April 24, 2011

Easter-ish Cupcakes

If you haven't learned by now, I am obsessed with cupcakes. I love to bake, eat, and talk about cupcakes. And since I just happen to have a 3-day weekend to celebrate Easter and all this spring-like weather we are having (actually it just snowed a few days ago...crazy, huh?), I decided to bake some Easter-y cupcakes. My sister came home from college, so she "helped" me bake (not really, she watched me bake, then helped with the funnest part...frosting). We decided to just do a simple chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting, then dye the frosting in spring-like colors. *See previous cupcake post for chocolate cupcake recipe*

We baked a few large cupcakes, but mostly mini cupcakes. We visited my grandma yesterday, so I wanted to bake mini cupcakes to give to her.  The cupcakes turned out wonderful! As always, this chocolate cupcake recipe never fails, and the frosting...well, that's a simple buttercream frosting. Can't really screw that one up, now can we?

While the flavor gets an A+, the frosting method was a little more complex. We decided to try something I've never done before. I've seen it being done on baking shows, so I really wanted to try it. My sister and I divided up the frosting in separate bowls and dyed half of it pink and half blue. Then, I fetched my trusty pastry bag and set it down flat on the table. I filled the "bottom" (or side...however you look at it) with blue, then I put the pink on top. I didn't push the frosting all the way to the tip. I grabbed the bag in my hand and gently squeezed so the colors were equal, right next to each other. Then, the frosting began!

**Tip: When frosting with dual colors, it helps to work with another person so one can hold the bag open and the other can put the frosting in the bag.

The frosting colors together looked like cotton candy, and I think that confused my grandma. We told her it looked like cotton candy and she thought we said it was cotton candy-flavored...so she gave us a weird look. But she ate three minis, so I think she liked them! That's always a good sign.

Happy Easter, everyone!

April 4, 2011

A Gooey Dessert

I had just stumbled upon this recipe a couple of days ago...literally, I was on Stumble Upon when I found this delicious treat! It came from the Betty Crocker website, and it is a grand prize-winning recipe of 2006. It's a very simple recipe, but a very mouth-watering dessert. Below you'll find the recipe for Betty Crocker's "Warm Toasted Marshmallow S'mores Bars".

Spreading the chocolate! YUM!

This photo is after the final step of broiling it so the marshmallows brown. But be careful! One rating on the website said the marshmallows caught on fire! : O

Final product...delicious, but this picture cannot even begin to explain how tasty it truly is. The website's picture is much better...

See? Now how could I compete with that? I just can't. It's not possible! Anyway, try out the recipe! It's quick, easy, and is oh-so tasty!

Warm Toasted Marshmallow S'mores Bars
1 pouch (1 lb. 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 c. butter or margarine, melted
3 c. milk chocolate chips (18 oz)
4 1/2 c. miniature marshmallows

1. Heat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, stir cookie mix and crumbs together. Stir in melted butter until soft dough forms. Press into ungreased 9x13'' pan

2. Bake 18-20 minutes or until set. Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Let stand 3-5 minutes or until chocolate begins to melt. Spread chocolate evenly over crust.

3. Set oven control to broil.  Sprinkle marshmallows over melted chocolate. Broil with top 5-6 inches from heat for 20-30 seconds or until marshmallows are toasted. (Watch closely; marshmallows will brown quickly). Cool 10 minutes. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Serve warm. Store remaining bars tightly covered.

*Makes 24 bars

April 2, 2011

Petite Cupcakes

With this being the last week of the quarter, I had to give one last speech for my speech class. The category was informational, so I decided to do an info/demo speech about Cupcakes! We had to have visuals, so I brought in some ingredients like extracts, cocoa powder, sprinkles, etc. I also brought in my pastry bag and a fancy little spatula. And of course, I just had to bring in some cupcakes for everyone! What would a speech about cupcakes be without cupcakes?!

Above are my posters, and as you can see I did one about the top 10 classic cupcakes flavors (courtesy of TLC), and of course some of the most unique cupcakes flavors I have heard. Some of these came off of the hit Food Network TV show Cupcake Wars, while others I had found off the web. Everyone thought my posters were very cute, and the teacher even kept them as examples for the future!

So, first in my speech I talked about the history of the cupcake. They first evolved because the hearth ovens they used back in the day would not properly bake regular size cakes; they would burn on the outside and not be cooked enough on the inside.  They also were created to save time in the kitchen, as they were much more convenient. They first started baking cupcakes in the 1800s, but their name wasn't "cupcakes." In fact, they were originally called Number Cakes or 1234 cakes. This was because it was easy to remember it by the ingredients (1c. butter, 2c. sugar, 3c. flour, etc.) Later they changed the name to cupcakes because of two theories: they were first baked in cups, or the ingredients were measured by the cup.

After that, I talked about the steps for baking a cupcake--mixing the batter, baking, frosting, etc.  For the frosting part, I did a little demo with my pastry bag. Then I ended with the evolution of modern cupcakes today, talking about "cupcakeries," and Candace Nelson, the first person to create a cupcakery. I also told them she was a judge on Cupcake Wars, so I told them a little bit about the show. This is where I used my posters to tell them about the different kinds of cupcakes, some more classic, and some not-so-classic. They all thought the "Thanksgiving Dinner" cupcake would be the grossest...at least, that's what I perceived--they all groaned when I read it off.

Of course I ended the speech with a final conclusion paragraph and a memorable last sentence: "So whether you would choose a classic vanilla cupcake or a tomato soup cupcake, this tiny dessert has something for everyone." And then I passed out the cupcakes! Woo!

Both cupcakes had the same base: chocolate cake with a classic vanilla buttercream frosting. However, I tried to make them represent the whole "classic vs weird/modern/quirky" cupcakes we have today, so for half the cupcakes, I did a caramel swirl on the top to represent the atypical cupcake (Ok, ok, I know it's not really that strange...but hey, I tried my best!) And for the "classic" representation, I just added some pearl-like sprinkles.

Of course, knowing High School kids, I knew the caramel cupcakes would go first. But, even so, everyone said they loved the cupcakes. Some said they were the best they've ever had (not to brag or anything...). And the teacher said (direct quote, by the way): "These are just darling!" I gave her two cupcakes. ; )

Photos before they were decorated.  The cupcakes did turn out fabulously! Actually, when I got home both of my parents texted me to see how my speech went. And both of them said the same thing in their second message: Are there any cupcakes left? Sadly, there weren't. They were pretty disappointed. But the good thing is, they are so quick and easy to make, so I could whip them up any time!
Moist Chocolate Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. water
1 tsp. vinegar

Mix all ingredients well with a mixer. It should be brown and smooth, free of lumps. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes. Cupcakes will turn out moist and delicious. For MINI cupcakes, turn down the oven 20-30 degrees and bake for half the time (approximately--just keep watching the oven to make sure they don't over bake.)

*Buttermilk or milk may be substituted for water. (I just used water)
*Melted butter may be substituted for oil. (I used oil--and voila, they're vegan!)

April 1, 2011

Snow-ed in Cake

Here in Minnesota, we never know what kind of weather to expect. Sure, we know winter=cold and summer=hot, but those are seasons. Day to day, we really have no clue what's going to come our way. So last Wednesday we were informed (quite late I might add) that we had no school because of the massive snow storm. Well, the notification was sent out so late that I actually drove to school. So yes, I drove in one of the worst snow storms in Minnesota's history. What should have been a 15-minute drive turned into half an hour. One way. So I reached school, realized no one was there, checked my phone to see that I had received about 8 messages just minutes after I left my house, and turned around to go back home. So it was a pretty bad start to my morning.

Luckily I had a lot of time on my hands that day, being home alone. We also had many ingredients to make a cake just sitting in our cupboards. So, that's what I did! Oh, and great news...we got a Kitchen aid mixer! YES, no more using our junky old hand-held mixer! It was a big deal for me. I even took a picture.

Oh, just look at it in all it's glory! Look at that mixer go! Now I truly feel like a real baker! (Ha. Ha.) Anyway, I used a simple vanilla cake recipe that came in the mixer booklet. However, I didn't just want to do a vanilla cake, so I added some almond extract (I know daring, huh? Going outside of the recipe--whoa!). Then I did a simple chocolate buttercream frosting in the middle layer and on the outside of the cake. 

The cake itself had a really nice flavor with the almond extract. It tasted kind of like almond pound cake, but not as dense. However, the cake was a little crumbly. I may have possibly over-cooked it? Otherwise, I like to blame it on the recipe. The frosting was just right for the cake though. And overall it was pretty delicious!

Yum, yum, yum!