Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pear and Cranberry Cupcakes

This recipe was inspired by a recipe that I found in the creatively named Cupcakes, by Janet Smith. She has some gorgeous pictures in her book and after making all of the sweet Halloween cupcakes last weekend, I wanted to do something a little less sweet, and maybe a smidge healthy, too. (Ok, who am I kidding. It's a cupcake!)

Originally, I chose to be inspired by Smith's pear and blackcurrant crumble cupcake recipe because the picture was so inviting. A pet peeve of mine, however, is when cookbooks use photographs of food that look completely different than how the recipe actually turns out. For example, the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World book uses a buttercream frosting on the picture of their rosewater pistachio cupcakes when the recipe actually calls for a glaze! Grrr!



Anyway, I couldn't seem to find any blackcurrants in the grocery store, but I figured that pears and cranberries would go nicely together, especially this time of year.

Important note: The recipe that I have posted for the crumble is adapted from my Double Crumble Cupcakes. I tried to make a different crumble when I actually made the cupcakes that came out poorly, which is what is shown in the pictures. Therefore, when you make this at home your cupcakes should look different than what I show here.




Pear and Cranberry Cupcakes - Makes 18 cupcakes

for the crumble topping
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, out of the refrigerator but not quite room temperature
for the cuppies
  • 3 small ripe pears, peeled and chopped or one 15oz can of pears, strained and chopped
  • 1/2-2/3 cup of cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus some extra for powdering the top of the finished cupcakes if desired
  • 1 stick of butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. First, make the crumble! Add all of the dry crumble ingredients to a bowl and mix using a whisk.
  3. Cut the butter for the crumble into pieces and add it to the dry ingredients. Use an electric mixer on low speed to break the butter into "crumble" sized pieces, making sure that it mixes well with the dry ingredients. Don't be shy! Use your fingers if the mixer is unable to get the small enough pieces. Set crumble aside.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the pears, cranberries, and powdered sugar. Set aside.
  5. In a larger bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.
  6. Add the sugar to the butter. Mix well.
  7. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter, mixing well after each addition.
  8. Finally, add the flour, baking powder, and vanilla. Mix very well until everything is combined and smooth.
  9. Divide the mixer among the cupcake liners. This means that each liner will be filled about half way, or a little less.
  10. Bake for 6 minutes. Carefully remove the pans and divide the fruit evenly into each cupcake liner. The fruit should just about reach the top of the liner.
  11. Cover the fruit with the crumble mixture.
  12. Not forgetting that the pan is very hot (which I did! ouch), replace the cupcakes into the oven for another 13-17 minutes, or until the crumble looks a little brown. You'll be able to smell when it is ready.
  13. Allow the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack.
  14. Optional: Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top of the cupcakes just prior to serving.


These cupcakes are definitely best eaten while they are still warm. They are still good the day after you make them, but warm fruit is so difficult to beat!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Boo!


Yup, more Halloween cuppies! I had that cupcake party over the weekend, so I have a lot of blog posts to squeeze out of it :)

The party was a good opportunity to play with fondant. I had always been hesitant to use it. I have never really liked the taste of fondant and the thought of eating cake decorations made of dense fondant isn't really all that appealing. However, fondant is smooth and white, perfect for ghosts!

To make fondant ghosts:

All you really need to do is buy some ready-made fondant. I used Wilton... it even didn't taste as bad as I thought it would! Sprinkle some powdered sugar on to your clean decorating surface and onto a rolling pin. Roll a piece of fondant to about 1/8 of an inch thick, but don't stress the details. Cut a small square out of it (about 2''x2'' works well). Mold the fondant around your thumb, with the center part of the square on the tip of your thumb, until you get a ghostly shape. Yay! Cute little boos. My roommates and I used an edible pen to make the faces, but you can always use a little bit of frosting or melted chocolate.

To make a spooky grave:

I cannot take credit for this creation. It was all Sara! She used some Oreo cookies smashed up to make the top of the grave ("dirt"). She outlined the grave with frosting and made the tombstone out of fondant and edible marker. If you don't want to go out and buy some fondant, you can just use a small cookie (like a vanilla wafer or Milano cookie) or even a Graham cracker to make a grave and use frosting to write "RIP" on it.


Halloween is this weekend! By then the Halloween posts will end, I promise!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Apple Cider Cupcakes






Along with pumpkins, I tend to associate fall with warm apple cider. I love that Michigan has so many orchards where one can have fresh pressed cider (with a tasty pumpkin donut to boot!).




I was, therefore, pretty excited when I came across the Apple Cider cupcake recipe in my Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World book. It has a nice combination of apple cider with fresh whole spices and apple butter. I topped it off with the buttercream recipe from the book (which I tend to make with milk since I don't buy soy milk often). Add some Halloween sprinkles and voila!

Since I made the recipe just as it is stated in the book, I am not going to re-post it. Even if you're not vegan, the vegan cupcake book is a must have for any avid cupcaker! Original flavors, fun ingredients, and no butter!






I'm still dying to make a prickly pear cupcake... but with all of my cupcake books it's hard to resist trying to make them all :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mummies! (But no daddies)



I know, I know. Mummy cupcakes for Halloween are overdone. But I have never made them before, so I had to give it a try.

They were a big hit at my Halloween cupcake party that I had over the weekend. I just used some red hots for eyes (with a dab of chocolate or dark colored frosting for a pupil) and then wrapped them up in vanilla buttercream. I used a flat tip in order to make the mummy. I tried to use a zip-lock bag with a corner cut off, but the icing came out round instead of flat.



To make the mummies, just "wrap" it with icing. I liked to cover the top and bottom of the eyes so they look like they peer out. Then just keep icing it in a random fashion so they look nice and ghoulish.



Or do they just look sort of cute? Especially the ones with mouths....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Welcome to the Pumpkin Patch! Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes






Halloween is my favorite holiday. Growing up in a desert, it was always fun to imagine what it would be like to experience fall, and Halloween was usually the first cool evening of the year. Plus, you get to dress up and eat candy. I once dressed up with Jess when we were in high school and went trick-or-treating in January. People actually gave us candy and were too nice to tell us that it wasn't Halloween! Well, either too nice or they felt sorry for us.

After a two week hiatus of not baking anything (boo), it felt nice to have a completely free weekend to bake to my heart's desire. I had picked out several recipes to try out. The most difficult part was picking one to make first!

I started off with what should be a fall/Halloween classic: Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes. I used a recipe that was emailed to me from Williams-Sonoma. I made a couple changes to the recipe, especially for the frosting since it's so annoying to work with 12 oz of cream cheese when a package comes with 8 oz! You can check out the original recipe at the link above, or check out my adapted version below. Either way, it's a great recipe to try!



Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes - Makes approximately 5 dozen mini-cupcakes
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 15 oz pumpkin (one small can, or 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line mini cupcake pan with paper liners.
  2. Put the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt into a bowl. Mix it together with a metal whisk.
  3. In a larger bowl, beat the pumpkin, sugars and oil on medium-low speed. Add the eggs one at a time.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients slowly, mixing gently with an electric mixer on low speed as you do.
  5. Fill the cupcake liners 1/2 to 3/4 full. I find that it's always hard to do that with a small cupcake pan, so it's sometimes helpful to use a small ice cream scoop.
  6. Bake for about 14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

These cuppies have a nice balance of pumpkin and spices. I think that I would like if they had tasted more like pumpkin, but no one else seemed to feel that way.



And now for the frosting! I personally don't like cream cheese frosting all that much, but this recipe called for a fantastic cream cheese and white chocolate combo! Yummy! Like I mentioned above, the portions of ingredients didn't use as even numbers as I like, so I changed it around a little. Here's my adaptation:

White Chocolate & Cream Cheese Frosting - makes enough to generously cover the cupcakes from the Pumpkin Spice recipe
  • 2 12oz bags of white chocolate chips
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • food coloring (optional)
  1. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Stir it constantly so that it doesn't burn and melts evenly. Let it stand until just warm to the touch.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy on medium speed with an electric mixer.
  3. Add the cream cheese to the butter and cream together until well mixed.
  4. Add the melted white chocolate to the butter and cream cheese. Continue to mix until well combined and smooth.
  5. Optional - add food coloring slowly until the desired shade is achieved.

The frosting might be my new favorite. It didn't taste too much like cream cheese and it had such a delicate touch of white chocolate. Oh, and on top of the pumpkin spice cupcake? DELISH!

Lastly, I tried to make the cupcakes look like little pumpkins, an idea that comes from the Hello, Cupcake! book. This was pretty easy....




To make your cupcakes look like pumpkins:
  • orange decorating sugar (OR you can just use orange frosting)
  • orange frosting
  • green candies to make a stalk and vine, such as green airheads or green chewy jolly ranchers
  • orange gel icing in a tube
1. I happened to fill my cupcake liners too much, so the tops of the cupcakes were already round like a pumpkin. If yours don't look like that, you can just put a large mound of icing on top of your cupcake with an off-set spatula or knife. Smooth it out so it looks "pumpkin-like."
2. Pour the orange sugar into a bowl. Gently press the cupcakes into the bowl so that the icing is evenly covered with sprinkles. Careful! I dropped some cupcakes in the bowl. They they just look sort of flat and sad instead of a pumpkin.
3. Warm the green candy in your hand while it is still in the wrapper. Just hold onto it for a few minutes. Unwrap the candy and tear off a small piece. Mold it to look like the top of a pumpkin ant stick it into the top of the cupcake.
4. Use the orange gel icing to draw longitudinal lines around the pumpkin to look like ridges.


You could even make them into Jack-O-Lanterns if you want :) I didn't.... but that's because I wasn't in a particularly spooky mood.



Less than a week until Halloween!


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cookies n Cream



Cookies n Cream used to be one of my favorite ice cream flavors. Ice cream plus cookies! What could be better than that? Surprisingly, I have never tried the cupcake version.

They turned out to be a big hit with my friends. Even Sara, who doesn't like cupcakes very much and certainly won't eat the frosting, ate the whole cupcake! Oreo cookies (or the off-brand equivalent) add a nice creamy texture to an otherwise vanilla cupcake. The frosting was also delicious with little pieces of cookies in it! I used parts of cookies to top them off, but using mini-Oreos would be the.... cookie on the cupcake! (Like frosting on the cake.... capito?)

I used a cupcake recipe from my first cupcake cookbook, Crazy About Cupcakes. My only complaint was that the order in which you were supposed to put the ingredients together was a little weird. I made a huge mess in my kitchen, but the ends justified the means in this case.

Tip: an easy way to make cookies n cream cuppies - just add 1 cup (or about 10 cookies) of "lightly crushed" chocolate sandwich cookies to your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe. Or I guess box mix if you are going to forgo making it from scratch.





For the frosting, I modified a recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Cookies n Cream Frosting - enough to generously cover 18 cupcakes
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup (about 5 cookies) finely crushed chocolate sandwich cookies
1. Beat the butter until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer on low-medium speed.
2. Add the confectioners sugar 1/2 cup at a time. As you add the sugar, it will become more and more clumpy.
3. Add the milk and vanilla. Mix well.
4. Stir in or beat in the cookie crumbs with an electric mixer.


This is definitely a recipe I'll want to make again!

Oh, and if you're really in a cookie lovin' mood, add a cookie to the bottom of each paper liner before filling it with batter :)



Friday, October 2, 2009

Lion King Cupcakes



These lil' lions came from from the Martha Stewart Cupcake Book (which might be my favorite book!). I changed them a little bit to make them look more like lions by using black icing gel to make the nose and mouth. I think that they look more like lions if you arrange the toasted coconut in a triangle instead of a perfect circle.

So what do you need to make these cuties?

1. Toasted coconut - Simply preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread coconut on a cookie sheet in a thin layer. Keep it in the oven for about ten minutes, or until they start turning brown. That's it!

2. Black licorice for whiskers. You could just use icing

3. White gum drops cut in half for the cheeks

4. For the frosting color, I had a crazy mix of yellow, orange and red. Don't ask me how I decided on those colors.

That's pretty much it! Apply the coconut first, followed by the gum drops, and then the eyes and mouth, and finish with the whiskers.

And then let out a big roar :)





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