Friday, December 30, 2011

Frosting for the Cause!

Cancer Sucks. But we can make a difference!
I'm really excited and proud to be posting my contribution for Frosting for the Cause. It's a truly awesome project spearheaded by Paula over at Vanilla Bean Baker.
This is the background given by Frosting for the Cause:
"Beginning January 1, 2011 a total of 365 sugar cookie & cupcake bakers/decorators and bloggers from across Canada and the United States will take turns doing a guest post here at Frosting for the Cause. Once a day, every day for a year you will be treated to a new and talented blogger who will showcase their home-made, hand-decorated cookies, cupcakes and sweets or all kinds together with their recipes. Almost everyone, everywhere, has been touched by cancer in one form or another. The guest bakers will also share in a very personal manner with readers of Frosting for the Cause, about a woman in their life who had to face this terrible disease head-on."

I only found out about the project recently, and I was so excited to find out there were a couple of days left in December! I'm currently on vacation, so I did this ahead of time. 

Why am I participating?
I've mentioned previously that I lost one of my best friends to brain cancer in August 2010. Natalie was a truly incredible person- always optimistic, she brightened every room she ever walked into. She was a talented composer, piano player, and singer. She was diagnosed in April of 2009, the spring of our senior year of high school. Chemo almost killed her that summer, but radiation was enough to send her into remission. The same time in 2010, the cancer came back, this time for good. We lost her on August 3, 2010. 

In Boston

In Spain

In Rehoboth, at the Fractured Prune

Right before our junior prom :)

Please, please consider donating to Frosting for the Cause! It's such a great project. Two of the aspects of committing to participate are donating money to a cancer charity or organization, and donating our baked goods to a hospice or women's cancer center. I chose the National Brain Tumor Society and the Cancer Center at Mount Vernon Inova Hospital in Alexandria. 
Everyone I know has been touched at some point in their lives by cancer, either directly or indirectly. I was very touched by Frosting for the Cause's mission, and I'm so excited to participate. 

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
I used my Award Winning Chocolate Cupcakes, recipe re-posted below. I had mini peppermint marshmallows I wanted to use, so I searched for a marshmallow buttercream recipe that used one! I'm posting that recipe, as well as my favorite marshmallow buttercream recipe :)

Chocolate Cupcakes
Bittersweet chocolate- 3 oz, finely chopped
Dutch-processed cocoa- 1/3 c
Hot, strong-brewed coffee- 3/4 c
Bread flour- 3/4 c
Sugar- 3/4 c
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Canola oil- 6 tbsp
Large eggs- 2
White vinegar- 2 tsp
Vanilla extract- 1 tsp
1. Put chocolate and cocoa in a bowl, then pour the hot coffee over it. Whisk until smooth, then transfer to refrigerator until cool, 20-30 minutes.
2. In the meantime, whisk floursugarsalt, and baking soda together, and set aside.
3. Whisk oileggsvanilla, and vinegar into the cooled chocolate mix.
4. Add flour mixture to the mix, and whisk until batter is smooth.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 17-19 minutes. In my oven, it worked best when I rotated the cupcake pan at 17 minutes, then let them bake an additional two {it would probably be better to do it halfway through... let me know what you find!}

Ganache Filling
Bittersweet chocolate- 2 oz, finely chopped
Heavy whipping cream- 1/4 c
Powdered sugar- 1 tbsp
1. Place chocolatecream, and powdered sugar in a microwave-proof bowl. Cook on high until mixture is warm to touch, about 30 seconds.
2. Whisk mixture, then put bowl in refrigerator. Let stand until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Peppermint Marshmallow Frosting
Adapted from
Full disclosure: Following this recipe didn't work out super great, so I adapted it/added some ingredients (included). In this case, it's more about tinkering with the recipe and ingredients to your own individual taste.
Peppermint mini marshmallows- 64
Cold butter- 3 sticks
Milk- 1 1/3 c
Vanilla- 1/2 tsp
Peppermint extract- 1 tsp
Powdered sugar- 1/2 c
Marshmallow fluff- 1/2 c
Red food coloring
1. Combine mini marshmallows and milk in a medium sized saucepan turned to low heat. Allow mixture to heat until the marshmallows dissolve. 
2. Remove mixture and allow it to come to room temperature.
3. Cream butter, then slowly add marshmallow mixture and vanilla. Beat until combined. 
4. Optional to add peppermint extract, powdered sugar and marshmallow fluff. Tint with red food coloring to make it cute and pink :)

My Go-To Marshmallow Frosting Recipe
You could totally tinker with this to make it nice and peppermint-y :)
Courtesy of Baked Bree
Butter- 1 c, room temp
Marshmallow fluff- 1 (7 oz) jar
Powdered sugar- 2 c
Vanilla- 1 tsp
1. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add marshmallow fluff. Whip for 2 minutes.
2. Add powdered sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract and beat for 1 minute.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Nannie's Coffee Cake

One of the most important traditions in the Kimball family (my mom's side) is the making of Nannie's coffee cake for special occasions- Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, etc. It is a truly incredible dish, and one I can't imagine my life without!
This recipe stretches so far back in our family history, we don't even know where it came from. We just always call it Nannie's Coffee Cake :)

Nannie's Coffee Cake
Butter- 1 stick, softened
Cream cheese- 1 8 oz package
Sugar- 1 1/4 c
Eggs- 2, large
Vanilla- 1 tsp
Almond extract- 1 tsp
Flour- 2 c
Baking powder- 2 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Milk- 1/2 c

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese well. Gradually add in sugar.
2. Blend in eggs, vanilla, and almond extract.
3. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
4. Alternately add the flour mixture (dry ingredients) and milk (wet), beginning and ending with the dry. Blend well.
5. Turn into a buttered 9x13 pan. Then add....

Nannie's Coffee Cake Topping!
Butter- 1/2 stick, FROZEN (do not soften!)
Flour- 1/2 c
Dark brown sugar- 1/2 c
Pecans- 3/4 c

Blend all ingredients in a cuisinart! Then GENEROUSLY cover coffee cake batter with the deliciousness. Bake coffee cake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to All!

Before I head off to sleep, I HAD to share this EXQUISITE creation by my Aunt Ginna. It's a gingerbread farm. Yeah, you read that right. A gingerbread FARM.
It's for the cover of her latest book, which I will be promoting furiously as soon as it is released (and will be devouring as soon as I get my hands on a copy).

Courtesy of Ginna BB Gordon :)
How incredible is that?! She's been sending me pictures of the work in progress, and I've been speechless the whole time. I want to be her when I grow up :)

On that note, may you all have a wonderful Christmas! I shall post some recipes on Monday before I go on vacation :)

Here's Aunt Ginna's blog:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Very First Wedding Cake!

Congratulations to Zully & Freddy!
Zully is my best friend's godmother, and as soon as she got engaged, she asked me to make my sour cream cake for the wedding :)
There were some bumps in the road, but the cakes came out nicely. I made two of the tiered cakes, plus 2 dozen vanilla cupcakes.
Official wedding pictures to come :)
Sour Cream Cake
Yield: 20 servings
Butter- 1 c, softened
Sugar- 3 c
Eggs- 6, divided
Flour- 3 c
Baking soda- 1/4 tsp
Sour cream- 1 c
Almond extract- 2 tbsp
Vanilla- 1 tsp

1. In bowl of standing mixer, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.
3. Add egg yolks, one at a time. Beat well after each addition.
4. Sift flour three times into a medium sized bowl. Mix baking soda into sour cream
5. Alternate adding flour and sour cream mixture to the butter & sugar. 
6. Add almond extract and vanilla. Fold egg whites into batter. 
7. Pour batter into a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. 

I used Classic Vanilla Buttercream, substituted almond for vanilla extract.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Anniversary Cake

Me & Chris

That's me & my honey. Wednesday the 14th will mark our first anniversary :) 
Since both of us have finals this week, we celebrated this weekend. I, naturally, made cake. 
Unfortunately, said cake was devoured so quickly I couldn't get a good picture of it. Yeah, it was THAT GOOD. 
Fortunately, its level of amazingness has made it Chris's official favorite cake. Thus, I will be making it AGAIN when I stop by his campus on my way home Wednesday. 
So, this picture will have to do for now, but a better one will be up soon!

Almond Anniversary Cake
The Cake Itself
Courtesy of Always With Butter
Yield: Two 8 or 9" layers (use 8" if you want to split them)
Flour- 2 c
Baking powder- 2 tsp
Salt- 1/4 tsp
Butter- 3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks), softened
Sugar- 1 1/2 c
Almond extract- 2 tsp (a little extra is okay)
Egg whites- 6
Milk- 3/4 c

1. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, whisk egg whites and milk together. Set aside.
3. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
4. In alternating batches, add flour mix & milk mix to the butter. Beat until combined. Add almond extract and beat to combine.
5. Pour into prepared pans (I always use Baker's Joy), bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Raspberry Cream Filling
Adapted from Always with Butter
Butter- 1 c (2 sticks), softened
Raspberry preserves- 3/4 c
Powdered sugar- 2 c

1. Beat butter and raspberry preserves until combined.
2. Add powdered sugar, and beat until smooth.

Almond Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Imperrfections
*Note: to make enough for the cake, you should probably double these ingredients (I made half the cake, because it was just for me & Chris). I added the doubled amounts in parentheses.
Powdered sugar- 2 c (4)
Almond extract- 1 1/4 tsp (2 1/2)
Egg white- 1 (2)
Water- 1/2 tbsp (1)
Butter- 3 tbsp (6), softened

Combine all ingredients and beat at low speed to mix. Increase speed to medium and beat for 3-5 minutes until smooooth and fluffy.

After the cake layers are completely cooled, split them using a bread knife or cake leveler. Spread raspberry cream filling in between each layer, and slather on almond buttercream frosting. Be generous! It's soooo good!

Here are a few more pictures of the two of us :)
As the Green & Pink Power Rangers for Halloween
After one of Chris's football games

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cinnamon Apple Pie Cupcakes

The apple kick continues :)
The first time I made these was in October, and I tried the caramel version as listed on the original website. The caramel turned out HORRIBLY. Same thing happened the second time I made them, last Tuesday. So I gave up, and used some leftover Vanilla Buttercream. My parents and I agreed the buttercream suited the cupcakes well, but I knew deep down that the Swiss Meringue would be best...
So on Saturday, I made the cupcakes again, and didn't bother with the caramel. Instead, I made Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect :)

PLEASE do yourselves a favor, and make these babies. They're incredible. Truly, truly amazing. The cupcakes, apple pie filling, and buttercream are all courtesy of Craving Chronicles. I altered a couple of ingredients in the filling and buttercream.

Cinnamon Cupcakes
Yield: ~2 dozen cupcakes
Milk- 1 c
Butter- 1/2 c (1 stick), room temp
All purpose flour- 2 c
Baking powder- 1 1/2 tsp
Ground cinnamon- 2 tsp
Salt- 1/4 tsp
Large eggs- 4
Sugar- 1 3/4 c
Vanilla extract- 1 tsp
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine milk and butter until butter melts. Remove from heat.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
3. Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat eggs and sugar for about 5 minutes, or until thick ribbons form. Add flour mixture and beat on low until just incorporated. Add milk mixture and vanilla, and beat until blended.
4. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 16-18 minutes. I set my timer for 16 minutes, then rotated the pans and let them bake for two more.

Apple Pie Filling
Butter- 2 tbsp
Honey Crisp Apples- 4 medium (about 1.5 lbs), peeled, cored, finely diced
Sugar- 1 tbsp
Dark brown sugar- 2 tbsp
Lemon juice- 1 tsp
Cinnamon- 1/4 tsp
Cornstarch- 1/2 tbsp
Water- 1 tbsp
1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add apples, sugars, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Cook until apples are tender and release their juices- you can tell when they're cut in half easily, and are soft and smell yummmy. This will take about 10 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water; make sure the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Add to apples and stir, cook until thickened. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature.
3. Final step: Try not to eat all of the filling before you use it in the cupcakes.

Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Large egg whites- 6
Sugar (regular, not powdered)- 1 1/2 c
Coarse salt- just a pinch
Butter- 3 sticks, cut into cubes and room temp
Vanilla extract- 1 tsp
Ground cinnamon- 1 tsp
1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and coarse salt in the bowl of a standing mixer (or a double boiler). Place over a saucepan of simmering water over medium heat.
2. Whisk egg white mixture constantly until it gets thick and the sugar has dissolved. The temp on a candy thermometer will read 160 degrees OR if you don't have one, pinch some of the mixture between your fingers- if it's smooth, you're good to go.
3. Remove bowl from heat and attach to stand mixer. Beat with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form and the outside of the bowl has cooled (it will be white-hot when you first take it off the heat). This will take about 10 minutes.
4. Switch to the paddle attachment, and add one cube of butter at a time; don't add the next until the previous has been fully incorporated. Kaitlin of Whisk Kid recommends waiting 15 seconds. This is very key: do not panic if the mix gets soupy or curdles! Just keep beating, and I promise it will all be fine.
5. Once the butter has been added, beat until smooth. Add vanilla and beat until incorporated. Mix in the cinnamon by hand.

Use a Cupcake Corer or cut out a cone in the center of the cupcake, and fill with apple pie filling. Then pipe the delicious Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream onto the cupcakes, and inhale them :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Apple Cider Pancakes

Apple Pancakes and Apple Cider Syrup and Apple Chunks... Oh my!
I'm on a bit of an apple kick right now. You may have noticed.
I can't eat raw apples (or bananas)- something about the rawness I'm allergic to. So now that I've discovered a bunch of fun ways to eat them in baked goods, I'm all over it!
Chris and I decided to make breakfast for my parents yesterday morning. After some serious arm-twisting (hah), they gave up their Nutrisystem for the moment. The verdict: totally worth it!

Chris put the plate together- A+ for presentation!

Apple Buttermilk Pancakes
Yield: a LOT of cupcakes (we're talkin' at least 2 dozen)
Flour- 2 c
Sugar- 2 tbsp
Baking powder- 1 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon- 1 tsp
Nutmeg- 1/2 tsp
Allspice- 1/4 tsp
Buttermilk- 2 c
Regular milk- 1/2 c
Eggs- 2
Butter- 4 tbsp, melted and slightly cooled
Apples- 2, peeled, sliced, and cut into little chunks (we used Honey Crisp)

1. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices until thoroughly combined. 
2. In a separate bowl, gently whisk eggs, then add buttermilk, regular milk, and butter. Mix until just combined, do not overmix!
3. Add wet ingredients to dry, then add apple chunks. The batter will be a little chunky, and that's okay! Let batter sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Then heat up a griddle and have at it! 

If you don't know how to make pancakes... Click on the "Katie at the Kitchen Door" link. 

Apple Cider Syrup
Courtesy of Southern Food
Yield: More than enough to cover 2 dozen pancakes
Butter- 1 tbsp
Apple cider- 2 c
Brown sugar- 1 c
Cinnamon sticks- 2

1. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. 
2. When butter stops foaming, add apple cider, brown sugar, and cinnamon sticks
3. Bring mix to a boil, and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently, until reduced by half to about 1 to 1 1/4 c; this will take about 15 minutes.
4. Remove from heat; allow syrup to thicken as it cools, but don't let it cool for too long! Warm syrup is more important than thick syrup, in my opinion :) You can remove the sticks and serve them as garnish, as Chris did :)

Note: The apple chunks are Chris's family recipe. It calls for butter, apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving & Apple Pie

Happy Thanksgiving (a day late)!
I hope everyone had a great day, and is still in a food coma- aren't they glorious?
I had a lovely day with my parents, my boyfriend, and my dog. We're hanging out today, after spending most of the day yesterday cooking and watching football.

The next couple posts are going to be family recipes. First is our traditional apple pie. Yesterday my dad taught me how to make it, and I think it turned out rather nicely :)

The pie topping is my grandmother, Mama Ginna's. She passed away when my dad was 24, so I never met her, but I like to think her love of baking has been passed on to me :) My dad and his older sister Ginna Bell, as well as my grandmother Nannie, have done a wonderful job instilling a love of food in me, and I'll always be thankful for that.

Confession: We used Pillsbury's pie crust. We have an awesome Mama Ginna recipe for pie crust, but yesterday I was just trying to master the filling! I'll post the pie crust recipe sometime in the near future :)

The apple pie filling recipe comes from "The All New Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook," a copy my dad has owned for YEARS. I tried to look for its publication date, but the copy has been used so many times (we call it "well-loved") that the cover is gone, as are all the intro pages! 

Traditional Apple Pie
Apple Pie Filling
Tart apples- 6-8 (we use a mix of Granny Smith and Honey Crisp)
Brown or white sugar- 1/2 c to 3/4 c, depending on the apples
Salt- 1/4 tsp
Cinnamon- 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg- 1/4 tsp
Butter- 1 tbsp
*Note: if the apples are extra juicy, add 1 tbsp flour.

1. Peel, core, and SLICE (do NOT dice) the apples. Place in a medium-sized bowl.
2. Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in with the apples. Make sure the slices are well-coated.
3. Line pie dish with pie crust.
4. Pile apples into the dish, making sure the pile gets higher as it gets toward the middle.
5. Dot apples with butter (scatter small chunks on top).
6. Lay the second layer of pie crust on top; pinch the layers' edges together. Make 3-4 small slices in the middle of the pie.
7. COVER top THOROUGHLY with pie topping, bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes {It really depends on the number of apples you have- the more you have, the longer it will most likely need}.

Mama Ginna's Pie Topping
Flour- 3/4 c (we used more this time, ~1 1/2 c, but it varies. Start with 3/4, you can always add more!)
Sugar- 1/2 c
Butter- 1/2 stick

In my Mama Ginna's own words:
"Cut butter into flour & sugar, then I take my hand and mix the pieces of butter into mixture."
You're looking for a very crumbly topping, add flour as needed.
Make sure your nails are clean & short! (Trust me, trying to mix this up with long nails is not a fun time.)

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family and I do :)
Coming up next, Nannie's Famous Coffee Cake!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


As partial as I am to my own baking, there's something about bakeries I just can't deny. When you're in a "gotta-have-a-cupcake-right-now-or-I'll-die" mood (it happens to all of us), it's very helpful to know if any bakeries are nearby! So I'm adding a new feature, a simple one that lists some of the bakeries close to me (in Northern Virginia and not-Northern Virginia). I got this idea whilst at Frosted Crumbs Bakery in Winchester, VA. I think it'll be helpful! Enjoy, and tell them I sent you :)

Courtesy of 'Chester Magazine

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fluffy Vanilla Cake

My quest for the perfect vanilla cake continues...
I made this cake for a classmate's birthday, and didn't get a bite in before his hallmates apparently scarfed it down (haha!). So unfortunately, I can't personally vouch for the overall taste of this cake (other than the little scraps I got to sample when I was trimming some parts), but from the little pieces I tasted, and from the reviews of the guys, it was pretty good!

I'm going to try to adapt that INSANE Vanilla Cupcake recipe into a cake recipe over Thanksgiving Break (we'll see how that goes..) but for now, I'll post this. It sure looks pretty!

Fluffy Vanilla Cake
Courtesy of Sweetapolita

Large egg whites- 5, room temp
Whole milk- 3/4 c, room temp, divided (1/4 + 1/2)
Pure vanilla extract- 2 1/4 tsp
Cake flour- 2 1/2 c
Sugar- 1 3/4 c
Baking powder- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Salt- 3/4 tsp
Unsalted butter- 12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks), room temp

1. In a medium sized bowl, stir egg whites, 1/4 c of milk, vanilla extract. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer (paddle attachment), combine cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed ("stir" is what I used), 30 seconds.
3. Add butter and remaining 1/2 c of milk, mix on low speed until just moistened, then increase to medium speed and mix for 90 seconds.
4. Scrape down sides of the bowl, add egg mixture in 3 batches, beating on medium speed for 20 seconds after each. 
5. Divide into two 8 or 9 inch cake pans, bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Check at 20 minutes, and if the cake tester doesn't come out clean, put back in oven for 2 minute intervals before you think it's ready.

Vanilla Buttercream
Courtesy of How Sweet It Is

Butter- 1 c, softened
Powdered sugar- 4 c
Vanilla extract- 1 tbsp
Milk- 2 tbsp

1. Cream butter until smooth.
2. Add 2 c powdered sugar, then add the milk (this prevents the powdered sugar from flying everywhere!). After mixing well, add remaining sugar.
3. Add vanilla extract, and beat well.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Baking Therapy, Parte Dos

As I've mentioned before (Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake), baking is really therapeutic for me. When I'm cranky or stressed, I bake.

I first discovered the true therapeutic effects of baking when my best friend Natalie passed away. 

Me & Nat, in the Dominican Republic
for my 16th birthday
Last night, I found out my cousin Tim passed away on Thursday night; today, I turned to baking to comfort myself, and to take my mind off of the grief. It was so sudden, unlike Natalie's death, and after experiencing a sudden death, I can confidently say both suck. Majorly. We're waiting to hear about any possible funeral arrangements, so in the meantime, all I can really do is bake (and study, but that's a different story...). 

Me & Tim (right)
On a lighter note... yesterday I tried my hand at food photography, with my little digital camera. I'm going to start publishing to foodgawker (!), and I guess I'll see what some of the feedback is.

Chocolate Ganache + Italian Meringue Buttercream = Deliciousness.
One of my projects was to try out The Faux Martha's Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes. I really like the cupcakes themselves- they're a reliable chocolate cupcake, and a good alternative to my super demanding Award-Winning Chocolate Cupcakes. I felt like the chocolate ganache, in this case, sort of overwhelmed the Italian Meringue Buttercream; next time, I think I'll skip the filling.

Here's the recipe!
Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes with Italian Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Cupcakes
Courtesy of The Faux Martha
Yield: 24 cupcakes

All-purpose flour- 1 1/4 c + 2 tbsp
Unsweetened cocoa powder- 1/2 c
Baking powder- 1 1/2 tsp
Sea salt- 1 tsp
Half & half- 1 c
Pure vanilla extract- 1 tbsp
Butter- 1 1/2 sticks, room temp
Extra-fine granulated sugar- 1 3/4 c
Large eggs- 4

1. Sift flour. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and sea salt {the dry ingredients} in a small mixing bowl. Set aside. 
2. Whisk half & half and vanilla in a small bowl {the wet ingredients} in a separate small bowl. Set aside.
3. Cream butter and sugar on low speed for 3-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mix on low speed after each is added.  
4. Alternate dry and wet ingredients- start and end with dry. Don't overbeat- this should only take 60 seconds total. Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are equally incorporated. 
5. Fill cupcake liners a little over halfway full. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes. {The cupcakes are done when tester/toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cupcake} Let them cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan, and cool completely before frosting.

Ganache Filling
Bittersweet (60%) chocolate chips- 3/4 c
Heavy cream- 1/2 c

1. Bring cream to a light simmer in small saucepan. Measure the chocolate and put in a heat resistant bowl.
2. Once cream reaches light simmer, pour it over the chocolate. Wait for 10 seconds, then whisk to combine. Let ganache cool for at least 20 minutes before using to fill the cupcakes.

For Italian Meringue Buttercream, click: Victory!

Cut out a cone from the center of the cupcakes (recommended: use a Cupcake Corer!), fill with spoonful of ganache. Replace the tops of the cupcakes, and frost with Italian Meringue Buttercream. The sprinkles I used were recommended by Sweetapolita, and I stumbled upon them at the World Market at Pentagon City in Arlington, VA. They are De Ruijter Milk Chocolate Sprinkles. You can buy them here
Here's a picture of them, one that the lovely Rosie from Sweetapolita took. IT DOES NOT BELONG TO ME. 

Courtesy of Sweetapolita
I want to be like her when I grow up.

Anyways, I will post my Food Gawker gallery soon. In the meantime, hug your loved ones. You never know what might happen tomorrow. <3 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vanilla Nirvana

UPDATE 8/26/12
Hello there!
I'm still getting settled in, but this is going to be a very good school year. I can't believe I'm a SENIOR in COLLEGE. *eeek!*
My London mates had a 90s party last night, and I made my favorite vanilla cupcakes with Pop Rocks on top. I know Pop Rocks have been around longer than the 90s but I distinctly remember enjoying them in my youth :)

They turned out very well :) I hadn't made my favorite vanilla cupcakes in a while, it was nice to have an excuse to make 'em again.

I've eaten A LOT of vanilla cake and cupcakes in the last 4 months. Not being able to eat much (if any) chocolate has really forced me to gain a greater appreciation for vanilla, and today, I found my vanilla cupcake recipe. I know I said that before, but I REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME! THIS IS IT.

I know my camera is horrible, forgive me? I'm working on it!
They're moist, delicate, and so flavorful.
I've eaten three in the last hour, and I'm not even ashamed to say it. They're THAT GOOD.

The recipe is from the lovely Stef at Cupcake Project. She declared them the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes, and I must agree.


So, without further ado, here's the recipe!!!

Courtesy of Cupcake Project
Yield: ~18 cupcakes
The Cupcakes Themselves!
Granulated sugar- 1 c
Vanilla bean- 1
Cake flour- 1 3/4 c, not self-rising
Baking powder- 1 1/2 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Butter- 1/4 c, room temp, unsalted (*ALWAYS use unsalted butter in baking, unless otherwise stated!)
Large eggs- 2, room temp
Sour cream- 1/3 c
Canola oil- 1/4 c
Pure vanilla extract- 1 tbsp
Milk- 2/3 c (whole milk is best)
1. Combine vanilla bean contents with sugar in a small bowl. Smooth any clumps of seeds with the back of a spoon, to better mix the flavor in with the sugar. Set bowl aside.
2. Combine cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
3. Add vanilla sugar to the flour mix, combine.
4. Add butter, and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.
5. In a small mixing bowl, whisk eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract.
6. Add egg mix to flour and beat on medium speed until just combined. Slowly add milk, and mix on low speed until just combined. The batter will be liquid-y, DON'T PANIC!
7. Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes, then test for doneness. If any batter remains on a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes, put them back in the oven for 2-minute increments. The cupcakes WILL NOT BE GOLDEN! They should stay a beautiful, pale vanilla-y color :)
8. Cool cupcakes completely before frosting.

These are the kind of cupcakes that can stand up to ANY frosting. But I highly recommend the following vanilla buttercream recipe if you're looking for true Vanilla Nirvana. Hehe!
Vanilla Buttercream
Courtesy of How Sweet It Is
Yield: Enough to frost ~20 cupcakes, depending on your style
Butter- 1 c, softened
Powdered sugar- 4 c
Vanilla extract- 1 tbsp
Milk- 2 tbsp
1. Cream butter until smooth.
2. Add 2 c powdered sugar, then add the milk (this prevents the powdered sugar from flying everywhere!). After mixing well, add remaining sugar.
3. Add vanilla extract, and beat well.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Don't panic!

Hello, dear readers :)
Now, you may have noticed that things are a little different around here- I changed pretty much the entire blog. I figured it was time for an update, and I fell in love with this template from The Cutest Blog on the Block. If you're looking to spice your blog up, even if it's just a little bit, check 'em out! Their designs are super cute and best of all, they're free! Yayness :)

I'll be taking on a recipe from Cupcake Project very soon, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Check it out!

Hey everybody!
Guess what?! I got picked as last week's Cupcake Roulette on Cupcake Project!
What this means is, Stef came up with an idea for a cupcake based on one that I've posted on my blog. This weekend, I will bake one of her recipes! 
It's fun, and I LOVE her Cranberry Jam idea! I'll definitely be making this for Thanksgiving :)
Head on over to Cupcake Project and check it out! Yayyy cupcakes!

Holy mother...

Sit down.
We need to talk.

It's about this frosting. And this cake. And the maniac it has turned me into.

It was a pretty weird, confusing, and ultimately nirvana-reaching experience. 

You see, I have a ton of cake pans. Approximately 14. I have several that I stole borrowed from my parents, and yesterday I had the urge to try some of them out, along with an incredible-sounding recipe. And even though I'd been awake since early in the morning, gone to class, and was exhausted, not to mention had completed SIX baking projects in the previous 7 days, I wanted to bake. 

8in, 7.5in, 6in, 4.5in
The cake... didn't go so well. The blogger I borrowed the recipe from insisted I use parchment paper, but I'm a haughty baker, and I had never needed to use it before, so I didn't. Oops. 

EVERYTHING broke apart. And I made FOUR layers! It was pretty bad.

I froze the layers, one for an hour, the other three overnight. This was such a great suggestion, and I'm so glad I did it. I'm never slicing layers unfrozen again!

I made three individual cakes (the fourth is still in the freezer, I'm trying to come up with a use for it other than to eat it all myself), one that I plan to give to my neighbor, one mini I ate myself, and one big one that I am splitting with the roommate I love. 

I'm not even going to focus on the failures, because I can't wait another minute to tell you these recipes. I'll try to figure out how to keep the layers together soon, but for now... Just make these. You will thank me later.

1-2-3-4 Cake
Courtesy of Paula Dean, via Something Shiny
*note: I'm altering my typical format because it's cool to see the 1 2 3 4 :D
1 c butter (2 sticks), room temp
2 c sugar
3 c self-rising flour*, sifted 
4 large eggs, room temp
1 c milk, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp butter flavoring 
*If you don't want to buy self-rising flour, add 1 1/4 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt for EACH cup of flour*

1. Grease your pans, then line with parchment paper. Grease again, and sprinkle flour on top of greased parchment paper. DO IT. Don't be a haughty baker! For a tutorial, click on the link to "Something Shiny."
2. Cream butter until fluffy. 
3. Add sugar and continue to cream well, 6-8 minutes. 
4. Add eggs 1 at a time, beat well after each addition. 
5. Alternately add flour and milk, beginning and ending with flour. 
6. Add vanilla and butter extract and beat until just mixed. 
7. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. 

This frosting is incredible. I've tasted A LOT of frosting in all my years (20 to be exact, whatever! I've eaten a lot of frosting!), but this was different. It has FLOUR in it. Weird, right? But it's sooooo good. TRY IT. TRY IT NOW! (a la Dwight Schrute)

Magic Buttercream
Sugar- 1 c
Flour- 6 tbsp
Milk- 1 c
Butter- 1 c, room temp
Vanilla extract- 1 tsp

1. Pour sugar and flour into a medium sauce pan. Whisk together to incorporate the flour into the sugar, then add the milk and whisk.
2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. This will take a while, but it will happen! Just have faith and keep whisking :) Cook for only a minute or two after it thickens, or it will burn!
3. Remove from heat and cool completely. (30 minutes in the fridge should do the trick)
4. Combine the cooled mixture with the butter in a stand mixer and whip for at least 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add vanilla, and whip for another minute. 
5. Eat the frosting by the spoonful frost the cakes... And enjoy the insanity.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Award-Winning Chocolate Cupcakes!!!

Photo courtesy of Michele Argiro

I've been basking in the glory of my win all day. Not trying to sound cocky or crazy, I really have been feeling all glowy and whacked out all day! Hahahaha. I'll come crashing back down to Earth in the morning...
And here, my darling readers, is the recipe for my First place-winning chocolate cupcakes :)

{Just a note: My method is a little different than Cook's Illustrated. They suggest pressing the ganache into the cupcakes before baking, but I prefer to core the cupcakes after cooling, then adding a teaspoon of the delicious filling.}
Devilishly Chocolate Cupcakes
Courtesy of Cooks Illustrated via Pink Parsely
Yield: 15-18 cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
Bittersweet chocolate- 3 oz, finely chopped
Dutch-processed cocoa- 1/3 c
Hot, strong-brewed coffee- 3/4 c
Bread flour- 3/4 c
Sugar- 3/4 c
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Canola oil- 6 tbsp
Large eggs- 2
White vinegar- 2 tsp
Vanilla extract- 1 tsp

1. Put chocolate and cocoa in a bowl, then pour the hot coffee over it. Whisk until smooth, then transfer to refrigerator until cool, 20-30 minutes.
2. In the meantime, whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together, and set aside.
3. Whisk oil, eggs, vanilla, and vinegar into the cooled chocolate mix.
4. Add flour mixture to the mix, and whisk until batter is smooth.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 17-19 minutes. In my oven, it worked best when I rotated the cupcake pan at 17 minutes, then let them bake an additional two {it would probably be better to do it halfway through... let me know what you find!}

Ganache Filling
Bittersweet chocolate- 2 oz, finely chopped
Heavy whipping cream- 1/4 c
Powdered sugar- 1 tbsp

1. Place chocolate, cream, and powdered sugar in a microwave-proof bowl. Cook on high until mixture is warm to touch, about 30 seconds.
2. Whisk mixture, then put bowl in refrigerator. Let stand until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Creamy Insanely Delicious, Super-Creamy Bowl of Yumness (aka Chocolate Frosting)
Sugar- 1/3 c
Large egg whites- 2
Salt- a "pinch"
Unsalted butter- 1 1/2 sticks, softened & cut into cubes
Bittersweet chocolate- 6 oz, melted & cooled to 85 degrees
Vanilla extract- 1/2 tsp

1. Mix sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl of a stand mixer. Place bowl over pan of simmering water, and whisk constantly until mixture is foamy and registers 150 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Put bowl in stand mixer, and beat mixture on medium with whisk attachment 1-3 minutes, until slightly cooled and the consistency of shaving cream.
3. Add butter, one cube at a time. If it looks curdled halfway through, DO NOT PANIC! Just keep beating, just keep beating, just keep beating, beating, beating :) {couldn't help it!}
4. Pour in the cooled chocolate and vanilla. Mix until combined, then increase speed to medium high, and beat for another 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

After the cupcakes have cooled, and the ganache has been in the fridge for 30 minutes, use a cupcake corer (or a knife), and reserve the cupcake "tops." Fill with yummy ganache, then replace the "tops" and frost as desired. I used my jumbo open-star tip :)

Note: I brought milk with me to the competition, and I whole-heartedly recommend having a nice, tall glass nearby.


A very fuzzy picture from my cell phone of my display table at the competition :)

Also, if you would like to watch WHSV Harrisonburg's Litsa Pappas's segment on me and my business, please check out the following link!
JMU Student Starts Business to Avoid Unemployment after College

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