Monthly Archives: March 2011

Guinness Cupcakes

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Wear green.  Hug a leprechaun.  Kiss someone Irish.  Have a beer.

I have to confess something here…I hate beer.  Never liked the taste of it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll drink wine, cosmos, Smirnoff ice, long island ice teas, whiskey sours…sigh, the list goes on…but I just never got into beer.

Well, there is one beer that I will drink ….

GUINNESS

Half expected something on the lighter end of the spectrum?  Odd, I know. 

And in honor of St. Patty’s day I wanted to incorporate this cool, black liquid into a chocolate cupcake.  When I told my chocoholic Irish husband that this would be my next baking project, he literally jumped in the car to buy me several cans of the tasty beer.

I used up nearly an entire can of Guinness (the 1/4 of the liquid left over was promptly swallowed up by hubby).  Mixing in all the liquids together, you’re left with a light brown, fizzing concoction that smells faintly of beer and coffee (to me at least).  In a separate bowl, all the dry ingredients were added – including the unsweetened cocoa powder.  Adding dry to wet, I can still smell the prominent alcohol smell of the Guinness and wonder if this will be as strong as it smells once it bakes….

At least I know it will be “airy” – see the bubbles in the batter?

Once it finished baking (the recipe ended up making approx. 27 cupcakes), my kitchen was warmly overwhelmed with the subtle, sweet smell of chocolate.  No strong beer smell emitting itself from these warm brown cakes.  Phew

Allowing them to completely cool, I decided to top them off with the Swiss Meringue buttercream.  I debated if I should food colour them green.  ‘Tis the season….. My husband immediately nixed the idea, noting that a pint of Guinness has a white foamy head when poured.  Ahhhhhh!!!  Chocolate cupcake with a white, “foamy” topping.  See the connection??  

The cupcake itself tastes wonderful.  It isn’t overly chocolately and it’s delightfully light and airy.  The taste of Guinness is nicely subtle and balanced.  It works well with the swiss meringue buttercream also.  Will definitely have to bake this again for other non-green related holidays.  Hubby is ecstatic!

Everyone raise your cupcakes!  Cheers!!

L

Guinness Cupcakes (adapted from My baking addiction)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 can Guinness Stout
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Guinness, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Add and mix the sour cream.  In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour and baking soda.  Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet Guinness mixture.  Divide the batter among lined cupcake tin.  Bake for 25 minutes, until cupcakes have risen and set in the middle but still soft and tender.   Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Makes approx. 24 – 28 cupcakes

Swiss Meringue Vanilla Buttercream (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

Transfer the mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size.  Add the vanilla.  (Tip: when you transfer to the mixer, make sure you wipe the condensation off the bottom of the metal bowl, so that no water gets into the egg whites.  This can keep them from whipping up properly)

Finally add the butter a stick at a time and whip, whip, whip!  (Note: Do not start to panic when this takes a while to come together.  It will.  Patience!)

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Have Your Cake on a Stick

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I’ve mentioned in the past that I love Love LOVE Bakerella‘s blog.  So many creations, so many delicious desserts….so very little time!  So really it was only a matter of time before I tried my hand at Cake Pops.  I even bought her book for myself just after Christmas (I think I had the intention of making it back then for one of the various Christmas parties I was going to, but….well… you know….procrastionation…..)

In short, cake pops are cake balls on a stick.  I’m serious!  What a fantastic idea, huh?!   Her book is filled with cute images of tiny cupcakes, animals, objects – you name it.  I have a character in mind (actually several) to eventually create, but for the mean time this is just my “practice” creations.  I want to see if I can actually do this….

To begin with, I baked a French vanilla cake from a box mix.  After allowing this to cool completely, I crumbled down the cake finely into tiny crumbs.  Use your hands and then use a fork to break down the bigger bits.  Add in 1/3 cup of frosting (your choice – I chose vanilla) and incorporate until the frosting is completely absorbed into the cake. 

Now pinch off about 2″ of cake and roll into little balls, set aside on a cookie sheet. 

 Once this is all done put all the cake balls in the fridge for several hours (I kept it over night) or the book suggests you can put it in the freezer for 15 minutes.  You want the balls to be firm, but not frozen.

Now onto the fun part.  The candy coating.  Okay, this is what I originally thought was the fun part…. let me explain.  It is fun when you do this part properly.  It is absolutely horrific when you get it wrong and the smell of burnt vanilla wafers emits itself from the depth of the microwave.  Wrong when you over eagerly hit the 1 minute button, instead of carefully watching the process melt down SLOWLY!  Slowly, meaning hitting the 30 second button and examining the wafers so that it comes out a glossy liquid – instead of what I originally did….hard, burnt and completely unusable.  SIGH!!!!

So I scrapped that and started all over again.  Thank you for the foresight, at least, to buy a second bag of Merckens wafers.

Dip the end of a candy stick partially into the melted candy coating – this helps the cake ball stick on to the stick.  Then gently insert stick half way into cake ball.  At this point, dip into the candy coating.  Careful to do this in one coating all over, as too much can pull the ball of the stick … I did this a few time over (and why it’s good to make lots of extras!).  Stick completed coated cake pops into a styrofoam to dry.  (Pre-press holes into the styrofoam before hand – it’s a small step, but it’s helpful)

Because this is my first attempt at making cake pops, I wasn’t all too prepared to create my characters.  So I just made up happy people.  Fondant eyes that I dotted with black edible ink and painted on smiles.  Done!!

I know I need to practice some more (especially since I promised to make these in June for my daughter’s dance recital bake sale), and there are some characters I’d love to challenge myself in to making in the near future once I assemble all the supplies in creating them – keep posted.

And although this is a lengthy process, this is definitely a fun and tasty way to have your cake.  Enjoy.

L

Sweet & Simple

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I pretty much wanted to tackle something that wasn’t chocolate this time around in baking.  So I went to chocolates opposite….

Vanilla.  Oh so sweet, oh so simple.

I actually wanted to play with a vanilla bean, rather than just the extract.  Oh my … what a wonderful little spice. 

I have to be honest, I’ve never used an actually vanilla bean before, but if the Food Network has taught me anything it’s rather simple to work with.  Simply split the pod open and scrape out the little seeds within that are essentially where all that vanilla flavour and goodness is hidden.

I wanted to use vanilla bean for that subtle, natural flavour and because I like the tiny black flecks that spot the cupcake and frosting.  Hehe.

Scanning the internet for its wide variety of choices on my desired cupcake, I came across My Kitchen Addiction.  I really think it was the pictures of vanilla bean cupcakes that were posted that initially drew me in.  They looked delicious!!  And the recipe looked simple enough.  Even the frosting was incredibly tempting.  Swiss meringue buttercream.  Divine decadence!  So I figured I’d give it a try….

I followed the recipe and although it calls for a teaspoon of vanilla paste (look in speciality shops), I just used 1 vanilla bean and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract.  As my cupcakes baked, I went to work on the Swiss meringue buttercream.  Follow the recipe to a T, and as noted, do not give up on it.  It does become a gloupy mess, but continue to whip (I have to mention here, that I do not own a stand up mixer, but instead I have a handheld electric mixer which has served it’s purpose.  But for the length of the time whipping the meringue, I can see why the stand up mixer would be a great thing to use at this point!  On the plus, I have a wicked bicep – only on my right arm, but still….)

20 minutes later my kitchen (actually my entire house) is soon enveloped in the familiar sweet vanilla smells of a seasoned bakers kitchen.  

As much as I like the cupcake, I think the next time around I would like to find an airy angel food cake type of cupcake, as I found this poundcake-cupcake heavy.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still good, but with such a light frosting I’d like to have a “light” cupcake. 

Speaking of the frosting, I did Love, Love, LOVE the Swiss meringue buttercream and will definitely be adding that into my collection of favourite recipes.  Bliss….

Ingredients

(Yields approx 18 cupcakes)

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 pound sugar (approximately one cup)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 pound all-purpose flour (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream (via Smitten Kitchen) – the 9-inch cake recipe will make the right amount of frosting for the cupcakes, with a little bit left over

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two muffin pans with paper cupcake cups and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium speed until the mixture is creamed and looks light and fluffy.  Gradually add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until each egg is incorporated.  Add the vanilla bean paste and beat to incorporate.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. In another small bowl, whisk together the milk and sour cream.  Gradually add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beating on a low-speed. Be sure to start and end with the dry ingredients.  Once the last of the dry ingredients have been added, beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds, until the batter is smooth.

Spoon the batter into the prepared cupcake cups, filling each cup approximately 2/3 full.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops spring back when touched lightly with your finger.  Cool in the pans for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Prepare the Swiss meringue buttercream according to the recipe over at Smitten Kitchen.  I subbed in 1 vanilla bean pod for the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, pipe swirls of the buttercream onto the top of each cupcake, and completely enjoy!

L