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A young and slightly ignorant woman who has always loved baking and cooking, I want to make people happy with food as often as I can. I'm here to whisk away and explore!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Haunting Question & A Challege Accepted

I have been contemplating a serious subject. It has plagued me deep into the night, kept me awake in the long hours of the early morning. I have pondered; I have searched for answers.
The question, it haunts me:
""Can there ever be too much chocolate?"
Please tell me someone has the answer. I need my beauty sleep after all. Who knows what kind of hideous creature I would become without it...*shudder*
Let's get back to the subject of chocolate, shall we? Or rather the lack of it.
Chocolate is the favorite flavor of cupcake in my house. It always wins. Hands down. Now, while I enjoy people loving my baked goods...sometimes I tend to view people's personal tastes as a challenge. In other words, I consider it my duty and responsibility to create a non-chocolate cupcake that is adored as much as the famous chocolate cupcake is. (Or even, dare we think it, even more adored? See why I'm up at night? It's radical thinking, my friends.)
Now. Here is attempt #1.

Ginger Honey Pear Cupcakes
Doesn't that sound nice? It sounds classy, a complex and promising mingle of delicate flavors. A light ginger cake filled with sweet caramelized pears topped with a lofty frosting hinting at the taste of honey. A guaranteed bulls-eye in the world of culinary joy.

*sigh* It wasn't. It was sticky. The tops were flat. The cake flavor was too strong, filling too bland and soft. The frosting wasn't lofty, but runny and adding more powdered sugar would have hurt your teeth it would be so sweet. Case in point: It wasn't as good as chocolate. Not even close.
But here's the thing, at the beginning of 2013 when I decided to make one cupcake recipe a week I knew there were going to be days like this. Recipes that didn't really work, failure cupcakes so to speak. And I told myself no matter what, I would blog about those days, I wouldn't get frustrated with myself, I would give up the next week, and most importantly...I would try to learn from it.
And I did! I learned about moisture content in cakes, working with fresh spices, all sorts of things.

And so -- here's to the first Cupcake Failure of the Year! Funnily enough...I'm even more excited to try non-chocolate recipes in the coming months. But maybe I'll stick with a nice cocoa based cupcake next, if only so I can get a good night's sleep for once. ;)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Trees and Red Velvet

I complain about the weather a lot.

I'm sorry.

To all the people who have heard me whine about the rain, the cold, the clouds, the grey...I apologize. It's Seattle! It rains. And while I used to love the rain, living here has sorta ruined it for me. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and hear the water on the roof, the pitter-patter in the dark and it would make me so happy. Now when I hear rain it is terrible news. I roll over in my bed and I become a midnight pessimist. Everything is awful, nothing is good. What is the point of it all anyway? Tomorrow the cuffs of my pants will get soggy, my fingers will be cold, it will be no fun driving...
Sometimes I feel like I need to leave and go somewhere where the sun shines and never come back to soggy-town.
But the things is, when the sun does shine, it is beautiful. It is gorgeous. Absolutely 100% spirit lifting. I think it's the deprivation that does it, never seeing the sun makes it a really big deal when it finally comes out.
One of the things that makes my day so much better when the sun comes out is the trees.

Trees are awesome. I remember one time when me and a friend were on a hike I told her that I didn't think I would ever fall in love because no boy would ever understand how much I liked trees. (She thought I was crazy. She was completely right. I was nuts. I am nuts.) I've since come to realize that understanding a person and what they enjoy might not have anything to do with if you fall in love with them or not. Eh. Give me a break, I was 13, and the idea of trees affecting my romantic life was poetic.
Anyways, enough about my weird middle school days...but trees! Trees are great, and the huge tall dusky ones that live here in Seattle were the inspiration behind this cake.

Oh, and this post of Chocolate and Carrots here. She had the idea first. But I out did her...because I have cupcakes too. ;) Three layers of red velvet. Cream cheese icing. Chocolate trees.
And it went perfectly! Not a hiccup. I thought for a moment that I might have over-baked the first two layers. Nope. Just right.
I don't even like Red Velvet cake and this stuff was good.

Best part? It was sunny the day I took these pictures! ;) The sun makes everything better. So much better.

"When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from ...home. But every step and every day lead you back again. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all." -Herman Hesse

Oh, and I made cupcakes too. Ha. You thought you were going to escape from cupcakes this post. No such luck, amigos. 

-This recipe is for one two layer 8 inch cake. I made a double batch which gave me three layers and one dozen cupcakes. Either way is tasty and awesome. 
-The original recipe calls for a whole bottle of red coloring. I used one half for each batch, which resulted in a more subtle red color. I like it better this way. That's how traditional red velvet looks. (at least, in my obvious expert opinion it is. Ha!) If you like a deeper color red than use the whole thing. Dump it in there like a crazy person! Whoohoo!
-This cake will stick to your pans. It is inevitable. It's because its so tasty the pan doesn't want to let it go. It's okay...just put a wax paper circle or parchment paper circle in the bottom of your cake pans after you grease and flour them. Your cake will pop right out and you can peel the paper off your layers after they're cool. 
-I had some raspberry pie filling (just a tad) leftover from some hand pies I made last week so I spread it very very thin in between the layers, just on top of the cake, under the frosting. I wanted to keep it from being too dry. But it isn't part of the recipe is definitely is up to your discretion. But seriously, I'm questioning your discretion if you veto raspberries at anytime. ;)
-I had to make three batches of icing for the cake and cupcakes. But two should cover it...and that's if you love mountains of frosting on your confections. 

Red Velvet Layer Cake
2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 TB cocoa
2 cup sugar
1 cup oil
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla 
1/2 bottle red food coloring
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 c. coffee 
Preheat your oven to 350. Grease and flour your cake pans. Cut wax paper or parchment paper circles to put in the bottom. Whisk together your dry ingredients in a big bowl. In another large bowl combine the sugar and oil and eggs. Add the buttermilk, vanilla, and red food coloring. It will get interesting now because it now appears like you're involved in Aztec human sacrifice. Red food coloring looks really bloody. Dip a knife in this sugary mixture and run around licking it to scare people.  Just kidding. Stir this carefully and methodically so everyone knows you are sane and would never murder anyone. Stir in the coffee and vinegar. Combine these wet ingredients with the dry and stir until everything is combined and moistened. Divide evenly between your cake pans or cupcake tins. Bake 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Don't over bake. Let cool 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a plate. Peel off the wax paper circles when cool enough to touch. 

Cream Cheese Icing
1 stick butter-soft
1 8 oz package cream cheese-soft
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-3 TB of heavy cream if needed
Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add sugar slowly, while keeping the stand mixer on the lowest setting. (Or you could dump it all in at once on high speed and have it spray you in the face and you could sneeze powder sugar boogers all day. That works too.) Add vanilla. If it is too thick to spread or pipe, add the cream one spoon at a time, whipping well after each addition. It will get fluffy and perfect in no time. Spread this all over, between, on top of your red velvet masterpiece. Oh yeah. 
Halfway though our frosting party. Look at that! It's a lot of cream cheese. It's so happy.

Annnnnnndd...I was debating whether I should include a post about chocolate drawing. Because the little chocolate trees are really what made the cake fun and pretty looking. But I have a bunch of homework to do now and if I don't write a chocolate post now, I can write it later! You know, next time I want to procrastinate from doing any kind of schoolwork. Yuup. Oh! and the beautiful photos of the Northwest Wilderness were taken by my super talented sister, Laura Lango. (click on the link! There's lots of pretty pictures there. I promise.) The food pictures are mine, however. Which explains their complete lack of allure, of course. ;)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nutella Cupcakes: This Season's Flu Remedy

Sometimes sad things happen. Sometimes discouraging things happen.
Sometimes the flu hits you like a sack full of bricks and you spend your time on the couch sleeping, coughing, and collecting used tissues instead of going to school, finishing baking orders, and getting up at 5:45 to go to work every morning.

And then after you've been out of commission for a week, you have an exam to take as soon as you get back. (First of the quarter, which is always iffy since you don't really know how that certain professor tests...) Oh. And then a large birthday party to cater the day after. And a doctor's appointment with a blood draw done by that one nurse that isn't good at it AT ALL.

Life. It's just kinda like a carousel that doesn't stop, it just goes faster. and I'm already a little sick. Heh. :D
Sometimes on this dizzying carnival ride of living, you make really delicious cupcakes and they all get eaten before you can take photos.

Okay, so that isn't the worst thing that could happen, really. And it was my fault. My camera's battery died when I took pictures of the Raspberry Take Over cupcakes last week, and being the lazy, awful (and sick) procrastinator that I am, I didn't recharge it. And then we had a crowd of cute kids come over for a while the other day and well. Needless to say, there weren't any cupcakes left over for photographing.

But I did draw a jar of Nutella for you! And a cupcake. It was nice, sitting in front of the fireplace getting warm, drinking tea, and sketching little cupcakes. It was almost as nice as the Nutella buttercream on those cupcakes. That might have been illegal it was so good. It was so good that my dad started describing it to my mom, foodie style. He even used words like "balance" and "rich". Weird stuff. The apocalypse might have been triggered by the Nutella cupcakes; wacky things are happening all over the place. 

Nutella Cupcakes
Chocolate Cupcakes: 
1 c. cake flour
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. coffee
1/4 c. oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add the remaining wet ingredients and stir until moistened. Divide into cupcake wrappers and bake at 350 for about 12 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched. 

Nutella Buttercream:
1 stick softened butter
1/3 cup nutella
1 tsp vanilla
4 c. powdered sugar
3-4 TB. heavy cream
Cream butter and Nutella until thick (about 3 minutes) Add sugar and continue mixing until well blended. Add vanilla and cream. Beat at high speed until frosting becomes fluffy, at least 3 minutes. 

Nutella Cream Filling:
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. nutella
Whip cream until stiff. Add 1/4 cup of the cream to Nutella and stir to lighten it. Add this lightened Nutella to the remaining cream and fold it in gently. Fill your cupcakes! :D

Friday, January 18, 2013

Thinking Spring: Recipes to Look Forward to

When November comes around and the air starts getting chilly, when there is frost on the ground in the morning when I get up and go to work, when Christmas music starts playing on the radio...I tell myself (and everyone else) that I love winter! Isn't it great? Such good opportunities to get snuggly, drink hot cocoa, bake all day! Winter is the best!

But now it's January 18th. I'm sick with the flu. My fingers are constantly cold. I hate scraping ice off my windshield. Winter stinks. Hot cocoa is boring, when are the lemonade months coming? Geesh. 

So I admit, I am a fickle person. Or at least, in regards to the seasons. Right now my favorite season is Spring. (Because it isn't here yet. See? Fickle.) So! All this to say: 
1. I'm ashamed of my whiny attitude toward winter, and yet I really really want it to go away so I keep whining. Bad.
2. In order to cheer myself up, and anyone else who is tired of the cold, I'm going to look at all sorts of nice Spring recipes. And post them here. In hopes that one day the little plants will peep their green heads up from the dirt, the ice will stop appearing on my car, and lemonade will overflow in the land of sun once more.
3. I can't actually bake today because I'm sick with the flu and everything hurts. Plus, I would infect everyone around me which would be miserable. It would be the antithesis of why I bake, which is to spread Happiness.  

All these pictures link back to the websites where I found the recipes. So you can click on the titles there and start baking. Maybe all the ovens going at once will speed up the warming process and spring will arrive sooner! :) It is totally worth trying. 

5. Raspberry Lemon Slice (Lemonade days, here we come, right?)

Annnnd! You thought you had escaped cupcakes? Ha! 

I think next time I'll post Valentines Day recipes. Because love is so cute and it's fun to bake into things. :)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Raspberry Takeover Cupcakes

One time, on January 11th, a baby boy was born.
I don't know really what he looked like then, if he was red and scrawny, fat and crying, had big eyes or squinty ones. But I do know that he grew up to be one amazing man.
And then quite a few years later, he and his beautiful wife had a baby of their own. I do know all about that baby, because she's me. :)

Yep! Yesterday was my dad's birthday! Prepare yourselves for some dadoration in this next paragraph. (Like that word, dadoration? I totally made that up on my own and I think it's awesome. Don't judge. Shakespeare made up words all the time, people.)
My dad is hard to describe. He has so many great and amazing attributes, and yet he's so very completely different from any other dad I know. He doesn't take me out on "Daddy-daughter" dates, he isn't the kind of father who gives me everything I want, he can't stand sitting through ballet and violin concerts. He doesn't do a lot of the things you think of when you think of "Dad of the Year" awards. But he IS. The dad of the year century, that is.
We film short films together. He takes beautiful pictures. He sticks his beard in my eye to make me squirm when he gives me a hug. He sits down and let's me know when I'm being a jerk. He also sits down and lets me know when I need help. And then he gives me the help I need. We also make funny faces. We watch cooking shows together sometimes. But we mostly watch football together because, honestly, football is a little more exciting than "Chopped".  I love my dad. I think he is the best.
He is full of wisdom, knowledge, love, corny jokes, brilliant ideas, patience, and experience that I can only hope that I have when I am his age. (Which is not that old, btw.)

So birthday cupcakes it is! My dad loves raspberry. It's his favorite flavor of anything. He buys raspberry yogurt, raspberry sorbet, raspberry granola bars, raspberry flavored vitamins. He eats cartons of raspberries all the time. He likes raspberry.
Look! My dad's in the background there...watching football with me as I baked. See? Awesome.
So of course, this week's cupcake is Raspberry Takeover! Everything about it is raspberry. Raspberry Cake filled with a Raspberry Vanilla Cream, and topped with Raspberry Cream Cheese Icing.

I was told that it tasted like a fancy Raspberry Zinger, and I was okay with that. I've never had one before, but I understand that they are generally awesome??
Raspberry Take Over Cupcakes - Yield 12
Raspberry Cakes:
-1 cup sugar
-1/2 pkg of raspberry jello
-1/2 cup softened butter
-2 eggs
-1 2/3 cups cake flour
-1 1/4 tsp baking powder
-1/2 c. milk
-1/2 Tablespoon vanilla
-1/4 cup pureed fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Beat butter, sugar, and jello together until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well after adding each egg. In a blender puree your raspberries. Make a "smoothie" by whisking the puree with the milk. Set aside. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Add this set of dry ingredients to the butter and eggs in two additions, alternating with the "smoothie". Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake about 20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when pressed.

Raspberry Vanilla Cream Filling- This will make extra, but we LOVE it in our breakfast smoothies, so no one is complaining. But feel free to halve this recipe if you only want enough to fill your cupcakes. Also, make this filling up to 2 days ahead to manage time better. Just don't eat it before you make the cupcakes. ;)
-8 tbsp unsalted butter
-12-oz package frozen raspberry, thawed (or 1 pint ripe)
-5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-1 pkg vanilla pudding
-2 cups milk
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the raspberries, egg yolks, and sugar
Stir frequently, until it starts to boil, and then stir constantly. Cook over medium heat until it thickens, about 6-8 minutes.
Pour the mixture through a mesh sieve set over a bowl, pressing down on the mixture with a wooden spoon to squeeze as much liquid as possible through. This is to get rid of those crunchy seeds.
Cover the curd, placing plastic wrap directly on the curd itself to avoid it from forming a skin on the top. Chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 2-3 days. The curd will thicken as it cools. Set aside 3 Tablespoons for the frosting. When it is cool, prepare the pudding mix as directed on the box. Fold the curd into the pudding mix and set aside in the fridge. 

Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting-
-8 Tablespoons of butter, softened
-6 oz Cream Cheese, softened
-4 cups powdered sugar
-1 Tablespoon Raspberry Liqueur
-3 Tablespoons of the Raspberry Curd
Beat the butter and cream cheese together. Add the Sugar, cup by cup. Add the liqueur and the curd, beating til well combined. 

Team Assemble! 
Cut a cone out of each of the cupcakes. Enlist the two eleven year olds in your house to eat these middles, you won't need them anymore. ;) Fill the core with the raspberry vanilla cream. Fill a piping bag with the frosting and pipe onto the cupcakes., or spread it straight on the cupcake with a spatula for a more rustic look. (Or for faster consumption, that's good too. :D) I decorated mine with small pink pearls, having learned that my mom used the fresh raspberries for I had intended on using for garnishing in my brother's smoothie for breakfast. :/ 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Heads up, guys!

Dear (few) people that read this blog o' mine,

I blog so much. Well, I try to blog a lot. Most of the time it fails. I've gone through so many freaking blogs it's scary.
I've tried to have "personal" blogs. Photography blogs, blogs where I list things I'm thankful for, food blogs ('ello). Truth is, I'm bad at blogging. Usually I have these high and mighty aspirations to be the next amazing-est blog ever. And then it goes by the wayside.

But that's okay. Because it's fun, even if I'm bad at it.
But I've decided to delete nearly all of my blogs (that I've remembered/still have access to. Yes. There are that many. It's shameful.) except this one. And this one I've added to bloglovin.com

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

See there? that linky looking thing has entered me into the official land of the bloglove.
I'm a true blue blogger now.
Which means I should try harder at not being bad at it.

If you bloglove, which is unlikely, you could find and follow me there now. If you actually cared, which is unlikely.


I am sorry this post doesn't have any food or recipes. But I did mention that I wasn't very good at this, so perhaps you'll forgive me. :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Welcome to 2013!

I'm not going to fill this blog post with all the wonderful or sorrowful things that happened in 2012. Because why look back when we can all eat cupcakes instead? Know what I mean, know what I mean? Of course you do.
2013 is going to be awesome.
I'm determined to make 52 new cupcakes this year. One new recipe a week.
I'm a little frightened by my own determination. 52 cupcakes is a lot of cupcakes.
But it's okay. Because the first test recipe turned out spec-tac-oo-lar.
So here's to a little toast to the New Year...with a Chocolate Bailey's Irish Cream Cupcake!

I turned a chocolate cake recipe into a little party with a generous dose of Bailey's Irish Cream in the batter. I had two bottles of Baileys, one the traditional flavor and then another that was Caramel. I decided to go with the good old Irish Cream this time around, but Caramel would have tasted uh-MAYzingg!
Not like these weren't amazing already. :)
But the best part by far was the frosting, of course. Isn't the frosting always the best part? Or is that just me and my frosting love taking over?

It was a Swiss Meringue Butter cream with a dash of Irish Cream. I've never made Swiss Meringue Butter Cream before, but I will be making it again very soon. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe even every single day this year. Because it was super amazing delicious. I can't believe I had never attempted it before. It just seemed long winded and unnecessary.
Oh wow. It is necessary all right. So very necessary. Necessary for all the cupcakes every made. Necessary for your happiness. Necessary for world domination. Yeahhhh...
I'll quit praising these cupcakes now and give you the recipe. :)

Bailey's Irish Cream Cupcakes  Yield 12
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tablespoons of Instant Coffee Granules
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Bailey's Irish Cream
Fudge Ganache

Preheat oven to 350 F.Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and coffee granules. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour milk, oil, vanilla, egg, and Bailey's. Mix well until there are no lumps. Spoon the batter into cupcake liners and bake for 22 minutes or until the tops spring back when you touch them. Let them cool completely on a rack before you frost them.
Fudge Ganache:
4 oz dark chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
1/2 c. cream
2 Tablespoons butter
In a saucepan heat cream and butter over medium heat. When hot pour over chocolate and let stand til partially melted. (About 3 or 5 minutes) Stir the chocolate until completely smooth and refrigerate until the consistency is thick like frosting. Spread on top of the cooled cupcakes before you pipe on the butter cream.

Bailey's Irish Cream Swiss Meringue Butter Cream
This recipe makes more than enough for 12 cupcakes, but feel free to refrigerate the rest. Or eat it with a spoon. That works too.

5 egg whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tsp Bailey's Irish Cream

Put a pot of water on to simmer and take the butter out of the fridge to soften. Using the double boiler method mix the egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl and cook over the simmering water. Whisk constant, but gently until the temperature reads 160 F. Or, if you don't have a candy thermometer like me you can cook it until the sugar is all dissolved and the eggs are hot. Remove the bowl and start whisking! Whip until thick, glossy, and the bowl has cooled down, about ten minutes. If the bowl isn't cool, the butter will melt when you add it to the mixture. Bad news. :( Anyway...when the bowl is cool, start adding the butter cube by cube. The frosting will deflate, but keep whipping! Soon it will be fluffy and light and perfect! Stir in the Baileys and proceed to devour it like a dinosaur pipe onto the cupcakes.

Happy New Year, lovelies! I would really love to see if anyone else wants to do this 52 cupcakes in a year challenge with me. I think it would be fun to see everyone else's baking adventures. I have 52 ideas set up already, or you could come with your own. (Which would be even cooler!) Let me know in the comments!