that's forking good

adventures in a culinary neophyte's kitchen

Posts Tagged ‘buttercream’

cupcakes fit for the champs

Posted by culinaryneophyte on February 8, 2012


The Super Bowl is the Thanksgiving of the sports world: At the heart is a celebration of an American tradition, but most people are just there for the food.


As I mentioned in my last post, I was a little overzealous in the kitchen this weekend because I was not only cooking for a big group of people, but also super pumped for the game itself: a rematch of the greatest Super Bowl played since I’ve been alive, and maybe of all time. I get chills whenever I think about Super Bowl XLII — the Giants’ final drive, Eli’s Houdini-like escape, David Tyree’s epic helmet-catch, ruining the Patriots’ 19-0 dreams. Pure magic.

I was nervous for this year’s game all weekend, and the best way to take my mind off of it was to bake. I already showed you the Giants sugar cookies I made earlier in the week, and when I saw strawberries on sale, I decided to make festive chocolate-covered strawberry footballs. The stars of the show, though, were these chocolate chip cookie-bottom vanilla cupcakes, which I first saw on how sweet eat is. I wanted to take it a step further and add some Giants colors in there to support Big Blue. (That’s probably why they won.)

Note: The lighting in my house is awful, and my snarky friend Scott pointed out on Facebook that they look more like Broncos cupcakes than Giants. He said, “You should probably fix that before you put it on Pinterest” (mocking his girlfriend’s new obsession that I may or may not have introduced her to). The good news is that the New York Giants seemed to think the colors were suitable, because I received a notification on Twitter saying they had chosen my photo to publish on their website! In any event, they were clearly blue and red in person, so… yeah.

slightly adapted from how sweet eat is
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. chocolate chips

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in bowl. In stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat
on medium. Slowly add dry ingredients, and mix on low until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Spray each cupcake liner with a spritz of cooking spray and spoon in about 1 tablespoon of cookie mix. Press down evenly with spoon. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare cake mix.

1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tbs. vanilla extract
1-1/2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/3 c. milk 

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. After a quick clean of the mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat. Add 1/3 dry ingredients and 1/2 the milk, and mix on low. Alternate dry and milk until all ingredients are just combined. Scoop cake mix into each liner until 2/3 full. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out cleanly. Makes 18 cupcakes.

For buttercream frosting, use this recipe (sans the chai spices). You might want to make a double batch, because I didn’t have enough and needed to use a little bit of Pilsbury vanilla frosting for my white component. To make the swirled effect, separate frosting in proportionate amounts into separate bowls, and add food coloring. (FYI: Wilton food coloring is much more effective than what I used for the sugar cookies because this blue color was perfectly royal.) Place in a piping bag in stripes, and push through even if it gets messy.

Total time? 35 minutes prep, 20 minutes bake. (You’re basically making two desserts.)
Cost? Nothing out of the norm here — just nominal baking supply costs.
Overall success relative to expectations? 9 out 10. I was a little concerned having cookie involved could dry out the cupcake portion, but these were surprisingly moist. (They don’t stay that way longer than a day or two, but you probably won’t have many leftover anyway.) The only complaint — if you could even call it that — is that the chocolate chip cookie portion was slightly overwhelming in a few of the treats and took it more in a cookie-cake direction. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but that’s why I decreased the cookie measurement. These are a little time consuming, but definitely worth it. Sooo good! (And of course: Congratulations to the New York Giants on their Super Bowl XLVI win! Déjà BLUE all over again!)


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cranberry chai cupcakes

Posted by culinaryneophyte on January 27, 2012

My family doesn’t do a lot of the holidays together — really just Easter Saturday and Christmas Eve. For the latter this year, my stepmother, Becky, put me in charge of dessert. I came across’s recipe from cranberry chai cupcakes, and I just happened to have a bag of fresh cranberries in my fridge (and I just happen to love chai). The smell and colors of the cupcakes were too festive to not make for Christmas, but as I slid them into the oven, I suddenly remembered: My family hates trying new things.

I started to panic: How am I even going to get them to try these? The pun-like intentions of a “Chai me!” sign would either go over their heads or turn them off from the dessert altogether (‘Chai? Like… tea? Gag.’) Each cake is topped with a cranberry (‘No sprinkles!?’), and there’s not an ounce of chocolate involved. It was too late to call it off and whip up a more guaranteed crowd-pleaser, e.g. boring brownies or chocolate chip cookies, so I pressed on and hoped calling them “cinnamon spice cupcakes” might slightly soften their aversions. It’s not totally a lie, right…? (Adding cute Target toothpicks and sugar crystals could be a nice distraction, too.)

I was still a little on edge as dinner came to a close. The pressure of serving something everyone might hate as the sole dessert was a lot more nerve-racking than I anticipated. As we reconvened at the table and I started slowly setting out my cranberry chai cupcakes, salvation emerged from the other room in the form of an illuminated birthday cake. Amidst my dessert planning, I forgot we would have cake for Becky’s birthday — something she obviously didn’t mention when asking me to make dessert because it was a surprise. A Cold Stone ice cream cake — now that’s a crowd-pleaser. My weirdo spice cupcakes quickly faded into the background, and I was pretty okay with that.

Don’t feel too bad for the little weirdos, though: They found a happy ending. I had enough left over to bring to a gathering at my friend Jackie’s house, where I’ve been going after my family’s Christmas Eve dinner for the last 12 years now. (Wow, just realizing how long it’s actually been. We’re old.) I set them out at the dessert table and got some good reviews.

slightly adapted from 
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
pinch of black pepper

Combine in small bowl.

1/2 c. butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
2 c. flour
1 tbs. chai spices
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. chopped cranberries

In a medium bowl, combine flour, chai spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat butter and sugar in stand mixer on high until fluffy. Beat in vanilla, then eggs one a time, mixing after each. Add 1/3 flour mix, then half buttermilk, then 1/3 flour, rest of buttermilk and rest of dry mix — beating on low after each addition. Do not overmix! Stir in chopped cranberries. Spoon batter into lined cupcake tin, and bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick entered into cake comes out clean. Makes about two dozen.

♦Use my chai buttercream frosting
Sugared Cranberries (optional) 

Let cupcakes stand for five minutes before allowing to cool completely on wire rack. Make one serving of chai frosting, and top cupcakes. Add sugar crystals or other decor. Sugared cranberries make for a nice aesthetic, but I did not like the way they tasted. If you are interested, freeze 25 cranberries, then roll in granulated sugar.

Total time? 20 minutes prep, 18-20 minutes bake
Cost? $2 cranberries, $1.99 buttermilk and added costs for any chai spices you don’t already own. (I had to refill on cardamom — so expensive!)
Overall success relative to expectations? 7 out 10. The biggest change in my adaptation of this recipe is the addition of more chopped cranberries. The first batch wasn’t tart enough, and this also helps make the cakes a bit more moist. The chai flavor is fantastic, and the frosting is just the right amount of sweetness. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not cooking to my audience, so these cupcakes didn’t exactly get the praise they deserved; but the sweet/spicy/tart combination make them a perfect little wintertime treat.

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chai me!

Posted by culinaryneophyte on October 9, 2010

Got my obligatory pun out of the way early. You’re welcome.

It’s finally starting to feel like fall on the east coast, and I couldn’t be happier about it. In order to celebrate the onset of cold-weather months before it actually feels cold, I give you vanilla chai cupcakes, courtesy of The Novice Chef. Nothing I’ve made thus far has made the house smell more incredible than these babies, and eating one was just like drinking cup of my favorite hot tea beverage — except, ya know, in solid form.

chai spice mix, pre-mix

The only downside you might encounter in making these is the cost. If you don’t own a spice rack, you’re in trouble; and if you do have one, you might still end up dropping a few. I threw a hissy fit when I realized the rack in our kitchen didn’t have nutmeg. Seriously? How does this thing come with tumeric and coriander seeds, but not nutmeg?! And cardamom? Yeah, okay…

Chai spice mix
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Believe me: I considered the dollar store, but after my last experience with their products, I reconsidered. The good news is that if you invest in quality spices, your flavors will be intensified, thus justifying the purchase. (Check out this Spices101 post by TheFoodInMyBeard for a more sound explanation than I could give you.) Plus, having an abundance of cardamom means I’m going to get myself into all sorts of chai experiments, so that should be…fun.

For cakes:
♦1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 quantity chai spice mix
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Mix spices together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and beat in one egg at a time. Stir in half the quantity of chai spice mix. Fold in the flour and buttermilk alternately. Stir until well combined. In another bowl, mix together vinegar and baking soda. Add that to batter. Spoon batter into cups, about 3/4 full. Bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into middle of cupcake comes out clean. Wait until completely cooled to frost.

For chai buttercream frosting
1 c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 quantity chai spice mix
1-2 tbs. cold milk, if necessary

In a stand mixer, beat butter until creamy. Mix in vanilla and rest of chai spice mix. Carefully beat in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until desired consistency. If icing is too thick, add cold mix until it’s to your liking.

Total time? 45-ish minutes (including frosting-making).
Cost? More expensive than most, considering spices runs between $6-12. Apple cider vinegar ($2) isn’t the most common cabinet dweller, but I was fortunate enough to have some. The rest is pretty standard.
Overall success relative to expectations? 9 out of 10. I made these as part of National Cupcake Week 2010, and they were a hit amongst friends, family and co-workers (as they should have been; I took a vote to determine which variety of cupcakes to make, and these won out big time.) The flavor and aroma were amazing, and this time around, I used a professional piping tool and cutesy liners (at left), so the presentation was improved. Though the frosting was the star here, I deducted a point because the cake consistency bordered more on muffin. Definitely recommend giving them a chai, though! (Sorry, couldn’t resist [tea-hehe].) Yes, I’m ashamed; eyerolls encouraged.

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