Carrot-Walnut Cupcakes minus the Walnuts!

Here it is Monday after Easter and I think I’m still in a food induced comma. I sure hope you ate well, I know I did! By now I’m sure you’re aware I challenged myself to bake all 12 cupcakes in the Food Network Magazine January/February 2017 edition. The editor says there doesn’t need to be a reason to have a cupcake, therefore one for every month. This month happens to be the Carrot-Walnut Cupcakes. Those would be perfect for Easter, right? We didn’t eat them on Easter though… nope, but the week of, you bet!

I should immediately point out, I didn’t put in the walnuts, that’s why the title says minus the walnuts. Mark doesn’t handle nuts real well (we’ll leave it at that.. haha) and I’m not crazy about Walnuts. If I had used any nuts, they would have been Pecans. I prefer the milder taste of a pecan over a walnut any day.I wasn’t sure about these cupcakes when I initially started mixing up the batter. The smell of the cinnamon and nutmeg seemed to overpower the small amount of flour. Truthfully, how they know how to mix up to get exactly 12 cupcakes is amazing. Now If I could just learn to measure out exactly 12 cupcakes. I tried the ice cream scoop method and came up shy. If nothing else, I hope to learn how to make perfect cupcakes by this challenge!

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Rainbow Cupcakes

I’m sure you were worried, but no need to. Just because I took a few weeks off to move over to WordPress with this blog, I am still keeping up with my Monthly Cupcake from Food Network Magazine, January/February 2017 issue.

When I woke up the morning I made these, I was worried about having 2 ingredients. Lemons, which I was fairly certain I had and Cake Flour, which I was pretty sure I didn’t have. I did go to the pantry to see if I had cake flour and surprisingly I did. WHAT?!?! I guess I bought it for something else one day and had some left over. So… if you don’t have cake flour, not to fear! Make your own! Wait, what? Make your own cake flour. Yup! You read that right!

Cake flour:

1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tbsp (that is subtract 2tbsp of the ap flour). Then add in 2 tbsp corn starch. Use your handy dandy sifter and sift 5-6 times to incorporate the corn starch. Bam, your own homemade cake flour.

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Chocolate-Strawberry Cupcakes

If there is one thing they tell you to do, it’s try something new. While baking cupcakes isn’t a new concept for me, I’m not so good at it. It’s really always been a bit of a challenge for me, and I’m not really sure why. So when the January/February 2017 Food Network Magazine came out and they had a whole section devoted to cupcakes for each month, I just knew I had to partake… and at least try.

As we know, I messed up the January cupcakes just a bit… but it was more icing related issues than it was cupcake related issues. And the cupcakes themselves were excellent.

When I saw the cupcakes for this month, I was quite excited. While they don’t want them to be for a special occasion but say a random Tuesday, these cupcakes scream Valentine’s Day to me. No, I didn’t make them on Valentine’s Day or even for Valentine’s Day because I was busy getting ready to attend a wedding, but I knew I was going to make them no matter what.

This morning I had a few minutes so I went into the kitchen, gathered up all the ingredients and went about my way making Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes.

One of the ingredients it called for was instant espresso powder. Well, I didn’t have any and didn’t have much luck finding any at the store either, so I used instant coffee instead. Really other than the fact that it isn’t quite as strong of a flavor, they are easily swap-able with each other.

Other than that one swap, I followed the recipe to a T.

This month I was able to measure out the batter into 12 cupcakes compared to last month when I somehow only wound up with 11 cupcakes. So I’m making progress.

The cupcakes called for a glaze over the warm cupcakes of strawberry jam or jelly mixed with lemon juice. I used jelly. I have to point out that between the nice chocolate flavor with the flavor of the icing, I didn’t really taste the strawberry layer. I took my Mother-in-law over a cupcake this morning when I went to check on cows and she too didn’t really taste that strawberry jelly layer.

Unfortunately this isn’t the “right” time of year for strawberries. While I liked them, hubby thought they were a little under-ripe.

When I was making my frosting, or icing if you prefer, my white icing tasted great. The white chocolate melted up nicely, then mixed with the powdered sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla, it turned out to be a very good tasting icing. Not to sweet, but it was sweet enough, and I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate.

Sadly, my chocolate icing on the other hand, when added to the butter, then mixing in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk, something happened and it got chunky. I’m not exactly sure what I did incorrectly, but there were those chocolate chunks in my chocolate icing. Whoops. Why does it seem like I keep messing up the icing in these cupcakes?

Then… piping the icing on…. <sigh>. So I prepared my piping bag, it said to use a large circle tip. Well from my years in cake decorating classes, the teacher said to fit with a coupler and just use that. That’s what I proceeded to do… I placed my white icing in one side of the bag and the chocolate in the other just as the directions suggested. That’s when things went down hill fast. I started squeezing out to get both colors. Well this makes just enough icing for all 12 cupcakes.

In the end I was short icing so I had to spread it on with a spatula. So while they weren’t real pretty, they tasted pretty darn good, but hubby didn’t really agree. He wasn’t crazy about the different flavors together… but my mother-in-law on the other hand agreed with me. I’m not sure there needed to be the strawberry layer because it didn’t really shine through, but otherwise, the cupcakes were pretty good. I like the icing too, so I assume this might make a good cake some day…. never know….

Chocolate-Strawberry Cupcakes (via Food Network Magazine, Jan/Feb 2017, pg 59)
Ingredients:

  • For the Cupcakes
    • 1 c flour
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
    • 3/4 c whole milk
    • 1 c sugar
    • 3/4 c vegetable oil
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1/4 c strawberry jam/jelly
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • For the Strawberries & Icing:
    • 6 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 12 medium strawberries
    • 2 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temp
    • 2 pinches salt, separated
    • 2 tsp vanilla, separated
    • 2 tbsp whole milk, separated

Directions:
For the cupcake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners.
  2. Whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl.
  3. Combine the cocoa powder and espresso powder in a large bowl
  4. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot but not simmering; pour over the cocoa powder mixture and whisk until smooth.
  5. Let cool a few minutes, then add the granulated sugar and whisk until dissolved.
  6. Whisk in the vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla, then whisk in the flour mixture until combined.
  7. Divide the batter between the muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.
  8. Bake 20 minutes, or until cupcakes spring back when gently pressed.
  9. While the cupcakes are baking, mix together the strawberry jam/jelly with the lemon juice and brush on the warm cupcakes.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the Chocolate covered strawberries

  1. Microwave 4oz semisweet chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, stirring, until melted.
  2. Dip the strawberries in the chocolate; place on wax paper.
  3. Let set, 20-30 minutes.

For the Icing:

  1. Microwave the white chocolate and the remaining 2 oz semisweet chocolate in separate bowls, stirring each, until melted.
  2. Let cool.
  3. Beat 6 tbsp butter and a pinch of salt with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until smooth.
  4. Beat in the melted white chocolate.
  5. Add 1 c confectioners sugar; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes, then beat in 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tbsp milk
  6. Set aside the white chocolate icing
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 with the semisweet chocolate to make semisweet chocolate icing.
  8. Spoon the white chocolate icing onto one side of a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Spoon the semisweet chocolate icing next to the white chocolate icing so the two flavors are side by side; pip swirled icing onto the cupcakes.
  9. Top each with a chocolate-dipped strawberry.
  10. Enjoy, especially on a random Tuesday.
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Champagne-Vanilla Cupcakes

There is one magazine I love to get and that’s Food Network. I really credit Food Network for my love of cooking. Truthfully it was my grandma’s (both of them), but when I went to college I kind of lost that until I stumbled across Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals show… I then somehow became hooked again. So the re-found my love my grandmothers instilled in me.

I used to get the magazine, long ago before I went to grad school. Then grad school came and I didn’t have time to read anything other than school books, but now I’m back to reading Food Network Magazine. My first issue was the January/February 2017 issue. I read the editor’s note and she mentioned that they came up with a cupcake for any reason for every month of the year. I decided right then I needed to partake and try them all. Some sound better than others, but still… I need to try them, right? Something to do anyway.

January’s cupcake is the Champagne-Vanilla Cupcake. Yes please.

The first thing I was supposed to do was pour the Champagne (or in this case sparking white wine) into a bowl and whisk until the bubbles dissipate. ✓

When I moved I misplaced my vanilla beans. I needed 1 vanilla bean for this recipe though so I stole one out of my homemade vanilla. It worked great!

As I was walking around the kitchen working on the different pieces, hubby placed the cork back on the wine and the next thing we knew, the cork went flying and wound up in the glass sitting next to the bottle.

Combine the flour with the baking powder and salt.

Then I needed an egg yolk. I was proud of myself for not making a mess separating the egg.

The cupcakes were supposed to make 12 2/3cups… I wound up with 11. I must have filled them up a bit much… that and we learned with my fried pies that I’m not so good at the math apparently. Don’t worry, I am good at math but who knows what happens.

While the cupcakes were baking, it was time to make the custard for the whipped cream topping.

It said cook until it was thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. I don’t think this qualifies as coating the back of the spoon, but by the time I got to this point, I was so tired I didn’t care and called it good.

I have to say, the cupcakes themselves were better without the frosting. The cupcakes had excellent flavor!!

There was a lot of chilling in making the frosting. Chill this, chill that, mix this, mix that. I’m really not sure I did the frosting correctly…. especially if you see my iced cupcakes.

Mine definitely weren’t picture perfect like the ones in the magazine. My icing was extremely lumpy. Somewhere I messed up.

These cupcakes were excellent. I wasn’t as crazy about the frosting. They were a labor of love… you wouldn’t be making these quickly, but sometimes that’s what makes the best cupcakes… labor of love.

 

Champagne-Vanilla Cupcakes (Food Network Magazine, January/February 2017 pg 58)
Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
1 half-bottle (375 ml) champagne or other sparkling wine (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped (pod reserved for the frosting)
1 large egg, separated

For the custard frosting:
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
Sugar pearls, for decorating
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Directions

Make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners. Pour the champagne into a bowl and whisk until the bubbles dissipate. Combine 1/2 cup of the champagne and the vanilla extract in a small bowl. Set aside the remaining champagne for the frosting.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla seeds in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolk and beat until smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low; beat in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the champagne-vanilla mixture in two batches, until just combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white until stiff peaks form, then gently fold into the batter with a rubber spatula.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds of the way. Bake until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently pressed, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes in the pan, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting: Put 1 1/2 tablespoons of the reserved champagne in a small bowl; sprinkle the gelatin on top and let stand 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar, salt and egg yolks in a small saucepan until smooth. Whisk in the remaining champagne (about 1 cup) and add the vanilla pod. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour the hot custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large metal bowl; discard the vanilla pod. Add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved. Refrigerate the custard, stirring every 5 minutes, until it is the consistency of soft whipped cream, 10 to 20 minutes.

Beat the heavy cream in a medium bowl with a mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Add the whipped cream to the custard and gently whisk until combined. Refrigerate the frosting, gently folding with a rubber spatula every 5 minutes, until thick enough to pipe, 10 to 20 minutes.

Working quickly, transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip and pipe onto the cupcakes. Decorate with sugar pearls. Refrigerate immediately to set the frosting, at least 30 minutes.

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