Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cupcake-palooza '15: Vanilla Buttermilk Nutella Cupcakes

Recently, I have felt strongly compelled to return to the humble beginnings of my baking dreams and reignited my love of cupcakery. In the month of April alone, I have managed to make as many cupcake posts (see also Cadbury Creme Egg Cupcakes and Hummingbird Cupcakes) as I did in the previous two years. While this resurgence of living a hard life of cupcaking is likely an attempt to assert my alpha maleness on my new city (bad bakers 4 life!), it has been a most welcome one amongst my friends and coworkers. This past weekend, we hosted a party for the residents in Robin's program and I knew exactly what baked goodness I needed to contribute to the festivities.

Vanilla Buttermilk Nutella Cupcakes
Modified Heavily from Martha Stewart
Servings: 36 cupcakes
Time: 45 minutes
Crazy thin batter

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Nutella (lots of it)
1 batch Nutella Cream Cheese Frosting
Awesome sprinkles

As you can see, I was very scientific and precise with my Nutella spoonfuls.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Mix the eggs, water, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract together in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones in 2-3 increments. Mix until well incorporated.
  5. Fill lined muffin tins 2/3 full with batter. Top with a spoonful of Nutella in the center.
  6. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the toothpick test comes out clean.
  7. Make the single greatest use of sugar in all of existence, Nutella cream cheese frosting. Stick to the lower end of powdered sugar if using actual Nutella. 
  8. Sprinkle until your inner child is satisfied and enjoy.
The Nutella is practically teasing you with just a hint of its presence.
Nutella is the single greatest weapon someone could have to make simple desserts seem amazingly rich and complex. The vanilla buttermilk cupcakes themselves were nicely moist and bouncy (thanks to employing my current obsession of using oil over butter and the super aerating buttermilk), but they would have benefited from a little more vanilla. Fortunately the gooey Nutella center instantly catapults the cake into rarified air. Even with all those great components, everything plays second fiddle to the Nutella cream cheese frosting (which managed to entrap Robin in its Siren spell). This frosting is the stuff of dreams (to quote our friend Bridget), and has proven to yet again to be the best use of sugar that I have ever found (see Cafe du Monde Cupcakes). In the end, these cupcakes were essentially a grown-up flavor blasted version of everyone's favorite yellow cake with chocolate frosting that is sure to have you and your guests salivating for more.

If for some reason you do not have a cupboard full of sprinkles, feel free to improvise and use fruit instead.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Easter Redux: Cadbury Creme Egg Cupcakes

Way back three Easters ago Robin and I had a great flirt bake-athon where I taught her the ways of the holiday with adorably decorated Sugar Cookies, the only time peeps have ever been tasty, and the true candy spirit of the season capturing Cadbury Creme Egg Cupcakes. While we thoroughly enjoyed eating cupcakes stuffed with the greatest holiday candy known to man, I always felt like something was missing. They were great but not nearly memorable enough to be worthy of their British namesake.

This year, I decided to prove how far my baking skills have come over the past few years by combining all the knowledge I have acquired over time to generate the ultimate Cadbury Creme Egg Cupcake. I was going to have to dig deep going all the way back to my first ever time baking cupcakes with Jenny (which is sadly pre-blog) to achieve maximum Easter.

Cadbury Creme Egg Cupcakes Take Deux
Cake Adapted from Food.com and Previously seen Here
Ganache Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa
Time: 90 minutes
Servings: 36 cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
Yet another great culinary Rorschach Test. I see a dog dancing!
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups milk
10 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp vanilla
16 oz cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
36 Mini Cadbury Creme Eggs, frozen
36 Crispy Cadbury Mini Eggs

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream

My double boiler needs some work
  1. Decide to show everyone that your Easter game is on point.
  2. Hate yourself for thinking that statement.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  4. Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  5. Make the creamy sugar filling by beating the cream cheese until soft. Then add beat in the eggs and sugar until smooth. Set aside.
  6. Stir the milk, vegetable oil, cider vinegar, and vanilla together with in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment at medium speed.
  7. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the oil mixture at low speed until just incorporated. 
  8. Fill lined cupcake tins ~ half full with batter. Scoop ~1 tbsp of the filling on top of each, and insert a frozen mini creme egg in the center. It is extremely important that you do not overfill as the egg will displace a decent amount of batter. The overfilled ones will tend to get horrible dimples above the creme egg (which are thankfully covered up with ganache).
  9. Bake for 14-18 minutes (rotating once halfway through) or until the toothpick test comes back clean and the tops have set.
  10. Let the cupcakes cool on wire racks.
  11. While the cupcakes cool make the ganache by stirring the chocolate chips and heavy cream together in a double boiler until melted and smooth.
  12. Frost each cupcake with ganache, and top with a crispy mini egg. For best results, serve cold.
These cupcakes already look like the most fun ever and they don't even have frosting yet!
It is unbelievably fortunate that science says calories don't count on holidays, because I don't even want to think about the Sisyphean task that would be attempting to work these off (which would at least keep you busy until next Easter). Many times during my baking career I have thought that I could not possibly make anything more rich or decadent (see Pop Tart Cake, Car Bomb Cupcakes, and two versions of Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes), but time and time again I have proven myself wrong. When cream filled candy is the least sinful aspect of your dessert, you just know it's gonna be good (and worthy of a tall glass of milk). The black and white cupcake featured my favorite moist and bouncy chocolate cake recipe that was only made more absurdly delectable by the smooth cream cheese swirl that perfectly embodied the creamy heart of our hidden Cadbury treat. The ganache emphasized the bursting chocolate flavor and helped replicate the egg shell, while the crispy egg garnish added a nice crunch to all the gooey goodness contained in the cake. Our last attempt may have been great, but these were unholy levels of legendary. Fortunately for us, it only makes sense to eat them once a year.

Failure to properly place the egg or putting too much batter will lead to some interesting developments once the cupcakes start to cool. Fortunately, ganache will hide this.
Layer upon layer of pure, absurdly rich perfection. This is my favorite picture ever not involving dogs.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Hummingbird Cupcakes

Since starting my part-time work at a doctor's office during the Great Job Hunt of '15, I have taken it upon myself to conduct extensive diabetes research among the office staff by bringing my baked goods to a new state. This past week, our young whippersnapper of a boss had his birthday, and I was tasked with supplying the confections and with telling him how your body breaks down once you're no longer 25 (here's to infinitely longer hangovers and bum knees!). I decided to embrace the great Southern charm of Charleston with the most requested recipe in the history of Southern Living- the fruit filled cinnamony delight known as hummingbird cake.

Would the office be inspired by my latest round of cupcake magic leading to a promotion, or would I be out on the streets begging for work?

Hummingbird Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from Southern Living
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Time: 60 minutes

Do not be deceived into thinking you're making muffins.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple with juices
1 cup chopped pecans, plus additional for topping
2 cups chopped bananas

16 oz cream cheese, softened to near room temp
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4-6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 tsp cinnamon

Make sure you only focus on the really pretty one in the center. The fruit inside may lead to some interesting dimples...
  1. Sip on a mint julep to get in the proper Southern spirit.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  4. Stir in the eggs and oil until the dry ingredients are just moistened.
  5. Mix in the vanilla, pineapple, pecans, and bananas until evenly distributed.
  6. Fill cupcake tins ~ 2/3 full with batter.
  7. Let bake for 18-22 minutes until golden and the toothpick test comes back clean (be careful of pineapple and banana messing up the test).
  8. Let cool on wire racks.
  9. While cooling, make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese until smooth, then beat in the butter. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until you reach the desired sweetness. Stir in the cinnamon and vanilla extract.
  10. Top your cupcakes with frosting and additional pecans. 
  11. Resist the urge to eat them all before sharing with your coworkers. 
Since there was not already enough sugar in the cupcakes themselves, I just had to add on pure sugar lettering for extra fanciness.
In the least shocking development ever, it turns out Southern Living knows what they're talking about when it comes to cake. My only real change to the cake was adding more vanilla (which is a given in pretty much every dessert I make), while I added cinnamon and altered some of the ratios of the frosting to reflect some of my previous cupcakery. Hummingbird cake is one of the most moist, delicious desserts you will ever have. The banana and pineapple filling kept the cake interesting without adding much additional work while also preventing it from drying out, and the cinnamon cream cheese frosting reinforced the spiced nature of the cake without making it overpoweringly sweet. When all was said and done, the office was abuzz with praises of the cupcakes, and I was allowed to stick around for at least a little longer.

See if you can guess where I decided to stop worrying about a piping tip and just started piling on delicious frosting.