Baking Days: Disappearing Cupcakes and the Recipe Jackpot

I did resolve to update my blog once a week, right? It’s technically the next week after my last post so this counts.

It feels like forever ago, but last Thursday I made another recipe from my cupcake book – Chocolate Candy Cupcakes. I picked them because again, Mom wanted me to use up what we had left in the fridge. This time we had buttermilk. (My stepfather needed it for some crazy sandwich recipe he wanted to try…to paraphrase Alton Brown of “Good Eats” fame, that’s another blog post.) We also had leftover chocolate from the holidays.

This marked my first venture into cupcake filling. It consisted of cream cheese and chocolate bars, which I broke up with my trusty meat mallet given my non-existent knife skills. I never realized how useful meat mallets are in baking.

Anyway, these turned out…delicious. I dare say they’re the tastiest cupcakes I’ve made so far. My mom even said so without any prompting. They disappeared literally overnight – all eighteen were gone by Friday. This recipe also marks the first time my sister asked, “Can I bring some over my friend’s house?” Given how picky teenagers can be, I was extremely flattered.

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The only thing I would change is the amount of candy bars in the filling. I used less than the recipe called for due to a moment of confusion, so I think using the right amount would cut down the (subtle) tang from the cream cheese and buttermilk.

On Friday I baked again, this time whipping up another Cream Cake to bring with me to my aunt and cousin’s house. So far it’s the most relaxed and confident I’ve been when making anything. The recipe really is so simple, plus it’s one of few times I’ve made a recipe more than once. My relatives loved it. At my other aunt’s house for Sunday dinner, we asked again about my grandmother’s elusive Orange Chiffon Cake recipe.

That’s when my aunt brought out her recipe boxes. Dozens of ancient index cards and newspaper clippings, separated into categories with frayed rubber bands. My cousin and I spent an hour going through each one. Not only did I find the cake, I also found the Italian anisette cookies we used to make for Christmas. I pulled some more that looked interesting and took pictures with my phone.

At first I wanted to make them right away, but I might save some of these for special occasions. I’ll probably leave the Italian Cookies for the holidays. Then again my cousin wants me to make the Orange Chiffon for her birthday in July, so maybe I should start practicing now.

Baking Days: Oreo Crumb Cookies and Sour Cream Cupcakes

Happy belated New Year everyone! Once again I spent the holidays with my relatives in Staten Island. And once again, I stayed a few days longer than planned. Seriously, my older cousin never wants me to leave. We have a running joke that I can move into their third floor loft any time I want.

Maybe it’s not a joke. We’ll see what the future brings.

Anyway, I’ve been telling everyone about my new hobby. I received a couple of dessert recipe books for Christmas, plus a bag of baking stuff from my mom – cupcake carriers, NEW measuring cups, etc. My aunt gave me the piping bag set I picked out. Let’s not forget my wonderful grandmother who wants me to relieve her of her stand mixer because it’s taking up too much space in her condo’s kitchen. Santa Claus was very good to me this year and I couldn’t wait to get started.

While staying at my aunt’s house, I whipped up these “Cookies and Cream Cookies” from my new copy of The Cookies & Cups Cookbook. I didn’t even realize it was a companion to a blog, I saw it at Barnes & Noble and thought the recipes looked fun. Making these cookies at someone else’s house freaked me out a bit because my aunt and cousin hung out with me while I mixed up ingredients. I’m very close with them, but you still don’t want to make a mess in someone else’s dining room. When I’m home I bake and clean up after myself before my mom gets home from work.

Putting on my own little cooking show caused nerves, which I guess caused my cousin to ask how much I’ve actually baked. At least the cookies came out delicious so I didn’t have to hear about that. Plus we all had a good laugh when my aunt (who has Parkinson’s, meaning she has no strength in her hands anymore) crushed the Oreos with a gigantic meat mallet that had to weigh a couple pounds. This was after she stubbornly refused our suggestion that she use a rolling pin instead.

…I’ve learned if you don’t laugh at some situations, you just end up crying way too often.

Here’s the end result. They looked like blobs but they were addictive. My cousin even mentioned that you could probably throw anything into this batter and it would turn out delicious.

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When I finally got home I made “Chocolate-Sour Cream Cupcakes” from The Big Book of Cupcakes, which my other cousin gave me. Light, fluffy, also addictive – the lightest cupcakes I’ve made so far. After a couple days they’re even gooier and remind me of your typical Hostess snack cake. They’d probably be amazing with a little marshmallow cream in the center.

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Baking Days 4 & 5: Chocolate and Coffee, Two of My Favorite Things

So far I’ve stuck to cupcakes that don’t include chocolate  – pumpkin, maple, plain vanilla. After making non-chocolate cupcakes a few weeks in a row, I finally changed up my recipe selection. I also decided on brownies. Since I still wanted to include coffee after my failed Pumpkin Spice Latte attempt, this recipe looked perfect. This time I was determined to taste coffee in every bite.

My process has become less interesting now that I’m more used to the act of baking. Good for me, bad for blog content. These days I can mostly mix up the correct ingredients and follow instructions without incident. Of course I still get flour all over the counter, but I don’t see that changing in the near future.

The result:

brownie1 FYI – the recipe said to line the pan with foil. I’d never done this for brownies before but why not?

I should call these “Hollywood celebrity” brownies because they were very thin and very rich. Also delicious, do not forget delicious. I don’t know what I expected coffee to taste like in a baked good. Did I think they’d embody my usual caramel latte from McDonald’s? (What? They’re cheaper than Starbucks and still good.) The coffee made the chocolate extremely rich while toning down the sweetness factor.

So far I’ve avoided icing, but this time I made the corresponding mocha glaze. Mixes together in five minutes. Extremely worth the effort, both for taste and presentation:

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They lasted about two days in my house.

The Nutella cupcakes I selected for my next baking day, coincidentally, also required coffee. I was excited to make a cupcake with actual Nutella in the batter. I mean…Nutella. Cupcake. How could this turn out bad? I imagined a gooey, super-chocolatey cake. The directions called for a stand mixer, but whatever, like anyone really needs a stand mixer. (Relax, it’s just a defense mechanism to make myself feel better about not having one.) As expected I wound up with Nutella on my arm and flour on the toaster. At least the cupcakes looked good:

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I thought they looked more like “normal cupcakes” than my last few attempts, which resembled muffins. I even got creative and added the glaze from the brownies. My mom suggested the candy corn since we had some. It went with the cute Halloween liners I found in the cabinet.

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Great presentation, but unfortunately these were a disappointment. They tasted chocolatey but also way too dry and crumbly. (Even though my mom and sister swear they liked the cupcakes.) The glaze didn’t add much moisture. It must have been something I did. I’m thinking a) I overmixed the batter, and b) I’m underestimating the importance of frosting.  It might be time for me to venture into the great wide world of confectioner’s sugar.