Sunday, August 29, 2010

Butter Pecan Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream Frosting


Greetings everyone! Today I get to share my most recent cupcake adventure – Butter Pecan Cupcakes. I got the opportunity to make these birthday cupcakes for one of our hygienists at work. I actually had a lot of fun with this cupcake request because it was one I didn’t have a recipe for. A challenge! For starters, I had never had anything butter pecan flavored before in my life. So, as “research” material, I got some butter pecan ice cream (what a wonderful excuse to buy ice cream right?) and tried it to decipher the flavors. What I got from the ice cream was this: nice buttery, pecan-y, caramel-y yummy goodness :-D So, I started looking for recipes for a pecan cupcake and one for a caramel frosting. I actually did a trial run of this cupcake recipe following all the directions, but did not like the frosting as it was more like a very thick glaze instead of frosting. So, today I made the cupcakes again (although I used buttermilk instead of sour cream and butter flavor instead of vanilla extract) but used a different frosting recipe. It turned out just as I was hoping! Next time I might even wait to add the caramel topping until the very end, and only mix enough so the topping doesn’t blend with the frosting completely to give more of a “swirl” look to it. We’ll see if that works! Meanwhile, here are the recipes I tried. Enjoy!


Butter Pecan Cupcakes
Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 ¼ cups coarsely chopped toasted pecans*
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ cup buttermilk
1 tsp butter flavor

Directions:
Preheat to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin cup liners.
Sift and whisk together both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in medium bowl. Stir in chopped pecans.
In mixing bowl fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add brown sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in buttermilk and butter flavor. Add dry ingredients; beat on low speed just to blend. Divide batter among muffin cups.
Bake cupcakes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 15-22 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.

*Toasted pecans: I placed the pecan halves on a cookie sheet and toasted them in the oven for ~10min while the oven was preheating for the cupcakes at 350F. What you are looking for is a nutty aroma from the pecans, and watch out for them to not scorch!


Caramel Buttercream
Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened
¼ cup caramel topping (I used Smucker’s Caramel Flavored Topping)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp butter flavor
1/8 tsp salt
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp milk

Directions:
Beat first 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.
Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with 1 Tbsp. milk, beating at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition. Beat in up to 2 Tbsp. additional milk for desired consistency.


Cupcake recipe adapted from Epicurious.com

Buttercream recipe adapted from Myrecipes.com

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Penguin Cupcakes


Happy birthday Brian! Well, super belated birthday, since his birthday was in early July -_-... He got his treat then, but I just haven't had the chance to share this post with everyone yet. BTW, Brian is my middle sis' bf. :-)

When he first saw the "Hello! Cupcake" book, he feel in love with the penguins on the back cover of the book. His favorite animal is penguin, so it was very fitting. I told him I would make this for his birthday, and here is how I did it:
I used donut holes, chocolate mint cupcakes, and vanilla frosting (I used my favorite chocolate mint cupcake and vanilla buttercream recipes) to assemble the penguins. Then I stuck them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes so they would harden for ease of handling. 


For the penguin color, I used my favorite chocolate buttercream frosting recipe, then melted it in the microwave for about 30 seconds (check the frosting for doneness every 10-15 seconds) and added black food coloring gel to reach the penguin black suit coloring. 

For decorations, I used marshmallows for the white tummy, yellow Starbursts for the beak, chocolate mint cookies cut in half for the wings that were dipped in the same frosting as above, and left-over vanilla and chocolate frosting for the eye details. They were super hard to transport to my parents' house, as the wings are spread out and I didn't have any good carriers for wide cupcakes, but other than that they were a hit! Birthday boy really liked it!


Adapted from:

Friday, August 13, 2010

WFDT 2: Salmon with Strawberry Salsa, Roasted Asparagus and Seasoned Rice. WFDT 2.5: Miniature Strawberry Swirl Cheesecakes



Since the first week that I started this blog, I have not placed another WFDT (What’s For Dinner Tonight) post, and that makes me sad… Not that I haven’t made dinner since then, but just haven’t had the opportunity to blog about it.
But I guess it’s better late than never right?
This dinner inspiration comes from Annie’s Eats (I just L-O-V-E her blogs!). With cherry tomatoes and strawberries being in season right now, I really wanted to try this recipe the moment I saw it. I think I ended up using more strawberries and cherry tomatoes than the recipe called for, but it was my way of using up all the fruits I had in hand :-)
My sides were simple roasted asparagus spears (adapted from Bell’Alimento) and a side of seasoned rice (EVOO, salt, garlic, onions).
THEN, the dessert part (my FAVORITE part) – miniature strawberry swirl cheesecakes. Can we say YUM??? Again, inspired by this recipe from Annie’s Eats, except that I used strawberries instead of raspberries. All I can say is that even my parents who are not huge sweets eaters have more than one of these little treats. They disappeared fast from the table!

Salmon with Strawberry Salsa

Ingredients:
For the salsa:
2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 scallions, white and green portions, sliced thin
1 tsp. fresh parsley, minced
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Drizzle of olive oil
Drizzle of honey
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 salmon fillets (about 6 oz. each)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
To make the salsa, combine the strawberries, tomatoes, scallions, parsley, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.  Mix well to blend, then cover and refrigerate while you prepare the salmon.
Preheat the broiler.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place the salmon fillets on the foil.  Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice over each fillet, and season with salt and pepper.  Broil about 6-8 inches away from heat source (in my oven, this is upper middle rack).  Cook about 10-12 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of the fillets, checking for doneness.  Transfer the salmon to serving plates and top with strawberry salsa.  Serve warm.

Adapted from Annie’s Eats


Roasted Asparagus

1 small bundle Asparagus - trimmed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – enough to drizzle
salt
pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400
˚F. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil large enough to fit all asparagus spears in one layer. Trim your asparagus and place into a bowl. Drizzle enough olive oil on asparagus to coat {you do not want to drown just coat}. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer asparagus to a rimmed cooking sheet lined with aluminum foil and gentle shake pan to separate asparagus. Roast asparagus for approx 10-15 minutes or until asparagus start to become tender. Cooking time will depend upon the size of asparagus so check yours often. You want the asparagus to be tender but not soft.
Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Adapted from Bell’Alimento


Miniature Strawberry Swirl Cheesecakes
Yield: 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:
Crust:
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp. sugar

Strawberry Topping:
8 oz. fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1 tbsp. sugar

Cheesecake Filling:
2 lbs. cream cheese, at room temperature (4 – 8oz packages)
1½ cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325˚F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar.  Stir together with a fork until well blended and all the dry ingredients are moistened.  Press 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner.  Bake until just set, 5 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack.
To make the strawberry puree, combine the strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor.  Process until smooth, then pour through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.
To make the cheesecake, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy.  Blend in the sugar until smooth.  Mix in the salt and vanilla.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
To assemble, spoon 3 tablespoons of the cheesecake batter over the crust in each cupcake liner.  Dot a ½ teaspoon of the strawberry puree in a few dots over the cheesecake filling.  Use a toothpick to lightly swirl and create a marbled effect.
Bake until the filling is set, rotating the pans halfway through baking, about 22 minutes.  (They will look quite puffed initially but will return to normal quickly.)  Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.  Transfer to the refrigerator and let chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting



Since I started making cupcakes for my co-workers on their birthdays, it has been a lot of fun seeing what each person ends up requesting! Some have requested traditional flavors, some took to the “challenge” and thought of unique concoctions. It sure has been fun baking these treats for them!
We have been on a birthday drought since May… so I was excited for August to roll around and bring 3 birthdays! The first August birthday gal requested carrot cupcakes. Now this seems like an easy request, but there are so many different variations to this all-American treat that it was hard picking one recipe. The birthday gal had requested a more traditional cake, so that did help narrow it down. I chose this recipe from Hello, Cupcake! and was not disappointed! It was super moist, and the raisins and walnuts added a nice balance to the actual batter. I modified the recipe a little by adding more carrots. Also, after making these cupcakes and tasting how sweet they were (in my opinion), I plan on decreasing the sugar amount from the original recipe next time I make them. *Recipe below reflects the changes made to the sugars and shredded carrot.
This cream cheese frosting is my favorite of all time! It is super creamy and easy to make. I use heavy cream instead of milk to add to the creaminess of the frosting. This frosting does not get very firm, so you would not be able to make intricate detailing with it. If you want a little more consistency to the frosting, place the finished frosting in the fridge for about an hour before decorating the cupcakes.
Enjoy! :-)

Carrot Cupcakes
Makes 20-22 cupcakes

Ingredients:
2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
½ cup dark raisins
½ cup chopped walnuts

Directions:
1.    Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 20-22 muffin cups with paper liners.
2.    Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Then add the raisins and chopped walnuts and mix until coated well.
3.    In another medium bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, oil, and milk until light and thick. Stir in the vanilla.
4.    Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in the carrots until well blended.
5.    Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full with batter. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the baking pan, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 3 ¼ cups

Ingredients:
8 oz (1 package) cream cheese, softened
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
16 oz (1 box) confectioners’ sugar
1-2 Tbsp heavy cream (or milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
1.    Combine the cream cheese and the butter in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
2.    Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and 1 Tbsp of the heavy cream and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla extract, and the remaining 1 Tbsp cream if the mixture is too thick.

Adapted from Hello, Cupcake!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Raspberry and Buttermilk Cake



I haven’t been very good at keeping up with sharing my food adventures here… sorry about that! It has been so busy lately, but hopefully I can catch up tonight a little :-)
A couple of weekends ago I got together with my really good friends from dental school. It had been over a year since all four of us had been together, so it was so nice! It was great to catch up on gossip, etc. Love you ladies!
For the weekend, I was in charge of making a dessert. I thought and thought what would be a recipe “worthy” of this special occasion. To celebrate our get together, I decided to make this cake adapted from A Thought From Food. This cake ended up being super moist! The buttermilk shines through, and the raspberries gives a nice tangy touch to the cake. I used a bundt cake pan this time just because I like its shape, but you certainly don’t have to! Then what did I do with the hole? No, I did not put a potted plant in the middle (“The cake has a hole in the middle!” ß name that movie!). I added raspberries! :-)
Hope you enjoy this cake as much as my friends and I did!

Raspberry and Buttermilk Cake
(from Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 10-inch bundt cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate. 


Adapted from: A Thought From Food

*Note: The movie mentioned above, if you don't know, is "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". I loved that movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!