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My Latest Obsession

A few weeks ago, I had a life-changing experience. OK, maybe just kitchen-changing. Either way… my friend Bethany started experimenting with browned butter, and, well, let’s just say that I am going to BROWN BUTTER ALL THE THINGS. Seriously. She made two batches of butter pecan cookies (one with browned butter and one without), and the flavor difference was amazing. And then we got together and made brown butter cupcakes, and from there, things have been spiraling out of control. I made brown butter rice krispie treats (another Smitten Kitchen win). I got irrationally excited when we accidentally browned the butter for some scrambled eggs.

Like I said, it’s out of control. Once you brown butter something, you’ll never go back. (I’m even starting to ponder the idea of brown butter ice cream….)

When I ended up with lots of extra rhubarb compote, I decided to turn it into cupcake filling, and naturally, I went with the brown butter cupcake. I thought it would go well with both the rhubarb filling and the cream cheese frosting. The brown butter batter is so great; it’s actually a shame to bake it, as the flavor after baking isn’t nearly as prominent. I’m still trying to figure out a way to fix that. Until then, I’ll just settle for licking the beater while the cupcakes are in the oven. 😀

A couple notes about these cupcakes: Annie’s recipe says that the recipe makes about 28 cupcakes. I must have under-filled mine or something, because I got 24 full-sized cupcakes and 24 mini cupcakes out of one batch of batter. The first time Bethany and I made the cupcakes, we got about 28 out of the batch. If you wind up with about two dozen cupcakes, one batch of frosting should be enough. (I raided my “extra frosting” stash in the freezer to take care of my extras.)

Brown Butter Rhubarb Cupcakes

Brown Butter Cupcakes with Rhubarb Filling and Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cupcakes:
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 cups of cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 eggs, at room temperature (I take the eggs out of the fridge when I start browning the butter.)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
~ 3/4 cup of Rhubarb Compote (click over to the rhubarb ice cream sandwich post for the compote recipe)

For the frosting:
10 ounces cream cheese, chilled
6 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

To make the cupcakes, place the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. (Here are my brown butter tips. #1: Do not use a cast iron skillet – you won’t be able to see when the butter is brown. #2: Lower heat may take longer to brown, but it splatters SIGNIFICANTLY less than a higher heat, and I’d rather wait an extra 5 minutes for brown butter than spend 10 minutes scrubbing the kitchen, but that’s just me.) Let the butter melt. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter is a deep golden brown color and smells delicious. (Tip #3: DO NOT LEAVE THE BUTTER. It’s as needy as risotto. It’s also prone to burning if left unattended.) When the butter is browned, remove the pan from the burner and pour the butter into the bowl of your stand mixer. Allow the butter to cool slightly.

When the butter has cooled for a few minutes, add the sugars to the mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and the bowl is slightly warm to the touch.

While your mixture is beating, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line the pans with cupcake liners. Set the prepared pans aside, and, then, in a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.

Beat the eggs into the butter/sugar mixture one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. After mixing the last egg into the batter, add the vanilla and mix until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk in three additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, filling them about two-thirds of the way full. Bake until the cupcakes test done with a toothpick, about 18 minutes. Remove from the oven. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pans for a few minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until blended. Add the vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

To assemble the cupcakes, use a paring knife to cut a small cone out of the center of each cupcake. Fill each cupcake with a heaping teaspoon of rhubarb compote. (Leftover cake scraps and compote make an excellent snack for the cook… and the resident taste-tester.) Frost with cream cheese frosting. (I used a piping bag and the Wilton 1M tip.) Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator.

Cupcakes from Annie’s Eats, who adapted them from Confections of a Foodie Bride. Frosting originally from Annie’s Eats, also originally from Confections of a Foodie Bride. Rhubarb compote from Smitten Kitchen.

Click here for a printable version.

 

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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I Can Take a Hint

Last weekend, I had a $5 credit to use at Williams-Sonoma. I don’t shop there often, but it’s definitely a store I enjoy wandering through. After a great deal of indecision (Jars! Odd-size measuring spoons! Placemats! Spices! I seriously have ADD when I’m in that store.), I finally settled on some new cupcake liners. They seemed to be the best use of my $5, and they had stripes AND polka dots. The cuteness was too much.

I showed them to Andy and said, “Aren’t these the CUTEST cupcake liners you’ve EVER seen?!!”

Andy, being the supportive husband that he is, immediately responded with, “They’d be a lot cuter if you filled them with something.”

OK then. I can take a hint. Cupcakes it is. I even had some leftover frosting from a cake I’d made for a bridal shower a couple weeks earlier. Clearly, these babies were meant to be.

Since this was supposed to be a quick Sunday afternoon project, I wanted a super-basic recipe. I was out of things like buttermilk, and I knew I didn’t want to deal with separating eggs or anything like that. If I was a cake mix kind of girl, that would have been the day for it. You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m NOT a cake mix kind of girl though. 🙂

I pulled this recipe out of an old Woman’s Day magazine a few years ago, so I figured it was worth a try. I halved the recipe (which are the amounts I’m sharing below), as I didn’t want to waste too many ingredients if the recipe bombed. Plus, 12 cupcakes are plenty for two people. 🙂 It turned out well, and I’m going to keep it in mind for those days when I need an easy cake fix.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Sprinkles + new liners = cuteness overload.

Easy Vanilla Cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for two minutes, or until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to a low, and beat in the milk and vanilla. Mix in the flour until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake wells, filling them about two-thirds of the way full. Bake until cupcakes test done with a toothpick and are golden on top, about 18-20 minutes. Rotate the baking pan halfway through the cook time if your oven bakes unevenly.

Remove pan from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing the cupcakes from the pan. Let cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack before frosting with your favorite frosting.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

From Woman’s Day, May 2009

Click here for a printable version.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 15, 2013 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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Chocolate & Cheesecake (sort of)

Quick question here: How many people own at least one church/school/organization fundraiser cookbook?

If I had to guess, I would say that most people have at least one of these hanging out in the their cupboards. They’re a great resource when you’re looking for that recipe that you remember always being at the family reunion or church potluck. I’m lucky enough to have two of these cookbooks – one from the Grafton Village Volunteer Fire Department (where I found my go-to lemon bar recipe) and one from the Amsden/Rehoboth UMC (which, lucky for me, has LOTS of my Grandma’s recipes).

This particular recipe is from my Grandma’s friend, Marlyn. It’s one of the first things I made from this cookbook, which means it was one of the first “new” dessert recipes I tried after we got married. It was a hit then, and it’s still a hit now. They’re easy to mix up, and I almost always have the ingredients on hand. Plus, it’s cheesecake and chocolate! What’s not to love? 🙂

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Black Bottom Cupcakes

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
1/2 and 1/8 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cocoa powder
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350, and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Set pans aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir in the chocolate chips, and set the mixture aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup sugar and baking soda. Make a well in the center and add the vinegar, water, oil and vanilla. Stir until combined.

Pour chocolate batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling them until they’re between half and two-thirds of the way full. Top each cupcake with a scoop of the cheesecake batter. (I use my large cookie scoop for this, which is about 1 1/2 tablespoons.) Sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake until cake is done and cheesecake batter is set, around 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on wire racks. Store in the refrigerator.

Yield: approximately 14-16 cupcakes

From the Amsden / Rehoboth United Methodist Church Cookbook

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2013 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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Andy’s Cupcakes

In a way, I feel like this post is cheating: I’ve shared this cake/frosting combination before. But these are green for St. Patrick’s day! (No, I’m not Irish, but Pat seems to be more popular than Urho.) Not to mention the fact that **shameless plug** I really like the picture. 😀

So, why not call them Urho’s cupcakes? Or Patrick’s cupcakes? Because these are Andy-fied. My husband loves the chocolate/mint combination. He might even love it more than I love the peanut-butter chocolate combination, which is saying something. His favorite ice cream flavor? Mint chocolate chip. (Although, some days, it’s a close tie with vanilla bean…) His favorite thing about eating at the Olive Garden? The Andes mints.

And since Andes mints are green… and the cupcake wrappers are green… and March holidays seem to be green, well… it was a match made in cupcake heaven.

I did experiment with chopped mints versus whole mints, and while Andy preferred the whole mint, I liked the chopped pieces better. And since it’s my kitchen, chopped it was. The cake recipe is super easy.(I had these ready to go in the oven in under 20 minutes, start to finish.) You can easily halve the cake recipe, giving you a more manageable number of cupcakes. The frosting is my favorite chocolate frosting, and it comes together quickly as well.

I have to say, I LOVE the way this picture turned out. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then!

To make Andy’s cupcakes, you’ll need a batch of chocolate cupcakes and a batch or two of chocolate frosting. I find that I need about a batch and a half of the chocolate cream cheese frosting to do an entire batch of cupcakes. (Of course, I recommend making two full batches and then just eating the leftover frosting with a spoon. What? You don’t do that? Hmm…) You’ll also need a package of Andes mints, unwrapped, of course. 🙂

Click here for the recipes: Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2013 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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Congrats, Class of 2012!

This month, I’ve had the privilege of making cake for two graduation parties. One was a large sheet cake, and the other was a hat-shaped cupcake cake. I had a blast brainstorming the cakes, putting everything together and baking up a storm!

For the first party, I made a four-layer sheet cake, covered in lemon Swiss meringue buttercream. Class colors were gold, green and purple, so I used gold buttercream for the writing and detail piping, with green and purple sprinkles for a little extra pop. Inside, the left half of the cake was lemon, with a lemon curd filling. The other half of the cake was raspberry, with a mixed berry curd filling. Everyone loved it, and there wasn’t any left by the end of the party! (A big thanks to Andy, who helped me haul this cake in and out of the fridge multiple times… this one was a beast!)

 

Please ignore my slightly-out-of-perspective picture. I need a wide-angle lens for one this big, I think.

For the cupcake cake, I made Annie’s vanilla bean cupcakes with my new favorite frosting – chocolate cream cheese frosting. Karen and I shaped the cupcakes into a mortarboard, then topped them with a licorice rope tassel. For the accent cupcakes, I made chocolate cupcakes with a quick buttercream frosting. I used the cake base from Annie’s Smores cupcakes (my favorite chocolate cake).

Class colors were black and red, and to avoid using an entire bottle of food coloring, I used red cupcake liners for all of the cupcakes and dotted the tops with red sprinkles. (Because sprinkles make everything a little happier.) And a few lucky cupcakes were topped with graduation picks.

And it’s slightly out of focus, but hey, it was 10:30 at night when we finished!

 

Why hello, super-tasty chocolate frosting.

 

So, here’s a big congrats to the class of 2012! Thanks for giving me an excuse to try some new recipes and techniques in the kitchen! Way to go! (And way to make me feel incredibly old…) 

 

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Carrots in my cake

Fruit on my pizza, veggies in my cake… I’m just all about the weird combinations lately. 🙂 This particular cake/frosting combination was one that was requested for a baby shower a couple of months ago. And while carrot cake wouldn’t have been my first choice, who am I to say no to the mom-to-be? 🙂

I was pleasantly surprised by how well this turned out. (I’ve always had pretty ambivalent feelings toward carrot cake before, mostly regarding it as the vehicle for cream cheese frosting. Because you can never have too much of that goodness.) The cake had a nice flavor, stayed moist, and best of all, baked into those perfect little domes that I love when I’m making cupcakes. I used Karen’s carrot cake recipe since I didn’t have a go-to one of my own. The only change I made was to add some vanilla to the batter. (Because everything’s better with vanilla, right?) 

Because I’m a sucker for punishment I like challenges, I decided to top these cupcakes with baked pineapple flowers. They were a lesson in patience for me, as they took a lot longer to bake than I had hoped. It was also an experiment in which knife to use to get the slices as thin as possible. I tried my large serrated knife, the large chef’s knife and my electric knife. I had the best results with the chef’s knife, although I wasn’t able to get the slices as thin as I would have liked. While I didn’t have enough pretty ones to top all of the cupcakes, I did get enough to use on about half the cupcakes. They were the perfect garnish for this baby-girl shower!

All in all, they were a big hit, and the few that I brought home as leftovers were promptly devoured by the men who didn’t get to attend the shower. Success!

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Pineapple Flowers

This is one of those lucky moments where it tastes as good as it looks.

A flower-less cupcake. Don’t feel too badly for him though; his frosting swirl was pretty enough on its own!

For the cake: 
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups grated carrots (Karen was a lifesaver and let me borrow her shredder attachment for the KitchenAid. Saved me TONS of time and work!) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with liners and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, vegetable oil and applesauce. Stir to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Whisk to combine.

Gently stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, being careful not to over-mix them (you’re mixing them until they’re just combined/moistened). Gently stir in the carrots.

Divide the mixture between the prepared muffin cups, filling them about 2/3s full. Bake until cupcakes test done with a toothpick (about 20 minutes). Remove pans from oven and set on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pans and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting: 
10 ounces chilled cream cheese
6½ tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 teaspoons clear vanilla extract*

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed, mixing until light and fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until just blended. Stir in the vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until frosting is light, fluffy and way too easy to eat. Pipe on to cupcakes. (I used the Wilton 1M tip to do these.) Refrigerate any leftovers. (Does anyone seriously have this problem? Anyone?)

(Here’s my recently discovered secret for sifting the sugar: Use a wire strainer/sifter! Set the sifter over the mixing bowl – mine has feet so it rests really well on top of my Kitchen Aid bowl – and then sift directly into the bowl with the butter. This eliminates my issues of measuring and sifting into one bowl, then transferring the sifted materials into the mixer, something that always resulted in a mess.) 

For the pineapple flowers: 
1 large pineapple, thinly sliced (as thin as you can get it!)
baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat

Note: If you want to see pictures of how the pineapple flowers are done, go visit Annie’s post. Her explanation and pictures are really helpful! 

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.

Slice off the top and bottom of the pineapple, then slice off the rind on the sides of the pineapple. (Your goal is to have a skinless pineapple that you can cut into super-thin slices.) Using a small spoon, paring knife or other tool (I used a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon), remove any of the “eyes” that remain on the pineapple.

Lay the pineapple on its side, and slice off thin layers (the thinner you can make them, the better they’ll dry out). Place each slice on some paper towels or clean, lint-free kitchen towels to absorb some of the extra juice, then move the slices to the prepared baking sheets. When the sheets are full, bake the pineapple until the flowers dry out and are no longer sticky/tacky. Check the slices every 20 minutes or so, until they are dried, flipping the slices over each time you check on them.

Place the dried slices into empty muffin tins to train the flowers to curve upward. Leave them there until set. (Learn from my mistake here: I thought mine still felt sticky, even after a couple hours of baking and sitting in the pans, so I put them back in the oven for another 45 minutes or so… AND I increased the temperature. I burnt some of the flowers that way. In my opinion, it’s better to have slightly tacky fruit flowers than burnt fruit flowers.) Garnish cupcakes as desired (and eat the pieces that you deem too ugly to use).

Cake adapted from The Stuffed Flamingo
Frosting from Annie’s Eats
Pineapple Flowers from Annie’s Eats

*Yes, clear vanilla. I realize it sounds weird, but since Annie said it worked, I had to try it. And you know what? She’s right. Plus, your frosting stays whiter (and so much prettier) that way. 

 
5 Comments

Posted by on June 21, 2012 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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Decisions, decisions…

Whenever I make treats for an event (be it a birthday, baby shower, progressive dinner, just because it’s Saturday and I feel like baking), I try to keep the guest of honor’s preferences in mind. That means I’ve done peanut butter chocolate combos, monkey bread, cheesecake… you name it. I like to think that most people enjoy a dessert just a little bit more when they know it’s been made just for them. (It’s like coming home from college to discover that mom made your favorite dinner. You always knew they were happy to see you, but now there’s that extra bit of love.) 

For this latest baby shower though, I got to choose the dessert. You’d think that would be easy, right? Umm, not so much. See, I have this ever-growing list of recipes to try. And I’ve never bothered to count, but a good guess is that at least 70 percent of those recipes are desserts. Now add in the fact that it takes me forever to make a decision (just ask Andy; he’s forever shooing away the waiter at a restaurant). What do you get? Weeks (probably four or five weeks) of agonizing over the choice.

I wanted something light and springy, most likely with fruit. I wanted it to be kind of delicate and dainty (this is a baby girl we’re celebrating here!). I needed it to be low-maintenance (Thursday evening showers mean there’s almost no time for last-minute touches). So, I read books. And blogs. And asked friends and coworkers. And went over my options again and again.

Finally (four days before the shower!), I made a decision. Lemon poppyseed cake. With whipped cream. And berries. Yum.

Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes with Strawberries & Whipped Cream

2 1/3 cups cake flour
2 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk (all I had on hand was skim and heavy cream, so I used a combination of the two)

2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
splash of vanilla

sliced strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners. (Side note: I made 24 cupcakes with this recipe. Unfortunately, I overfilled my tins and had to pry the cupcakes off the pan. If you exercise more restraint and don’t overfill your pans, you’ll probably get 26 cupcakes.) 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, poppyseeds, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

In a clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs on medium until foamy. (I use the whisk attachment for this step.) Add in the cream of tartar and increase the speed to medium-high. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Transfer the egg whites to a clean, dry bowl and set aside. Clean the mixing bowl and break out your paddle beater for the cake batter.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add in the sugar, beating to incorporate it, and then add in the lemon zest. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add 1/4 cup of the milk and beat until just blended. Turn the mixer speed to low (or risk a giant cloud of flour everywhere… trust me on this), and add the dry ingredients and milk in three batches, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until blended, scraping the bowl as necessary. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in 1/4 of the egg whites. Once those are all incorporated into the batter, fold in the rest of the egg whites, being careful not to deflate them.

Divide the batter between your cupcake pans and bake until cupcakes test done and are golden brown on top. (Mine took around 18-20 minutes.) Remove cupcakes from oven and let cool 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing from pans. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the whipped cream, chill the whisk attachment and bowl of a stand mixer. Pour the cream into the bowl and add the sugar and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until the cream reaches the consistency you want. I beat the cream until I had a consistency that I thought would pipe nicely on top of the cupcakes. (Two cups of cream gave me JUST enough whipped cream to frost 24 cupcakes. If you end up with more cupcakes, you’ll want to make just a little more whipped cream.) 

Pipe whipped cream on top of cooled cupcakes and top with strawberry slices. Serve within a couple hours of topping. (I can’t tell you how long these keep; there weren’t any leftovers!) 

Cake from Annie’s Eats

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2012 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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