Sunday, March 27, 2011


Today I delivered 11 plates to 11 people. I can't even tell you how much I enjoy that. I'm tired, for sure. But it's just awesome to make someone smile. And although I get a lot of enjoyment out of just learning, trying, making it pretty and all of that, how could I possibly do all of that and not share it??

The best thing that happened in my kitchen today was making my first successful batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream. My arm is a little worn out. But it really wasn't that bad. I think I will post my own version of a tutorial for that soon. But for now, a recap of the cupcakes, and my feelings about the results.

(this is where I wish Landee were sitting here so she could show me how to do those totally cute pictures
with the captions in the adorable fonts and all of that cuteness - some day soon)

Rosewater & Raspberry Cupcake

Everything about this cupcake was easy - well, except for finding the rosewater and the edible flowers. But the batter was simple and they baked up nicely. The glaze needed quite a bit of tweaking from the
written recipe, but luckily glazes are totally easy. And can you believe how scrumptious those raspberries look? Actually, the only thing about this cupcake that's raspberry is the two sitting on top. But the name definitely sounds better with that thrown in.

Honey gets all the credit for the photos, btw.

They tasted exactl
y the way I was hoping they would. It's like inhaling the scent of a home-grown rose while you're eating. I was hoping the cupcake would be a little more moist, but I think if I made them and ate them on the same day - they'd be perfection. Perrrrrfection.

Coconut-Lime Cupcakes

These baked up nicely too, with only the slightest divot in the middle. No big deal, cause I had to punch out a piece of the center anyway. There's a small amount of coconut in the batter which I think gave them a nice texture. If you like that, of course. Honey enjoys the flavor of coconut, but doesn't like actually eating it. The center is filled with a creamy, tart lime curd. Like so....

The lovely buttercream called for some coconut extract, but I must say, it needed more than the recipe called for. It was barely noticeable. That's a very easy fix, however, and I totally enjoyed eating it.

Salted Caramel Cupcake

You remember the problems I had getting this one to bake up right, right?

Yep. There they are. All sunken in. Let me tell you, though, they are dense, a little sticky, and the brown sugar in the batter really adds some good flavor. Especially after they're filled with the caramel swirled buttercream. Granted I could have used more caramel, but I was a little nervous that it would interrupt the delicate texture of the buttercream. I was short the pretty salt flakes that I needed to just garnish the top, but oh well.

There I am - taking a pic to text to my sister. Mmmm mmm mmmmmmmmmm.

So, here are today's spoils...

They are definitely eat'em-with-a-fork cupcakes. Yikes. I have no idea which direction I'm going to go next. Like I said, I am very tired. But very, very satisfied and I really learned a lot.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ohhhhhhh Help!

Three kinds of cupcakes made. Check. Lime curd for filling. Check. Caramel drizzle sauce. Check. Ok. I have now tried the buttercream recipe from the cookbook twice. No dice, my friends. I'm very frustrated. Step two is whipping the cooked egg whites/sugar mixture until it's all light and fluffy. The book says it should take about 6 minutes. I whipped. I tried two different whippers on my hand mixer. Twenty (20!) minutes later, still thick and soupy. Well, like melted marshmallows really. And quite tasty - but so not what it was supposed to be. See?

Frankly, this is annoying. I'm pretty sure I stomped my foot too. So off to Google, cause what would the world be like without it? Wait. I know what it's like without it. Lame. Anyway, first I searched for 'cooked buttercream,' but I kept finding a recipe for the Italian Meringue version. In that recipe, the egg whites are whipped alone, and then a hot syrup is poured into the egg whites while continuing to mix, followed by butter. Oh I know I could switch to something else. But I'm gonna figure this out, man. So I got more specific and typed something about buttercream from cooked egg whites and sugar. And lo and behold, there in the list a little ways down I see Wikipedia with this. A listing of different kinds of buttercream, how they're made, etc. And there it was! It's called Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Thank you!!!

Back to Google and I typed that in. Which led me to Youtube and this fabulous, amazing, happy, instructional video. Differences? Salt added to the egg whites first. Thanks cookbook lady for leaving that out. Sugar added to the egg whites gradually. Nope. Not in the cookbook either. Plus a handful of very helpful tidbits that I am thrilled to know.

Oh my gosh. I'm totally turning into a baking freak, aren't I? No really! I learn stuff like this and I just want to tell people. I guess you don't have to read this if you want. I mean, I did only get one comment on my last post. Nevermind that some people are overflowing with followers/comments. :) Totally kidding!!! That isn't really why I'm blogging anyway. It's like in You've Got Mail, when she talks about sending her questions out into the void. "So, goodnight dear void." One of the best. movies. ever.

I'm gonna do it, you guys! I'm gonna make it and it's going to work and I'm going to feel like a super hero for figuring it out. In the meantime, people who've volunteered to be tasters, I appreciate your patience. And hopefully you'll feel rewarded when I have some decent results.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Headaches and Cupcakes

Literally and figuratively. I'm just a headache person, I think. I just love waking up with a headache, like I did today. Oh wait...what? What does this have to do with cupcakes?

Well, since you asked, and since it's a much more enjoyable thing to read about, I will tell you. This is where we get into the figurative headache. You see, I'm finally digging into that cupcake cookbook I told you about here a long time ago. I'm not starting in the front. I didn't think you'd mind. But I'm making a trio of cupcakes. Recipe titles are: Rosewater & Raspberry Cupcakes, Coconut-Lime Cupcakes and Salted Caramel Cupcakes. (I envision one of each on a long rectangular plate. Wouldn't that be a lovely display?) The first headache came when trying to find the rosewater and the edible rose petals. Granted the rose petals are simply a decorative garnish for the top, but I was determined (at first) to make mine look exactly like the picture in the book. After going to Whole Foods, King Soopers and Sprouts without any luck, I resigned to the fact that finding organic roses, especially in March, is near impossible. And I'm annoyed that it's only March because I would have full access for free in my front garden come sometime in June. I mean, you really don't want me to make sugared rose petals from the normal ones at the store than might have pesticides on them, right? I didn't think so.

The other annoying thing was that I called three stores and asked them about rosewater and they all said, 'Oh yes...we have it.' But I suppose I wasn't specific enough. Well, actually - when I got to the first store, the sales lady said, "The bottle used to say it was edible, but it doesn't say that anymore. I'm pretty sure you still can though. It's totally fine." As she walked away, I started looking at the bottle and found this glaring statement on the back, "Do Not Ingest." Chaaaaaright! Like I'm going to
even use it and hand out the cupcakes to other people. No way. Aren't you glad that I'm looking out for you? Store number two had the same stuff. Store number three had nothing. And the thing that bugged me is every time I asked someone about it, they looked at me like I was crazy. "Rose....water? Um.......for baking?? I - don't - think we have that." Even the french-accented behind-the-bakery-counter lady at one of the more snooty stores. They have a decent display of fancy desserts. Seriously? You've never heard of it? Lame. You can imagine my joy and relief when I walked into Vitamin Cottage. At first, I kind of felt like a secret agent because I couldn't stand to get that 'we don't know what you're talking about you crazy lady' look again. But after a lot of walking around, I finally asked and the lady smiled and said, "Rose water? For topical use or for food?" I could have hugged her. Not only did she walk right to it, but another lady in the store got in on the discussion and they showed me a second, concentrated option. Elation, I tell you.

It should only be fair then, that when I baked the cupcakes last night, they turned out like so:

They smell really good, you guys. The rose is really subtle - just wonderful. It reminds me of the Rose Geranium Macarons from Miette. A lovely patisserie in San Francisco.

If you ever have the opportunity - I highly recommend stopping by. Try their Macarons and then peruse their beautiful selection of fancy candies, even things like Lavender Marshmallows. Dreamy, I think. What's a Macaron? Not macaroon. Macaron. Check it out here and here. I might have to mail order some from Miette for myself for Easter. Just might. They also offer them in grapefruit, pistachio, vanilla, hazelnut, etc. If I were 20-something, single and had lots of money - I would move to France and live there for months learning how to make all kinds of fancy pastries and stuff. I digress....

After such a successful ending to an annoying day, I decided to just jump right in to the next recipe. So I whipped together the ingredients for the Salted Caramel Cupcakes and tossed them in the oven. Alas, this was the result:

Ahhh, man! What now??? Now I have to do it over. I'm not saying those little crispy edges aren't super yummy, cause they are. This recipe has a decent amount of brown sugar in it too. Oh so yummy. So, because I have to make this work and for the sake of learning, I have done a lot of research online about sunken cupcakes and I think I might know how to fix it. I will let you know how the second attempt turns out and when I finally do the full posting of these from beginning to end (including the frosting and fancy garnishes) I will fill you in on all of the details.

Oh, and I hope you're excited. I mean,
I am. Because yesterday I made my first batch, with success, of Lime Curd (which is going to be the filling for the Lime-Coconut Cupcakes). I also made a batch of Caramel Drizzle. This will be lightly swirled into the butter cream frosting that tops the Salted Caramel Cupcakes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Some-more Tidbits

Some downsides:
  • The downside to having a wall painted a chocolate brown is that you can eventually see that dust collects on the wall. Especially next to the television. Dust. On. the. wall. Have you ever considered that? Maybe I'm displaying my lameness by admitting that I never had. And now I'm very sad that I know. It makes me look at my house and wonder just how much dust I'm not seeing.
  • The downside to having a darker carpet is that every little white spec of paper/things that kids are constantly leaving behind are really obvious.
  • The downside to having a coffee table is that everyone leaves their stuff on it. All the time. All kinds of stuff. Doll clothes, scout books, papers, controllers, chargers, hair things, legos, nanos, paper airplanes and so on. I find that I really wish the coffee table weren't here.
  • The downside to having a large island in the kitchen is that it collects even more than the smaller one in our last house. I remember being annoyed with our last kitchen and now I wish I still had that little one. So much less to clean up.
  • The downside to baking a cake for someone and having extra layers leftover is that I then find myself compelled to have some. And may I just say that my last chocolate cake was a.mazing? Well, it was. And then days later, I miss the cake that I finally had to throw away because I knew I would just keep eating it. This is one of the biggest reasons why I enjoy giving cakes and treats away. I know it will make someone smile, I get to feel happy for creating it and I am then saving myself from consuming more sugar.
And some other stuff:
  • I've had a headache for days. Like, 6 whole days. I think I'm going to go crazy. It makes everything annoying.
  • I've been feeling a little nostalgic/sad over the age of my children. Like, where in the world did the last 11 years go? I remember so many times my Dad telling me to enjoy their little days because someday I would really miss them. And you know how it is. In the middle of the diapers and the tantrums and the up all nights it seems like that could never be possible. And yet here I am with my youngest just months from starting Kindergarten and I feel like the best part of my life is ending. I know once I embrace the next stage of my life it will then become a best part too, but right now it doesn't look that way.
Ok. So that was fun. Lot's of bummed out information, huh? On the other hand, I get to spend a few days alone this weekend and I'm really looking forward to it. In addition, I will be on a plane in 36 days on my way to Oahu. Wow. It will be the first time I've flown over the ocean, the longest flight I've ever been on and the first time I've ever been to Hawaii. Time for a hardcore slim-down, followed by some clothes shopping.