Blackberry, Lemon, Vanilla Cupcakes21

Posted by chockylit in Berries,Citrus,Vanilla (Wednesday July 27, 2011 at 9:17 pm)

blackberry lemon cupcake

Summer equals berries in this house. Even if summer also equals fog. (There is something refreshing about walking to work in a cool drizzle in July.) The three of us go through containers of blackberries on a regular basis – we heart blackberries. I was itching to mash some up and make a cupcake out of them. But things are hectic these days and I was having trouble committing. I think I purchased one or two ingredients every shopping trip over two weeks until finally on the way home Tuesday night I stopped at the corner store and thought, “I will see if they have lemons and blackberries”. And they did! Organic, too!

But was fear of rotting fruit going to be enough to get me out of my cupcake funk? I walked the ingredients home with wavering intentions… it was already getting late, I had dinner to cook, work to do, a child to hug! But I new if I got the ingredients measured out, I could get them done in no time.

Ok, maybe it wasn’t that easy (I woke up early to finish them), but they got done and they were yummy! With this combo you can’t go wrong. I like the creaminess of the curd and the looseness of the blackberry mash (I didn’t want to thicken it with too much starch). It made the cupcakes messy, but I just asked everyone to eat them with a spoon. No one seemed to mind.

Vanilla Cupcakes
12 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

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. Measure out milk and vanilla together.
6. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
7. Add about one third the milk/vanilla mixture and beat until combined.
8. Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.
9. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to three-quarters full.
10. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Return the cupcake top

Lemon Curd

2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons powdered sugar

1. Whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and lemon juice in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes.
2. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in butter, piece by piece. Cover with plastic wrap, and cool in the refrigerator.
3. By hand, whip together cream and powdered sugar until soft peaks form.
4. Fold cream into the chilled curd.

Add lemon curd

Blackberry Mash

6 ounce blackberries
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
seeds from 1/4 vanilla bean

1. Heat blackberries, water, and sugar over medium heat until boiling.
2. Mash with a potato masher.
3. Add cornstarch and vanilla bean and cook for a few minutes until thick.
4. Remove from heat and cool.

Cupcake is filled and looking yummy

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces or 1 package of Philly cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2-3 cups sifted powdered sugar
seeds from 1/4 of a vanilla bean
vanilla extract to taste

1. Bring cheese and butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours
2. Beat butter until soft and creamy.
3. Add cream cheese and beat until combined.
4. Add half of the sugar and the vanilla bean. Beat until creamy.
5. Gradually add remaining sugar (more if you have to) until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.
6. Add vanilla extract to taste if the seeds aren’t enough adding in 1/2 teaspoon increments.

Assemble
1. Fill the cupcakes with the lemon curd and blackberry mash using the cone method. This post has step by step photos of the method.
2. Frost.
3. Top with a blackberry.

blackberry lemon cupcake

Cream filled vanilla cupcakes with ganache glaze and coconut11

Posted by chockylit in General (Friday January 22, 2010 at 12:03 am)

lamington cupcakes

These cupcakes were inspired by Mr. P’s lamington challenge. Mr. P happens to come from Cardiff and I was making cupcakes for coworkers from Cardiff! It was kismet really. I had to do it.

Lamingtons are Australian and are a cube of cake coated in chocolate and rolled in coconut. What I am presenting here are indeed not lamingtons, but cupcakes inspired by them. I made two versions of these cupcakes, both with cream, but one with vanilla sea salt and one with blackberry jam. I did this mostly because I wanted to present both bittersweet chocolate and white chocolate frosted cupcakes. It’s easy enough to change up the fillings with whatever you have. I happened to have Welsh vanilla sea salt

I also opted for a denser cupcake recipe as I wanted a slight dome given I was only glazing the cupcake. In the end I wasn’t super excited by the cupcakes and here is why. I like a lot of frosting. A thin coating of chocolate just doesn’t cut it for me. A cupcake really isn’t a cupcake without 2 inches of delicious frosting piled on top. The next recipe I do will have just that…

Vanilla Cupcakes from Martha Stewart
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time; scrape down bowl, and beat in vanilla.
3. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
4. Divide batter evenly among cupcake liners, about three-quarters full each. Bake until golden and tops spring back to touch, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer pans to wire rack; cool completely.

blackberry jam and cream filled cross section

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Whisk cream until soft peaks form.
2. Add sugar and whisk until combined.

White and Dark Chocolate Ganache Glaze

6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3.5 ounce bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3.5 ounce white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Divide the butter in half (two 3 tablespoon portions).
2. Put the chopped chocolates in two bowls. White in one and bittersweet in the other.
3. Put about half of the half portion of butter into each bowl (~1.5 tablespoons in each bowl).
4. Place the bowls over a pan of simmering water (I did one at a time) and let rest for 30 seconds.
5. Mix the chocolate and butter until melted and smooth.
6. Add the reminaing butter from the 3 tablespoon portion, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and mix to combine.
7. Let cool 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to spread. Repeat with the other chocolate

lamington cupcakes

Assemble

1/2 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup blackberry jam
~ 2 teaspoons vanilla sea salt, purchased or made with sea salt and vanilla bean

1. Fill the cupcakes with cream using the cone method. This post has step by step photos of the method. I fill half with cream and a pinch of vanilla sea salt and half with cream and blackberry jam.
2. Top the vanilla sea salt and cream filled ones with bittersweet chocolate and sprinkle with coconut.
3. Top the blackberry jam and cream filled ones with white chocolate and sprinkle with coconut.

lamington cupcakes

3 Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Sea Salt36

Posted by in Simple Recipe,Step-by-Step Photos,Vanilla (Saturday April 19, 2008 at 8:33 pm)

3 vanilla cupcakes with vanilla sea salt

One of my most favorite places to discover unique ingredients and find inspiration for my latest creation is Boulettes Larder. My recent visit turned up the very special sea salt used to garnish these cupcakes and a very delicious pasta dish that was well worth the 18 dollar Tuesday lunch splurge.

The vanilla cupcake recipe is a make-up for my bookkeeping mishap of this post. It’s close to the same recipe, slightly altered and I amped it up with more vanilla. The recipe contains vanilla in 3 forms – vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, and vanilla bean. Why 3 forms? Why not.

As you may recall, I did a side by side comparison of Martha’s and Amy’s vanilla cupcakes for this post. The end results of these two recipes are two very different vanilla cupcakes. One tastes better and has a more delicate texture (Amy’s) but is more difficult to execute. The other is fail safe, but dense and not as tasty.

I am looking to come up somewhere in the middle, but leaning towards the tasty/delicate end of the spectrum. I have also tested Magnolia’s recipe and Claire Crespo’s vanilla cupcake recipe. Based on my recollection and comparison of the recipes, Martha’s is the most dense/fail proof, Magnolia’s comes next (note: Billy’s is pretty much the same as Magnolia’s minus a few tweaks), then Claire’s, then Amy’s.

I, of course, am trying to come up with my own version… My goal is to be as close to the texture & taste of Amy’s, but without the execution challenges. So, the recipe below is probably the second or third try and I still have some work. This version is probably between Magnolia’s and Claire’s, but I want to be somewhere between Claire’s and Amy’s. Whew… That was likely confusing.

The vanilla sea salt is a nice touch. If you can’t find it, just find some high quality sea salt, and mix it with some vanilla bean seeds. The Chef at Boulettes gave me the low down as to where this salt came from – Anglesey, Wales – and how its made. Its made by a family on the beach by evaporating sea water in stainless steel vats. The sea salt is then stored with Tahitian vanilla bean in clay pots. Sounds nice…

vanilla sea salt
vanilla sea salt

Vanilla Sugar

1 vanilla bean, split
1 pound sugar

1. Split the vanilla bean but don’t scrape out the seeds. Put it with the sugar in an airtight container. Store in a cupboard for around 5 days or more. Shake it up once in a while.

splitting vanilla bean
splitting the bean

3 Vanilla Cupcakes
20 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3/4 cup (1-1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-2/3 cups vanilla sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2-2/3 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out

1. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.
3. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
4. Measure out the milk and vanilla and stir to combine.
5. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
6. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 2/3’s full. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake cupcakes for about 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

scraping vanilla seeds
scraping the seeds

Vanilla Bean Frosting

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 package (8 ounces) philly cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
-4-5 cups powdered sugar

1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy.
2. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.
3. Add the vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, and 3 cups of powdered sugar and beat at low speed, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to arrive at the consistency and sweetness you like.

Assemble
1. Frost each cooled cupcake with a healthy mound of frosting.
2. Top with vanilla seat salt or whatever you so desire.

filling frosting bag
filling the bag

frosting
frosting the cupcakes

I should mention… You should actually save the vanilla beans you scrape the beans out of and also use those to make vanilla sugar or reuse in some way as there is likely a lot of life left in them. Reminded by this post

Plain and Simple Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes78

Posted by chockylit in Chocolate,Vanilla (Monday February 25, 2008 at 6:40 pm)

vanilla and chocolate cupcakes

We are being visited by out of town guests this week. The visitors include three youngsters who happen to be very plain and picky eaters. I definitely wanted to treat them to cupcakes, but knew that I couldn’t veer far from very straightforward flavors. I decided to do four recipes – a basic chocolate cupcake, basic vanilla cupcake and chocolate and vanilla frostings – but with quality ingredients. It was also an opportunity to further tweak my basic recipes as I am on an apparently never-ending quest for the perfect chocolate and perfect vanilla cupcake.

I am especially pleased with the chocolate one this time around. I started with my old-fashioned recipe and tweaked it some mostly bumping up the cocoa and cutting back on flour. The cake is soft and fluffy with a nice deep chocolate flavor – irresistible in my book… The vanilla cake recipe is different than my usual. It’s less dense than my usual vanilla cupcake and a bit sweeter. Both frostings are simple and came out nice.

UPDATE: Someone posted about the vanilla recipe asking if its correct in its ingredient amounts. Normally I would say confidently, yes. Sometimes I get instruction slip-ups but never ingredient amounts. Well, I looked at my spreadsheet of vanilla recipes and to be honest, I am not sure now. So, to be safe, I am removing the vanilla recipe until it can be retested.

UPDATE: Slight adjustment to remove baking soda which should help with this recipe.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes
14 regular cupcakes / 375 degree oven

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temp
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoons vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.
4. Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a small sized bowl and whisk to combine.
5. Measure out the milk and vanilla and stir to combine
6. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
7. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 2/3’s full. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake cupcakes for about 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Note: I try to use the best quality cocoa I can find. It makes a huge difference. For this recipe I used Valrhona cocoa. Its so dark that the batter is almost purple.

Note: This cupcake recipe is the kind that will result in a flat cupcake (not domed). One thing you must be careful of is over-filling the cupcake paper. I did just that with the last cupcake and the result was a sunken hole (see photo below). If the cake continues to rise and has no where to go and will one over flow and two start to sink back on itself as it doesn’t have the structure to hold the excess batter up. So, stick to 2/3’s full and don’t be tempted (as I was) to squeeze that last bit of batter into one of the papers.

what not to do
what not to do

Chocolate Frosting
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

5.3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons boiling water
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Chop the chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl. Melt over a pan of gently simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 – 20 minutes.
2. Dissolve the cocoa powder in the boiling water in a small bowl. Set aside.
3. In an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Scrape the bowl.
4. Add powdered sugar and beat to combine.
5. Add cooled, melted chocolate and beat to combine.
6. Add cocoa paste and beat to combine.

frosting and sprinkle close-up
shiny, tasty frosting

Vanilla Cupcakes
removed until it can be retested

Soft Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk

1. Beat butter at medium-high speed until creamy.
2. Sift powdered sugar into the mixer bowl (right on top of the beaten butter). Beat to combine.
3. Add the vanilla and the milk. Beat until combined.

Note: This makes a softer, less sweet buttercream that is good for swirling on but not for piping as it’s not stiff enough.

simple vanilla/vanilla cupcake
creamy frosting

Assemble
1. Spoon about a tablespoon of frosting onto each cooled cupcake. The frosting recipes make just enough for about a tablespoon each.
2. With a small offset spatula, smooth the frosting into a swirl.
3. Top with sprinkles.

I frosted some vanilla with vanilla and some with chocolate and vice versa. I ended up with 4 combos total. My favorite was the chocolate cake with the vanilla buttercream frosting. Yum!

Cherry-Vanilla Cupcakes39

Posted by chockylit in Other Fruits,Simple Recipe (Thursday December 21, 2006 at 12:11 pm)

cherry-vanilla cupcakes

These cupcakes are sweet! Very appropriate for kids or adults with major sweet tooth. They are yummy, though. I love the filling, but I recommend cream cheese frosting if you plan to serve them to grownups. I also intended to have speckles of vanilla bean throughout the cupcake, but my vanilla beans were dried out! Oh well, next time for sure.

Have a happy holiday and see you all next year!

Cupcakes
22-24 regular cupcakes / 375-350 degree oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

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. Add to mixer bowl. Add the milk and vanilla. Mix to combine.
5. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes).
6. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Note: These cupcakes tend to rise quite a bit and will overflow if you put too much batter in the cupcake paper. Keep it under two-thirds full. They also tend to pull away from the papers as they cool. It should be minimal if the cupcakes were baked enough and shouldn’t be an issue. (At least it isn’t for me.)

cooling cupcakes
cooling cupcake

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
6-8 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup milk

1. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment
2. Beat butter at medium-high speed until creamy
3. Add half of the sugar, the vanilla and the milk. Beat until combined
4. Gradually add remaining sugar until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.

Cherry Filling

2 cups cherries, pitted, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. Add cherries, water, and vanilla to a pot. Cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat.
2. Stir together sugar and cornstarch then stir into the cherries.
3. Cook until thick, about 20 minutes.

cherry-vanilla filling
cherry-vanilla filling

Assemble
1. Fill each cupcake with filling. I used the “cone method”, but many methods will do.
2. Frost filled cupcakes.
3. Top with a rinsed and patted dry maraschino cherry.

cherry-vanilla cupcake

pear & vanilla bean filled chocolate cupcakes with vanilla bean buttercream35

Posted by chockylit in Chocolate,Pear,Vanilla (Sunday March 30, 2008 at 10:18 am)

pear & vanilla bean filled chocolate cupcakes with vanilla bean buttercream

I made these here cupcakes for the first ever bay area cupcake meetup that happened this weekend. A lovely group of people showed up at Dolores Park in San Francisco with creative and tasty cupcakes to share. We talked shop and caused a bit of a scene. Apparently the idea of a group of people meeting up in a park to eat cupcakes is unusual. Go figure! If you are in the bay area sign-up for the meetup we plan to meet seasonally. The next gathering will be sometime this summer.

Back to the cupcakes… I often think of fall when I think of pears (much like apples), but I hadn’t worked with pears in a cupcake and was eager to do so. I decided to “spring them up” a bit and paired the pear with vanilla bean. I enjoyed the combination and all in all consider the cupcake a success.

UPDATE: Slight adjustment to remove baking soda which should help with this recipe.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes
~30 regular cupcakes / 375 degree oven

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp
2-1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temp
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.
4. Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a small sized bowl and whisk to combine.
5. Measure out the milk and vanilla and stir to combine
6. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
7. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 1/2’s full. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake cupcakes for about 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Note: As mentioned previously with this recipe, if you overfill the cupcakes, they will overflow and then sink. To be on the safe side I am now recommending that you fill the cupcakes 1/2 full. With a big batch you may still have some problems with one or two of them, but the majority should work out just fine. Your oven must be for sure hot enough, so it doesn’t hurt to get an oven thermometer and make sure it’s at the correct temperature. These cupcakes are temperamental, but the resulting cake is worth it.

chocolate cupcake
chocolate cupcake

Pear Filling

1 good sized pear, pealed, pitted, and chopped into small dice
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 vanilla bean

1. Add pear and water to a medium sized pan. Cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat.
2. Stir together sugar and cornstarch then stir into the pears.
3. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the pears.
4. Cook until thick, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Note: The filling can be made a day in advance and stored covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

pear filling
pear filling

Soft Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons milk

1. Beat butter at medium-high speed until creamy.
2. Sift powdered sugar into the mixer bowl (right on top of the beaten butter). Beat to combine.
3. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the frosting.
4. Add the vanilla and the milk. Beat until combined.

Pear Chips

1 good sized pear

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Using a mandolin or very sharp knife, slice thin cross-sections of pear.
3. Place on a baking sheet making sure that the slices do not touch.
4. Let them dry in a 200 degree oven for about 1 hour (depends on how thin the slices are) flipping 2 or 3 times until they are dried out and no longer soggy.

pear chip
pear chips

Assemble
1. Fill the cupcakes with the pear filling using the cone method. This post has step by step photos of the method.
2. Frost with frosting and top with a pear chip.

cupcake meetup cupcakes
cupcakes from the meetup

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting55

Posted by chockylit in Chocolate,Science Experiment (Sunday October 2, 2005 at 4:38 pm)

I compared about 8 existing recipes for red velvet cake and found the following:

  • some are vanilla cakes with red food coloring and most are chocolate with red food coloring
  • all of the chocolate red velvet recipes use cocoa as opposed to melted chocolate and most have very little cocoa in them (probably to maintain the red coloring)
  • most use cake flour
  • some use oil and some butter
  • all use buttermilk, vinegar and red food coloring
  • as far as chemical leaveners go, some use baking powder (acidic and akaline components), most baking soda (alkaline), and two use both (more on chemical leaveners below)
  • all have the usual suspects in similar quantities: sugar, eggs, salt, vanilla

For my first attempt I decided to go with

  • cake flour for delicate crumb
  • cocoa for a chocolaty taste
  • butter for better flavor
  • a base batch, divided into three to test variation in chemical leaveners (resulting recipe is for what I deemed the best option)

I made a 1-1/2 batch so I would yield 36 cupcakes as opposed to the usual 24.

The result… well, the cupcakes tasted fine, had a nice texture, but were rather plain (were it not for the frosting). The cocoa taste was not discernable and I recommend increasing the quantity in the recipe. If I were to test the recipe again, I would increase the cocoa by 50% and 100% and check the results. I doubt I will test it again, however, as the novelty of red batter isn’t interesting enough to distract me from other recipes I want to try.

Cupcakes
makes 36 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3-3/4 cups cake flour
1/4 cups cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder or 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
3/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
3 teaspoons vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 ounce red food coloring paste
2-1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups butter
3 eggs

  1. preheat oven to 350°F
  2. sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder (or cream of tarter), and salt into medium bowl
  3. whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring in small bowl to blend
  4. beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well fluffy, 3 minutes
  5. add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition, about 30 seconds
  6. beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 3 additions
  7. scoop into cupcake tins
  8. bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes
  9. cool in pans 10 minutes
  10. cool completely on racks

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

12 ounces or 1-1/2 packages of Philly cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar
seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. bring cheese and butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours
  2. sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment
  3. beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy
  4. add 4 cups of the sugar and beat until combined
  5. add vanillas and beat until combined
  6. add more sugar until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like

Pastillage Shapes

1 packages gelatin
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
~5 cups powdered sugar

  1. prepare a clean work surface by spraying with water and then covering in a bit of powdered sugar
  2. in a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over the water and let sit for 3 minutes
  3. add corn syrup and stir to combine, heat over medium heat stirring constantly until gelatin is dissolved, about 12 minutes
  4. add 3 cups of the powdered sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer
  5. at lowest setting, drizzle in all of the heated mixture
  6. increase speed of mixer to combine
  7. start to add more powdered sugar until the mixture gets stiff
  8. you will need to transfer to the prepared work surface to finish needing by hand, you may also choose to need in powdered food coloring
  9. add sugar or water as needed to get a smooth consistency, its like needing pasta dough – you want a similar consistency
  10. once it is nice and smooth, divide it up for as much as you need and wrap the remainder in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container for up to 12 months
  11. scrape down work surface for rolling, dust surface and rolling pin with corn starch, roll out pastillage as thin as you can get it
  12. cut out shapes with whatever small cutters you have
  13. set aside on parchment to dry

This will make a lot of pastillage, I used 1/4 of it to make more than enough shapes for 36 cupcakes. Given it lasts so long, doesn’t hurt to have extra. A note on coloring, needing in powdered food coloring gives a nice matt look or you can paint it on for some variation in color.

Assembly

  1. pipe a swirl of cream cheese frosting on each cooled cupcake
  2. top with a pastillage shape

Chemical Leaveners and Anthocyanins
Occasionally the chemical engineer in me rears its nerdy head, like it did this weekend. I got to thinking about the baking soda versus powder versus both and was led down a trail past anthocyanins and essentially to the question of how does pH effect the end product.

Chemical leaveners when used correctly react with other compounds to release carbon dioxide gas which will cause the cake to rise. They are often “double acting” – would say so on the packaging – meaning they react when added to the batter and release some gas bubbles, then there is a second reaction later on which cause the release gas bubbles to expand.

* Baking soda is alkaline and requires acidic compounds to react with it. These can be yogurt or sour milk.
* Baking powder contains baking soda and acidic salt crystals. It basically contains what it needs to cause the chemical reaction and produce carbon dioxide.

In the case of this recipe, there is buttermilk and vinegar (both acidic) which will react the baking soda. Baking powder should not be necessary – in theory. There are also theories that the acidic compounds react with cocoa (or the anthocyanins in cocoa) to turn the batter reddish-brown, but I read here that it is a scientific myth.

I looked into anthocyanins and indeed they do need an acidic environment to be red, but I was tending to agree with the first article that there aren’t enough of them in the chocolate for it to really matter. I looked into it some. This article says that quantities are “high” in green tea and chocolate, which this article confirms, but it also adds that processing causes the anthocyanins to convert to quinones which then further react and result in brown-colored compounds. So, I suspected that any change in pH wouldn’t really make a difference in color, plus I was planning on adding food coloring.

So, I started with a base batter with just baking soda and then divided it into three and added baking powder to one and cream of tarter to the other (note: cream of tarter (acid) + baking soda can be used a substitute for baking powder).


baking soda only


baking soda and cream of tarter


baking soda and baking powder

The baking soda-only batch definitely looked the worst, but there wasn’t a noticeable taste or color difference amongst the three. The other two versions were pretty darn close, hence why I suggested baking powder or cream of tarter. In theory, you could use baking powder only, but I didn’t test that option.

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