Saturday, March 27, 2010

cupcakes for the pickies

"I can't eat cupcakes because I'm vegan!" "I can't eat cupcakes because I can't eat gluten!" "I can't eat cupcakes because I'm so above the cute-tiny-cakes thing!"

Alright. I've never heard someone say that last thing. But for those of you who are vegan or can't eat gluten, BAM:

Oh, you can eat these.

This book is the book of NYC-based "babycakes," a bakery that creates and sells all sorts of delicious, vegan-friendly, allergy-free goodies. No, I have not been there. Yes, I know this is a crime.

I bought all the ingredients for vanilla cupcakes at Organica Natural Foods. It was pretty expensive, but I really wanted to try this recipe! I had to get all sorts of things I'd never used before (and some things I'd never heard of!): coconut oil, coconut flour, potato starch, agave nectar, arrowroot...

The coconut oil was solid and I had to heat it up to use it. I put the jar in a bowl of warm water but it took a VERY long time to melt. I finally ended up scooping it all out into a pot and heating it up on the stove (I only realized this was a good idea when I was working on the icing and the cupcakes were already in the oven).

Looks like ice cubes! It smelled really good. I wish I could post scents. If you don't like coconut, then nevermind. But I do.

Here's the dry mixture:
...and the wet:

It's close-up so you can see the lemon zest!

It was "my first zest," and it smelled soooo good. It made me want a lemon-drop martini!

I also got to use my brand-new, very cute measuring spoons that my dad got me from the Berkshires:


Here's the mix all combined, and in the oven:

Ding! They're done:

I tried following the recipe for the frosting--the only ingredient I didn't have was powdered soy milk. I had powdered regular milk instead. It stayed liquid no matter what I tried, so I just used storebought icing instead. Have you ever read the ingredients on a can of icing? I wouldn't suggest it.

I tried making the icing purple for the children's book Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace by James Proimos. We really like this book at the store--Paulie Pastrami bakes cupcakes and gives them to everyone... That, along with being a good listener and other nice things, helps create world peace. It's very sweet!

Monday, March 15, 2010


This was one of my Christmas presents from my parents. Sprinkles cupcake mix (sold at Williams-Sonoma). It comes with a bag of mix, "modern dots," and instructions:

At this point I was like, "Modern dots? Are they edible? How can there be modern dots if there aren't old fashioned dots?" Well, I went to the Sprinkles bakery website... Apparently the modern dots are their thing. They're also very cute. They come in different shapes and letters and colors... I suggest visiting their site and poking around.

Anyway, the recipe called for softened butter, which I usually have trouble with. If I melt the butter, it's liquid and there's no turning back. If I take it straight out of the fridge (because I am incapable of planning ahead and leaving it out until it's softened), then it gets stuck in the beaters. So what's a girl to do?

I think I have to explain what this is. There's really no way to take a good picture of it. I filled a ziploc bag with warm water and sat it on top of the butter. Simple as that. AND...

It works!! It always does. Yes, I've done it before. If I become known for anything in the baking world, it will be my contribution to people who don't know how to manage their time and soften things.
Now it looks like scrambled eggs.

And now it's beautifully creamy! I added the mix:

Very crumbly! So I combine it with eggs and all that good stuff (I threw out the instructions so I don't remember exactly what it entailed, but it was as close to "from scratch" as you could get from a mix!)

Oooooh so pretty!

Forget cupcakes... where's the spoon?

This mix only makes 12 cupcakes. What I love about it is it's so thick. Notice how there's no splashes between the molds! I could scoop up some on the spatula and just slough it off into each mold. Yummmm....

While those were in the oven, I worked on the icing, which really was from scratch (the instructions for the cupcakes also had the recipe for the icing). It called for bittersweet chocolate.

Chocolate for baking!

It doesn't taste so good before it's used in something...

So I did the whole softening the butter thing again... And added vanilla (I think?) to get this:
Can I tell you... This was the BEST frosting I'd ever tasted.

Wow. You want this. Meanwhile, my highly technological tool helped me find out if my cupcakes were done:
Ha. The date was showing up cuz my new camera is touch-screen and my mom must have hit some button when she was taking a picture. So, there's the date!

And the cupcakes! They look like meatballs... (or delicious chocolate goodness)... They're all swirly on top, probably because I swirled them when I put the batter in the molds. Some of them even look like they're laughing...

Time to ice!! Here's the modern dots:

Like a little bullseye!

Conan O'Cupcake?

I'm trying to be like Magnolia's. The little dip around the middle, right?


Ta-da!! :)

Oh, and they were delicious. Go and buy this mix!! Now!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I was going to see my friend Katherine to watch a movie, and I thought, it would be nice to bring something, like cupcakes. But there would only be two of us and sooo many cupcakes! So I decided to make a smaller batch. Cupcakes for two!

I had the perfect book for it--Small Batch Baking. I bought it at my bookstore, all excited to have grabbed the last copy, as the book was listed as out of print!! This was my first time using this book, so I'm going to give it one more try before it hits the recycling bin! That said...

This is the small bowl I used :)

And another tiny bowl.

This is the book. I followed the directions, I swear! All except the "put them in cans" thing. The batter filled five muffin tins.

The PROBLEM was, the directions included adding ingredients that weren't listed! My first bowl of water, egg yolk and vanilla was never called for again. Also, after I prepared everything else, I was told to add "the buttermilk mixture," which wasn't listed as an ingredient! I flipped to the next recipe that included buttermilk to see how much I should put in. Just a few tablespoons! I even made my OWN buttermilk by putting cream of tartar into a glass of milk for 10 minutes.

I didn't know what to do with the egg yolk, water, vanilla thing, so I dumped it in with the rest, and scooped them into the muffin tin.

The batter tasted like normal chocolate cake batter... It even looked normal coming out of the oven.

But this is what happened:
Oh noooo! They didn't come out of the tins! I buttered the edges and bottoms, and everything. Needless to say, I was pretty frustrated. It didn't help that I tried to make the icing with butter, vanilla, and granulated sugar. I couldn't find our confectioners sugar, plus I was so distracted by the Great Cupcake Debacle that I wasn't thinking straight! I figured, why not see if it works? Well, it tasted like butter. Crunchy, sugary butter. So, the whole thing was a failure.

I blame it on the recipe.

That's why I'm not going ahead and telling you the author. It's bad enough her book is out of print! Now I know to read through the whole recipe before I begin!!

I'm posting this for those of you who have had a disaster recipe like this before. It happens alllll the time with baking and cooking! You're not alone. And it's nice to think I'm not, either :)

I did have great success a few days ago with another recipe :) But that's for later in the week!

Monday, March 8, 2010

easy there, pancake

Kim got me these adorable pancake molds for my birthday from Williams Sonoma Kids.

I felt like making something for breakfast instead of eating my usual chocolate chip muffin from Shop Rite (but mmmmm!). Fortunately I've kept these in the kitchen (I know, where else should they go? but my stuff usually ends up in my room under a pile of clothing) and we also had a full box of Aunt Jemima's pancake mix, so I didn't even have to work hard for the prep!

Ohhhh they're so cute!! It helps that I went through a farm animal phase in middle school :) I cleaned the molds and oiled them up. I did the pig first:

This is the closest I'll get to real bacon... (I stopped eating pork a long time ago, but I still eat poultry, so I usually make turkey bacon when the craving hits!)

Almost burned it! I was pretty pleased as this was my first ever molded pancake :) Then I made the cow:

I had enough batter to make one of each (and then one more cow)!

I put blueberries in the cow I made for my mom. Blueberries also make great eyes:

Mmmmm I put bananas and maple syrup on mine! These were pretty filling, considering Aunt Jemima was supposed to make 10-12 pancakes and I could only get 4 out of it! Filling the molds required a lot of batter (I guess rougly 1/4 of it each).

I felt like Chef Mickey! (I love this magnet from Disney World's Character Breakfasts!!) I thought he deserved a little spotlight here. :)

You can have cupcakes for breakfast--they're just flat and without icing!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

cupcakes go to washington

I recently took a trip to Washington, DC and made a point to go to Love Cafe on Valentine's Day!! I'd seen Warren Brown's show Cake Love on Food Network a few years back--apparently he used to be a lawyer but left the practice to open up his own bake shop! Way to go, Warren! Anyway, the bake shop is also called Cake Love and is located in DC. The baked goods are made there and sent across the street on a wheeled cart to Love Cafe (we witnessed this)!

It's not the best picture of the sign, but I took it from across the street, and I didn't really want to call attention to my being a tourist. It almost looks like a teacup!

Here's a picture of the Cake Love storefront:

Once inside, I didn't mind being touristy. I took a ton of pictures so I could share them with you!
There were many cupcakes, especially for Valentine's Day!
I got one of these:
It was hard to choose...
Not only cupcakes, but chocolate-covered (or, as they say in DC, "depped" ;)) strawberries!
I really liked this sign:
They explained underneath that fat is essential to cupcakes (oh well...) and substitutions would only add more chemicals, or something like that... Anyway, we all know that fat in moderation is NOT bad for you, in fact, we need fat! (If you couldn't tell, I'm currently taking an online course in nutrition! I have to fulfill a science undergrad credit for grad school, and it's really interesting, actually!)
This sign didn't come out as well because of the sun shining through the window, but it's still cute. Now we know what temperature to serve cake at!

Above is a picture of the counter--it has silverware embedded in it!
I love stickers... I only wish these were for sale instead of being put on the container already! (I also scrapbook so I pick up whatever scraps I can from places I like)

I buy based on cuteness! It was also tasty. I think it was strawberry-flavored icing!! And a sugar heart!

I also got a hot chocolate because it was SO COLD outside and we had a lot of walking to do!

Also, Warren Brown happens to have a new book out! It's called United Cakes of America! There's a recipe for each state--how cute! He also has a book before this appropriately titled Cake Love. Check them out!

P.S. have you checked out bakerella's site lately?? As usual it's full of adorable edible delights... this time she's been sponsored by Hyundai to make movie-award-season themed goodies!! I definitely suggest taking a looksie. I especially want to try my hand at those Mastering the Art of French Cooking cupcakes with the little lobsters on top! I love Julia Child!