Cupcakes, Cake, and more Cupcakes!

So I have a confession.  A couple actually. My first, I have been SERIOUSLY missing cupcakes. Like a lot.  Confession number two: I think I’m officially going out of the cake decorating business.  Aside from a few here in there for VERY close friends, I won’t be making them anymore.  I’ve lost that passion.  I’m sticking to baking treats and cooking all my meals from scratch at home.  And, confession number 3: when I make large batches of cupcakes for an event or am just focusing on cupcake decorations….I used boxed cake mix for the cakes. Gah! I know… cardinal sin. But…it’s so much easier. And faster. And…ok. I won’t make any excuses for it. But anyway. Since I’ve developed my “cook and prepare anything and everything at home where possible”thought process, I’ve eliminated the option to use boxed or prepackaged foods. So… when I began coordinating a retirement event at my office, I of course offered to provide cupcakes for the “Tea Party” theme we so creatively came up with.  And therein lies the reasoning for my cupcake creations this week.  All made from scratch, I promise.  I’m going to say this right now. Cupcakes from the box and cupcakes from scratch are not the same.  They are not. I used to think basic flavours, like chocolate, vanilla and red velvet were typically the same in comparing boxed to scratch, so when I made these basic flavours, I always used box.  Boy was I wrong.  I am not even kidding you.  This is not by any means an exaggeration.  The vanilla from scratch cupcakes I made yesterday, are the best. frigging. cupcakes. that I have ever tasted.  Ever. Of all time.  Seriously.  When I bit in t one of the tiny cakes of fantasticness, I felt as though I died and went to heaven. It was that good.

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So what did I make? Chocolate Fudge Brownie Cupcakes with Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Frosting (from Sally’s Baking Addiction, you can find the recipe here) and Vanilla Cupcakes, from Brown Eyed Baker (find it here), with Bailey’s Irish Cream Frosting (my own creation).  I also made a teapot cake, and you can find a full tutorial here.  The cake wasn’t easy, but it turned out okay.  Not as nice as the one in the tutorial, but I’m satisfied with it.  I really do love decorating cakes, it’s just the baking, trimming, stacking, crumb coating, and fondant covering that I’m not a fan of.  Making the flowers, the cake board, and all the other little additions like the ball border and the teapot lid.  I love that part.

I have one last confession: I. really. LOVE. sprinkles.  Chocolate sprinkles, peanut butter sprinkles, coloured sprinkles, shiny sprinkles, round sprinkles, square sprinkles, tiny sprinkles, large sprinkles… you name it.  Any shape, colour or size.  I love it.  I do not discriminate against sprinkles.  For my birthday, someone very special to me, my future aunty in law you can call her, bought me 25 different types of sprinkles in amazing glass canisters with metal tops.  They are fantastic… see below for my reaction.  A girlfriend of mine, who also understands my love for sprinkles, also bought me glittery, sparkly sprinkles, as well as a huge container with an assortment of fall coloured sprinkles. So. Many. Sprinkles!!!

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How could you not love sprinkles? They make everything looks so much happier, and tastier, and, and… just better.

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So let’s talk about these delicious and fantastic cupcakes… I’m sure you’re tired of all the adjective I’m using in this post, so I’ll just get to it.  Let’s start with the vanilla cupcakes.  When I’m baking for a large group, I usually like to make a chocolate based cupcake and a vanilla based cupcake.  This way, there’s another flavour for those crazy people who don’t like chocolate.  I have never been that big a fan of vanilla cupcakes, what’s the point of having vanilla when you can have chocolate? I’m so glad I made these, because these cupcakes have change my perspective when it comes to vanilla cake.  The original recipe had just basic vanilla buttercream frosting, but I have really been wanting to make an Irish cream frosting, and since I had some left over Bailey’s in my fridge from my holidays, I couldn’t resist.  Essentially, I made the icing like I would usually make buttercream.  That is, I added 1 cup of butter to my stand mixer, with 3 cups of icing sugar (I usually add 2 – 4 cups, depending on how thick i want it.).  I also added 1/4 cup of flour to thicken the icing without making it sweeter.  I mixed it on medium speed until the icing sugar, flour, and butter were well combined.  Then, instead of adding heavy cream and vanilla to the mix, I added 4 tbsp of Bailey’s Irish Cream.  Annnnd presto. There’s Irish Cream Frosting. Yummy.

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Bailey’s Irish Cream Frosting

makes 12-15 cupcakes.

Ingredients

Vanilla Cupcakes:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg , room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks , room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Irish Cream Frosting:

  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 tbsp. Bailey’s Irish Cream

Baking Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and adjust oven rack to middle position.  Line a muffin pan with paper or tin cupcake liners.

2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment.  Add butter, sour cream, egg, egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.

3. Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin.  Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes.  Remove the cupcakes from tin and transfer to wire rack; cool cupcakes to room temperature before frosting.

4. While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the frosting.  Using the wire whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip butter until it is smooth.  Add icing sugar, 1 cup at a time, whisking on low to medium speed between each added cup.  Add the flour and Irish Cream, and whisk until combined, scrapping down the sides as necessary.

I piped the icing through my Wilton 1M attachment, which is perfect fro your basic cupcake swirl design.  I topped the cupcakes with orange and brown sprinkles.

On to the next creation.  So this was all Sally.  I have every intention of ordering her new cookbook.  You can get it here.  Anyone who knows me, knows I love fall.  It is my FAVOURITE season.  It’s the perfect amount of hot and cold, the perfect amount of sun and cloud, the perfect amount of pumpkin and cinnamon and spice.  I love fall food.  So, for this tea party themed party, I knew that I had to make a pumpkin spice something.  I settled on chocolate fudge brownie cupcakes (the base cupcake is more like a brownie and less like a cake) with pumpkin spice cream cheese frosting.  Are you hooked yet?  I sure am.  I have never made pumpkin anything.  This is my first fall baking anything… or cooking anything worth talking about… Thanksgiving should be interesting.  Did I mention i volunteered to make a turkey dinner?  I topped this cupcake with mini white chocolate chip sprinkles.  They really did something for the taste.

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Chocolate Fudge Brownie Cupcakes with Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Frosting

makes 12 – 15 cupcakes

Ingredients

Brownie Cupcakes

  • 4 ounces unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 – 2.5 cups icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour

Baking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325F degrees.  Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.  Set aside
  2. Using a double boiler or a heat safe bowl atop a pot, melt the chopped chocolate and sliced butter together.  Ensure that the water is not touching the bowl, you don’t want to burn the chocolate.  Stir constantly and continue until chocolate is melted.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.  Stir in sugar, then vanilla.  Add in eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Mix in the flour and salt.
  3. Pour batter into muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes.  A toothpick inserted in the center will have moist crumbs.  Be careful not to overbake the cupcakes.
  4. While the cupcakes are cooling in the pan, make the pumpkin frosting.  Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese, butter, pumpkin, and spices on medium speed until creamy.  Add the 2-2.5 cups of sifted powdered sugar depending how sweet you’d like it.  If frosting is much too thin, add in the flour to thicken it.  Add salt to cut the sweetness, if you prefer. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

I again, used a 1M Wilton attachment for my swirl.  These were very good, and I was happy with the turnout of my first ever pumpkin dessert.

photo 3 (1)Okay one last confession… I promise.  I love the idea of a tea party.  So, when we decided to have a tea party themed retirement party for our tea loving co-worker, I was in heaven.

“So you mean to tell me, not only do I get to co-ordinate and plan the entire event, but I have an excuse to bake? Count me in.”

We had co-workers donate their vintage tea cups, tea pots, and plug in kettles.  Some people brought in baking, we purchased scones from a local bakery, and we provided countless types of herbal tea.  We had so much fun!  I have only drank out of a tea cup a handful of times, so it felt kind of fun to use something other than a giant coffee cup, and try a new assortment of teas.

So on to my cake.  It was a lot of work covering this cake. I had to recover it like 5 times before I finally got it right, and even then, there were some seriously visible imperfections.  I hid them well, and in the end I got the cake to look pretty close to what I had imagined.  Many said it looked like Mrs. Pots from Beauty and the Beast.  I have to agree. It is an adorable cake. No one wanted to eat it!  We sent it home with the guest of honour who seemed to be quite happy with it.

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My cake was a hit, my cupcakes an even bigger hit. I am so happy that I finally got to make a pumpkin flavoured dessert.  Maybe I’ll make another over the weekend…I have a lot of leftover pumpkin purée!  Hope you enjoyed.  Happy Baking!photo 2 (7)

Banana Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting


008  You want to know what my favourite smell in the whole wide work is?  Actually, I have two.  Apple cinnamon and banana bread.  I find the aroma just tantalizing.  My mouth legitimately waters.  Apple cinnamon reminds me of Christmas.  I have no idea why.  Perhaps it’s my mother’s fault.  You know those glade plug in things?  Well around Christmas she would always buy the apple cinnamon ones, and apple cinnamon candles.  Our whole house was just one big burst of apple cinnamon.  They do say that smell is the sense that is most closely linked to memory.  Plus my grandmother would always bake pies during the holidays.  I fondly remember her small house just filling with the scent of baking apples.  Fantastic.  Banana bread reminds me of the smell of a bakery.  Every time I walk into a bakery I feel that’s all I smell. Banana bread has a really comforting scent, it always makes me feel warm.  Every time we have a frightfully cold winter day (which is often since I live in Northern Ontario) or some sort of ice cold rainy fall day (again, often) I just crave banana bread.  Yesterday was really rainy and really cold.  And while I was already planning to make banana bread this week, on my way home from work yesterday, after feeling the biting wind against my skin, after getting caught in the rain on my way to my car, I said, screw it, I NEED banana bread, and I need it tonight.  So I drove to the grocery store, picked up the ingredients I knew I didn’t have at home, and got baking.  Funny thing is I didn’t actually eat any last night! Maybe I just needed the smell to comfort me against the awful, below average temperatures that we’ve been experiencing in the last few weeks.  I’m actually pretty used to the cold by now…well I should be any way, I’ve been living in this part of the province for almost 15 years, and I’ve developed somewhat of a love for the snowy weather we have.  But sometimes I just wish we could have a little more heat in the summers.

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So let’s talk banana bread.  I was very excited about this recipe.  As most of you may know, while I have developed a serious love for baking, I’ve actually only been baking since last November, not even a full year, so I haven’t actually tried a lot of different recipes in comparison to other food bloggers out there.  And, for the majority of my baking career, I was actually focusing mostly on cake and cupcake decorating.  So this is still new to me.  I have never in my life made any form of bread, dessert bread or otherwise.  In the next bit I’m hoping to create a “baking bucket list” if you will, perhaps including things like pastries, and paninis, and different types of breads and muffins and dessert bars! But for now, I’m sharing with you my first ever bread baking experience.  And…it actually went pretty smooth.  While I’m not sure if I’m ready to venture out on my own and create my own recipes (yet) I’m getting really good at measuring properly, folding ingredients, and mixing ingredients.  I know that sounds funny “Kelsey, all you have to do is follow the damn recipe!”  But it’s not quite that simple you know.  Some things you scoop, some things you pour, some things you use a mixer, some things you don’t, some things require folding, while others mixing.  Like I keep saying, again and again, Cooking is an Art, Baking is Chemistry.  It’s Precise. My favourite part about baking is how many different things there are to make, how many different versions of things you can make.  By simply changing one ingredient, you can change the entire recipe, the entire taste.  It’s like I’m an evil genius creating fantastic new evil things every single evil day! Muahahahahahah evil laugh.  And by evil, I mean awesome, and by genius, I mean baking genius.  Lately I have been getting all my recipes from Sally’s Baking Addiction, and there is a reason for that…all of her recipes are totally awesome and I can’t get enough of them!  This banana bread recipe is one that is from her recipe index.  You can find the link here     

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Banana Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 1 loaf. Store bread in the refrigerator (covered) for up to 7 days. Frost right before serving. Banana bread tastes best on day 2 after the flavors have settled together. Unfrosted banana bread freezes well, up to 2 months.

Ingredients

Banana Bread009
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed (or dark brown sugar)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature preferred
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt, plain or vanilla)
  • 2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 large very ripe bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered (confectioners’) sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 1/8 teaspoons salt, or as needed
  • chopped pecans to sprinkle on top, optional

Baking Directions

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Lightly spray a 9×5 loaf pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. Make the bread: Using a hand-held or stand mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed, about 3 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the yogurt, mashed bananas and vanilla on medium speed for 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the mixer if using a stand mixer. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together until combined. Using a large spoon or rubber spatula, slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Slowly stir everything together until no more flour pockets remain. Do not overmix. Fold in the pecans.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 60-65 minutes, loosely covering the bread with aluminum foil at the 30 minute mark. This will prevent the top and sides from getting too brown. A toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf will come out clean when the bread is done. Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
  5. Make the frosting: beat the softened cream cheese and butter together on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until soft, creamy, and combined thoroughly. Add powdered sugar and beat until thick and combined. Add milk and beat on medium speed for 2 more minutes. Add more powdered sugar until desired thickness is reached. Add salt to taste. I a quick shake of salt to cut the sweetness.
  6. Spread the frosting on the cooled banana bread. There may be some frosting leftover depending how thick you layer it on top. Sprinkle with additional pecans, if desired.

Clearly this is not me following a “healthier baking” promise I made to myself. So..I decided to calculate the calories. Do you want to know? I don’t think you do. Lets just say I left a lot of room in MyFitnessPal today for this bread.  A lot. I managed to cut the bread into 16 pieces, meaning each slice is 325 calories… I think I’ll be going for a jog tonight…well, probably not, but yikes! Oh well, enjoy anyways! Have that extra piece, enjoy those extra calories! This banana bread is well worth it.  Happy Baking!

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