23 May 2011

carrot cupcakes

The carrot cupcake request is rare, but when a car load of women are road tripping to California from their mansion in Beaver Creek, it's only appropriate to have carrot cake cupcakes along for the ride.  I put a cinnamon cream cheese frosting on top to compliment the spices in the cake. 

22 May 2011

strawberry cupcakes

So on my 3rd attempt with the strawberry cupcake project, I think I've got it.  I made a strawberry batter from scratch that was similar to the vanilla batter but less sugar made a big difference.  On the 2nd attempt, I found that the cupcakes came out almost blue, like I had used blueberries.  That's no fun, so I added a little bit of strawberry jam to color it up, along with a few dallops of food coloring for good measure.  The result was great - more strawberry flavor & more strawberry color!

Then I cranked out a strawberry frosting.  The secret to avoiding a liquid frosting result like last time is to build up more of a base to support the pureed strawberries.  More butter - less milk - more fresh strawberries!

The white filling you can see in this photo is a strawberry whipped cream.  The only downfall of using a whipped cream filling is that after enough time passes, the cake will absorb the cream.  This component has to be added no more than 4 hours before consumption.  It really does add a little extra something so it's worth it!

The final step is adding fresh cut strawberries right before serving.  If you add them too far in advance the strawberries will start to absorb the sugar in the frosting and get mushy.

The bisected view of the cupcake - creamy strawberry filling complimented by moist strawberry cake & fresh strawberry frosting on top - all made with real strawberries - nothing fake about it!

19 May 2011

the poor man's jambalaya

My sister studied in Seville, Spain as part of her college experience and adopted this recipe for a simple, smorgasbord of a meal.  I was only lucky enough to stumble upon making it when chatting with her on the phone a few years ago with the common "what should I make for dinner" question between sisters.  All you need are a few pantry items - hot dogs, eggs, rice, ketchup & a little onion for flavor.  When you're going gourmet with it you can elaborate on these items like I did - chicken & apple sausage, whole grain brown rice, sauteed garlic & onion, and some peas for a little green.  The only trick to this simple recipe is timing all of the different elements to come together at the same time. 

I started by boiling the rice, the peas & sauteing the garlic & white onion so that these flavors could start to marinate. 

Then, while the chicken apple sausage were grilling on the outdoor Foreman the scrambled eggs went on the stove. 

I used 4 eggs, plus 2 egg whites to create more volume without the added cholesterol.  Once the eggs were thoroughly cooked, they were added to the sausage, peas & rice mixture. 

 Stir it all up, and you've got yourself a well balanced meal plus a few indulgences all in a single bowl!

 I had to add a little ketchup for that perfect amount of tang.  It sounds gross at first, but once you try all of these flavors together, you'll have to agree.

13 May 2011

fresh strawberries

I was doing some research on strawberries and it seems that in the past, their peak season has been June through August.  A few short summer months to enjoy strawberry pies, strawberry cupcakes, strawberry glazes, strawberry jams, and even strawberry & spinach salads.  Due to the new methods in farming and harvesting, they are now in prime season April through September.  Yay for us!  And the bonus is that they are on super duper discount at the grocery right now - 2 cases for $3!  In honor of moving forward with the seasons, I have decided to experiment with a new cupcake flavor - strawberry!  It may need some further tweaking before it comes to market, due to the altitude issues, but the flavor profile is right on track!

clean 'em
core 'em

I got this little tool in the home section of a department store for $6.99 - handy! and you save more valuable strawberry!
put 'em in a cuisinart and puree away!

fresh strawberry puree at your service - I wish there was smell-o-vision for this one   

...and dice
ready for the oven

For this batch of strawberry cupcakes I'm using vanilla cake batter as the base flavor.  For the back row, I added the strawberry puree in addition to fresh strawberry pieces.  For the front row, I only added fresh strawberry pieces.  You can see the obvious color difference.  We'll see if there's an obvious flavor difference.

the cooling period

The cupcake wrappers were not filled enough - but not because I measured anything wrong - these cupcakes just didn't rise at all.  Usually when filling the wrappers you generally fill them 3/4 full because the cupcakes should rise 1/4 above the top of the wrapper, giving you that perfect cupcake size.  I am deducing that because of all of the extra sugar content in the strawberry puree and strawberry pieces, that sugar reacted with the sugar already in the vanilla batter and caused a malfunction in my high-altitude oven.  This recipe may need less sugar in the vanilla batter from the get-go because the natural sugars from the strawberries will make up the difference.  
Then I took a vanilla buttercream and added a bunch (too much?) of the fresh strawberry puree.  It turned out to be more of a strawberry glaze than frosting.   My guinea pig, who I feed all of my experiments, said that it almost tasted like sweetened strawberry yogurt.  Not bad, but maybe not so good for a cupcake topping.  Then I topped them off with fresh strawberry garnish for that little extra flavor and texture.

You can see how the cupcake didn't really rise due to altitude issues but the texture of the cake is quite moist.  The frosting doesn't have enough hold so it becomes a glaze...still tastes like a delicious strawberry delight!  Not quite a true batter cupcake.  Yet...

bourbon pie

what to do with leftover kentucky bourbon pie filling from the derby days cupcakes?  make kentucky bourbon pie!  I decided to make whole wheat pie crust to see what it would taste like.  I just substituted the flour for King Arthur's whole wheat flour and it was delicious.  The pie crust was flaky, buttery, and had that multi-layered texture that adds depth to the whole tasting experience.

whole wheat dough balls

pie crusted rolled out and placed in pie pan

leftover pie filling added

topped off with more pecans & chocolate chips for a little extra goodness.  I'm using whole wheat crust, after all...

after 55 minutes at 325 degrees

one slice of fudgey, nutty, chocolatey bourbon pie with whole wheat crust

12 May 2011

NYC holla back

I am so excited to announce that the very famous (at least in the cupcake world) - Cupcakes Take The Cake blog - has picked up my most recent Derby Days Cupcake Photos to feature on their international cupcake platform.  The founders of the blog live in NYC and fly around to cupcakeries all across the nation to give us blog followers feedback.  Pretty nice gig if you ask me.  The link is found here:  


As a result, my facebook fan base has grown from 326 to 342 in a matter of days.  Big stuff for my little mountain town business.  

08 May 2011

cookie pie - chicago style

Watching TV after the Kentucky Derby, I spotted a whole show dedicated to pizza.  Having an obsession with pizza, I had to make sure I am on the inside track.  They focused on NY, Chicago and LA - but what stuck out the most, of course, was the pizza featured from my birth city.  The show discussed the pros and cons of deep dish (I think they're all pros) - Uno vs. Lou Malnati's - and the finale of the Chicago segment was the chocolate chip cookie pie.  Tyler proceeded to drool over the under-baked pizza-shaped cookie, topped with ice cream, whipped cream & cherries.  When I casually mentioned that I could do that - his eyes popped out of his head.  So he went to pick up the pizza (how could we have avoided that result), and I made the cookie dough.  What I learned is interesting - cookie dough is essentially cake batter without the liquids.  Butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, flour, baking soda, salt & chips!  I used chocolate and peanut butter chips for a little extra kick.  This is what I came up with...


fresh strawberries to add texture

chocolate, vanilla & strawberry ice cream medley

07 May 2011

derby day

derby day is here and so are my trifecta of derby cuppiecakes!  I think they turned out pretty darn good.  now I just need to find a horse!

kentucky bourbon pie cupcake:  vanilla cake swirled with bourbon pie filling, topped with cream cheese frosting, pecans, chocolate chips & drizzled with caramel and ganache

the winner's circle:  chocolate cake topped with chocolate buttercream, complete with a vanilla red rose

the mint julep cupcake:  bourbon & creme de menthe cake, topped with creme de menthe buttercream, fresh mint garnish & a festive green straw
a little something for everyone!

06 May 2011

arriba arriba

Even though this food update is about my Cinco de Mayo supper, I couldn't leave out la cena de Cinco de Cuatro because it was just as yummy.  Simple but delicious - fusilli col buco from Giada's Target line, black tiger shrimp & a homemade sauce made from butter, olive oil, dill, Boursin cheese and a bit of heavy cream to thicken.  The pasta was my favorite - it has such a great texture!  I wish they made it in a whole wheat version!

And to the main event...Cinco de Mayo fish tacos!  Since I've been trying to eat healthier as swim suit season is approaching, I am focusing on lots of veggies, proteins and whole wheat carbs if I have to go there. 
the southwestern coleslaw - red cabbage, jalapenos, cilantro, honey & lime juice

la cerveza

the chips - these new artisan black bean & roasted garlic tortilla chips - they tasted more like doritos - yum!
the vail safeway didn't have fresh fish so we had to buy frozen mahi mahi - the grill master still conquered with salt, pepper, cajun seasoning & chili powder
I added sliced tomatoes, chipolte mexican corn, and homemade white sauce
que bueno!

04 May 2011

kentucky is known for its booze

As the days of May creep by, I have needed to come up with ways to promote batter.  There are scarcely any people in town, and I have had to get creative.  With the upcoming celebratory weekend, I am scouting out the people that like to pair their cocktails with cupcakes.  Not for Mother's Day, but for the 137th Kentucky Derby!  It is sure to be as grand and opulent as ever with silver julep cups & big feathery hats.  To pair worthy cupcakes with the Derby, I needed to find flavors as delicious as the seersucker suits.  The perfect pairing to go along with tonight's baking is gruyere on rosemary crackers with a glass of Layer Cake Malbec.  Of course I love the wine named after a cake....

I have bought the bourbon, the creme de menthe and fresh pecans by the bagful.
It seems that a leprechaun has added a little of his own special touch...(it's just creme de menthe)

every baker makes mistakes!  too much time in the oven!  once I removed the crisped top, a light & fluffy minty shamrock cupcake emerged.  ooh goody.  I'm getting there...

the mint julep inspired cake has a touch of mint, bourbon & alotta love
The next experiment didn't go as well in our clean and crisp 8,150 feet up.  The ultimate goal is to make a Kentucky Bourbon Pie inspired cupcake.  The combination of chocolate cake batter and a variation of pecan pie filling turned out too sugary & flat-lined 6 minutes into oven time.

wah waaaaaaah
but it does taste delicious!  moist, chocolatey and rich with sweet pecans. 

I have kinda deduced what went wrong so I've altered the base of the recipe from chocolate to vanilla - it is butter-based instead of oil-based so I think the consistency is going to hold up much better....

this version turned out WAY lighter in color, and you can see more of the pie filling, but it did all sink to the bottom...

Since it's not quite perfect, we're not quite there yet.  If I don't want to eat it, neither will my customers so I will keep experimenting until I find the perfect balance of texture, flavor & look!