Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Samoa Cupcakes

I hosted a CAbi party at my house last weekend and I knew one good way to get people over to my house was to bribe entice them with cupcakes.  It's sneaky.  Rather sneaky.

I knew that since the party was to be 'fashioned based' my cupcakes better come dressed for the party.  And did they ever!

I saw these sinful silhouettes over at Fields of Cake a few weeks ago and I nearly fell over.  THANKFULLY, I had made the deadline for hunting down a few boxes of Girl Scout cookies last minute.  And when I say, last minute, I mean checking the girl scout website for locations the night before they were set to close up shop, calling said locations, and then peeling into the parking lot at said location 30 minutes before girl scout table shut down, and knocking a few people over with my grocery cart on the way in.  It had to be done.  I meant serious business.

Meanwhile, I get home and realize I made a stupid mistake.  Stupid.  I only bought 2 boxes of Samoas.  Meaning....I only bought enough to make these once.  ONCE.  What was I thinking?  I could have thrown a few boxes of these things in my freezer.  Ugh.  Kicking my own leg....

Anyway, I will mention as a side note, since I was terribly rude to post these when you probably cannot get Samoas anywhere, that these cupcakes actually TASTE like a Samoa so there is no need to put the cookie on top.  It's for looks...and to tell the looker, "Hey, I am a Samoa cupcake, see?"  There are a few things you can do to the top that would probably really make it look like a Samoa, such as: drizzling more ganache on top with the caramel as well as drizzling a bit of coconut on top.  That should do it.

Besides the look of these cakes, I was really interested in the way she made her frosting.  It was something I have never seen anywhere and I read a lot of cake books, and A LOT of food blogs.  She used pudding mix.  I think this replaces a lot of the sugar because, well, pudding mix is basically sugar.  I must say, it creates a very dense flavor without that 'sugar in your face' flavor.  I might have to experiment with this stuff a bit more.  Plus, its super easy to make.

I changed a few of the recipes and ways this was made....so here we go.  

First, what's in this thing anyway?

Lets start with the bottom and work our way to the top:

Cookie Crust bottom
Chocolate cupcake
Chocolate coconut caramel filling
Chocolate ganache
Coconut Rum buttercream
Vanilla caramel
Samoa Cookie

Now before you freak out- yes.  This has a lot of components.  This is true.  BUT all components come together pretty quickly and you can break it down and do each over the course of a day or so.

Cookie Crust
9 oz. cookies (I used TJ's mini choc chip cookies but you can use shortbread cookies and add a few tablespoons of mini chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons toasted coconut
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter melted

Put ingredients (except for the butter) in a ziploc and roll a rolling pin over it to break it down into small pieces. Add the butter and mix around until all combined. Spoon about a tablespoon into each cupcake liner and tap it down with the back of the spoon. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Let cool and make your cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcake for pictures, click here.

Beaty’s Chocolate CupcakesFrom: Ina Garten

1 ¾ Cups all-purpose flour
2 Cups granulated sugar
¾ Cup good cocoa powder (I used Callebaut)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. kosher salt
1 Cup buttermilk
½ Cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 Cup freshly brewed hot coffee (I used a French roast)

1. In a large mixing bowl: Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt together.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla.
3. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry with the mixer on LOW.
4. With the mixer still running on low, add the coffee and mix just until combined.
5. Warning: Batter will be VERY thin (so thin you may think you are missing something)
6. Pour batter into cupcake liners or use an ice cream scoop. Fill 3/4 full.
7. Bake cupcakes for 17-22 minutes at 350 or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Caramel Filling
Recipe derived from Fields of Cake

1/3 cup toasted coconut chopped (mush them up a bit with your fingers)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup corn syrup
pinch sea salt (fine)
1/2 Cup water
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter cut into 6 chunks
1/2 Cup heavy cream (room temp)
2 teaspoons coconut extract
1 teaspoon rum extract

Make sure all of your ingredients are measured out and sitting by the stove.  Caramel moves fast and everything need s to be ready.

In a heavy bottomed sauce pot, combine:  sugar, corn syrup, salt and water.  Whisk until mixture comes to a bowl and sugar dissolves. Cover pot for about 2 minutes and allow the steam to clean the sides of the pot.   Uncover and turn burner to high. Boil mixture without stirring until it reaches 315 degrees, this will take awhile.  (It took mine over 5 minutes but keep an eye on it and don't leave that stove!) Remove from the heat and swirl the pot.  (Mixture should be a light amber color).  Gently drop in the butter pieces and whisk.  Pour in the cream, and whisk again.  Stir in the extract.  Set aside about a cup of caramel (for the finishing drizzle).  Then add coconut, and chocolate chips to the caramel in the saucepan.  Don't worry, the chocolate chips are supposed to melt.  

Coconut Rum Buttercream
Recipe derived from Fields of Cake

1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature
1,  3-ounce package white chocolate pudding mix
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon rum extract
2 teaspoons coconut extract
1 cup powdered sugar 

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter and pudding mix on high for about 5 minutes until fluffy.  Scrape down sides and add cream and extract.  Beat on high for another 5 minutes.  Turn mixer to stir and add powdered sugar.  Beat on medium high until combined.  Taste and adjust sugar and flavorings.

Chocolate Ganache

6 oz dark chocolate, chopped 
3/4 cup heavy cream

Put chocolate in a large bowl.  Put heavy cream in a microwavable measuring cup and microwave for about 1-2 minutes (until hot).  Pour cream over the chocolate and stir until confirmed.

To assemble:
(after cupcakes have cooled completely) cone out a nickel size hole with a pairing knife.  Pull out cupcake piece and reserve.  Fill with about a teaspoon of the chocolate coconut caramel mixture.  Put cupcake 'cork' back in.  Top with chocolate ganache. (I tipped the cupcakes over into the ganache and swirled them to stand them up).  I then put them in the refrigerator to set the ganache.  Pipe butter cream on.  Drizzle caramel on top of buttercream (the plain stuff without the chocolate/coconut).  Tip: don't put warm caramel on top it will melt the buttercream.  Top with a cookie.  EAT!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cupcakes with Chantilly Cream

My daughter had, yet another, birthday party this weekend.  This time, it was a joint party at a 'kid gym' for her and all her little friends that were born within the same month.  It was fun watching all the little ones play around on the mats and slides.  It's hard to believe I was a brand new mom this time last year.  I remembered sitting back at some point and thinking....how on earth did I get here???  I vividly remember playing outside at recess myself, and now, I am someone's mother?  This is crazy.

Anyway, to keep things simple, and somewhat less messy, and less sugary, I decided to make the kids vanilla bean angel food cupcakes with Chantilly cream.  The original recipe contained a yummy raspberry filling but since we would be at a place without high chairs or anything to contain our 'on the go' little ones, I omitted that.  These were light, spongy little cakes with just the right amount of sweetness from the cream.  I know my little G loved them as did many of the parents.  

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the leftover 10 egg yolks!

Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cupcakes
Recipe derived from Food and Wine

Makes between 24-30 (depending on how you fill them)

1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
10 large egg whites (1 1/4 cups), at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 plump vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Chantilly Cream Frosting

2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Fill cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a small bowl, sift the cake flour with the confectioners' sugar. In a large bowl attached to stand mixer, combine the egg whites with the salt, vanilla seeds and cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Add Vanilla, beat again.  Gradually beat in the granulated sugar, until the whites are firm and glossy. Fold in the flour mixture in two parts with a large rubber spatula just until combined.  You don't want to over beat or mix this with the mixer because you will deflate the egg whites.
  2. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups all the way to the top. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, shifting the pan from front to back, until the cupcakes are springy and golden. Transfer the cupcakes to a rack to cool.
  3. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat cream on medium low until the cream starts to thicken.  Turn mixer up with high until soft peaks form.  Turn mixer down to stir and add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Mix on high until you get between soft and firm peaks.  Put cream into a piping back with piping tip of your choice.  Pipe into cupcakes and top with a raspberry.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Floral Fondant Zucchini Carrot Cake

Tuesday was my last day of my Gum Paste and Fondant class with Wilton.  We had to do only one cake for the class --at the very end.  Thank goodness for that since my daughters birthday party nearly knocked me on my rear end.

I researched for a design from the first day of class.  But I hadn't quite decided on what to do until the Sunday before my last class.  I was initially so caught up in trying out a new cake flavor that I sort of put the design on the back burner.  I ended up going with something I knew would be good, in fear I would be left with some disappointing, dry cake.

For me, design always mattered in my cakes but flavor always took the front seat.  I think this is because I've had cakes time and time again at countless weddings, only to be left disappointed.  Lets face it, wedding cake tastes like crap.  Its always dry, the frosting tastes like a spoonful of gritty sugar, (reminiscent of a grocery store cake), and the designs most times remind me of something out of an 80's music video.  I don't get it.  It shouldn't be complicated.  Most times, simple is just better.  And if its good, who really cares?

But I care.  I care about it all.  I want it to look good, and I want it to taste good!

So after leafing through my Wilton instruction book I wasn't completely satisfied and turned to the net.  What did people do before Google?

I found this beautiful cake and while it didn't really provide much instruction at all on what to do, I knew that if I just got the right molds, I could plop myself in front of the Bachelor and just make it work.  A few hours of molding rose petal leaves, I was worried.  I couldn't quite see the big picture.  I wasn't sure how I was going to put these flowers together, and I wasn't sure if I should wait until they were completely dry (something I didn't really have a lot of time for as time was of the essence at this point).  I tried both methods, proving that these needed to be somewhat dry, and somewhat wet.

From the pictures you can't tell that it was my first time as a novice, but I am of course my worse critic and can see many of the mistakes and flaws.  Overall, I was very pleased with the outcome.  I loved the look, I loved the color, I loved it ALL!

After I added the black center, I was super excited to bring these to class, but also hoping I wasn't going to be in trouble for showing up with flowers that weren't shown to us in class.  HA!

My one problem?  Getting these darn flowers to stick...and stay stuck!  The flowers were so heavy it was a bit of an issue.  If anyone has suggestions....I'm certainly open for them.

I have to say, I came home with a big smile on my face.  I really felt I had accomplished something.  I feel like I've finally begun to figure some things out.  This is what I think I was meant to do.  It's taken 29 years.  I guess its better late than never.  Who knew cake could make you feel this good?

The cake was made with homemade marshmallow fondant.  I used this recipe.

The cake is a Zucchini Carrot Cake.

Zucchini Carrot Spice Cake

Recipe by:  Courtney Monigold
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon clove
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups zucchini, shredded
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2, 8-inch round cake pans with parchment on the bottom and spray with pam and lightly dust with flour.  Put pans on a large baking sheet.  Set aside.
In large bowl #1: Combine flour, baking powder, kosher salt, baking soda, cinnamon, clove, allspice, vanilla powder, and sugar. Whisk together to combine.
In small bowl #2: Combine eggs, vanilla extract, and oil. Whisk to combine.
Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Just as the flour mixture is combined, add the zucchini and carrots. Mix only until combined. You do NOT want to over mix the batter.
Divide batter into 2 8-inch round pans.  Bake for 30-35 minutes and rotate the pans at the half way point (not before). Mine took about 30 minutes.  I usually start checking my cakes about 5 minutes before I think it will be done.  When the cake tester comes out clean, it's done.

The frosting is an Swiss Meringue Buttercream
from Martha Stewart.  I will mention as a side note, that SMB is extremely soft at room temp.  With that said, the filling sometimes can ooze out.  While this is the frosting of choice for me (its SO darn good), It can be extremely difficult to work with when fondant is concerned.  I refrigerated my frosted cake overnight before covering with fondant.  Generally, though refrigerating a cake can dry it out.  Thankfully, this cake, it was not an issue at all.  For the recipe, click here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Nursery Rhyme Birthday Party

I normally don't post specifically about events but since this was a pretty significant event in MY life, I decided it was just too big not to post about it.

I remember talking to my neighbor about the first birthday celebration when I was pregnant.  Our conversation is still so vivid in my mind.  She said, "Your life changes so much after having a child, you change, your marriage changes, everything changes.  The first birthday is a big deal because it's a celebration for BOTH of you.  It's a celebration that you BOTH made it through."  I probably would have never understood that before I had a baby.  But now I do.

It IS life changing.  This year has been full of changes.  But all fun, and good.  I love being a mom more than I ever thought possible.  And I really wanted to throw a party that celebrated all of these changes.  This certainly was one BIG celebration!

I decided I wanted to do nursery rhymes for a few reasons.  My daughter LOVES books and her room is actually decorated in vintage mother goose.  Finding things to go with a Mother Goose theme at the store? Forget it.

Luckily, I started several months in advance just scoping out ideas online and what invitations I wanted to use.  I made all the invitations myself tying in nursery rhyme sayings (buying the printed cardstock online).  I also purchased fabric online and had my seamstress sew a quick hem on them (I would have done this myself but being sick with bronchitis and a baby with croup for the weeks leading up the event prevented the time to do this!)

I made homemade banners by buying the program on Etsy. I just added the letters I wanted and printed on cream colored cardstock from Michael's.  I printed 3 large and 1 small banner and glued them onto ribbon I found at Costco with a glue gun

I found humpty dumpty balloons online along with a star for "Twinkle twinkle little star...".  I also found little nursery rhyme books in the fall at Target.  Each of these had little book mark tags (also found on Etsy) which were personalized with a little saying of "Thank you for attending my birthday party..."

I bought flowers from Costco, roses, for the "Roses are Red, Violets are Blue" rhyme.  I bought 4 tiny violet plants, too.  I cut the roses short and put them in green foam in small square vases, then wrapped them with ribbon.  The violet plants were also wrapped in ribbon.  I then wrote a little rhyme on cardstock that said "Roses are red, violets are blue.  Giuliana is one, and beautiful too."

I also bought bulb flowers in terra-cotta pots.  I painted them white and wrapped them in ribbon, too.  A card sat next to each plant that said, "Mary Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?"

I also put little pint sized waters in a large silver pail wrapped in ribbon and a card that said "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water".  The wine had, of course, another saying that incorporated wine.

Of course there were Three blind mice cheese and crackers and Mary Mary quite contrary garden veggie tray.

The real star of the show was naturally the dessert table.  Here is a list of a few things:

Little Bo Peep Lost her Sheep Cupcakes--vanilla bean cakes with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream.

Ba Ba Black Sheep cupcakes -- chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache whipped frosting.

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater pumpkin cupcakes-- pumpkin cupcakes with mascarpone whipped frosting.  For the recipe, click here.

This little piggy went to the market cupcakes-- strawberry cupcakes with raspberry swiss meringue buttercream.

That's what girls are made of, sugar and spice and everything nice cookies -- Egg nog snickerdoodles

And a random assortment of other goodies:
-Godiva inspired cupcakes:  Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache whipped frosting, some with Italian meringue in both vanilla and raspberry.

-Confetti cupcakes with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

-Dorie's Chocolate chip cookies, for the recipe click here.

-Dorie's World peace cookies, for the recipe click here.

- Martha's peanut butter cups, for the recipe click here.

-Berry crunch bars, recipe from Magnolia bakery.

And FINALLY-the CAKE.  I signed up for a class at Michael's--the month of her party.  Unfortunately the class was delayed a few weeks in the month so I only had 2 intro classes on how to work with fondant and gum paste.  Luckily, it was just enough and between that and You Tube, I was able to successfully cover my cake in fondant.

The cake was a 2 layer cake, all revolving around a nursery rhyme.  I was flying by the seat of my pants while doing this and did rhymes I could think of at the top of my head.  I made my own fondant the week of the party (one batch) but it was white and I didn't want the hassle of dying it so I ended up buying everything from a local cake store.

The bottom layer was an 8-inch chocolate cake, filled with raspberry Italian meringue buttercream then frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream.

The top later was a 6 inch banana cake filled and frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream.  I actually went out to BUY a 6 inch cake pan but the two stores I went to did not carry them, so I ended up baking this in 2 8-inch pans and cutting it down an inch on each side (I saved the scraps in the freezer for a trifle)

I covered the bottom later in purple fondant, and the top in baby blue fondant.

Can you guess all the nursery rhymes on the cake?

Patty cake, "Patty cake baker's man".....pat it with a "G" for baby and me.  My daughter's name is Giuliana so instead of "B" for baby...it's G.  I also had a star for "Twinkle Twinkle", "Little bo peep lost her sheep", "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick", "Queen of Hearts", "Hey diddle diddle the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon and the dish ran away with the spoon", "Humpty Dumpty", "Hickory Dickory Dock", "Mary Mary quite contrary.."

Most of the shapes were cut out free hand (much thanks to all the clay design classes I took in high school!) and cookie cutters (I have about 1,000) no-joke).  Never in my life did I think I would use the mouse cookie cutter...but I now have a new use.

I will post new recipes on a separate post so they are easy to find in the blog roll.

The party was SO much fun!  Overall I think I had 150 cupcakes!  I had little 'to go' cupcake boxes assembled so everyone could take some home as a party favor.  I mean...who doesn't like a cupcake??

You know what they say.... "A cupcake a day keeps the doctor away".

What?  They don't say that?  Huh...well they should!

Always keep it sweet.

Cafe Coco