Gluten-Free and Gluten-Full Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting39

Posted by in Chocolate (Sunday October 7, 2007 at 11:07 am)

chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting

I was baking for two birthday boys this weekend, one with a gluten intolerance. I started with my favorite chocolate cake recipe which has much less flour than the typical recipe – I wanted there to be no discernible difference between the gluten-free and gluten-full versions. From there I decided on a salted caramel frosting – firstly because I have been dreaming of it since I tasted Trilly’s a few weeks ago – secondly given salted caramel is all the rage in San Francisco since B-Rite opened their creamery, it would surely be a crowd-pleaser and thirdly since I would end up with a masculine colored, latte-brown frosting, it would be perfect for a man’s birthday celebration.

As for the cake, I didn’t want to just do the gluten-free version. I did both side by side so I could compare the two. The gluten-free version did shrink a bit more and pulled from the sides of the paper. The biggest difference was this and the way they looked, but a side by side tasting showed very little difference between the two.

I deconstructed the frosting in my mind and thought I had a pretty good idea what the recipe was, but I called Trilly just to make sure I was on the right track. I was on the right track and got a couple of tips along the way. I went ahead and crafted a recipe. I can’t say if it came out exactly the same, but it did come out freaking tasty. Yum. I highly recommend the frosting. The caramel is very noticeable and the cream cheese adds just a bit of tang to balance the sweetness. The salt lies low flavor-wise and simply intensifies the richness of the caramel.

The cupcakes went over quite well. I recommend them if you are looking to satisfy a room full of adults.

26 regular-sized cupcakes / 350 degree oven

7 ounces (200 grams) Valrhona 85% cacao (or any bittersweet chocolate)
3 sticks (343 grams) butter
2-1/4 cups (445 grams) sugar
8 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (90 grams) flour, all purpose
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (90 grams) flour, gluten-free
2 tablespoons (30 grams) + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
3/4 teaspoon + 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1. Chop the chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. Add the butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate melts and the butter is combined.
3. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes.
4. Measure out the regular flour, 2 tablespoons cocoa, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt into a small bowl.
5. Measure out the gluten-free flour, 2 tablespoons cocoa, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and the xanthan gum into a different small bowl. Keep track of the gluten-free bowl and be extra sure to not get any regular flour in the mixture.
6. Transfer the cooled chocolate/butter mixture to the electric mixer and beat for 3 minutes.
7. Add one egg at a time, mixing for 10 seconds between each.
8. Scrape the bowl and separate into 2 batches by measuring out 2-3/4 cups of batter into a second bowl.
9. Sift the gluten-free flour into one bowl and mix to combine. Keep track of the gluten-free batch!
10. Sift the regular flour into the second bowl and mix to combine.
11. Scoop into cupcake cups only 2/3s full. I put parchment under the gluten-free cupcakes so I wouldn’t lose track of them. Bake all the cupcakes at 350 F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If you are using cupcake papers, use a different color for the gluten-free.

Note: If the oven is not hot enough than these cupcakes may over-flow. One way to be safe is to either fill 2/3’s full or another trick I use is to preheat to 375, then drop the heat to 350 once I put the cupcakes in. I also rotate the pans after 15 minutes of baking. It is safe to gently move them at that point and I find the lower back of my oven to be a bit cooler.

gluten-free baking
gluten-free baking

Salted Caramel

4 tablespoons water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, kosher or sea

1. Combine the water, sugar, and the corn syrup in a deep saucepan and cook over medium heat.
2. Stir together with a wooden spoon until the sugar is incorporated.
3. Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
4. After 3 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
5. Do not stir from this point on, but it is important to carefully shake the pan so that one area of the caramel doesn’t burn.
6. Continue to cook until the caramel turns an even amber color then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds.
7. *** This is the dangerous part *** Pour the heavy cream into the mixture. Wear oven mitts, stand away from the pan, and be careful. The mixture will bubble up significantly.
8. Stir the mixture, again being careful. Add the butter, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until combined.
9. Measure 1 cup into a Pyrex measuring cup. Stirring occasionally, allow to cool until thick like molasses and warm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Note: There was a small bit of extra caramel that I poured onto a small plate that I covered in aluminum foil and greased with vegetable oil. I transferred the plate to the freezer for about 30 minutes. I chopped the caramel quickly into squares (its starts to get soft) and topped each cupcake with a square.

Salted Caramel Frosting

2 sticks butter
8 ounces or 1 package of Philly cream cheese
5 to 6 cups powdered sugar
1 cup salted caramel

1. Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours.
2. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.
3. Sift 3 cups of powdered sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.
4. Add 1 cup of the salted caramel and beat to combine.
5. Sift 2-3 cups of powder sugar, in 1 cup increments and beating between each, until you arrive at the thickness and sweetness you desire. I used 6 cups. The frosting wasn’t super thick, but it was starting to get pretty sweet.

1. Frost cooled cupcakes with a generous amount of frosting.
2. Sprinkle each cupcake with sea or kosher salt. I ground some rock sea salt onto each.
3. Top with a caramel candy, homemade or otherwise.

chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting

All About Frosting – The Recipes42

Posted by chockylit in Cheese,Chocolate,Step-by-Step Photos (Tuesday December 11, 2007 at 11:13 pm)

chocolate ganache

I get many a question about frosting. I thought I would compile my thoughts on the subject in two part series of posts – a sort of one stop shop for all things frosting… from my perspective, of course! First up… the recipes.

Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate ganache frosting is one of my favorite frostings to use. Why? Let me count the ways. One, because I love chocolate. Two, because the taste is very “adult” and not too sweet. Three, because it’s practically no fail and adaptable to what I have on hand.

Reviewing my posts, I apparently have as many ganache recipes as I do posts with ganache recipes – a testament to its versatility. If I get one point across about ganache it is that ganache is indeed adaptable to your personal taste and preference.

Ganache is typically made by bringing heavy cream to a simmer then pouring over chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, stirring to combine, and then adding remaining ingredients – pretty straightforward.

The typical ganache recipe I use contains the following ingredients:

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

I have used as little as 6 ounces of chocolate with 1 cup of cream, as that is all I had on hand, and it worked out fine. I have also interchanged various types of chocolate, bittersweet, semi-sweet, different brands, etc. It changes the flavor of the ganache but not the outcome. The exception is with milk and white chocolate which don’t come up to spreadable consistency using this basic ingredient list.

I like to use Valrhona, 61% cocoa or higher, for its intense, full-bodied, earthy chocolate flavor. I have tried to stay local and use Scharffenberger, which I like to eat on its own, but I find it too bright and tangy to bake with. I have used Ghirardelli in a pinch. While I don’t like the flavor as much as Valrhona it’s an acceptable alternative and readily available in most grocery stores. The brand is really up to you, but the quality of the chocolate makes a big difference in flavor so spring for the good stuff if you can.

How I treat the ganache depends on the cupcake I am making. If I want a very adult flavor I will stick to the basic recipe (see above) and either pour it on, spread it on, or beat it then spread it on.

Poured Chocolate Ganache

Poured chocolate ganache results in a gorgeous, shiny layer of frosting that is very dramatic and very grown up. I used the method for my version of an “Opera” cupcake. Just let the mixture cool slightly and pour it onto the cupcake (or cake) before it starts to thicken. It will thicken in place and stay very shiny if you don’t touch it. Top it with something special – white chocolate dipped candied ginger, an edible flower pedal, or a smuggled dragée. Very classy…

Spread Chocolate Ganache

Cupcakes often form an attractive dome rising over top the cupcake paper. I like this look (more cupcake!) but it doesn’t support the poured ganache method. When spreading ganache, let the mixture come to room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it’s spreadable. Then spread a relatively thin layer on to the cooled cupcake with a small palette knife. To get a smooth finish, dip the palette knife in hot water, wipe dry, and then smooth the frosting.

I use this method when I want a small, but intense quantity of frosting… when I want to have the flavor of chocolate without overwhelming whatever else is going on. See examples of this method here, here, and here.

Beaten Chocolate Ganache

If you want the intense flavor of a straight up ganache, but still want to pipe it on because, well, it looks so nice piped on, then beat the cooled ganache with an electric mixer fixed with the paddle attachment for a few minutes. This will incorporate air and increase the volume of the frosting without diluting the flavor. The ganache will lighten in color compared to the unbeaten version. See an example here.

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

I have been exploring a variation on ganache that is sweeter than the simple version just discussed. I use this when I want the cupcake to appeal to child and adult alike. It’s more akin to a chocolate buttercream, but with a more intense chocolate flavor. I have experimenting with various versions of this approach.

Version 1 – Basic Ganache but with Butter and Powdered Sugar

This is basically a mixture of ganache and buttercream. Most chocolate buttercream recipes use cocoa or just a small amount of melted chocolate beat into the butter and sugar. This method of making the ganache first then beating in butter and sugar makes for a more chocolate tasting frosting.

See examples here and here

Version 2 – A Totally Different Take

I first saw this method in a book by pastry chef Emily Luchetti. I have definitely tweaked it significantly since I first tried it many years ago. The recipe includes bittersweet, semi-sweet, and unsweetened chocolate and can be tailored to your personal taste by simply adjusting the quantities of the various chocolates while keeping the overall quantity the same. For example, to make it sweeter, increase the semisweet by a couple of ounces and decrease the bittersweet or unsweetened. The unsweetened chocolate imparts a rich cocoa flavor, the bittersweet gives the frosting bite, and the semi-sweet sweetens the whole thing up.

See examples here, here, and here

There are other recipes and methods out there, of course. I plan to try recipe on David Llebovitz’ site which uses water instead of cream. I know that dairy products mellow the flavor of the chocolate, but I have also been hesitant to combine chocolate and water for fear the chocolate will seize. I hope to post about my attempt soon.


cherry-vanilla cupcakes

There is nothing more frustrating to many readers than buttercream frosting. A classic and main stay, buttercream is also one of the sweetest frostings of the bunch often too sweet for the average adult. I however love American-style buttercream especially paired with a simple cake and in moderation. This post has a pretty typical recipe for American-style buttercream. I understand though that not everyone is a fan. So if I am serving cupcakes to adults I typically do not use buttercream! The only exception I have found is with this recipe, somehow the mint makes the frosting more palatable.

American Style Buttercream

American-style buttercream is simply butter beat with confectioners’ sugar and a little vanilla and a little milk. In order to get to a piping consistency a lot of sugar is required. This results in a very sweet frosting. Like I said I actually like this. I have a sweet tooth though and not everyone does. There is no way I know of to decrease the sweetness of this frosting.

Swiss and Italian Style Buttercream

There are less-sweet alternatives to American style buttercream, Swiss and Italian style buttercreams for example, but these frostings have a different quality that I simply don’t like. They leave a film in my mouth and taste as though they are made with vegetable shortening even if they weren’t. I can’t stand them! Just like I can’t stand Génoise cake, but that is for a different post. But you might like them. Its worth trying for yourself before ruling these styles of buttercream frostings out of your repertoire.

The bad news is that I don’t have any recipes for Swiss or Italian style buttercream frostings. In this case, google is your friend.

Cream Cheese

sweet corn cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frosting is my friend. It is my very favorite frosting to use. It’s always a crowd pleaser and balances out the sweetness of any cake well. I work with two versions. One has a higher proportion of cream cheese. It is tangy, on the soft side, and my preference for recipes where I want to really taste the cream cheese (carrot cake, hummingbird cake, red velvet, etc). The second version has less cream cheese. The cream cheese tang is more subtle and its really just there to balance the sweetness of the sugar. I use that recipe as an alternative to buttercream for just about any cake.

Cream cheese frosting takes on flavor very well. Just to give you an idea, this recipe uses Thai Ice Tea as a flavor, this recipe uses citrus, this uses ginger and this uses tarragon. But there are more, just peruse the table of contents to find other flavor suggestions.

I have jut started using the “buttercream alternative” method. Here are some examples, one with matcha and one with salted caramel. But any of the above cream cheese recipes can be adjusted to this method by simply decreasing the amount of cream cheese and increasing the amount of butter.

Meringue Frosting

The thing I love about meringue frosting is how easy it is to have a dramatic presentation. It’s sweet, but not sweet as butter cream. It takes flavor well, but don’t try to add a substantial amount of liquid. It will collapse. Small amounts of extracts (vanilla, mint, lemon), spices, very thick flavored simple syrup, or crushed things (like red hots). And the best thing about meringue is that you can take your culinary torch to it.

Whipped Cream

I don’t use whipped cream very often. It’s just not terribly exciting. I pair it with a cupcake that is plenty exciting on its own like this one. It is very easy to adjust the sweetness though. So, if you have a very sweet cake, whipped cream is a good option. Beware, it doesn’t hold well. So if you use it, keep the whipped cream refrigerated until you are ready to use it and frost the cupcakes just before serving.

There are of course other frosting options, but this is all I have for now. Part 2 of the series will cover frosting technique, frequently asked questions, and more on flavoring frostings.

Alfajore Cupcakes or Peruvian Caramel Filled Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream and Coconut41

Posted by chockylit in Berries,Citrus,Peruvian-Inspired (Monday February 26, 2007 at 7:49 pm)

Alfajore Cupcake or Peruvian Caramel Filled Lemon Cupcake with Raspberry Buttercream and Coconut

There is a Peruvian restaurant just a few blocks from my house, Mi Lindo Peru on Mission Street in San Francisco, where I go when I must have Lomo Saltado now! Lomo Saltado is yummy strips of beef cooked with onion and tomato all poured over french fries and rice! Yum. We usually get take out from Mi Lindo Peru, as the atmosphere isn’t all that, and go to Fresca or Limon when we want to pay a little extra for nice lighting and whatnot. Anyway, given my love for Lomo Saltado, I figured it was time to pay my respects to Peru in the form of a cupcake.

I am familiar with custard-type Peruvian desserts, but was looking for something a bit different. The Alfajore cookie appeared to have “cupcake conversion” potential – milky caramel, sandwiched between lemony cookies, rolled in coconut. All sounds very good. I was also in the mood for something pink (not sure why) and thought a light raspberry buttercream would pair with the flavors quite well.

The cake by itself was slightly disappointing. While it had a nice lemon flavor it was also a bit too dense. But paired with the filling and the frosting, the end result was very tasty – sweet, but not too sweet and a coherent combination of flavors. I ran into some trouble with the frosting, because I was being impatient. I made notes where I failed so you won’t. But other than being a bit runny, the frosting was delicious.

Lemon Cupcakes
12 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
1¾ cups sugar
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
2½ teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
1 cup milk
1/3 cup lemon juice, from 2 medium lemons
zest of two medium lemons

1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
5. Add to mixer bowl. Add the milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Mix to combine.
6. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes).
7. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Peruvian Caramel or Manjar Blanco

1 8 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1. Immerse closed can on its side in a pot of boiling water.
2. Leave on a simmer or light boil for 2 hours topping off with water as needed. Be careful and don’t let the water dry out.
2. Remove from heat and let cool thoroughly before opening can. Condensed milk should be thick and a nice caramel color. Don’t open the can while its still hot, I hear that can be very, very messy.

Raspberry Meringue Buttercream

2 large egg whites
½ cup sugar
1 sticks (½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup seedless raspberry preserves

1. Set the bowl of your electric mixer over a pan of simmering water. Add the egg whites and sugar to the bowl and whisk until sugar has dissolved and mixture is at least 160° which will kill any bacteria present. This should only take a few minutes.
2. Take the bowl off the heat and attach to the mixer along with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg-white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff peaks. Continue beating on medium-low speed until the mixture is cooled, about 6 minutes. This step is important. If you don’t beat to stiff peaks and allow the mixture to cool, the frosting will end up runny.
3. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter one tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. Beat in vanilla.
5. Measure out preserves into a small bowl and whisk to soften. Fold preserves into the frosting with a rubber spatula until smooth.

Alfajore Cupcake or Peruvian Caramel Filled Lemon Cupcake with Raspberry Buttercream and Coconut

1. Using a small pairing knife, cut off the top of the cupcake in the shape of a cone. Flip the top over and cut off the cone.
2. Fill the cavity with the caramel.
3. Replace the top of the cone.
4. Scoop a tablespoon of buttercream on top of each cupcake.
5. Sprinkle with coconut.

Peanut Butter-Banana Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Glaze and a Caramelized Banana Disk23

Posted by chockylit in Bananas,Chocolate,Nuts (Sunday August 21, 2005 at 1:02 pm)

I actually forgot an ingredient in the cupcake recipe (!), the baking soda… Regardless, the result was a rich, cocoa flavored cupcake with subtle banana and peanut butter flavors and a very fine texture. The baking soda would have altered the texture and most likely would have given it more crumb. I think I would have preferred it that way, but my husband insists they were great and kept eating the unfrosted ones before I could get the frosting done. (There was a couple of botched caramel frosting experiments, hence why the cupcakes didn’t get frosted until the next day.)

I am not 100% sold on the cupcake recipe, but I like the flavor combination and want to work on something similar, but perhaps with a fudgey texture. The other components, however, worked out fine.

Peanut Butter Filling
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 egg

1. mix brown sugar, peanut butter, and egg in a small bowl and set aside

24 cupcakes / 350 degree oven
11 tablespoons unsalted butter
9 ounces best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 ounces best-quality bitter-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1-1/3 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
[1/4 teaspoon baking soda]
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup mashed banana (from 1 medium banana)

1. melt butter and semi-sweet chocolate over a bain marie
2. whisk together eggs and sugar
3. add flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, mix to combine
4. add melted chocolate/butter mixture, mix to combine
5. stir in mashed banana
6. fill cupcake tins about 1/3 full, drop a teaspoon of peanut butter mixture into each tin, top off with cupcake batter to about 2/3’s full
7. bake for ~20 minutes or until a crust forms on the cupcakes

chopping chocolate

peanut butter filling

Caramel Glaze
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons half and half
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. in a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter
2. add milk and brown sugar, stir to combine
3. boil vigorously for 1 minute
4. remove from heat and beat in 1/2 cup powdered sugar
5. cool slightly then and beat in the vanilla and remaining powdered sugar, add more half in half if necessary
6. quickly spoon over cupcakes before glaze sets

drizzling glaze

Caramelized Banana Disks
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium ripe banana, sliced into disks

1. melt butter in a skillet over medium heat
2. carefully add banana disks and let caramelize slowly until brown and crispy (but not burnt)
3. flip with two forks, continue cooking the other side
4. top glazed cupcakes with the banana disks

caramelizing banana disks

finished product

Printable, PDF-version of the recipe.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes28

Posted by chockylit in General (Sunday January 30, 2011 at 12:24 pm)

Sweet Potato Cupcake with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

I will be honest, these cupcakes came about by accident. My intention was a honey-almond cupcake, but I had this newly discovered sweet potato flour and wanted to try it. As soon as I added the flour to the batter I knew I had something else on my hands. Quite anxious, I pushed forward with the recipe, all along feeling a cupcake disaster was sure to ensue. Thankfully I was altogether wrong. The cupcakes turned out utterly delicious. I was surprise by their texture – quite billowy and soft, but also with a toothsome texture from the almond meal. And the sweet potato flavor was there, but subtle allowing the honey and almond to shine through as well.

The frosting? What can I say – this is my current absolute favorite frosting. It’s just a notch above it’s cousin, the salted caramel frosting recipe, that is my go-to frosting for just about anything. But bourbon has it’s adult appeal and it’s my top-pick for adult events.

You may start noticing a trend with this and future recipes… gluten-free. We have discovered that our daughter is wheat or gluten sensitive (we haven’t narrowed it down, but are basically cutting out gluten all around). This recipe is naturally gluten-free, but if you wanted to transform it into a straight up honey-almond cupcake and don’t mind gluten, just swap the sweet potato flour for all-purpose flour and omit the xanthan gum.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes
~24 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups almond meal
4 large eggs
3/4 cup high-quality honey
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup sweet potato flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add almond meal and beat to combine.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.
5. Measure the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
6. Measure out the honey and buttermilk. Stir to combine.
7. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the wet ingredients and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
8. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 2/3’s full. Bake cupcakes for about 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Bourbon Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons butter
pinch salt
4 tablespoons bourbon
2 packages phili cream cheese, room temp
1 cup butter, room temp
6 cups confectioner’s sugar

1. Heat brown sugar, cream, butter, salt over medium high heat whisking until sugar is dissolved. Cook for another minute.
2. Pour in bourbon and stir to combine. Take off heat and let cool.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until soft.
4. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat to combine.
5. Add three tablespoons of the bourbon caramel (you might have some left over) and beat to combine. You can always add more, but the frosting may end up pretty soft.

1. Frost.
2. Top with homemade sweet potato chips.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

Baking in Bulk38

Posted by chockylit in General (Monday June 21, 2010 at 9:37 pm)

lots of tiny sheep

I rarely if ever veer from the standard post of recipe with pictures. I don’t do book reviews, product reviews, talk about cupcakes in general, etc. This blog is about recipes I create and pictures that go along with them. I am veering with this post though.

I baked for an event a month or so back and I had been thinking about posting just about that process. As I would heartily recommend to you, when baking for an event I stick to what I know. So, there are no new recipes or experiments to share – just the process that I go through when baking in bulk for events.

I decided to bake for an event for my daughter’s preschool (even though she doesn’t officially start until September). The event was a country fair and the highlight would be the sheering of the two school sheep. (Yes, there is a school in the middle of San Francisco with two sheep…) This is the basic process I followed and have followed in the past.

Step 1: Find inspiration and come up with a high level plan

Whenever I am asked to or offer to bake for an event, I always look for at least one bit of of inspiration. If the event is for a person, I might ask their favorite color. Or if I know the person well, I will use whatever color I associate with them. I will look to something special about the event for inspiration. Is it themed for example. Flavor-wise I tend to just ask – are you a chocolate person? What’s your favorite fruit? Spice? Etc.

In this case, my starting point was sheep. So I did some googling and came across the PERFECT little sheep already done up for me in royal icing. I wanted to have both a chocolate and non-chocolate cupcake and something color-wise to contrast. I thought brown plus green would be a nice combo, so I quickly settled on vanilla cupcakes with green tea frosting and chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting. The wonderful ebay shop owner, Lisa, hooked me up with a custom order and made up a bunch of sheep and birds shipped individually packaged and shipped all the way from the UK. The school also has chickens, but I settled for birds as I knew she could make them.

Step 2: Write out all your recipes

At a minimum you should print out all your recipes with the correct quantities. I also recommend writing them out as this ensures you read the recipe through and orients you to the steps involved, the equipment you will need, etc. I tend to write out my recipes like this and cross things out as I do them so I don’t forget. Most standard cupcake recipes make 24 or so cupcakes – at least on my blog. Sometimes I will halve them and make only 12. Usually for events you are baking a lot of cupcakes. This is where it gets tricky for the home baker. You really should make NO more then 30 to 36 at a time. Most mixers can’t accommodate more batter than that and you don’t want to over stuff the home oven. So do know that if you are making 100 cupcakes you likely have to make them in 3 batches. Professionals have quite an edge with their jumbo mixers and large, commercial convection ovens. Baking in bulk at home is a pain and I really try to avoid it. That said, I do occasionally give in…

When changing the quantities of a recipe start with the eggs. If there are 3 eggs in the recipe don’t halve the recipe for example. Either multiply everything by 1/3 or 2/3s. Regardless, get ready to do some fractions. Google can also help with this. Just be careful, check your math, and write everything down clearly.


Step 3: Prepare a plan and your ingredients

Now that you have your recipes you need to write down your shopping list and come up with a plan of action. The shopping list is pretty easy. So I won’t cover that, although I do write out my shopping lists in the order in which I will come across the ingredients at the grocery store – but that’s me – and I am a bit anal about being “efficient”. The important thing is to plan what you will bake when. If you are an amateur baker such as myself, you likely have a demanding full-time job and/or have a family to take care of. So it’s likely you won’t have the large swath of free time it will take to get something like this done in one go.

I always start from the time of the event. I like to leave assembly for the day of the event and usually leave an hour or two for assembly and packing assuming I am making 100 or so cupcakes. If the event is at 11am on a weekend for example, plan on getting up early and focusing on assembly. If the event is in the afternoon, say 3 or so, you can plan on finishing up some recipes the morning off. Regardless, leave plenty of buffer for unexpected events. This will definitely help minimize stress.

This event was on Saturday at 11am, so I wouldn’t have the weekend to work and would just have the morning to assemble. I had to bake after work during the week (my least favorite time). I try to spread the work out as much as I can without having to resort to freezing anything. Buttercream and chocolate ganache frostings can store in the fridge well covered up to three days. Cupcakes also store in the fridge well covered up to three days, but I like to bake them as close to the event as I can. So, I tend to do the frostings first. One note: meringue frostings don’t store well. So forgo them when you are doing a large project.

I always try to fill and frost the day of the event if I can, the night before if its for very early in the morning or I am taking them to work. In this case I started on Wednesday with frostings, made a batch of cupcakes Thursday, and another on Friday. I assembled on Saturday morning. I purposefully didn’t make these filled cupcakes as that basically doubles the work involved. Making the fillings takes more time, but doing the actual filling can be very time-consuming. I have filled cupcakes when making about 120 or so once, but it was for a wedding and it was before I had a child and other demands on my time. In those days I could spend the entire weekend in the kitchen without a second thought. Those days are over… Take on what you can manage without causing undo stress.

Step 4: Prepare all the recipes and store them for final assembly

A bit earlier I recommended baking in 30 to 36 cupcake batches in order to avoid disaster. I still recommend that. I rarely heed my own advice and made 2 batches with about 46 cupcakes in each batch. I have a larger sized mixer, but it was still a challenge. Don’t even attempt doubling a standard recipe if you don’t have a 6-quart mixer.

I managed the over-stuffing of the oven by starting off the baking at 375 with the convection fan on. You just have to be careful to lower the temp and/or turn off the convection at the right time. And the right time is pretty hard to determine. I usually turn the oven back down to 350 after a few minutes and turn off convection around 12 minutes. I find if the oven isn’t hot enough the cupcakes tend to overflow. But really, you should just bake in batches of 30 to 36 (which is about 1.5 times a normal recipe you see on my blog). The last thing you want after all that work and all those ingredients is a bunch of overflowed cupcakes. A couple is fine – that happens to me and those cupcakes tend to be the taste testers. On that note, always make more than you absolutely need. In this case, I was aiming for a number but had flexibility.

Like I mentioned, I absolutely recommend baking and storing for assembly as close to the event as possible. If you can do it all in one day, great. But for me and perhaps many of you, it’s not possible. With the frostings, I tend to just transfer the frosting into a bowl and wrap well with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. With the cupcakes, I let them cool all the way off then put them back on a sheet pan and wrap that very well with plastic wrap. If you have enough tupperware to store all your cupcakes even better, but I don’t. If you must bake more then 3 to 4 days before the event you can freeze them (I wrap them in plastic wrap in small quantities that can fit in freezer bags) but there will be some dryness after thawing. So I recommend not doing it.


Step 5: Assemble, pack for delivery, unpack and present

I won’t cover assembly much other then watch for cupcake toppers that will work for your event. For example, fresh fruit doesn’t hold up very well. It can dribble juice on your cupcake or start to look old. Candied fruit works as do sugar toppers. I tend to top my cupcakes with something simple that alludes to the flavor of the cupcake, but for some events – like a kids fair – I will do (or purchase) a more typical decoration.

I pack all my cupcakes in cupcake boxes with inserts that have individual holes for each cupcake. I bought the boxes in bulk (about 200 boxes) and it will be a while until I will run out. But many places sell paper or plastic cupcake containers in smaller quantities. I recommend going for a good box as it will help hold them in place and avoid delivery disaster. You will still need to watch for bumps in the road, but not have to worry about sliding. I also stick with disposable boxes for events given I have found it difficult to get my more permanent containers back promptly. Its totally up to you, just pack them carefully so they arrive safely.

Lastly, you may need to think about display. Thankfully there are many sites out there that have both disposable and non-disposable tiered cupcake holders. I also had a vintage, wood cupcake stand that I used for a few events. Usually its a challenge to get more then 30 or so cupcakes on these things, unless they are monstrous. I tend to put what I can on the tiered display and fill out the rest on the table around it. For this event I new I would have a hard time getting anything back given we hadn’t started at the school, so I settled for a something disposable.

matcha frosting with tiny bird

Well, that is all that came to mind. If anyone has any questions around something I may have missed, feel free to post it. I might have missed something…

Cupcakes by Whiskie Bits9

Posted by in General (Sunday September 23, 2007 at 3:53 pm)

I wanted to share some photos of cupcakes made by a friend of mine, the owner of Whiskie Bits. She and I met through the blog a while back and we have since become good friends. I have had the opportunity to taste about ten different flavors of her cupcakes over the past few weeks and all I can say is that every one of them has been fabulous.

I rarely eat cupcakes out because I bake them so often. But I have tried many of the local purveyors and have yet to be impressed. To be honest, I prefer my own. But these cupcakes, well, these cupcakes are like ten times better than mine (ok, maybe I exaggerate). So good, that I had to post about them. I want to warn you… Whiskie Bits is currently a one woman show and the owner is very busy. But if you are in the bay area, you should at least try to get her to cater your next event. You won’t be disappointed. Her cupcakes are truly phenomenal.

Here are some pictures I took of a few different flavors. By the way, I will be posting my next recipe here very soon.

chocolate espresso cupcake with salted caramel frosting
chocolate espresso cupcake
with salted caramel frosting

saffron cardamom cupcake with almonds and cashews
saffron cardamom cupcake
with almonds and cashews

orange rosemary cupcake with pine nuts
orange rosemary cupcake
with pine nuts

lavender honey cupcake with white chocolate
lavender honey cupcake
with white chocolate

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