Learning to bake fearlessly <3

Archive for April, 2012

You’re just in time for a story


It has been one hell of a week, y’all–no pun intended. Sorry for my silence! But I’ve been on the road for most of this week, first with a friend and then all by my lonesome, helping out with The Devil’s Carnival road tour! I’ve met so many lovely and excited fans, seen the movie three times, helped move and pack and unpack and sell more merch than I’d even know what to do with, met Emilie Autumn and Briana Evigan and Spooky Dan Walker and Terrance Zdunich and Darren Bousman (and if you don’t know who any of these are, shame on you for not clicking my links!), gotten more hugs than I’ve ever gotten in my life, and learned to use a big fancy intimidating camera.

I’ve been in a car or bus or train for 22 hours total this week, with lots of walking and waiting (I waited the whole night in a train station! It was an adventure!), and my feet and calves and ankles are killing me, but I’ve had so much fun. The Devil’s Carnival is 100% worth the trek and the money, and you’ll come out singing.

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Better Than Sex cupcakes with vanilla pastry cream and chocolate ganache for the Scorpion


Welcome to my games, you gay and lucky souls! Er…I mean my blog. You see, I’ve been listening to The Devil’s Carnival soundtrack endlessly for the week it’s been out. I’m addicted. The voice talent in this movie is tremendous, and the soundtrack manages to paint a vivid picture of the plot before you even hit a theater. I can’t decide which is my favorite, but Trust Me, the Scorpion’s song, is definitely waaaaay up there. The man has a gorgeously angelic voice, and the lyrics are shiveringly intense.

The Scorpion

So for his cupcake recipe, I wanted to preserve that sweet and dark quality. And I think I managed it! Better Than Sex cake (devil’s food cake, with toffee mixed in and caramel sauce on top, allowed to soak into the cake), topped with sweet vanilla pastry cream and bittersweet chocolate ganache. It ends up perfectly satisfying and delicious. I topped it with a tiny fondant scorpion, and put edible glitter on some. I mean, the blog is called Sugar and Spice and Everything Sparkly—I gotta start living up to the name! ;) And everything’s better with glitter.

That said, this recipe (fittingly) gave me hell. The cupcakes and ganache went fine, but oh my god the pastry cream. It just would not thicken! I know what I did wrong, though, and I’ll discuss it in the recipe. I finished around midnight and promptly collapsed onto my bed—but not before grabbing a cupcake. Worth it? 100%. And now I know how to do it right for next time!

This recipe is in several parts, so I’ll write them in the order they need to be made.

Better Than Sex cupcakes with vanilla pastry cream and chocolate ganache
Makes about 18 cupcakes, topped
Recipes from Tumblr, Allrecipes, and Annie’s Eats

Vanilla pastry cream
2 cups half-and-half
½ cup sugar, divided into 6 tbsp and 2 tbsp
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1½ tsp vanilla extract

Heat the half and half, 6 tbsp of sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring once in a while, until simmering. Things I learned yesterday: cream takes forever to heat up. While you’re doing this, mix the egg yolks and remaining 2 tbsp sugar in a medium bowl. Add the cornstarch and mix until uniform. When the half&half mixture is done simmering, add it slowly to the eggs, whisking so you don’t scramble them. Transfer the mixture to the pan again and heat it on the stove on medium, whisking, until the mixture is thickened and bubbling a little. This is where I screwed up. The recipe I used says about 30 seconds, but by then my cream was nowhere near simmering or thick. I figured it was better not to burn it, and that it would thicken up in the fridge. I was wrong. Simmer it as long as it takes to thicken up. Then take it off the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Once they’re incorporated, strain it through a wire mesh and chill it in the fridge (with plastic wrap over top so it doesn’t form a skin) for at least three hours before using.

While that’s chilling, make your cupcakes.

Better Than Sex cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
9 tablespoons dark (dutch-process) cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup strong coffee
1/2 cup milk
1 cup toffee bits (I used 1/2 cup, but I feel like it needed more)

For the caramel drizzle:
3/4 cup caramel sauce
3/4 cup heavy cream

Line your cupcake tin and preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk together your cocoa, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside. Cream your butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until fluffy. Then add your eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides to make sure everything’s incorporated. When that’s a pale yellow paste, combine your coffee and milk in a separate cup. Add first half your flour mixture to the mixer bowl, mix it up, scrape the sides, add your coffeemilk, scrape the sides, and then add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until combined. You should have a nice thick batter. Fold in the toffee bits, then scoop into cupcake liners and bake 22-25 minutes.

While they’re baking, make your caramel sauce. Heat the cream and caramel sauce in a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, until combined and thin. Cut slits into the tops of warm cupcakes and spoon a bit of caramel ganache on top while they’re still warm (not too much, or you’ll soak your liners).

Chocolate ganache
9 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

You’re in the home stretch! Chop your chocolate and place it in a medium heat-safe bowl. Heat the cream over medium-high heat to a boil, but watch it carefully so it doesn’t boil over. Pour it over the chopped chocolate and stir til it’s melted and smooth. Let it cool for a moment.

Smooth your pastry cream over the cooled cupcakes and pour chocolate ganache on top. Then grab a cupcake to enjoy because you deserve it, and pop over to The Devil’s Carnival forum, buy the soundtrack so you can swoon over Trust Me, or buy your tickets to the road tour!

Decadent dark chocolate brownie pudding


My friends (Kessie and Shi) and I are planning something daring and lovely and shiveringly terrifying. The thought came to us the other night and still sounded good in the morning (how all good plans are hatched)–we’re going to groupie the Devil’s Carnival road tour from Kansas aaaaall the way to Sacramento, and then go see another dear friend in LA! I’m so nervous I’m trembling a little, but at the same time I’m excited as hell, no pun intended. This is very possibly the coolest thing I’m going to do in my 20’s, and I can’t wait!

By the way, that carnival? Have you checked it out yet? Please tell me you have, because I have a feeling this is gonna be a Thing for me, and you’ll be hearing about it a lot in this blog. And you won’t want to miss this tour! The creators are taking it around the country and showing the movie and schmoozing with the fans. There’ll be shows and cosplaying and special guests from the film, the guys are absolute dolls, and the people who’ve seen it so far have given rave reviews. I haven’t seen it myself yet (ohmygosh 13 more days!), but the soundtrack is delicious, true earcandy and so lovely. I die over Trust Me and Beautiful Stranger every time.

How does this relate to baking, you ask? Easy. This dark chocolate brownie pudding is sinfully good. As one friend put it, “I feel like I’m going to hell for eating this.” And as TDC shows us, Hell is the place to be right now, so eat up, drink a cup of scorn with me, and fa la la, it’s off to decadent chocolate hell we go!

Dark chocolate brownie pudding

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients
½ lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 cup dark (dutch process) cocoa powder
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 325 F and spray a 2-quart baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, or whatever method you like best. Melt your butter and set it aside to cool. Things I learned when making this: if your butter is overflowing your cup in the microwave, it will not, in fact, melt smoothly into said cup; it will make a nervous-making mess that I did not need to deal with when baking on a time constraint. So learn from my mistake and make sure your butter fits nicely into your melting receptacle.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream your eggs and sugar together on medium-high into a smooth, pale yellow liquid. Whisk your cocoa and flour together in a separate bowl; add those to the mixing bowl and mix on low speed until just combined. While the mixer’s still going, add your vanilla and butter, and mix further until just combined.

Pour the batter into your 2-quart pan, and then sit that pan in a larger pan. We’re going to need a water bath. Fill the larger pan up with hot tap water, about halfway up the side of the smaller pan. Bake for 60 minutes. The center will still be completely molten; that’s what we want. It’s somewhere between a large chocolate lava cake and a pan of brownie batter, and it’s soooooo good.

Note: I realized after the fact that, being flustered, I ended up putting in a full cup of cocoa instead of the 3/4 cup called for in the original recipe. I ended up loving how chocolatey it was and wouldn’t change it next time.

Sparkly Sweet Cake Pancakes


Recently, I got a query on my Facebook wall. A friend wanted to know if it was possible to make pancakes or crepes out of cake mix! I swear, I heard an angel chorus. I’m always in favor of making familiar dishes better, and doctoring cake mixes into something more is always lovely. So of course I had to try this!

I looked up different pancake recipes, and most of them called for 2 eggs instead of the 3 the box mix called for, so I adjusted that. I also added a bit of flour to thicken it up; if you want more crepelike pancakes, you might try leaving that out.

And the verdict? Delicious! They kept the fluffiness of pancakes while still tasting like vanilla cake. I bet they’d work out just as well with any kind of mix you’d like to try–chocolate, funfetti, red velvet anyone? And remember how I told you to save some sugar shapes from the last recipe I posted?

They look absolutely adorable baked into the middle of pancakes. I bet anyone would love to see these on their plate on Easter morning, or any special occasion. Enjoy!

Ingredients
1 box cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Sugar candies, about 12 for medium-sized pancakes or about 24 for small pancakes

Mix up the cake mix, eggs, oil, water, and flour in a mixing bowl. Warm a pan on the stove at medium to medium-low heat and melt a small amount of butter; you don’t want it to brown. Put down a sugar candy, flat side down, and immediately cover with pancake batter. When the top side is studded with large bubbles, flip the pancake carefully, so you don’t mess up the hot sugar. When cooked completely and golden brown, transfer to a large plate. Try not to stack pancakes on top of each other until cool, to preserve the candy. Serve with milk and lots of 100% pure maple syrup.

I’d also love to try these with maple candy, or with the batter dyed different fun colors!