Category: cheats

Go nuts for Nutella with the easiest desserts EVER.

Okay, what I’m giving you today is quite possibly the easiest dessert duo EVER. Hands down. You don’t even have to DO ANYTHING. Minimal effort, minimal cost, minimal actions can get you two adorable & delectable little last-minute desserts. What are they? “Nutella Purses” and “Nutella Tarts”, both made using Nutella (duh) and Pillsbury® products. And no, I did not get compensation for these.

Everyone who knows me knows I love Nutella so this really shouldn’t be a surprise. Back in October I made apple-dumplings-or-pockets-or-my-version-of-a-quick-strudel-type thingies using Pillsbury Crescent rolls, and they were a big hit. I was brainstorming ever since about what to do next- savory? More sweet? Chocolate? I finally decided at about midnight (yes, midnight) a few weeks ago I’d use up the remainder of my Nutella and make some little 5-minute desserts using the two packages of giant crescent rolls & Grands! biscuits in my fridge (in case you’re wondering, the ‘Flaky Layers Butter Tastin” kind).

Those are the Nutella Purses. How good do those look? They tasted even better…  not to rub it in or anything. Hah. So here’s how you make ‘em.

NUTELLA PURSES

Ingredients:

  • 1 roll of Pillsbury (or store brand) crescent rolls (preferably the large ones, 8 in a package)
  • 1 jar of Nutella
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • sugar for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper & preheat oven to 350 F (or whatever it says on the package). Open crescent dough and combine triangles together to form squarangles (or a kind of square + rectangle hybrid) by patting and squeezing dough together on the seam. Gently roll it or pat it out a bit so it’s flat and evenly one piece (if it makes it easier, space-wise, you can do this assembly on the cookie sheet so it’s already there and ready to bake).
  2. Put a tablespoon to a tablespoon and a half of Nutella in the middle of the squarangle. Draw the corners of the dough up, folding and pinching it together to make a little pouch, leaving a small opening in the center. Using a pastry brush, brush tops and sides with egg and sprinkle with sugar.
  3. Place on cookie sheet using flat metal cookie spatula, if it isn’t already on it. Bake until dough is golden brown and firm enough to not collapse; mine took about 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, but again, bake according to package directions. Remove and allow to cool for at least 5-10 minutes before eating. They’re best warm but are decent when at room temperature, and they can be reheated easily.

Okay so those are super easy, right? I know. Ridiculously easy. Brainless, even. The Nutella Tarts take a bit more effort, but are worth it. I’m actually not even going to write up another recipe, because that first one was just silly. The ingredients are basically the same, except instead of crescent rolls, you’re gonna use biscuits. First what you’re going to do, is open the package and place the biscuits on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, only 4 to a sheet unless your cookie sheets are the larger ones. Using a glass, mold them into “shells” by pressing the glass into the middle of each. I used the Grands biscuits, they come 8 to a package & they’re pretty giant.

Like so.

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Then, brush the outsides with the beaten egg using a pastry brush. Sprinkle sugar on them, and fill each with 2 teaspoons of Nutella. Then pop ‘em in the oven for oh, let’s say 15-17 minutes or until golden brown (or according to package directions). Forreals. That’s ALL. Wanna see how they look done? Do ya? Huh? HUH?

Okay.

Here you go…

With just confectioner’s sugar, top, and whipped cream. Either way it’s DEEEEE-lish!

They were like little filled donuts of delightfulness! Perfect. And really, the only time they took was the time to cook, and they take NO expertise at all, so even the worst baker can pull these off. And talk about cheap! Basically it’s just an awesome dessert idea, great to make at the last minute, and super quick to pull together. And impressive looking! I’ve used Pillsbury biscuits before to make doughnuts, and that was pretty amazing. But these were just to die for. You can use anything you want as a garnish, but if you want to use homemade whipped cream…

HOMEMADE WHIPPED CREAM

Get this:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

And then do:

  1. Whip the cream until almost stiff.
  2. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until the cream holds peaks, but isn’t too stiff. Voila!

The best part of all of these is that the fillings can be totally customized. You can make a chocolate filling, chocolate peanut butter, white chocolate, raspberry, blueberry, even peanut butter & jelly! Seriously anything. And on the flip side, you can make the fillings savory too- shrimp with shredded cabbage & hoisin sauce, chicken with a mushroom & wine sauce, mozzarella cheese/tomato/basil, provolone & spinach, salsa & cheese… whatever! Just make sure you pre-cook all the meats if you decide to go that route, the few minutes in the oven won’t do it… and obviously, skip the sugar-sprinkling if you’re doing the savory thing. But they can be adapted to accommodate just about anything. Make them as savory appetizers, light dinner or a quick dessert. If you’re interested in the apple ones I made in the fall, you can find ‘em here. You can, of course, use the generic store brand biscuits or crescents, by all means. My cooking times are of course for the Pillsbury brand items I listed above. If you buy another brand or another style, they may differ, so be aware.

Before I go, it’s Jay’s sister Jen’s 23rd birthday tomorrow, so… happy birthday Jen! *noisemakers go off & confetti falls from the ceiling* I hope it’s a great one!

Frosting tutorial part two: the icing on the cake.

Sorry, it’s been longer than expected. I’ve had a few setbacks, if you’re a regular reader you’re aware of myEYE PROBLEM and my broken coupler… *sigh* But we’re back in business now, folks. Hope all you mommies had a wonderful Mother’s Day. Now let’s get back down to business.

I’m really glad that part one of the frosting tutorial was a success, and that people found it helpful. Here’s where we get into the real stuff, though: piping using a pastry bag and frosting using an offset spatula. I’ll be frosting these using three different tips, as well as telling you how to use the tips, fill the bags, and pipe the frosting so it looks super pretty. I made cupcakes especially for this occasion (well, and for Mother’s Day), they’re lemon cupcakes with a light lemon buttercream, and I topped them with raspberries. If you’d like to make them as well, the recipe and all credits for it and the liners, etc will be at the very end of the post. Boy, it felt good to make some cupcakes again! I hadn’t made any since my Fluffernutter cupcakes from April 15th.. that’s a month ago. A month without cupcakes, how sad. Anyway here’s what the finished products looked like:

Pretty, aren’t they?

I’ll say this again: I am not a professional. There are people out there with much better techniques than I, I’m sure, for frosting cupcakes. I don’t think I’m all that and a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, believe me. But people asked me to do this, so I am, because I want to help them out. However please don’t take this to mean I’m conceited and think I’m a pastry chef or anything. I’m just a regular chick, with a regular kitchen, who likes to bake and happens to be sorta good at it. And if by sharing my tips, tricks and cheats I can help a few other people get in touch with their inner Francois Payard, then by all means… I just don’t want anyone thinking I’m walking around looking for accolades on my frosting techniques.

First of all, the following Wilton materials will be used in this tutorial:

  • 16″ pastry bag – I recommend this size because it holds enough frosting for at least 24 cupcakes without having to refill
  • disposable pastry bags – definitely needed if you’re using colored frostings, they’ll dye your polyester reusable bags something fierce, you can also use these instead of reusable bags, despite the horrible effect they probably have on the environment, it saves time: instead of washing ‘em, you toss ‘em
  • large coupler – this is what you use to attach the tips to the bags.. duh… although when using disposable bags, this isn’t needed
  • offset spatula – important for frosting cupcakes that you don’t want to pipe, or for creating smooth tops on them, like this
  • 1A tip (large round) – this tip makes the frosting look like these examples: onetwothree (also it’s good for piping on frosting before you spread it out with an offset spatula, like this)
  • 1M tip / #2110 (large star) – this tip makes the frosting look like these examples: onetwothree
  • 4B tip (open star) – this tip is also known in some brands as a “french star”… I just got it so I don’t have any examples to show you other than the cupcakes I’ll be frosting today

To begin, we’re going to get our bags ready. We already made our frosting and covered how to make it pipable in the last post. So here I’ll show you how to fill and use a reusable bag as well as a disposable. To use a reusable bag, first you have to put the coupler base in the bag. If you haven’t already cut your bag, you’ll have to do that before you do anything else. To cut the bag, you have to first push the coupler base as far down into the bag as you can. Then, using a pen or pencil, mark the bag where the bottom screw thread is outlined against the bag material. Push the coupler base back out of your bag, cut the bag on the mark, and push the base back in. It should fit perfectly. Now put the tip on, and then screw the coupler ring over the tip. It should fit snugly, and not be wobbly or uneven. I can’t show you pictures of this because I cut mine a long time ago, but it should be fairly self-explanatory. To prepare a disposable bag, when marking the spot on the outside of the bag, do it about a ¼ of an inch below that screw thread line. You don’t have to use a coupler for disposable bags- I never do. I won’t be doing so in this tutorial either, but if it makes you feel more comfortable, you can use one.

Filling a reusable bag with an offset spatula…

To fill the bag, you have two options. Option one is the way Wilton will tell you to do it: hold the bag in one hand, and fold the top over to form a large “cuff.” With an angled spatula or silicone spatula, fill the bag with about ½ – 1½ cups frosting. The second way to do it is to use a drinking glass to hold the bag. Then fold it over to form the cuff, and fill it, lifting the bag up and shaking it slightly every so often so that the frosting works it’s way down to the tip. When you’ve filled it enough, close the bag by unfolding the cuff and twisting it closed, forcing the frosting down into the bag further. This prevents “frosting farts”; aka when you think you’ve filled the bag and didn’t push it down enough, so when you try and pipe frosting on your cakes, a bit comes out, then stops, and when you push the frosting comes “farting” out with an obnoxious sound and splattering itself all over the top of your cupcake. This can also happen when your bag is running low on frosting, so make sure you’re aware of how much you have in there.

Once you have your bag filled and ready, position your tip over the cupcake. Depending on the look you’re going for, and the tip you’re using, you can either do a straight pipe or a circular pipe. A straight pipe is when you hold the bag directly perpendicular to the cupcake, place the tip against the cake, and slightly push on the frosting bag. Continue pushing until the frosting “blooms” out large enough, while lifting the bag upwards. When you’re finished, do a final little push into the frosting while doing one last little squeeze on the bag. Then just lift it away. Ta-da! This looks awesome with a large round tip when using meringue type frosting, but for these purposes I used the 1A tip to frost and then smoothed it with an offset spatula. This, like anything else, requires an amount of practice. The 1M star tip also makes a nice look when used like this.

Using a disposable bag there, as you can see


Another way to pipe is the circular pipe. To do this, you place your tip over the cupcake much in the same way as previously stated. Instead of pushing down in one spot in the center of the cake, however, you push down a little ways away from the center, and go in a circle, pushing the frosting out of the bag all the while… making a coil. Usually, I try not to go around more than once or twice, ending with a pretty point on the top (ending in the same fashion as above: doing a final little push into the frosting while doing one last little squeeze on the bag, then quickly releasing pressure and lifting the bag away). But depending on how thick your frosting is and how steady your hands are, it’s possible to go 3-4 times around. Also, try making circles if your coils don’t work. Make a larger circle, then a smaller one on top, then finish it with a “dollop” on top of that. It has the same look, especially when using a round tip, but easier to try and get the hang of. All three tips I used today can be used in this way, as well as tip 2A.

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While I’m frosting I find it helpful to listen to music or have a DVD on of a movie I like. I find that listening to Lady Gaga & Beyonce sing ‘Telephone’ or something makes it not only more fun but helps me get into a “zone” of sorts. Though depending on the type of cupcakes or dessert I’m making, different music is in order. These cupcakes just made me think of Nicki Minaj & her “Harajuku Barbie”-ness, but sometimes Green Day, Black Sabbath or Social Distortion and even Method Man, Mos Def or Lil’ Kim is necessary. Movies with a lot of awesome music make for good frosting assistants too- for example, Quentin Tarantino movies, biopic movies on musical artists, etc. Find your groove and rock out while frosting. I promise you, it helps!

I thought I’d show you all how they came out, and maybe seeing the differently frosted finished products would also help you in your frosting efforts. The tips used, in order, are: 4B, 1A, 1M and 1A that I then spread out with the offset spatula.

The main thing to remember is practice really makes perfect when it comes to frosting. As long as your frosting is the right consistency, you’re on the right path. Just attempting these things over and over again will let you work out, through trial and error, the best way of doing it for you. Just practice, you can even practice your technique on paper plates until you get the hang of it.

Of  course, Lola got jealous of all the equipment and stuff being photographed, and she wanted some face-time too. She’s such a camera whore. But it’s allright, she’s beautiful. She deserves to be seen.

LEMON CUPCAKES (tweaked from original cupcake & frosting recipes courtesy of ourbestbites.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest of 2 lemons (just zest the other lemons before you squeeze them)
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Don’t go skimping here–you want the mixture to be almost white and super fluffy. This is absolutely essential to the outcome of the cake.
  3. While butter and sugar are mixing, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside. After butter and sugar have mixed sufficiently, With the mixer running, add eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Beat in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  4. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating until fully incorporated.
  5. Fill the liners with the batter. DO NOT FILL THEM TOO HIGH. They will rise, and rise, and rise.  Be super conservative. These cupcakes won’t have a nice, curvy crown, but that’s okay–no one will ever know or care. However, they will rise like you have no idea. A tablespoon of batter might be just right, but do a test run or two to make sure.
  6. Bake about 20-25 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. You don’t want to overbake these even a bit, or they’ll start to lose their delicious moisture. Remove from oven and cool completely.

LIGHT LEMON BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups butter (2 ½ sticks)
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Beat butter, lemon rind, and vanilla in an electric mixer until creamy.
  2. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating to spreading consistency. Makes 2 ¾ cups frosting.

I used pink polka dot and pink solid liners from sweet estelle’s baking supply and topped the cupcakes with frozen raspberries that I defrosted, then laid out on a paper towel and sprinkled with sugar, then let rest a while before putting them on the cakes. By all means if you want to use fresh raspberries you can, I just used all mine up in the pie and had happened to have some frozen ones in the freezer. After a few minutes on top of the cupcakes, the raspberries leak a little bit of juice, and it looks pretty when traveling down the rivets of the frosting. I halved the recipe and I got about 18 cupcakes, so keep that in mind. Also, DON’T TRY THIS RECIPE WITH ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR. Only use cake flour for this. And trust me on what I said in the recipe about them rising. I’ve made them twice so far, and the first time I listened to the recipe author’s advice to fill the liners up to almost the top… and it was disastrous. Cupcake batter overflowing everywhere. So really, trust me on this, fill them halfway (if that, even) and do a trial run or a test cupcake to make sure.

I hope this tutorial helps you, and if you have any questions, feel free to comment and I’ll answer them best I can. Or, alternately, if you have any tips I didn’t list here, feel free to add those in the comments as well so everyone can benefit. And if there is any other topic you’d like me to cover, please tell me, if enough people want it then I’ll do a part three.

Before I forget… mucho thanks to everyone who made Cupcake Rehab reach the big 231 “likers” this past week on Facebook. Let’s get to 250, shall we?

Chocolate chip muffins- an update!

Remember last week when I made best chocolate chip muffins ever? After making them twice in one week, I had a request to make them yet again. However, I ran out of all-purpose flour, and all I had was cake flour. If you don’t know already, cake flour is a softer, more powdery flour. It typically has around 6-9% protein, whereas all-purpose flour has around 10-13%, on average. It’s used in angel food cakes and cakes/cupcakes that are lighter and airy-er than regular. Cake flour really isn’t recommended for breads or doughs, because it’s very fine and doesn’t have as much heft as all-purpose. As they say on Joyofbaking.com:

The type of flour used will ultimately affect the finished product. Flour contains protein and when it comes in contact with water and heat it produces gluten, which gives elasticity and strength to baked goods. Different types of flour contain different amounts of protein. Therefore using a different type of flour than what is called for in a recipe (without compensating for this change) will alter the outcome of the baked good.  A cake flour is used to make a white cake where a delicate tender crumb is desired.  Bread flour is used to make a chewy bread and all-purpose flour makes a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies.

All-purpose flour has a 10-12% protein content and is made from a blend of hard and soft wheat flours. It can be bleached or unbleached which are interchangeable.  However, Southern brands of bleached all-purpose flour have a lower protein content (8%) as they are made from a soft winter wheat.  All-purpose flour can vary in its protein content not only by brand but also regionally. The same brand can have different protein contents depending on what area of the country in the United States you are buying it.  Good for making cakes, cookies, breads, and pastries.

Cake flour has a 6-8% protein content and is made from soft wheat flour. It is chlorinated to further break down the strength of the gluten and is smooth and velvety in texture. Good for making cakes (especially white cakes and biscuits) and cookies where a tender and delicate texture is desired.  To substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour.  Make your own – one cup sifted cake flour can be substituted with 3/4 cup (84 grams) sifted bleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch.


Now, normally, I could just go out and buy some AP flour and be done with it. Except I had just come home from CVS where I had to purchase a cream for a suspicious rash that popped up under my right eye last weekend and that was resistant to hydrocortisone and every other allergy and itch cream you can imagine. So the past few days had been completely taken over by my funky, itchy, random eye rash that I lovingly referred to as my “EYE PROBLEM” much in the same way Heather at Dooce said “SHINGLES!”, although not always with jazz hands. Was I in the mood to go out again just to buy flour, especially with aforementioned EYE PROBLEM? HELL-to-the-motherfucking-NO. Yet I kinda did want those muffins. So I decided to do a little experiment, and I thought you all, my little baking minions, would appreciate the results, either way. I’m all about substitutions and cheats and tricks when it comes to baking, so I don’t mind being the guinea pig. I figured the worst thing that would happen is that the muffins would be lighter, which isn’t a bad thing at all. I didn’t expect them to come out even more perfect than before!

What I did was I used the regular substitution equation: 1 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour for every 1 cup all-purpose flour needed (that works the same in reverse, by the way, 1 cup – 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour = 1 cup cake flour in a pinch… although the results won’t be as lightly textured, and this shouldn’t be used in every recipe, some French pastries and desserts need cake flour).

(EVEN BETTER!) BASIC CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/3 cup light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • ½ cup butter — melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs – beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 ounces mini chocolate chips (about half an average size bag)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. and grease up twelve muffin cups or put liners in them ( I prefer liners because it’s less messy that way).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, stir together milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla until blended. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add milk mixture and stir just to combine. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
  3. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them as much as possible; bake 15-20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.
  4. Remove muffin tin to wire rack; cool 5 minutes and remove from tins to finish cooling.

Like I said, these are the best muffins ever, and apparently they only get better with cake flour! Now you know- no matter what flour you use, these are going to come out pretty damn spectacular. If you substitute self-rising, though, just remember to take out the baking powder and salt.

I filled the cups up more this time, and still got 3 more muffins, making a total of 15. No idea why, really, even though there are two extra tablespoons of flour in them, the flour is so much finer than all-purpose I don’t know if that would really give me an extra 3 muffins. But boy am I glad it did. They came out a tad smoother on top than the ones made with all-purpose flour, but still not as smooth as my banana chocolate chip yogurt muffins. That could be the difference in the flour, or the difference in my hand-mixing of this particular batch.

I know you’re all still waiting for that second frosting tutorial, and I promise you it’s coming. Between my EYE PROBLEM and the usual crap, once again I got behind on my plans. But it should be up next week. Okay? So stop hating me!

oh, and my EYE PROBLEM? All gone, thanks for asking.



Frosting lesson number one: logistics, a.k.a. “common sense.”

For quite some time now, people have been asking me to do tutorials on frosting. Specifically piping and the use of pastry bags, but I’ve gotten requests for things like tinting frosting, mixing frosting, and basic frosting application as well. In no way do I think I’m the best at this, nor am I professionally trained. But nonetheless, the public asked, and I’ll deliver. And since I’ve learned a lot since the start of this blog 2.5 years ago, and I’ve made some mistakes, I decided to use some of my own cupcake pictures as examples for this first post. This is all things that I have learned through trial and error and I am most certainly not Julia Child… but if it helps someone else, then how bad could I be for posting it? I thought it would be best to start really simple- with some common sense (or what I think to be common sense anyway) ideas for making your cupcakes look the best they can. Before you can frost, or make frosting, you should have a general idea of some basic concepts that can really help you out along the way. I know some of you may be past this point, and ready for the piping tutorial, and I’m sorry to keep you waiting… but you’ve gotta crawl before you can walk and some people have asked for this. So stick with me and the next tutorial will be more relevant to you.

First off, let’s start with basic chemistry. Baking has a lot to do with science. Even if you’re a casual baker who just likes making cupcakes or cakes for fun and you don’t take it seriously, you’ll need to know certain things. If you are making a frosting, for example a “buttercream” (which usually isn’t a real buttercream, just a butter frosting), and it’s too stiff, you add more liquid. If your frosting is too thin, you add more sugar. In the rare event that doesn’t help, an extra pat of butter or spoonful of shortening will do the job as well. Also, depending on the weather, you might want to incorporate shortening into your frostings anyway. It adds more stability and substance in places of high humidity or heat, so your frostings don’t drip or wilt. Another thing to remember is certain flavorings, or things you can use as flavorings, can cause your frosting to separate. Coffee is a big culprit with this. I suggest using a coffee extract instead, but if you’re dead set on using regular coffee (which is totally possible, don’t get me wrong), make sure you add some shortening as an added bonding agent and you frost your cake/cupcake immediately to avoid the frosting “breaking” on you.

Sources: top, almond cupcakes, bottom, cream soda toffee cupcakes

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Same goes for white chocolate. If you melt white chocolate to use in your frosting, you will absolutely have to add shortening to it. White chocolate is notorious for being really soft and making the frosting wilt. For example:

Sources: White chocolate almond cupcakes, left and Dylan Lauren’s cupcakes, right

KEEP IN MIND: BUTTERCREAM IS NOT AN EXACT SCIENCE. Unlike cake, or cupcakes, or baked items, there is no definitive way of doing it. It does not have to contain an equal amount or specific amount of anything in it. You don’t really even need a recipe. As long as the finished product is stiff enough to be frosting, isn’t runny or isn’t too thick… then you’re good. If you’re making a recipe for buttercream, and it comes out too runny, add more sugar! If it’s too thick, add more milk! I don’t think I’ve used a recipe in years. I just wing it, and as long as it comes out pipeable and edible, it’s all gravy. Or… frosting?

I always test my frosting by picking some up with a spoon and plopping it on a piece of paper towel. If it holds it’s shape, it’s probably good to go. If not, it needs more sugar/shortening, and if it’s too thick to come off the spoon no matter how hard you shake… then you should add a bit more milk (or vanilla extract). You want your frosting stiff & thick, but not brick-like. The thicker your buttercream is from sugar, the harder it’s going to get when left out. You know that hard shell buttercream sometimes develops? Yeah, like that.

(The concept is the same with a cream cheese frosting. It’s always going to be part cream cheese, obviously, but I like to add some butter too. So I use about ¼ stick of butter and 4-8 oz cream cheese, depending how many cupcakes I’m frosting or how big the cake is. Then I just add the sugar as needed, and add some milk or vanilla extract to help thin it out a bit. In this case, the cream cheese adds what the shortening would- a thicker creamier base that helps the frosting get stiffer.)


A lot of people have problems with wilting frosting even if they follow all those directions to a tee. The frosting was just fine before it was put on the cake/cupcakes, but then you frost them and it just melts, or wilts, or slides off. In that case, I would say it’s most likely because your cupcakes aren’t cool enough when you frost them. This is HUGELY IMPORTANT. Many of us, myself included sometimes, as evidenced above, are too impatient to wait long enough. So we jump in, pipe our pretty little piles of frosting on top, and by the time we get to the fourth cupcake… the rest of the cupcakes have flattened, mushed down, drippy, lop-sided frosting. This is easily remedied. No, not once it’s done. But before it’s done. I know we’re all busy, and that most of you have kids running around, or pets, or husbands or boyfriends poking fingers in your batter bowls and frosting bags (wow that sounded dirty!), but you have to wait. The cupcakes (or cake) have to be totally and completely cool… not just to the touch. The internal temperature of the cake takes a much longer time to cool, and if the inside is still hot (or even slightly warmer), then for sure that frosting is going to melt. What I do (especially if I’m in a hurry, otherwise I try and avoid doing it and practice my patience instead) is I let them cool for 15 – 20 minutes, 5 – 10 in the pan usually and then another 10 on a rack, then I pop them into the freezer for like 5 – 10 minutes at the most. Then when I take them out, the tops are very cool and I’m more certain the internal temp is room temperature if not slightly cooler. Then I can frost them quicker. This is especially helpful in the warm weather when no matter what I do short of holding them in front of the A/C vents, my cupcakes do not cool down quick enough.

If you do ALL these things and your frosting STILL isn’t pipable… well, then the cupcake gods are against you and you should just stick to making Jello because I don’t know what to tell you.

(I’m not going to get into meringues, 7-minute frostings and the like in this post… but if anyone would like a post on them, e·mail me.)

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Next thing I’m going to discuss is color theory. I know, you’re all thinking “WHAT!?” but honestly, it’s important. So many times I see people make cupcakes and they try a dual colored frosting, and they pick colors that combine to make… a mud color. And when frosting gets soft, and the colors start to bleed slightly… you want to make sure you have two colors that compliment one another at best and at worst look decent and not muddy. Nobody wants to eat a cupcake with a pile of mushy frosting that looks like a non-descript mud colored lump. Maybe because I’m an artist first, baker second, to me this is something that comes naturally. So I’m going to show you a tool to help you with this, and that tool is… the color wheel. TA DA!

(Thanks to seanmarcellus.com for the color wheel image)

Okay, so what you should realize is that there are primary colors, secondary colors (which I’m sure you all know), tertiary colors, and complimentary colors which for our purposes (frosting) are NOT always complimentary. The colors that are OPPOSITE one another on the wheel, i.e. purple & yellow, blue & orange, etc… those colors compliment each other well. That is, when put next to one another, like in a painting, in decorating a room, in clothing, etc. When used in a frosting…it would look great too, however you can’t predict exactly how your frosting is going to take it, for example, you create a striped or two tone frosting, using purple and yellow, and the edges of the colors blend together… well, you’re going to get a brown, or a muddy color. Ick. That said, tinting a cupcake orange and using a blue frosting on it would be fantastic, or using two separate pastry bags filled with the colors separately, and you frost one on top of the other after the first sets. I’d just tend to stick with plain white frosting if you’re going to stripe it, and use a color for the stripes or second tone. Or, use colors that if they do blend together a bit, it looks good; for example pink & red, orange & yellow, blue & green, purple & black, etc. Otherwise, unless you’re really good, you run the risk of the colors mushing together a bit and ruining the brightness and the striking effect you’re trying to create.

Sources: left, pink zebra girly cakes, right, Obama cakes
Source: Anti-Valentine’s day cupcakes

Another way to avoid the running or blending of the colors is to do two separate frosting colors, and pipe them on separately, or do a half-n-half frosting like CB at I ♥ Cuppycakes did. I’ll leave the explaining of that to her since I already linked to her *wink*

I hope this helps some of you. My next tutorial will be piping frosting/frosting cupcakes, both with a pastry bag and without. It will probably be up in about a week, maybe two weeks from now. Here’s a list of basics I suggest you invest in:

  • 16″ pastry bag – I recommend this size because it holds enough frosting for at least 24 cupcakes without having to refill
  • disposable pastry bags – definitely needed if you’re using colored frostings, they’ll dye your polyester reusable bags something fierce, you can also use these instead of reusable bags, despite the horrible effect they probably have on the environment, it saves time: instead of washing ‘em, you toss ‘em
  • large coupler – this is what you use to attach the tips to the bags.. duh… although when using disposable bags, this isn’t needed
  • offset spatula – important for frosting cupcakes that you don’t want to pipe, or for creating smooth tops on them, like this
  • 1A tip (large round) – this tip makes the frosting look like these examples: onetwothree (also it’s good for piping on frosting before you spread it out with an offset spatula, like this)
  • 1M tip / #2110 (large star) – this tip makes the frosting look like these examples: onetwothree

Again, I use all Wilton products. These things are also available in other brands, but that’s up to you. I think you should always invest in something that’s built to last, especially if you’re going to be using it a lot and wearing it out, so I don’t suggest going cheapo with this. However, it’s totally up to you what brand you choose to buy or what you want to pay.

Is there anything you’d like me to have a tutorial on? Let me know either in the comments or via e·mail and I’ll certainly take it into consideration!

Biscuit doughnuts.

What? Yes, donuts made of biscuits. In the words of Homer Simpson: “Mmm… donuts.” Does it matter what kind? No. Glazed, chocolate, Boston Cream, cinnamon, powdered sugar, who cares. Everything is better with doughnuts. Or donuts if you prefer to spell it that way.

One of my favorite ladies in the world and one of my favorite “celebri-chefs” (thanks for the term, Miss Becky) is Paula Deen. Either you love her or you hate her. I really don’t care if you love her or hate her, personally, because I love her. I love that she cooks with real butter and lots of it, and I also love that she wears all her diamonds to cook. But most of all I love her recipes. Aside from one time when she failed me (lousy red velvet cupcake recipe) I’ve got nothin’ but love for her cooking. And I was watching an old episode of ‘Paula’s Home Cooking’ and she had this doughnut recipe on and, well,  I’m just a sucker for doughnuts.

This is the easiest freakin’ donut recipe ever. On the face of the entire earth. It’s so easy, and yet when they’re done they look so good, that you could easily tell people you slaved over these for days- “Oh well you know I made the dough, then let it rise overnight, then cut it into shapes, then fried it… then I made all the glazes… got the toppings together… yeah you know it’s complicated…” But yet you didn’t. And they’d never know. Unless they read Cupcake Rehab. In which case, your spot was just blown up. Sorry.

CANNED BISCUIT DOUGH DOUGHNUTS (AND HOLES)

Ingredients:

  • Peanut oil, for frying
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 cans large buttermilk biscuits (any brand- Pillsbury, store brand, etc)

Icings:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • 5 tablespoons milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • Colored sprinkles
  • Chocolate sprinkles

Directions:

  1. Heat 2 inches peanut oil in a large pot or Dutch oven to 350° degrees F.
  2. In a shallow bowl, stir together the ground cinnamon and sugar and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, set aside. This is the vanilla icing. In another bowl, whisk together 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar, ¼ cup of cocoa powder and 3 tablespoons of milk and set aside. This is the chocolate icing.
  3. Lay out the biscuits on a cutting board and with a 1 ½-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out a hole from the middle of each biscuit. Fry them in the oil until golden and then flip with tongs to fry the other side. You can even fry the donut holes. Drain on paper towels and then toss in the cinnamon-sugar or ice and decorate with sprinkles, as desired.

If you have a doughnut cutter, then you can remove the middle (mine has a center cutter that pops out) and use that to remove the middles for the holes. But if you don’t have such an item, another perfect way to cut out the “holes” is using a water bottle cap or soda bottle cap (make sure it’s clean first). Just push it right through the middle and then pop the dough out of the cap and put it aside to make doughnut holes.Voila! And these things cook SO QUICK… you could easily make a dozen in a half hour, complete with toppings. Oh- and doughnut holes too!

I made a chocolate frosting, a plain glaze, and a cinnamon-sugar topping (cinnamon and sugar… duh) for these. I rolled some plain glazed donuts in coconut flakes, put sprinkles on some, and rolled some plain doughnuts in just cinnamon-sugar. There are infinite possibilities.

They taste pretty damn awesome too. I recommend this recipe for anyone- even those with little to no cooking experience. It’s like doughnut making for beginners.

Candy cane cupcakes & why Yoyo rocks (again).

I know, I’ve been MIA again. *sigh* I’ve just been really busy… its the holidays, and I’ve been preoccupied setting up my new blog at mariloca.com and writing and gathering pictures together for my Cupcakes Take the Cake guest blog (which will be on the 23rd- mark your calendars!) But alas, I’m here with a peace offering: some cupcake porn! Chocolate cupcakes with  pink vanilla-mint buttercream and topped with red sugar and crushed candy-canes on top. Its kind of a Christmas must-have to make something chocolate/mint, and while I have a few other tricks up my sleeve involving this combo for Christmas this year, who can turn down cupcakes? Because this is something I’ve done before many times, and I’ve used both of these recipes before, the recipes for both the cakes and the frosting can be found by clicking the ‘continue reading‘ link at the bottom of this post so they don’t clog up the page and waste space.

But I do have a little tip for you: if you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute all-purpose flour. Just use 7/8 cup all-purpose flour per cup of cake flour called for. The texture will not be the same, it won’t be as delicate, but in a pinch it’ll do. And most people probably won’t be able to tell the difference. You’d be surprised at how indelicate most peoples palates are. In chocolate cupcakes, like these for example, its not as big of a deal. They just come out denser and “thicker.” In vanilla cupcakes it kinda does make a difference.

I wanna thank the amazing Yoyo for the liners I used, they came today in a package she sent me!

It was filled with a homemade Christmas card…

Tons of handmade mini-tissue pack holders and Christmas cupcake liners, like these…

And an apron made out of a fabric very appropriate for me…

I’ll get better pics of the apron and hopefully a full-shot of it this week.

Thanks so much Yoyo! ♥

On that note, I’m off. I’ll be back with more Christmas-like recipes.

Continue reading

Cranberry-Orange scones.

I really couldn’t think of a clever title for this, so I figured I’d just be straight about it. I am not a cranberry fan, but I had a million beautiful oranges sitting in a bowl looking bored, and I’m celebrating two Thanksgivings this year.. meaning I was in need of many baked goods. So what else was I supposed to do!? I’ve been promising this recipe since I saw Ina Garten make it ages ago and its finally the season for this sort of thing so of course I made it.

Where does one get dried cranberries? In the fresh (or organic) fruit/nut section of the supermarket, in a little plastic container. Right near the dried figs and trail mixes and that kinda stuff. Easy peasy. If you really can’t find them, you can cheat and “dry” your own, using fresh or frozen by using the following method: First wash and then plunge them into boiling water for 15-30 seconds, just until the skin ‘pops.’ Stop the cooking action by placing berries in ice water. Drain on paper towels. Turn on the oven for 10 minutes at 350°F. Then place the cranberries on a cookie sheet in the oven, turn off the oven, and let them sit overnight or until sticky and no longer wet. Once dry, they can be kept at refrigerator temperatures for 18 to 24 months or in a freezer for 5 to 8 years. However I’d recommend sprinkling them with a bit of sugar before putting them in the oven. Most dried cranberries have a bit of sugar in them because of the natural tartness of the berry. That said- I will say that you’ll probably be happier with the flavor and texture buying dried and using those.

I will tell you this: since I do not like cranberries, I have not eaten any.  They smell fantastic, and I am assured they are wonderful by very picky and spoiled people who only like the best baked goods and are highly opinionated. I prefer chocolate chip scones myself.

CRANBERRY-ORANGE SCONES

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups plus ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • ¾ pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix 4 cups of flour, ¼ cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter and mix at the lowest speed until the butter is the size of peas. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy! Combine the dried cranberries and ¼cup of flour, add to the dough, and mix on low speed until blended.
  3. Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough ¾-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Keep moving the dough on the floured board so it doesn’t stick. Flour a 3-inch round plain or fluted cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Collect the scraps neatly, roll them out, and cut more circles.
  4. Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch. Allow the scones to cool for 15 minutes and then whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice, and drizzle over the scones.

Yeah, I know, the ¾ pound of butter kills me. Ina Garten loves her butter. But then again, thats what makes scones scones! You could easily cut this recipe in half as well, depending on how many people you’re making it for. As far as the fresh squeezed juice, just use the orange that you got the zest from. Don’t use OJ from a carton, please. I mean, you could do that in theory -but why!?!

And I abso-friggin’-lutely promise that soon there will be a cupcake recipe. Or at least some cupcake porn ;)