcake papers or lining 3 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper (must also double recipe).

Whisk together boiling water, cocoa powder, and reserved ginger from the ginger syrup in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric mixer, cream sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat just until incorporated. Add in vanilla and mix until combined. Alternating, add flour mixture in 3 additions and cocoa mixture in 2 additions. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake in the preheated oven for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If making cakes, bake approximately 30 minutes. Allow to cool. If making 1 day ahead of time, wrap with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

For assembly, make whipped cream topping by beating cream until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, vanilla, and ginger and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Cut out a cone from the top of each cupcake and fill each cupcake with about a teaspoon for the set ganache. Replace top. Here is where you can coat the top of the cupcake with the ginger syrup if desired (but I forgot). Spread whipped cream topping and garnish with black sesame seeds. The recipe then says to refrigerate until the ganache is set followed by allowing to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.. but we just ate them and had zero complaints.

Lookout for my other birthday cake to be posted soon. Happy noshing!

Green Tea Cupcakes – Repost

The first original recipe to be published on STO, this cupcake flavor profile came to me on a whim and proved to be every bit of delicious I expected it to be. Originally published on March 9, 2010.

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.)

70ish cupcakes along with animal heads made of cake and cookies to spell “CONGRATULATIONS.”

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.)

Wednesday:

  • 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!

Thursday:

  • 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).

Friday:

  • 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.

Saturday:

  • BABY SHOWER!


Didn’t Ashley and Boy’s animal heads come out cute? I love the Asian lion! And Tony the Tiger!

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

adapted from Chockylit, Giada, and Dorie

Cupcake
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
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.]

Filling
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1/2 c thawed and drained frozen strawberries
1/4 c sugar
Juice of half a lemon (approximately 1 tbsp)

Topping
1 2/3 c heavy cream
5-8 fresh mint leaves [or a few drops mint extract]
1/3 c sugar

Instructions


Cupcake:
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.


Filling:
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.

Topping:
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!]

Assembly:
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!

– Sharlene

Tiramisu Cupcakes – Repost

This was originally posted February 11th. These cupcakes have been made multiple times since then and they are always always a winner. Definitely consider them for your next event or just because!!

Sometime last year when I started getting on the cupcake bandwagon, Boy asked me for Tiramisu Cupcakes. (Did he know these existed? Was he trying to send me on an impossible adventure so I’d stop bugging him for ideas? Does he just like pronouncing the word tier-uh-MEE-su? Who knows.) Months later, I came across this recipe and HAD to make them. He gobbled them up, as did friends in Philadelphia we visited later that day.

They’re delicious.

Tiramisu Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from i♥cuppycakes
[who adapted it from  Baking: From My Home To Yours, Dorie Greenspan]

Makes 20.

Ingredients

2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
10 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk [I used 2% milk I had in the fridge, just under 3/4 cup and then topped it off with white vinegar.]

Espresso extract:
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
2 tbsp boiling water

Espresso syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp Kahlua

Frosting:
8 oz mascarpone [look for this in the specialty cheese area, usually by the mozzarella]
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Kahlua
1/2 cup cold cream [original called for 1 cup but i♥cuppycakes indicated that she liked the frosting better before the whipped cream so I halved it to increase the volume of the frosting but keep the mascarpone flava]

Decor
finely chopped chocolate
cocoa powder

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cake:

Sift cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

With a hand/stand mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and mix to combine. Add eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition. Add vanilla.

Gradually add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, ending with the flour mixture. Mix until flour is just incorporated into batter.

Fill cupcake liners about 1/2-2/3 full and bake ~17-20 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

While the cupcakes are baking, assemble the rest of the fun stuff!

Espresso extract:
Stir espresso powder and boiling water together until blended.

Espresso syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar together and bring just to a boil. Pour syrup into small bowl and stir in 1 tbsp of espresso extract and add Kahlua.

Frosting:
Combine the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla and Kahlua in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Whip the heavy cream until it hold stiff peaks in a separate bowl. Using a spatula, stir in about 1/4 of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a soft touch. Add espresso syrup to frosting to taste. (If frosting is too soft to pipe, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until frosting is good to go.)

Final product:
Poke holes in cupcakes with a toothpick. Spoon about 1-2 tsp of espresso syrup over each cupcake. (Do this slowly to let it soak in before adding more lest you get syrup all over the place.) Frost and top with cocoa powder and chopped chocolate.

Yummy!!

– Sharlene

Cupcake Hero [Coconut] WINNER

Okay. There was a LOT of baking this weekend which means I went home because I’m currently staying at an apartment with no flour or anything else to bake with.

We pitted two beautiful looking and delicious sounding cupcakes against one another.

In this corner we have Katherine’s Homemade Snowball

And in the other corner we have Amy’s Mochoconut Cupcakes

Whose cuisine will reign supreme?

(Ha. Stole that last line from the Food Network!)

After consulting the judges, a decision has finally been reached. It was not easy to say the least.

But our winner for Cupcake Hero July [Coconut] is..

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AMY’S MOCHOCONUT CUPCAKE!!

:: crowd roaring ::

This cupcake was an amazing blend of flavors. Coffee, almond, chocolate, AND coconut?! Wow. We couldn’t get enough of the icing and the macaroon on top was a very creative way to use coconut and made for a very pretty, but still not overly complicated, cupcake. I think I’ll have requests to make this cupcake again soon. The flavors perfectly balanced one another.

Thanks again everyone for your contributions to this month’s Cupcake Hero!

Amy, please send your mailing address to iheartcuppycakes[at]gmail[dot]com to receive your prize package. Can’t wait to see what you come up with for August!

Cupcake Hero July : Coconut FINALISTS

Thank you to everyone for their votes and participation!

This has been a whirlwind month and I’m ecstatic at the response Cupcake Hero July has had.

The polls are now closed and I have made my decision as to which cupcake will face-off head-to-head with the popular vote.

This was truly the hardest decision I’ve had to make in a while. The entries were so delicious looking and sounding!

Poor Boy had to listen to me whine about my difficult decisions. What a life, eh?

Anyways..

Without further ado, your Cupcake Hero July : Coconut Finalists are..

[drumroll please]

Katherine’s Homemade Snowball

and

Amy’s Mochoconut Cupcakes

It’s the battle of chocolate!! I’m quite excited.

Thank you again to all the entries. Without you this would not have been much of a competition.

I will make both cupcake recipes, hand them out to family and friends, and take votes based on taste as to who will be the next Cupcake Hero!

Look out for the winner to be posted July 26 or 27!

Good luck to both cupcakes!!

July Cupcake Hero : [Coconut]

Hello everyone!

I’m overjoyed that I get to host this month’s Cupcake Hero and quite honestly didn’t expect to receive such an honor so even though Dorothy warned both finalists to get out their thinking caps in case we won I was not prepared.

I’m the girl at the Oscars who didn’t write a speech.

Luckily, I have some great friends who were more than willing to help me come up with something a bit out-of-the-norm but still accessible and still summery. It’s a flavor that always reminds me of summer and, if you read my blog, I have always loved even when it wasn’t “cool.”

The July 2010 Cupcake Hero ingredient is..

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[wait for it]

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[wait for it]

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COCONUT!

[Cue massive cheers.]

Think of the possibilities! Coconut flakes? Coconut milk? Coconut extract? And, if you dare, FRESH coconut (which I’ve never used so that’ll be interesting)!

I’m so excited to see all the entries.

The Lowdown:

  • Anyone can enter but international shipping addresses may not be able to receive the prize package from Clara.
  • Create a cupcake using COCONUT in at least one component be it the cake itself, frosting, filling, garnish etc. Sky’s the limit.
  • If you blog, create a post and then email your name, the link, and the name of the cupcake to me at smalltownoven[at]gmail[dot]com with Cupcake Hero in the title.
  • No blog? No problem! You can still email me your name, the full recipe, pictures, and the name of the cupcake.
  • Also join the Flickr group and upload 1-2 pictures per entry.
  • Multiple entries welcome but separate email per entry.
  • Deadline will be July 17th at midnight. Roundup will be July 18th-19th followed by voting until July 22nd.
  • Readers will pick Finalist #1. I pick Finalist #2.
  • I bake both Finalist cupcakes and assemble a focus group to help me decide the winner to be announced July 26th-27th.
  • Any questions? smalltownoven[at]gmail[dot]com
  • For information on prizes, see here.

Deadline: JULY17th at MIDNIGHT Eastern Standard Time!

Go forth and bake!

– Sharlene

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