Baking

Butter Lane Cupcakes

One of the new year events in my dorm involved going up to Butter Lane Cupcakes for a baking class. For the low, low price of $10 plus subway fare, 15 of us got to bake five different kinds of cupcakes with six kinds of frosting. We made vanilla, chocolate, banana, vanilla/chocolate marble, and banana/chocolate marble cupcakes with vanilla, chocolate, cream cheese, chocolate peanut butter, raspberry, and cinnamon buttercream, plus assorted sprinkles and jimmies.

I got to use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the first time in my life, and boy if I didn’t want one badly before, I REALLY want one of those babies now. Normally I don’t have the patience to properly cream together butter and sugar, but with this it’s no problem! I was coveting the light pink one they had stashed under one of the baking stations.

My group was charged with making the vanilla cupcakes and vanilla buttercream. I wasn’t terribly thrilled about this at the start–mostly because I wanted the chocolate ones–but I ended up liking my group and our final products well enough.

We all took turns adding the different ingredients, and thankfully we didn’t mess anything up too badly, unlike the chocolate group behind us. One of the guys (of course it was a guy, haha) poured the entire cupful of water directly into the batter without measuring out the proper amount. Now, I’ve done that a few times in my life with buttermilk, but at least that was in the privacy of my own kitchen and not in front of 14 other people and a professional pastry chef! Needless to say, this poor boy’s actions did not escape unnoticed and he was promptly called out on them and received a good ribbing from the rest of us.

All the cupcakes went into the oven and baked up. While they were doing their thing, we sampled some of the bakery’s products. Wow did they look good. I didn’t taste anything at the time, but I didn’t mind. More room for me to eat my own creations!

Then came the delicious buttercream. We even got to use a real vanilla bean in it. Now not only do I want a Kichen Aid stand mixer, but I’m dying to use real vanilla beans!

Before we added the powdered sugar to the butter and cream cheese, one of my own group mates wanted to taste the powdered sugar, but the girl who passed him the tasting stick stuck it into the butter/cream cheese instead. He then decided he would taste the two together, and so he dunked another tasting stick into the sugar and attempted to sprinkle the sugar on top of the butter/cream cheese stick. You should have seen the look on the woman’s face who was instructing us. It was hilarious.

This resulted in the dreaded cinnamon challenge. Him, another group mate, and the water boy all came forward for a secret challenge the woman put forth, since they seemed so eager to eat weird things. She lined them up against the wall and gave them each a tablespoon of cinnamon. The person who ate it all first won. As soon as the cinnamon passed each of their lips, puffs of cinnamon immediately spurt forth from their mouths as they tried not to choke or die. It was absolutely HILARIOUS. I got video of it, and myself and my roommate relived those moments when we got home.

After we finished the cinnamon challenge and making the buttercream, we had a frosting competition. By this time the frosting was in sore shape because it was melting due to the room’s temperature and the amount of times we’d handled it. The butter just wasn’t holding up as well as I hoped it would.

Our instructor showed us how they frost them in the bakery and then let us try our hand at doing the same. Sadly, most peoples’ didn’t even come close, but we all had lots of fun trying. However, I wasn’t just in it for the fun. I was in it to win the prize, and I did! I had the best cupcake of the bunch, and for that I won a gift certificate for a free half-dozen cupcakes! I’m not sure when I’m going to go back and claim them–possibly for a special occasion for myself and my suitemates. It doesn’t expire for a year, so I have plenty of time to decide.

We made SO MANY cupcakes. Each batch yielded 36 cupcakes, and we made three batches. We ended up with 108 cupcakes to frost and split among the 15 of us. I think a lot of us got overwhelmed while we were frosting them, because the pace definitely slowed down about halfway through.

We frosted, decorated, and boxed up our creations to take home. Since I went with my roommate, we took home 18 cupcakes because each box held 9. I don’t know how the four of us are going to finish them all; we might have to go knock on some doors in the hallway to pass some out before they get stale. It would be a pity to waste them.

All in all, this was a great trip and I’m glad I went. Originally I wasn’t going to go because I didn’t think I could swing the co-pay, but I’m glad I went. It was a good bonding experience, I met some new people, and I brought home bunches of cupcakes.

The buttercream really didn’t hold up very well. It’s melty and all over the place. I wish we could have stuck it in the fridge for a few minutes. Oh well.

Most importantly, though, for once I didn’t have to clean up my own mess. That alone was worth the cost.

Baking

*And Breathe*

I have bad luck. Really, I do. Especially during last August, a little while ago, and now. What is up with this? Is this karma for my jokingly snarky and sarcastic comments? If so, I think I’m going to have bad luck for the rest of my life because I simply can’t give up the snark and sarcasm. It’s not like I really mean it when I say those things . . . and I can’t really help when I say them, it just kind of happens. Otherwise, I think I’m a pretty nice person. So why is it rain on Emerald Thunder Spring again? Have I been too happy lately and this is supposed to bring me back to equilibrium? If so, it can stop now, please, because I haven’t been *so* happy that it warrants all of this.

*end rant . . . I hope*

Nope, not over yet. I should have figured something else would happen. I started writing this before my cupcakes were out of the oven, and when I went to get them they were completely FLAT. No pretty little domes at all *sigh*. At least they still taste good. I was planning on covering them in buttercream anyway, but this just follows along with the string of seemingly small issues that have been building up over the last few weeks. I’m probably going to need to have a nice little panic attack/breakdown in a while if it keeps up, though. Then I’ll be good to go. I think that will probably occur around the time I get my final grades back for the semester, or rather, as I’m waiting for the first one to show up and everyone else here has already gotten them all back.

*15 minutes later*

Nope, the cupcakes not coming out right wasn’t bad luck. It was sheer STUPIDITY. The goals of my bonanzas REALLY aren’t working out well because evidently I can’t even read a measuring cup properly right now. The recipe called for 1 3/4 cups of flour and I only put 1 1/4 cups, and the same thing happened for the sugar, as it called for 1 1/2 cups and I only added 1 cup.

This really serves me right for BWCD, or Baking While Completely Distracted. I blame the gloomy weather. I’ve been really reflective today for some reason–listening to Backstreet Boys ballads, thinking about my life, what I really want, and why I am the way I am–and I spent a good chunk of time just listening and staring out my window at the city while pondering. For some reason this usually happens when the weather is bad, but at least today gave me  a chance to slowly figure it all out. I stress the SLOWLY part.

Just like I needed to figure out (but this time quickly) what to do with these cupcakes that completely stuck to the pan because I don’t like to use liners (I’m a huge fan of the outside layer of cakes/cupcakes/brownies. I love that contrasting texture. Yum!). I had crumbled cake in one hand and delicious chocolate buttercream in the other. That could only mean one thing: CAKE BALLS! I crumbled up the failed cupcakes (they still tasted okay, thank goodness) and mixed them in with the frosting.

Then I refrigerated the mixture for a while and formed them.

I coated some in melted peanut butter semi-sweet swirl chips.

And some in melted white chocolate chips.

Finally, something is going right, because they tasted wonderful. I only wish I had sprinkles or something to decorate the tops.

Baking

Lemon, Lemon, CHOCOLATE!

It’s closing in on the end of the semester, and do you know what that means? It means I like to bake more than study. I’ve had this urge to make almost EVERYTHING I’ve seen on baking blogs, and it finally got to be too much and I cracked. And I baked. More than I should have. It’s not like this desire was just an “Oh, yum, that would be a great thing to bake. I should try it sometime.” No, it’s been more like “You. Must. Bake. Me. Now. And. Forget. About. Homework!” And this reaction hasn’t just been about one thing, which makes it even worse. Fortunately I think it’s subsided for a brief moment right now, and hopefully I can get through this next week without one of those attacks.

The first thing I absolutely HAD to make was the Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake from Two Peas and Their Pod. I saw it on their blog before spring break, and I was dying to make it, if only because I had ricotta cheese I didn’t want to go to waste. Surprisingly, the ricotta survived in the fridge past spring break and I was finally able to make it last week. Either that or the urge just took way, way, over and I no longer had a choice in the matter.

I may have been a bit delayed in taking pictures of this cake. . . . About half of it was gone by this time, which is understandable, because it was SO DARN GOOD. You see the shininess on top of the cake? I made a glaze with the juice of one of the zested lemons and some powdered sugar. SO DARN GOOD. I also poked a bunch of holes in the top of the cake to let the glaze seep down inside.

I happened to get some batter on my finger before baking, and so I tried it. I wanted to stop right there and eat the batter with  a spoon it was so good. I’m actually surprised that most of it made it into the loaf pan. I showed great self restraint ;).

Though I should have just eaten all the batter, because the baking process was a horror. I guess I still don’t “know”  my loaf pan, because I followed the directions and put it in at 350 when I should have lowered it to 325 after other things have come out too browned. I took the cake out at one point to cover it in foil, and I ended up burning the fleshy point where my thumb meets my palm. OW!

I also should have known that eyeballing leavening agents (aka baking powder) in an actual spoon is not a good idea. It’s not much fault though, I HAD to. You see, the measuring spoons were buried under a MOUNTAIN of my suitemates’ dirty dishes in the sink. There was no way I could physically get to them. And as a result, my cake collapsed in on itself. It didn’t affect the taste or outward appearance, but once you sliced into it you could see the effects. My cake looked like one of the blocks the kiddies play with at school.

From now on I will use measuring spoons, no matter how deep they’re buried. Lesson learned.

I must be on a lemon kick or something, because even after that cake I still wanted MORE LEMON. I was looking around online for kicks and giggles and I found this Blueberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream on Recipe Girl. I’ve made and loved blueberry/lemon things before, so I knew this would be great to make.

The blueberry cake is delicious. I’ll probably make it again and not even use the buttercream, just so I can have a pure blueberry taste. LOVE.

Thankfully there was no collapsing this time around, and it baked up wonderfully. I did turn the oven down to 325 to prevent it from over-browning/baking, which proved to be a very good idea. You see? I’m learning :).

I was so impatient to eat this cake that I started frosting it before it was at room temperature. Whoops! The buttercream started melting as I was smoothing it across the top, but that was nothing a little fridge time couldn’t fix.

I also took some pictures of the view from my window after this little photo shoot. I’m glad I did.

And here’s one from as I’m posting. The weather looks really nice, even if the sky isn’t completely blue and cloudless.

And finally, as the last part of the title indicates, CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES! I haven’t gone back to my simple roots and made chocolate chip cookies in ages. I thought it was about time to do so on Thursday.

Perfect. I could have had a lot more cookies (not all are pictured here), but that self-restraint from the pound cake flew out the window and I devoured the cookie dough. Whoops! It was well worth it though. I forgot how much I love and missed these cookies. Sometimes this urge to bake has some pretty good results beyond yummy creations. It’s always nice to make something nostalgic and that can bring up fond memories.

Baking

A Forced “Little Miss Semi-Homemade” Holiday

Those last few days of school nearly killed me. I can’t believe I survived, but I didn’t get through it entirely unscathed. I was dying with my lack of food supplies, and so I couldn’t relieve my building stress through baking. Note to self for next semester: NEVER run out of eggs or milk during finals–it only results in frustration and sadness. I couldn’t make ANYTHING I wanted to make, and so my stress levels just built up and I eventually just shut down and avoided the looming papers and exams for a while.

But now I’m back home and there’s a blizzard outside. . . . Oh yeah, snow just make everything better *sarcasm*. At least I got to avoid snow for the first few days back. One of the first things that greeted me when I stepped in the door was my list of desserts my father was *letting* me make for our Christmas parties. Yes, that’s right, the desserts he was *letting* me make. Needless to say, I was not thrilled with that. I was even less thrilled when my mother then said that I has to be “Little Miss Semi-Homemade” this year. I was even less happy with that restriction.

So on my list of “approved desserts” I had chocolate chip cookies, a Jell-o cake, and a chocolate pudding pie. I had nothing against the cookies, but the cake was from a box and the pie was with a store-bought graham cracker crust and instant pudding mix. Again, I have nothing against people who use these, but I don’t enjoy using them anymore. Now that I have the resources and ability to make things entirely from scratch, I want to keep exploring and seeing what else I’m capable of baking well. Doing it my way does not take much longer, nor is it much messier, than making things from a box, but my parents just don’t understand that. They’re fully content with suppressing my creativity and encouraging a manner of baking that no longer gives me any enjoyment whatsoever. If anything, being told what to make and how to make it just irritates me beyond belief and makes me not want to do it. Is this my teenage rebellion belatedly manifesting itself in my baking?

In any event, I made their desserts and still got yelled by my mother for making a mess. I just can’t win with her. I made her desserts as directed and still got yelled at.

For some reason no one even touched the pudding pie. Not even my mother, the person I made it FOR. I could have made it a mousse pie. Thanks a lot, mom.

At least I got to make whipped cream, even if no one but me enjoyed it. They were certainly missing out by not eating it, though.

While my parents were out at the store in the afternoon, I managed to sneak in one scratch yellow cupcake batch with chocolate buttercream frosting. I had to put my foot down on the frosting front, even though my parents got home before the cupcakes were done or frosted, and so I made the buttercream right under their noses. Look how well they went over. I started the events with twelve cupcakes and two bundts, and all that remained was one cupcake and one bundt. Homemade for the win!

Even as I was baking, my father didn’t think there would be enough, so he wanted to add a pecan pie and another chocolate pudding pie (which would have thankfully been from scratch). I was going to make the pecan pie during the break between our two family parties, but that never happened, and it wasn’t even needed. My father’s side of the family is large-ish, and so there were about 18 people here (and 4 people were actually missing), and my father expected there to not be nearly enough food or dessert, but he was definitely wrong about that. There were meatballs, kielbasa in this strange grape jelly/chili sauce sauce, Velveeta mac and cheese, a spiral ham, shrimp, chips and veggies and dip, my aunt’s beans, another aunt’s “crabbies” and her yummy mini chicken salad sandwiches, another aunt’s teryaki chicken wings and such, scallops wrapped in bacon, a quiche, and probably something else I’m forgetting. Then there were a few of my remaining cupcakes and cookies, my pudding pie, my Jell-o cake, and some store-bought cupcakes my cousin brought because he didn’t know what to bring.

There was just so much food on Christmas Eve because in the afternoon we had hosted my mother’s side of the family (just 9 of us total). So much food, so much sugar, way too much family, and entirely too many leftovers. A cupcake and a mini Bundt, more than half the Jell-o cake, the entire pudding pie and it’s accompanying whipped cream, and more than half my cousin’s cupcakes remained after everyone left. Needless to say, the eating will continue for a few more days than expected.

In other news, I think Fishy rather enjoyed his first Christmas and his first Christmas present.

Baking

Thanksgiving Baking

So basically I dropped off the face of the blogging earth for a while. I’ve been completely overwhelmed with school work, work, and thinking about all my final assignments these past couple of weeks that I just haven’t had the energy or will to post anything. Here’s a recap of my Thanksgiving creations.

Originally I wanted to make something really elaborate over break, but unfortunately my parents shot me down about that, and what would have been the point in making something wonderful if no one was going to eat/appreciate it. Instead they just wanted plain old boring chocolate chip cookies and a yellow cake–from a BOX . . . I guess they didn’t get the memo about my new-found hatred of boxed, chemical-laden, artificial box mixes. Now I know they work for those who don’t have the time/patience/ability/ingredients/whatever to make a cake from scratch–and I don’t think any less of those people for using this option–but now that I’ve been exploring the baking world more thoroughly, I never want to have to resort to boxes again because I’ve found such delicious and simple from-scratch recipes. I love trying out new ones, adding different flavors/more chocolate to them, and seeing how they turn out. Not all of them are rave successes, but it’s those slight flops that help me to learn what I want out of a recipe.

In any event, I–with the excuse of not having enough vegetable oil for both cookies AND a cake–managed to make a simple batch of yellow cupcakes for my father’s birthday. This attempt falls under the slight flop category, because I didn’t have the cake flour the recipe called for, and as a result, it was a very crumby cupcake (I know, bad pun). I think that if I had used the cake flour, the crumbs would have been much smaller and the cupcakes would not have fallen apart so easily (and I think having liners for the tin would have helped in that department as well, because they stuck like CRAZY and were difficult to get out).

Unfortunately, I also didn’t have nearly enough powdered sugar to make a fluffy buttercream frosting, so I had to used a tub of dense chocolate frosting instead *shudders at the memory*. It was such a light cupcake, and the heavy frosting just overwhelmed the poor dears, not to mention the chemical/artificial taste from it that I could not get out of my mouth. Again, no disrespect to those who use store-bought frosting, but I just don’t like the stuff anymore now that I try to do things from scratch as often as possible.

Overall they were good cupcakes, but I just need to institute a couple of changes, and they’ll be GREAT cupcakes. (My mother also shot down putting sprinkles on top because she hates them *sigh*.)

Before the cupcakes, I attempted a version of peanut butter/caramel/chocolate/shortbread bars (yes, like the candy bar, but with peanut butter). Again, a good attempt, but rather flawed in execution. The shortbread crust was nice and golden brown, but it wouldn’t come out of the pan; the caramel was slightly overcooked; and I destroyed the ganache topping by accident. I just don’t think I was meant to make these at this time. I ended up just taking everything else out of the pan and leaving the crust behind, resulting in hunks of thick chocolate and oozy caramel, with a thin layer of peanut butter on top.

Yeah, not exactly the prettiest thing I’ve ever attempted.

Finally, came my cookies. Finally, something turned out well. Thank goodness. I must say, this was probably the best-looking batch I’ve made in a while. They were soft and chewy, but not too much so. The perfect combination of soft and crunchy in all the right places.

A post about my creations from today will be coming up next. I’m sure I’ll need to procrastinate again really soon.

Baking, Celtic Thunder

Such a Spooky Halloween . . . BOO!!

Where is my Halloween Spirit this year? Oh, I know, it got replaced with Christmas Spirit, thanks to the CT Christmas album that I’ve been listening to in rotation with Ryan’s. Needless to say, I haven’t made any cute Halloween decorations, bought any candy, or watched the 13 Nights of Halloween. Alas. But I did make a spooky ghost cake tonight, since it’ll be my only time with the kitchen for the next couple of days. Oh the joys of living with four other people and their social lives. . . .

I tried out a new recipe for this cake. The title led me to believe dark chocolate would be involved, but it only called for cocoa powder for some reason, and no melted chocolate at all, dark or otherwise. I baked it up in a 9×13 pan and then I attempted to cut it into a cute little ghost shape. It’s somewhat wonky, but cute nonetheless. I just wish I hadn’t accidentally added too much milk to the buttercream–it’s not nearly fluffy or set up enough for my taste; it ran right off the sides and down into the pan. If only I hadn’t run out of powdered sugar. I knew I should have bought more at Trader Joe’s when I went two weeks ago. Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about that now.

Isn’t it a spooky little ghosty?

2:30AM EDIT: Oh yeah, gotta love the joys of living with suitemates with too active and rather disrespectful/unreasonable social lives. At least I already decided I was going to stay up late . . . because it looks like I’m not going to be able to sleep anytime in the near future. . . . It’s not like I was at work from 8am-7pm or anything and wanted to sleep by 3am. . . .

Baking

A Long Time Coming

Last week I went home for the first time since January, and I must say, I was FREEZING in my house. I’m just not used to being in air-conditioned places for long periods of time, so I spent a lot of time under a blanket. One good thing about the cooler indoor temperatures was that I was able to bake without personally baking. I started off slowly, with just a double batch of my chocolate chip cookies to bring to a reunion lunch the next day.

Then, on the morning of the lunch I made some cinnamon rolls with a cream cheese icing, but they didn’t last for very long, hence the lack of a picture. However, they didn’t look very different from the ones I made for Midnight Breakfast, so that picture will work just fine.

The next night I wanted to make a cake, but I changed my mind and settled on cupcakes and a vanilla buttercream frosting.

I do wonder what my parents have done with all the treats I left at home. Have they eaten them all? Let them go stale?