Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lemon Poppy-Seed Cupcakes

Here is the recipe for the Minnie Mouse cupcakes that I made for my daughter's first birthday party! For more details about the party itself, check out my post about the party.

Lemon Poppy-Seed Cupcakes
(makes 24 cupcakes)

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
½ tsp baking soda, sifted
¼ tsp salt
4 oz cream cheese, softened
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp lemon zest

1.    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
2.    Whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3.    In another medium bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4.    Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture alternately in 3 batches with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating just until blended. Stir in the lemon peel.
5.    Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the baking pan, place on a wire rack, and allow them to cool completely.

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Same recipe as my Blackberry Buttercream Frosting, except that I substituted the blackberry puree for raspberry puree.

For the decorations:

I piped the frosting onto the cupcakes using a large round tip. Since the raspberry puree gave the frosting a natural light pink color, I did not add any artificial coloring. Then, to follow the Minnie Mouse theme, I used miniature Oreo cookies for ears (2 cookies per cupcake), and then used the same raspberry frosting tinted with Wilton coloring gel (I used the Burgundy color) to pipe a small ribbon between the Oreo ears. Voila! Minnie Mouse cupcakes. 

Cupcake Source: Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make
Frosting Adapted from: Foodie Bride

Kiyomi’s First Birthday Celebration!

I cannot believe that I am already celebrating my daugther’s first birthday! It seems like it was yesterday that I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, and here she is turning one already. She has been an absolute blessing in our life and I just look forward to the many years ahead of us!
Okay, I could gush on and on about her, but I’ll concentrate on the task at hand: tell you what we did for her birthday party!

My sweet youngest sister, a culinary arts student at Johnson and Wales University, asked if she could make the main cake for her, and that is the beautiful cake you see in the center of the sweets table. She made a wonderful (and super yummy!) red velvet cake with creamcheese frosting.  

I then made lemon poppy-seed cupcakes with raspberry buttercream frosting  (the idea was from my dear hubby – raspberry lemonade!).

 I also made sugar cookies with royal icing as party favors for all our guests. (you can find the sugar cookie recipes here).

And lastly, I also made her “smash” cake. I made a simple vanilla cake recipe shaped in two small heart-shaped pans and frosted with the raspberry frostings.

My daughter certainly seems like she enjoyed her smash cake :) She knew what to do with it as soon as she dug her little finger into the icing, but it took a little help for her to realize that there was cake under all that icing goodness!

Isn't she sweet? She even wanted to share her yummy with me!

Needless to say it was a wonderful party and a fun time was had by everyone! :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Baking FAQs

Hello again! It has been a little while since I wrote an entry… I have been so busy with my daughter’s birthday party planning that I have not been able to sit down and write (details and recipes from the party will follow!)
Anyways, I don’t know how many of you are amateur cooks/bakers like me, but every recipe that I try comes with lots of “trial and error”. When it comes to baking, especially cupcakes (my favorite, can you tell???), I have come to learn that it is a blend of art and chemistry. The preciseness of measurements and the chemical reactions that happen during preparation and baking just amaze me. I guess I have just watched too many “Good Eats” episodes (if you have never seen one, you should!) with Alton Brown going over his recipes in a way that explains the “whys” and “hows” of cooking.
So why do I bring this up you say? With every recipe that I try, some work, some don’t work. Some recipes work, but I may tweak it a little to better suit my needs/desires. Here are some of my thoughts on issues/problems/hurdles that I have come across and how I best deal with them:
Q.     Cupcakes not baking evenly, or as the cupcake bakes, the center doesn’t have that pretty dome look (makes it look more like a valley).
A.      Here are a few things I would recommend:
a.       Always bring your cold temperature ingredients to ROOM temperature (i.e. butter, eggs, milk, buttermilk, sour cream) when specified. Having ingredients brought to room temperature lets the batter bake evenly once it has been mixed. For example, butter acts differently in different temperatures. As an example to this example, if you are making a flaky pie crust, it is a requirement to have the butter be used VERY COLD, whereas for regular cupcakes, the butter is at room temperature.
b.      Always measure your ingredients the same way. The most accurate way to measure ingredients is by weight (to quote my hero Alton Brown). However, even if you are not weighing your ingredients, make sure that one cup of flour equals another cup of flour. My way to be consistent is to run the flat end of a knife through the top of the measuring cup once the flour has been added. That way you’ll remove any extra flour that should not be included in the recipe.
c.       Sift any dry ingredients. I usually try to add that into my recipe even if it is not asking for it. It doesn’t hurt to add this special touch! It makes it easier to distribute the dry ingredients evenly through the batter.
d.       A specific note, make sure that your baking powder and/or baking soda works. I found this tip online, and it works really well. Test your baking powder by adding ½ tsp of it to 3-4Tbsp of room temperature water. Test your baking soda by adding ½ tsp of it to 3-4Tbsp of white vinegar. If the powder bubbles in the water/vinegar, it still works. Make sure to test your baking powder and soda every 6-12 months.

I guess I only have these comments for now! Please post any questions that you might have and together we can increase the knowledge base in this entry J Happy eatings!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blackberry Cupcakes with Blackberry Buttercream Frosting

Oh summer, how I love thee! Why, do you ask? Because I love all the lovely fruits that are available for making yummy treats! Okay, okay, so I am a little giddy about all the fruits, but I just can’t help it.
For the last two weeks, I have gotten blackberries from a local farmer and been trying my hand at different recipes. I wanted to stay away from the pies and cobblers (nothing wrong with pies and cobblers, but I wanted to do something different), so I tried this wonderful recipe for Blackberry Lime Sorbet last week. My family loved it! I had to double the recipe just so we could have some to put into the freezer.
This week I got 2 more pints of blackberries, and thought I would try to bake something with it. My love for cupcakes had me looking for a blackberry cupcake recipe. I came across this recipe from Foodie Bride and just had to try it. The batter is a smooth white cake with the hint of blackberry flavor. Now the icing is a wonderful buttercream with blackberry puree! My only change to the original recipe is that I only used 4 cups of confectioner’s sugar instead of 5. 
Hope you enjoy this recipe! I would also recommend trying out the Blackberry and Lime Sorbet à it was delicious!

Blackberry Cupcakes with Blackberry Buttercream Frosting

12-18oz of fresh blackberries (about 2-3 6oz packs)
1/3 cup milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature
2 tsp lemon juice
2 ¼ cup cake flour, sifted
1 ¾ cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1.5 sticks), softened at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare 2 muffin pans with liners.
Puree blackberries in a food processor or blender. Scrape into a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. With a spoon, work the blackberries through the sieve, leaving seeds behind. Remove 1/4 cup of puree for the frosting. Your mileage may vary but you should have ~2/3 cup of blackberry puree leftover. 
In a small bowl, combine puree, milk, egg, lemon juice, and mix with fork until well blended. In bowl of stand mixer, add sifted flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix to combine. Continue beating at slow speed and add butter. Mix until combined and resembling moist crumbs.
Add liquids and beat at medium speed for about 1 minute or until full and evenly combined. Stop mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 30 more seconds. Fill cupcake liners ~3/4 full.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center cupcake in each pan comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in pans and then transfer to a covered plate.

Yields 24 cupcakes

Blackberry Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks butter unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbsp meringue powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup blackberry puree

Cream butter and extracts until smooth. Mix in confectioner’s sugar, meringue powder, and salt and beat 2-3 minutes on high. Add blackberry puree and beat for an additional minute. Adjust consistency, if desired, with additional confectioner's sugar or water. 

Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July everyone!

For those of you not familiar with this wonderful American holiday, this is the day that our great country became independent from England in 1776. I won’t go more in depth into the American history as I am not a big history buff myself. :P
Anyways, this is about my food adventures! So to celebrate this holiday, I made these cupcakes to take to my mother-in law’s house for our celebratory lunch. For the batter, I followed my white cupcake recipe from the Twilight Cupcakes. Since I already have the recipe for the cupcakes, I will focus on the assembly of the cupcakes, and also the frosting.
Hope everyone has a wonderful 4th of July weekend! :)

Red, White and Blue Cupcakes

One recipe of the Twilight Cupcakes

Once the batter is made, divide it into 3 portions in 3 separate bowls. Add red coloring gel to one portion, blue coloring gel to another portion, and leave the third portion white (Note: to add coloring to my batter and frosting, I use the Wilton food coloring gels since they don’t change the consistency of the batter/frosting nor add any flavor).

Fill the lined cupcake forms about 2/3 of the way full and bake for 15-20 minutes in a preheated oven set at 350°F until a toothpick comes out clean.

These cupcakes are ready to be frosted!

Here is the recipe for my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting:

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

20 tbsp. (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. heavy cream  

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds.  Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds.  Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.  

To create the colored swirling effect on the frosting, I added streaks of the red and blue colors directly onto the piping bag, 2 streaks of each color. For the decorating tip, I used the Wilton Decorating Tip 2C

Happy Independence Day everyone!

The inspiration and guidance for this project came from Tidy Mom for the cupcakes and Annie's Eats for the frosting.