Sunday, May 27, 2007

Adventures in Cupcaking

So for the last several months I have been obsessed with cupcakes. I blame Rachel Kramer Bussel for this obsession, for it is her site Cupcakes Take the Cake that started it all. Since then I have branched out to Coconut & Lime, Chockylit, and The Cupcake Underground. All fabulous sites that you should check out when you get the chance.

These days I wait patiently for my next excuse to steal my mother's hand blender, dig out the cupcake liners, and my $30 muffin pan and make beautiful cupcake. The first chance I got was on Easter, when I attempted to adapt Cupcake Underground's Chocolate Lavender Cupcake recipe to suit me and came up with Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes (via Epicurious) and Underground's Lavender frosting recipe - which is not so much a recipe as it is some very vague instructions. Sort of like Camilla Engman's instructions on how to make her adorable critters (which I WILL attempt someday, when I learn how to knit and crochet.) The major problem with the frosting, I believe, is that I was attempting to adapt a vegan recipe to be dairy-based.

Normally I would have checked out how to do a traditional cream cheese frosting and I think I might have - I can't quite remember - but one way or another there was no butter involved when I did this. A rookie mistake. I bought cream, cream cheese, powdered sugar, hibiscus blossoms, and lavender flowers. I adore cooking with lavender so this was an exciting chance for me to integrate it into a dessert. I put the cream on the stove and the lavender and hibiscus blossoms in, and attempted to simmer the cream. Oh, what a bad idea. The first attempt was a total flop. Everything appeared to be going well until all of a sudden - the cream clotted. It looked absolutely awful. I'll spare you the detailed description because it might spoil whatever meal you happen to reading this near. The second attempt was not so bad. The cream turned a lovely pinkish-purple color and didn't clot (though, the blossoms when removed did not exactly escape unscathed by their harrowing creaming experience). Then I started blending the cream cheese and powdered sugar, which was going pretty all right until I added the cream. That was when everything went wrong. Little dots of sparkly powdered sugar started forming, giving the appearance of snow - which, while kind of pretty in its own way, was definitely not what I was going for.

The cupcakes turned out fabulously. They were very dense and tasty. Another rookie mistake I made was frosting them as soon as they'd cooled. And, being slightly nervous about the idea of leaving cream cheese frosting out of the refridgerator I immediately stuck them in a container and into the fridge they went. I didn't research enough to know that that was pretty much all right but that I needed to bring them to room temperature before I served them to anyone. Otherwise they were like tiny fudgy-brownie-like matza balls. They were very pretty and the purple was very Easter-y. I put a few little lavender blossoms on top for decoration (no pictures of the results, sorry) - unfortunately the only way you could taste any lavender at all. The frosting swallowed any hibiscus or lavender flavor the cream simmering had attempted to give it. Lessons learned. Next time, I make a simple syrup I think.

I took my lumps and the next opportunity I had to get my hands in some batter was my friend Tim's birthday. Every year I do a southern-themed cooking extravaganza and this year I chose Red Velvet Cupcakes. I chose a recipe from Coconut & Lime and used her Cream Cheese Icing recipe as well. This time, I beat the hell out of that frosting. It rocked. It was perfection. These were the results:

I was very, very proud. I shared them with anyone I could convince to take one. Last time, I ended up throwing out a number of leftover cupcakes. This time, I threw out not a one. And Tim was verrah happy -

My new adventure is about to begin today. Ages ago, I saw a picture on the interwebs of a cake with sliced strawberries inside and I thought, could I not do this with a cupcake? And could not the strawberry be whole? I thought about doing a lemon chiffon cupcake with a whole strawberry sunk inside but I could not for the life of me find a lemon chiffon cupcake recipe. I do not pretend that I am experienced enough to take a cake recipe (which is all I could find) and adapt it to anything. I am a newbie. I must accept my limitations. So I went to the expert, Rachel at Coconut & Lime and requested help in locating a recipe. I related my idea and she had some thoughts - 1) That chiffon cupcakes are tough to do all by themselves and 2) That chiffon might not be dense enough to support the strawberry. Now, I had actually wondered about the second point but I hadn't thought of how the upside-down cooling process might work with a cupcake. But Rachel volunteered to test drive the idea and the results are posted on her site.

I'll post my results after I've made them, which should be this afternoon. But three cheers for Rachel for being a great sport and for helping me out!

1 comment:

newwavegurly said...

I've had "Cupcakes Take The Cake" bookmarked for months now. I like to go there and lose myself in their beautiful creations every-so-often.

Good luck with the cupcake obsession. I might follow you there if I had people to make them for more often.