Archive | November, 2013

November Monthly Competition

30 Nov

The month of the Thanksgiving Cupcakes is over!  And, the Weekly Winners are definitely a good sampling of holiday cupcake options!  But I can’t believe the 4th month of cupcakes is over!  Wow!!  And, so far, the winning cupcakes (and a lot of the non-winning cupcakes) have been AMAZING!!  Here’s our competitors for today:

Week 13 – Chocolate, Banana, Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Cupcakes

CBPB-CD-Cupcake

Week 14 – Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Marshmallow Buttercream

Frosted-Pumpkin

Week 15 – Brown Butter Cupcakes with Maple Pecan Frosting

BB-Pumpkin-Maple-top

Week 16 – Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

Sweet-Potato-Top

Thanks again to my November Cupcake Panel: members of Local One Stagehand Union – from the crew of Spider-man Turn off the Dark.   And, of course, thanks to my hubby, Ken, for all the filming and original music.

Check back tomorrow when I begin December!!

 

Day 122 – Paleo Diet Carrot Cupcakes

30 Nov

Okay, I have to admit.  I eat pretty much everything.  So, I don’t know much about current diets or diets that have restrictions.  But I have loved being able to learn a little about them doing these “last day” cupcakes!  I’ve done Vegan.  I’ve done just plain healthy.  I hadn’t done Paleo.  Until today.

Paleo Diet Carrot Cupcakes {Gluten-free and Dairy-free} (recipe below from Cupcake Project).  And, my final book: Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake.  (Okay, so not really a book.  A journal.  But, it is the journal where I write down all of my favorite recipes.  So, I guess you could say it’s my favorite book!)

Carrot-Cupcake     Mini-Carrot-Cupcake

The cupcakes are quite heavy and feel thick, but when you bite they’re surprisingly light. Lots of textures, which is nice, but a little muffin-y.  You get mostly spice and nut flavors, between the almond and the pecans. The dates add a nice sweetness to them, without overpowering.

Maple-Frosting

Once the frosting comes together it’s the consistency of mashed potatoes. (Yes, I know that sounds weird, but that’s exactly what it looks like in the bowl.)  The frosting is mostly maple syrup. I wouldn’t know what other ingredient was in it if I hadn’t made it. It’s lighter than a buttercream or a frosting made with shortening, but the flavor is purely maple syrup.

Note: I used my food processor for the frosting. My hand mixer wasn’t doing the job and I don’t have an immersion blender. It worked like a charm!

Paleo-Carrot-Cupcake     Mini-Paleo-Carrot-Cupcake

The frosting is the strongest flavor in this combo, but, after the initial maple syrup flavor, the nuts and the spices do come through. It’s a nice balance. It feels a little like eating a frosted (or buttered) muffin. As my very first Paleo or Gluten-free experience, this is a pretty yummy cupcake!

Notes:  The mini is a very good version of this cupcake. You actually get a little more of the spices than you do in the full-size. And, the frosting is almost glaze-like once it’s on the cupcake. It gets a little messy when you’re eating, so I recommend either having a napkin nearby or eating with a fork.

Scoring Sheet:

  • Cupcake Taste: 3.5
  • Frosting Taste: 3.5
  • Overall Taste: 4
  • Appearance: 3
  • Ease of Making: 3.5 (nothing difficult, but lots of shredded, puree-ing and chopping)
  • TOTAL: 17.5

RECIPE

Paleo Diet Carrot Cupcakes {Gluten-free and Dairy Free} (recipe from Cupcake Project)

Cupcake Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons almond oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, finely chopped (The food processor is the easiest way to do this.)
  • 1/2 cup pureed dates (If you buy dried dates and they are too hard to puree in your food processor, microwave them with a little bit of water to soften them. Strain out any excess water and then puree them.)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Frosting Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons maple syrup

For directions visit Cupcake Project.

Weekly Winner #16

29 Nov

Finishing off November strong!!  What a yummy, food-filled week!  I’d like to say “it’s diet time” but, as this is only Day 121, that would be a lie.  So, instead, I’ll just pick the final Weekly Winner for November!

Mini Carrot Cupcakes

Mini-Carrot-Cupcake

Delightful Devil’s Food Cupcakes

Devils-food-halved

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie Cupcakes

Cookie-cupcake-top

Turtle Cupcakes

Turtle-Cupcake

Maple Buttermilk Pancake Cupcakes

Maple-Pancake-Cupcake

Cranberry White Chocolate Cupcakes

WC-Cranberry-cupcake

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting

Sweet-Potato-Side

Orange Almond Cupcakes

Orange-Almond-Cupcake-side

And, with 20.5 tasty points, the winner is….

Sweet-Potato-Top

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting from Annie’s Eats.  Check out that day here.  And check back tomorrow to see how it does in the Monthly Competition.

Day 121 – Orange Almond Cupcakes

29 Nov

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday yesterday!  I know I did.  Lots of family.  LOTS of food.  And, of course, lots of dessert.  As there should be.

Baking assistants     Pieper whisking     Brinlee Whisking

My nieces, Pieper and Brinlee, were helping me make the cupcakes for our Thanksgiving feast.  We made Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes (day 103) – which is a FANTASTIC recipe if you have little helpers – and Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes (day 65).

cupcakes

But, now that Thanksgiving is officially over, I need a break.  From aggressively rich foods.  Just for a day.  But don’t worry.  They’ll be back!  For today though, I’ll enjoy the lighter side of cupcakes with these Orange Almond Cupcakes (recipe below from Martha Stewart).

And, not the lighter side of reading, today’s book: The Oath by Frank Peretti.

Orange-Almond-Cupcake     Mini-OA-Cupcake

The cupcakes are moist, but not wet. They feel like a cross between a muffin and a cupcake.  They have a nice, light orange flavor, with just a hint of the almond. They’re extremely well-balanced.

Whipped-Cream

The whipped cream is exactly that. Light, fluffy, easy to “dollop”.  I wish there was a little sugar in the whipped cream, cause it isn’t very sweet.

Orange-Almond-Cupcake-side     Mini-OA-Cupcake-side

With the marmalade on top, you don’t miss the sugar in the whipped cream. The cupcake has a nice, sweet, orange taste with a very faint tartness. It’s extremely well-balanced and extremely light. This would be amazing at a brunch or tea!

Orange-Almond-Cupcake-top     Mini-OA-Cupcake-top

Note: The minis are a great example and a nice little bite-sized version.

Scoring Sheet:

  • Cupcake Taste: 4
  • Frosting Taste: 3
  • Overall Taste: 4
  • Appearance: 4
  • Ease of Making: 4 (I don’t always love having to dirty my food processor, but it isn’t a hard recipe.)
  • TOTAL: 19

RECIPE

Orange Almond Cupcakes (recipe from Martha Stewart)

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup sweet orange marmalade
  • 1 cup natural almonds
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream, whipped to medium peaks

For directions visit Martha Stewart.

*Tomorrow: Gluten-free & Dairy-free Carrot Cupcakes*

Day 120 – Sweet Potato Cupcakes

28 Nov

Listen.  I warned you yesterday.  The Thanksgiving Cupcakes are here!  But, that’s because Thanksgiving is here!!  I hope you all (well…those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving) have a wonderful holiday.  Enjoy today’s Tip Video.  Brought to you especially from me and my baking assistant (aka my niece), Pieper!

Now, these Sweet Potato Cupcakes (recipe below from Annie’s Eats) will be a perfect finale to your turkey dinner.  And, they’ll make a great midnight snack.  Probably not a bad leftover breakfast tomorrow either.  Just sayin’.

Today’s Book: Code of the West by Aaron Latham.

Cupcake     Mini-Cupcake

The cakes are extremely squishy, almost doughy and moist.  The cakes have a very even, yummy flavor. They are sweet, but not sugary, with a nice hint of the cinnamon spice.

Marshmallow-Frosting

The frosting is smooth and creamy. It is a little soft, but once you brulee (or broil) the top, it holds its shape nicely.  It has a sweet vanilla flavor. A very typical egg white frosting.

Sweet-Potato-Side     Mini-SP-side

This cupcake is so smooth and soft when it’s all put together, it almost feels like you should use a spoon. The little bit of brown sugar on the top gives it a nice balance with the brulee’d frosting. It’s extremely yummy. And a perfect addition to the holidays!

Notes: The minis are an extremely accurate version of this cupcake. And, a little dangerous, as they are bite-sized and it’s easy to eat several of them…

Sweet-Potato-Top     Mini-Sweet-Potato-Cupcake

Scoring Sheet:

  • Cupcake Taste: 4
  • Frosting Taste: 4
  • Overall Taste: 4.5
  • Appearance: 4
  • Ease of Making: 4 (baking the sweet potatoes takes a little time, but there’s really nothing to it.)
  • TOTAL: 20.5

Also, interesting facts about sweet potatoes vs yams.  I could only find “yams” at my local markets, so I looked up the difference. This is what I found thanks to Huffington Post:

 Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) come in two main varieties here in the States. One has a golden skin with creamy white flesh and a crumbly texture. The other has a copper skin with an orange flesh that is sweet and soft. All sweet potato varieties generally have the same shape and size — they are tapered at the ends and much smaller than the aforementioned yams.

Americans have been calling the orange-fleshed variety of sweet potatoes “yams” since colonial times when Africans saw familiarities in them to the tuberous variety. The USDA decided to label them as “yams” to differentiate the two varieties. Both varieties of sweet potato, including “yams” can be widely found in supermarket.

Yams (family Dioscoreaceae) are native to Africa and Asia and other tropical regions. Yams are starchy tubers that have an almost black bark-like skin and white, purple or reddish flesh and come in many varieties. The tubers can be as small as regular potatoes or grow upwards of five feet long.

The word yam comes from an African word, which means “to eat.” The yam holds great importance as a foodstuff because it keeps for a long time in storage and is very valuable during the wet season, when food is scarce. For eating, yams are typically peeled, boiled and mashed or dried and ground into a powder that can be cooked into a porridge. Yams can be found in international markets, such as those that specialize in Caribbean foods.

RECIPE

Sweet Potato Cupcakes (recipe from Annie’s Eats)

For the cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups lightly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups sweet potato puree*
6 tbsp. maple syrup
½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting:
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For directions visit Annie’s Eats.

*Tomorrow: Orange Almond Cupcakes*

Day 119 – Cranberry White Chocolate Cupcakes

27 Nov

Okay.  I’m getting into the full swing of Thanksgiving baking now.  (Yes, I know I’ve been doing Pumpkin for quite some time, but…now it’s time to get really serious.)  Thanksgiving flavors already make some pretty amazing desserts, but I can’t say I’ve ever had a Thanksgiving Cupcake. And, I mean, a legit Thanksgiving flavor turned cupcake.

That’s all about to change.

Cranberry White Chocolate Cupcakes (recipe below from Carosello).  And, because it seems a fitting title, today’s book: Happiness TM by Will Ferguson.

Cranberry-Cupcake     Mini-Cranberry-Cupcake

The cupcakes are thick and a little on the dry side.  Look at how beautiful they are all by themselves – the cranberries and the white chocolate chips!  These are very interesting because there are so many aspects. The cranberries and very tart and juicy, which the white chocolate chips counter really nicely. The cake itself is sweet, but mostly just a blank slate for the other pieces.

White-Chocolate-Frosting

The frosting is thick and creamy.  It has a buttercream flavor, but with a nice hint of the white chocolate. It makes it seem a little less sugary than a typical buttercream.

WC-Cranberry-cupcake     Mini-WC-Cranberry

The first (and strongest) thing you get from these cupcakes is cranberries. They’re slightly too strong for my liking, cause the whole cupcake then seems very tart. Next time I would LOAD on the frosting and just do a dab of the cranberry “filling” in the middle. It would look equally as cute, but would balance the flavors a lot better. Overall though, a really tasty cupcake, especially for anyone who loves cranberries.

WC-Cranberry-cupcake-top     Mini-WC-Cranberry-top

Note: The full-sized cupcakes have an overall better flavor, but the minis aren’t bad at all.

Scoring Sheet:

  • Cupcake Taste: 3.5
  • Frosting Taste: 4.5
  • Overall Taste: 4
  • Appearance: 4.5 (so original!)
  • Ease of Making: 3 (there are 3 parts, but none of them are even remotely difficult)
  • TOTAL: 19.5

RECIPE

Cranberry White Chocolate Cupcakes (recipe below from Carosello)

Ingredients:
6 ounces of white chocolate chips
3/4 cup of softened butter
1 cup of brown sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup of cake flour
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of orange zest
2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/4 cup of fresh cranberries

Frosting and Cranberry Topping:
1/2 can of whole cranberry jelly
1/4 cup of cranberry juice
2 tablespoons of sugar

8 ounces of white chocolate
1 cup of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 tablespoons of milk
3-4 cups of powdered sugar (or until desired consistency)

For directions visit Carosello.

*Tomorrow: Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting*

Day 118 – Maple Buttermilk Pancake Cupcakes

26 Nov

I love breakfast.  I love pancakes.  Waffles.  Maple Syrup.  Bacon.  Sausage.  Seriously!  Love breakfast.  So, I couldn’t believe when I found these Maple Buttermilk Pancake Cupcakes (recipe below from The Extraordinary Art of Cake).  Breakfast in a cupcake?!  Really?!?!  YES!!!!!!  Enjoy my breakfast gift to you while you check out today’s book: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

Pancake-Cupcake     Mini-Pancake-Cupcake

The cupcakes are very dense and bouncy. They aren’t moist, but they’re not dry either, just right in the middle.  They have a very strong ginger flavor (the minis even more so). I would maybe add just slightly less ginger to the recipe. Otherwise they do taste and feel like a really thick and hearty pancake.

Maple-Buttercream

The frosting is extremely soft and very sticky, which makes piping a bit of a challenge. Make sure you pop it in the fridge for at least an hour so it’ll harden up a little. (That being said, I also recommend making the frosting, then the cupcakes, so you’re not wasting time just waiting.)  Oh. My. Gosh. This is so yummy. I wish you could taste it right now. I would put this frosting on actually cupcakes – forget the butter and syrup – it’s fantastic!

Maple-Pancake-Cupcake     Mini-Maple-Pancake-Cupcake

First, without the bacon on top, this is a nice combo. The simplicity of the cupcake’s taste really let’s the frosting shine without being overwhelming. Now, when you add the bacon. It’s like a whole new level. No joke. The bacon really cuts through some of the sweetness of the frosting and brings out the spice in the cupcake. It’s like taking a big ole pancake, smothering it in butter and syrup, putting crispy bacon in the center, rolling it up and stuffing your face. If that sound like something you’d do, you should try these!

Maple-Pancake-Cupcake-side

Notes: from start to finish, these cupcakes made my house smell amazing! From the maple syrup to the pancake cupcakes to the bacon – YUM!

Scoring Sheet:

  • Cupcake Taste: 3
  • Frosting Taste: 4.5
  • Overall Taste: 4.5
  • Appearance: 4
  • Ease of Making: 3.5 (I’m not really counting bacon as a full “part” cause it doesn’t actually take very much time or effort.)
  • TOTAL: 19.5

RECIPE

Maple Buttermilk Pancake Cupcakes (recipe from The Extraordinary Art of Cake)

Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick or 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped
Frosting
1 cup of softened, unsalted butter
3 ounces of cream cheese, also softened
2/3 cup of dark-brown sugar (I use golden)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup of maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup of confectioners’ (icing) sugar

For directions visit The Extraordinary Art of Cake.

*Tomorrow: Cranberry White Chocolate Cupcakes*

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