How I Decided What Flavors to Make

Dear readers, we’re in the midst of a little series of posts on the cupcakes I made for AGOMYR’s wedding.

date and display

What I’m most impressed with is not that I made the cupcakes, nor that they tasted good.  What will stick with me is that AGOMYR and I are still friends.  I baked 120 cupcakes for her wedding and there was not one bridezilla moment to be found.  It’s not that I thought there would be, but seriously, dear readers.  This girl gave me free rein on everything.

I hope I didn’t put her to through too much.

I’m so glad you all can’t open my inbox and see ourmy multi-paragraph email about which cupcake liners would work best (for the record, these and these), or what color cake stand would compliment the decor (for the record, play it safe with off-white).

cake

The flavor decision was a daunting one.  I knew I wanted two or three options.  Here’s what I considered:

  • The flavors had to sound amazing to AGOMYR and her husband to-be,
  • While keeping a majority of guests pretty happy too,
  • But they also had to be easy for me to make.

Condition #1 introduced the idea of a boozy cupcake, and completely wiped the idea of a chocolate peanut butter one.  Hold the peanut butter for AGOMYR, thankyouverymuch.  The second condition meant that there needed to be a “safe” flavor that wasn’t too out-there for my picky eaters.  Sure picky eaters like cupcakes, but not weirdly-infused, foodie cupcakes.  And the third condition (sadly) wiped out any filled cupcakes from the potentials list.  I love the way filled cupcakes turn out, but they’re so much more time consuming than regular cupcakes.  As a rookie wedding-cupcake-baker, I didn’t want to set myself up for a fail.  I wanted to sleep soundly, knowing that I would get to Charlottesville with 10 dozen cupcakes and time to enjoy AGOMYR’s big day.

If you saw a cupcake on the blog between here and now, it’s likely said cupcake was a candidate for the wedding.  Thank goodness I have coworkers willing to take on the task of tasting these flavors, and downing the “fails.”  Some turned out too crumbly, and I feared they wouldn’t hold up to our 3 hour road trip to Veritas, while others missed the flavor mark completely.  But when all was said and done, AGOMYR and I could get behind the champagne cupcakes with champagne buttercream (linked above), red velvets with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, and chocolate with Nutella frosting (who couldn’t get behind Nutella frosting?).

piping

For the chocolate cupcakes I whipped up a batch of Martha Stewart’s one bowl chocolate cupcakes.

For the frosting, I started here, but did a little tweaking.  I whipped a stick and a half of softened butter with a heaping 2/3 C Nutella.  I added the teeniest pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla, and enough sugar to get a nice consistency.   When things looked a little thick, I added about 1 T of heavy cream.

chocolate cupcake

I piped them beautifully for AGOMYR, but enjoyed my humbly-frosted one the best.  I ate it in solitude at casa glass of milk, when all was said and done.

What I’ve Been Up To

Things I have thought and/or Googled in the last week include:

How to fold a cupcake box.

How many ounces of batter in a 6-inch cake pan?

Directions from Veritas Vineyard to Arch’s.

How to crumb coat a cake.

Will muffin tins made of a thinner metal produce different cupcakes? (answer: yes, and it will take them longer to bake)

muffin tins

All this because a while back, in a time I can barely remember, I signed on to make cupcakes for AGOMYR’s wedding.

SPOILER ALERT:

They turned out well!

cupcakes

Dear longtime readers, do you remember this post?  I wrote it way back when I was a blushing bride, busy spending my time on life-fulfilling activities like registering for, and unwrapping new muffin tins.  Now those tins have another chapter of their story in the books.

The time they were used and abused in the process of making 10 dozen cupcakes for AGOMYR and her husband.

touch ups
10 dozen, plus a little 6-inch cake.  On the cutest cake stand you’ve ever seen.

Stay tuned this week for more.

The Cupcakes that Weren’t

Wooden Nickels came to visit a while back, and not only did we have a mother/daughter spat as soon as she walked in the door, but I also botched cupcakes I was saving to make for her arrival.

Oh and they were supposed to have mocha frosting.

Which is her favorite.

Whoops.

I found myself without powdered sugar on a random Tuesday night, which meant no frosting.  And a cupcake without frosting isn’t actually a cupcake.  It’s a muffin.  Snooze!  This particular conundrum left my mocha cupcakes chilling in the refrigerator for two days until I could run out to the store.  By that time, Wooden Nickels had hit the road.  Bad baker!

Don’t tell Wooden Nickels, but she missed out, big time.  These cupcakes (though not the frosting) are a vegan riff on my favorite chocolate cake.  The beauty of this cake, in case you’re not familiar, is that it captures the rich, dark, deep complexity that is chocolate.  Think about all the box mix chocolate cake you’ve consumed in your life.  Does it really taste like chocolate? Of course not.  It has the texture, and the sweet flavor, and it’s brown.  But it’s not going to satisfy a chocolate craving the way a square of the real stuff will.

This cake is like the real stuff.  Coffee in the batter.  It’s magic.  And if you haven’t experienced that magic yet, then don’t worry if you’re not ready to commit in the form of a double layer cake.  Commit in the form of cupcakes.  At most, you have 4 or 5 bites to enjoy.  You’re worth it.

To make a dozen chocolate cupcakes with mocha frosting, you will need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 C coconut milk
  • 1 T instant espresso powder
  • 1/3 C canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1 C flour
  • 1/3 C cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and prepare muffin tins with paper liners.

Heat coconut milk in microwave until hot, but not boiling.  Dump espresso and let seep for a minute or two.  Whisk in sugar, oil, and vanilla.  In separate bowl, sift remaining ingredients.  Add wet ingredients to dry and beat till the batter is smooth.  This is a liquidy batter, so I use the Queen Cupcake method of portioning out my cupcakes.  I transfer the batter to a large measuring cup, and pour it into the individual muffin tins.  Bake 18-22 minutes, and let cool completely.

For the mocha frosting, you will need:

  • 1/4 C cocoa powder
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 T brewed, cooled coffee
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Sift sugar and cocoa powder together.  Beat butter with mixer till smooth.  Add sugar slowly, stopping to scrape down bowl as necessary.  Beat in remaining ingredients till frosting is smooth.  Frost cupcakes.  If you have them around the house, dunk in a bowl of chocolate sprinkles immediately after frosting.

The Basics, Now With Kitsch

A funny thing happened on the way to these kitschy cupcakes.

I created them based on a recent pin, and knew they’d be a hit on my annual beach vacation.

And they were.

But what I didn’t know was that in making them, I’d find yellow cake nirvana.  Courtesy of Deb, and her flag cake recipe.

I whined, several posts ago, that this little old blog was 500 posts strong, yet still without a fail-safe recipe for what should be a staple in any good home cook’s repertoire.  A solid yellow cake is something you can stack to the sky to celebrate another year of life, something you can spin into cupcakes at a moment’s notice, and most importantly, something you can tweak, in any number of ways, when you are dreaming up flavor combinations.  It’s also something that has eluded me for far too long.

Forty-four posts later, here we are.  I don’t know enough about the science of baking to tell you whether it’s the cake flour, the buttermilk, or the simple ratio of butter to flour to sugar to eggs, but when you set to whisking, something will happen in your faithful mixing bowl that makes the ingredients come together just so.  The cake is dense enough, moist enough, and crumbly enough to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.  It reminds you that, when made just right, yellow cake is not a boring choice, but a timeless classic.*

To make 30 cupcakes, or a 9 x 13 cake, or 2 or 3, 8 inch layer cakes (I’m guessing 3 with the amount of batter I had), you will need:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 C sugar
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 C cake flour (or 3 2/3 C all purpose flour and 1/3 C cornstarch)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 2 C buttermilk, well shaken

For the cream cheese icing:

  • 2, 8 oz. packages cream cheese
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 C powdered sugar

And if you wanted to decorate them like I did:

  • Blue food coloring or gel (for the icing)
  • 4 of those little blue food gel tubes you can buy in the grocery aisle
  • Gummy Life Savers

To make the cake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  If you’re making a cake, grease the pan(s) you’re using, add a layer of parchment to the bottom, and grease again.  Alternatively, spray the sucker(s) with cooking spray.  If you’re making cupcakes, set paper liners in your muffin tins.

Beat butter and sugar together in large bowl till light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down bowl after each addition.  Add vanilla.  Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in bowl till combined.  Add half to butter mixture, and mix just till combined.  Scrape down bowl again, add buttermilk, and mix till combined.  Add remaining flour mixture, and mix till combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan(s).

I was working with a funky beach oven, but my cupcakes were done in 18 minutes.  I’d expect an 8 x 8 cake to take 30ish minutes, and a 9 x 13 pan to take longer than that.  Check this cake when it’s had less time than you think it needs, because you can always let it go a little longer.

Remove cake from oven and let cool completely before frosting.

To make the icing, beat cream cheese and butter till thoroughly combined and smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add vanilla and beat till combined.  Add sugar and beat till combined.  If you’re going for beach cupcakes, stir in blue food coloring or gel till you reach the color you’re looking for.

If you’re decorating the (cup)cakes, all you have left to do is pipe on some waves, and add a well-placed Gummy Saver.

*It may also remind you, two days later, when you reach for a boxed mix because you only want your cake to look a certain way, that you are crazy not to set out the butter ahead of time, and wait for it to soften.  A good homemade cake is always worth it.  Look for this disaster story soon.

Something New

Cupcakes aren’t anything new around here.  But this is more than a cupcake.  This is a beginning.  AGOMYR is getting married.  Over a year from now.  Which is great, because I’m making the cupcakes.

And that’s about how much time I’ll need to find something she and I deem worthy of her wedding.  So get ready to see a lot of muffin tins, paper liners, and piped icing, dear readers, because this is going to be an adventure.

Starting with Frosted Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes.  They’re from a way-old issue of Everyday Food.  Think pre-2002 old.

Frosted Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes are not wedding worthy.  But that’s because they’re delicate and crumbly.  Two ideal characteristics in a cupcake.  Just not ones that need to be baked in advance and successfully transported to a far away location.

Frosted Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes are deeply, almost densely chocolatey.  They are reminiscent of a box-mix cupcake in their texture, but don’t even compare in their flavor.  They are in a class of their own in that regard.  They also come together quite quickly, and are a great last minute addition to your weekend barbecue.

To make a dozen, you will need:

  • 3/4 C flour
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 6 T buttermilk
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
  • A good recipe for cream cheese (scroll down), because what I made was not memorable

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk cocoa and 3 T hot water until a thick paste forms (Martha’s team assures me that this will create a richer flavor in the cupcakes.  As the cupcakes tasted quite rich, without being heavy, I’m inclined to agree.).  Add butter, buttermilk, egg, and egg white; beat until combined.  Whisk in flour mixture until smooth.

Scoop batter into prepared tins.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, or with a few crumbs, about 20 minutes.  Let cool several minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.  When completely cool, frost with cream cheese icing.  Top with sprinkles of your choice, should you be in a sparkly mood.