baking

Cake and Ice Cream – Together at Last!

I’m still alive – and still baking – but really, there are only so many times one can photograph and blog about chocolate cupcakes (which get made more often than not, as they appear to be a perennial favourite).  I needed to break out of my routine!

When I first saw the recipe for Spumoni Cake in Kris Holechek’s Have Your Cake and Vegan, Too!, I was immediately drawn to it.  Spumoni is one of those things…just mmmm…I don’t crave it that often, but there is nothing quite like it, and substitutes (such as plain chocolate) will not be accepted.  I had dragged my heels in making it, though, because although I don’t mind making full-blown cakes for birthdays and other occasions, I find that cakes beget terrible portion control.  Say what?

See, anyone who’s baked a cake or even whipped up a Duncan Hines mix knows that a standard two 8-inch layer cake uses 24 cupcakes’ worth of batter.  Not a problem, except truthfully, when’s the last time you got 24 servings out of a cake like that?  Unless you’re feeding the masses or are hyper-heath conscious, no one cuts slices that thin.

The really obvious solution was to halve the recipe and turn it into cupcakes.  Tah-dah!

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The original recipe makes a 9-by-13 sheet cake, and instructs the baker to randomly drop blobs of all three batters, then marble.  Because I was working small-scale, I contented myself with layering a spoonful of each in the cup, knowing full well that they’ll heave and bake up in random patterns.  See?

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I did alter the recipe a bit: instead of puréeing cherries for the pink batter, I diced up a few maraschino cherries, and added a bit of raspberry-flavoured Torani syrup for flavour and colour.  I added the syrup to the frosting, too, for a chocolate-raspberry topper that helps bring out flavours in the cake.

When I fed these to my test group, I was told the flavours “kind of play together – it’s hard to pick out each individual flavour without tasting each part separately”.  Hmmm…just like the ice cream!

Thanks for looking!

baking

Any time is a good time for cupcakes…

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.

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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.

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

baking

Ask me about my fuzzy navel!

(Re: Subject Line – I think I might have just dated myself…)

A month or so ago, my accounting instructor was explaining the importance of determining cost of goods sold, using one of three main costing methods.  Our cost, she reminded us, doesn’t remain constant, and used limes as an example.  Normally inexpensive, the price has skyrocketed recently due to a combination of poor growing weather in Mexico and the interference of drug cartels.  “So you might want to skip the margaritas this weekend,” she concluded, “since the cost will be passed along to the consumer.”  I didn’t question what she was saying at the time – produce really was an excellent example, because there’s always something to get in the way – but a few days later I read the same thing in the newspaper.  The newspaper article, however, added that many restaurants are pushing other varieties of margaritas, such as peach or strawberry.

And that’s when it hit me: I’m not likely to head to the bar for a pitcher of margaritas, but darn it, what about my cupcakes?

So last weekend, instead of in between studying really hard for my accounting final, I tweaked my margarita cupcake recipe to come up with fuzzy navel cupcakes.

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This is basically the Mucho Margarita Cupcakes recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but I used peach schnapps instead of tequila, omitted the lime zest and juice, and added a box of peach Jell-o for flavour.  (If you want to keep this vegan, and live somewhere with better animal-free options available, I believe that Simply Delish makes a peach “jel”.  I do not, so I used the rather more pedestrian option available to me.)  I made a simple orange-vanilla buttercream, and topped each one off with a Fuzzy Peach candy.  One of my testers claimed he liked these better than the original, limey-salty version.

If these make me rich, my instructor is absolutely getting a cut of the profits. 😉

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Flowers for…spring?

Sure…”spring”.  There are still snowdrifts up to my head in some places, but hey, I firmly believe that one day it will melt.  Until that happens, I’ll have to content myself with a garden of cupcake roses.

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These are the vanilla cupcakes from (of course) Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and I jazzed up vanilla buttercream icing by adding a package of cherry Kool-Aid to the mix.  Fun fact: it’s more tart than you might expect, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  It keeps the finished product from being too sweet.  And instead of my usual outside-in piping, ending in a peak of frosting in the centre, I piped from the inside out, creating a vaguely rose-y look.

It almost makes me forget about the snow…

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I want my mummy!

I’ll keep this short, because who wants to read about cupcakes when they could be assembling last-minute Halloween costumes?  (Speaking of which: according to WordPress stats, people are finding this blog by searching “Dolores Haze costume”.  This makes my day in ways you cannot imagine.  I wish I didn’t already have a costume lined up myself; there are at least a couple of people who would appreciate the reference.)

But…following my last rant about overpriced festive bake kits at Target, I saw an equally overpriced kit at Chapters to make mummy cupcakes.  The kit made 12, and it cost $10.50.  And, okay, yes it came with candy eyes, but how important are those to the overall integrity of the finished product?  And do they really taste like much?  So I broke out my trusty chocolate cupcake recipe as well as that for buttercream icing, and made my own, no doubt tastier, version.

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I used a basketweave tip (Wilton #47, I think) to pipe on the bandages.  That was tricky!  I’m a big fan of symmetry and pattern, and to try to maintain a random order of bandage direction?  Killer!  The eyes are mini chocolate chips, and the mouth is red gel food colouring applied with a toothpick (my parents’ idea; before they suggested it, my mummies had a bit of a Hello Kitty vibe and no mouth to speak – ha! – of).

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(Yes, that’s my mummy holding my mummies.)

Have a safe and happy Halloween, everyone!

baking

Because black cake is nothing if not festive

Ahhh….I love Halloween.  I might have mentioned that before, but it bears repeating.  This is an entire day where you’re expected to wear a costume and eat candy.  If television would air Technicolor-filmed musicals all day instead of horror flicks, it just might be the perfect day.  And I don’t let being an adult (ha!) with a career (ha!  ha!) stop me – I’m shameless, and will show up to work in costume even if I’m the only one in the whole office who’s dressed up.

While browsing the Halloween department at Target recently, I was a little disappointed.  Sure, Tar-zhay had some different costumes than WalMart (for which I have yet to come up with an adorable, French-sounding pronunciation), but their candy selection was rather mundane.  Same old, same old – and nary an Eat-More in sight.  (These are a precious, precious commodity, and I would trade my strictly hypothetical firstborn for a bag of the minis.)

Ah, but they did have some different food preparation products – juice blends with ghoulish names, a set of four different sprinkles in test tubes, some cake mixes.  One that caught my eye made an orange-and-black marble cake with purplish icing.  Cute.  The price?  $7.99.  Eight bucks for something I could do myself?  No way was I paying that kind of money!  So I came up with this:

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This is the basic marble recipe from…well, you know.  I used gel food colouring to get the batters just the right shades, and then proceeded to fill and swirl as usual.

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With purple icing!  Clearly, my marbling skills need work; this one looks mostly orange.

Now the only hurdle to clear is whether my test audience finds black cake appetizing or not.  Come on, it’s chocolate….

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A whole lot of lovin’ is what we’ll be bringing, we’ll make you…orange?

Whenever I have to deal with carrots (peeling, grating, chopping…anything that ensures my hands will be fairly covered in their juices) and am left to marvel at my Oompa Loompa palms, I’m reminded of the story of how Susan Dey ate so many carrots that her skin turned orange, creating problems during filming of The Partridge Family.

Another coworker is moving on to bigger and better things, and somehow I determined that his lovely parting box o’ cupcakes should be of the carrot variety.  How is it that I’ve had Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for years, but always bypassed that particular recipe?  Time to change that!

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Just look at that dense, raisin-y, carrot-y goodness…mmm…..

These turned out really well for a first attempt, and gave us an answer to that ubiquitous question: “What’s your idea of a hot Saturday night?”

“Standing in the kitchen with the oven on during a heat wave.”

Go ahead – tell me I’m wrong! 🙂