Cupcakes

An experiment with Honey, Raspberries, and Cream Cheese

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Alright so this isn’t all that much of an experiment, but I’m doing this in a different way.  But what I wanted to do is try to make some mini cheesecakes and clean out the pantry at the same time.  I had a bunch of cream cheese in the fridge, but not enough to make a whole cheesecake; I had some raspberry coulis left over from the Marquis Roulade I made a few weeks ago; and there was some honey that I was just tired of looking at.  Throw in some graham crackers and some frozen raspberries and it all made sense.

Definitely looked better with the pink liners

Actually there is a little bit of an experiment going on here.  Instead of making the filling using a stand mixer, I tried to make everything in the blender.  I was thinking to myself that this should work, in theory.  It actually didn’t work out too bad.  There was a little bit of work trying to get the blender going at first, but the batter was very smooth.  Doubt that I could do this for a full cheesecake recipe though — my blender is too small.

There were really stuck in there. So use liners!

It’s hard to figure out a recipe here.  Like I’ve said before, I do have a specific formula for cheesecakes that I like to follow, so I just used that as a guide.  I cut down a graham cracker crust recipe in half which I just sprinkled on the bottom of the tins or cupcake papers.  My serious recommendation that I have for a recipe like this is to definitely use paper liners.  One of the pans that I used is non-stick which I also generously sprayed with cooking spray — I still had to dig the cheesecakes out with a fork and spoon.  Here’s what you need:

For the crust:

  • 6 graham crackers
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted

Pulse the crackers and sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs.  Mix in butter and set aside.

For the filling:

  • 3 8-oz. packages cream cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 c. honey
  • about 4 oz. frozen raspberries
  • raspberry coulis

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line standard cupcake pans with liners.

2.  Throw the cream cheese, eggs, and honey in a blender.  Or you could beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth.  Add the honey and combine.  Then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition.  (See!  Using the blender is easier).

3.  Place a couple of tablespoons of the crust mixture on the bottom of each cupcake liner.  Lightly press down and place 1-2 of the frozen raspberries on the bottom.  Fill about halfway with the cheesecake batter.  Add about 1 t. of the coulis and carefully fill the liner about 2/3 full.

4.  Bake in the over for about 30 – 45 minutes, until the middle is set.  Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool completely.

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Red, White, and Blue Velvet Cupcakes (with a White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting)

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I was hoping to have this posted before Flag Day, but it turns out that Flag Day was yesterday (and apparently National Bourbon Day was yesterday, too).   At least this is something that you can make for the upcoming 4th of July holiday.  I made these a little bit ago for a Memorial Day / Birthday celebration.  They’re fun and festive, especially if you put metallic star picks in them!  Very patriotic, and not just here in The States, but everywhere else that has those same colors in their national flag.  Like France, the UK, Puerto Rico, Slovakia — in Canada, you can just make the Red Velvet cupcakes — in Greece just make the blue ones! — and so on.  Maybe you could make some for a UEFA Championship Party (can’t believe the Dutch are almost eliminated).

Red, White, and Blue!

As for the recipe, Red velvet is what people typically think of, but why not Blue velvet cupcakes?  It’s the same principle, just with blue coloring.  Plus, there’s that song about them.  Well, not the cupcakes, but about blue velvet.  Or was it Blue Moon?  But I digress. . . if you were ever wondering about some of the background of the Red Velvet cake, you can find some fascinating information here at Gilt Taste.

I do love a big box of cupcakes

As you can see from one of the pictures, I tried to use one of those cupcake stands made out of cardboard (There was a sale at Jo-Ann’s, so I thought why not?  I can never resist a sale!).  I just could not get that thing together right, AND there were three of us working on it.  Sure I had a couple margaritas, some sangria, and a beer in me by then, but I’m pretty sure my two “assistants” were fairly sober.  That thing was such a hassle it had me sweating like a wh@%& in church, pardon my language.  And of course the first cupcake we put on made the top tier topple over and fall onto several of the other cupcakes.  Alas, if I was only recording the whole ordeal.  Such is life.  Maybe I should just invest in something more sturdy, but then again, I wouldn’t have any interesting stories to tell!

Not a bad stand in a pinch, but i really should invest in something that’s sturdier and better looking.

There’s a small part of me that is always hesitant about using dyes, particularly in cakes.  With frostings and buttercreams, I’m okay with using tints, but I always balk at cakes.  So I probably didn’t use as much color as I could have.  I’ve seen some recipes that called for a whole bottle of coloring, which I did not do, so the color is not as pronounced.  But no worries — if you want more intensity in the colors just use more.  You can get away with using less red since the chemical reaction between the acids (buttermilk and vinegar) and the cocoa are supposed to produce the red color you get in Red Velvet cakes, although it’s very faint.  But I did use more of the blue to make sure it would come out.  And the amount of dye you use may depend on what products you have.  The blue that I used for this is AmeriColor Royal Blue; the red is Wilton’s Red-Red.  Gel pastes are usually what I prefer because it will not affect the recipe ratios as much.  Here’s what you need:

for the cupcakes (one batch makes about 2 dozen; the red batch used 1/2 t. of coloring and the blue used 1 t.):

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 c. corn starch
  • 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 2 t. white vinegar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • gel paste coloring (see above)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line your muffin pan with cupcake papers and set aside.

2.  Sift together the flour, corn starch, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, white vinegar, and vanilla.  Set aside as well.

3.  In the bowl of a mixer, whisk the oil and sugars until combined on medium speed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well.  Whisk in the gel paste, scraping down the sides as needed.

4.  Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 additions of the buttermilk mixture.  Scrape down the sides after each addition and whisk well.

5.  Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners, filling to about 3/4 full.  Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating once halfway through baking.  Cool cupcakes in the pans set on wire racks.  Frost with the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Red velvet

for the frosting (this was enough for 4 dozen cupcakes):

  • 3 8-oz. packages of cream cheese
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 3 c. confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 8 oz. white chocolate, chopped.

1.  In the bowl of a mixer using the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium for a couple of minutes, until well combined.  Place the white chocolate in a microwave proof bowl.  Microwave in 15 second bunches until melted, stirring after each time.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, making sure to keep in a liquid state.

2.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners sugar and salt.  Mix until smooth.  Add the vanilla and white chocolate and mix for about 1 minute, scraping down the sides.  Use either a small spatula knife or a piping bag to frost the cupcakes.

Notes — I have read that you can use beet juice instead of the red coloring, but I have no idea how much you need and how to adjust the recipes for the change in the amount of liquid. . . I’m not sure about an alternative for the blue, but I do have some ideas if you needed something green 🙂  . . .You should be able to store these in the freezer for a few weeks.  Thaw the frozen cakes in the refrigerator overnight. . . As always when making cakes, make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. . . I’m still bummed I missed National Bourbon Day; been wanting to add some Four Roses bourbon to my collection.  I really need to revisit my Foodie Holiday postings. . . And don’t forget to visit Daisy Cakes and Jereme’s Kitchen on Facebook. . .

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

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So in all the hub-bub of National Mustard Day, folks may have forgotten that August 6th is also National Root Beer Float Day.  So how to celebrate?  Why not make a cake or some cupcakes?  Seems simple enough, right?  Sort of an obvious choice for me, but you stick with what you know.  But things get a little tricky — I don’t really know root beer floats.  Luckily I know a couple so I can get their take on it.

Again, not the best pictures I’ve taken.  I am not a professional photographer.  Hell, I don’t even know what the symbols are on your regular point-and-shoot!  What does the “mountain” setting mean anyway?  Is it for high altitude pictures?  Which sounds dumb because it’s a digital camera.  But I digress. . . here’s what you need:

For the cake:

  • 2 sticks  butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 vegetable oil
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 1/2  c. root beer

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Line your pans with cupcake papers and set aside.  I ran out of some papers, so I just sprayed the pans with some cooking spray.  Put the root beer in a saucepan on medium and reduce by half.  Cool and set aside.

2.  Alright, no surprises here!  In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter for about 5 minutes.  Gradually add the sugars and mix on medium for anther 5 minutes.  Add your eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Then add the oil and the vanilla.  Mix well.

2.  Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the root beer.

4.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Cool on racks before glazing.

For the glaze:

  • 1 c. confectioners sugar
  • 3 T. root beer
  • 1 T. bourbon (completely optional!  but I like booze!)

Sift the confectioners sugar if it is lumpy.  Otherwise just mix the ingredients until smooth.  Depending on the humidity, you may have to adjust the ratios to get the right consistency.  Drizzle the amount desired over your cupcakes.

Notes — I had some leftover Seven-Minute Frosting that I used to top off the cupcakes (if you don’t bake, you will probably never say this sentence in your entire life!).  I then put some of the glaze over the top of that.  Sure looks like a mini root beer float to me!. . . but the glaze does have a tendency to dissolve the frosting. . . of course, traditionally floats are done with vanilla ice cream, so by all means use that instead of the frosting. . . I really liked these cupcakes, but I was hoping for a more pronounced flavor, but if the cupcakes sit for a day, the root beer taste becomes more pronounced. . .

Fresh Raspberry Cupcakes

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So I had to make some cupcakes for a birthday party and I thought to myself, “Waterlily, what’s fresh today?”  I don’t refer to myself as “Waterlily” like Blanche Devereaux; I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.  Raspberries was the answer!  Seemed like a nice safe thing to do since my “weirder” concoctions don’t always go over so well (but I still love my Lavender Cupcakes with a Honey Buttercream which really isn’t too weird. . . not like some of my other ones).  Plus the colors of the party are supposed to be pink and purple (at least, that’s what I was told but wasn’t exactly true) and raspberries fit the bill nicely!

I do have a confession though — the raspberries weren’t quite freshalicious.  They were bought the week before I needed them (at the local farmers market) and I wasn’t quite sure that they would make it.  So I froze them!  Which was fine since they were being baked in the oven anyway.  They would have been freshalicious if I had a chance to go to the mid-week farmers market.  The ones on top were very fresh, of course.

The inspiration for this is from Martha of course and her strawberry cupcakes.  It seems if you ever need some gold standard for something, it never hurts to turn to Martha.  I did change some stuff around though.

This recipe makes about 2 1/2 dozen.  Here’s what you need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. cornstarch
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. raspberries, coarsely chopped

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line cupcake / muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy and gradually add your sugar.  Mix well for about 5 minutes.  Now add your eggs one at a time, mixing to combine after each addition.  Then, mix in the vanilla.

3.  Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder.  Now add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with 1/2 of the milk.  Mix until just combined.  With a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the raspberries.

4.  Fill cups about 2/3 full with the batter.  Bake for about 20 minutes until nicely golden.  Cool on racks.

For the buttercream:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 sticks of butter, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 1 c. raspberry preserves

1.  Over a water bath, mix the egg whites and sugar until warm (about 140 degrees F) and the sugar has dissolved.

2.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer and whip on high until it reaches soft peaks.  Add the cream of tartar and salt and mix on high for about 5 minutes until you get stiff peaks and the meringue has a nice sheen.

3.  Reduce the speed of the mixer and add the butter one piece at a time, making sure to combine well.  The buttercream will probably lose a little bit of its volume.

4.  With the mixer on low, add your preserves and whisk to combine.

Notes — I had put in some fresh raspberries into the buttercream at first, but it did cause some problems.  They separated too easily and may have had something to do with the buttercream breaking a little bit.  But with a little extra whisking, everything came together.  Thankfully I don’t have to whisk everything by hand anymore (which I still highly recommend to any aspiring baker). . . It’s best to use the buttercream immediately but it can be refrigerated.  Just let it come to room temp before you use it.

Chai cupcakes with a Chocolate Chai ganache

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So it’s National Iced Tea Month.  And I understand that this is a cupcake recipe, but it’s got chai in it, so that’s close.  Just have a glass of an iced beverage when you have a cupcake.  You just won’t have “ice” and “tea” incorporated into a single item.  But, in my opinion, it’s really hard to come up with an interesting recipe for iced tea that doesn’t involve Long Island.  Maybe I could post a sun tea recipe. . .

Anyhoo, back to the cupcakes.  I use an instant chai mix to add the flavor and color to a nice cupcake recipe.  I did also add a little bit of whole wheat flour to add some additional color, texture, and flavor.  The instant chai is also used in the glaze by dissolving it in the heated cream before adding the chocolate to it to make the glaze.  This makes about 2 dozen standard-sized cupcakes.  Here’s what you need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 T. baking powder
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1 T. instant chai

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line your pan with paper or foil liners.

2.  Sift together the flours, salt, and baking powder into a medium-sized bowl.  In a measuring cup, dissolve the chai into the milk and set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until light.  Gradually add the sugar and mix until fluffy, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Then add the vanilla and combine.

4.  In three additions, add the flour mixture, alternating with half of the chai mixture.  Mix until just blended, being careful to not overmix!

5.  Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until set in the middle.  Cool in the pans for about 20 minutes before removing them.  Cool completely on wire racks before glazing.

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 8 oz. chocolate, chopped (I used a dark chocolate)
  • 2 t. instant chai

1.  In a double boiler, combine the cream and chai, making sure the chai is dissolved.

2.  Add the chocolate, and stir until melted.  Remove from the double boiler and allow to cool slightly.  Use a spoon to dollop on a bit of the ganache onto the cooled cupcakes.

Notes — I liked the finished product, but there are a couple of things that I want to try:  (1) I might try to use cake flour instead the AP flour; (2) maybe use three eggs instead of two; (3)  might also try using the “one-bowl” method instead of creaming.  That method is supposed to reduce the gluten that is formed, which is important to consider when using whole wheat flour.  In theory, you should be able to substitute up to 1/2 of the flour in a recipe without changing too much, but there are differences between AP (all-purpose) and whole wheat flours to consider (like moisture content).  So you may need to tweak things a bit.

Fluffy White Coconut Cupcakes

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I love coconut.  It’s actually pretty versatile if you think about it.  Typically, you put it in things like cakes, or granola, or macaroons.  But you can use it in a bunch of other things like soups, coconut shrimp, salads, coconut rice, puddings. . . well, you get the point.  Now this recipe is for something pretty standard, but still so good.  How can you go wrong with a Coconut Cupcake?  They are sweet and decadent and always seem to please a crowd, especially when paired a nice Fluffy White frosting (which is also called a Seven-Minute frosting).

For a nice short cut to get to this recipe you could:  1.  just use the yellow cake recipe that I had posted earlier but cut it in half, 2.  replace the milk with coconut milk, and 3.  add 1/2 c. shredded coconut to the dry ingredients.  But for this recipe, a little tweaking had to be made.  You have to add a little bit more flour to help stabilize the cake; the addition of the shredded coconut changes the structure of the cake.  Plus, I rounded up the amount of coconut milk to 3/4 c.  If you just use half the yellow cake recipe it would call for 5/8 c of the milk.  It just works better logistically (I don’t have an 1/8 c. measure).  Plus, with the increase in the flour, the extra liquid is still absorbed well.  It’s the same case with the sugar, but since you have to cream the sugar and the butter together, you have to increase the amount of butter in as well.  All slight tweaks, but (as you can see) there’s a reason for everything.  This makes about 24 cupcakes.  Now here’s what you need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut (plus more for the topping)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a standard sized muffin pan with paper liners.

2.  Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and baking powder) into a medium-sized bowl.  Add the shredded coconut.  Mix and set aside.  In a measuring cup, combine the vanilla extract and the coconut milk.  Set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar.  Mix for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

4.   Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the coconut mixture and starting and ending with the flour.  Mix until well blended, but don’t over mix.

5.  Fill the lined cups about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pans.

6.  Pile on the frosting and top with the shredded coconut.  Cupcakes should be good for about 5 days unfrosted and 3 days with frosting.

For the frosting:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1 T. corn syrup
  • 1/2 t. cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

1.  Mix together egg whites, sugar, water, corn syrup, cream of tartar, and salt.  Whisk for about a minute until frothy.

2.  Over a double boiler, stir the mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the mixture gets to 160 degrees F.  Remove from the heat and transfer to the bowl of a mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, beat the mixture until cool and forms stiff peaks, about 5-7 minutes (hence the term Seven-minute frosting).  Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

Notes — If you can find it, use some of the large flake coconut.  It adds a nice touch and makes it a little bit more special.  You can just keep it white to keep with the color palette or toast it for a nice contrast.  One of these days, I might try this using some whole wheat flour.  Whole wheat flour adds a nice nuttiness to the flavor, but it also changes the consistency of the dough.  Probably would be good to use a combination of wheat flour and cake flour instead of the all-purpose flour.  Also, using a chocolate cake batter would be nice and tasty version.