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Cupcakes

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After having a red velvet cupcake from Two Little Red Hens, my hankering for red velvet cupcakes was insatiable. It’s unfortunate how far away Two Little Red Hens is from my apartment, so it’s a rare treat that I have maybe a couple of times a year. I was desiring a red velvet cupcake up till a week after I had my first bite and had to quell the thirst immediately. For some inane reason there are no decent red velvet cupcakes within a ten block radius of my apartment.

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Making these cupcakes was also a bit of a triumph for me. My left hand had been bit by a dog in the last month, and the fracture I sustained with the inflexibility rendered by the deep scars meant I was still struggling to hold onto things with my hand, or carry heavy things.

These cupcakes are moist, and almost too oily for me. I think I had rather high standards after having a light and fluffy Two Little Red Hens cupcake, but well, I also don’t run a bakery. Other than that, the cupcake had a distinct red velvet taste – a balance between being tangy and cocoa-y. The frosting is creamy and delicious – I would suggest making sure it’s 100% lump-free before applying it onto your cupcake. I’d say these cupcakes aren’t deathly sweet and actually have a decent balance of flavor. I thought the batter was top-notch when I was licking it off the bowl, mmm.

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Red Velvet Cupcakes from Throwdown with Bobby Flay
Makes 14 cupcakes
Recipe from Cookie Madness

7 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cups minus a teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cups vegetable oil
6.5 ounces granulated sugar (1 cup minus 1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk (Jin: as a substitute, I used milk and a tablespoon of white vinegar, let it sit for five minutes to curdle and used that)
1 egg plus 2 tablespoons beaten egg
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon red food coloring
1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon water

For the cream cheese frosting:
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz butter, room temperature
1/2 pound (1 ¾ cups) powdered sugar, sifted
3/4 vanilla extract

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a bowl and set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat oil, sugar, and buttermilk until combined. Add eggs, food coloring, vinegar, vanilla and water and mix well. Add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time and mix by hand until well mixed. Be sure not to overmix, or the batter will come out tough.

Line 14 cupcake cups with paper liners, scoop the batter into the liners dividing evenly (a little over halfway full) and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.

For the cream cheese frosting:

Whip the butter and cream cheese together in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until creamed. Gradually add powdered sugar to the mixture and scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.

Makes 14

IMG_3893I started my first real job out of college about a month ago, and now that a considerable chunk of my time is devoted to work, I have much less time to blog. I still cook and bake quite often – I recently made two chocolate cakes and a soy sauce chicken, but not having daylight to snap my food in makes blogging an afterthought. These red velvet cupcakes, however, were for a specific occasion. Every month, my work place hosts a birthday party for people born in that month. I wanted, nay, needed an excuse to bake up something more elaborate than a utilitarian chocolate cake that fulfilled my dessert cravings.

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The original recipe for these were for an 8-inch layer cake, but for ease of transport, I decided to make them into cupcakes. I’ve made the cake a few days ahead in time and froze them, and I intend to frost them in the office pantry. Transporting frosted cupcakes often require large, bulky carriers, and as a bike rider, I prefer to fit everything into my backpack as much as possible. I used all-purpose flour instead of cake flour for the cupcakes, and that contributed to a slightly coarser but more firm texture that’s transportation-friendly. I baked up about 18 cupcakes with the batter, and I would recommend checking for doneness at around 15 minutes and swapping the racks at half-time. Also, I cannot stress how important it is to sift your flour and confectioner’s sugar before mixing. It’ll help create a more uniform texture with less lumps and clumps.

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Red Velvet Cake
Makes 18 cupcakes
Adapted from Cookie Madness

Ingredients
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 whole eggs, room temperature
2 slightly heaping tablespoons cocoa powder (natural)
2 ounces (1/4 c) red food coloring
2 1/4 c of cake flour (9 oz), sifted
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Frosting for Red Velvet Cake
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 18 (or potentially more) cupcake moulds with cupcake liners.

In bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and salt until light. Add the vanilla and the eggs beating 30 seconds after each egg is added. Make a paste of food coloring and cocoa and add to the creamed mixture. Add buttermilk and flour alternately, beating at low speed until mixed.

In a small cup, combine the soda and the vinegar and let it foam up. Pour the foaming mixture into the batter and stir until it’s mixed in. Immediately pour into the cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 minutes. When a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake emerges without crumbs, it is done.

Let cool for 10 minutes in pan set on a rack. Remove from pan and let cool completely. Make icing.

Beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Add confectioner’s sugar slowly, beating until smooth. For a little tartness, beat in some lemon juice.

I like putting booze in sweets. There’s something enticingly sacrilegious about it. Cakes and cookies are sweet, innocent treats that are just about the simplest pleasures one could derive from life. But putting booze in a cupcake is like injecting vice into the guileless dessert; it’s naughty – but I like it.

The red wine does not bake off, so you definitely get to taste it. I really like how the cocoa powder and the cinnamon in the recipe sets it off. I think this recipe is ideal if you like red wine – I’m not a huge red wine person but I simply had some around the house that was just itching to be used. I also halved the original recipe and omitted the extra egg yolk, and I don’t think it missed the additional fat.

Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 1 9-inch round cake

Cake
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (179 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
1/4 cup (50 grams) white granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature (I omitted the yolk)
3/4 cup (177 ml) red wine, any kind you like*
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (133 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (41 grams) Dutch cocoa powder (I used regular cocoa powder, no problems there)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Topping (I omitted this)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (118 grams) chilled heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, and either butter and lightly flour the parchment and exposed sides of the pan, or spray the interior with a nonstick spray. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then the red wine and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together, right over your wet ingredients. Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The top of the cake should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack. This cake keeps well at room temperature or in the fridge. It looks pretty dusted with powdered sugar.

Make the topping: Whip mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form — don’t overwhip. Dollop generously on each slice of cake. It can also be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours.

Notes: I halved the recipe and made 7 cupcakes, and baked it for about 20 minutes. But definitely start checking at 15, because oven temperatures vary across the board.

For some reason, I have been craving a taste of home lately. I tried my best with my version of comfort food: century egg porridge. But I wanted something sweet. I wanted something that tastes like home but with my own unique twist. And thus I present, a fusion of East meets West: pandan cupcakes with kaya whipped cream frosting. The English word for pandan is screwpine. I only found out about that recently, actually. Kaya is a coconut and egg jam that is typically flavored with either pandan or gula melaka, i.e. palm sugar.

I googled “pandan cupcakes”, and found a recipe that included yogurt. I had a bucket of it sitting in my fridge, which I thought would substitute for chocolate pudding if I added cocoa powder and sweetener in it, but that didn’t work out quite so well. I don’t really like yogurt by itself – it’s usually too sweet, or too sour – and it just feels very gloopy in the mouth. I won’t say no to froyo, though.

The cupcakes had a nice brown rim on the edge of the cupcake, and it really provided a nice textural contrast to the cupcake. I’m not extremely fond of the texture itself. The recipe called for cake flour, but I only had all-purpose flour so I used that instead. Perhaps that created a less tender crumb.

The cupcake had a texture not unlike like fa gao. It was slightly rubbery, I thought. That’s not a good thing though. I cored the cupcakes and added a small amount of kaya in it, just for a nice little hit of kaya, but the kaya I got was very mediocre. I wouldn’t want anymore in my cupcake. The brand of the kaya is Yeo’s. It was the only brand available – I didn’t have a choice! Maybe I could try my hand at homemade kaya some day… some day.

Pandan Cupcakes with Kaya Whipped Cream Frosting
Adapted from My Kitchen:My Laboratory
Makes 7 cupcakes

3/4 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose, you’d be fine if you did too but cake flour would yield a more tender crumb)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
6 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup non-fat, plain yogurt
1/2 tsp pandan paste
7 teaspoons of kaya, approximately

Line 7 cupcake tins; and preheat oven to 350F. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Mix yogurt and pandan paste; set aside. Cream butter and sugar in a medium bowl till light and fluffy. Add egg and mix till incorporated. Add 1/3 portion of flour mixture to butter mixture. Add 1/2 of yogurt mixture to butter mixture. Add another 1/3 of flour to butter mixture. Add remaining yogurt mixture to butter mixture. Add remaining flour to butter mixture.

Divide into 7 cupcake liners and bake for 18 minutes, turning from front to back midway. Cool in pan for 7 minutes. Remove and cool on rack.

When completely cool, core cupcakes. I used a narrow knife and cut a pyramid-shaped piece out in the middle. Fill holes with kaya. Do not overfill.

Kaya Whipped Cream Frosting
Makes enough to frost 7 cupcakes, and then some to lick from the bowl

1/2 cup heavy cream, well chilled
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons kaya (or to taste)

Add sugar to heavy cream. Beat till soft peaks form. Fold in kaya. Frost on completely cool cupcakes.

The recipe for these cupcakes are from Magnolia Bakery. I didn’t like them too much, though. The cheesecake filling wasn’t very sweet and neither was the cake. However, the cupcake was much improved upon chilling. The cake took on a brownie-like texture, and the cheesecake filling felt smooth and velvety.

Black Bottom Cupcakes
Adapted from Cookie Madness
Makes 9 cupcakes

Filling:
6 oz cream cheese, not softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp large egg, room temperature
1/6 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Cake:
7/8 cups all-purpose flour
3/8 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder – Hershey’s Dark
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pan with 9 paper cups.

In a stand mixer, beat the cold cream cheese until fairly smooth. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.

Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; mix well set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the vegetable oil and sugar – I did this with a hand-held electric mixer, but a whisk would probably be fine. The mixture was kind of thick and grainy and didn’t hold a lot of air.

Mix the buttermilk and vanilla together in a cup, then add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture to the oil mixture alternately, stirring rather than beating, until flour is incorporated.

Divide the chocolate batter evenly among the muffins tins and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.

Bake in preheated oven on center for 28-30 minutes. Cool at room temperature for about half an hour and then chill until very cold.

Notes:
The cupcakes came out a little dry. I used natural cocoa powder, not Dutched or dark. I’d bake them a little less and cool in the pan for maybe 20 minutes instead. I didn’t like the mini chips in the cheese filling. Might use different chocolate or eliminate them in the future.