Learning to bake fearlessly <3

Posts tagged ‘cupcakes’

Perfect vanilla cupcakes with chocolate meringue


I had a strange dream last night. I usually do, vivid dreams that are almost more movie than imagination. Part of last night’s entertainment was, a kid visited me at my house and wanted to make vanilla cupcakes with chocolate meringue filling in a heart shape. Always up for a baking challenge, I attempted it–only to make a silly rookie mistake with the meringue and fail.

I woke up full of purpose, ready to redeem myself by excelling in reality. The vanilla cupcakes came out amazingly, the recipe’s definitely a keeper. The first batch of meringue…less so. But that was 100% because of a faulty recipe. It called for 1/16th the required amount of cream of tartar. I hate that. But it tasted good at least! Undaunted, I googled around and more or less came up with my own approximation of a recipe. And it turned out great! I filled the cupcakes, stuck the failed meringue in the freezer (hey…it tasted like chocolate popsicles, maybe it’ll turn out like a chocolate sorbet?), and the unused successful meringue got turned into cookies. All in all, a very successful day of baking. And if there’s a kid out there that dreamed of meringue cupcakes–this one’s for you!

Perfect vanilla cupcakes
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature, separated into 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup
2 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted (I used a conversion, 1 cup of cake flour = 3/4 cup all purpose flour plus 2 tbsp cornstarch)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter (3 sticks), at room temperature and cut into cubes

From Sweetapolita

Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes

Preheat your oven to 350 F and line your cupcake pan with cute liners.

In a medium bowl, combine the egg whites, 1/4 cup milk, and vanilla. Grab your stand mixer and stir together the flour (or substitute), sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl. Add the butter and remaining milk and mix together on medium til well combined, about a minute and a half. Add the egg mixture in three batches, scraping down the mixer bowl and mixing until just combined. Scoop your batter into your baking cups and bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake! This is a delicate recipe.

Chocolate meringue
6 egg whites
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder

Original recipe

In the wiped-down clean bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar, and whip on medium-high til the egg whites begin to build. In a separate medium bowl, mix the sugar and cocoa powder together, then add it to the egg whites in three batches, continuing to whip, scraping down the sides between additions, and mixing until completely combined. Let the meringue build to stiff fluffy peaks, then use to fill cupcakes. Take a heart-shaped (or any shape, really!) cookie or fondant cutter and make a well in the top of the cupcake, then fill liberally with meringue.

Leftover meringue can be spooned onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and baked for roughly an hour at 200 F to make meringue cookies!

Konpeito cupcakes


This week was rough on the baking front. I started out full of enthusiasm, ready to tackle a cupcake idea I’d had for weeks, and excited. I put on Stargate (mmmmmm Jaye Davidson, the perfect baking companion) and set out to make cupcakes.

It did not go as planned. We all make mistakes, and I saw this exact one on Cupcake Champions not long after–putting in baking soda when baking powder was called for. And of course I didn’t realize it til after the cupcakes were baked. So when I bit into them to find a confection that tasted more like my vanilla hand soap (protip: too much baking soda makes cupcakes that taste like bitter soap), I was discouraged. I may have pouted at the boytoy for a bit.

But, gotta get back on the horse! I tried again this morning and was met with sweet vanilla success! This cupcake is a bit dense and thick, but tasty nonetheless, and if you’re after a more dense, moist crumb, this recipe will serve admirably. I only changed the frosting a bit, to make it less sugary sweet.

As for the pretty little candies on top? They’re these!

Little Japanese candies called konpeito. They’re essentially rock candy balls, sometimes flavored, but I like them best plain. I was introduced to them through Sailor Moon when I was a kid! But the more famous anime association with them comes from Spirited Away, where the soot spirits loved the little candies.

I order them online and I love them. And they look great as cupcake decorations!

Vanilla Cupcakes
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup milk
From Annie’s Eats

Makes about 12 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350F and line your cupcake pan with cute liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together your butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat the eggs in one at a time, scraping down the mixer bowl after each one, and then the vanilla extract. In a medium bowl, add together the flour, baking powder (NOT soda!) and salt, and whisk together. Add half of it to the butter mixture, mix it up on low, and then the milk and the other half of the flour. The batter should be thick. Scoop it into the cupcake liners–bear in mind it rises only a little–and bake for 18 to 20 minutes.

Vanilla Buttercream
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp heavy cream
Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Makes more than enough for a dozen cupcakes

Once your butter is nice and soft, cut it into cubes and whip it on medium in the bowl of a stand mixer til smooth. Add the powdered sugar and salt and whip til the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape down the bowl and keep going until the ingredients are all combined. Then add the vanilla and cream, keep whipping on medium until it’s incorporated, then add coloring if desired, increase speed to medium-high, and keep whipping until the buttercream is light and fluffy.

I used a large closed-star tip to pipe the frosting on, and this was my first time using an actual frosting bag instead of my mechanical one! I felt very accomplished. Enjoy!

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!

Raspberry Lemonade Cupcakes


I am a very bad sister.

When I started this blog, I brainstormed a whole bunch of recipes to try, and when I got to “raspberry lemonade cupcakes,” my little sister, Kessie, was like “DO THAT ONE NEXT.” Actually, I think I only got as far as “raspberry le–“. Girl likes her raspberries.

See, she’s not my sister like we grew up together and made faces at each other in church and fought over the backseat on long car rides. Nah, she’s my sister in the sense that a long time ago, like two or three years now, we met online and got to know each other and decided we’re going to be friends for life, and we and a couple of other friends, all of us from different states, talk every day. So, that’s another thing that makes me a very bad sister–she’s going to have to come to Virginia to get one of these.

I also, however, am a very good sister. My one biological sister (was there right after she was born, bought her her first teddy bear, had a few very fierce and bitter years where her favorite thing to do was run into my room and steal my pokemon toys) looooves lemon things. The girl will save the lemon from her water in restaurants to suck on after the meal–no sugar needed. I don’t know how she does it.

Did you know that they sometimes call cupcakes “fairy cakes” in England? So unfair. Can we steal that? I’m sure going to!

One final note: I made these using two different recipes I married. One of them calls for a box of yellow cake mix. I subbed in a scratch yellow cake batter. If you want to use mix, I totally won’t judge you. This is a no-judging-for-using-mixes space. I just like baking from scratch because I’ve got the time, and it’s really cool seeing something I made come together into food like that!

Raspberry Lemonade Cupcakes Fairy Cakes

Adapted from Sweetapolita and Bake at 350

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¾ cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1¼ cups milk
1 4.3 oz box of lemon pudding mix
3 tbsp of lemonade concentrate, thawed

Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes

To start, preheat the oven to 350 F, and line your cupcake pan with cute liners. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a mixer, on medium-high speed. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

When the butter/sugar mixture is combined and fluffy, add the eggs in one at a time, then the vanilla. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk, mixing until just combined. Add the pudding mix and lemonade concentrate and mix it up a bit more.

Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners and bake 15-17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.

Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Ingredients
9 large egg whites
2 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 sticks (2 pounds) unsalted butter, not cold, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups seedless raspberry jelly/jam

I heard about swiss meringue buttercream probably a year before I actually tried it. It seemed so intimidating—a hundred different things seemed like it could go wrong! But I’m here to tell you that it’s actually really really simple, and I’ve made it twice this week simply because I can. And oh my gosh, is it delicious. I licked every implement used to make this completely clean before washing—I couldn’t bear to let any of it go to waste. And don’t stop at just raspberry. You can make it any flavor you like! Because SMB isn’t sweet-sweet, any flavor will shine.

I always cube and set out my butter on a plate first thing, and let it warm up while I work on the rest. Wipe out your mixer bowl and mixer attachments VERY well, making sure there’s no trace of grease. The first thing you’re going to do is make a meringue, and any grease could cause it to fail. Heat a large pot with an inch or so of water on the stove until it’s just simmering—we don’t want to cook our egg whites. Add the egg whites and sugar to your mixer bowl and whisk constantly until the sugar is melted and the egg whites are warm. I’ll level with you: the first time I made this, I intended to run the sugar through the food processor beforehand, making it superfine, but it melts just perfectly without it, so I don’t bother.

Stick your bowl on your mixer with whisk attachment and whip the egg/sugar mixture on medium-low (say 3 on a Kitchenaid) for a couple minutes, then switch to medium-high (say 7 or so on a Kitchenaid) until they’re white and fluffy, and the bowl is neutral to the touch. For me, it takes around 7-8 minutes. Voila! You made meringue. But it’s going to get even better still.

When the bowl feels room-temperature, switch to the paddle attachment on low speed and add your cubed butter one or two cubes at a time. This is the tricky part, and where it looks like everything’s gone wrong. At this stage, it is totally okay if your buttercream looks grainy, more like scrambled eggs. Trust me! Just keep whipping it, scraping the paddle clean if need be. Eventually, it will turn into creamy, smooth loveliness. Taste a little of it now—isn’t it just knee-weakeningly good? But it’s going to get even better!

Add your jam/jelly, vanilla, and salt, and whip it a bit longer, until they’re evenly incorporated. And don’t be afraid to play with different flavors or proportions. Pipe onto cupcakes, but make sure you have a little left over to eat with a spoon! ;D

Note: I know I have a HUGE mound of frosting on there like usual, but for this recipe, less is more so you don’t overpower the lemon. Also, these cakes didn’t bake up as nicely as I liked, so next time I’m going to fill the wells more (close to the top, probably, they really didn’t rise all that much).

Cup(cakes) of Scorn


I’m not generally a horror-movie girl, but about three years ago, I fell in love with a movie called REPO! The Genetic Opera. It’s a rock opera set in a dystopian future where organ repossessions are legal and surgery, a fashion statement, and it follows the ascent of a young girl into adulthood over the course of a single tumultuous day. It’s an amazing movie, and if you have a stomach for a little gore, I would definitely suggest checking it out, but through it, I found a much greater treasure–some of the best friends I’ve ever, ever had. That’s what’s kept me into it.

And a few months ago, we added a new bunch of friends to our chat group–you see, the guys who made Repo have nearly finished work on a new creation, The Devil’s Carnival!

It’ll be airing as a road tour next month, and I’m super excited. So this recipe is my nod to one of the characters: the Painted Doll, played by the lovely Emilie Autumn!

“Cup of scorn” is a phrase that’s been tossed around the fandom, so I asked myself, what would scorn taste like? Sweet and enticing, but dark and deep, with a bit of spice and a wicked bite. And this is what I came up with: sweet, dark molasses and bittersweet chocolate, seductively smooth and silky nutella, cinnamon’s sweet spice, the burn and bite of good bourbon, and a bit of hellfire in the form of cayenne pepper. I garnished with a half-heart slice of apple, a nod to the Doll’s character. And the verdict? Sooooo good. Dad kept sneaking to the mixing bowl for a bit of frosting. I’d say that’s a winner!

Dark chocolate molasses cake
Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 of a 4.3 oz box chocolate pudding mix
1 egg
1/2 cup black coffee
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon molasses
Small amount of bourbon (to brush)

Makes roughly a dozen cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350 F, and line your cupcake pan. Whisk together the dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer. Add the wet ingredients and mix on lowest setting with the paddle attachment until just combined, then at medium speed (around 6 on a Kitchenaid mixer) for two minutes. The batter will be thin, that’s fine. Fill your baking cups about ¾ full and bake 15-19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool, then brush with bourbon.

Nutella cinnamon swiss meringue buttercream
Ingredients
9 large egg whites
2 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 sticks (2 pounds) unsalted butter, not cold, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup nutella
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Cayenne pepper (for sprinkling)

Makes enough frosting for 2 dozen cupcakes

I always cube and set out my butter on a plate first thing, and let it warm up while I work on the rest. Wipe out your mixer bowl and mixer attachments VERY well, making sure there’s no trace of grease. The first thing you’re going to do is make a meringue, and any grease could cause it to fail. Heat a large pot with an inch or so of water on the stove until it’s just simmering—we don’t want to cook our egg whites. Add the egg whites and sugar to your mixer bowl and whisk constantly until the sugar is melted and the egg whites are warm.

Stick your bowl on your mixer with whisk attachment and whip the egg/sugar mixture on medium-low (say 3 on a Kitchenaid) for a couple minutes, then switch to medium-high (say 7 or so on a Kitchenaid) until they’re white and fluffy, and the bowl is neutral to the touch. For me, it takes around 7-8 minutes. Voila! You made meringue. But it’s going to get even better still.
When the bowl feels room-temperature, switch to the paddle attachment on low speed and add your cubed butter one or two cubes at a time. This is the tricky part, and where it looks like everything’s gone wrong. At this stage, it is totally okay if your buttercream looks grainy, more like scrambled eggs. Trust me! Just keep whipping it, scraping the paddle clean if need be. Eventually, it will turn into creamy, smooth loveliness. Taste a little of it now—isn’t it just knee-weakeningly good? But it’s going to get even better!

Add vanilla, nutella, cinnamon, and salt, and whip it a bit longer, until they’re evenly incorporated. And don’t be afraid to play with different flavors or proportions. Pipe onto cupcakes, but make sure you have a little left over to eat with a spoon! ;D Sprinkle with cayenne, to taste.

Dark chocolate cupcakes with raspberry swiss meringue buttercream


OMG, it has been such a cupcake week, and especially a buttercream week. So far, I’ve used up nine sticks of butter and more eggs than I’d like to admit–I kept breaking the fragile little sillies, as clumsy as I am. But my family’s more than happy to serve as taste testers, especially after tasting the gorgeous, silky swiss meringue buttercream. I honestly think I’d be happy never making another kind of frosting my whole life, it’s luscious enough to go on everything!

This recipe is the one that made me confident enough to start this blog. If I can handle meringue, I can do anything!

Yummm <3

Both recipes in this post were adapted from Sweetapolita.

Dark chocolate cupcakes
Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 4.3 oz box chocolate pudding mix
2 eggs
1 cup black coffee
1 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Makes roughly 2 dozen cupcakes

These are probably the perfect cupcakes. Bar none. They’re moist, fluffy, and soooo chocolatey it hurts. They disappeared in three days, and that’s saying something for my health-loving family. Definitely not to be eaten standing up!

Preheat the oven to 350 F, and line your cupcake pan. Whisk together the dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer. Add the wet ingredients and mix on lowest setting with the paddle attachment until just combined, then at medium speed (around 6 on a Kitchenaid mixer) for two minutes. The batter will be thin, that’s fine. Fill your baking cups about ¾ full and bake 15-19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.

Black raspberry swiss meringue buttercream
Ingredients
9 large egg whites
2 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 sticks (2 pounds) unsalted butter, not cold, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Two large spoonfuls black raspberry jelly/jam

I heard about swiss meringue buttercream probably a year before I actually tried it. It seemed so intimidating—a hundred different things seemed like it could go wrong! But I’m here to tell you that it’s actually really really simple, and I’ve made it twice this week simply because I can. And oh my gosh, is it delicious. I licked every implement used to make this completely clean before washing—I couldn’t bear to let any of it go to waste. And don’t stop at just raspberry. You can make it any flavor you like! Because SMB isn’t sweet-sweet, any flavor will shine.

I always cube and set out my butter on a plate first thing, and let it warm up while I work on the rest. Wipe out your mixer bowl and mixer attachments VERY well, making sure there’s no trace of grease. The first thing you’re going to do is make a meringue, and any grease could cause it to fail. Heat a large pot with an inch or so of water on the stove until it’s just simmering—we don’t want to cook our egg whites. Add the egg whites and sugar to your mixer bowl and whisk constantly until the sugar is melted and the egg whites are warm. I’ll level with you: the first time I made this, I intended to run the sugar through the food processor beforehand, making it superfine, but it melts just perfectly without it, so I don’t bother.

Stick your bowl on your mixer with whisk attachment and whip the egg/sugar mixture on medium-low (say 3 on a Kitchenaid) for a couple minutes, then switch to medium-high (say 7 or so on a Kitchenaid) until they’re white and fluffy, and the bowl is neutral to the touch. For me, it takes around 7-8 minutes. Voila! You made meringue. But it’s going to get even better still.

When the bowl feels room-temperature, switch to the paddle attachment on low speed and add your cubed butter one or two cubes at a time. This is the tricky part, and where it looks like everything’s gone wrong. At this stage, it is totally okay if your buttercream looks grainy, more like scrambled eggs. Trust me! Just keep whipping it, scraping the paddle clean if need be. Eventually, it will turn into creamy, smooth loveliness. Taste a little of it now—isn’t it just knee-weakeningly good? But it’s going to get even better!

Add your jam/jelly, vanilla, and salt, and whip it a bit longer, until they’re evenly incorporated. And don’t be afraid to play with different flavors or proportions. Pipe onto cupcakes, but make sure you have a little left over to eat with a spoon! ;D