Thursday, April 29, 2010

Flower Basket Thank You Cake

Thanks you cake

I finished my last rotation of my third year of  medical school yesterday!  Technically, it ends with my exam tomorrow morning, but clinic ended yesterday.  I had such a fabulous time in my family medicine clinic.  A good variety of patients, great staff, hilarious MAs, and an office full of friendly people.  I wanted to bring them a cake to thank them.

Cake from the side

The cake was actually the "grand finale" for my level 2 Wilton Cake Class.  I learned how to do the basket weave and rope border that you can see in the above pictures.  The flowers I made out of royal icing.

Inside the cake

It's was a three layer vanilla cake with white chocolate buttercream filling with fresh strawberries, covered in white chocolate swiss meringue buttercream and then another type of buttercream that's easier to pipe. Lots and lots of buttercream!

Last bit of cake

I am very happy with how the cake came out.  I was sort of skeptical because I had a very hard time with the flowers, but all in all I think that it came out nicely.  Maybe too nicely.  No one would cut into the cake for over an hour!

Unfortunately, I don't think that I'll have time to take a cake class again until the end of the summer.... until then.... back to cupcakes!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Michigander: Cherry Almond Cupcakes

michigan cupcakes

Over memorial day weekend my first year of medical school, I went "up north" to Traverse City.  I spent a couple of days exploring Sleeping Bear dunes and saw Lake Michigan up close for the first time since moving to Michigan.  Traverse City is a beautiful lakeside town with vineyards and lots and lots of cherries.  Sadly, the cherry festival was later in the year, but that didn't stop me from eating chocolate covered cherries, cherry wine, and cherry soda. Oh, and cherry salsa, too!  Mmm... cherries.

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Picture of a vineyard on the peninsula

I have been meaning to perfect the perfect cherry cupcake.  I don't want chocolate to take away from the cherry taste.  This was my second attempt.  People seemed to really like it, although the cake was too sweet for my taste.  Cherries also aren't in season yet, so I used some canned pie filling.  You can bet that there will a Michigander part two as summer approaches!

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The Michigander (Cherry Almond Cupcakes) - Makes approximately 15
  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cherries
  • 2 T gooey cherry stuff from canned cherries (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line cupcake tin with paper liners.
  2. Chop the almonds in a food processor until they are finely ground.
  3. Add the almonds, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a medium bowl.  Mix with a whisk.
  4. Beat the butter with an electic mixer until pale and fluffy.
  5. Add the sugar to the butter and mix on medium-high speed until well combined.
  6. Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture one at a time, mixing well after each egg.
  7. Add the two extracts and mix well.
  8. Slowly add the flour mixture to the rest of the batter while mixing on low-medium speed.  Continue mixing until fully combined.
  9. Add the cherries to the batter and stir them in with a spoon.  If you prefer to have the cherries in smaller pieces, mix them in with the electric beater.
  10. OPTIONAL - if you want to add a little bit more sweetness to your cupcakes, add 2 T of that gooey strawberry stuff that comes with canned cherries.  It will also make your batter a nice, light pink color.
  11. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full of batter.  Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cetner of the cupcake comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Mmmm.... these cupcakes really smelled great when they came out of the oven.  You definitely don't want to bite into them until they are completely cool because the specific heat of cherries makes them hot hot hot!

cherry almond cupcakes :)

As I mentioned above, the cupcakes were very sweet.  I decided to top them off with a buttery Meringue Vanilla Buttercream.  It's a recipe that was given to me photocopied from a magazine.  Unfortunately, I am not sure what magazine.... Anyway, this is a heck of a lot easier to make with a standing mixer.  It's possible to do with a hand mixer, but you will be standing for a long time holding it and you want to be sure that you are using a whisk attachment.

Meringue Vanilla Buttercream - Makes 2 1/2 cups
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter, soft and cut into tablespoon pieces
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Add the egg whites and the sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer over a bowl of simmering water to create a double boiler.
  2. Whisk the sugar, salt, and egg white together until the temperature of the mixture reaches 150 F on an instant read thermometer (or approximately 2-3 minutes).
  3. Remove the bowl from head and place under the standing mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, whisk the contents on medium speed until the mixture thickens to the consistency of shaving cream (or about 2-3 minutes).
  4. While whisking on medium speed, add the butter one tablespoon at a time.  Do not add the next tablespoon until the first has been completely incorporated into the mixture.  Your mixture may look curdle after half of the butter has been added, but it will turn smooth again once all of the butter has been added.
  5. Add in the vanilla and continue to whisk on medium-high speed until the frosting is fluffy and smooth (at least 30 seconds).
I have to say, I love meringue-style buttercream.  It's just so... buttery.  And not too sweet!  It's not for everyone, I admit.  I think that it worked really well with the sweet cherry cake.  I topped the cupcakes either with sprinkles or yellow chocolate Michigans.  The Michigan chocolates were a real hit in the office where I am currently rotating.  I can't remember exactly where I picked it up.  When I was living in Detroit last month I spent some time exploring bakery supply stores.  A somewhat similar mold is available online here. And I have a tutorial on how to use chocolate molds here.

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You'll have to excuse the iPhone photos.  I forgot to take pictures of them before I left for work...

I ran out of frosting with six cupcakes to go, so I decided to whip up some regular buttercream and just added some of that cherry gooey stuff that came with the canned cherries (I think a tablespoon or two) to some good ole vanilla buttercream (butter, powdered sugar, vanilla) and spread those onto the remaining cupcakes.  People seemed to like that, too!

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There will be more Michigan-inspired cupcakes to come... and probably a redux of this recipe as well once the fresh cherries come to town!

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Lake Michigan :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Made in Michigan: JIFFY!!

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I had the best day ever last Thursday. 

No, really.  Let me explain...

Last Thursday Jeremy and I went to see what inpatient family medicine is like in Chelsea, MI.  After rounding with the attending and checking out the hospital, we had a nice little lunch in town.  We still had some time before afternoon clinic.  After unsuccessfully looking for organic roses, we stumbled upon this sight:

jiffy plant!

THE JIFFY MIXES PLANT!!!!!!!!

I always see those blue and white boxes at the grocery store, but I had no idea that it was a Michigan company.  I immediately became obsessed with the idea that we needed to go on a tour of the plant.  I couldn't stop talking about it.  We decided to head on over to the building and inquire about tours.

In the Jiffy office they had a cute little display of the Jiffy boxes over the years:

jiffy throughout the years

My excitement increased as the nice lady behind the desk called to see if there was a tour going on right then.  We were in luck!  There was a tour of third graders about to walk through the factor.  Unfortunately, we missed the slide show on the history of Jiffy.

Jeremy and I walked around the building and met up with the group of third graders.  They quizzically looked at us, probably because I couldn't stop talking about how awesome everything was.  We were greeted with Jiffy sugar cookies, juice, and some awesome bouffant hats to wear inside the factor.  

team jiffy 
Yep, that's us being awesome right before going into the factory.

Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take pictures while inside the factory.  But let me tell you, it was SO cool.  Machines everywhere folding boxes, making bags, filling boxes with mix.  There was an entire interstate of conveyor belts bringing boxes form area of the factory to another.  I couldn't believe how much the machines did!  They make a million boxes a day! Whoa!  I also couldn't help but think of Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations - I'm a historian at heart.

Anyway, I definitely recommend checking out the plant if you're in the area.  Tours are free, and you get two free boxes of Jiffy Mix!  I picked out brownie and banana muffin.  The whole afternoon I told everyone in the office that would listen about how great the Jiffy tour was.  I was tickled pink!

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Today I made mini cupcake brownies from the Jiffy mix.  They were super easy to make (and the mix is less than a dollar at the grocery store).  I added a cup of white chocolate chips to them, but they all sank to the bottom for some reason.  I topped them with a little buttercream frosting (not that it neeeded it). 

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Oh, and did I mention that the plant in Chelsea is the ONLY plant?  That means when you see a Jiffy truck you know that it came from Michigan!

jiffy truck!

Wow, I didn't realize that I have so much Michigan pride!  :)

Oh, and were you wondering what's in the tall silo?

jiffy silo

Michigan white winter wheat!

Thanks, Jiffy, for such a fun adventure! 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Party Time! Margarita Cupcakes

single margarita cupcake

I went to a birthday party for one of my classmates over the weekend and decided that it would be a good time to try out some margarita cupcakes.  I used the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but used regular milk and the like.


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The reactions I got were somewhere in the range of "WHOA! Tequila!" (even when I warned people that there was tequila in it) to "mmmm it tastes just like a margarita."  You can still taste the tequila in the cake after it comes out of the oven.  You definitely want to use fresh lime juice, but if you're short on limes save the fresh lime juice for the frosting and (I guess) use the artificial stuff for the batter.  The lime taste really makes the cake, I think.

sparkling sprinkles

For the rim of sugar around the outside, I used India Tree sparkling sugar.  I purchased mine at Marshalls, but you can find them online here.  I just sprinkled the sugar around the edge of the cupcake.  I don't really have good results with rolling the edges of the cupcake into a bowl of sugar.

frostingless cupcakes

Margarita Cupcakes - Makes 12 - adapted from Vegan Cupcakes...
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 5 limes)
  • zest from one lime
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons tequila
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line cupcake tin with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the lime juice, zest, soy milk, oil, tequila, vanilla and sugar together until well combined.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to the liquid mixture and mix until the batter is smooth on medium-high speed.
  4. Fill the paper liners 3/4 full with batter.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to cool on a cooling rack.

margarita cupcake closeup

Ok, time for the frosting! You won't be baking out the alcohol that's in here, so just warn your guests.  I didn't feel like it needed any food coloring to make it look green.  

Margarita Icing - Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (approximately 3 limes)
  • 1 tablespoon tequila
  • generous pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  1. Fluff the butter with an electric mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy.
  2. Add the milk, lime juice, salt, and tequila and continue to mix on medium-high speed.
  3. Slowly add the sugar 1/2 cup at a time will continuously mixing on medium-low speed.  Continue mixing until all of the sugar is added and the mixture is smooth.
IMG_4946

I think that these cuppies just want to party.  They are ready to have a good time :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rosewater Pistachio Cupcakes

on a plate

If I had to make a list of my all-time favorite cupcakes, these might end up at the top.  I have made these countless times and they always get rave reviews.  There is something about the synergy of rosewater and pistachio that make these both special and scrumptious.  It's a slightly adjusted recipe from my Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World cookbook.  They have a yogurt and oil base instead of eggs, leaving them delicately moist.  It is my most requested recipe.


rosewater pistachio cupcakes

Rosewater Pistachio Cupcakes - Makes one dozen - Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes...
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 plus 2 Tb sugar
  • 2 Tb rosewater
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tb all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tb cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Generous pinch of ground cardamom
  • 1/3 cup of chopped pistachios
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line cupcake pan with paper liners.  
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the yogurt, milk, oil, sugar, and rosewater until completely combined.
  3. In a small bowl, add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cardamom.  Use a whisk to mix the ingredients together.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until completely mixed on low-medium speed with an electric mixer.
  5. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the pistachios.
  6. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter and bake for approximately 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  The tops may turn golden yellow like in the above picture.  
Now for the frosting.  The cupcake book actually uses a rosewater glaze.  This time around I made it into a frosting, which I liked better.  The glaze makes a bit of a mess and it just too sweet.  

IMG_4952

Rosewater Frosting - Enough to lightly cover 12 cupcakes
  • 4 Tb butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2-3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 3 Tb milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosewater
  1. Cream the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.
  2. Add the milk, rosewater, and 1 cup of confectioner's sugar.  Mix until combined with the electric mixer.
  3. Add the rest of the confectioner's sugar 1/2 cup at a time until you get a spreadable consistency (or one that you are happy with.
closeup

I like using pink sprinkles and leftover chopped up pistachios to cover the cupcakes.  Most people love the unusual flavor of this dessert.  People have said that they taste like an Indian dessert to that they are very gourmet.  Oh, and I found my rosewater at a local food co-op.  You can also find it in a middle eastern grocer.  Just make sure that it is natural rosewater and not made with perfume!

above


Friday, April 16, 2010

A Big Cupcake for a Big Birthday

IMG_4918

Mike celebrates his 30th birthday tomorrow, and I wanted to make him a special cupcake cake in my Big Top Cupcake mold.  As you might recall from a previous post, Mike likes vanilla with chocolate frosting cupcakes.  You probably don't know that he also has a dog named Marley.  I therefore wanted to put paw prints on the top of the cupcake and I thought that chocolate frosting wouldn't be ideal.  As a result, I decided to go with Oreo cake with Oreo frosting (recipe here).  Oh, and how about a little Oreo pudding in the middle to make it extra special?  Oreo-tastic!

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Instant Oreo pudding

In order to fill the cake with the pudding, I just used a knife to cut out part of the base of the cake and filled it with the pudding.  Mmm... pudding.  I got the idea from one of the medical assistants that works in the family practice office that I'm at this month.  She said that it makes cake taste amazing.  :)

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The extra cake that I left out for the roomies

I made the paw prints using color flow, a technique that I recently learned in my cake decorating class.  It's nice because it comes out shiny, but it's not as easy as just melting chocolate.  It takes a lot longer to harden, too.  I arranged the paw prints on the top part of the cake and took a step back.

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I thought that it needed something else.... like frosting on the bottom part of the cupcake.  There is all of that hidden pudding, so I decided to use a little bit of yellow buttercream that I had leftover from my cake class to give a little color to the bottom half.

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Ah, much better!  Happy birthday, Mike!  Hopefully you won't see this post until after your birthday dinner :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Papaya Cupcakes

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The other day I was in the produce section of the grocery store when I found this:

whole papaya

PAPAYA!!! In Michigan! How could I not buy it and use it for the nefarious purpose of putting it into a cupcake?

papaya cut open

I first made a syrup out of the papaya fruit.  I sort of wish that I just left it, to be honest with you.  Cut open your papaya, scoop out and discard the seeds and spoon it into a blender.  Blend until it makes a liquid.  I then reduced it with a half cup of water and 1/4 cup of sugar in a saucepan, stirring constantly until it boiled.  It makes it very sweet. 

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Papaya has such a mild taste that I wasn't sure how exactly it would work.  Papaya cake for sure.  I considered adding banana, but banana always masks the flavor of other fruits.  I wasn't feeling in the mood for coconut, so just papaya cake.   This cake has a VERY mild flavor.  It wasn't something that I could eat hot out of the oven and not require some frosting on it.  I would think that you could substitute papaya nectar for the papaya syrup that I used

Papaya Cupcakes - Makes just over 12

Batter:
  • 1 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cup papaya syrup/nectar
  • 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
Meringue:
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tins with paper liners
  2. In a large bowl, add the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix together with a wire whisk.
  3. Add the oil, water, papaya syrup, and egg yolks. Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
  4. For the meringue, in a separate small bowl beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly beat in the 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff.
  5. Fold the meringue into the batter until lightly mixed.
  6. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full of batter and bake for approximately 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  The tops of the cupcakes will turn golden brown.  Allow the cupcakes to cool on a cooling rack.
I didn't take any picture of the naked cupcakes.   You will just have to use your imagination, or make them yourself :)

And now for the frosting.  I think this is what made the cupcakes special.  I don't know if I would make the papaya cake again, but I would definitely make the frosting again.  It came out more buttery than some of the other buttercreams that I have made, but I thought that it worked well.

closeup of dragees

Papaya Buttercream - Enough to generously frost 15 cupcakes
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon papaya syrup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 pound confectioner's sugar (approximately 4 cups)

  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter until pale and fluffy.
  2. Add the syrup, milk, and a pinch of salt. Beat until well combined.
  3. Continue to add the confectioner's sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing on medium-high speed after each addition.  

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The frosting comes out a beautiful salmon (papaya?) color.  I think that it made the cupcake special.  Honestly, I didn't love these cupcakes.  In fact, I was hesitant about bringing them to lecture this morning.  Some people agreed that they weren't my best work, but others said that they were their favorite of all the things that I have made!  I bet it has a lot to do if you like papaya to begin with.  They were fun to decorate, at the very least :)

four II

Monday, April 5, 2010

Double-Decker Cupcakes

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Sometimes when I bake cupcakes, they rise really oddly.  Some will have beautiful domes.  Others will be flat.  And some will look like freakish globs.  I use an ice cream scoop to get the same amount of batter in each cupcake, so that can't be it.  I blame it on the fact that my gas oven doesn't bake evenly.

I found a good way to deal with those unsightly tops - cut them off!!  Frost your cupcake.  Heck, add some sprinkles.  And then add the top part back on.  And then add a little bit more frosting.  Mm... Double-decker.  Perfect for those who love frosting.  

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And not to sound like a broken record ... but there is still time to win cupcake-themed goodies! Just leave a comment with your favorite type of cupcake and a way to contact you on THIS post :)

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