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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Welcoming Autumn: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Buttercream

It's been a bit gloomy outside, so it's perfect weather for staying inside and baking! So what to bake...? I decided to celebrate the arrival of my favorite season with my favorite flavor: PUMPKIN! I love love love fall, and I love the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin filling the air. I chose a recipe from Lauren Chattman's Cake Keeper Cakes: Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Pound Cake. Instead of putting the batter into a loaf pan, I put it into two standard cupcake pans. The recipe is as follows...

1 3/4 c unbleached flour (I used bleached but Chattman stated there would be a cleaner flavor with unbleached)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
pinch nutmeg
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 c sugar
3 large eggs
1 c canned pumpkin puree
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 c milk
1 c mini semisweet chocolate chips ( I just used normal sized chips)
1 c chopped walnuts (can easily be omitted... or replaced with pecans yum!)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place cupcake papers in pans.
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl

3. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, and mix for about 3 minutes. remember to scrape down the sides!
4. With mixer on medium-low, add the eggs one at a time. Stir in pumpkin puree, vanilla, and milk.

5. Turn the mixer to low, and add the dry ingredients 1/2 cup at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition. I waited until there was about a half cup of dry ingredients left, then I added my chocolate chips and walnuts to that. Then I slowly added it into the batter. It's a good way for the chips and nuts to stay suspended in the cake batter while baking and not sink to the bottom!

6. Portion out the batter into 24 cupcakes and place in oven for 20 minutes. Insert a butter knife (not toothpick!) into a couple of different cupcakes to determine if the knife comes out clean (well, clear of batter, but melted chocolate is OK!).

The cupcakes can be stored in a cake keeper for up to 3 days, or wrapped up in the fridge for up to one week.

I figured a pretty delicious flavor combination would be cream cheese. So I found a cream cheese buttercream recipe from Martha Stewart.

1 8-oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 lb (about 4-ish cups) of confectioner's sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Cream butter and cream cheese in a mixer for 30 seconds. It calls for the paddle attachment, but I like the whisk. It makes for a much fluffier buttercream.

2. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the confectioner's sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
3. Add vanilla, then increase the mixer to medium. Blend until fluffy (about a minute).

There's enough frosting here to cover the 24 cupcakes the way I did with about a cup or so left over.

If you wanted to do a huge swirl on each, you can. I garnished with a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice, but I think a cool idea could also be toasted walnut pieces. These were super delish, and I'm so proud of meself! *grin!*

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cupcake Awesomeness!

This past weekend, I picked up my birthday gifts that were brought over from North Dakota. My bestest friend, Ashley is stationed there with her husband, and she knows me so well because my gifts were mostly cupcake themed!! First, I got a very cute cupcake bank! Sitting on the top of my drab stove, it livens it up a bit, I think.

Then there's a little container of cherry lotion...

And a chocolate sprinkle air freshener!!

I am so stoked to hang it in my car!

In other news, I was in search of canned pumpkin to make chocolate chip pumpkin cupcakes, and I couldn't find it!!! Fall has officially begun, people! I must keep searching... Otherwise, I will have to resort to baking pumpkins, which I guess couldn't be too bad... The weatherman is calling for rain all week... perfect for staying inside and baking. Looking forward to some sweet updates!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In Search of the Perfect Cake Keeper

Ever since I got Cake Keeper Cakes for my birthday, I have been inspired to bake some of the delicious cakes in it. But! There has been something missing... the cake keeper! So I am in search of a beautiful, classy, simple, awesome, and EPIC cake keeper to display my creations. I decided to start with a very to-the-point Google search:

"fancy cake keepers"

It brought me some interesting photos... but the BEST thing was this:

Courtesy of National Geographic

So this picture only has my two favorite things in the whole wide world: pandas and cake! Now, I'm aware it's a cake made of ice and pieces of fruit, but it's a cake nonetheless. And upon further research, I learned that this is Zhen Zhen, the youngest panda at the San Diego Zoo. This photo was taken on her 2nd birthday last summer. Cute!!!

Onwards to the cake keeper search!

At Willams-Sonoma's website, I found something quite amazing. But of course, this store is always full of amazing things, and if I wasn't affected by the current state of the economy, I would have bought 75% of their items. Anyways, it's a cake dome/ punch bowl!

I love multi-functional items. And this gem is $30. For further info, go here.

Another place I love to look for home goods is IKEA. They have a lovely cake dome (Arv Brollop)  for $19.99. More info here.

It's quite spectacular but it's not available online, and for me, that requires a 3 1/2 hour drive to Woodbridge, VA to obtain one... Hmmm

Then there's good old Amazon. I found this amazing 4-in-1 (yes, I said FOUR IN ONE) covered plate with dome. Glee!

Pretty awesome, and the price starts at $20.99! It's a cake dome, punch bowl, chip and dip tray, and an hors d'oeurves platter. Niiice. I'll keep everyone posted on my choice.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Two Church Anniversary Cakes

My work schedule has been wonky as of late. I've been training to bake at 3 in the morning then napping, then working on cakes, then napping again, then more 3am work. It's been tough, but I managed to make these two half sheet cakes over the course of 2 days, and I'm quite proud of them. One was chocolate and the other was yellow cake. They both had my yummy  homemade butter-vanilla buttercream slathered upon them.

Chocolate cakes are very crumb-y so a crumb coat is VERY necessary. As you can see above, my white icing has been infiltrated by evil little crumbs. It's also good to have a little crumb bowl around if you're using the spatula method (as opposed to the large pastry bag method) of spreading buttercream onto a cake so you don't contaminate the whole batch of icing.

 After cooling the cake for about 15-20 minutes in the fridge, I put my second coat on. Since I don't have one of those little scraper things, I used what I had: a fondant smoother. It actually works pretty well!

This is my finished product complete with double border and roses.

This is the yellow cake. I didn't need a crumb coat with that one, but if you look closely you can see a few rogue crumbs that broke loose... hmph. But it's all good. In the grand scheme of things, I like how it turned out.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First Day!

Hello all!

I have moved my blog to Blogger from another blogging site due to technical issues. I like Blogger much better, however. A quick update on what you may have missed from the old blog.

This past August, I entered a very complex cake design into the Threadcakes competition... and lost. I was quite heartbroken over it, but the ones who did win had much cleaner execution and tighter design. There's always next year. On the upside, I gained 30+ hours worth of caking XP (I'm looking at you, nerds) and my beloved bought me theeeeeese...

I have yet to use them, for fear of ruining them somehow. They're so cute!

Anyhoo, my birthday was last month, and one of my gifts consisted of this lovely tome:

Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman

I have marked several recipes that I want to try from it, and I can't wait! I'm definitely looking forward to the Pumpkin Pound Cake recipe as fall approaches. Yummm!

I look forward to blogging all things cake!
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