Saturday, May 29, 2010

Baby Baked Alaska Cuppies: The Union of Cake and Ice Cream

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Sometimes it's difficult to decide what kind of cupcake I should make next.  Do I go with an old favorite and spice it up with a cute decoration, or do I try a new recipe and hope that it's delicious?  I suppose it's nice that the dilemmas of a cupcake blogger are pretty small.

squirrel
This guy had his eye on me while I was baking

I can be helpful to have a competition to give you inspiration.  I saw that Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious are hosting a cupcake and ice cream competition!

 Not only do I get to venture into the world of cuppies and ice cream together, but I could even win an ice cream maker.  I don't have an ice cream maker... but Allie does!  I enlisted Allie to help me with this cupcake so that we could combine our individual powers to become Captain Planet!  OK, not Captain Planet, but maybe Captain Cupcake?

Anyway, I had never made an ice cream cake before.  I wasn't really sure what to do.  After several email exchanges of brainstorming, we decided to do a cupcake version of a Baked Alaska.  What's a Baked Alaska?  It's a layer of cake with ice cream on top, covered in a dome of meringue.  The cake is then quickly placed into a very hot oven so that the meringue can turn a golden brown color and baked immediately.  I don't even think that it's from Alaska to be honest with you.

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It was decided that I would provide the cake, Allie would bring the ice cream, and then we would cover those cuppies in meringue. 

PART 1 - Cupcake

For the cake, I decided to go with a chocolate pound cake.  I used a recipe from one of my new books, Cake Love.  It was the first thing that I made from it, but I already love the book.  It's written by Warren Brown, who went to law school, became a lawyer, decided that he hated it, and opened a cake store instead (also called Cake Love).  The book has heartfelt anecdotes to the recipes and gorgeous pictures.  My only gripe is that there is a lot of use of unusual ingredients.  In fact, the chocolate pound cake that I used called for vanilla powder.  I couldn't find it at the local food co-op or Williams-Sonoma, so I gave up.  It came out delicious nonetheless! 

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You can use any pound cake (or cake recipe, really) that you like.  The only thing is that you do not want a lot of cake in your cupcake liners so that there is space for the ice cream.  I used a small ice cream scoop to just cover the liners with about 1/2 inch of batter.  It took only about 10 minutes for it to bake, so keep an eye on the oven!

PART 2: Ice Cream

homemade strawberry ice cream

Once the cupcakes are completely cool, it's time to introduce ice cream and cupcake to each other.  Again, you can use whatever kind of ice cream you would like.  Allie made strawberry ice cream (a good match for the chocolate cake).  Allow the ice cream to cool a little and then scoop it on top of the cake. It is much easier if you leave the cupcakes inside the tin.  You can pack it down with a spoon and level it with a knife if necessary.  Place the cupcakes in the freezer and allow them to re-freeze for at least 3 hours.  You can even leave it overnight if you would like.

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PART 3: Meringue

Allie piping meringue onto cupcakes

Once the cuppies are sufficiently frozen, it's time to frost them with meringue!  I used Martha Stewart's Swiss Meringue, which has a nice marshmallow-like fluffiness and flavor to it.  In order to not have your cupcakes melt away while decorating, decorate one at a time and keep the rest in the freezer.  Allie and I used Wilton 1M tip and Ateco 7.  We experimented with swirls and little puffs, as you can see below:

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Allie's beautiful creation

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I think I made this?

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Would you believe that Allie had never used a pastry tip before today?

PART 4: Browning the meringue
 
The last and trickiest part: baking the meringue.  One option is to pre-heat the oven to as hot as it can go and then place the cuppies in there until the meringue starts to just brown and then remove.  I don't know about you, but we thought that sounded like a disaster waiting to happen.  I decided to invest in a kitchen torch, instead.  They are probably better known for their use in making creme brulee.  For some reason, I thought that it would come ready to use, but one actually needs to purchase butane lighter fluid first.  I was a little nervous about filling up the kitchen torch, so I had Jack ready with the fire extinguisher just in case...

 Jack with fire extinguisher

It was actually pretty easy to do in retrospect.  Also, using the torch to brown the meringue was the most fun that I have had in the kitchen... EVER.
Allie with kitchen torch
Allie having the time of her life

We were definitely giggling and dancing around the kitchen as we made these.

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If you end up using a torch, you don't need to hold the flame all that close... because you don't want the meringue to catch on fire....

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You can see the beautiful transition of the meringue in this image

And there you have it!  Baby Baked Alaska Cuppies!  
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If you don't want to eat them all in a row, put them back in the tin and keep them in the freezer until you are ready to serve.  I wouldn't make them more than a couple of hours ahead of when you plan on serving them, however.

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PART 5: Eat!

People really liked these! It's a perfect combination of cake, ice cream, and meringue topping.  Jack even said that they were the best cupcake ever.  How am I going to top that?

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Noting like an ice cream cupcake post-run

Another thing that I liked about these is that they look beautiful after the browning of the meringue.  You can really see the details from using a pastry tip.

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This is a great summer cupcake... I hope that you give it a try :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Maize and Blue-berry Cupcakes

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 A few months ago, I donated a dozen cupcakes for a charity auction.  This was my third year donating cupcakes.  The first year I think that I made some boring yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  Last year I made Rosewater Pistachio cuppies.  This year the winner was an attending (who does adolescent medicine AND photography!) who had the following request:

I want something unique that stretches your creativity!  No cherries and no olives.  Other than that, the sky's the limit.  No pressure  : )

Ahhhh! PRESSURE!!!!

single cupcakes

I spent a long time brainstorming.  One idea was to make each cupcake unique and represent a different place in Ann Arbor.  There would cupcakes representing the hospital, Zingerman's, the Big House, and the arb.  And then each cupcake would sit on a map of Ann Arbor in its proper place.  I started sketching out how ar each place would be and purchased little cookie cutters and accessories. 

One of my first times in the Big House.  Go Blue!

And then I realized that I am a third year medical student with no time to spend hours on one single cupcake.

I decided to go for a Michigan-themed cupcake instead.  U of M is all about Maize and Blue.  My cupcakes would there fore be.. maize and blue-berry! 

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Maize and Blue-berry Cupcakes - Adapted from Martha Stewart - Makes approximately 16

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  •  1/2 cup fine-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 6 ounce containers of blueberries
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line cupcake tin with paper liners.  
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
    3. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter.
    4. Pour the melted butter mixture over the flour mixture and whisk until fully combined.  Try not to overmix.
    5. Add a small amount of batter to each cupcake liner.  Add a few blueberries.  Cover the blueberries with a tiny bit more batter and add a few more berries on top.  Each cupcake liner should be filled about 1/2 - 2/3 full.
    6. Bake cupcakes for about 18-22 minutes.
    7. Allow cupcakes to cool for five minutes in the tin and then to fully cool on a wire rack.

    These cupcakes could be easily made with any kind of fruit you would like.  And they are really, really good.  Even before you put on some frosting.  I decided to go with Martha Stewart's Brown Butter Icing.

    frosted

    Now, as far as decoration goes... I used these super cute Michigan Pennant toppers.  Oh, and football helmets.  Oh, and of course, chocolate Michigans like before

    trio

    Ta da! University of Michigan Cupcakes that don't take hours and hours to make :) 



    football helmets

    Ok, so they aren't exactly winged like the real Michigan helmets are, but you get the idea.

    michigan pennant

    In the end, I am very happy with how these cupcakes turned out, even if they weren't all unique. 

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

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    May is a busy month for me.  I am studying for my Step 2 exam at the end of this month, not to mention trying to figure out residency applications and all of that jazz.  I did manage a little trip home to California, however! I wanted to bring some cupcakes to an event that I went to, but had some difficulty brainstorming.  Honestly, I don't really remember where the idea for Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes came from, but once I picked it, I was pretty obsessed!

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    I found a recipe from Martha Stewart for Mexican Chocolate pudding.  I guess I didn't really know what Mexican chocolate was because I picked up some chipotle chocolate at the store and my mom gave me a weird look and said "you need the chocolate in the yellow wrapper!"

    What?! 

    I ended up going to a local Mexican grocery store, Cardenas.  It was amazing!  My friend, Grace, has a full review of Cardenas here.  I found the chocolate in the "yellow wrapper!"


    ibarra chocolate II

    It's chocolate with cinnamon.  Yum!  If you don't have a place that carries the appropriate chocolate near you, it's online here in bulk.  Nestle also sells Mexican chocolate under the name Abuelita, available in single bars here.  It smells delicious out of the box.  And comes in a cool shape! 

    It is unbelievably easy to make pudding.  And this pudding recipe is very tasty, even if you don't want to use it in cupcakes!

    Mexican Chocolate Pudding - Adapted from Martha Stewart Online



    • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
    • 1 3/4 tablespoons potato starch (or cornstarch)
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 pinch salt
    • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 2 large egg yolks
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 Ibarra chocolate disk (or approximately 3 ounces of Mexican chocolate)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
    1. Combine cocoa powder, potato (corn) starch, sugar, salt, heavy cream, egg yolks, milk, and Mexican chocolate in a medium saucepan.
    2. Cook on medium-high speed, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture boils and thickens.  This will take about 5-8 minutes.
    3. Remove from head and pour into a medium bowl and immediately stir in the butter and vanilla.  Mix until completely combined.
    4. Cover directly with plastic wrap and put in a refrigerator until chilled (at least a few hours).

    I didn't take a picture of the pudding.  Imagine chocolate pudding.  There, that's what it looks like. Now for the cupcakes....


    yikes! stripes!

    I used the above cupcake liners that I purchased at Cost Plus.  I like that they are festive, but in retrospect they weren't a good choice for these cuppies.  The cupcake liners came out greasy and translucent.  Either you need to double up on liners, or you need to go grease-free.

    I made half of the cupcakes with cayenne pepper, and the other half without.  My mom and I couldn't really tell the difference between the two, and I ended up serving them without any sort of warning and no one mentioned anything.  I've therefore made the cayenne optional.  It maybe adds some depth to the chocolate and perhaps a little kick, depending on how much you use.  I had a bad experience with chipotle pepper and chocolate cupcakes as a first year medical student and I didn't want to mess this batch up!  The recipe is adapted from this recipe that I found on Epicurious.  I found my bourbon vanilla at Trader Joe's, but of course you can use just regular vanilla extract.

    dia de los muertos... or dia de los cupcakes?
    I collect Dia De Los Muertos figurines

    Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes - Adapted from chef Rebecca Rather - Makes 24


    • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 3/4 cup water
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 2 large eggs, room temperature
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 1 tablespoon bourbon vanilla 
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • generous pinch of cayenne (optional)

    1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line cupcake pans with paper liners.
    2. Melt butter in a large size saucepan over low heat.
    3. Whisk in the cocoa until smooth.
    4. Add the water and whisk until smooth and then remove the mixture from heat.
    5. Separately whisk in the sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla , mixing well before adding the next ingredient.
    6. In a large bowl, add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and (optional) cayenne.  Whisk together the ingredients.
    7. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and whisk until just combined.
    8. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
    9. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes in the tins, and then allow them to fully cool on a wire cooling rack.

    I have to include another picture.  These rose so beautifully!  In Michigan we have a gas oven that does not cook evenly (we get angry at it quite often).  Using an electric oven was great... plus there were two of them! It made things go much, much faster :)

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    Ok, enough looking at the naked cupcakes.  Time for the frosting!  I was debating between using a cinnamon whipped cream topping or cinnamon buttercream.  Buttercream won hands down.  Besides, it's already 90 degrees here....



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    Cinnamon Buttercream - enough to generously frost 24 cupcakes

    • 3 1/2 - 4 cups confectioner's sugar
    • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1. Cream butter on medium speed with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.
    2. Add the confectioner's sugar, 1/2 cup at a time to the butter.  Mix on medium speed until fully incorporated before adding the next 1/2 cup of sugar.  Add up to 3 1/2 cups.  Occasionally bring the mixer to high speed to allow the mixture to aerate (read: get fluffy!)
    3. Add the vanilla and mix well.
    4. Add 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla and mix well.  Taste the frosting.   Cautiously add the remaining cinnamon to taste, if necessary.
    5. You may add the rest of the confectioner's sugar if the frosting is too thin.  

    Assembling your cupcakes!

    1.  Use a paring knife or melon baller to cut out a piece of the cupcake.  I have used both, and a melon baller is much easier.  You will want the piece of cake that you remove to look somewhat like an inverted pyramid

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    2. Use a tablespoon to scoop in some of that delicious pudding that you made.

    cupcake filled with pudding

    3.  Use a knife to trim the piece of cake that you removed from the cupcake so that it consists of a flat lid (feel free to eat the pyramid) and place it on top of the pudding.  It's now secret pudding.

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    4.  Lastly, frost away!  I used old faithful Wilton 1M placed inside of a freezer zip-lock bag.

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    I know you are all dying to know what it looked like inside. 

    cut in half cupcake


    These cupcakes are a lot of work.  I made the pudding the day before and everything else the day of the event.  Keep them in the refrigerator until about an hour and a half before serving.

    Comments I received included "yum," "very moist," and "I don't like cinnamon but I like these cupcakes."  I thought that they were a heavenly blend of chocolate and cinnamon.  I will be bringing the rest of that Ibarra chocolate with me to Michigan :)

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    Oh, and here's a little secret... I've never even had Mexican hot chocolate! ;-)

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    Exploring the World of 3D Cakes: Spike

    spike the dinosaur
    Notice the reject cakes in the background

    After making the Thank You Cake last week, I received an email from one of the attendings asking me to make a cake for a cake charity auction.  I could make whatever I wanted.  She mentioned that the cakes can go for hundreds of dollars - no pressure to make something great, right?

    Spike before the spikes
    Spike before his chocolate spikes... and a little clue about where I go to school!

    I had a day and a half to make the cake.  I spent a lot of time thinking about what to make.  I ended up seeing this cake on the Wilton website.  Don't forget, I love dinosaurs.  I had to make it!

    His tail was made from the bear ears, marshmallows, and frosting

    It wasn't too difficult to make.  The hardest part was making the cake.  I wish that I had taken a picture of the my first attempt. (I was too excited to go upstairs and grab my Canon Rebel, so these crummy pictures are all iPhone unfortunately).  It involves using a bear mold that has to sit upside-down while baking.  The first time I didn't fasten the clips tightly enough and batter poured all of the place.  The second time I put a little bit of parchment papers in the ears so that it wouldn't leak and that worked a lot better.  I used a pound cake recipe from my All Cakes Considered book.



    I used some graham cracker crumbs and fake bushes to decorate his surroundings

    It took about 90 minutes to decorate.  The worst part was getting the bear mold to work, to be honest with you!  I am very pleased with how it came out, and it was a little bittersweet to let him go.

    Spike fits nicely on a 10" cake round


    Oh, and in case you were curious, it went for $135 at the auction :)

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