Learning to bake fearlessly <3

Posts tagged ‘learn from my mistakes’

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!