Sometimes, baking is science.

Last weekend, just before the grape amazingness, I decided to be really ambitious and delve into uncharted territory in the landscape of my baking experience.  I decided to bake with yeast.  As if baking wasn’t like science before, it’s REALLY like science when you throw some yeast into the process.  I’ve assisted with bread projects before with my Grandma, so I wasn’t caught totally off guard by the bubbling of the active yeast.  However, whenever I’ve done a bread project by myself, a breadmaker has actually done all the work; I just threw a bunch of crap into the bucket, closed the lid, and hit the “make bread” button.

So, I woke up a week ago and saw this awesome picture of pretzel rolls on one of my friends Pintrest board.  After looking at the recipe, I thought “well, that doesn’t sound THAT hard.  Totally doable.”  It says something about only using some of the flour and then adding more…I’d say just use it all right away if you’re making the full batch.

And you know what?  It WASN’T that hard.  It was pretty doable, and made me want to do more yeast-y baking.  They may not have looked pretty as the ones on the recipe, but whatever.  At least the rolls tasted great!!

Grape!

Last week, my coworkers (who are the eaters of the cupcakes) demanded that I start bringing in treats again.  The conversation went something like this:  “Ging, I hear cupcakes are starting again on Monday.  No pressure.”

Clearly, I had no choice but to bake cupcakes for the masses!! 🙂

This week, we made grape soda cupcakes!  We found this recipe a long time ago, and when I mentioned it at the office…some eyes lit up.

They turned out great!  The grape flavor was very subtle, but it was good.  The recipe says to bake normal sized cupcakes for 22-25 minutes, but we only baked them for 20 and they were perfect.  You will want to use a great food dye (I like Duff’s color gels) to get the awesome purple color…I forgot to actually take a picture of the batter before we baked them, but it was pretty purple.

mmmm….tastes like summer

So….if you judge solely on my previous post…St. Pat’s was great!  No, my absence can just be explained by life happening and me being out of the state for a time.  But, these are some amazing cupcakes we make a few weeks ago!

We got the idea from the back of a cake mix…for real.  They have good ideas back there!  So we had this random lemon cake mix sitting around and the box suggesting putting a strawberry icing on it!  Um, no need to twist my arm there!  We made a strawberry buttercream frosting (made with fresh strawberry puree….omg).  And they were so amazing.  Basically, they tasted like strawberry lemonade.  Usually, I’ll only have one “ugly” cupcake for myself, but this time, I just kept them all at home and made poor food decisions for a while.  Totally worth it.

Also, my birthday was a few weeks ago.  I’m a huge fan of Winnie the Pooh, so my best friends made me hunny bee cupcakes!  The cake was an almond cake with a honey buttercream frosting.  And an adorable jelly bean bumble bee with almond-sliver wings.  They were super cute AND delicious!  Bonus!

Sláinte!

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner!  So, naturally, we had to bake with booze!  And we couldn’t just make one cupcake.  Oh no.  We made three different kinds!

The first that we made was a chocolate Guinness cupcake with a vanilla bean buttercream frosting.  We got the recipes for both here.  These turned out great.  They are really fluffy and delightful.  The frosting is super amazing.  Clear vanilla extract is my new favorite thing.

Don't worry, I finished up the left overs while the frosting was being made. No Guinness went to waste while making these cupcakes.

The next one that we made was a Baileys cupcake with Baileys frosting.  We got the recipes here.  The frosting turned out a little bit more like a glaze than a frosting that you can pipe onto the cupcakes, but it’s still delicious!  And I like that it looked different from the others too.   I think these were my favorite of the project.  They were dense, yet super moist….and they taste like Baileys.

The last one that we made was a vanilla cupcake (courtesy of a boxed cake mix I picked up at the store) with a maple whiskey frosting.  The frosting recipe is from here. They used Jameson, but we used my favorite Irish whiskey:  2 Gingers.  At this point of the night, I was tired of stopping to take pictures so there’s no “during” shot, just the beautiful finished product!

As usual, we ended up with a boat load of cupcakes.  Don’t worry, they’ll be good post-party (or “keep the party going”) snacks for St. Patrick’s!

Bon Appetit!

The theme we decided to go with this week was France!  Why?  Because we had tickets to an amazing concert featuring beautiful French music on Saturday night.  So, everything has been French for a couple of days.

When looking through the vast array of fondant Eiffel Towers and mustaches, I suddenly thought of French toast.  While I know that French toast wasn’t actually dreamt up in France, I thought, “What the hay?  It sounds French and will probably be delicious.  Let’s do it.”

So then, came the tough part….choosing which recipe out there to use.  There are a million different variations out there!  I ended up going with this one–mostly because of the delicious maple cream cheese frosting recipe they also provided.

After queueing up the “Moulin Rouge” soundtrack (not totally French, but it was close enough and an amazing movie), we got to work!  The cupcakes turned out great, and my apartment smelled deliciously eggy and cinnamon-y.  Next time, I might pull them from the oven a minute or two sooner.  And I might double the batter, this one only made about 18 cupcakes–a totally reasonable amount for our purposes, but just keep in mind that it doesn’t make a full 2 dozen if that’s what you’re counting on.

Happy Polar Bear Day!

February 27th is Polar Bear Day!  In honor and celebration of these amazingly cute bears, we of course made cupcakes!  Click here to learn more about polar bears and ways that you too can celebrate and help protect these animals.

For the cupcakes:  we decided on Devils Food mini cupcakes with our favorite whipped frosting.  Then we used all kind of delicious chocolate and coconut candies to make their cute little faces and paws.  AND we even found tiny tiny marshmallows for the ears!  I promise those will be used with a LOT of different things.  These cupcakes were kid approved earlier this afternoon, rest assured!

Mardi Gr….wait, those look gross. Ok, Mardi Gras!!

Fat Tuesday is less than 24 hours away, and this weekend, I really wanted to bake something in the spirit of Mardi Gras.  My original thought was to bake a traditional Kings Cake–my first attempt was about 10 years ago and it was awesome!  But in the end, the Kings Cake was too ambitious for the resources that we had available.  So maybe next year I will create the amazing braided sugary cinnamony treat!

Instead of the cake, we decided to make cinnamon swirl cupcakes.  Now if you search on-line for “cinnamon swirl cupcakes,” you find so many amazing ideas that one can probably pull off without a hitch!  So if you want me make them….find an ambitious recipe and attack it.  Don’t take the lazy way like we did, you will be disappointed.

As I was running around on Saturday morning, I came a cross a Cinnamon Swirl cake mix!  I think I heard angels singing when I found it!  I thought to myself, “perfect!  most of the work is done for us.  we just add water, put them in pretty foil wrappers, and voila!  Cinnamon swirl cupcakes!”

It almost worked like that.  We added the water and eggs.  We put the batter into pretty gold foil wrappers.  We added delicious cinnamon and sugar to each cup and then, with a toothpick, we swirled each one to get that perfect aesthetic.  Then, we put them in the oven and waited, feeling so proud of ourselves.

Then, we opened the oven…..and I fell into a cinnamon induced depression.  This cake mix we had gotten apparently wasn’t a normal cake mix, so the cupcakes didn’t really rise correctly.  So, they rose out of the cups and then spread.  And our toothpick swirls did almost nothing.  While they tasted delicious, they just looked terrible!  I’m not going to go so far as to say “don’t ever use that box of cake mix” because it did taste delicious; just don’t use it for cupcakes.  Maybe use it for a bunt or a normal cake.

Mad props go out to my bestie for taking on the task of pulling me out of my deep depression our baking fail had spiraled me into.  She rallied and started searching the web for Mardi Gras cupcake ideas and found this one with multi colored batter and cinnamon frosting.  The original blog talks about separating the batter in the cups with spoons, we tried that on one and wanted to rip our hair out.  So we used our own method of putting each batter into its own ziplock baggie and piping it into the cups.  It worked so well!

So we went to work.  And this time, it was a huge success!