Saturday, March 17, 2012

Irish Cream Cupcakes: Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I bet you thought I was going to make chocolate Guinness cupcakes, didn't you? Yeah, no. I've made them too many times. This was a time for something different. Something new. Something that I hadn't done before...

I didn't want to use alcohol again. I figured it was too cliche - you think Irish, you think alcoholics. I can get away with saying that because I'm some percentage take that. In any case, I thought back to my barista days when I worked at Starbucks. We never had Irish Cream flavor, but people always wanted it, so we would mix vanilla and hazelnut, and apparently that makes an Irish cream flavor. This was the approach I decided to take in St. Patrick's Day cupcakes. Afterall, I had to make up for the fact that I pissed off a leprechaun.

I made a test batch using just extracts for getting that Irish cream flavor. I used hazelnut, vanilla, chocolate, and coffee extracts. The chocolate I threw in for fun because I think it makes everything taste great. However, this didn't quite punch you in the face with that Irish cream flavor like I was hoping.

Back to the drawing board. I decided I could try using hazelnut butter to get more of that hazelnut flavor. BAM! That worked like a charm! The only problem, as is typical because it wouldn't be my kitchen if something didn't go wrong while I was baking, was that the hazelnut butter was completely separated. As in, all the oil was sitting on top and all the mushy hazelnut goodness was stuck to the bottom, so I had to stir it. In doing so, I managed to somehow splash the oil all over the place. I was being gentle dammit, I don't know what happened. I think a ninja somehow managed to take the spoon from my hand and splash me with hazelnut oil without me noticing (hence the ninja part).

Here's the kicker: you know nutella? That stuff is nasty. It's way too freaking sweet. It has as much sugar as frosting! Awful. Want to know what's great? Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. It's like nutella, only you don't feel like you're eating frosting. You feel like you're eating something that might actually be good for you. Oh, so what does this have to do with my Irish Cream Cupcakes? Oh, I filled them with it. Yeah, I went there.

So here's the recipe, for those of you wanting to give this a shot:

Makes 12 Cupcakes

2/3 C Almond Milk
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/3 C Hazelnut Butter
1/3 C Canola Oil
1 tsp Hazelnut Extract
3 tsp Vanilla Extract
3 tsp Coffee Extract
1 tsp Chocolate Extract
1/3 C Granulated Sugar
1/3 C Stevia in the Raw
1 C All Purpose Flour
1/4 C Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
2 tbsp Cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line muffin tin with cupcake liners (I chose shamrock decorated ones, hehe). Whisk almond milk and apple cider vinegar so it curdles, set aside for a minute or so. Add the remaining wet ingredients and sugar and stevia. Sift in your dry ingredients and mix. Fill liners about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way. Use two teaspoons for the chocolate hazelnut butter - one to scoop it out, the other to push it into the cupcake. You can bury it a little if you want, but it's not necessary. I kind of liked it with it sitting on top a bit once they were all done.

In St. Patty's Day fashion, I decorated each cupcake with edible green glitter and a giant green marzipan shamrock. I hope I made that leprechaun happy now...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lemon Cupcakes with Coconut Custard Filling: Shark Attack!!!

Here's another biology inspired cupcake. These came in the day after we did our shark dissection, which I'll spare you the details of. But, sharks are freaking cool! So, why the hell not make some shark cupcakes!?

It was such a dilemma for me. You think sharks, you think tropical waters and beaches and scary shark attack movies. So, of course I needed to do some kind of tropical flavor...but what? It's still winter! What kind of tropical flavor can you enjoy in winter???

I opted for lemon. Not a purely tropical flavor, but light, and enjoyable. To add the touch of tropicalness I decided a filling of some sort would be necessary. I made a coconut custard one myself, based on a recipe from the cupcake bible of course. They didn't have a coconut filling, so I had to improvise. It was fun. Makes me feel like an evil mad scientist baker.

One problem here: I hadn't done filling in this way before. I'd done filling where you fill it and then bake it, but these required baking and then injecting the cupcakes with the filling. I had no idea what I was doing, which I'm pretty sure was apparent in some cupcakes. Particularly for my friend, Ashley. Luckily for her, since she hates coconut, she had barely any filling in her cupcake. Lesson learned: load those suckers till they explode.

And here's where more marzipan came in. YAY! I wanted to make full sharks, but after the ants took me so long, I opted to do shark fins coming out of blue frosting. I shaped the fins and painted them with edible silver glittter and blue powder. See? They look so shiny. It's like an ADHD sufferer's dream cupcake.

Probably my favoritest part about these cupcakes is that my friend, Chris, who is obsessed with sharks, loved them. Not just because they were shark cupcakes, but the flavor and filling too. Yay!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes: Fire Ants!

Currently, I am taking the second class in a three part biology sequence: Biology 212. Luckily, my professor is an Entymologist. This means that I am learning more about bugs than I ever hoped to know. So, as is only appropriate, the best way to kiss ass and help get yourself an A in a class is to make cupcakes for your teacher.

We had specifically been studying the Phylum Arthropoda, which includes bugs! My professor had mentioned that he had quite a bit of information about ants - which are in Phylum: Arthropoda, Subphylum: Hexapoda, Class: Insecta, and Order: Hymenoptera. This is where I get to put my nerd glasses back on.

I had just made my Valentine's day cupcakes (see Cabernet Red Velvet Cupcakes) and was still in a cupcake mood. Seeing as how we were having an exam two days after, I decided the best way to study would be to make a test batch of Fire Ant Cupcakes.

As you may have noticed, I'm not one for making your average, ordinary chocolate or vanilla cupcake. But I had a problem here - I wanted the cupcakes to look like a mound of dirt with an ant on it. So, what would look like a mound of dirt? Chocolate. But, that's BORING!

To the cupcake bible I went and I found the Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes. How perfect! I quickly put it together. I'll make a spicy chocolate cupcake and call them Fire Ant Cupcakes! Brilliant, right? I didn't even get this one from Pinterest!

Not only was I ecstatic about my Fire Ant Cupcake idea, I was completely elated by the fact that I would have another wonderful opportunity to play with marzipan. I mixed the marzipan with some cocoa powder and beet powder and got that perfect red ant color and went right to work at making my little ants.

It was so fun! Probably more fun than making my tiramisu cupcakes...but definitely much more time consuming. This stuff is sticky as hell and it's kind of like working with clay.You'll need to use powdered sugar as you would flour when rolling out dough. I made 24 of these guys, so it took me about 2 and a half hours. Mirko would be able to put together a lot of furniture from Ikea while I make these.

I didn't care, they were worth it! I LOVE how they turned out and was super excited to bring them to my class. I had my study buddy test them out first; he said they were great.

I had to modify the recipe so much that I'll post yet another recipe! Hooray!

Makes 12 cupcakes

1 C Almond Milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1/3 C Canola Oil
1/3 C granulated Sugar
1/3 C Stevia in the Raw
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp chocolate extract
3/4 C All purpose flour
1/4 C Whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 C Almond flour
1/2 C Cocoa Powder
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Cinnamon Powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350 and line your muffin tin with cupcake liners. Whisk the almond milk and vinegar and let it sit for a minute or two before adding in the oil, extracts, ground flax seed, sugar and stevia. Sift in the dry ingredients. The batter may be a little thick, so add a little extra almond milk if needed. Fill the liners and bake for 10 minutes and then decrease your oven temperature to 325 and bake for another 18 minutes.

It was fun! Oh, and everybody loved these - surprised the hell out of me since they were spicy!