Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene and Aftermath Cookies

Perfectly timed with a certain turbulent weather event, I have just entered a rather tumultuous time in my life. Although I usually avoid discussing my life with the blogging community because I would prefer not to be judged by my age, I must admit: I just entered college. Two days ago, in fact. It was supposed to be three days ago, but our dear friend Irene delayed the move-in day at my school and several others. Since I was stuck in the house for an extra unplanned day and my state of mind was rather turbulent itself, I, of course, decided to bake. Besides, I figured that bringing some homemade cookies to share at college could only be a positive thing when meeting people... and so far, it has in fact helped me meet some friendly students.

Terrible cell phone photos, sorry.

As I watched and listened to the storm outside, I was inspired to concoct two types of cookies: Hurricane Irene Cookies and Aftermath Cookies.  Click on "Read more" to view the recipes for these delightful cookies -- don't worry, despite their destructive namesakes the only things these cookies will stir up are your tastebuds.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Coconut Nutella Cupcakes

One of my best friends had a birthday a week ago.
She LOVES coconut. Coconut-flavored anything, coconut-scented anything, thai curries with coconut milk... all coconut, all the time. She also adores Nutella (she introduced me to the brilliant idea of peanut butter, jelly, and Nutella sandwiches). So when I saw this recipe on Tasty Kitchen, I bookmarked it and waited (im)patiently for her birthday to arrive so I could make these for her.

Next, I did some research to find what I hoped would be the BEST coconut cupcake, filling, and nutella frosting for her special day. Here is what I came up with...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chemistry (Tiramisu and Tiramisu Bars)

These photos are probably not what most people would imagine when they think of a chemistry experiment.

I wasn't expecting a chemistry lesson, either. But that's exactly what I got when I made this tiramisu and these tiramisu bars.

One of my friends requested more of the tiramisu bars I had made a few months ago (cream filling adapted from this recipe, with a sugar cookie crust on the bottom and whipped cream on top). Since I, in an attempt to expand my culinary horizons, was determined to try making authentic tiramisu by the end of the summer, I decided to make a tiramisu and use half of the filling for bars for my friend. It seemed like a perfect plan.

Like most of my "perfect plans", this turned into an extensive ordeal that I only barely salvaged from complete failure. I managed to ruin what Brown Eyed Baker called the "spot-on and foolproof", "perfected" recipe from Cooks Illustrated. In an attempt to explain what happened, I will go through the recipe and comment (with photos) on my progress at various points.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Meringue Gelato Cupcakes (for the 2011 Ice Cream Cupcake Contest)

This, my friends, is a very light cupcake with a darkly seductive taste. Two fluffy angel food cupcakes with meringue gelato in the middle and a smooth, swiss meringue buttercream on top, with a sweet little meringue cookie to cap it off.

I created these cupcakes for the 2011 Ice Cream Cupcake Contest created by Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious. These were a treat for my brother, since his birthday is coming up. If you remember from my chocolate hazelnut meringue cupcakes, he absolutely loves meringue. We went to Europe about 10 years ago and he has never forgotten the meringue gelato he tried one day in Italy. To this day, he lists it as his favorite dessert. I decided to recreate this flavor for him and incorporate it into a cupcake.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Spring Feast

I made a Spring feast. It was months ago (back in March, erp!), but I didn't get around to posting about it until now... and I wouldn't have thought to take pictures or post this at all without a request from my best friend. It took up my entire weekend (12 hours on Saturday and most of Sunday), but it was definitely worth it. I served all of this food at a potluck get-together at my house on that Sunday evening.

Click "Read More" to see pictures and links to recipes...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Plant a Tree Cupcakes (for Mystery Box #10)

Earth Day.

Growing up, I was taught that the way to celebrate this holiday was to plant a tree. So when I saw that this month's Mystery Box challenge was to create a cupcake for Earth Day, I decided to honor our good friends, the trees.

On an episode of Cupcake Wars (one of the few episodes I saw of it) the contestants were asked to bake cupcakes using ingredients that come from trees, and they were given a large table-full of ingredients from which to choose. However, most competitors chose the easy cupcake flavors -- maple, almond, and dates or figs in most cases -- and I was disappointed. I came up with a more adventurous idea to represent some of my favorite tree products: pear, almond, and...


My "Plant A Tree" cupcakes consist of a moist avocado cupcake, a caramelized cinnamon-pear filling, and a sweet, creamy almond frosting. The combination works surprisingly well - the cupcake is subtle (tasters said that they would not have known what was in them if I had not told them, although when tasting the cupcake by itself, without frosting or filling, they could detect the gentle avocado flavor) and the filling and frosting create balance with just the right amount of sweetness but without making it too rich.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Yellow (Lemon Blueberry Cake)

Spring is here, summer is well on its way. This is what my town looks like right now (this was on one of the very rare rainy days here):

Everything is in sunny yellow bloom. So it was only fitting that I made a sunny yellow cake for my grandma's birthday.

My grandma's dietary restrictions (no chocolate or nuts) have inspired me to branch out into new territories, since I have always believed that desserts with chocolate and/or nuts are always the best. I have begun to make exceptions to this rule, and while I will always be a die-hard chocolate lover and choose chocolate cake (especially with my mom's signature mocha glaze and blackberry filling) for my own birthday, I have a newfound appreciation for fruit-based cakes.

I adapted this recipe from Sweetapolita and replaced the lemon curd with an all-fruit blackberry jam. Don't look at her photos, they are far too beautiful in comparison to my amateur shots!

Just kidding. Please do look at her photos. They will convince you to make this cake just as they convinced me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

More Birthdays Cupcakes (for Mystery Box #9)


Many dislike them, because they signify becoming another year older.

However, for some they represent a success. Another year, another milestone. Another victory in the fight against cancer.

 This month's Mystery Box competition challenged us to make cupcakes celebrating birthdays. I decided to celebrate the hope for a world with MORE BIRTHDAYS. I am participating in, and on the publicity committee for, my local Relay for Life (an event for the American Cancer Society) in April, and I have been raising money by selling cupcakes. (To learn more about Why I Relay and/or to make a donation, please visit my personal page.) One of Relay's goals is to "Create A World With Less Cancer and More Birthdays", so I decided that I would pay tribute to this mission with my entry this month.

Relay's color theme is purple (like the pink for breast cancer research) so I created some homemade Purple Velvet Cupcakes with a purple-tinted frosting. I baked them in party balloon liners and decorated them with festive sprinkles and celebratory star-shaped candles. I filled a few water balloons and labeled each with a different age to celebrate survivors of all ages, all the way to 100! Let's celebrate HOPE this month - hope for MORE BIRTHDAYS.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Banana Split Cake

When I asked my mom what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, she said, half joking, "How about a banana split cake?"I accepted the challenge, and began drawing up my plans. It would be a magnificent bundt cake, with ice cream and banana slices in the middle, whipped cream frosting, and beautiful pieces of strawberry and pineapple overflowing from the center. A strawberry syrup drizzle, a split banana, and a maraschino cherry topped it off perfectly.

Little did I know that this cake would live up to its name and become a true Banana Split Cake...

All was going well. I had baked and cooled the cake, cut it in half, and cut out a bit of the center to make room for bananas and ice cream. I carefully placed my banana slices and spread the ice cream onto each half of the cake. I tried to move the bottom half of the cake (the hollowed out half) onto a glass pie plate. I picked it up and placed it on the pie dish... which was too small for the cake. It broke into three pieces, and ice cream leaked everywhere (by now it was starting to melt, which was why I had tried to move it as quickly as possible so I could get it back in the freezer). After a brief meltdown on my part (get it, meltdown? okay, bad joke), during which my mom saved the day by putting the cake on a plate that was actually big enough for it, I pushed the three pieces together, fixed the ice cream, and quickly put it in the freezer. By the time it came out of the freezer the next morning, the ice cream had melted into the cracks and acted as a glue, and it was like a whole cake again. By the time I frosted and decorated it, it was almost unnoticeable (until trying to cut it) that it had broken.

This would be just as good (maybe even better) made with banana cake, but my mother requested a plain ol' vanilla cake instead. I went with a pound cake from Allrecipes that seemed light, but not too spongy to hold the ice cream, and said it freezes well. It was a great cake for this purpose, although I should have decreased the temperature and baked it longer to avoid the dark, crispy crust that formed on the outside.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gingerbread Popcorn Cupcakes - for Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge #7

When I looked at this month's Mystery Box challenge and saw the familiar red and white striped box, I was stunned at the fortuitous timing. I am not usually a popcorn fan, but I had just (the day before) experienced popcorn nirvana for the first time: Gingerbread Popcorn. That's right. Sweet, spicy, crunchy, tooth-rotting goodness. A dentist's worst nightmare, but the hit of the New Year's party I brought it to. Now this is some popcorn I can truly love.

Obviously, this had to inspire a cupcake. Although I thought my holiday cooking spree had finally ended, I decided to welcome a new year of baking with these Gingerbread Popcorn Cupcakes. They are gingerbread cupcakes with a butterscotch swirl (for just a hint of buttery popcorn-like flavor) and topped with cream cheese frosting and, of course, gingerbread popcorn. The butterscotch may sound like an odd thing to add to a gingerbread cupcake, but it makes them richer and adds a complexity that really highlights the gingerbread flavor quite well.