Friday, July 15, 2011

The Cupcake Chronicles

Cupcake Experiment #1
After a few episodes of Cupcake Wars and some inspiration from my mother I fostered some type of internal desire to bake cupcakes from scratch.  This actually surprised me because about 6 years back I had a similar desire to make the best brownies in the world (I was a newlywed at the time and my husband's favorite dessert is brownies).  This resulted in hundreds of recipes and countless hours of baking, all which resulted in failure.  Finally, I took my deflated ego and bought his favorite boxed mix.  And he was happy.  And I've never tried to make brownies from scratch since.

To date, I have attempted to make cupcakes from scratch twice.  Both times were not complete failures but I doubt they can stand up to boxed mix either, which is embarrassing.  I am going to include my cupcake experiment chronicle, but refuse to share with you any such recipe for the mix until I perfect it.  My first attempt was too heavy of a cake, although the flavor was there.  My second attempt was a much fluffier cake, but it had little flavor and felt more like an angel food cake.  I doubt I will put in as much effort into cupcakes as I did into brownies, but I may try a few more times.  Once (if) I find the perfect recipe, I promise to come back and share it.

Cupcake Experiment #1: Chocolate Chip Vanilla Cream Cupcakes

These cakes were fun to make and would make a great birthday party treat.  They have a surprise chocolate chip cookie at the bottom of each cupcake and the frosting is delicious!  Of course, at this point I suggest you use boxed mix for the cupcake center unless you have your own secret recipe for vanilla cupcakes.

Small thin buttery cookies make a perfect cupcake topping
 Ingredients for Chocolate Chip Cookie Base:
1c + 2 tbs all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
3/4c packed light brown sugar
1/4c + 2tbs granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1c semisweet chocolate chips
Directions for cookies:
1. Sift flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. 
2. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. On low, beat in egg.
4. Add flour in 3 additions.  Beat in vanilla & gently mix in chocolate chips.
5. For 1 1/2" cookies to top cupcakes, drop mounds by 1/2tsp (or use a rounded 1/4tsp measuring spoon).
5. Bake at 350F until edges are darkened but centers look pale and underdone for chewy cookies (about 8 to 10 minutes).  Cook a bit longer for crispy cookies.
[Note: Only cook 1/2 of the dough.  The other 1/2 will go at the bottom of the cupcakes later]

Step 3: Surprise cookie dough at the bottom is so fun!
Directions for cupcakes:
1. Fill cupcake tin with paper liners. 
2. Preheat oven to desired temperature depending on your mix (300-350). 
3. Press 1tbs cookie dough into the bottom of the paper cupcake liners.
4. Top with 2tbs cupcake mix.
5. Follow cupcake directions and bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 18 minutes). 
6. Let cupcakes cool slightly and then remove from tin and set out to cool completely.  Meanwhile, make frosting.

All done baking and ready to cool

Directions for Vanilla Buttercream Icing:
1. Beat 2 sticks plus 2tbs room temp butter and 3/4c confectioner's sugar with a mixer on medium until pale and fluffy. 
2. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually add an additional 2c plus 2tbs confectioner's sugar. 
3. Beat on high and add 1tbs whole milk and 1tsp vanilla extract.  Continue to beat until pale and fluffy (3-4min).  Store at room temp until ready to use (up to 2 days).

Directions to Assemble Cakes:
1. Frost cooled cakes with buttercream icing using a piping bag (I don't have one so I just cut a whole at the bottom corner of a ziploc bag, filled it with icing and used that.
2. Top with a cooled chocolate chip cookie and serve.

Finish cakes are ready to be eaten

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