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Archive for the ‘cupcakes’ Category

Forgive me if the title of this blog post is a little misleading. This post isn’t really about a recipe for sweet biscuits layered with whipped cream and strawberries. It’s about strawberry cupcakes, which I suppose isn’t too far off, since there’s cake and strawberries involved.

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No, it wasn’t the similarity in ingredients that led me to think of strawberry shortcake. Actually, the world of Strawberry Shortcake came to mind when I made these cupcakes — the world of Strawberryland, where Strawberry Shortcake lives in her strawberry shortcake house, lunches on cake with friends, and tends her strawberry gardens. The Strawberry Shortcake cartoon specials aired even before I could start remembering these things, but I do recall playing with the dolls. I even had a plastic doll of the Peculiar Purple Pie Man, the villain of Strawberryland. Come to think of it, I would contort him into the most awkward positions.

Anyway. I should get back to the cupcakes.

The base for these cupcakes, a moist white cake, was transformed into a strawberry cake with the incorporation of a concentrated puree of strawberries. The original white cake recipe was modified using some odd calculations I had made to balance the amount of oil and liquid in the cake batter.

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The cupcakes came out a perfect blush pink and were full of strawberry flavor. As Strawberry Shortcake would say, they were “berry” delicious. Nestling a strawberry half into the frosting of each cupcake, I imagined the happy land of strawberries and sweets, and houses made of pies and cakes.

Can you imagine living in a house made of cake? I would love that.

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Strawberry Puree

This “puree” is made without a blender. In a pot, slowly mash one pound of frozen strawberries (thawed or not) with a spatula over medium-low heat. The resulting puree makes up about 1-1/3 to 1-1/2 cups. Cook the strawberry puree further. This reduces the volume of liquid in the puree, allowing for easier adaptation of the white cake recipe. [It took about 15 to 20 minutes to reduce the volume to about one-half (3/4 cup), although I was pretty bad about recording how much time it took. It takes some time, so be patient.] 1/2 cup of this concentrated puree is then added to the cake batter. (You can make use of the leftover portion by making dessert with it. Mix it into some vanilla ice cream to get a great-tasting strawberry ice cream.)

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Strawberry Cake
Adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated white cake recipe
Makes 24 cupcakes or a 9-inch round cake.

2-1/4 cups cake flour
3/4 cup reduced fat milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature (If you have frozen egg whites, you can use these as well. It is recommended to keep frozen egg whites in the freezer for no longer than a couple of weeks, but mine had been frozen for at least a couple of months, and they worked just fine for this purpose. As a note, 4 of the 6 egg whites I used were previously frozen.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks), softened but still cool
1/2 cup concentrated strawberry puree

1. Set oven rack in middle position. Preheat oven to 350° F. Place cupcake liners in tins.
2. Pour milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract into a bowl large enough to fit 2 cups, and mix with fork until blended.
3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder at a low speed. Add butter. Continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs.
4. Add half of the milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for about a minute and a half.
5. To the remaining half of the milk mixture, add the concentrated strawberry puree and mix with a whisk until homogenous. Add this to the batter and beat for 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.
6. Spoon batter into prepared tins, 2/3 to 3/4 full. The volume of batter should be the perfect amount for 24 cupcakes. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until toothpick tester comes out clean, rotating three-quarters of the way through. (My cupcakes were ready by 22 minutes.)
7. Let cupcakes rest in pans for 3 minutes before taking them out of the tins. Let cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Cream Cheese Frosting
(Feel free to reduce this recipe by 1/3. Making the full amount will give you lots of leftover frosting, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.)

1/2 cup (1 stick butter), room temperature
2 – 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract

1. Beat butter and cream cheese together on high for about 30 seconds until soft.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing at low speed to incorporate.
3. Add vanilla extract and beat until smooth and creamy.

Assembly

After the cupcakes have cooled completely, pipe on the frosting. I used a round tip, continually piping the frosting onto the center of the cupcake and keeping the tip submerged in the frosting to let the frosting ooze and creep out to the sides of the cupcake. I also used the tip (no pressure applied) to flatten out the blob of frosting, in one swirly motion.

Wash and dry 12 fresh strawberries. Keeping the stems attached, slice each strawberry in half, from head to toe. Blot cut ends on a paper towel and place one strawberry half on top of each cupcake, slightly pressing the strawberry into the frosting.

If you wish to make these in advance, add the fresh strawberries just before you are ready to serve the cupcakes. Cupcakes should keep for a few days, refrigerated in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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salted caramel

You can find salted caramel everywhere these days. In the confectionaries, ice cream shops, cupcakeries, you name it. Oh no, I’m not complaining. Not at all. You see, I have always loved caramel. And the salt? There’s just something about the salty-and-sweet that makes the party in your mouth all the more ragin’. Take honey-roasted peanuts, for example. If I’m not careful, I can polish off a whole can by myself. Salty + Sweet = Addictive. So bring on the salted caramel!

I made these salted caramel cupcakes for a group of high school students, and by 2nd period, they became a quickly sought-after breakfast. Some students had seconds, and even thirds. (Teenage metabolism — I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have one. I ate so much junk in high school.)

Since nothing goes better with caramel than chocolate, it had to be a chocolate cupcake with caramel frosting. And just when it couldn’t get any better, it was topped with Heath Bar bits.

salted caramel
The recipes for the chocolate cupcake and caramel buttercream can be found here and here. For salted caramel buttercream, I increased the amount of salt in the caramel buttercream recipe to 1 Tbsp, so take note. It sounds like a lot of salt, but with the brown sugar, and later the addition of confectioner’s sugar, it will taste just right.

salted caramel & chocolate
In a couple of hours we will be heading off to the airport. We’ll be flying to Europe to see our friends in Leuven and London. Stay tuned to read about our adventures. I am so excited!

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spring beckons

Snow came in a flurry late Wednesday night of last week, sugaring the rooftops and grass with a thick layer of soft powder. Even then, the dripping snow-laden branches and the rapidly melting sidewalks the next morning hinted that spring was just around the corner. Lately, the days have been starting bright, with a burst of sunshine. Sometimes the clouds take over, and sometimes yet even the rain. But by afternoon the sun makes a break for it, and Seattle is again embraced by a glowing warmth.

For some reason, I find myself associating the spring season with lemons. It is as though the bright, cheery yellow lemons symbolize my anticipation for the season to come. So when a friend requested cupcakes for a gathering this past weekend, I couldn’t help thinking of lemon cupcakes.

On a trip to Trader Joe’s, I helped myself to a package of four Meyer lemons. The Meyer lemon, according to some web searches, is a cross between a lemon and an orange (perhaps a Mandarin orange), and was brought over to the states from China in 1908 by a fellow who worked for the USDA, named F. Meyer. It has since then gone through some genetic variation, to make it disease-free. I wonder if this fruit is still thriving in the mainland, and if so, whether the Chinese even use it today.

With Meyer lemons being the popular fruit of the day — said to have been brought into fame by Alice Waters and Martha Stewart — I wanted to see for myself what this fruit was all about. I found the Meyer lemon, compared to the traditional supermarket lemon, rounder, thinner-skinned and smoother, sweeter (I took a bite of the flesh), more golden-orangeish in color when it further ripens, and more difficult to juice. (Because I have no juicing device, I usually use my fingers to squeeze the pulp against the walls of the lemon after the initial Pac-Man squeezes. But since the thin-skinned phenotype also seems to be evident inside the Meyer lemon, I noticed that the skin separating the segments collapsed more easily and prevented efficient pulp-squeezing against the walls.)

Regardless of the difficulty I had in juicing the Meyer lemons, I had fun with them. I made Meyer lemon cupcakes filled with Meyer lemon curd, topped with a raspberry buttercream. In addition, I made some candied lemon zest for a tasty decoration.

meyer lemon-raspberry cupcake

Meyer Lemon & Raspberry Cupcakes
makes 12-16 cupcakes (depends on desired size of cupcakes) / 350 degree oven

1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp fresh meyer lemon juice
1 tsp grated meyer lemon zest

1. Beat butter on high speed until creamy.
2. Add sugar. Beat until light and fluffy.
3. Add eggs one at a time. Beat for 30 seconds after each addition.
4. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
5. Measure out and combine 1 cup milk, juice, and zest.
6. Add flour mixture to creamed butter/eggs/sugar in four additions, alternating with liquid mixture.
7. Fill cupcake liners with batter up to 3/4 to >3/4 full. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate, bake for another 5 minutes.
8. When cupcakes are cool, make an indentation in the center of each cupcake. Fill with meyer lemon curd. (I also smothered the tops of the cupcakes with lemon curd.)
9. Pipe on raspberry buttercream, add candied lemon zest.

lemon curd

Lemon Curd (Saveur)
makes 1-1/4 cups

2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
6 tbsp. sugar
1⁄3 cup fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
5 tbsp. cold butter, cut into pieces (I forgot to whisk in the butter, but the curd was still delicious.)

1. Whisk together egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl until well combined.
2. Set bowl over a medium pot of simmering water over medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until thick, 8–10 minutes.
3. Whisk in butter, a few pieces at a time, until completely incorporated. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover surface with plastic to prevent skin from forming, and set aside to let cool. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

meyer lemon-raspberry cupcake

Raspberry Buttercream

1 cup frozen raspberries
2 tsp lemon juice
1-1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 tbsp raspberry reduction
1 tbsp milk

On medium heat, cook raspberries while mashing them and adding the lemon juice. Continue stirring and reducing the liquid (about 5 minutes) until it has reduced to about 4 tbsp. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, beat the butter until fluffy. Add confectioner’s sugar 1 cup at a time, each time beating on low until incorporated and then on high until fluffy. Add raspberry reduction between second and third additions of sugar, and use as much as desired, according to taste and color. Add last cup of confectioner’s sugar and determine whether it needs thinning out with milk.

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rhubarb cupcakes

Because it’s been awhile since I’ve made these cupcakes (back in February), I have forgotten which cake recipe I used! Please forgive the imperfect recollection of what follows in this post.

rhubarb cupcakes w/ rhubarb jam & toasted almonds

I do recall using a white cake recipe. I included 1-1/2 cups of diced rhubarb, coated with a little bit of flour and mixed into the cake batter. (I would increase this amount to at least 2 cups, as I didn’t think 1-1/2 enough for 24 cupcakes.) I skipped the buttercream frosting this time because I felt that the rhubarb flavor would get lost in the buttercream, after all the sugar is added. I wanted to make a rhubarb jam instead, so that the tartness of the rhubarb would be somewhat retained. To make the jam, I cooked 2 cups of diced rhubarb with 1 cup of sugar over medium heat until the rhubarb cooked down fell apart. When the rhubarb attained jam-like consistency, I tasted it and found that it was lacking in depth. So to the mixture I added a pinch or two of salt. The salt made the jam taste so much better! I spread the rhubarb jam onto the cupcakes, and then sprinkled on some toasted sliced almonds.

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I am too lazy to post the recipes for the following cupcakes, but hopefully I will get around to it someday. The pumpkin-cranberry cupcake (from November) was Thanksgiving-inspired, with fresh cranberries, and a variation on pumpkin bread. The red velvet was something I’ve wanted to try for some time now — can you taste a hint of cocoa in the recipe? Some claim they can; some say it’s imagined. Add a few chocolate chips on top, and I say, ‘you can.’

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Red Velvet cupcake, from this month
red velvet 1
red velvet 2

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I apologize for the long absence, everyone. I have the justice system to thank for the revival of this food blog. I am now on my lunch break at the King County Courthouse, just having been dismissed from serving on a jury for a three to four week-long trial. I thought this would be the perfect time to post a few cupcake pictures from the past few months. Please enjoy.

vanilla with blackberry buttercream
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key lime pie (with pie filling)
key lime pie

cookies ‘n creme (with creme filling)
oreo2

mexican chocolate with dulce de leche
mexican chocolate

tribute to seattle (chocolate with vanilla buttercream)
seattle

lychee with coconut (with lychee jelly filling)
lychee coconut

the snow white (light chocolate cake/vanilla buttercream/bing cherry)
snow white

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Take two of these and call me in the morning.

Yep, these cupcakes turned out to be delicious…AND nutritious, according to some. To all, a unanimous favorite.

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I was searching for recipes on Epicurious when a list for the top five recipes of all time caught my attention. One of the recipes was the double layer chocolate cake that I had mentioned previously. Another was a recipe for a triple-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I recalled making this cake before, so I rummaged through my nicely “organized” stack of recipe print-outs. Folded and slightly rumpled, it looked like it had been put to good use.

I changed the recipe a little, in an attempt to make it more accommodating for cupcakes. The recipe for the cream cheese frosting is perfect as it is. Be prepared to expend a lot of energy grating the carrots…it’s a workout. And watch out for your fingers! (I managed to grate my pinky.)

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Carrot Cupcakes
30 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

2 cups sugar
1-1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk, plus 1/3 cup milk
3 cups finely grated, peeled carrots (about 1 1b)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped raisins (I like using golden raisins b/c they’re more plump and juicy.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Beat sugar and butter until combined and fluffy.
2. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together.
4. Beginning and ending with flour mixture, alternate additions of flour mixture ( divided into 4 parts) and buttermilk/milk mixture (3 parts), mixing well after each addition. Stir in carrots, chopped pecans, and raisins.

Fill lined cupcake tins nearly full (the batter does not rise much). Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating pans three-quarters of the way through. Let cool slightly in the pan then transfer to a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick butter, room temperature
2 – 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract

1. Beat butter and cream cheese together on high for about 30 seconds until soft.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing at low speed to incorporate.
3. Add vanilla extract and beat until smooth and creamy.

Assembly

Pipe cream cheese frosting onto cooled cupcakes. (I used a large round tip.) Top with carrot slices. For decorative carrot slices: Peel carrot, score multiple “V” trenches along the length of the carrot, as evenly spaced out as possible. Discard the flesh in-between, and slice carrot (cross section).

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