Monday, September 8, 2014

Peaches and Cream Cupcakes with Almond Shortbread Crust

Just check out this gentle, unassuming cupcake. This is the kind of cupcake that you spy (trailside, apparently), and you have no idea what is actually happening here. Well, wait no longer, my friends.
What we have here is a white cupcake with a salted almond shortbread crust, filled with fresh peach filling and topped with a light peach whipped cream. The peaches came straight from the farmers' market (I wouldn't even bother making this with canned peaches. You need the real deal!) and all things considered, I had them pulled together in a matter of a few hours.

The reason I chose to make this particular kind of cupcake is as you may know, I hail originally from Mobile, Alabama. Yeah, yeah, Georgia peaches and all and I get it, I do, but we in Mobile just quietly enjoy our own marvelous peaches and let everyone else have a hissy fit next door. The ones with the most to brag about are usually the quiet ones, you know...

My father came out west this past weekend (hi Papa!) and since my dad was instrumental in getting me to cook in the first place, I really wanted to make something he'd enjoy. I think this worked. The fact that my mom, my sister, my lovely niece Lily also liked them was all icing on the (cup)cake. My children were summarily not impressed. They rarely are. Baby Deirdre licked off the frosting (she is sitting beside me at the moment and interjected, "Because I love frosting!") and Liam suspiciously poked his (half) cupcake with a finger and scooped out the filling to leave it on the plate. "I don't like that stuff," he informed me. Sigh. Still, out of 18 cupcakes yesterday, I have two left this morning, and I do consider that a success.

Stone fruit, like peaches and plums and cherries, too, pair wall with almond, I don't know why, exactly; it just seems to be one of those things, like peanut butter and cheese crackers (stop judging me). I like a crunchy bottom to my cupcake, and shortbread is just about the easiest crust around, so I just subbed out half the flour with almond meal (found in the natural foods section of your grocery store or, out here, at Trader Joe's. Whee, Trader Joe's!).

Sometimes I am loathe to work with peaches because I don't love peeling them, The trick to that is to drop the whole peach into a large pot of boiling water and let it hang out there for about a minute. Remove the peach with a slotted spoon and then put it into a colander in the sink to let it cool a bit. The skins will slip right off; I usually don't even use a knife.

For some reason this cupcake looks like it's at School Picture Day. I think it's the lighting.
Anyway, to put these cupcakes together, I would start with the peach filling first. You're going to reserve some of this to make a puree for the frosting, so just keep that in mind.

Oh wait, FIRST of all, sprinkle about half of a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin into about 1/8 cup of cold water. Let it bloom and then stir it in to dissolve. You're going to use this in the hot peach puree which is going to mix with the hot peach puree to go into the whipped cream for the frosting? Get that? And this way, your frosting won't melt all over the place. Great! And, moving right along...

~Peach Filling (and puree for frosting)~
Four pounds peaches, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Put the peaches into a large, heavy-bottom saucepan. Sprinkle in the cornstarch and toss well with the fruit to make sure all the pieces are coated. Add in the lemon juice, cinnamon, and almond extract, and stir to combine. Cook this mixture over medium heat until it is bubbly and thickened. Remove from heat. Reserve about two ladle's worth (maybe 3/4 of a cup) still hot and puree in another bowl, using a stick blender if you have one, or a food processor or regular blender if you do not. Once the reserved peach puree is smooth, add in the gelatin water and stir to combine well. Let cool completely before using. Let the remaining peach mixture cool completely as well. 

~Almond Shortbread Crust for Cupcakes~
1 cup almond meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 cups in muffin tins with foil cupcake liners. Combine all dry ingredients into a bowl. Add in the butter and mix with your (clean) fingertips until the mixture comes together and can hold its shape as a ball when you squeeze it together. Divide the mixture evenly among the cupcake cups and press down with your (clean! clean!) fingers to form an even layer. 

Bake in the preheated oven for about ten minutes or until the shortbread is starting to brown. Remove the muffin tins from the oven and let them cool a little bit before filling with the cake batter which is coming up...

~White Cake Batter~
3 egg whites
1-1/4 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2-1/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon butter, softened

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the egg whites, 2 tablespoons of the milk, and the vanilla and almond extracts.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the sugar. Add the butter beat well into the dry ingredients. Add in the milk and mix. Gradually add in the egg white mixture.
Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full with the batter. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes,
or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.

To fill the cupcakes, cut out a cone-shaped portion out of the top of each cake. Slice off the excess cake from the cone (leaving the flat cap) and reserve the top. Fill the resulting hole with about a tablespoon of the cooled peach mixture(or however much you need). Replace the cap. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes, and then put in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to chill and set the filling.

~Peach Whipped Cream Frosting~
1-1/2 cups whipping cream
3/4 cups reserved peach puree, with gelatin, cooled

Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks, Turn off the electric beater. Using a spatula, carefully fold in the peach puree, a little at the time, until fully incorporated into the whipped cream. Be gentle!

As soon as the puree is combined with the whipped cream, pipe onto the cupcakes using a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Let the cream firm up in the refrigerator before serving if you can, or go ahead and serve and make a mess. You will definitely want to store these in the refrigerator, though.

This will make eighteen cupcakes. They will go quickly! Enjoy the rest of your summer!
This cupcake seems to have been given accolades from a higher authority. Hmm...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Arnold Palmer Cupcakes

Welcome to the Arnold Palmer, a cupcake riff on a drink I've never had that was named after a golfer I'd not recognize if he jumped out and bit me. "Why, hello! You must be Arnold Palmer. Would you care for some tea...with lemonade?" Because that's really all an Arnold Palmer is, a non-alcoholic beverage of the country club set that's half iced tea and half lemonade. You can even buy the stuff premixed (really, lazy Americans? For reals???). 

My own experience with the country club beverage set is limited to the Shirley Temple (my brother always got the Roy Rogers which actually had cola in it! No caffeine for my delicate female system, I guess. And if you don't think I'm actively plotting Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers cupcakes, then you've never met me. How cool would that be for a debutante party? Wait - I don't think there are any debutantes in Northern California. Curses! Well, cheerfully moving on...). 

So why, you might ask, when I haven't a nodding acquaintance with golf and I've never even tasted an Arnold Palmer (beverage or otherwise - shudder -) - I don't even put sugar in my iced tea, much less lemonade - why would I make this into a cupcake? That's easy enough. I saw a recipe for a cake online. And it looked weird. So I kept looking. And every recipe I found just seemed a Because I am incapable of letting well enough alone, I decided to try my own hand at it - making an Arnold Palmer cupcake in my own way.

My own way starts off with a Ritz cracker crust (in my head I has always believed that those crackers were as southern as RC Cola, but nope - they were invented by a German man in Ohio. Good enough!), and then the cake has a subtle lemon-tea flavoring (by steeping the tea bags in the milk for the cake and then letting it cool before adding to the batter). The filling is a very mild black tea mousse which gives you a, "Hey! This tastes like tea!" moment. The frosting is a breath of fresh air - just a simple lemon cream cheese frosting. By the time you get there you're singing, "Hallelujah!" But in a restrained, country club way, of course. No pearl-clutching here..just absolute restraint decorum. And two cups of cream, several sticks of butter, and lots and lots of sugar. It's the good life!

Arnold Palmer Cupcakes

~ Ritz Cracker Crust ~
1 1/2 sleeves Ritz crackers
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup sugar

Grind the crackers to a fine consistency in the bowl of a food processor. Add the sugar and blend. Add in the butter and combine until the mixture comes together.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 twelve-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners. Place about a tablespoons' worth of the cracker mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Using your (clean) fingers, press the mixture down to make an even layer on the bottom of each cupcake liner.

Bake a 350 for 10 minutes or until the crust is starting to brown (and watch this, because it can happen in a hurry!). 

~ Lemon - Tea Cupcakes ~
1 cup milk
6 black tea bags (Lipton or similar is just fine)
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest of two lemons
Juice of two lemons (about 1/3 cup)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Heat milk to just below boiling point (I just used my microwave but you can use your stovetop too). Add in teabags and let steep ten minutes. Remove tea bags and squeeze them over the milk to get every bit of tea out (yes, I know this all goes against every rule of tea-making but we are making cupcakes, people!). Let the milk cool before proceeding with the batter.

If you are a good person who follows directions, here is where you sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set this mixture aside.

Once the milk is cool, cream together the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until the mixture is nice and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the vanilla and mix well. 

Okay, so here is where I poured my lemon juice and lemon zest into my tea-milk, knowing full well that it would curdle. And it curdled. So I beat the heck out of it with a whisk and then poured it into the batter. Once I mixed in the dry ingredients, it looked fine. OR, you can pour in the tea milk, mix that in well, add in the lemon juice and zest, and then mix in your dry ingredients until just combined. Whichever way you like. I seem to prefer heart attacks.

Spoon the batter into your crust-filled muffin tins, filling about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for about 15 - 18 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

~ Black Tea Mousse ~
 1 cup heavy cream
4 tea bags (Lipton is fine)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/3 cup boiling water

Heat heavy cream to just below boiling point. Add in the teabags; steep for about 10 minutes. Remove the teabags, squeezing over the cream to get every bit of tea, and then discard them. Chill the tea-cream mixture for at least an hour or until it is good and cold. 

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and allow it to soften. Add in the boiling water and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved and the mixture is clear. Let cool slightly. 

Beat the plan whipped cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks are starting to form. Add in the sugar and the tea-cream mixture and whip until combined and the mixture is stiff. Add in the gelatin and beat until blended. 

To fill the cupcakes, cut out a cone-shaped portion out of the top of each cake. Slice off the excess cake from the cone (leaving the flat cap) and reserve the top. Fill the resulting hole with about a tablespoon of the tea mousse mixture (or however much you need). Replace the cap. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes, and then put in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to chill and set the filling.

This is not very impressive because the filling is just about the same color as the cake! This guy isn't going to win any beauty contests. Still, have you seen your average golfer???

 ~ Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting ~
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
Juice and zest of two lemons
1 teaspoon salt
4 - 6 cups powdered sugar

Mix cream cheese, butter, lemon juice and zest, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium until well-combined. Add in the powdered sugar gradually, and beat it in until it reaches the proper consistency (you will want it to be a stiffer consistency if you are planning to pipe it on rather than spread it on, for example). 

Once you have in all the powdered sugar you need, frost the cupcakes by piping on the frosting or just spread it on with a knife. I further decorated mine by sprinkling on yellow and green edible glitter, because I could. 

Makes 24 cupcakes. Fore!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Atlantic Beach Cupcake

I'm just going to come out and say it. I love NPR. I have loved NPR my entire life. My parents were always listening to public radio, and I found myself doing the same, even as a teenager (that's right, rebelling even then, and in the dorkiest way possible). Now that I am more than qualified, age-wise (sigh), to be an NPR listener, it's time to admit it publicly.

You never know what you're going to hear on the radio, but anytime food is mentioned my ears prick right up. I was driving home from work one evening and heard a story about a particular kind of pie that was news to me. It hails from the North Carolina coast, and the story is that this lemon pie is served at seafood restaurants everywhere. There's an old wives' tale that you will get sick eating any kind of dessert after having seafood, but not, apparently, this pie.

I don't know anything about that, because I'm allergic to shellfish anyhow and I've never been to North Carolina (seems to me people on the Alabama coast have dessert after seafood all the time, but perhaps our stomachs are tougher). I did think that a lemon pie with a saltine crust topped with whipped cream sounded lovely, so I went straight home and made it. And it was, too! Then I forgot all about it.

Until, just recently, NPR decided to re-air the story (really, NPR?), and this time my mother was listening and mentioned it to me. I remembered making the pie and how much I'd liked it, but now...what if I turned it into a cupcake? What if I took the very simplicity of the pie and overcomplicated it? Fantastic!

Actually, it is. The components of the Atlantic Beach Pie work just swimmingly (heh) in a cupcake. Tart, sweet, creamy, salty, crunchy - it's all there, but it also manages not to be too heavy. So I think it would go well after a seafood dinner (not that I'd know. Do you know what a bummer it is being allergic to seafood, growing up on the Gulf Coast?), or a nice summer cookout, or heck, my kids had these for breakfast this morning.

And if you want to hear the original story on the pie, go ahead and click here

Atlantic Beach Cupcake

~For saltine crust~
1 sleeve saltine crackers
1/2 cup salted butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners. 

Pulse the crackers in a food processor until they are mostly broken up (but not finely so). Add in the sugar and butter and pulse until the mixture is starting to resemble a dough (you can do this with your hands, too; it will just take longer).

Divide the mixture evenly among the cupcake liners and press down to form a bottom crust in each. Bake the crusts for 13 - 15 minutes or until they are decidedly golden (don't be a chicken about the coloring here). Let the crusts cool completely before filling with the batter.

See how dark that crust is? Totally fine.

~ For lemon cupcakes ~
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the lemon juice and water on medium high heat. When the butter is melted remove from heat. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the sour cream (or yogurt), eggs, vanilla extract and lemon zest and whisk together. Let this mixture cool completely. In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt and baking soda together, then whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. It will foam up - don't panic. Once you've got the dry ingredients mixed in, the batter will be on the thin side. Again, don't panic.

Fill the prepared cupcake tins 3/4 full with the batter (this is an important step - I know this is more full than usually you'd go but please just listen to me). Bake, one pan at a time, at 350 for 15 - 18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Do not open the oven door while the cupcakes are baking.

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for five minutes, then remove to a wire rack to let them cool completely before filling and frosting.

~For the lemon filling~
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the mixture starts to boil. Be careful to keep stirring because this will scorch in a heartbeat! Continue cooking until the mixture is starting to thicken, about five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool before filling the cupcakes.

To fill the cupcakes, using a sharp knife (honestly, I use a steak knife for this), cut a cone-shaped section from the top of each cupcake. Trim off the extra cake from each cone, just leaving a flat cap to cover the cavity you've made in the cupcake. Fill each cupcake with about a tablespoon or so of the lemon filling (this all depends on how big a hollow you've carved into the cupcake, and really, that is entirely up to you) and replace the cap on each one. There. All you've left is the frosting, and that's easy.

~Whipped Cream Frosting (stabilized)~
1 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream
1 packet dry gelatin powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Whisk the gelatin into 1/4 cup of the cream and let stand for about 10 minutes. Then add in the rest of the cream and the vanilla, with your electric mixer on low, beat until the cream is starting to thicken. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, and continue mixing, increasing the speed as you go, until the cream is forming stiff peaks (but don't overbeat because you'll end up with sweetened, gelatinized butter).

To frost the cupcakes, use a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe the whipped cream on top of each one. I finished mine with a grind of pink sea salt and edible yellow glitter. I like the crunch of the salt contrasting with the creamy sweetness of the frosting.

The gelatin will keep the whipped cream from weeping but these cupcakes still have to be stored in the refrigerator. Makes 24 cupcakes - enjoy!
Cupcake Army of Darkness!
Cupcake on a brick!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Red velvet cupcakes with dark ganache filling and chocolate cookie crust

You know, I'm just going to say it. I have fought against this particular kind of cupcake, nay, this cake in general, for as long as I've been baking. I don't care about its Southern heritage (I first met it in Atlanta, as far as I can remember, and I thought it was weird then). I don't care about Steel Magnolias. 

(Ok, that's a total lie. I care deeply about Steel Magnolias. Not, however, in reference to this cake.)

I don't care that everyone and their brother started making red velvet cake (not to mention white velvet! Green velvet! Blue velvet! Oh, we're all so cute that I'm going to beat my own head in with my cast iron skillet). I don't usually like to eat anything with an entire bottle of dye in it (unless it's a Dorito. So sue me. I said "usually"). I wasn't really being fair about all this, either, because I'd never actually tasted a red velvet cake. I just was objecting to it on principle. Loudly.

And then, enter one of the sweetest people I've ever met, a girl who hasn't said an ugly thing about anyone, ever, to my knowledge. A girl who never asks for anything. A girl with really big brown eyes that peep up at you from under her long brown bangs. And this girl was having a birthday. And this girl...well, you can probably guess what she asked for.

So, Micah, dear, I have thrown my principles right out the window in honor of your being born. And you know what? Those principles were darn tasty. 

The cake is cocoa-y without being too chocolatey (the dark crust and the ganache jump right into that role, don't you worry) and it's not too sweet. The cream cheese frosting provides the sweetness and a nice tang and contrast. Really, y'all, this is good. I would make it again. With a lot less hand-wringing. Now I just have to figure out how to shape an armadillo.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

~ Chocolate Cookie Bottoms ~
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (about one package of chocolate cookies)
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Very carefully so as not to scorch the chocolate, over low heat in a medium pot, melt together the butter and chocolate. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chocolate crumbs until all are moistened. 

Divide the crumb mixture evenly among the muffin cups. Using your clean fingers, press the mixture down into an even layer in the bottom of each cupcake liner. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes (you will be able to smell them - do not let them burn). Let cool for about 10 minutes before filling with the cake batter.

~ Red Velvet Cake Batter ~
  • 1/4 cup red food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
In a small bowl, gradually stir the food coloring into the cocoa until smooth. Add the vanilla. 

In a large bowl, beat the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the cocoa mixture as well as the salt. Add in the flour alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir the vinegar into the baking soda (it will foam). Quickly fold it - do not beat - into the batter.

Immediately divide the batter among the cookie-lined cupcake cups and place your first pan into the oven (unless you have a big oven with a lot of air circulation which I do not, but if you do go ahead and bake both pans at once). Bake the cupcakes for about 15 minutes or until an inserted tester comes out clean. Repeat the process with your other pan of cupcakes. Let the cupcakes cool completely before attempting to fill with the ganache. 

~Ganache filling ~
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • pinch instant espresso powder
In the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water, combine all ingredients until smooth. Let cool until room temperature and then, with a hand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the stuffing out of it until it is nice and fluffy, then set aside until you are ready to fill the cupcakes.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, cut out a cone-shaped portion out of the top of each cake. Slice off the excess cake from the cone (leaving the flat cap) and reserve the top. Fill the resulting hole with about a tablespoon of the whipped ganache, then replace the cap. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.

~ Cream Cheese Frosting ~
  • 1 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add in the vanilla and salt and mix in well. Add in the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until the sugar is blended in well and the frosting is stiff enough to hold its shape when piped.

Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes using a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. If desired, sprinkle the cupcakes with grated chocolate and edible red glitter for a garnish. 

Makes about 20 cupcakes. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Blackberry Cupcakes with oatmeal crust and blackberry-mandarin curd filling

I love pretty cupcake photos. I could almost say that once I've got that part over with, that my job is half done, but this. of course, would be a lie. I have to make the cupcake first, of course, and then I have to remember how I did it! That is no easy task. I've already made another cupcake since these and I am plotting another that I was hoping to make you can see how the recipes start to jumble in a mind that is not-quite-organized in the first place. I'll do my best, though, Where was I? Oh yes - pretty picture.

And I know, blackberries are not (yet!) in season, but they were on sale. And i was wanting to do a purple-ish cupcake for Lent.  What? You don't celebrate Lent with cupcakes? Hey, I went to Catholic school and I can't recall anyone ever giving up cupcakes for Lent. So there.

I jazzed these puppies up with an oatmeal cookie crust (oatmeal + blackberries = health food!) and a blackberry mandarin curd. Why mandarin? Well, for one, because I live in mandarin country. And two...I was out of lemons. Any citrus would probably have been good (and blood oranges would certainly have followed along with the theme) but just in case Gary Gilligan ever reads this...Mandarins were clearly the superior choice.

And these were a superior cupcake. Pretty, too. Shall we begin, then?

~ Oatmeal Cookie Crust ~
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup regular oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
Combine melted butter, flour, oats,and brown sugar in a small bowl. Put about a tablespoon of the oatmeal mixture into each lined muffin tin. Press down with your fingers to make an even crust on the bottom of each one. Bake for about 10 minutes until starting to brown. Let cool before filling with cupcake batter.

~ Blackberry Cupcakes ~
  • 2 large (12-ounce? I'm sorry; I didn't check) blackberries, plus one small container (about 24) for garnish)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Puree blackberries in a food processor or blender. Scrape into a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. With a rubber spatula, work the blackberries through the sieve, leaving seeds behind. Remove 1/4 cup of puree for the frosting. You ought to have a good 3/4 cup of puree left for the cupcakes and 1/2 cup of the puree for the curd. 
  • In small bowl, combine puree, milk, egg, lemon juice, and mix with fork until well blended. In bowl of stand mixer, add sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. Continue beating at slow speed and add the butter. Mix until combined and resembling moist crumbs.
  • Add liquids and beat at medium speed for about 1 minute or until well combined. Stop mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl and fold in whatever is remaining. Resist the urge to beat this stuff silly! Fill cupcake liners on top of baked oatmeal crusts ~3/4 full.
  • Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center cupcake in each pan comes out clean

  • ~ Blackberry-mandarin curd filling ~
    1/2 cup reserved blackberry curd
    3 large egg yolks
    zest of one mandarin orange
    1/2 cup mandarin orange juice
    6 Tbsp. sugar
    4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
Combine egg yolks, zest, lemon juice and sugar in a sauce pan. Set over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook until the mixture has thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and add in butter, one piece at a time. Stir until completely combined. Once completely combined, add in blackberry puree and mix well. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on to the surface of the curd then refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

~ Filling the cupcakes~
Once the cupcakes have cooled, cut out a cone-shaped portion out of the top of each cake. Slice off the excess cake from the cone (leaving the flat cap) and reserve the top. Fill the resulting hole with about a tablespoon of the blackberry-mandarin curd filling, then replace the cap. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.

There was just no way to take a pretty picture of this, but you get the idea

Whew - almost done! Just the frosting left!

2 sticks butter, softened
1/4 cup blackberry puree
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 - 5 cups powdered sugar
2 -3 tablespoons milk (if needed)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend together the butter, puree, vanilla, and salt until mixed well. Add in the powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, and mix into the butter, starting out at a low speed and gradually increasing the speed until it is all nice and incorporated. If the mixture seems too stiff, add milk; if it seems too loose, add more sugar. I like a consistency that will pipe well though a pastry tube, but you can just spread it on with a butter knife or spatula too. No worries.

Pipe the frosting onto all of your cupcakes and then garnish as desired - I used clear edible glitter and a fresh blackberry on the top of each one (you do want to have your garnish give a clue as to what is inside the cupcakes. Although, in this case, I guess the oatmeal cookie bottom is a complete surprise. Oh well. This was two weeks ago, people! I've moved on. 

I do hope you have enjoyed reading along, though!

They're coming to get you, Barbara...with all of their antioxidants!
This was the runner-up for the cover photo, but I still really liked it. Lopsidedness and all.
You should see me pick out a Christmas tree!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cherry Cheesecake Cupcakes

If you like to bake and your circle of acquaintances knows this, the inevitable is going to happen.
"Hey, I have a birthday/bridal shower/World of sale/Mary Kay party/Art Show (I need to stop but I am having fun with this)...Can you make some cupcakes?"
Hapless Baker - "Sure, what kind would you like?"
Person - "Oh, whatever you think."

SO not helpful. Not at all. You might not like what I like. I might not like what you like. I just want to make it well and make you happy and how am I to know that you can't actually eat any fruit or that you only like whipped cream frosting but it has to be non-dairy and that you're allergic to nuts and oh one person is vegan so just leave the eggs out of that one, all right? 

I guess I'm begging for communication. Goodness knows I am learning enough about everyone and their second cousins on FB so one would think an allergy would be an easy addition to normal conversation.

Actually, nothing of the sort happened with these cupcakes. These were for a friend, and it was her birthday, and I offered to make cupcakes. While she did start off with, "oh...whatever" - I do know her a little better than that so with some poking I got enough to go off and I think she liked them. I dunno. Haven't seen her since.

Making this all about me for a moment, I have let the idea of a cheesecake cupcake flit across my mind a few times, but the truth is, I just don't love cheesecake all that much so it's not high on my list. I do like cherries but I like them really really tart. However, it seems like most people are fans of the stuff, it would be easy to make and eat and is happy and festive for a birthday. With teenagers. 

And they are good. I loved the graham cracker crust and the mildness of the graham cake with the cream cheese and cherries combined in the filling, and then on top as well. Sweet, nutty, tart, creamy - I do think they were lovely and I think I need to reevaluate my cheesecake position.

So, I do hope they went over well. Happy birthday, Niki! We love you and miss you very much.

On to the cupcakes!

~ Graham Cupcakes ~
For graham bottom:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter, salted
1/4 cup sugar
For cupcakes:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whole milk
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 standard-sized muffin cups with baking liners. Set aside 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs for garnishing at the very end. I just figured I'd mention it now since you have them out and everything already. All right. Moving on...

In a small bowl, combine the 1 cup graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 1/4 cup sugar, mixing until crumbly. Press a small amount into the bottom of each muffin cup, dividing the total evenly, and press down with your fingers to form a smooth(ish) bottom layer. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes and let cool before filling with cupcake batter.

Crispy graham cracker bottoms - please don't skip this step
Cupcakes now:
Beat the butter for about 30 seconds until well creamed. Add the sugars and mix with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in vanilla and mix again.
Combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and powder, and salt into a small bowl. Add in about half of the dry mixture into the butter mixture and stir until combined. Add in the milk and mix well. Finish with the rest of the flour mixture and mix just until combined. 
 Scoop the batter into the muffin cups (the ones you already have the graham cracker crust baked into, remember?) and bake at 350 for about 15 - 18 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean. Let cool in the muffin tins for 2 minutes or so, then remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

~ Cherry Filling & Topping ~ 
12 ounces sweet or sour cherries, pitted (frozen is fine)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar (you can add more or less depending on how sweet your cherries are. So taste for sweetness, but please do that well before the whole "bring to a boil" step, okay?)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water

Place all ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, cook it for an additional one to two minutes then remove from heat. Cool completely.

~ Cream Cheese Filling & Frosting ~
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy and fully combined. Beat in the powdered sugar, lime juice and lime zest, and salt, and beat until mixed together and the consistency you want (it's not going to be as stiff as a regular buttercream, and neither should it be). Set aside about a cup's worth to fill the cupcakes; the rest will be for the frosting.

Ready for assembly? You're almost done, really.

~ Filling the cupcakes ~
Once the cupcakes have cooled, cut out a cone-shaped portion out of the top of each cake. Slice off the excess cake from the cone (leaving the flat cap) and reserve the top. Fill the resulting hole with about a teaspoon of the cream cheese filling, top with about a tablespoon of the cherry filling, then replace the cap. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.

~ Frosting the cupcakes ~
Using a pastry bag fitted with the large round tip, or just a recloseable plastic baggie with the tip cut off, pipe a few rounds of frosting around the top of each cupcake. Basically, you're making a nest for the cherry filling. It doesn't have to be beautiful; mine certainly wasn't. Cover the edges of the cupcake and build up the frosting sides high enough to hold the cherries in. Spoon a bit of the cherry filling into each nest. If desired, sprinkle the reserved graham cracker crumbs (remember those?) around the outside of the cupcakes.  There. Done. Because of the dairy content of these, store them in the refrigerator but try to let them come to about room temperature before serving.
Man, this thing looks ugly. Tastes good, though. This is just so you can see the truth of what you're getting.
Which is why we keep some things that are inside us, well, inside us. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

King Cake Cupcakes

Filling shot. These cupcakes were at the warm side of room temperature, and so were exceptionally gooey.
Happy Mardi Gras, all y'all! I wonder, sometimes, if the fact that I'm in California means that I have to eventually turn in my Southerner card. I still think wistfully of Mobile, Alabama as my real home, regardless of how long it's been since I've lived or even visited there. And despite the fact that there are (count them) four different kinds of chicken sausage in my freezer and both chevre and marinated beets in my fridge and at least 6 bottles of mineral water in my pantry. I'm still no Californian - I just live here.

And you do realize that Mobile has the oldest recorded celebration of Mardi Gras in this country, don't you (c'est vrai - look it up)? Chew on that, New Orleans!

Or, chew on this (segue! segue!) - I've made (and eaten) my share of King Cakes and I thought it would be fun to make a cupcake that is (loosely) based on that idea. What we have here is a cinnamon cupcake with an almond crust, filled with a cream cheese filling and topped with an almond buttercream. It's actually pretty simple, especially for me. And it's darn tasty. But no, it's not exactly like a king cake (almond?!?!). For one thing, no one actually likes to eat king cake (snerk). It's usually really dry and not that sweet. The reason you eat a king cake is that you want to get the weird looking plastic baby that is hidden inside (tucked in after the fact, not baked in. That would be strange even for us). Getting the baby means either that you are king for the day or that you need to provide the king cake next year. These cupcakes have no baby hidden in them, simply because the folks out here would be wildly startled to find a creepy plastic baby in their baked goods. Or they'd choke on it. And since I'm taking many of these to work, that would not be career-enhancing.

Anyhow, people eat the king cake to get to the baby, and then enjoy the really good food. Jambalaya! Gumbo! Muffalettas! Po' boys! Yum! I plan to make some jambalaya myself...with my portobello-swiss chicken sausage...kidding! To the cupcakes...and laissez les bon temps rouler!

King Cake Cupcakes

makes about 30 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup and one 6-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners. Set aside.

~ Almond Crust ~
2 cups ground almonds (coarsely ground in food processor; see photo below)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients together in a small bowl. Press a bit more than a tablespoon's worth of the mixture into each cupcake liner, pressing down with your clean fingers to make a smooth, even layer. Bake in the preheated oven for 6 - 7 minutes or until the crusts are just starting to brown. Use your senses here - if you can smell the nuts, these are probably ready. If you smell burning, you're done. Start over. Set the crusts aside to cool while you make the batter.
Ground about like this. You're not making almond meal or anything.
Check out my helper!
He did a fine job, too.
This is about the color you're looking for.

Wow, I said there wouldn't be an process photos last blog and there weren't - I guess I am making up for it now. Anyways...

~ Cinnamon Cupcakes ~

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat just until butter melts; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar until thick enough for the batter to fall in a heavy ribbon when the beater is lifted, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Add in flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and beat just until blended. Beat in the milk-butter mixture just until blended. Divide batter evenly among the cupcake liners. Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. While cupcakes are cooling, prepare the cream cheese filling.

~ Cream Cheese Filling ~
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 - 4 cups powdered sugar

Beat together the cream cheese and butter until well-combined. Add in the vanilla and salt and mix in. A cup at a time, beat in the powdered sugar. You are aiming for a not to sweet mixture that is nowhere near stiff enough to pipe on a cupcake ('cause it's a filling, not a frosting, see?). Three cups will probably do it. You can go for four if you're nervous.

~ Filling the cupcakes ~
Once the cupcakes have cooled, cut out a cone-shaped portion out of the top of each cake. Slice off the excess cake from the cone (leaving the flat cap) and reserve the top. Fill the resulting hole with about a tablespoon of the cream cheese filling, then replace the cap. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.
Don't worry if your cupcake runneth over. You're going to be covering all this with frosting.
~ Almond Frosting ~
1 cup butter, room temperature
1/8 - 1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 - 9 cups powdered sugar

Beat the butter in an electric stand mixture until smooth and creamy. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts and the salt, and beat in until well-combined. Add in the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, adding in the milk as needed for consistency. You are going for a frosting that is stiff enough to pipe on but is still nice and smooth and creamy.

Pipe or spread on the frosting onto the filled cupcakes. If desired, garnish in Mardi Gras style (purple, gold, and green sprinkles - or edible glitter as I used). Now eat up, and share with your friends!
The filling has firmed up a little in this shot.
This picture makes me ready for Lent. Eat up! The Lord is just waiting for Wednesday!