Last week, I decided that I hadn’t baked cupcakes in a while, and it was high time to change that.  And just in case I needed a reason, it was my cat’s birthday – according to the official Humane Society paperwork, which may or may not be all that accurate.

In any case, I brought out my trusty chocolate cake recipe from VCTOTW, and gave then a kitty-centric decorating job, since I had some fondant left over from my dad’s birthday cake.  As one of my professional-baker friends noted, fondant lasts practically forever, and with a little kneading is good as new.  Suddenly, buying a whole box of the stuff for a few little cutouts doesn’t sting so much.

20140903_143722

That’s blue raspberry frosting, by the way.  I can’t resist anything blue raspberry.  And, as my mother noticed, if you turn the cupcake 90° to the left (or your head 90° to the right), the cat turns into a bunny of sorts, like one of those bizarre optical illusions.

20140903_143806

The birthday girl was mildly intrigued, until she determined they were non-fishy in nature.  “Thanks a lot, Ma.”

Where does the time go?  One day, I was stitching up Christmas ornaments, and now, poof!  Finals, summer birthdays, that feeling of irritation that occurs when you upgrade your operating system only to find out that none of your (admittedly embarrassingly rudimentary) Windows XP software will run on Windows 8.1….

But I digress.

My dad celebrated a birthday a few weeks back, and in keeping with my Birthday Cake Rule*, I knew I had to come up with something good.  I had seen this cake on the Brown Eyed Baker some time ago and had been wanting to try it for a while.  Here’s my take:

traincake1

traincake2

Since my dad is just a wee bit (ha!) older than the BEB’s birthday boy, I passed on the rainbow cake in favour of something just a little more adult.

traincake3

This is my modification of the basic chocolate cupcake recipe from…wait for it…Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  It’s rich and moist without being too sweet, nice and light, and goes down easy.  Absolutely worth skipping a half-day of classes to make!

I also took a break from needling away at the rather large needlepoint project that’s been occupying my leisure time to stitch him a card.  I saw the pattern in an issue of The World of Cross Stitching, and he rather reminded me of my parents’ cat.

morkandcard

*The Birthday Cake Rule, for the uninitiated: If you really love someone, you’ll make them a birthday cake, or pie, or cookies, or other dessert of choice, from scratch.  None of this store-bakery sheet-cake stuff.

What happened?  One minute I was basking in the glory that is a month off from any real grown-up responsibility, and the next thing I know: Wham!  I’m thrown headfirst into school, and all the assorted homework and studying that accompanies it.  I’m still not sure what happened to January.

My regular readers will be familiar with my Birthday Rule; that is, if you don’t make someone a homemade cake/cupcakes/pie/cookies/whatever, you don’t really care about them.  So, school craziness aside, I knew that last weekend I’d be whipping up something for my mom’s birthday.

I had toyed with the idea of a blue velvet redux, using a different recipe and significantly less food colouring than the last time, but my mom is one who, if I make marble cupcakes, will ask why there’s so much more white cake than chocolate.  So, chocolate it was.  My mock-Hostess cupcakes always go over so well, that I decided to try a layer-cake version.

Hostess Cake 1

That’s two layers of deep, dark chocolate cake (the basic chocolate cupcake from VCTOTW, doubled and baked in 8-inch round pans), with a generous layer of vanilla buttercream in between, and smothered in rich ganache.

Hostess Cake 2

All purtied up…

Hostess Cake 3

The Pac-Man shot. 🙂

The birthday girl loved it; I picked up some vanilla ice cream to go with it, just for her, and within a few days only a few crumbs were left.

Last year, it was Oreo cheesecake cookies, and now…this!

(OK, to be fair, I did inhale a wedge of key lime pie last night.  It was one of those two-in-one belated Pi Day/early St. Patrick’s Day dealies.  Even so…)

I think I’m going to call these “Favourite Daughter Cupcakes” because I’ve managed to cram my dad’s favourite things into one convenient package.

2951

If you’re a regular reader, you probably know which cookbook – and likely which recipe, too – I used for the cake.  If you’re an irregular reader (wait…what?), check out some of the other cupcake posts.  Therein lies the secret.

To summarize: chocolate cupcake, cored and filled with peanut butter buttercream, covered with a rich chocolate ganache that’s been spiked with peanut butter, and topped with a swirl of the filling.  Favourite daughter, indeed!

These are blissfully chocolate-peanut buttery, and can almost make me forget that there are fat snowflakes falling from the sky as I type.

Lousy Smarch weather…..

Hut…hut…hike!

February 7, 2013

I hate to use the “S”-word (I’m more of a Grey Cup gal myself), but I’m told [conspiratorial whisper] that there was a big football game on Sunday.  Say what?  I don’t know what it was all about, but it sure must have been super.  In any case, I was thrilled to be able to use my grass tip on something besides assorted Muppets.

2916

There’s not much to explain about these; they’re (of course) the basic chocolate cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, with a green-tinged vanilla buttercream.  The two most interesting things I learned from all of this:

1. Chocolate-covered almonds wobble something fierce when placed on a flat surface to pipe detailing onto them.  And Wilton’s decorating icing-in-a-tube is extremely stiff and awkward to work with, which is my penance for being lazy and not wanting to do two colours of my own icing.  (It – Wilton – doesn’t taste that great, either, and sticks to piping tips like cement even when run under hot water.)  Having a helper hold the last few steady for me was a huge boon to my creative process.  But I’m still using my own icing next time.

2. Speaking of assorted Muppets: I need to use my grass tip for actual grass more often.  A trusted member of my test audience thought at first glance that I had brought him a slightly deformed Oscar the Grouch to try.

But I have 289 days to perfect my technique before the Grey Cup…

…store-bought snack cakes!” – Marge Simpson, Homer’s Phobia

Seriously, whyyyyy did it take me so long to try making mock-Hostess/Fauxtess/cream-filled chocolate cupcakes?

Answer: because I had seen the recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance ages ago, and decided it looked like way too much work.  But it really wasn’t!  Okay, so I skipped a step and had my filling do double-duty as the squiggle medium as well, but even the coring, filling, and ganache-ing of the cupcakes wasn’t particularly onerous.

2899

The cupcake recipe is pretty much identical to the one in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, moist and chocolatey and wonderful, and I made a basic vanilla buttercream for inside and on top.  (For some reason, the Fluffy White Icing prescribed in VwaV didn’t taste like much to me, although my dad seemed to like it.  Weird.)

These came together really quickly, multiple steps considered, and taste way better than any chemical-filled Hostess special ever could.

And for the record: leftover cupcake cores dotted with frosting and dunked in ganache are a midafternoon snack to die for.

While most crafty/cook-y bloggers are no doubt posting homemade cornucopia centrepieces or locavore turkey and stuffing recipes this weekend, I decided to bypass Thanksgiving entirely in favour of Halloween, which is frankly far more fun.

From the instant I first saw the recipe for Black Cat Cookies in Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan Desserts, I knew I had to make them.  Because…OMG…cats and cookies?  That’s pretty much a whole-package dessert right there.  And yeah, I realize it’s just a jazzed-up chocolate cookie, but I loved the inclusion of black cocoa powder to get that deep colour.

I vant to suck your blood...

I probably should have used a metal cookie cutter instead of a plastic one with little details etched right in, since I found the dough just a tad sticky and difficult to use with the cutter I chose (my fault – I added more liquid than the recipe called for when my dough wasn’t coming together as nicely as I had hoped).  But any headache I may have had while rolling and cutting paid off later when I didn’t have to frost-in any features.

Okay, so they’re not quite black, but a deep brown.  But I found a no-frosting-necessary way to make them look darker:

Flip the background fabric around!  Score one for innovation!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Son of Cookie Monster

August 19, 2012

Last week, I celebrated my two-year anniversary at my job.  That’s right: for 731 days, give or take, I’ve been delighting and entertaining my coworkers with my very presence in the office.  Okay, maybe not.  And not that anyone else would have remembered the date, but I wanted to do something just a little festive.  I had some extra time one evening and decided that mini cupcakes were in order.

The conversation went something like this:

“I thought I’d do vanilla cupcakes with a pink frosting.  Maybe I can use some maraschino cherry juice for flavour.  Ooh, or that Dr. Pepper stuff I got!”  (At this point, I was picturing something all princess-y.)

“Oh.  But your chocolate ones are so good, have such a nice flavour.”

“Okay.  Sure.  I can do chocolate with a cherry or Dr. Pepper frosting.”

“Why don’t you do blue raspberry frosting again?  It tasted really nice.”

Okay, so I did the blue raspberry frosting again.  (It worked so nicely with the pale blue liners you can’t really see for the chocolate cake.)  I thought I was smart by dissolving my drink crystals in the almond milk before adding it to the frosting, but they didn’t provide me with a sufficiently intense flavour or colour, so I added a smidge of raspberry extract and some blue food colouring.  Maybe it was the addition of the extract, but it had almost a blue-bubblegum flavour this time.  They might lack the characterization of their Cookie Monster predecessors, but they hold a certain charm nonetheless.

My coworkers loved them!  Between 8:00 and 10:00, they managed to polish off 30 of the little suckers.

I still have to try Dr. Pepper frosting, though…

The Oscar the Grouch cupcakes I made a few weeks back went over well with everyone who tried one – and I was so excited by the way the grass tip created his fur.  I couldn’t wait to try other Sesame Street characters!  I was pretty sure that Cookie Monster was going to be next on my list, because I’ve always felt a strange kinship with him.  My grammar may be better than his, but honestly, the reason I learned how to bake was to feed my cookie addiction.

While searching the bulk food store for some chickpea flour, I happened upon bins of flavoured drink crystals, including a vibrant blue-raspberry.  It was fate.  Yes!  Now I absolutely had to buy some, and mix them into my frosting instead of/in addition to blue food colouring, and I had to make Cookie Monster cupcakes post-haste!  This was going to be great!

Not, perhaps, a spitting image, but certainly recognizable.  My fatal mistake (I realize now) was adding in the drink crystals along with some food colouring after I had mixed all the other frosting ingredients and already had a nice, fluffy buttercream.  I had thought because the icing was “wet” – as in, not yet dried and hardened – that the crystals would dissolve.  They did not, at least not entirely.  And they might be miniscule, but that didn’t stop them from clogging up my grass tip.  After six incredibly frustrating cupcakes, including several attempts to clear and re-clear the holes in the tip using a toothpick or just unscrewing the coupler and rinsing the silly thing out with water, I got fed up, switched tips, and did this:

It may look and feel like a cop-out, sure, but I’ve always liked blue-and-brown as a colour combination, so it’s not that bad.  They’re still whimsical, just in a non-licensed way.

Oh, and in case you were curious: the drink crystals did impart a lovely blue-raspberry flavour that is noticeable without being overpowering.  I’ve learned from my mistake, though, and next time they’re being dissolved in the almond milk first before being mixed in.

…is like pillaging without burning?  No, that can’t be right…

But I do have a theory that if I don’t make somebody a birthday cake (note: cupcakes, cheesecakes, and pies are all perfectly acceptable alternatives), I don’t truly care about them.  So for my dad’s birthday a few days ago, I made him the Peanut Butter Chocolate Dream Cake from Kris Holechek’s Have Your Cake and Vegan Too.

It’s a fairly standard chocolate cake with a peanut butter filling in between the layers and topped off with a chocolate-peanut butter ganache – garnish as desired.  The recipe was easy to follow, and the cake easy to assemble; if and when I do it again, the only thing I’ll do differently is grease-and-cocoa the pans instead of greasing-and-flouring them, to avoid that flour residue (since it’s not frosted all over, it does kinda show).

And yes, I probably will make it again.  Not only did the birthday boy love it, but it went over extremely well with my omnivorous coworkers, too.  Such is the power of chocolate and peanut butter together.