Category: candied citrus peel

Nana Agnes turns 93.

This is a crazy week of birthdays for me. Every year this is the week where I not only bake myself stupid but go totally broke. Starting May 19th (Jay’s sister Jen’s birthday), then May 21st is my grandmother’s birthday, and then the 23rd is Jay’s birthday. This year I didn’t have any time to bake anything for Jen’s birthday, which is sad. But I also wasn’t sure how long they’d have to sit in the car, and I didn’t have any cupcake boxes. I really need to start investing in buying those things in bulk. Jay has already told me what he wants for his cupcakes & I’m getting ready to make ‘em. But my grandma?

 

My nana, Agnes, at 16 in 1934

She asked for vanilla cupcakes this year, and she mentioned doing something “green” with them (her favorite color). Easy enough. When someone is turning 93, you make ‘em whatever they want! If she wants green vanilla, she’ll have green vanilla.

So basically, it’s just some cupcake porn today. No new recipes, just pretty pictures. Green plaid liners (you may recognize them from here) from Cupcake Social. Vanilla cupcake (basic two-egg yellow cake), vanilla frosting (just a simple confectioner’s sugar buttercream), candied lime peel garnish (recipe here).

It’s amazing to think of all my grandmother has seen & lived through. When she was born, women couldn’t vote. Most of her childhood it was Prohibition. Her family didn’t have a telephone, let alone a car, & when she was a child they were actually one of the few families in her building with a radio. She saw WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm & now the mess we’re involved in now all happen. She’s seen 16 U.S. Presidents take office, and been alive for 17 Presidents. She lived through President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Martin Luther King’s assassination, Malcolm X’s assassination, and the attempted assassinations of Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan. She saw the WTC/Twin Towers built, and she saw them decimated. She’s seen the invention of the television, then the color TV, the cordless phone, the cell phone, the transistor radio, the walkman/discman, THE INTERNET, the iPod, the Blackberry (& not the fruit) and now the iPad and iPhone. VCR’s, camcorders, cassette tapes and now DVD’s and Blu-Ray. And she’s fascinated by “those thin little TV’s” nowadays. And this is just a smidgen of the things she’s seen in her long life. You might remember this post where I mentioned my grandpa, her husband. If only he too had been around to see all this stuff. He’d have loved the internet.

She’s one of seven children, my grandma. Actually she’s the oldest. She’s sadly seen most of her brothers (& one sister) pass away, as well as her husband and her son. But despite all the sad things she’s lived through, there’s been even more joyful things. And she still has her youngest sibling, my great-aunt Marilyn, who she’s very close with, as well as the middle child, her brother Joey (although they haven’t seen one another in a while). I can’t even imagine seeing 93 years worth of world events, or having that many years of experiences. I’m turning 30 this year & it boggles my mind how much I’ve seen. And as far as the world supposedly ending today, she said and I quote: “Isn’t that ridiculous? They’ve been pulling that nonsense for as long as I’ve been around… and for Christ’s sake, I’m almost 100!”

Happy birthday, grandma, and many more!

Spring has sprung.

Not 100% of course, but for the most part anyway.

I’ve done one of these little compilation posts for Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas, Valentine’s Day & St. Patrick’s Day, so here’s my springtime/Easter version. I don’t really do “Easter”, I like bunnies, baby chicks, lilies & chocolate… so I celebrate those things & call it Easter. I’m not one of those Wiccans or “Pagans” either. I’m Agnostic, but I do love me some holidays. I can’t help it. I love to decorate and bake and cook and that’s the best part of life, in my opinion. So why not celebrate everything!?

The real meaning of Easter:

Easter (Old English: Ēostre; Greek: Πάσχα, Paskha; Hebrew: פֶּסַח‎, Pesakh, “Passover“) is the central religious feast in the Christian liturgical year.[1] According to Christian scripture, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. Some Christians celebrate this resurrection on Easter Day or Easter Sunday[2] (also Resurrection Day or Resurrection Sunday), two days after Good Friday and three days after Maundy Thursday. The chronology of his death and resurrection is variously interpreted to be between AD 26 and 36, traditionally 33. Easter also refers to the season of the church year called Eastertide or the Easter Season. Traditionally the Easter Season lasted for the forty days from Easter Day until Ascension Day. The first week of the Easter Season is known as Easter Week or the Octave of Easter. Easter also marks the end of Lent, a season of fasting, prayer, and penance.

Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox.[3] Ecclesiastically, the equinox is reckoned to be on March 21 (even though the equinox occurs, astronomically speaking, on March 20 in most years), and the “Full Moon” is not necessarily the astronomically correct date. The date of Easter therefore varies between March 22 and April 25. Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar whose March 21 corresponds, during the 21st century, to April 3 in the Gregorian Calendar, in which calendar their celebration of Easter therefore varies between April 4 and May 8.

Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In most European languages the feast called Easter in English is termed by the words for passover in those languages and in the older English versions of the Bible the term Easter was the term used to translate passover.[4][5]

Relatively newer[citation needed] elements such as the Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunts have become part of the holiday’s modern celebrations, and those aspects are often celebrated by many Christians and non-Christians alike. There are also some Christian denominations who do not celebrate Easter.

Yeah so that last part applies to me. Delicious chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs filled with creamy fondant? Yes please. I guess, though, I more celebrate just the coming of spring itself, which is more like Ostara:

Old English Ēostre (also Ēastre) and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of a putative Germanic goddess whose Anglo-Saxon month, Ēostur-monath, has given its name to the festival of Easter. Eostre is attested only by Bede, in his 8th century work De temporum ratione, where he states that Ēostur-monath was the equivalent to the month of April, and that feasts held in her honour during Ēostur-monath had died out by the time of his writing, replaced by the “Paschal month“. The possibility of a Common Germanic goddess called *Austrōn- was examined in detail in 19th century Germanic philology, by Jacob Grimm and others, without coming to a definite conclusion.

Linguists have identified the goddess as a Germanic form of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn, *Hausos, some scholars have debated whether or not Eostre is an invention of Bede’s, and theories connecting Eostre with records of Germanic Easter customs (including hares and eggs) have been proposed.

Notice the spelling similarities between Eostre and Easter? Hmm. Food for thought. I’ll let ya chew on that one.

So in short, I like to eat and make stuff, and that’s what holidays are all about, really. I don’t think you have to believe in a God to celebrate the coming of spring, especially after a winter where here in New York we got a whopping 60.9″ of snow total. At any rate… here are some delectable cupcake confections that celebrate this time of year, and can be adapted/used whether your celebrations are referred to as Ostara, Easter, Passover or just plain spring.

One of my favorite Easter cupcakes; lemon-vanilla cakes with a lemon-vanilla buttercream, topped with toasted coconut “nests” and Cadbury mini-eggs. Super cute and so easy! These were a humongous hit with everyone who ate them, I highly recommend trying them. Recipe here: Nest Eggs.

I grouped these two together because they’re in the same post from last Easter. The top ones are Creamsicle mini-cupcakes topped with a thick marshmallow Fluff buttercream, and the bottom ones are carrot cupcakes topped with a lavender-tinted cream cheese frosting. Check both recipes out here: Easter?
I didn’t actually make these for Easter, I made them for my grandmother’s 92nd birthday… however they’re a perfect springtime cupcake idea. A light chocolate cake topped with an Earl Grey/lemon icing and candied lemon peel garnish (which is deceptively easy). Very sophisticated & delicious. Find the recipes for the cake, icing and lemon peel here: Earl Grey with lemon “tea party” cupcakes.
Another one I didn’t make for Easter, I made them for Cupcake Rehab’s 1st birthday, but yet they would be totally appropriate for spring. Neapolitan cupcakes- vanilla cake, strawberry Kool-Aid frosting and chocolate sauce drizzled on top. Extremely delicious. Recipes: Neapolitan “happy 1st birthday Cupcake Rehab” cupcakes.
These I definitely didn’t make for Easter. But being that they’re almond cupcakes with a white chocolate buttercream, they’d be so cute with marzipan fruits or hand-rolled marzipan Easter eggs on top for Easter, wouldn’t they? This is one of my favorite cupcakes ever. Try them yourself: Frau Marilla’s Alpenblume Weiße Schokolade Kleine Kuchen!


So that’s that. If you’re not drooling by now, there’s something wrong with you. Also, I also have a recipe for chocolate hi-hat cupcakes that I made for Easter a few years back that I didn’t include above. So knock yourself out!  And If you’re looking for something more Passover-y, I have a recipe for sweet noodle kugel. I also have TONS of other cupcake and cookie recipes that can be adapted or used for this time of year, with just a little creativity.

As usual, I’ll be posting more spring-y things in the weeks to come so stay tuned... and tomorrow I’ll be guest posting over at Frosting 4 the Cause, so please come and check that out. I promise you’ll like it.

Earl Grey with lemon “Tea Party” cupcakes.

Nope, these little treats don’t have anything to do with political wingnuts. They do, however, have to do with tea. Remember when “tea parties” meant actual people drinking tea? Or a scene in Alice In Wonderland? Or the famous Tea Party in Boston when people were really protesting something? And not just a bunch of loons likening President Obama to a Nazi or having strokes over non-existent “death panels”? Yeah, I do too *sighs wistfully*

My grandmother’s 92nd birthday is Friday. Happy birthday, Nana! So for me, that means three birthdays in 5 days; Jay’s sister Jennifer on the 19th, my grandmother on the 21st and Jay on the 23rd. Pretty crazy, right? And July is almost as bad- I have my friend Sami on the 3rd then my mom on the 5th. Why does it never rain, it just pours? Anyway, she’s a big tea drinker, my grandma. A fiend for it. Tea, tea, tea all the time. So what better cupcakes to make her for her birthday than ones made with tea!?

Ted Withers tea-drinkin’ pin-up, c. 1957

Anywho, these little beauties came from the April 2010 issue of the Food Network magazine (which, along with Lola, my pink laptop and Bon Appétit, is one of the gifts that really does keep on giving, thanks Jay). I highly recommend subscribing to this magazine (and Bon Appétit and getting both a pink laptop & pink KitchenAid mixer, too), because every single issue has something that I end up drooling over, making, and then everyone says “When are you making __________ again?” This particular recipe I’ve been meaning to make ever since I got this issue back in March. They’re tea cakes with Earl Grey icing, and they’re incredibly unique. Don’t worry about it if you have kids and you’re not sure if they’ll “get” the tea flavored frosting. The frosting actually tastes like iced tea with lemon, so I can pretty much guarantee you kids will dig it. However, it is a decidedly adult and “ladylike” cupcake. Perfect for an afternoon picnic or lunch outside in the summer. They’d go great with lemonade and tea (or iced tea) alike.

I put candied lemon peels on top, because with Earl Grey tea, you of course have to have lemon. I’ll give you the recipe to make your own candied lemon peel… don’t worry, it’s easy.

TEA CAKES

Get this stuff together:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Then do this:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin pans with liners. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water).
  2. Whisk until smooth, then remove the bowl; keep the water simmering in the saucepan. In another bowl, whisk the sugar, flour and salt; mix into the melted chocolate.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time. Then add the vanilla, whisking until smooth.
  4. Divide the batter into the prepared liners, filling each about ¾ of the way. Bake until the tops spring back when gently touched, about 15-18 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool on a rack.

EARL GREY ICING

Again, you’ll need this stuff:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 bags Earl Grey tea
  • Pinch of salt

And then you’ll do this with it:

  1. Whisk the sugar, egg whites, lemon juice and salt by hand in the bowl of a stand mixer. Empty the tea bags and add the loose tea into the bowl, then set the bowl over the simmering saucepan (from the cupcake recipe above).
  2. Whisk until the mixture is hot and the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer and beat with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until the mixture holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a tip, or to a plastic sandwich bag (just snip off the corner after filling) and frost.

CANDIED LEMON PEEL

First you get:

  • 1 organic lemon, washed well
  • 2 ½ cups sugar

Then you will:

  1. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the lemon in vertical strips. Try to remove only the yellow zest, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible. Save the lemon for another use.In a small saucepan, combine the peels with 2 cups cold water.
  2. Bring to a boil, then drain off the water. Again add 2 cups cold water, bring to a boil, and drain. Repeat the process a third time, then remove the peels from the pan and set aside.
  3. Measure 2 cups of the sugar into the pan and add 1 cup water, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Add the peels and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the peels are tender and translucent, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Drain the peels and let cool.Measure the remaining 1/2 cup sugar into a medium bowl and add the peels. Toss to coat. Using a fork or your fingers, remove the peels one at time, gently shaking each to remove excess sugar. Store in an airtight container. The peels will keep for several weeks.
Would you like some tea with lemon?
These cupcakes are the perfect springtime/summertime cupcake. Light, airy frosting and a deliciously textured chocolate-y cake. The cake is actually really brownie like because of the chocolate /butter, but yet lighter, not as dense. The candied lemon peel is really awesome too, because it looks and sounds so complicated but in reality is super easy. It’s one of those things that easily impress people. As a matter of fact, I think this entire cupcake (with frosting & lemon peel) is something that will impress people. Because it’s so unique and unlike anything else, the last thing people will think of when they think of cupcakes is Earl Grey cupcakes. It’s not for everybody, I will say that. If you don’t like tea you probably won’t like this. But who doesn’t like tea? I mean, really. Who doesn’t like iced tea? Crazy people. I made my lemon peel the same day as the cupcakes, so I can’t personally vouch for how long they keep. But I’d imagine they’d definitely keep for a while. They’re really yummy too. Excellent in hot tea or iced tea, or just eaten as candy.

You could probably use any kind of tea for this. Maybe a vanilla cake, with a Grapefruit Rooibos tea meringue with candied grapefruit peel on top? Sounds delicious to me.