Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Manna Cafe Cupcake Review

I decided to share my love of cupcakes with my longtime friend and her family on a recent visit to Cincinnati, Ohio.  To do our Cincinnnati cupcake review, we chose a cupcake cafe close to my friend's house.  Manna Cupcake Cafe is about 40 minutes outside the City of Cincinnati. It is located in a cute country town right next to a train station.

Manna Cafe Cupcakes had seven different cupcake varieties and three different sizes. The flavors were; vanilla raspberry filled, bon bon chocolate filled with chocolate ganache, monkey cinnamon, red velvet, chocolate and vanilla their special cupcake of the day was a key lime.  Because we wanted to try one of each we opted for all minis except for the key lime which wasn't offeren in a mini size.

Everyone agreed all the mini cupcakes were on very dry side.

We all liked the key lime and the raspberry so much we decided to try the medium size in hopes that the cupcake was a little more moist. Much to our taste bud's delight the medium size cupcake in several flavors were more moist than the minis of the same flavor. The frosting on most of the cupcakes were on the sweeter side but not so bad that you felt like you were eating a spoonful of sugar sweet.

Out of all 8 of us cupcake tasters we all decided that the 2 best cupcakes for our cupcake review from Mannas Cupcake Cafe were:

The Raspberry Filled Cupcake 
 The sugared raspberry on top tasted perfect

The Key Lime Cupcake
Just the right tart and sweet combination

Both of the frostings on these two cupcakes were very light and fluffy and not nearly as sugary as the other cupcakes.

The owner of Mannas was very friendly and informative on all her cupcake.

Manna Cupcake Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cupcakes, Charleston, SC Review
I found this cute cupcake shop on my way back to the bus stop after my downtown charleston excursion.  When I entered the shop, it reminded me of an ice cream parlor, pretty pastel colors painted the shop. I especially loved the big selection of cute cupcake T-shirt and other cupcake items like coffee mugs and pink spatulas.  Their display had about 9 different flavors.  They also had signs advertising mini and mega cupcakes, but I didn't see any. I didn't read up on this shop's reviews so I asked the cupcake counter girl what was her favorite.  She said as everyone says.."Red Velvet is the most popular, and the orange cremecicle is very good."  I ordered a orange cremecicle and a cinnamon swirl to change things up.  The cupcakes we're just over $3 a piece. My first taste went to the orange cremecicle as I had made my own batch once and they we're so yummy.  I tasted the frosting first. The frosting was an overpowering thick sweet sugar frosting with a hint of orange flavoring.  One small taste was all I needed.  The cupcake tasted like a dry  poundcake with a barely recognizable orange flavor.  I then tried the cinna$on swirl, this time I tried the cupcake first.  This cupcake was definitely more moist, but it tasted exactly like the orange poundcake cupcake but with a hint of cinnamon and the frosting tasted exactly like the orange sugar sweet frosting except with a hint of cinnamon.  I know many people love sugar sweet frosting especially southerners they have, as we all know,  perfected sweet tea.  I just prefer a light fluffy frosting. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Baked House Bakery Review

Today I had a layover in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. With a few hours to kill I decided to put Charleston on my map of Cupcake Shop Reviews. When I google mapped "cupcakes" Baked House Bakery showed up on the map. When I arrived at Baked House Bakery, the bakery was very warm and welcoming. There were several cakes on display as well as various other baked goods. There were only 3 flavors of cupcakes to choose from and 1 flavor was in the refrigerated display case. I ordered a salted caramel which was at room temperature and a lemon cupcake which was in the refrigerated display. I wanted to eat dinner before I ate my cupcakes so I took them to go. The cupcakes were priced around $3.00 each. I walked for about 15 minutes. The temperature outside was near 90. When I finally got a chance to taste the cupcakes, the frosting on the salted caramel had melted. The lemon cupcake was still intact. The salted caramel cupcake was moist and although the frosting was a watery mess it still tasted pretty good. Not sure if I would classify it as a salted caramel but it was very tasty. The lemon cupcake frosting was light, fluffy and just the perfect amount of sweetness. Unfortunately the cupcake itself was very dry. I do not think this cupcake was fresh. I do believe that had this cupcake been fresh it would have been quite tastey.

Bake House Charleston on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

4th of July Cupcakes!

4th of July Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting topped with a Marshmallow Fondant Star
 The 4th of July is right around the corner! Today is my last day off before I begin my commute back to Virginia to start a 6 day trip.  My son was quite upset he was not allowed to chow on the Chocolate Whiskey cupcakes I made the other day, so to make it up to him, I made his favorite Red Velvet cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. 

You would never know from the looks of the landscape (flat as a pancake) here in west Texas that this is a high altitude area.  We are 3700 ft above sea level.    I have never had to bake in a high altitude kitchen before.  The last few batches I have made have been crumbly and never "popped" out of the tin.  I did some reading and found out that when you are baking in high altitude places you need to make a few minor adjustments.   has a chart of adjustments. I really didn't think minor adjustments would make that big of a deal but seeing is believing!
Popped Red Velvet Cupcakes
This is the Red Velvet recipe I followed (makes 1 dozen):
For the Cupcake:
1 ¼ Flour
¾ c sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 T cocoa powder
¾ cup oil
½ c buttermilk
1 large egg
2 T red food coloring
½ tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line pans with cupcake papers.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.
In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet a little at a time and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled (I just used 1 full ice cream scoop per regular sized cupcake and its perfect). Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through.  Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:
8oz cream cheese (room temperature)
1 stick butter (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c confectionery sugar
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth.
Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated.
Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

I made a batch of marshmallow fondant about a year ago.  I remember that although it was extremely messy it was fairly easy. Marshmallow fondant tastes like those orange circus peanuts we used to eat as a kid.  This was the recipe I followed:

I knew what I wanted my cupcakes to look like but for the life of me I couldn't find a single small star out of the over 200 cookie cutters I had.  My son and I went off to the local Walmart in search of a small single star cookie cutter.  Unfortunately where we live the local Walmart has a very limited selection of anything you might need.  So as any great baker, I improvised! I went to the toy section in search of maybe a play-doh cutter.  No luck with that BUT I did find another alternative! Worked like a charm.

 This baking session worked out great! Happy holiday baking!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cupcake Prescription: Chocolate Whiskey Cupcake topped with Whiskey Buttercream Frosting

I have a kindle.  I absolutely love my kindle.  I do not leave home without my kindle. My kindle is my best friend.   While waiting in Denver for my flight home after an extremely rough week at work, I was experimenting with all the gadgets that my kindle offered.  I decided to do a search on cupcake blogs.  I found a cupcake blog called Sugar Loco.  Sugar Loco was talking about a unique cupcake called Biramisu created by a Chef Tony Mantuano from Downtown Disney.  It is like a Tiramisu dessert but made with beer.  I decided the first time I looked at the recipe that this was a cupcake challenge for me.  My only problem was I could not find a single can of beer for the recipe.  I loathe Guiness beer and the only way to buy beer in this city is by the 6 pack.  I guess I am too cheap to buy a 6 pack for just one beer that was needed for the recipe. So I did some research and found another recipe for a Chocolate Whiskey Cupcake topped with a Whiskey Buttercream Frosting.  HELLO! Sounded like the perfect backup cupcake to me!
Chocolate Whiskey Cupcake topped with a Whiskey Buttercream Frosting

for the cupcake
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup strong coffee
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs

For the whiskey simple syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 T whiskey

For the Frosting
1/2 cup butter
2 cup powder sugar
3 T whiskey
8 oz cream cheese

to make cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  Combine the cocoa powder and strong coffee in a small bowl whisk until mixture is smooth.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.  Once cool, whisk the sour cream and vanilla extract.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.  Stir together wit a fork to combine: set aside

In the bowl, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes).  Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. 
With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients and cocoa mixture.  begin and end with dry ingredients.  Beach each addition just until incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the simple syrup, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixtrue is warm and  the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from the heat and stir in the whiskey.  Set aside and let cool until ready to use.

To make frosting, combine butter, sugar, whiskey and cream cheese until light and fluffy.

Once cupcakes are cooked and cooled, poke holes in each cupcake (10 each).  Brush each cupcake with the whiskey simple syrup and then top with the whiskey buttercream frosting.  Dust with cocoa powder.

These cupcakes taste better the longer they sit and the whiskey is absorbed into the cupcake.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I don't even know where to begin! I can't believe it has been almost 6 months since my last post.  I am definately back and back to blogging with a vengance about my cupcake adventures!

Just recently Tony and I went to London (for the weekend).  It was awesome.  First class will definately spoil you!  During our visit we found a cupcake shop called Hummingbird Bakery that I had read about in a travel magazine.  Unfortunately the shop was closed.  We did taste some cupcakes across the street at a coffee shop, but they were not even worthy of a blog mention.

Last week the temperature in West Texas reached triple digits for the 3rd week in a row.  With the help of my daughter we put up our little above ground pool to cool off.  When the pool was filled and ready to go, we invited another friend over for some summertime fun! Lizzie and Baily were foolin around and flipped the George Washington hair doos! Now who hasn't done that back in the day!!! Which reminded me of other nostalgic things during my summers as a kid.

Summertime George Washingtons!
How about the endless commercials of Bill Cosby and his pudding pops (do they even make them anymore?).  How about the summer picinics with Jello Poke Cakes? That memory inspired me to make my first cupcake in about 6 months.  A vanilla cupcake poked with strawberry jello!
Vanilla Cupcake poked with Strawberry Jello topped with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
I baked a basic Vanilla Cream Cupcake Cake:
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 T vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 325.  Mix sugar, oil, and sour cream.  Add eggs one at at time beating till mixed before adding next one.  Add vanilla.   In seperate bowl add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, whisk until mixed.  Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet  mixture.  Bake at 325 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

While the cupcakes are baking make a batch of Jello Strawberry jello according to package directions.
After the cupcakes are done and cooled, poke holes in the cupcakes with a toothpick (around 10 holes per cupcake).  Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the cupcakes with the jello mixture.  Saturating each cupcake with jello.  Place cupcakes in refrigerator until cold.  Top cupcakes with favorite buttercream frosting and add garnishes.