Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dark Chocolate Cake + Nutella BC

If there is chocolate cake in Heaven, I think this has to be it.  This frosting is DIVINE!  I know, Nutella is a prepared food and that kind of goes against my principles, but...sigh.   My love affair with Nutella began in high school French class when Mme Miller would have one student bring french bread and another bring a jar of the good stuff and let us eat it after tests on Fridays.  She was a good one.  Then at The French Crepe Co in the old Farmers Market at The Grove in Los Angeles, my passion was further cemented with their Nutella, bananas and whipped cream crepes....oh I want to go there now!

Or wrap this in a crepe and top it with a few banana slices and fresh whipped cream....yummmy!

I digress.  These are dark chocolate cupcakes.  The recipe is adapted from Sarah Magid's Easiest Chocolate Cake recipe in the book Organic and Chic.  Excellent book! Check it out.  This is a great base recipe that is so easily changeable.  I have substituted all sorts of things in it and it has never failed me....except when I did it in the mixer and it got too runny and didn't rise well.  But it's so simple it's a breeze with nothing but a whisk and a bowl. And the best part is, no eggs.  You can eat the batter guilt-free!

The frosting is a half a jar of Nutella, a stick of butter, about 1tsp of vanilla, some Vanilla Almond Milk (yes I dared to try it again even after the minor set back yesterday), and some powdered sugar.  This is honestly how I operate with frosting.  Just mix some things together until it tastes great and looks beautiful.  There's no chemistry so who needs measuring spoons???

Another great use for clean egg cartons.  Easy transport for minis!

I took these minis and yesterday's white chocolate/raspberry minis to a bbq tonight and these were gone first!  (Although no raspberry ones made it home either.)  I couldn't decide what to top them with so I did some with coffee beans, some with chocolate sprinkles, and some with a Pampered Chef caramel topping someone gifted me.

Monday, June 27, 2011

An Attempt at White Chocolate Cupcake + Raspberry BC

I am experimenting this week with some new recipes.  Today I tried a white chocolate cake recipe with fresh raspberry butter cream frosting.  I will be honest and say that they were just okay.  (I'm still waiting on reviews from the lucky taste testers.)

I have tried and failed at making white chocolate cupcakes before.  (All the chocolate, though melted smoothly and well incorporated into the batter, fell and formed a crust at the bottom while baking.  Boo!)  This recipe was much better.  It is from Tracey's Culinary Adventures blog.  (The cake recipe only.)  But for some reason I decided to use vanilla flavored almond milk instead of the regular milk it called for and I think it gave it too much of a nutty, almost meaty flavor.  Oh well. 


For the raspberry frosting, I cooked the raspberries with sugar and lemon juice until liquid-y, strained out the seeds, and added the cooled liquid part to regular butter cream frosting.  I was surprised at how well the frosting held together with the cooked raspberries as opposed to the fresh. (Too much fresh berry puree + frosting = one runny, clumpy mess. Another Booo!). 

In the end, they weren't so bad.  The raspberries on top certainly helped.  But I wish there was more white chocolate flavor in the cake part, and more raspberry in the frosting part.  They sure do look pretty though huh?   ;)

P.S.  Later this week, look for some Chocolate Nutella cupcakes, Coconut baby shower cupcakes, and maybe, just maybe, original Summer Shandy 4th of July cupcakes???  Ooooooh! 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lemony Cupcakes

Nothing like Lemony Cupcakes to start the summer off right!  (Although it was a bit rainy and not at all like summer here yesterday...)  I will make a few adjustments to the next batch...like poking the tops just after baking and pouring over some lemon syrup made from fresh squeezed lemons of course...yummy!  I should have taken the time to do that, but I was feeling lazy yesterday.  I'll blame it on the rain. 

Lots of lemon zest in the cake, topped with cream cheese frosting and garnished with more lemon zest.  They were yummy even without the syrup!
I think I have a thing for lemons this week...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rhubarb Crumble Pie

I made this for Father's Day because someone in our house LOVES rhubarb!
This is based on a recipe I found on allrecipes.com with the same name but with a few of my own additions/substitutions.
Note:  I approximate a lot.  

1 cup AP flour
1 cup oats
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
approx 2 Tbs brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
dash of ground ginger
approx 1/3 cup melted butter
2 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb (I used frozen, straight from the freezer)
4-6 ripe strawberries chopped
approx 2 Tbs butter, in pats
approx 1/4 cup of white sugar (orig recipe called for 1/2 cup, but that seemed too much)
zest of half a lemon - THIS IS KEY!  Don't make it unless you have a lemon to zest!!!  :)

Mix the first seven dry ingredients.  Add melted butter and mix with your hands until it's crumbly.  
Press half of the crumbly mixture into a 9" glass pie plate.
Throw in the rhubarb and chopped strawberries.  Top with pats of cold butter.
Zest the lemon with your fancy Microplane zester you got for Mother's Day.
(And if you don't have one, buy it!)

 Pour the sugar over the fruit.
Top with the other half of the crumbly mixture.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350dF for approx 35 mins.

When it's done, forget about taking a picture of the beautiful and delicious final product and eat it right out of the oven....

...or right out of the fridge later in the evening. 

It also might be good with ice cream....or fresh whipped cream...not that I would know.  ;)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Two Weddings. One Weekend. Crazy.

Prepare yourself for cupcake/cake photo overload!

I was honored to have two weddings to bake for yesterday.  They were both for awesome couples to work with.  Each with beautiful places to set up in.  A few snafus along the way, but in the end everything turned out just fine.

The first reception was held in an art gallery.  The historic brick + modern art and concrete floors = super chic!

Note the window to the left.  Passers by would stop and watch us as we set up.  You know, no pressure...
 I convinced a girlfriend to come along and help me place the cupcakes and take pics.  She took some "action" shots along the way.  She was a news reporter in her pre-mom days and kept telling me to smile.  Honestly, I wasn't very good at it.  So there.

Shout out to Sweet & Simple Jewelry for my antique bronze necklace and locket ring.  I love them!

Now back to those cupcakes...
 Love this shot!
 Pink Velvet Cake with Vanilla-Almond Buttercream Frosting
 Yummy Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting topped with Crystallized Ginger
 Kahlua Spiked Coffee-Chocolate Cake with Kahlua Spiked Frosting topped with Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Bean.  That was a mouthful.

Yes please.  Thank you.  :)
Wedding number two was at a local country club.  The theme was black and white polka dots with hot pink accents.  Different style than the first wedding but modern and very elegant all the same!  I'll start with the before pictures from home.
 Lots of unfrosted pink velvet cupcakes.  228 to be exact.
 Now with fluffy clouds of cream cheese frosting.
 Some of the fondant decorations ready to be plopped on top.
This is always, always my favorite part of the process: the "crumb coat" on the triple layered cake tiers.  There's something so naturally pretty about them in this state instead of with the fondant cover.

On location:  All cake was Pink Velvet.  Half the cupcakes were frosted with Vanilla-Almond Buttercream, the other half with Cream Cheese frosting.  Most of the decorations were from homemade white and chocolate MMF.  Most.  Read on....
 Setting up...and trying to smile...again.

 White fondant covered pink velvet cake filled with cream cheese frosting. This was pre-made fondant.  I tried three times with my homemade MMF and it just wasn't working this time.  That cake was almost the end of me Friday night.

 Although I made 228 cupcakes for this wedding, they served most of them at the tables.  I placed as many as I could here and reluctantly handed over the boxes to the head server. <Insert pout y face here.>

 Here my friend got fancy and took black and whites that only showed the color pink.
 Peek-a-boo Polk-a-dots.
 Remember those snafus I referred to earlier?  Well, I decorated the small daisy cupcakes on Friday, but when I woke up Saturday morning, the black from the daisies had bled onto the icing. I've never had that happen before.  Maybe it was too humid???  Anyway, I had to redo 60 of them that morning.  I managed to salvage the cupcakes, but had to make new frosting and decorations for them!  Ahhh!  Originally each had three small daisies, but I only had enough black fondant for two each when I redid them.  If I have learned anything about doing cakes it's that there is always something that doesn't go as planned and you just have to be flexible!

And there you have it...almost 700 fondant cutouts, 372 cupcakes, 2-3 layered fondant covered tiers, 2 weddings, due on the same day.  I couldn't have done it without some help and to those people, you know who you are, THANK YOU!  Honestly.  I meant it.  I'll bake you a cake...just give me a week or two...  ;)

P.S. I also got my business cards this week. And my sweet father-in-law made those adorable birch card holders.  Love!


Monday, June 6, 2011

It's that time again.

I started working on Wedding #3 today.  It is one of two weddings I have to bake for on June 18th.  For this wedding I have 240 cupcakes and a small two tiered cake to make.  There will be four different cupcake designs including two different black daisy designs and two different black and while polka dot designs.  Both with hot pink accents.  All will be with pink velvet cake.  The black fondant is, believe it or not, home made!  My hands were purple for two days (that's what black dye fades to).  I should invest in food safe gloves...

When I made black dasies the first time and told my mom about them, I could hear her nose turn up over the phone.  They are actually very chic looking.  I think even she agreed in the end.  :)
Although these are obviously cut with a cutter, I impress each petal individually by hand then let the flowers dry in egg cartons so they shape like this.  I got the idea from a book called Organic and Chic by Sarah Magid.  I love her work!
Note to self:  The next time I design a cupcake with 7 polka dots on the top of each, make sure I don't have to make 60 of them.  What is 60 x 7?  Yeah.

Then after dinner we decided to make Banana Nut Minis. 
When I bake for the family I try to bake with our health in mind.  These are half whole wheat and use applesauce in place of most of the oil.  But then I like to top them with butter when they're warm, so there goes that.  :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Food for Thought

Although I haven't baked any cupcakes this week, I have been very busy planning for a yard sale...and thinking a lot about this little cupcake business of mine...

I have been working with a graphic designer, who also happens to be a very good friend, on my business card design.  I have learned so many things through this process.  One is how difficult it is to achieve the casual, slightly vintage look I was going for.  It seems like it should be effortless.  But there is a fine line between too fussy and too plain.  I should know as much from working in interior design, but I think I've changed some in the last four years.  First of all, I am the client this go round.  That's different.  And I'm pretty sure what contractors say about designers being so difficult to work for is true for graphic designers too.  I admit, I wasn't an easy client.  (Sorry friend!)  Secondly, I may be ever so slightly more patient these days.  Please, hold your laughter.  ;)  The first design my friend showed me was beautiful and I loved it...but it wasn't quite there.  The more I looked at it the more I knew it needed editing.  In my youth (wink wink) I would probably have just gone with the first one, because truly it was good.  But I may have actually learned finally that some things take time.  Even fantastic business cards don't happen over night.  This is my advice to myself.  Take your time.  I think I'm getting there.

I digress... Back to the cards.  I think together, my very enduring graphic designer friend and I have achieved that ever elusive balance between too designed and too plain.  I hope to have the final copy at the end of this week and the printed ones next week to share with you!  We will also be changing this blog's design to match.  I can't wait!...I mean...maybe I can...?

For now, since I haven't given you any scrumptious cupcakes to drool over this week, I will share one of my go to cookie recipes.  I am baking these tonight for the kids to sale with their lemonade at our yard sale this week.  I've never met anyone who didn't like them, including my pickiest sweets eater and people who say they don't like coconut.  These are delicious!

Choco-Coconut Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (Heaping! I like to taste the contrasting salt in chocolate chip cookies.)
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cups flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 375.
Beat butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla.
In a separate bowl whisk dry ingredients together and slowly add to wet.
Stir in the coconut and chocolate chips.
Bake for 8-10 mins.
Technically this recipe makes about 60 but by the time you're ready to share, I promise there won't be that many on the rack!  Enjoy!  :)