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Thanksgiving Cupcakes with Candy Melts Decorations

15 Oct

Fall is here and with it comes…. HOLIDAYS!! One of my favourite holidays is Thanksgiving. Beautiful colours, delicious food, time spent with friends and family and time to reflect on all the amazing blessings in my life. That and it is kind of like pre-Christmas 😉

Like most big family holidays, I had the pleasure of making cupcakes for dessert after the big feast. This year I went for two of my tried and true recipes, Chocolate Sour Cream and Pumpkin Spice, both with Cream Cheese Frosting. However, this is not a post about my amazing cupcakes with other-worldly frosting. Rather I would like to share with you about my newest creations…. Candy Melts Decorations!!

No cupcake is complete without a little something special on top to set it apart from all the other mundane, so-so, everyday average cupcakes out there. (I don’t really believe this. A lot of my cupcakes are perfectly wonderful without a flag or sprinkles.) But holiday cupcakes do deserve a little extra. So I experimented a little.

Using the Wilton’s Candy Melts in Dark Chocolate and Orange (which are vanilla flavoured) I created these!

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Those look extra special, right? (Even if they don’t, just smile and nod for my ego’s sake.) And now you want to know how you can make your own, yes?!?!

What You Will Need:

Wilton’s Candy Melts (in whatever colour or flavour your little heart desires)

Wilton’s Disposable Decorating Bags or similar product (I’m sure a Ziploc bag would work just as well)

Silpat Baking Mat or parchment paper (the Silpat does a fantastic job of keeping the decorations from sticking)

How to Make:

Following the directions for heating the Candy Melts on the package, place the Melts inside a clean decorating bag. I twisted the top of my bag closed just in case they melted a little too quickly and decided to ooze all over my microwave.

Make sure to heat the melts on no more than 50% Power in your microwave. I once made the mistake of heating them on 100% and they burned inside the bag, created a small hole on the side of the bag and when I went to grab it, I burned myself 😦 Be very careful. Heat the melts in 30 seconds rounds, giving the bag a little squish to test the meltiness of the melts between each round. (Do you like all my technical jargon today?) I typically need around three to four rounds before everything is completely melted.

Once everything is nice and melted inside the bag (and not all over your hands!), cut a small opening at the tip of the bag to begin decorating.

Here is where you can let your imagination run wild!! Use the Candy Melts to create whatever you would like to adorn your lovely cupcakes. If you are unsure of your decorative abilities, place a guide or stencil under the Silpat to follow. I free handed my little Pumpkins and Maple Leafs, allowing each one to be unique.

The thicker the line you squeeze out, the sturdier your decorations will be. If the lines are too fine, the decorations make crack or fall apart as you remove them from the mat.

If the melts begin to re-harden inside the bag, you may get small lumps as you work. I simply squeeze mine out into the sink as I go, but you could reheat the melts for another 30 seconds.

Once you have creative your beautiful and elegant or wild and crazy designs, allow them to cool on the Silpat until they are completely hard. I let mine sit for about an hour, although they were probably hard after about 20 minutes. Carefully peel the mat out from each decoration to remove them.

Now you are free to decorate your delicious cupcakes with crowning glory!! You can thank me for all the oohs and aahhs you receive upon serving them 😉

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Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey’s Butter Cream Frosting

5 Aug

I get pretty excited when people feel the need to share with me new cupcake recipes. So when a friend mentioned that I needed to try out one that she had used for her sister’s birthday party, I jumped up and down with joy at the thought of sinking my teeth into one of these beauties. Being half Irish myself, how could I not revel in the idea of something so historically Irish.

Guinness and Bailey’s together with chocolate? Yes please!

This recipe has been adapted from one found at Annie Eats.

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

1 cup stout (Guinness)

16 tbsp. unsalted butter

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1½ tsp. baking soda

¾ tsp. salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

Combine the Guinness and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the eggs and sour cream to blend.

Add the Guinness-butter mixture and beat just to combine.  Mix in the dry ingredients on low-speed just until incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3  full.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Bailey’s Ganache Filling

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

2/3 cup heavy cream

2 tbsp. butter, at room temperature

2 tsp. Bailey’s Irish cream

Place the chocolate in a  heat proof bowl.

Heat the cream in a small saucepan until simmering, and then pour it over the chocolate.  Let sit for one minute and then whisk until smooth.  If the chocolate is not completely melted, place the bowl over a double boiler or give it a very short burst in the microwave (15-20 seconds).  Add the butter and Bailey’s and stir until combined.

Set aside to let the ganache cool until it is thick enough to be piped.  You can use the refrigerator to speed the cooling process, but be sure to stir every 10 minutes or so to ensure even cooling.

You can either cut a hole for the ganache or, as I did, use a piping attachment to simply poke and fill the cupcakes.

Bailey’s  Butter Cream Frosting

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

4-8 tbsp. Bailey’s Irish cream

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Gradually add the powdered sugar until it is all incorporated.  Mix in the Bailey’s until smooth.

Add more if necessary until the frosting has reached a good consistency for piping or spreading.

These were just as delicious as you dream they could be! The chocolate cake was moist and rich with a noticeable kick from the Guinness stout. The ganache and butter cream was lush and sweet without being overpowering. A perfect balance of some of the tastiness that Ireland has to offer.

Making Cupcake Mistakes

30 Jun

Every once in a while, I think I know better than all the fabulous cupcake recipes out there and try to be über creative. Once or twice (or maybe more than that…..) I’ve attempted to create my own variations of cupcake batters with the hopes of stumbling upon the greatest cupcake creation ever. I assure you, this has yet to happen.

On one mundane afternoon in particular, I stood in my kitchen, looking at an overripe pineapple sitting on the counter. I thought to myself, “Oh poor little pineapple, whatever shall I do with you?” And as I usually do in these situations I decided, “Let’s make some cupcakes!!” The sad little pineapple never stood a chance….

So I searched the interwebs for an inspired yet simple vanilla cupcake recipe. I decided upon this one. It seems straight-forward enough. But being in the creative head space I found myself in that day, I allowed myself to make small little tweaks here and there.

Butter instead of shortening.

Brown sugar, just because.

And, of course, tiny little chopped up gems of pineapple for added flavour and texture.

As I peeked into the oven to watch the cupcakes rise and begin to brown with perfect little cupcake crusts, I marvelled at my savvy baking genius. I imagined just how warm and fluffy and delicious my inventive pineapple cupcakes would be. The timer dinged and now was the moment of truth!

I waited as long as I possibly, physically could to allow the little cake to cool. I couldn’t bear waiting any longer and grabbed one of my precious creations, peeled back the polka-dotted liner and took a big bite. As my lips closed around the ball of warm cupcake in my mouth, anticipating all of the pineappley goodness, I realized what I had done.

The batter was crumbly and gooey (under cooked) all at the same time. There was no pronounced flavour of pineapple…..

I had failed.

Determined to pretend like everything was alright and that I must just be imagining the failure of my cupcakes, I whipped up a quick batch of Apple Honey Butter glaze (again, without a recipe….silly me). The cupcakes accompanied me to a family dinner where they could be eaten by my continual cupcake guinea pigs (thanks Mom and Dad!)

Everyone was polite and assured me that the cupcakes were good. But I knew the truth. They were awful. The uneaten remnants sat on the counter waiting to be sampled by missing family members who were still making their way home.

So what did I learn from this failed endeavour? Recipes are there for a reason. Recipes are our friends. Not that there isn’t room for variation and creativity, but I should have made sure to account for the extra moisture in the pineapple when mixing and baking the batter. Also, as the cupcakes sat for a day or two their texture actually improved. The inside became a little more dense and the tops had a lovely, brown sugar crumble layer to them.

Mistakes happen. Even cupcake mistakes (I know, heaven forbid, right?) But I am still determined to create the most perfect pineapple cupcake. I freaking LOVE pineapple. It will probably result in a few more failures before I get there, but I just need to remember to…..

For more perfectly delicious recipes (that actually succeed!) check out Kitten Cal’s new website.

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

27 Jun

Every year in June, my family comes together to celebrate a special little lady. This year she’s not so little anymore. Our little lady has turned 20 and is set to become a lovely young woman.

In preparation for this annual celebration several things must take place. Among the traditions are my dad’s shaved head ( in remembrance of her battle and victory over cancer 18 years ago), and I must make some type of Strawberry Shortcake concoction. So this year it had to be….

Once again, this recipe came from Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans.

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

2/3 cup whole milk

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt (I used coarse sea salt)

4 large eggs

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used pure vanilla extract this time around)

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with 18 liners.

Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over low heat just until it is hot; it should measure about 150 degrees F on a thermometer (BTW, I think mine is defective). Remove from the heat.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until thickened and lightened to a cream colour, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts. On low-speed, mix the flour mixture until it is incorporated. Slowly add the hot milk and continue mixing for about 30 seconds, until the batter is smooth; the batter will be thin.

Fill each liner with a 1/3 cup of batter, to about 5/8 inch below the top of the liner. Bake just until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 16 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack.

Time to make some fillings 🙂

8 cups cleaned, stemmed and sliced (I probably only used about 5 cups though)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

3 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (again, I used the pure stuff this time)

In a large bowl, stir the sliced strawberries and granulated sugar together. (I also added several dashes of Frangelico for added flavour). Let sit for 30 minutes. Some juice will be released as the strawberries sit, and they will shrink to about 6 cups.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the cream, powered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Using a serrated knife, slice each cupcake (the recipe calls for three pieces, I only slice them into two). Place the bottom of each cupcake on an individual serving plate. Spoon 1/4 cup of whipped cream followed by 1/4 of strawberries with their juice. Place the other half of the cupcake on top and again decorate with whipped cream and strawberries. This presentation is extremely rustic and will not be delicate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I deviated from the recipe’s suggested 12 extra-large cupcakes. I opted for 18 regular cupcakes. As they cooled each shrank considerably to become more like tea cakes. They were still sweet and full of flavour. The pure vanilla and almond extracts make a notable difference in the flavour of the cupcakes. The soft and fluffy cake pair perfectly with the spiked strawberries and whipped cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So until next year… Happy 20th Birthday Auntie Nemo 😉

Vancouver Canucks Cupcakes

14 Jun

June 14th, 1994 is a day that is forever etched in my memories. I was a 10 year old fourth grader with a newly ignited passion for hockey. My team, the Vancouver Canucks, in all their black, yellow and orange glory, had a chance to win the Stanley Cup. I stood on the front lawn of my parent’s house with my younger siblings and cousins, homemade signs in support of our team in hand. Cars drove past with flags and white towels flying, honking in excitement with the hopes that this would be our year.

But as the third period was coming to a close it looked as though our hopes would be dashed by those dastardly New York Rangers. With mere seconds left and a score of 3-2 New York, I knelt on the grass, my yellow SONY walkman clutched desperately and prayed to the good Lord that the Canucks would rally and we would bring home the cup. The buzzer sounded and it was all over. In Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, we had lost. A few tears were shed. However, the eternal optimist in me knew that our time would come again.

Fast forward 17 years and behold, here we are again!! Stanley Cup Finals 2011, the Vancouver Canucks vs the Boston Bruins. In a heart stopping, finger-biting race to 4 wins, we had the opportunity to clinch the series in Game 6. This was it, our time to make history. I was a buzz of nervous energy all weekend. So what was I to do…..

MAKE CUPCAKES!!

Yep Canuck Cupcakes were definitely in order. Better yet Stanley CUPcakes 😉 I made delicious Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes with Canuck Blue and Green Cream Cheese Frosting.

Once again, this recipe came from Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I used Baker’s Chocolate)

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt (I always use medium coarse sea salt in my baking)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 large eggs (free range….from a friend’s backyard 😉 )

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with liners.

Put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl or the top of a double boiler and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan or barely simmering water (or the bottom of the double boiler). Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. (I never use to be a sifter, but I now highly recommend this step to help improve the consistency the batter.)

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until smoothly blended and creamy, about 2 minutes (a very important step. I always leave my butter to cream just a little longer than suggested to ensure that the sugar it completely incorporated). Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is blended into the batter. Add the vanilla and beat until the mixture looks creamy and the colour has lightened slightly, about 1 minute. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain. On low speed, add half the flour mixture until just incorporate (ie. DON’T overmix!). Mix in the water. Mix in the remaining flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter looks smooth.

There is enough batter to make 18 regular cupcakes, but I made 12 “big top” cupcakes instead. Fill the muffin tin to 1/4 inch below the line top, approximately 1/3 cup in each liner.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

Immediately transfer the cupcakes to a cooling rack by placing the rack on top of the cupcakes, flipping them out and then placing them right side up once free of the muffin tin. Let them cool completely before frosting, about 45 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl, using an electric mix on low speed, beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until smooth and thoroughly blended, about 1 minute (again, I  a little longer and on a medium speed). Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing.

Add the powdered sugar, mixing until smooth, about 1 minute, then beat on medium speed for 1 minute to lighten the frosting further.

I added blue and green food colouring to celebrate my Canucks 😉 (I used liquid colouring but do also have gel, which is more concentrated and usually allows for a more vibrant finished product.)

The sour cream in the batter allows the cupcakes to remain moist and soft but still light and fluffy. The melted chocolate as opposed to adding cocoa powder was wonderfully rich. I may never return to cocoa powder…..

This recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting is not too sweet, as many can be, but rather creamy and smooth with a bit of kick from the cream cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cupcakes sat, awaiting to be enjoyed with a glass of bubbly to celebrate the cup coming home to Vancouver.

But as you now know, this was not to be…. So we used the cupcakes to comfort our sadness and they were delicious nonetheless.

Here’s to a wonderful year of Canucks Hockey! Thanks for the hard work boys. We’ll get ’em next year 🙂