birthday cupcakes

These aren't just any old birthday cupcakes...

These cupcakes are to celebrate the birth of our little Jellybean!  Hannah was born on July 20th and I can't believe she's one month old already.  I love her so much and my heart absolutely melts every time she gives me a big toothless grin, snuggles her head into my chest or wraps her tiny fingers around my finger.  I find myself staring into her beautiful blue eyes and wondering who she will be as she continues to grow.  What will her personality be like?  What will she be interested in?  What sorts of adventures will we have together?  I'm looking forward to all the things that come along with little girls, like playing dollies, dress-up & tea parties.  In fact, these pink cupcakes would be perfect for a tea party!  I'm sure Hannah and I will enjoy spending time together in the kitchen making all sorts of yummy treats :)

What better way to celebrate my baby girl then with pretty cupcakes?  I chose to make vanilla cupcakes with strawberry buttercream.  The cake recipe makes tasty cupcakes with excellent vanilla flavour.  The cake is a bit dense, but in my opinion that gives them a lovely homemade feeling.  I used fresh strawberries to make the puree for the buttercream, and they gave it a really wonderful flavour.  It was seriously hard to resist eating the frosting by the spoonful!  I made a small mistake with my buttercream, and didn't let the egg/sugar mixture cool enough before I started adding butter - this, combined with the warmer temperatures outside, resulted in runny buttercream because too much of the butter had melted.  Lesson learned!  (The cupcakes still tasted great though)

Yellow Cupcakes

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs plus 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350F and line muffin tins with paper liners (recipe makes 24 cupcakes)

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in the bowl of the stand mixer.  Add the butter, sour cream, eggs and vanilla to the bowl, then beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients at medium speed, until well combined - about 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and stir the batter to combine any last bits of flour mixture.  Divide the batter between the prepared muffin tins - I like to use a cookie scoop.  Bake for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out with only a few moist crumbs.

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 lb unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 lb strawberries

First wash and trim the tops from the strawberries and puree them in the food processor or blender.  Put the puree in a small saucepan and reduce by half.  Use a fine mesh sieve to strain out the seeds; you will need to push the puree through with a spatula or the back of a spoon.  Set the strained strawberry puree aside.  Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Set the bowl over a small amount of simmering water in a saucepan - make sure the bottom of the mixer bowl doesn't touch the water.  Continue whisking the mixture until it is foamy and has reached 160F.  Put the bowl onto the stand mixer and whisk the mixture at medium-high speed until it has cooled to room temperature; at least 5 minutes.  It's important to make sure the egg/sugar mixture has properly cooled or the butter will melt when added.  Cut the butter into 16 pieces and add the butter one piece at a time while the mixer runs at medium speed.  After all the butter has been added add two tablespoons of strawberry puree and mix to combine then add another two tablespoons and mix again.  Add more strawberry puree to taste (I used 6 tablespoons).  Increase the speed of the mixer to high and whisk for a further one minute until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Recipes adapted from Baking Illustrated.

carrot cake with lemon mascarpone frosting

I love carrot cake, so when I was in the mood to bake something and I noticed a bag of carrots in the crisper I made up my mind.  I used to have a 'go-to' recipe, but I lost it somewhere along the way, so now I'm always looking for a replacement.  Overall this cake was pretty good, I adjusted the recipe below so that it would have a bit more ginger flavour but I loved the cinnamon and I thought the addition of 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder was interesting.  You couldn't taste the cocoa, but I think it added a depth to the flavour.  The cake was nice & moist and I think it had a good amount of carrot in it.  I decided to "fancy it up" a bit with a mascarpone frosting, rather than the traditional cream cheese frosting.  It was nice & light with a good lemony zip.  I could imagine using this frosting recipe for other cakes or cupcakes too.

I brought this cake into Trev's office here in Amsterdam.  Dutch cakes are very different from what we call cake in Canada - generally they're more similar to tarts, so I'm not sure if they're familiar with carrot cake or not.  Trevor brought the pan back empty, so I guess everyone liked it!

Carrot Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 cup raisins or chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 4 cups coarsely grated carrot
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350F with the rack in the middle position.  Grease & flour either one 9x13" baking pan or two 8" round pans.

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger (and optional walnuts or raisins) together in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.  Grate the carrot and mix with the sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Mix the eggs into the carrot mixture one at a time.  Stir the vegetable oil in while mixing and continue mixing until thoroughly combined.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs.  Allow the cake to fully cool before frosting.

Lemon Mascarpone Frosting

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • grated rind from 2 lemons
  • 1 cup mascarpone at room temperature

Add the sugar, salt, rind and lemon juice to a bowl.  Use an electric mixer to beat on low speed until the sugar has dissolved into the lemon juice.  Add the mascarpone and beat on low speed until it's creamy - don't overbeat it.  Spread the frosting evenly over the cake then enjoy licking the last bits of frosting off the beaters :)

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine

mocha cupcakes

Need a little mid-February pick-me-up?  Try these mocha cupcakes, they'll put a smile on your face.  The cake is chocolaty, moist and tender and the coffee buttercream is to die for.  Put them together?  Coffee-lover's dream.  They disappeared pretty quickly around my office! 

This was the first time I tried this cake recipe, and I think it was a keeper.  Sometimes I get stuck in a rut with recipes I know I like.  You know how they're going to taste and you know it will be good, so why experiment?  The good thing about trying new recipes is that you can find new and possibly even better ones...this one *might* be better than my other chocolate cupcake recipe ...they might need a head-to-head taste test.  Any volunteers?

Devil's Food Cupcakes

  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F and line muffin tins with paper liners (makes 24 cupcakes, maybe a few more depending on how full you fill your papers).

Combine the chocolate and cocoa powder with the boiling water in a small bowl.  Stir until all the chocolate is melted and set aside.  Sift the flours, espresso powder, baking soda and salt together and set aside.

Beat the butter in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until it's creamy.  Add the brown sugar and beat at high speed until it's light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add one egg at a time, mixing and scraping down between each addition.  Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix until well combined and creamy.

Scrape down the bowl, turn the mixer on medium, then add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by about 1/2 of the chocolate mixture.  Repeat, then finish by adding the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined, don't overmix.  Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and gently stir the batter with a spatula to thoroughly combine.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake for about 17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few crumbs.  Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.  

Coffee Buttercream Icing

  • 3 tbsp instant espresso
  • 3 tbsp warm water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 lb. unsalted butter, softened but cool cut into about 20 pieces

Dissolve the instant espresso in the warm water, stir well and set aside.  In the bowl of your stand mixer whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla together.  Place over a large saucepan with a small amount of simmering water in the bottom.  Make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl (like a double-boiler).  Whisk gently, but constantly until the mixture looks thin and foamy - 160 F on an instant read thermometer.

Put the bowl on the stand mixer with the whisk attachment.  Mix at medium-high speed until the mixture is light, airy and cooled to room temperature (about 7 minutes).  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, one piece at a time.  After adding 1/2 to 3/4 of the butter to the frosting it might start to look curdled, or thinned out, but don't worry, just keep mixing and adding the remaining butter.  Once all the butter is added, turn the mixer up to high and beat for about 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and add the coffee to the mixer.  Mix on high for another minute to combine.  Buttercream can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days, just let it come to room temperature before using.

Cake and Buttercream recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated.

blueberry crumb cake

Finally we had a break in the deep-freeze weather.  Sunday was absolutely gorgeous, with beautiful blue sky and mild temperature.  I actually found the change in weather to be refreshing and energizing...a change from last week when all I wanted to do was hibernate on the couch.  So with my burst of energy I tackled a few projects around the house and spent several hours making a disaster, then cleaning my kitchen.  One of the by-products of my messy kitchen was this Blueberry Crumb Cake that I brought to work today.

Because I adapted the recipe to be larger than the original I ended up with LOTS of crumb topping.  I didn't quite use all of the topping I had mixed up, and there was still a very generous layer on the cake.  But, I think the amount of topping is a personal preference - I loved the crunchy pecans in the topping with the cinnamon and brown sugar, it just made a bit of mess with each bite.  When you're enjoying cake, is a little bit of a mess really such a bad thing? 

Blueberry Crumb Cake

  • 2 tbsp dry bread crumbs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped finely
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 F with the rack in the middle position.  Grease a 9 X 13" pan and sprinkle the bottom with the breadcrumbs, shake it to coat, then dump out the extra.  Set aside. 

In the bowl of the stand mixer add the flour, sugar and salt.  Stir on low with the paddle attachment until combined.  Add the butter and mix on low until coarse crumbs form.  Remove 2 cups of the flour mixture and set aside for the topping.

Mix the baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon into the flour mixture.  Add the buttermilk, egg and vanilla.  Mix on medium-high speed for a few minutes, until the batter is smooth and fluffy.  Fold the blueberries into the batter.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. 

Add the nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon to the reserved flour mixture and stir together.  Sprinkle the crumbs over the batter, then press down lightly.  **You might not want to use the whole topping mixture, it's really a matter of preference**

Bake the cake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs (which can be tricky to tell because of the crumb topping!).  Allow the cake to cool for at least 2 hours before cutting.

Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated

shock-late cherry braincakes with scream-cheese icing

Muah ha ha ha ha....(little evil laugh there)

Halloween is just around the corner, and we had a themed pot-luck at work this week.  There was a contest for the best Halloween dish, and I got an honorable mention for these creepy little cupcakes.  (I lost to giant skulls covered in deli meat, red pepper hummus and cheese).  There were lots of other great Halloween treats too, like spider web cheese cake and coffin sandwiches...so much creativity!

 I used the same chocolate cupcake recipe as here.  After the cupcakes had cooled I carved out the centers and filled them with cherry pie filling.  My mother-in-law gave me the awesome cupcake wrappers, so I'm not sure where you could find them, but they definitely added to the look of these cupcakes.  After the cupcakes were filled I covered them with a thin layer of the cream cheese icing.  Next I filled a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip.  To make the 'brains' on top, start by drawing a straight line down the middle of the cupcake the make zig-zags to the edge.  Repeat on the other side...voila, brains! 

Cream Cheese Icing:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 cups icing sugar (or more to get your desired consistency)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp half & half cream
  • red food colouring

Cream the cream cheese and butter together.  Mix in the vanilla and cream.  Gradually add the icing sugar to get your desired consistency.  Once the icing is the right thickness, mix in a small amount of red food colouring to get a light pink colour.  (Okay, I know real brains aren't pink, but it looks better on a cupcake, right?)