Friday, March 30, 2012

Lemony Lemon Cupcakes

I was back in my home town last week for most of the week. My awesome Gramma was in the hospital and I wanted to be with her, so I headed back to my roots, to the Hospital that I was born in and spent 4 days sitting next to her bed and visiting with my Gramma.

My Gramma is awesome. Her and my Mother were the ones who taught me to bake when I was a child and I have wonderful memories of kitchens past filled with these two lovely ladies and the scent of something wonderful in the oven. My Gramma can't bake anymore, so when I'm home I always try and take her something sweet to eat.

In my haste to get to the train so I could get home to see her, I forgot my cupcake book (and lots of other things that are less important). I was going to pull out a recipe from The Challenge, but without my book, there really wasn't much I could do. I thought about going back and remaking one of the ones I've already done, but when I asked my Mom about it, she asked if I would make lemon cupcakes, as lemony as I could make them. Since I've never made lemon cupcakes and I'm pretty sure my book didn't have a recipe for them, I headed to the internet! I searched all of my go-to baking blogs, but didn't really find much. Finally I googled Lemon Cupcake recipes and came across this excellent one from Style At Home.

1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 12 muffin tin cups with paper cupcake liners.
Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

n a large bowl and using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until smoothly blended and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is blended into the batter and it looks creamy, about 1 minute.

Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes. If the eggs are cold, the mixture may look slightly curdled. (I also added yellow food colouring to give it a nice lemon look)

On low speed and in 3 additions (3 flour, 2 milk), add the flour mixture and milk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. (we only had whole wheat flour, that's why the batter looks weird)

 Mix just until the flour is incorporated and the batter looks smooth.

Fill each paper liner with 1/4 cup of batter (an ice-cream scoop works well), to about 1/2 inch below the top of the liner. Bake just until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Cool the cupcakes for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove the cupcakes from the pan onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

 Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed, beat the butter, cream cheese, grated lemon peel, and vanilla until smooth and thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. 

 Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. Add the powdered sugar, mixing until smooth, about 1 minute, then beat on medium speed for 1 minute to lighten the frosting further.

(again, I added yellow food colouring to make them look more lemony)

 Now before I iced them, I decided to try and make them even more lemony, so I made a lemon sugar glaze that I found on e how foods.

1/4 cup lemon juice 
1 1/2 cups sugar  
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Squeeze lemons until you have 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice. Squeeze lemons with your hands over a small bowl. Pour through strainer into small saucepan to remove seeds. Add sugar, vanilla and lemon curd to small saucepan. Turn stove on low heat. Whisk ingredients to dissolve the sugar. Keep whisking until all ingredients have melded together and glaze is very thin. Try your glaze and adjust as needed to suit your taste. For a sweeter glaze, add an extra half cup of sugar. For a glaze with a little more zing, add an additional tablespoon of lemon juice. (I personally, added more lemon and put in much less sugar, but for me this was about lemon and not about sweet)

To ensure that your cake soaks up as much glaze as possible, use a toothpick to make small holes in the cake before topping with glaze or icing.

Spoon or pour hot glaze over cake or drizzle over sugar cookies

After these set, I did ice them with a ziplock bag in place of a piping bag, but there was so much going on that I forgot to take pictures. By the time I thought about doing so, there were none left! My Dad, who loves lemon cake, ate most of them, but I did manage to procure one to take to my Gramma. Everyone agreed that they were the best lemon cupcakes that they had ever had! (even with the whole wheat flour)

I'm glad to say that my Gramma is doing much better and is back home, safe and sound.  Hopefully I will have many more opportunities to bake for her in the years to come.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cupcake ATM

Do you ever wish that you could have access to cupcakes 24-7? If you're a baker like I am, that can be a very real and very dangerous path to go down. If you aren't a baker, or don't feel like baking your own and the bakery doesn't open for another few hours, there is now a solution to your cupcake needs.

The Cupcake ATM

Yes, if you're lucky enough to live in LA (and NY soon) you can go to one of Sprinkles Cupcakes' three new locations and buy cupcakes from a vending machine, one with a very cool mechanical arm, no less.

Man, they look good too! Maybe I should think of doing that here in Toronto. I imagine it's probably cheaper than trying to open a bake shop somewhere. I wonder what the rent is like on a vending machine? Perhaps I will go make some cupcakes while I ponder it...

Thanks to Geekologie for loving cupcakes and hating robots, even vending machines.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Challenge #12: Tex-Mex Vanilla Cupcakes

This past weekend was an old friend of mine's birthday. As per usual, we called in the Calvary and headed over that way for a weekend of geekery. Yes, geekery. We played video games (Arkham City, Lego Star Wars, the new Goldeneye, The Force Unleashed), watched lots of Deadliest Warrior and a bunch of How It Should've Ended, and, of course, we RPG'd Star Wars (yes, tabletop).
We try and do this as often as we can, but it can go from meeting up once a month to once or twice a year, to even many years. These are some of the guys who taught me how to RPG and who got me into Star Wars and many other geeky pursuits. Without these guys, Bake Star Wars and Talk Star Wars wouldn't exist and I would be blogging about.... well... I probably wouldn't be.

The players have changed over the years, but one thing that remains the same is that I always bring baked goods. Usually I bring my famous chocolate chip cookies; or else cupcakes made from a box! *gasp!*

Since we haven't gamed in over a year or two, they haven't been around to experience the challenge.
Knowing that my birthday buddy loves Vanilla cupcakes, I decided to break out The Icing On The Cupcake and try one of the Vanilla recipes in the book. I decided to try making Tex-Mex Vanilla Cupcakes. 
Did you just turn up your nose? I'm asking because when I first saw the name of these, I totally did. I thought they were referring to putting taco seasoning in it and I thought that was gross. It's the reason I hadn't made them before now. Since there are only a few Vanilla recipes, I actually decided to read the ingredient list and that totally changed my mind and made me decide to try them out.

1/2 cup (or 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup whole milk
2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp finely ground salt, either sea or iodized
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Yup, it's a pretty standard vanilla cake recipe, but with cinnamon added in.
In this cupcakes-isode, we will be joined by my best friend Eric, whom I forced to wear my apron, so I could take this picture. He was a good sport and an excellent helper.

Preheat oven to 350' F. Place 24 paper liners into cupcake tray. In this case, we used Spiderman. Look at them in all their splendor! These were amazing! none of the colours faded while being baked! I was totally impressed. I got them from the Bulk Barn, but you can also order them here.

Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.

Add oil. Mix another 2 minutes. Add one egg at a time, beating well after each egg.

In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Combine milk and vanilla

Alternate between the flour mixture and milk mixture, add them to batter. Start and finish with the flour mixture.

Pour into cupcake liners, about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of cupcake comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to baking rack.

Coconut Buttercream

6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sweetened coconut milk
2 pounds (or 2 cups) flaked unsweetened coconut *

Beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale yellow, about 5 minutes.

Heat sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to full boil without stirring. Cook until mixture reaches soft ball stage(?) or 238' F.

Pour the mixture into a buttered measuring cup to halt the cooking.

Gradually add the corn syrup mixture into the egg yolks, being careful not to cook the yolks. Add vanilla and coconut milk.

In a separate bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the corn syrup mixture to the butter mixture. Blend until smooth and creamy.

Fold in coconut flakes (*or if you don't want coconut flakes, add a cup of sifted icing sugar and a tbsp of coconut extract instead; which is totally what I did.)

Frost cooled cupcakes.

These, as most cupcakes , went really fast. well, after I told everyone that Tex-Mex meant cinnamon.

All and all, it was a fantastic weekend and I can't wait to do it again (and try out another Vanilla recipe)