Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Berkeley Cupcake Adventure

It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, a perfect day for a cupcake adventure...it's with me, Annie and her boyfriend, Brian. He was coming along to eat the leftover cupcakes that we couldn't finish.

We figured we'd go grab lunch at
Cheeseboard and then off to tantalize our taste buds with cupcakes. We totally forgot that Cheeseboard is closed on Sundays, and as we wandered down the street trying to figure out our lunch options, we stumbled upon a $7.95 All You Can Eat sign at Mint Leaf. Score! Cheap eats and it's a buffet! Annie and I made sure we didn't eat all we could eat...must leave room for cupcakes!

Our first cupcake stop...
Love At First Bite

I had been here before and thought
it was good. They have flavors such as Matcha Green Tea, Mudpie, Red Velvet, Chocolate Peanut Butter...the list goes on. We decided that we would get 2 cupcakes at each stop, which would end up being quite a bit of sugary consumption for the whole week!

Here's what we got:

Chocolate cupcake with a fluffy meringue buttercream, topped with toasted coconut. $3

Hummingbird, a Southern cupcake which consists of banana, pecans and pineapple with a cream cheese frosting. $3

Our thoughts? The chocolate cake was soft, not too dense, not too sweet. The frosting, as described, was definitely fluffy and marshmallow-like. The only thing about it was that we had expected it to have a coconut flavor from the flakes, but there was none at all. It just provided a coconut texture. A bit disappointed there. :(

The Hummingbird, too, was not too sweet of cake but it was on the dense side, as banana
cakes tend to be. Brian was the first to point out that the frosting was a bit grainy. The pecans and bananas were definitely there, but no sign of pineapple.

So we hop in our car and off to the next cupcake joint. But before we reach our destination, we get rear ended. A not quite intended addition to our cupcake tour of course.
A slight derailment, but then we're off on our way again to our second stop...

Cupkates, the Bay Area's first mobile cupcakery.

You can easily find out where they're going to park for the day by check out their website or following them on Twitter. They were located on 4th in Berkeley that day. It was about 3:30pm and we strolled up to the truck with excitement, only to find
that they had sold out of all flavors except for the Salted Caramel and the Double Chocolate. If only it weren't for that fender bender, we could have tried other flavors, like the S'Mores or Lemon Raspberry.

We were in need of something that would WOW us...and for merely $3, WOW we got, when our mouths had the joyous union with the oh so soft and moist chocolate cake and the light and fluffy caramel frosting with a slight hint of sea salt. I'm drooling just thinking about it as I write this blog. The one thing about the cake that I wish it did was hold up while splitting it up. It was so moist, it just crumbled apart when picked at.

This cupcake has got to be the best we have ever had.

Annie said, "WOW!"

And of course, by this time, it's 4pm, we're pooped and our tummies were not happy with the amount of sugar we've had. Our original intentions of visiting 3 cupcakeries, was cut short. Until next time...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Say Cheese :-)

I'm on a roll...I keep pumping these babies out of the oven (and no, I'm not pregnant). I try to find recipes and inspiration from just surfing the net and seeing what others are baking. There are so many that I am planning on trying. I will get to them soon.

Anyway, today Brian and I went to Tiburon for a company BBQ. Too bad Team USA lost :-) Boo! So for the BBQ, everyone is expected to bring a dish. Of course, I saw this as an awesome opportunity to bake more and have people eatting it.

Today's menu is Mini Cheesecakes. Super simple recipe, but I had one problem with it. The cookie crust tends to fall apart easily. There were two types: 1. Honey Graham Crackers and 2. Oreos. I realized that after the cheesecakes are baked, it's best to refrigerate them for a few hours before consuming. I also added strawberry jam to the top to give it flavor. I must they it was pretty delish and I love that they are bite size.

Is there such a thing as too much chocolate?

It's 3am on a Friday night and I'm starting to feel tired now. I just got back from dinner with friends - Jenn, Liv, Asahi, Dave, and Steve. We celebrated Asahi's birthday at La Mediterrane in the Castro - always a great time.

Today I baked a Chocolate cupcake with Chocolate cream cheese frosting. It was definitely a very chocolate rich recipe that I found on someone else's blog. There were mixed reviews - too rich, too sweet, or excellent. Those who loved chocolate loved my cupcakes and those who don't love chocolate thought it was ok. Can't satisfy everyone. I thought it was a chocolate lover's dream come true. It semi-sweet chocolate pieces made the cupcake much more richer than any other cupcake bather I've made. It was very dense and thick.

Presentation wise, I think the frosting looks like a big dookie on a cupcake. Chocolate on chocolate just doesn't make the overall presentation pop. There's no contrast in colors. I tried using different color sprinkles, but that didn't work.

So far I've been making frosting with cream cheese and it's very difficult to decorate with that type. I need to start making more buttercream frosting, especially swiss merengue (suggested by Stephanie).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Red Velvet challenge

It was my friend's birthday (MAGGIE) and I decided to bake her cupcakes, even though we were going to a buffet restaurant with ample desserts. I started baking at 1pm and hoping that I would have time to hit the gym for an hour. This time I decided to bake the Martha Stewart red velvet recipe. I realized that right after I had popped the goodies in the oven, that I had made a tragic mistake. I used baking powder instead of baking soda! UGH! So of course I quickly start texting Fran asking for her expertise. Fran instead sends me her ultimate red velvet cupcake recipe.

In this picture I am showing Fran's red velvet on the left and Martha Stewart's red velvet (sans baking soda) on the right.
There's a big difference...the baking soda makes the cake rise higher. The left one looks a lot bigger than the right one.

So below is the final product of Fran's special red velvet cupcake. Unfortunately, the cake was too dry. I baked for 20 minutes and did the toothpick test and some cake particles came out (so not done). Popped it back in the oven for 2 more minutes. I'm really not sure if the 2 minutes made it too dry or possibly I need to change the recipe. Again, more baking practice needed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Magnolia's Vanilla Buttercream Cupcake recipe

Today I (Annie) tried the Magnolia Bakery's famous Vanilla Buttercream cupcake. I made a batch that was meant to yield about a dozen cupcakes, but I had some extra batter so I made 6 mini cupcakes too.

After some baking hocus pocus here are my fierce cupcakes.

Aren't they soo cute? The cake portion of the mini cupcakes were slightly on the dry side, but the cake of the regular sizes were super moist. The recipe called for 20-25 minutes, but I only baked them for 20 minutes. I think it's better to undercook than overcook. However, the buttercream frosting was excellent. But seriously, how can you go wrong with anything when the main ingredient is butter??

Today was also my first time piping the frosting. Guess who's been teaching me?? YouTube videos! I swear, I learn so much just from watching other bakers on YouTube. It's great...I love it.

So overall, my cupcakes are good, but they're not great. Gotta keep baking!

Come by if you want some cupcakes. I cannot eat them all by myself. Time to hit the gym.

Btw, I am loving that Katy Perry song "California girls".


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cake balls for Dara's Birthday!

It was last Christmas when I first had one of these so called "cake balls". My cousin had made red velvet ones for our family Christmas party. They were quite yummy. I didn't think of making them until recently when my friends and I were at a bar and someone had brought a nice display of these chocolate cake balls and I told myself I had to make them. They were soooooo good! Just thinking of them makes me drool! Bite sized chocolate cake covered with chocolate! It doesn't get any better than that! So with my friend, Dara's birthday coming up, I told her I'd make them. I had to experiment the first round though, just so I could get the technique down. I had some Funfetti cake mix laying around and some leftover cream cheese frosting that I had made for another baking session. Here's what I got:

They didn't look so good after I covered them in chocolate. Most recipes just called for you to roll the chocolate covered ball off the spoon or fork onto parchment paper. These balls didn't look so good. I couldn't get the balls to roll off the fork or the spoon so that the chocolate on the outside would look smooth and round. They were just sorta deformed looking and where some parts of the cake was exposed, it would ooze out because as the cake defrosted, the only way it could go was out.

I brought them into my office and it took less than an hour for over 60 balls to be devoured!

My first time making these ever, turned out kinda bleh to me. Perhaps that just because I'm quite critical of my own baking. The Funfetti cake was a bit too moist and sticky to begin with and most recipes that you find online will have you mixing the cake with a whole container of frosting. Don't do that...it's wayyyy too much. I would probably start with half a container if you're going to buy it and work more into the mixture if it's not sticky enough to form a ball.

Dara's birthday party was this past Saturday and I had to make sure these balls looked a bit more pleasing to the eye. Dark chocolate cake with milk chocolate coating...and ta-
They tasted yummy too!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mmmm Choux à la Crème!

It's been quite some time since I've made Choux à la Crème, a.k.a. cream puffs. So as I would for anything that I make, I went on a hunt for a recipe. I browsed through dozens of recipes and decided on one that was entitled, Julia & Nora Cream Puffs for the puffs themselves and then went to Baking 911 for the pastry cream. Now, I've always had trouble making these things stay puffed up, and I was reading that you have to let the steam out so they don't collapse. Well, I was successful with some. If you have any other suggestions on making it light and puffy as they should be, please do let me know.

The puff part was easy. I think it's the cream that I definitely need to work on. The whole tempering the egg mixture with the milk...it can be a little tricky. It tastes great, but not quite the consistency and texture that I'd like it to be. I want it to be smooth and glossy, but instead it wasn't so smooth looking. It wasn't lumpy, but it just wasn't smooth.

So as you can see...they turned out ok. They tasted pretty darn good. I think a few more trials and I'll get it just right!