Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Orange You Glad it's Buttercream?

More holiday baking! This time for a party my sisters boss was throwing... my sister asked me to bake something for us to bring and of course I never turn down an opportunity to bake :) Since the last cupcakes I made had a cream cheese frosting (brother-in-law's favorite) I decided to make a buttercream frosting (sister's favorite) for these cupcakes. We also decided it would be best to make mini cupcakes so the little kids who would be in attendance wouldn't go into a sugar comma. Then we were left with deciding flavors. Of course chocolate is always a kid and adult friendly choice, so that is what we went with for the cake. Waking around Whole Foods we quickly decided that an orange buttercream would be the perfect counterpart to a rich chocolate cake.

Pretty organic Valencia oranges!As with all holiday baking, start by pouring drinks. This time, two-buck chuck. Now we can get started.
I finally came across what I think is my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe. I adapted it some from a Cooks Illustrated recipe and I think the minor changes make it just to my liking. First you melt butter with cocoa and chocolate. I used 70% dark chocolate instead of the bittersweet that the original recipe called for because it's what we had around, but I don't think it made that much of a difference. Let the mixture cool to room temp. (the original recipe calls for doing this step in a double boiler, but I think they are too much trouble and if you watch it closely, melting chocolate with butter in a sauce pan works just fine)Then I swapped Greek yogurt for the sour cream in the original. It provides the same tang but healthier, and I think richer flavor.Then in separate bowls mix all the dry ingredients, all the wet (except the Greek yogurt and milk) and have the cooled chocolate mixture ready. Add the cooled chocolate mixture into the wet ingredients, then whisk in 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Mix in the Greek yogurt fully, and then remainder of the dry ingredients. This is where I made my other change to the recipe; I added in 1/4 cup whole milk because the batter seemed too thick for my liking. I have had cupcakes turn out too dense before and I decided to risk throwing in extra milk to thin the batter some.And they baked up great! This is going to be my go to chocolate cupcake recipe!While the cupcakes cooled, I worked on the buttercream. Good quality butter, sis buys nice things :)Lots of fresh orange zest. I think I did a full tablespoon? I usually just wing my frosting until I think it tastes right... but I think I used a tablespoon of zest and 3-4 tablespoons of fresh orange juice with 1 stick of butter and 3/4lb powdered sugar. Then I piped pretty squiggles on the mini cupcakes!They look sort of like little flowers, although this wasn't my original intention they complemented the warm sunny weather we were having just a few days after Christmas out here in Cali.

Perfect pretty little bites, chocolate and orange go together so well!

(note my new pretty pink sparkle nail polish too!)

Here is the recipe for the cupcakes:

makes 12 cupcakes; or around 40 mini cupcakes
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces very dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup (3 3/4 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (4 oz) Greek yogurt
¼ cup whole milk
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan with baking-cup liners.
Combine butter, chocolate and cocoa in medium saucepan. Heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and fully combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to touch.
Whisk flour, baking soda and baking powder in small bowl to combine
Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in Greek yogurt until combined; then sift in remaining flour mixture and whisk batter until it is homogeneous and thick. Then whisk in milk.
Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18-20 minutes, or 10-12 minutes for mini’s.
Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.

Happy baking!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gingerbread Christmas!

Oh holiday baking... I love how this time of year everything smells like sugar and spice and warms your heart along with your kitchen. Spending Christmas in California this year was definitely different, but the gingerbread treats I made tasted like home.
The first ingredient you always need when baking around the holidays... alcohol. With the hard pear cider poured, it's time to start baking! Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger. The perfect mix of spices to start gingerbread!Mixed with eggs, butter, molasses, and sugar and you have cookie dough!Ready to be rolled into beautiful Christmas stars...Baked....And decorated with royal icing!Cute little Christmas puppies got to sample a star each.And there was some extra dough so I made some Christmas trees too!Then I got started on gingerbread cupcakes. They started out very similar to the cookies with all the same spicesSifted together.Mixed with wet ingredients, and poured into pretty gold liners.While they cooled, I made some cinnamon cream cheese frosting to pipe on top. Which I did with a few puppies "helping" me.Then they got topped with a little gingerbread star!

They are the perfect mix of holiday spice to finish Christmas dinner! Hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Birthday Bakes

Mallory's birthday is always one of my favorite things to bake for this time of year. It is sort of a nice break from all the holiday themed treats to bake something for a birthday instead. Luckily her birthday is early enough in December that all of our roommates were still in town to celebrate.
I wanted to use peppermint extract again because it was so good in the cake truffles I made for Kristina's party, but decided to make something a little different.I saw these cupcakes that looked so good that had a peppermint patty baked inside and thought they would be perfect for Mallory's birthday! But here is where my cake fail began. In my post-finals lack of sleep state I forgot to do something that could have saved these cupcakes. Instead of putting a little batter under the peppermint patties in the liners, I let them sit directly on the bottom.It didn't even cross my mind till after they baked, they looked really good after baking and I thought they were going to be perfect. But when I lifted them out of the pan I felt that the bottom was a little lighter than the top and I knew that the candy had burned and stuck to the paper, leaving an air pocket at the bottom. But there was no time to bake any more so I went ahead and piped some peppermint buttercream in pretty designs to hopefully save at least the top half of these cupcakes.And I got to finally use the cupcake stand I made out of adorable thrift plates I found! But just as I expected, when I cut one in half, the candy stayed stuck to the bottom of the paper. There was still a pretty good ratio of cake to frosting though so I figured they would be fine!Virg carefully placed candles around the stand...And Mallory (with Penny of course) got to make a birthday wish!

Despite the cakefail, these cupcakes still got great reviews! Now looking forward to doing some Christmas baking while out in San Diego with my sister! Happy birthday Mallory, and Happy Holidays everyone!