Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cool Cupcakes

Hello summer cupcakes! How about this as a way to cool down? Cold Stones Creamery is selling these tasty summer treats - in chocolate, red velvet, and vanilla cake. A fun twist on a classic favorite, this cool summer snack was refreshing and festive. I tried them at a summer office birthday party.

While I give them an A for presentation, I must say that the cake, as usual with ice cream cakes, was not top quality - though to be fair, I do judge a good cake my moistness.

That being said, I was surprised at the richness of flavor, and, of course, the Cold Stones ice cream is deliciously creamy (I'm a sucker for chocolate ice cream, especially in the summer!). For a fun alternative to celebrate a birthday, a baby, or just a fun time at the pool, I would recommend these - especially if you're too tired to bake your own.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cupcakin's First - German Chocolate Icing

I love making birthday desserts - and I've recently discovered my love of making cakes (thanks to my new non-stick, Williams-Sonoma 8" pan!) It has taken some practice, but now my cakes don't cave in, causing my med student fiance to re-engineer them using icing as gauze and butter knives as scalpels. What can I say, I'm a cupcake girl - cakes are new to me! This German chocolate cake was my first success.

Now, whether it is a faux pas in the baking world or not, I used the Duncan Heines cake mix for the cake part. People always remark how moist and rich my cakes are when I use their mix. I like it a lot better than Betty Crocker.

To make absolutely sure this cake wouldn't cave in, I cut the tops with a sharp knife to make them perfectly level (not rounded). What that revealed was tiny air-pockets that had formed in the cake's foundation. Upon some investigation, I learned that air pockets not only jeopardize the structural integrity (and thus the likelihood of a cave-in... or cake-in as we bakers might say!) but are also a sign of over-mixing. I always thought that you couldn't go wrong my mixing at a high speed, but apparently, medium speed is best over all - according to Duncan Heines, the alotted time for mixing on medium speed is 2 minutes. Eureka!

While I was letting my cake cool, I moved onto the icing, which was suprisingly complicated and not well-explained online. Here is the recipe I used from Allrecipes.com:
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/2 cup margarine (I used butter instead!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
You are supposed to cook these ingredients in a saucepan over low heat (adding the pecans and coconut after the other ingredients are combined). What I could not seem to get a straight answer online about was how long you cook it or what the consistency should be when it's done. After all, it calls for raw eggs... I don't want to poison the birthday boy!

Here's what I did - I stirred in all ingredients and let it sit on very low heat, stirring it again every 5 minutes. I continued this for 20 minutes, careful to not let the bottom burn. I found the consistency of the above recipes to be a little watery, so I added extra coconut and sugar. This made it very sweet - but that's what you're going for with German Chocolate Cake!

Every stove/oven is different. Allrecipes put the cook time at 15 minutes. I probably cooked mine for 25 minutes total, adding more coconut as needed. Then, I let the entire mix cool completely (for about an hour). Applied it to the cake and refrigerated the cake. It did not melt or lose its structure and still tasted good even though it was refrigerated.

Not sure I would make this again, unless it was specifically requested... it was too sweet for my taste. Maybe if the cake were a straight dark chocolate flavor it would be a richer contrast to the super sweet icing....

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Ultimate Cake Topper

Hello future wedding cake! Did I tell you I'm getting married? It's not until next summer, but as I'm sure you could guess, the part I'm most excited about is looking (and tasting!) cakes - and likely some cupcakes along the way!

This definitely counts as Cupcakin It Up material, tiny cake or not! Just check out these cute and wonderlandy cakes! Ok, so maybe the lollipops are a little over the top... also, if it were mine, I would use only shades of pink - none of that weird brown green color.

On the other hand, the cake on the right would be a perfectly reasonable wedding cake selection. But I'm going with a deep magenta as my wedding color, so the ribbon would be hot pink! That cake could be fun! Anyone know any good bakeries in the San Francisco area?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cupcakes are Forever!

In honor of my cupcake buddy (BeadUp) moving 1,627 miles away (yup, I googled!), I have decided to drown my buddy blues by Cupcakin It Up again. Ok, well nothing here at Cupcakin It Up is ever blue... its more like a sad grayish-pink! But the saddest pink you've ever seen!!

Before Bead Up left, we exchanged what true sweet freaks do... friendship cupcake plates!... and cupcake sugar holders... and cupcake aprons. haha Oh, fellow crafters, you don't judge us! I mean what is more friendship forever than CUPCAKE PLATES?! We discovered this sweet find at our favorite haunt - a Ross/Marshalls plaza in suburbia next to our local Michael's Crafts store. It was meant to be! Although I typically find the manic clothing free-for-all at Ross a little overwhelming, I have found true joy in the Home section at the back of the store. We all know how much I adore Michael's, but Ross sells some of the same stuff for HALF the price. It's amazing - frames, vases, fake trees, you name it!

Now this adorable apron was a BeadUp find at ikea of all places! Who knew the Scandinavians loved cupcakes as much as the sugar high Americans do?! Now I won't get every shirt I bake in dirty! I'm definitely one of those cooks who come out of a baking session with pink sparkles and sprinkles in places where sprinkles should never be! Get your mind out of the gutter - I mean my toes and on my new white shirt!

The apron looks adorable. Great work, Bead Up! I look forward to our new adventures in the Kansas City Ross when I drive the 1 day and 2 hours Google Maps claims it will take me to get there - expresso by IV, here I come!