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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Glee! Star-Berry Cupcakes


For tonight's season finale (*tear*), I chose to present Rachel's cupcake. I am always sad when the show goes on break or the season ends, but this time I am also excited, as I will have all summer to dream up awesome Gleecakes (thanks, Kelsey!) for the rest of the gang, including Finn, Quinn, Puck, Santana, Brittany, Artie, Sam, Sue, Mr. Schue... maybe even a (crazy)Gleecake for Terri?


Rachel is an exceedingly driven member of the student body at McKinley High. She wants nothing more in life than to be a star (well, aside from gaining the affections of Finn). She lets nothing stop in her way of getting as much exposure as possible - from always speaking her mind on any Glee club matter, to securing television commercials for the group, to demanding solos in competition.

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Rachel is consistently reminding us that stars are her signature icon, so incorporating stars into her cupcake was a given! As Rachel would most surely attest that she is naturally uber talented, I chose a starfruit, with it's natural star shape, to adorn sparkly buttercream topped cupcakes. However, I also couldn't resist hiding a star inside the cupcake because, really, how much fun is this?!

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Rachel's Star-Berry Cupcake combines vanilla cake with a surprise strawberry star baked inside, topped with strawberry swiss meringue buttercream, silver pearl dust, and sliced starfruit.

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Star-Berry Cupcakes


Star-Berry Cupcakes

Source: Vanilla cake reworded from Confections of a Foodie Bride, Strawberry cake slightly adapted from Good Things Catered (inactive blog), Buttercream slightly adapted from The Culinary Life/Garrett McCord and Beantown Baker/epicurious,
Yield: about 12 cupcakes
Total time: 4 hours 10 minutes, including 2 hours inactive time

 

Ingredients

For the strawberry cake:

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried raspberries, ground fine (optional, for coloring; can use red food coloring instead, if desired)

For the vanilla cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 large eggs (beat the third egg in a small bowl, use half)
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the buttercream and decoration:

  • 4 ounces egg whites (from a carton is fine)
  • 6 ounces sugar
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room
    temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2-4tablespoonspureed strawberries
  • 1 starfruit, sliced thin
  • silver pearl dust

Instructions

For the strawberry cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare one 9" or 8" round cake pan by spraying with baking spray. Sift flour, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl. In bowl of mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and mix until combined. Add buttermilk, oil and vanilla until combined. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in chopped strawberries and ground freeze dried raspberries (or food coloring, to desired shade of pink/red).
  2. Pour batter into cake pan. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and continue to cook on wire rack until thoroughly cooled.
  3. Wrap well in plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 2 hours to prepare cake for cutting. Once frozen, use a small star cookie or fondant cutter to make star shaped pieces of cake. Use immediately or store, well wrapped, in freezer until you are ready to continue with the cupcakes.

For the cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line one muffin/cupcake baking pan with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat for 3 minutes on medium-high speed until the butter is light and creamy in color. Stop and scrape the bowl. Cream the butter for an additional 60 seconds.
  3. Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl before each addition. Add the eggs one at a time. Reduce the mixer speed. Stir vanilla into the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
  4. Add roughly 2 tablespoonds of batter to each cupcake liner. Place one frozen strawberry cake star in the batter, standing up and all facing the same way. (Remember which way stars are placed, so that decoration added to the top of the cupcakes at the end can signal which way to cut/eat the cake to reveal the star.) Continue to add vanilla batter to each cupcake liner, making sure to cover the stars.
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  6. Center the pan onto the lower third of the oven and let bake 15-18 minutes. (A skewer test won't work here, since it would go into the pre-baked star cake.)
  7. Let cool completely in the pans. While baking and cooling, prepare buttercream. Frost cupcakes with buttercream, sprinkle with pearl dust, and top with sliced starfruit.

For the buttercream:

  1. Add egg whites and sugar to a heat-safe bowl. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk lightly until the muixture reaches 140 degrees F and the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Pour hot whites into a room-temperature bowl and whip with a wire whip until double in volume on medium-high speed. When the mixer stops, the meringue should not move around in the bowl. Meanwhile cut up butter into 2-inch pieces. (The butter should be slightly moist on the outside but cold inside.)
  3. On your mixer, remove the whip and attach the paddle. Add half the butter into the bowl immediately and pulsate the mixer several times until the meringue has covered the butter completely. To pulsate the mixer, turn it on and off in a jerky motion. This forces the butter on the top to the bottom of the bowl. Add the balance of the butter and pulsate mixer several times. Slowly increase the mixer's speed, starting with the lowest speed and increase the speed every 10 seconds until you reach a medium-high speed.
  4. Continue beating until the mixture begins to look light and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl. Reduce speed to low. Add vanilla and 2 tablespoonds of strawberry puree and continue to beat on low speed for 45 seconds. Then beat on medium-high speed for an additional 45 to 60 seconds. Add additional puree, if necessary, to acheive desired color and taste. If frosting gets too soft, powdered sugar can be added to help stiffen it back up.
    Note: Leftover buttercream can be placed in plastic containers with lids and kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost completely (several hours) and rewhip before using. Storage: Store the icing in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Glee! Gingered Bow Cupcakes

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Emma is one of my favorite characters on Glee, so I was very excited to make her cupcake this weekend. On the outside, Emma is a reserved, polished, sweetheart of a guidance counselor with a little spunk to go along with her firery red hair. Inside, she wrestles with more complex issues - a battle with OCD and a longing to be loved by the one man who stole her heart.

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I knew from the start that her cake would be carrot cake, but with her recent proclamation of Gingerhood, a little kick from some ground ginger was definitely in order! The ginger also helps add a level of complexity to the flavor of the cake, to play off Emma's internal struggles. In keeping with Emma's polished exterior, I topped the cake with a tribute to her signature bow blouses and throwback hairstyle - a white fondant bow with curled tails.

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Emma's cupcake combines gingered carrot cake with a delicate cream cheese frosting, topped with a signature bow!

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Gingered Bow Cupcakes


Gingered Bow Cupcakes

Source: Slightly adapted from Baking Illustrated

Yield: about 24 cupcakes

Total time: 45 minutes

 

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (12 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 pound medium carrots (6 to 7), peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups evaporated cane juice (10 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 4 eggs (large)
  • 1 1/2 cups safflower oil
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar (4 1/2 ounces)
  • fondant, for decorations

Instructions

  1. Wash all bowls, pans, utensils, and equipment in hot, soapy water. Dry thoroughly.
  2. Wash all carrots thoroughly to ensure they are free of pesticides.
  3. Day dream about Will Schuester.
  4. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin pans with sterilized cupcake wrappers.
  5. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
  6. In food processor fitted with large shredding disk, shred carrots (you should have about 3 cups); transfer carrots to bowl and set aside. Wash food processor components thoroughly with hot, soapy water, then dry pieces and fit bowl with metal blade. Process granulated and brown sugars and eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds. With machine running, add oil through feed tube in steady stream. Process until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 seconds longer. Scrape mixture into large bowl.
  7. Realize you are alone and break down in tears, singing "All By Myself."
  8. Pull yourself together.
  9. Stir in carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Full cupcake wrappers 2/3 of the way and until toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 16-20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time.
  10. Cool cupcakes to room temperature in pan on wire rack. When ready to frost, prepare icing. Try not to pass out while working with cream cheese and butter. Process cream cheese, butter, orange juice, and vanilla in clean food processor workbowl until combined, about 10 seconds, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add powdered sugar and process until smooth, about 10 seconds. Frost cupcakes and top with fondant bow. Have a cupcake to make yourself feel better.
  11. Resume day dreaming about Will Schuester.
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    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Glee! Vote for the next cupcake!


    After one final week off, I'll be ready to return next week with another Glee Cupcake. My problem is - I can't decide which one to make! You can help me out by voting for the one you want to see next. I've narrowed the field to Puck, Brittany, or Emma.



    The winner is..... 
    Emma!
    Look for Emma's cupcake here on Tuesday!

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Sourdough French Toast

    Much to my own dismay, there will be a short break in the Glee cupcake series. I did make the next ones this past weekend, but the recipe needs tweaking, so I'm holding it back. Artie deserves only the best!

    Instead, I bring you another weekend breakfast treasure: sourdough french toast. Sourdough bread is one of my husband's favorite foods. He is originally from northern California, and when we head that way to visit his family, a stop in San Francisco is a must. We love taking a stroll down to the Boudin sourdough factory, grabbing a loaf and some cheese, and sitting on the waterfront to enjoy our snack. Of course, it also makes a great companion on the next leg of our trip - wine country. Sourdough + cheese + wine tasting = a great way to spend a beautiful California afternoon. CRW_0016c
    While the sourdough bread from our local grocery store isn't quite the same as Boudin, it's still a fun reminder of our trips out west. I wanted to do something fun with a recent loaf that I purchased, and this seemed like a delicious idea. Someday I will make the leap and try making homemade sourdough, but for now our local bakery bread works just fine!

    Sourdough is a great choice for french toast because the bread itself carries so much great flavor. Just a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg is used to enhance the natural beauty of sourdough.

    Sourdough French Toast


    Sourdough French Toast
    Source: Slightly adapted from Napa Farmhouse
    Yield: Serves 4
    Preparation time: 10 minutes
    Cook time: 15 minutes
    Total time: 25 minutes

     

    Ingredients

    • 1 loaf dense sourdough bread
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • 1 pinch kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1-2 tablespoons butter, plus more as needed
    • pure maple syrup, for serving
    • fruit, for serving

    Instructions

    1. Cut the sourdough into four 1-inch thick slices, then cut each slice in half, diagonally. Reserve the rest of the loaf for another use.
    2. In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs, milk, flour, honey, salt, and spices.
    3. Heat enough butter in a large skillet so that it coats the surface (larger skillet would need more butter).
    4. Dip slices of bread in egg mixture, coating both sides, and then add to skillet. Cook until golden brown on both sides.
    5. Serve immediately, with maple syrup and fruit.