Learning to bake fearlessly <3

Posts tagged ‘the devil’s carnival’

Strawberries stuffed with maple whipped cream, and a story!

I’m back home and mostly recovered! That trip was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was so worth it. I met amazing friends, both old and new (and my big sister!), and saw so much of the country! I’ve officially touched both coasts now.

I hit eleven tour stops all told, including the Vegas stop that was added after they made this map. The schedule was tough–every morning we’d have to get up around six, to be ready to go around seven AM. Then we’d have an eight to ten hour drive, and get to the theater two hours before the show to set up. We got so good at setting up merch displays.

During the show, we’d do whatever was needed–mostly selling merch and corralling fans, with occasional tasks like picking up dinner or making character card packs. The meet and greets at the end would usually get over anywhere from midnight to 2 AM, leaving us only a few hours to get back to the hotel room or friend’s house we were staying at and pass out, to get ready to do it again the next day! Tough schedule, but you do what you gotta do, right? Totally worth it. I worked with some wonderful people that I hope will be friends for a long time, and the energy at the stops was just amazing. Everyone was having a good time, excited and happy, and glad to be there. I tried to say at least a few words to every person that came through my line.

(Myself, Kimmie, and Shi being silly at the merch table while Kessie looks on judging us.)

And I even managed to get in some baking! Kessie’s mom’s birthday was a few days after we left, so I made her some cupcakes, plus some for us on the road. Hers were turtle cupcakes (devil’s food cupcakes with pecans baked on top, with caramel and chocolate ganache), and ours were simply devil’s food with chocolate ganache. We gave some to the tour team, and we were told they were inhaled. No pics since I was exhausted by the time they were finished, after the first show.

But that’s a few days gone already, and my baking fingers got itchy, so I whipped something up last night! I made this maple whipped cream with my sister ages ago, but this time I added more syrup and thought it was sooooo much better. But then, I’m a maple fiend. And maple+strawberries? Delicious! Who’d’a thunk?

Maple Whipped Cream
Adapted from JustJenn Recipes

4 cups heavy whipping cream
6 tbsp powdered sugar
6 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Pour the cream into a cold stand-mixer bowl and whip it on medium-high til it starts to thicken. Then add the powdered sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla, and whip on high til you have a nice whipped cream. Don’t overwhip or it’ll get grainy–I overdid it just a bit, but not too badly. Eh, learning experience! And it still tastes lovely.

Then take your strawberries and wash them, cut off the stems, and core them. Sit them on their flat sides and cut halfway down the strawberry in an X shape. Then put your whipped cream in a piping bag and fill from the bottom so that the cream comes through the slits. Best enjoyed on the same day as made. I topped them with disco dust and a sugar heart.


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.

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

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.

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
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
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.