Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Orange Cupcakes - The Grand Finale

This recipe is adapted from the Food Network Magazine May 2014.


3/4 C Fresh Orange Juice (it takes about 2 oranges)

1   8 oz. Pkg Cream Cheese, softened to room temp

10 Tbls Butter, softened and  cut into pieces

1 C Powdered Sugar  (more, if necessary)

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract (again, I used the clear so as to not effect the color)

2 tsp Finely Grated Orange Zest

Orange Food Coloring Gel (or  3 drops yellow and 1 drop red liquid food coloring)

The juice of 2 oranges came out to be just a little more than 3/4 C of juice
The juice of 2 oranges came out to be just a little more than 3/4 C of juice

I found that juicing 2 oranges gave me just slightly over 3/4 C of juice.  Measure the juice, put it in a saucepan and bring it to a boil, then reduce it to medium and simmer until it is reduced down to 1 1/2 Tbls.  This took me about 20 minutes, but I was taking it slow because I didn't want to mess it up.  I do not recommend taste testing this - I did and WOW!  It is TART!  Set the syrup aside to cool.
Reduce the orange juice to a syrup - about 1 1/4 Tbls
Reduce the orange juice to a syrup - about 1 1/4 Tbls
Beat the cream cheese in a large bowl on medium high until it's fluffy.  Add the pieces of butter, one at a time until the mixture is smooth.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar (Food Magazine's instructions say to sift the sugar in, but it was taking forever so I sifted a little bit and then just added the rest a little at a time).  I added an extra 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar because I felt that the frosting wasn't going to hold a piped shape.  Add the vanilla and the orange syrup, and finally the food coloring and beat it until it is well combined. I also added about 1/4 tsp of orange flavoring because when I tasted the frosting, it didn't taste distinctly orange.

Assemble the frosting ingredients - the reduced orange juice on the right
Assemble the frosting ingredients - the reduced orange juice on the right
Refrigerate the frosting about 15 minutes to firm it up, then frost and decorate your cupcakes by your preferred method.  (The original recipe suggested topping with a piece of candied orange peel.)  I piped it on and then topped them with some colorful autumn leaf sprinkles.

Aaaand .... TA DA!!

Orange Cupcakes decorated for fall
Orange Cupcakes decorated for fall
Everyone LOVED the cupcakes and said it reminded them of orange dreamscicles.  It was generally agreed, though, that the frosting gave it the dreamy flavor.  Personally, I wasn't happy with the texture of the cake.  For me it was dense and dry.  No one mentioned it (probably just being nice!) but Hubby agreed with me.

The next time I make these, I will use my lemon cupcake recipe and substitute oranges for the lemons.  Even if the frosting gives the majority of the flavor, at least the cupcakes will be soft and fluffy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Orange Dreamsicle Cupcakes

Wow.  I had really big plans for summer.  One of my favorite things to make is cupcakes for our family 4th of July party … and I never got to do that!  Why, you ask?  Because I got to take 2 trips to the hospital and pretty much MISSED SUMMER!  Summer is my absolute favorite time and I missed it!!  SIGH.  But the good news is that I'm pretty much put back together and with the cool fall weather I'm having baking attacks.

My darling hubby has been wishing for orange cupcakes.  I planned on making them for the 4th of July but … see above.  Hubby can't eat anything with citrus juice in it because the acid blisters his mouth.  It broke my heart a few months ago when he bought some orange Tic Tacs because he said he just misses the orange flavor.  We've found that when the acid is tamed with dairy ingredients and/or cooked, he can safely eat citrus.

Originally, I was going to take my tried and true lemon cupcake recipe and just switch out the lemon for orange.  But I really wanted to be sure of the recipe because - you know, how sad would it be if I made these cupcakes for him and they turned out to be a flop?   My concern with adapting my lemon cupcake recipe is that I don't know if the flavor from oranges is as strong as from lemons.

During my vacay at the hospital this summer, I saw a recipe for orange cupcakes in the Food Network Magazine and decided to try that, so my recipe is adapted from the May 2014 issue "Orange Cream Cupcakes".
Liine cupcake tins with paper cups
Line cupcake tins with paper cups
To start, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line your cupcake/ muffin pan with 12 liners.  Then  assemble your ingredients and whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  (I always line more than called for because it's easier to have the liners ready if I happen to have more batter.)

Assemble all ingredients
Assemble your ingredients

Don't you love my fancy-schmancy pressed glass bowl holding my eggs?  Lately, I've started using a lot of my grandmothers' glassware, and the Pyrex and Fire King pieces I've collected over the years.  We've had the Pyrex Friendship Cinderella bowls for ages, but I've never used them because I thought they looked a bit cumbersome with those handles … WRONG.  I might be the last person on earth to "get it" but those aren't handles!  They're for POURING!  (Yes, I feel dumb.)  

I discovered an easy, low-stress way to melt butter.  I put my butter into one of my Pyrex bowls (that's what's in the cute little bowl with the birds on it) and microwaved it on DEFROST.  The defrost setting on my microwave asks for the weight and I just set it for .5 lbs and it slowly melted the butter without lots of spattering.  Of course, all microwaves heat differently so you need to watch the butter in your own oven so it doesn't burn or spatter.

Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl (aka my Kitchen Aid bowl) with a mixer at a medium high speed until it's light and fluffy then reduce the speed and S-L-O-W-L-Y beat in the melted butter - you don't want to end up with scrambled eggs!  My mixer has a shield to help keep me from making an excessive mess and the pouring handle on the Pyrex bowl works perfectly with it!

SLOWLY pour melted butter into egg and sugar mixture
SLOWLY pour melted butter into egg and sugar mixture

Then add the orange zest and vanilla.  While I'm not a fan of "fake" ingredients, I used clear vanilla because I didn't want to darken the color of the cake with real vanilla.  As it turned out, the cake was the color of a yellow cake.  I also found that the zest of one orange came out to be about 1 tsp.  *I was careful to use organic oranges because I believe they are sprayed with chemicals and I doubt all the washing in the world would get it all off.

I found that the zest of one orange was about 1 tsp
I found that the zest of one orange was about 1 tsp

Finally, beat in the flour mixture in 2 additions - pour about half in then add the milk - then pour the rest of the flour in.  Beat this until it is just combined - don't over mix.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full
Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full

Fill the cupcake cups about 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted into the center  comes out clean - about 18 minutes.  Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes and then remove them to your wire rack to finish cooling.  (As it turned out, the recipe made exactly 12 cupcakes.)

Bake about 18 minutes at 350 degrees, cool in pan for 5 minutes, then finish cooling on wire rack
Bake about 18 minutes at 350 degrees, cool in pan for 5 minutes, then finish cooling on wire rack
Next …. The orange frosting and the grand finale!

Here's the recipe - adapted from Food Network Magazine May 2014


1 1/2 C Flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
2/3 C sugar
12 Tbls butter, melted
2 tsp finely grated orange zest (I prefer organic)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C milk

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Chocolate Cake and White Cake EQUALS a Friend's Birthday Cake

Wow!  I can't believe it's been almost a year since my last post.  Honestly, I don't know where my time goes.  But with summer upon us, I'm hoping to catch up and get back to some serious baking.

I volunteered to bake a cake for a dear friend's birthday.  And she doesn't know it.   The last cake I decorated was WAY back in the beginning and it was pretty … wobbly.  Ok - it was bad.  So, I'm feeling a bit intimidated.

First, everyone agrees she likes chocolate.  So I planned a chocolate cake.  Then, luckily, we were all talking about desserts and she mentioned that she doesn't like chocolate cake unless it's really moist.  Hm.  Great.  Sounds like "everyone" likes chocolate instead of Judy!  LOL

So me thinks, thinks me … I'll use my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe because it is super moist.  Then paranoia took over.  I need to do half chocolate and half white.  No idea how to do THAT.  Look it up on Cake Central.  Ok, I think I can swing that.  I did the tilt and pour method.  I poured the chocolate into the tilted pan first, because it is the heaviest batter.  When I added the white cake batter, it was amazing.  They pretty much stayed 2 separate cakes!  Good on one hand, maybe not so good on the other because the cake wanted to crack into 2 pieces where the 2 flavors met.  The frosting helped keep it all together.

I tried a different frosting because I wasn't happy with the consistency of my usual buttercream.  Again, I struggled getting the right texture to pipe but I finally got it and once I did, it worked great.  Unfortunately, I was running out of time and my flowers and writing were pretty shaky. 

I'm so mad at myself because I was so flustered that I forgot to take pictures.  But at least here is the final result.

Now, as to the "age" … we thought it would be nice to not be real obvious so another friend had her hubby get this equation for us.  We wanted it really complicated.  If anyone would like to verify what that age is, please let us all know.  We know what it's SUPPOSED to be, but … well, it's been a few years since math class.  LOL

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bon Jovi Cupcakes

Yup.  That's right.  BonJovi cupcakes.  HubbyDear's co-workers requested chocolate cupcakes decorated with a BonJovi theme for one of them.  Seriously.  My mind went                                   .  Just like that.

I've known about this for a few months, so I've had time to obsess … to no avail.  Sadly, I resorted to rather "boring" decorations.  I really like to make my own decorations, but this one just didn't happen for me.  We raided Country Kitchen for basic Rock & Roll themed decorations.

To make up for it, I'm making Nutella cupcakes instead of plain chocolate cupcakes.  I've been anxious to do a filled cupcake since my class.  I have the filling tip!  I want to use it!  :)

Favorite Chocolate Cupcakes

TWO containers of Nutella later … mmmm! 

I used Jamie's Nutella cupcake directions that included my go-to chocolate cake for the cupcake and Nutella Buttercream.  OH. MY.  <insert multitudes of heavenly angels singing>

Using a cupcake filling tip
Epic Fail Using the Filling Tip
As for the filling tip, I don't know if I'm just a wimp and couldn't squeeze the Nutella through it, but I could NOT fill those cupcakes!  I ended up using a regular frosting tip #8 instead and treated it the same as if I were using the filling tip - pushing it into the cupcake center and filling until the top swelled a bit.  It was kind
of amazing that I jar of Nutella was EXACTLY the right amount for 24 cupcakes!

Nutella Filled Cupcakes
Now, as for the Nutella buttercream frosting … let me repeat:  OH.  MY.  <there go the angels again!>

And the Nutella cupcakes have been proclaimed by hubby's office as the best cupcakes yet!  

Rock & Roll Cupcakes
Rock and Roll is here to stay ... these cupcakes won't last long!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Chili Cheese Corn Muffins & Ham and Beans OH MY!

Believe it or not, I've never made "ham and beans".  Frankly, until recently I wouldn't eat any beans other than Van Camps or green beans.  I love chili, but HATE kidney beans.  There's always a little pile of beans left in my bowl. 

A dinner we had on vacation last summer opened my eyes to pinto  beans and I've been experimenting  with different beans ever since.  What I discovered is that some beans aren't so icky.  The little ones that don't have a tough "skin".  I still can't accept kidney or lima beans into my life.  Baby steps ...

After making chili this winter using pinto beans instead of kidney beans and actually eating the beans (it was actually hard to not automatically pick the beans out!) I decided it was time to go out on a limb and make/try  ham and beans - one of the two meals at home when I was a kid that I would literally try to hide from .  (The other is … liver and onions.  AWwwKK!  I don't care how old and mature I get, I will NOT eat them anywhere!  Take THAT Sam I Am!)

I had to look up a recipe for Ham & Beans.  They all looked pretty much alike, but almost all called for using one lb. of navy beans, soaked overnight.  I cheated and used beans in a jar.  DH says that is what he remembers his mom using and we had frozen some leftover ham chunks.  Little else is required!

Ham Chunks
1 -  48 oz jar Randall's Great Northern Beans
1/2 tsp  Onion Powder
1/2 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Black Pepper
1/4 tsp  Cayenne
1/2 C     Brown Sugar
1 Tbls    Dry Parsley

Just  throw it all in a nice, heavy pot and simmer it all on the stove for anywhere from a half hour to an hour and that's it!  I had to add about 3/4 C water because it got too think and pasty, and of course, the seasoning can be adjusted - but this is just my starting point. 

What goes with Ham'n'Beans??  Cornbread!  Cornbread muffins are akin to cupcakes!  My hubby loves these corn muffins and they're especially good with Mexican style food.  We really liked them with the ham 'n' beans, too.
1 box Jiffy Cornbread Mix
1 box Jiffy Golden Yellow Cake Mix
2 Eggs
1/2 C Milk
1/3 C Water
2 Tbls Vegetable  Oil - I use Canola
1-4 oz Can of Chopped Green Chilis, drained
1 C shredded Cheddar Cheese

Mix the DRY cornbread mix and the DRY cake mix in a bowl.  I use my tried and true Tupperware Mix and Pour (I think that's what it's called) because I like being able to  … get this … mix and pour the batter into the cupcake cups!  Theoretically, you're supposed to mix the eggs, milk, water, and vegetable oil in another bowl.  I'm lazy and don't like having an extra bowl to wash, so I do it all in one.  Mix the ingredients together just enough to make sure all the ingredients are mixed and stop.  Add the green chilis and the cheddar cheese and mix just enough to make sure everything is fairly evenly distributed.

Fill your muffin cups (greased) or cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 20 - 22 minutes or until a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.

You can sprinkle the tops with more shredded cheese immediately after removing them from the oven and it will melt on top.  Never too much cheese!!  I got carried away trying to remember to take pictures that I forgot to top them with more cheese shreds.  Oops!  We managed to eat them anyway. 

This makes about 16 muffins.

Adapted from Taste of Home's Quick Cooking 2000

Monday, December 31, 2012

Autumn Wedding Cupcakes

Wow … Christmas sure got in the way of my cupcake making!  And writing.  And a lot of other things, too.

The cupcakes for wedding #2 came out really well.  The candies were a hit, too.

We finally settled upon Carrot Cake cupcakes, Snickers cupcakes, and white wedding cake cupcakes.  Although we were using previously tried flavors, the decoration needed personalizing.  The wedding colors were the colors of fall leaves, with orange being the dominant. 

I made the white cupcakes with the same recipe as I used for the sunflower cupcakes earlier.  Our bride-to-be really hadn't requested anything particular as decoration and I really wanted them to be pretty and special for her.  Up until now, I really hadn't done much with flowers.  All I could come up with was a deep yellow rose, leaves … it was just very abstract in my mind.  Not having made roses since my class a year earlier, I wasn't entirely sure I could do it, but … I did!

Unfortunately, I didn't have the brains to take photos of the process.  It really was kind of a struggle, though.  The edges of my rose petals were incredibly jagged.  I know a little bit makes it look more "natural" but this was AWFUL.  It was hot in the kitchen so I thought the frosting consistency was wrong.  I tried making it really soft.  Didn't work.  Tried really tight.  Didn't work.  FINALLY thought to go get a new rose tip.  Mine was a tiny bit bent.  Amazingly, that was the problem! 

 So … I made a bunch of yellow roses.

And then … I put them onto the newly frosted cupcakes and added tan leaves, burgundy flowers and green vining leaves.  Um .. I may have gone a little crazy.  But they sure were pretty!

I was disappointed in my Snickers cupcakes.  They tasted perfect, but I topped them with chocolate trees trimmed with fall colored leaf sprinkles.    I couldn't think of any way to frost the cupcakes with seriously gooey caramel, so I simply pushed the tree into the top of the cupcake and sprinkled a few leaves on top.  Also … I didn't take the height into consideration.  When we started putting them in my smaller cupcake stands, they were too tall and we ended up having to almost place them flat on top.  Thank goodness the cupcake was universally loved!

Here are the steps for the trees:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Well!  I had to take a little cupcake hiatus.  Gained too much weight the last go 'round despite the fact that I never even licked the bowls or spoons.  AND I only ate one of each cupcake just to make sure they were as good as I wanted them to be. 

That, and my onlinevintage clothing and jewelry shop was suffering a bit from lack of attention.  I'm not good at multi-tasking.  Now my housekeeping is suffering from lack of attention.  Seriously, I need a maid.  There are so many more interesting things to do than dusting!

So ... the next bride-to-be elected not to fight the reception hall and their policy of not allowing homemade cake.  Instead I'm doing the cupcakes for the rehearsal dinner.  The flavors are decided - chocolate Snickers, carrot, and white wedding cake. 

Our Bethie-Pie loves fall colors and her wedding colors are autumn leaves.  A happy coincidence - her mother-in-law to be (that would be ME) loves those colors, too.  You'd think this would make it easy for me to decorate these cupcakes, but the problem is that I'm only making 3 flavors, not 5 and only 50 cupcakes and not 125.  I have too many wannado-s. 

I want do trees with leaf sprinkles.  I wanna do viney leaves.  I wanna do beautiful magenta, orange,  and golden yellow roses.  I wanna do multicolored fondant leaves.   I wanna do … well, I guess an Angry Bird.  I know, I know … doesn't quite go with the theme but my son is a rabid St. Louis Cardinal baseball fan.  His younger brother got dinosaurs on one set of his wedding cupcakes.  I need to do something for him.

I'm going to make flavored candies in favor cups in leaf shapes.  And I'm dreaming of making flavored sugar leaves -- for what reason, I have no idea.  I seem to have this need to overdo it. 

Awww … I've turned into Martha Stewart. 

I'm starting with the candies because they have a much longer "shelf life"  and frankly, this time around I do have a clue about what I'm doing.  I've been making filled chocolate candy at Christmas since the boys were quite little, so this SHOULD be a no-brainer.  (Famous last words.)  I never took a class on the "proper" way to make candy so if you are a stickler for "proper", run away NOW.

I use an old electric food warming tray that I got as a wedding gift, um, awhile ago.  It seems to keep the candy at a nice, even temperature.  I tried melting the chocolate in the microwave and it works sometimes, other times I get busy and burn it .  Unpleasant.

These candies will be orange, yellow,  green, and brown and will be flavored cinnamon, maple, and English toffee.  Chocolate will take care of itself!  I'm using oils because I've always added mint oil to my Christmas chocolates and it works very well. 

It's fairly easy and other than the candy mold, you can probably use kitchen items you already have.  For instance - if you can't find a warmer (try ebay - they can be found for about $10) you can always melt in a double boiler.  If you don't have the paint brushes, just spoon it into the mold.  Some people use plastic bottles that look a lot like condiment bottles.

You need

Electric warming tray
Small heat proof dishes - one for each color and/or flavor
Candy confectionary coating disks - color(s) of your choice
Chocolate disks - I use "Cocoa Lite"*
Oils - flavors of your choice
Something to stir the melted candy with
Paint brushes, food grade, one for each color and/or flavor
Candy molds

*I have used milk chocolate disks in the past and this slow melting worked well enough, but milk chocolate is very fussy about temperature.

Put a small handful of each color candy disk into a separate little heat proof dishes.  Personally, I LOVE my vintage Pyrex custard cups, also a wedding gift.   Plug in your tray and set the dishes on it.  The disks will slowly melt -  I think this took about 20-30 minutes to get the first ones to start melting.

Keep an eye on them.  The bottom ones will start to look a bit shiny and may completely melt.  I try to not have them completely melt because when you stir them, they will actually be melted more than you think.  Stir them fairly well - there will probably still be lumps, which is fine.  Now add another small handful of the candy coating pieces on top.  Wait another 15 minutes or so and stir them around again.  They will still probably be lumpy.  Depending on the size of the dish you are using to melt in you may wish to add a few more pieces of candy and let that melt in.  Stir frequently now.   When using flavoring, I try to have as much candy melted as the dish will hold and still be easy/not messy to stir so that I get as many as possible candies that have the exact same flavoring.  Obviously, your next batch will be slightly different no matter how much you try.  Make sure to keep your stirrers separate so the colors don't mix AND especially once you've added the flavoring, you REALLY don't want to mix flavors!

Just so you don't panic and think something is going wrong, my chocolate didn't melt much after 45 minutes and I started melting the pieces all at the same time.  The chocolate will have a completely different texture as it melts, too.  Once it begins melting to the point that all the pieces are mooshy, give it a good stir.  It is usually pretty thick, but the more you stir, the more it will soften and smooth.  Add more chocolate disks and melt in, as above.

Flavoring can be a bit tricky, particularly if you're making more than one flavor.   You might want to have a taste helper around because after a couple of tastes YOUR taster won't work as well.  As with wine tasting, try to "cleanse your palate" between tastes - even of the same flavor. I start with one drop of oil, stir it in well, then taste.  Add one drop at a time - these oils are POTENT.  If you get some on your skin, it's a good idea to wash it off.  It's never harmed me, but then I'm also rarely sensitive to things.  (Note:  I got a little cinnamon oil on my lip and it did "burn", but washed off quickly with soap and water.)

 Just to give you an idea of how much to use, I used 5 drops each of these oils and felt that the flavor wasn't intense, but could definitely be recognized as maple (green), cinnamon (orange), and English toffee (yellow).

Left - small mold /// Right - large mold
Small mold, filled
As you can see,  I've chosen 2 different candy molds.  One is quite a bit larger and I'm going to start with this one since it is easier to show.  Using a paintbrush, pick up a blob of the melted candy and place it in the center of the mold.  Then, use the paintbrush to gently push it out toward the edges and up the sides.  Try not to get the candy outside of the mold.  It will take 3 or 4 "scoops" painted this way to fill an individual mold, depending on the size of the mold.  When the individual mold is full, "paint" the back smooth.  Mine usually ends up with a little loop - I tried making it flat and it didn't work for me.  So now I just go with it and enjoy my little curly cues.  After all the individual molds are filled, put your mold in the freezer for about 5 minutes or more if you're not in a big hurry.  Here is where it's handy to have a couple of molds - fill the next mold and trade them in the fridge.

Filling (painting) the large mold with candy coating.
Unmolded large candies

After taking the candy in the mold out of the freezer,  simply turn the mold over and the candy will fall out.  If not, just give it a shake.  If you have a few that look a little sloppy at the edge - while the candy is still cold/frozen you can use a knife to scrape away the overflow and clean up edges.
Small candies (wheat sheaves & turkeys).  The two wheat sheaves on the far left have been "trimmed" .