Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Did Somebody say BACON?

I don't know why I wanted to do this cupcake, I suppose because it is 7:00 in the morning.  I had tasted an experminental  maple cupcake a few years ago from Cupcake Heaven in Haymarket, VA but it really didn't have the big bacon flavor that I was looking for.  I am now craving a cupcake that taste will like pancakes, bacon, and whipped cream. So, what I came up with was a Maple Bacon cupcake with Apple Filling and a Maple whipped cream topping.  Tony was the official taste tester.  He put on his best French Cupcake War tester opinion hat and (he can actually speak French) said...."You said you wanted a big bacon flavor, I don't taste it.  I just don't taste the bacon at all.  The apple flavor takes over the entire cupcake.  The cupcake tastes good and I like it but I don't taste the bacon".  Wow, I was crushed. I put 1/2 cup of bacon in the cupcake mix and bacon grease.  Maybe the bacon needs to be doubled.  The density of the cupcake was good and I really like the apple filling. The two lessons I learned from this baking experience are; one, that I have a tendency to overfill the cupcakes making them sink back in the middle therefore destroying the edibility of the cupcake and two,  if all the cupcake spots are not filled with batter in the pan it will cause uneven baking in the other cupcakes.  I am so proud of the cupcakes that sacrifice themselves to teach me to be a better cupcake baker! 

 Maple Bacon Cupcakes

Makes 10 / 350F oven

1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon of bacon drippings (left in the fridge to become solid)
1 egg
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/4 cup of self rising flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
tiny tiny pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup of minced bacon, cooked and drained

1) Cook some bacon in a fry pan. Reserve the drippings and place in the fridge to solidify. Mince 1/2 a cup of the bacon.

2) Cream butter and solidified bacon fat 'till light and creamy. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup and beat well until combined.

3) Add the egg and beat.

4) Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and powder together.

5) Add some of the flour and mix, then some of the milk, then continue to alternate the dry and wet ingredients, ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in the bacon. Taste and add more maple syrup, flour, or milk if needed for desired taste. Keep in mind the maple frosting is very sweet, and to add in very small increments for alterations as maple syrup in large amounts can break a cake batter.

6) Scoop into cupcake papers and bake at 350 F for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Be sure to rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes for even baking. Once cooled scoop out middle and add diced apple pie filling.

Maple Syrup Frosting
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1/4 cup of powdered sugar for thickness

Whip whipping cream in cold metal or glass bowl until thick, slowly add maple syrup and powdered sugar to desired thickness and sweetness.

Good luck and let me know if you are the ultimate baconator cupcake maker!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Asian Inspirations

Banh Mi
Today we went to Little Saigon or China City.  The place is a mini Asian city in Falls Church. You can find anything and everything Asian there.  Tony and I like to go there for sandwiches called Banh mi.  I love Cilantro and this sandwich is loaded with it.  We also get a sweet pork bun (which never makes it out of the store before it's eaten) and my daughters favorite coconut bun which inspired me to attempt to make a vanilla bean cupcake with the same filling that is inside the coconut bun.  I found the perfect vanilla bean cream cupcake Recipe.
Coconut Bun
Vanilla Cream Cupcake 
Makes 12 cupcakes
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream 

Cream Sugar and eggs in a bowl, add sour cream, oil, and vanilla. In a seperate bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  add to creamed sugar mixture and combine. 
I found the recipe for the coconut bun and made the filling. 

Coconut Bun Filling
1 1/3 cups coconut flakes
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
1 large egg yolk

Process coconut and sugar in blender or food processor until very fine. Turn into small bowl.
Stir in margarine and egg yolk until paste-like consistency. After I filled the cups 1/2 full with the cupcake batter, I made a small ball (like a jawbreaker size) and placed it in the center of each cupcake, depending on how full each cup was after the coconut filling, I put a dollop of additional batter to cover filling if space was available before I placed them in the oven.  Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until center comes out clean with a toothpick.

Coconut and Vanilla Bean Whipped Frosting
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons cream cheese
5 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup whipped cream
1 tablespoons coconut extract
1/2 canilla bean scraped
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese. Add sugar, and beat to combine. Add whipping cream, coconut extract and vanilla bean,  beat until well combined.

The result was not what I was hoping for (I really don't know what I was hoping for). but it was something different. Tony is the coconut contisseur and he said it was very good.  Maybe I am just being over critical of myself.  If you try this cupcake please give me your feed back. Now off to play tennis and get my butt kicked by Tony.

Another Home Reserve Day...Another Cupcake Shop

Today we tried Natalia's Elegant Creations.  The decor of this little restaurant is so warm and inviting (If I ever have a cupcake place, I would want it decorated just like this one). We tried the vanilla cupcake and a red velvet cupcake. I must say we were so disappointed. The red velvet was more brown in color rather than the more modern red. If my eyes were closed when I tasted it I would have said it was a vanilla cupcake. The red velvet was very moist and the cream cheese frosting was very heavy. The Vanilla cupcake was very dry and not appealing after the first bite. However, the vanilla cupcake was topped with a delicious whipped cream frosting. I am sure that if this cupcake was fresh it would have tasted much better. Our visit was at the end of the day so we will give this place another try and maybe even try a sandwich and a specialty coffee.

On our way home we stopped by Wegman's to get some cupcake baking items and we walked by the bakery and noticed a few cupcakes. I swore I wouldn't ever buy grocery store cupcakes. But, come on, this is WEGMANS can it really be classified as a grocery store! so I cheated and bought 2 cupcakes a strawberry vanilla and chocolate peanut butter. 

They looked real good.  We tasted the vanilla strawberry and it was moist and tasty.  The frosting was a whipped cream and had a hint of strawberry.  It was very tasty. The Chocolate peanut butter was light and fluffy.  The frosting again was a whipped topping with a hint of peanut butter. A chocolate peanut butters dream.  They were everything we expected coming from Wegman's, they tasted nothing like a grocery store cupcake and at $2.00 a cupcake the price was the cheapest from ALL the gourmet shops and tasted great if not better then some of the overpriced delights.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cupcake Sailing!

So we were sitting at home waiting for crew scheduling to call me out for a flight and Tony said "let's go cupcake sailing!" Ya know like garage sailing but instead of prowling for garage sails we were gonna prowl for cupcake shops! OK. Tony didn't really say that, he kinda said it in his own manly-macho way. Sort of like "yo, lets go eat some cupcakes!" I said "I'm so there, let's go!" Our first stop was Edibles Incredible in Reston, VA. Based on the Yelp reviews that I read, I decided to get a Lemon cupcake and Tony ordered an Almond Joy cupcake.  The lemon cupcake was huge compared to the almond joy cupcake but both were priced at a hefty $3.95 each.  Also as a Yelp review warned us, we were watching  the counter girl eagerly trying to package our 2 cupcakes in a fancy ribbon and a Chinese box so we kindly interrupted her and asked to carry our cupcakes out of the store as to not be charged an additional "packaging fee" to the already hard to swallow hefty cupcake price. The lemon cupcake was flavorful and moist.  The lemon frosting was little to be desired for but the delicious cupcake made up for the frosting's short comings.  Tony's cupcake on the other hand looked deflated and tasted very dry.  The coconut flavor that you associate an Almond Joy with was non existent other than in the few coconut flakes on top.

Our next cupcake shop stop was Bakeshop, Arlington, VA.  Although this shop did not have a big selection of cupcakes (there was about 7 flavors to choose from), all the cupcakes looked delicious.  I ordered a red velvet (I was still looking for THE perfect red velvet) and Tony ordered a Chocolate Toffee Crunch. The price per cupcake was $2.50 and they were packaged in cute individual boxes.  This red velvet is probably the BEST tasting red velvet I have tasted so far! This cupcake was moist, bright red in color, and had nice soft chocolate flavor. The frosting was a light fluffy whipped cream frosting.  I was expecting a cream cheese frosting but the whipped frosting was pleasantly different.  The Chocolate Toffee Crunch cupcake was flavorful, moist, chocolaty and very tasty as well.  This cupcake also had a whipped cream frosting. If you do not like sweet frosting this cupcake shop would be the best place for you to go. 
Our next and last cupcake shop of the day was Best Buns Bread Company, Arlington, VA. Based on the  name of the shop you can guess that cupcakes are not their specialty.  So much so that when we got there the selection was very slim, so slim that there was only one flavor to pick from, Chocolate Peanut Butter.  Can you guess which cupcake we picked?  The cupcake was jumbo sized and priced at $2.95.  The chocolate cupcake was moist and chocolaty however, the peanut butter frosting tasted chalky.  I think that this shop has the potential to have tasty cupcakes when the selection is available (there were placards, but no cupcakes).  I would have been curious to taste their red velvet.  Next time we have dinner at Sweet Water, we will stop by Best Buns Bread Company again to see if they have different cupcakes available.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cupcake Therapy

The past few weeks have been crazy.  I spent a much needed week in Texas with my kids, I got to see my oldest off to college (he will be getting cupcake care packages soon),   and on my only day off in the next 12 days, I went on a wasted trip to Milwaukee in the hopes of getting transferred to Houston to be closer to my kids (only to find out they no longer operate out of Houston).  So I thought today would be a good day for CUPCAKE THERAPY!! Recently I found a recipe on another blog acupfullofcake@blogspot.com of a delicious looking Oreo Cupcake.  I loved the cupcake but I didn't like the frosting.  I don't know if it was the merengue or what but I just expected a thicker richer frosting.  Next time I make it I will use a basic buttercream frosting.  This is my mini version of the original recipe.

Best Chocolate Cupcakes Ever

Makes 12-16

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:
½ cup whole milk
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate melted and cooled (cooled for about 15 min make sure it’s still melted though don’t want it to harden back up)
1/4 cup water, heated to boiling (have a kettle of water on the stove boiling)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg room temp
1 tablespoons vinegar (not wine vinegar)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 package of Oreo cookies


This can be done with a stand mixer or by hand with a hand mixer or whisk but it is more of a 2 bowl method than one if going the hand mixing route.  Preheat oven to 350F with rack in the center.  Place paper baking cups in regular sized muffin tins, spray lightly with cooking spray.  Carefully twist off one side of the oreo and place the half with the cream filling down, filling side up in the bottom of each liner.  
Whisk together the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt) in a large bowl.  In a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer whisk eggs till slightly thickened and a pale color.  Add in the milk, vanilla, oil and vinegar and whisk/beat well.  Add in the melted and cooled chocolate and whisk/beat until combined well.   Either add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients OR the wet into the flour and mix just to combine. Add in the boiling water and mix again just to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 of the way with batter.  Bake 15-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and free of crumbs or the cupcake tops bounce back when lightly pressed. Mine baked for 18 minutes.   Let cool for 5 min in pans and then remove carefully to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.  This frosting is a basic buttercream frosting with oreo crumbs added.

Oreo Crumb Buttercream Frosting
Makes enough frosting for 12-16 cupcakes


1 cup shortening
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup Oreo Crumbs (make sure fine crumbs and no large pieces)

In a mixing bowl, cream shortening until fluffy. Add sugar, and continue creaming until well blended.  Add salt, vanilla, whipping cream. Blend on low until moistened. Beat at high speed until frosting is fluffy. Fold in crumbs until blended.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Visit to Fluffy Thoughts Cakes

Tony and I stopped by this cute little cupcake shop while running a few errands in the area.  We usually buy an assortment of cupcakes to see if each store has a "signature" cupcake.  However, we have been making quite a few stops recently with each stop running at least $15.00 a pop not only leaving us very unsatisfied but also a little light in the checkbook.  So, today we decided to only choose one cupcake each.  I chose a red velvet (I am still looking for the "aha" moment or the "aha" red velvet cupcake) and Tony chose a german chocolate cupcake (only because it had a huge dollop of coconut on top).  When the girl handed us the cupcakes we immediately noticed how fresh they were (they passed our squishy test).   Both cupcakes we were tasty.  We did think that the frosting tasted similar to that of the frosting you would buy in the cake section of a grocery store (I can remember eating this frosting by the spoonfuls straight out of the tubs on a bad PMS day). All in all, this shop was all a shop should be.  We will definately be visiting again when we are back in the area.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Visit To Crumbs Bake Shop

I found this cute little shop on my 10 block walk to Carlos Bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey.  I had read the Yelp reviews and they were 50 / 50.  The shop was very neat and the cupcakes were clearly marked.  The music was upbeat and the staff were friendly.  I ordered the peanut butter cup cupcake. This cupcake just looked too good to pass up.  WHAT? $3.50 for a cupcake?? Are they serious? This cupcake must be made out of imported chocolate and range free chicken eggs!! I bought the cupcake anyway (thinking to myself..this better be worth it).  I open my overpriced cupcake and took off one of the peanut butter cup sections that decorated the top.  After my first taste of the peanut butter cup, I knew this cupcake will be dissappointing. The peanut butter cup wasn't a good quality it wasn't even a Reese peanut butter cup! I have to say the chocolate cupcake by itself was not all that bad.  The frosting was way too sweet.  Talk about sugar shock! I felt like I was just eating pure sugar.  The cupcake was filled with the same sugary frosting.  Totally ruined the cupcake.  I think had a lighter fluffier frosting been used, this cupcake could have been edible.  Very disappointed.

Cupcake Frosting Tips

I finally found the cupcake decorating tips that give the cupcakes the big POOF! I went to Michaels and all they had was a # 12 which clearly was not big enough.  So Tony suggested Williams and Sonoma (he doesn't do malls or chick flicks, but he does like my cupcakes).  We went to the Williams and Sonoma store in the hoity toity mall on the way back from our trip to DC.  We found a set of six decorating tips for $18.50 (ouch).  This small fortune for pieces of metal was more than I was willing to spend.  I only wanted one tip.  As I was walking out of the store without the tips, Tony said, "you did not drag me in this gawd awful mall for nothing" and handed me $20.  Woo Hoo!  So for you Tony, I made you my very first cupcake with my overpriced, poofy decorator tip.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Visit to Carlos Bakery

My sweet few moments at Carlos Bakery will be a memory I will never forget.  It cost me $19.50 for a round trip ticket to and from my hotel, a 10 block walk (I got off at the wrong stop), and $8.50 for my prized pastries!

I arrived at Carlos Bakery at about 8:00 am on a hot humid Wednesday morning.  There was already a line of about 50 or so people (they open at 7:00 am).  Everyone in line seemed to be in good spirits as we all waited excitedly to enter the maroon and gold bakery.  A father and daughter left the bakery all bouncy and bubbly with their white box secured with the red and white striped string.  The father announced to all that was waiting that Buddy was in the bakery.  We all seemed to smile a little wider with excitement.  As I waited patiently in line (everyone in line had to wait on the far side of the sidewalk to let the locals pass by).  I noticed a homeless man walk up to the bakery door, open it and spoke to the doorman.  He then closed the door, and stood outside to the side of the door.  What happened next blew my mind.  A few minutes later, the doorman opened the door and handed the homeless man a cup of coffee (I am thinking   OMG!).  Here we are at a now famous bakery that has just opened its doors for the day and already they have a waiting line of an hour or so long and the establishment still takes the time to help the less fortunate.  How awesome is that! I was truly blessed by the simple moment of what I had just witnessed.  Once inside, the bakery is a very cozy place that can pack in about 30 people. 
 As I was drooling over all the pastries to pick from, I was blessed yet again by another simple moment. Madeline Castano, Buddy's sister was behind the counter helping with all the orders. Now this bakery is busting at the seams with customers and everyone behind the counter is rushing around helping everyone as quickly as they humanly can.  I noticed a bunch of kids asking Madeline a zillion questions about the bakery and Buddy.  Madeline was filling a customer's order and answering the children's questions as best she could.  I didn't hear any of the questions, but I noticed Madeline had finished the customer's order and walk over to the children and their family and took the time to sign autographs and take pictures with them.  She talked with them as if they were the only customer in the store.  They had her undivided attention.  All this took only a matter of moments but was a simple act of kindness that this family will never forget and neither will I.  Such a gift this visit was and I hadn't even tasted my prized cannoli purchase! Even if the cannoli doesn't meet my taste bud expectations (I have no doubt that it will be delicious!), I wouldn't have traded this last hour and a half of blessings in for any cupcake or Italian pastry.  I knew from the first episode of Cake Boss that the Valastro family were very special and now I know why.  I wish them years of happiness and success. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cupcake Withdrawl

I am on day 3 of a 4 day trip for work and I can honestly say, I am suffering from cupcake withdrawal.  I have gone 3 days without baking a single cupcake or eating a cupcake (the not eating part is probably a good thing since my belly is starting to form a swirl similar to the swirl on top of a cupcake).  I did go to Barnes and Noble and drooled over all cupcake books they had there that I couldn't afford to buy.  Tomorrow will be my day though! I am overnighting in Newark, NJ and I am going to make the trek to (can you hear the sound of angelic music) Carlos Bakery! It will take me 2 buses, a train, AND a mile of walking to get there.  The effort will be so worth it.   I want one of EVERYTHING!

How perfect is this! Buddy and his family on Oprah now as I write this! Oprah made the comment, "can you believe all these people want to watch you make cakes!" We don't watch just for the cakes (they are pretty awesome though) we watch Buddy and his family with all their family drama and comradery. I don't think the show would be what it is today without them.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Visit to Baked and Wired

After Tony and I visited the nationally televised Georgetown Cupcakes, we just had to try out their competitors Baked and Wired! So I drug Tony out yet again (I do not attempt to drive the maze of roads in DC) to find this cute little cupcake/coffee shop on a dead end street. We were very happy to see that there was no line extending out the door as with Georgetown Cupcakes. They were extremely busy but not overwhelmed.   This place was exactly how I envisioned a little bakery/cafe and the cupcakes were jumbo sized with unique cupcake papers.  We ordered 4 cupcakes:
1.  Chocolate Peanut Butter - A very moist cupcake with the perfect amount of peanut butter frosting, we  gave this cupcake a 5 out of 5. 

2.  Lemon Blueberry - I don't remember ordering this cupcake, but I am not that upset because it actually was quite tasty.  This cupcake had a ton of blueberries in it, but did not have a big blueberry taste. The frosting had a wow of a lemon taste. We gave this cupcake a 4.5 out of 5. 

3.  Carrot Cake - Again, another great tasting moist cupcake with bits of carrots and walnuts.  The frosting was not overpowering or too sweet.  We gave this cupcake a 5 out of 5.

4.  Red Velvet -  I am not sure if this was an old cupcake or what but the cupcake was very dry compared to all the others and it really did not have much of a flavor to it.   The frosting was a very tasty cream cheese frosting with just the right amount.  We gave this cupcake a 3 out of 5.

My ONLY complaint was that all the cupcakes were lined up at waist level and the labels were very hard to read making it very hard to stand back and ponder which cupcakes you would like to indulge in.

All in all...We believe Baked and Wired cupcakes HANDS DOWN beat Georgetown Cupcakes cupcakes.

I would seriously like to see a showdown between Georgetown Cupcakes and Baked and Wired!

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Visit to Georgetown Cupcakes

I was so excited to visit the famous Georgetown Cupcakes! I couldn't wait to taste the much hyped and Washington Post's top cupcake pick...the Chocolate Ganache cupcake.  Tony and I arrived in Georgetown around 7:30 pm on a rainy, humid and hot Thursday evening in August. We walked up to the corner of Georgetown Cupcakes and there was a line..a line out of the building and down the sidewalk of like 35 people! I couldn't believe it.   I really should have expected it because all the comments and reviews I had read talked about waiting lines going out the door of the store.  Tony hates waiting in lines, so we decided we would go have a light overpriced dinner of appetizers at J. Paul's (I love their soft pretzel basket) and wait till it was closer to when Georgetown cupcakes closed at 9:00 pm. in hopes of not having to wait in a long line. We headed back to Georgetown cupcakes around 8:50 pm and there was STILL a line, not as long as earlier but still a line! We only had to wait in line for like 15 minutes.  We ordered a half dozen; Peanut Butter Swirl, Chocolate Ganache, Cherry Cheesecake, Key Lime, Coconut and Red Velvet.  We rated them from best to worst.

1.  Chocolate Ganache - The absolute best one out of the bunch.  So rich, moist and chocolatey! Yum!   

2.  Peanut Butter Swirl - Same chocolate cupcake but with a peanut butter ... Heaven!

The 3 remaining we really didn't like at all...infact...all we needed was a bite out of each one and then we trashed them. We did take into consideration that it was the end of the night and that the cupcakes were most likely baked over 12 hours ago.

3.  Cherry Cheesecake - Cheese cake part was very good but the rock hard graham cracker crumbs on the bottom could have chipped a tooth.

4.  Red Velvet - Being a newby cupcake connoisseur ...I am not sure what a really good red velvet cupcake is suppose to taste like but I don't think this is it.  The color was very red though.

5.  Key Lime - It pretty much tasted like the recipe was not followed correctly. The frosting was nice and fluffy with a hint of key lime taste but too sweet for our tastes.

6.  Coconut - Same cupcake as the key lime but with a funny coconut aftertaste in the frosting and so much coconut on top of the frosting to make even a coconut fanatic say "no thanks".

Even though my review of Georgetown Cupcakes was not as good as I anticipated.  They have a super support group in town and DC loves them! I think they have a great reality show and look forward to watching them every Friday.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Perfect PMS Cupcake

Today I made a Chocolate Cupcake with Chocolate Ganache. Heavenly!

This cupcake is so light and fluffy and rich, you can only eat 1. This was my first time I made chocolate ganache.  I was very surprised at how easy it was.  I watched a clip of the DC Georgetown gals whip up their 3 minute chocolate ganache before I began my ganache adventure.   

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Triple Citrus Cupcakes

I was so excited to make these cupcakes! I am not much of a lemony-orangey type person, I am more of a chocolate peanut butter person.  But these cupcakes were a nice change from the cupcakes I have been making lately.  The recipe was fairly easy.  They tasted absolutely wonderful! I only had to make one batch and they came out perfect! They were super moist and flavorful!