Panda Cupcakes

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Busy season ended yesterday. It was pretty brutal, and I needed something to brighten my day. Like most people, I am a big fan of animal cupcakes. Why? Because they’re adorable. I had a lot of fun making these Monkey Cupcakes last month, and they inspired me to make these panda cupcakes. Not only are they fun to look at, they taste delicious too! The cupcake base is incredibly moist and fluffy, which are two things I always hope for when I bite into a cupcake. And the vanilla buttercream? Simple perfection.

Chocolate Cupcake Base:

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cups hot coffee
  • 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup canola oil

Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Decoration:

  • white sugar sprinkles
  • brown sprinkles
  • large chocolate chips (Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips work the best!)

Servings: 12 cupcakes

Bake time: 12-15 minutes

Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Pour hot coffee over chocolate, and let this sit for a minute. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted, then add in the sugar, flour, and oil. Mix until fully combined, then mix in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla, baking powder, salt, oil, and vinegar, and mix until incorporated. I mixed by hand, but you can also mix with a hand mixer. Pour batter into lined cupcake pans, filling each liner 2/3 full. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cupcakes are just baked through, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from pans, and let them cool on a wire rack.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, prepare the vanilla buttercream. Whip the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer, until it is fluffy. Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar, adding it in multiple installments. As the frosting thickens, add salt and vanilla. Continue to mix, and add cream until desired consistency is reached.

Once the cupcakes are fully cooled, pipe on frosting using a large, round tip.Dip the frosted cupcakes into a bowl of white sugar sprinkles, making sure that the entire surface of the frosting is covered in  sprinkles. Place two large chocolate chips on the upper third of the cupcake for the eyes, pointy side down. Add a mini dollop of frosting for the whites of the eyes, and a dot of black frosting or black sprinkles for the pupils. Place two chocolate chips on the the upper edge of the frosting, for the ears. Put a chocolate chip into the center of the cupcake sideways, for the nose. Using brown sprinkles, make the mouth of the panda. That’s the fun part, you can make the pandas have whatever expression you chose 😀

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And TAH-DAH! If these little guys can’t brighten someone’s day, I don’t know what will!

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Lemon Blueberry Birthday Cake

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My friend Lexi isn’t a big fan of chocolate, but needed a birthday cake! One of my favorite non-chocolate cakes is a lemon blueberry cake. I decided to base this cake off a recipe I’ve used in the past, but decided to make it a little bit smaller.

Lemon Blueberry Cake Batter:

  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 2 C granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 7 egg whites
  • 3 C cake flour
  • 4 tsp baking power
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1 bag frozen blueberries (NOT thawed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour three eight inch cake pans and line bottom with wax paper. Cream together the butter, sugar, lemon zest and lemon extract, until the mixture is fluffy.  Add the egg whites in gradually, a couple at a time.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Alternate adding the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Beat the mixture on a medium speed during this incorporation, and continue mixing until no lumps remain. Fold in the frozen blueberries. Divide the remaining batter evenly into three pans.

Bake each layer for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake has just started to pull away from the sides. Let the layers cool in the pan, then remove from pan onto a wire rack. Let the layers cool fully before frosting.

Lemon Buttercream:

  • 2 cups butter (4 sticks), softened
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • Juice and zest of two large lemons
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4  heavy cream

Beat the butter until it is fluffy, then mix in the salt, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Gradually add in the powdered sugar, scraping the edges of your bowl between installments. Beat until all the powdered sugar has been incorporated.

For the cake assembly, simply frost each layer of cake, and apply a thin crumb coat to the exterior of the cake. Once the crumb coat has set, apply an additional layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake. If desired, you can also sprinkle blueberries between the cake layers, on top of the frosting. I made a ring around the top of the cake with blueberries, and added a few lemon slices on top.

 

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

I received a cupcake order for someone who loves caramel…and my first thought was to make a salted caramel cupcake. I like the contrast between dark chocolate and caramel, so I decided to make a dark chocolate cupcake base with a salted caramel buttercream, and caramel drizzle. I may have gone a bit overboard on the caramel, but in my opinion, you can never have too much of a good thing 😀

Chocolate Cupcake Base:

  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups hot coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup canola oil

Salted Caramel Sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Salted Caramel Buttercream:

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • 1/3 cup salted caramel sauce
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Sea salt, for garnish

Servings: 24 cupcakes

Bake time: 12-15 minutes

Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Pour hot coffee over chocolate, and let this sit for a minute. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted, then add in the sugar, flour, and oil. Mix until fully combined, then mix in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla, baking powder, salt, oil, and vinegar, and mix until incorporated. I mixed by hand, but you can also mix with a hand mixer. Pour batter into lined cupcake pans, filling each liner 2/3 full. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cupcakes are just baked through, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from pans, and let them cool on a wire rack.

While the cupcakes bake, prepare the salted caramel sauce. Pour the sugar into a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and whisk until completely melted. The sugar will clump in the beginning, but don’t worry…it will melt completely with time. Allow the sugar to cook until it turns a beautiful amber color, and has a nutty aroma. I don’t have a candy thermometer, so I go completely by visual cues. At this point, remove the mixture from the heat. Whisk in the butter, then the cream. The mixture will bubble up, so be careful during this stage (I burned my finger!). The last step is to stir in the salt. Let the caramel cool to room temperature.You can store any leftover caramel in a mason jar. It will last in your fridge for about two weeks.

Once the caramel has cooled, prepare the salted caramel buttercream. Whip the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer, until it is fluffy. Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar, adding it in multiple installments. As the frosting thickens, add caramel, salt, and vanilla. Continue to mix, and add cream until desired consistency is reached.

Once the cupcakes are fully cooled, pipe on frosting using a large, round tip. I topped each cupcake with a drizzle of caramel sauce, a caramel candy I bought at the grocery store, and a sprinkle of sea salt.

You can definitely make your own caramel squares, following this recipe. I usually like make everything from scratch, but considering it’s busy season…and I started baking these cupcakes after midnight..I made an exception this time. While I did cut myself some slack on the caramel squares, I HIGHLY recommend you do make your own caramel sauce. It doesn’t take much time, and tastes so much better than that artificial goo from the store. That is all 😀20140521-003126-1886390.jpg

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Chocolate Banana Birthday Cake

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There are so many reasons to celebrate this week! No, not because we are in the depths of busy season…but because this week is filled with birthdays!! Brandon’s birthday was next on the calendar, and he asked for a banana cake. I was thrilled when he said he would like a chocolate banana cake, because it’s a flavor combination I’ve never tried before. So here it is! I used my favorite banana cake recipe, threw in some chocolate chips, and frosted the cake with a chocolate buttercream.

Banana Cake Base:

  • 2 cups bananas, mashed, ripe (about 6 medium sized bananas)
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Frosting:

  • 2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 8 cups confectioners sugar
  • Bananas, sliced (placed between cake layers)

Ganache Topping:

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup cream

Chocolate Curls (optional):

  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp. shortening

Begin with the banana cake base. Preheat oven to 275°. Butter, flour, and place parchment paper circles in four nine-inch, circular cake pans. In a small bowl, mix the mashed banana with the lemon juice, and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt, then add eggs, one at a time. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then beat banana mixture into the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Pour the batter evenly between the  prepared pans, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

While the cake layers cool, prepare the chocolate buttercream frosting. Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, and bring the cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate pieces, and let this sit for a minute. Stir thoroughly for two minutes, until the mixture is fully combined. Set this aside until it has cooled. In a separate bowl, Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Mix in the salt, then add the powdered sugar in three installments. Stir in the vanilla, cocoa, and melted chocolate. Add additional powdered sugar or cream as needed, until desired consistency is reached.

I layered the cooled cake layers with chocolate frosting and banana slices, then applied a thin crumb coat. I let the cake sit in the fridge until the crumb coat had hardened (about 30 minutes), then applied another layer of buttercream to get a smooth exterior. While the crumb coat hardened, I decided to make the chocolate ganache, and top it with chocolate curls. To make the ganache, bring the cream to a boil, then pour over chocolate. Let the chocolate sit for a minute to melt, then mix thoroughly. Let this cool, and the pour over the cake. I like to let some of the ganache cascade over the edges 😀

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Monkey Cupcakes

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I don’t know why, but I have been obsessed with baking banana-inspired recipes lately…I think my Dad really is on  to something when he calls me a monkey. Staying true to my roots, I decided to decorate these banana chocolate chip cupcakes with monkey faces 😀

Banana Cake Base:

  • 1 cup bananas, mashed, ripe (about 3 medium sized bananas)
  • 1.5 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Frosting:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • Nilla Wafers (garnish)

Begin with the banana cupcake base. Preheat oven to 350°. Line cupcake pans with liners of choice. In a small bowl, mix the mashed banana with the lemon juice, and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt, then add eggs, one at a time. Add oil, then vanilla, then beat banana mixture into the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Pour the batter into cupcake liners, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

While the cupcakes cool, prepare the chocolate buttercream frosting. Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, and bring the cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate pieces, and let this sit for a minute. Stir thoroughly for two minutes, until the mixture is fully combined. Set this aside until it has cooled. In a separate bowl, Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Mix in the salt, then add the powdered sugar in three installments. Mix in the vanilla, and cocoa. Then add the melted chocolate, and add additional powdered sugar or cream until desired consistency is reached.

Frost cooled cupcakes, and arrange nilla wafter to create monkey face. Pipe on the eyes, nostrils, and mouth. And TAH DAH! MONKEY BANANA CUPCAKES!!

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Pink Velvet Ruffle Cake

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I won’t lie, I’m still a little scared of gluten-free baking. But what’s life if you don’t face your fears?? I tried out my first gluten-free recipe last weekend, when I made these rainbow cupcakes, and they actually turned our wonderfully! So when I got my first order for a gluten-free cake, I embraced the challenge, and made this GF Pink Velvet Cake.

Pink Velvet Cake Batter:

  • 2 1/4 cups gluten-free flour
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1.2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 squirts pink gel food coloring
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon instant coffee, dissolved in 1 Tbsp boiling water

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

  • 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted lightly to remove any lumps
  • 1 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • dash salt
  • pink gel food coloring
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Preheat oven to 325. Grease and lay a strip of parchment paper in 9 inch round cake pans (see pictures). In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and pink food coloring. Stir in the coffee, and white vinegar. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients a little at time, mixing after each addition, until justcombined. Divide the batter evenly between desired number of cake pans.Bake on the middle rack for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Bake time will vary based on how thick of layer you bake, but if you opt to use a 9 inch pan, and make 3-4 layers, this should be an accurate bake time. Keep a close eye on the cakes, you don’t want them to over bake! the layers also will continue to cook as it cools. Let the layers cool in the pan for about five minutes, then remove them from the pans onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Slide a knife or offset spatula around the inside of the pans to loosen the cake from the pan.

While the cakes cool, make the frosting. Combine the softened butter, cream cheese, vanilla, salt, and powdered  sugar in a large bowl. gently mix by hand, then finish combining with a hand mixer. Whip until the frosting is fluffy.

Frost the cake with cream cheese frosting when the cakes have cooled completely. Lightly frost each layer, and then cover the entire exterior of the cake. Make sure to alternate the layers top up, top down, to help the cake remain level. Let this crumb coat harden over night, and reserve remaining frosting. Color in fading shades of pink, and finish frosting the following morning.  I decided to use my petal tip, and make fading ruffles. 

Butterfinger Cupcakes

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First it was the Milky Way Cake, then the Snickers Cake.…and now it’s butterfinger cupcakes!! Why? Because I love candy bars almost as much as I love cupcakes 😀 And who doesn’t love the classic combination of peanut butter and chocolate?!

Chocolate Cupcake Base:

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache Filling:

  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • pinch of salt

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Buttercream:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • pinch of salt

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 18 minutes

Cool Time: 1 hour

Assembly Time: 30 minutes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard-size cupcake pan with liners. Place the chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Pour the hot coffee over the mixture, and whisk together until smooth. Set the mixture in the fridge for 5 minutes to cool. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk the oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla extract into the cooled chocolate-coffee mixture until smooth. Gradually add the flour mixture, and whisk until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin pan cups, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake until the cupcakes are set and just firm to the touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on the wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.

For the ganache, bring the cream to a boil. Pour it over the chopped chocolate, and let this sit for a minute. Add salt, and stir mixture for another minute, until fully incorporated. Let this cool and thicken, as you prepare the frosting.

While the cupcakes cool, whip together the peanut butter and chocolate buttercream. Cream the butter and peanut butter, until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Slowly add in the powdered sugar, and continue mixing until well blended. Add in the salt, vanilla, and half of the heavy cream. Reserve 1/2 of the frosting in a separate bowl, and add unsweetened cocoa. Blend on low-speed, and add additional cream until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high-speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Cut the center out of each cupcake, and fill with the cooled ganache. I wanted to pipe both frostings together, and followed the same technique I used to make my rainbow cupcakes. Stripe both frostings onto a piece of saran wrap, and roll up tightly. Twist the ends of the frosting pack. Feed this into a piping bag fitted with a star tip, and pull on of the ends through the frosting tip. Cut off excess plastic, and pipe swirls onto each cupcake.Sprinkle with crushed butterfingers, and top with a broken piece of butterfinger. BAM! If this cupcake doesn’t satisfy any chocolate/peanut butter cravings you have, I don’t know what will 😀