A Baking Adventure: No Frosting? No Problem!

Have you ever found yourself wanting cupcakes when all the bakeries were closed? You have all the ingredients in the pantry for cake (or in my case, a box mix), but nothing for frosting? I know I’ve been in this situation. I was pregnant, craving yellow cake, and NOTHING could get my mind off of it until I had it. So I baked 2 dozen vanilla cupcakes, even with no frosting, or frosting ingredients, in the house. After the cupcakes came out of the oven and I devoured one (or maybe two…) with no toppings, I browsed the fridge and freezer to find creative frosting options I could use throughout the week.

Strawberries

I had fresh strawberries and was lucky to find Cool Whip in the freezer (actually, I pretty sure I always have Cool Whip in the freezer). It was perfect for a strawberry shortcake cupcake! The next night I decided to take it to the next level.

Berries

I got fancy and layered the cupcake with whipped cream, mixed berries, and cake. Messy to eat, but oh so good!

IceCream

Being pregnant, I of course craved ice cream at some point, so I cut the top off of a cupcake, creating a little “cake bowl.” What you do with the top is up to you. I managed to save it for photos (how I resisted is still a mystery!), but no one here will judge if you eat it as soon as it’s cut off the cupcake.

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Lastly, one night I was craving chocolate and peanut butter. I attempted to make frosting by mixing peanut butter with Marshmallow Fluff, but it still stayed fairly dense. That’s okay, it was still delicious! I also melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and spooned it on top.

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At the time I wanted the chocolate to harden to create a “shell,” so I chilled the cupcakes for a little while. Looking back I think the melted chocolate would have been amazing too!

The great thing about leaving the cupcakes “naked” after baking them was that I was able to tailor each to my cravings and got a lot of variety. I’m not one to run out every time I’m craving something I don’t have. Instead, I use what I do have to recreate my craving or act as a substitute. So, the next time you think, “I need a cupcake!” but don’t have all of the obvious ingredients, think about us and get creative! Do you have any frosting alternatives that you like to use? Let us know!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

Mount Vernon’s New “Bun” Shop

Life in the city is always changing. Sometimes you have to say goodbye to places you love, like Sweet Bakery. That same change causes new places to be born and on April 8th, 2013 The Bun Shop opened at Sweet Bakery’s old address in Mount Vernon.

I happened to walk down Read Street one day last March and found signs on the doors for The Bun Shop. After finding them on facebook, I followed their renovation process and was excited to see they opened a month later. The entire space was completely re-vamped and renovated. It is eclectic and gilded, while fun, new wave, and inviting. It makes you feel like you are at home, and your home is clean, organized, and impeccably designed. The long family style tables, tables for two, and comfy couches give you a lot of sitting options. They even have events at the shop, including a recent Buns & Beer event with live music!

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(Their simple and beautiful display, a cool gold leafed sign, and the amazing window graphic.)

Okay, okay, I know, buns are not cupcakes, but we Crusaders agreed, a new place this cool, with sweet and savory bun options, was a must try! Being the indecisive person I am, I chose three buns to try, two savory and one sweet. (And yes, I ate them all at one time.)

Spinach & Feta Twist
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The employee behind the counter told me this was her favorite, and thank goodness she recommended it! The “bun” part was so light and fluffy, but had such fantastic flavor. The spinach and feta baked in created a wonderful earthy and green flavor. It really was light and didn’t feel heavy. While I love spanakopita, it has nothing on this savory bun treat.

Curry Puff
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Sweet potatoes, carrots, pulled chicken, curry spices and turmeric all fold together into one delicious triangle of dough. If you don’t like a curry kick, this might not be for you, but I loved it. The dough used on this savory “bun” was totally different than the dough used on the Spinach & Feta bun, it was a bit heavier and more substantial. It never overpowered the filling though, and there was just the right amount of both.

Rotiboy
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A traditional Mexican Coffee Bun, a Rotiboy is a sweet butter bun baked with a crisp, coffee-flavored topping. (When I did a little research I also found this Rotiboy brand which also mentions its Mexican origins, but is based out of Malaysia.) I saved this for last and was pleasantly surprised at its doughy flavor and donut texture. While the topping didn’t scream coffee, the faint flavor was there. And since I love butter, the savory and just-sweet-enough butter flavor of this bun made me smile. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but it was so good I savored every bite.

The Bun Shop has 10 buns to choose from right now, including a new vegan Curry Puff made with chick peas. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners, Andrew, on my visit and he was as warm and welcoming as the shop itself. On top of the lovely staff and fantastic buns, the shop also specializes in Vietnamese coffee, which is a double shot of espresso, sweetened condensed milk, and coffee. You can get this and other coffee and tea options iced or hot, and if you’re not into that, they have an eclectic variety of natural sodas to choose from as well.

Okay, so no, they don’t sell cupcakes, and it isn’t Sweet Bakery, but this place has been reborn as something different. A new gem in Mount Vernon, and definitely worth a stop in for breakfast, lunch, dinner or chilling! And for me, conveniently located right around the corner from work! I’d call that a win/win situation!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

Baking Adventure: Bourbon Black Forest Cupcakes

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I’m not usually a big fan of Black Forest cake. I like fresh cherries, but can’t seem to get into anything else that has cherries in it, or a cherry flavor. That was until Guest Crusader Beth, from Sweetness Follows, gave me a jar of her Bourbon Cherry Jam. As soon as I tried it, I knew I wanted to use it in a cupcake (you may remember we used her Raspberry Chambord Jam in Chocolate Raspberry Chambord cupcakes).

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(Sweetness Follows jams are available on Etsy in seasonal flavors.)

I had un-frosted chocolate cupcakes in my freezer, waiting to be turned into something good. After thawing, I filled them with the delicious jam. Since I didn’t have to bake or cook anything, the first two steps made these the easiest cupcakes I’ve ever made.

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The first two steps being so simple, I decided that I needed to do something to challenge myself…this is called a “Baking Adventure” after all. So, instead of picking up a tub of Cool Whip or can of whipped topping, I decided to make my own.

I’ll be honest, I was scared. I watch Food Network, I know making whipped cream can make or break a dessert (I’ve seen it happen on Chopped). The cream may never set properly or you can over whip it. There’s such a fine balance to making it successful.

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Well my fear was for nothing, because my whipped topping was PERFECT. I found a recipe on AllRecipes.com for Black Forest Cake, which included the frosting. I only made a half batch, so I used 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream, but instead of the small amount of confectioner’s sugar, I slowly added in about 1/2 cup so that it would be stiffer (hoping I wouldn’t mess it up!). The recipe didn’t tell me how long to whip it with an mixer, only to do it until it formed stiff peaks. I opted to pull out my hand mixer, thinking that I might over whip it with my standing mixer.

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In the end I was really please with how the frosting piped, yet was still super airy (just like what you’d expect from the aerosol can stuff). The cupcakes were pretty good and not overly sweet, thanks to the liquor infused jam and light frosting. What I really loved was how simple they were and I learned not to be afraid of making my own whipped cream! I need to get my hands on more Sweetness Follows jams, since they are so good in cupcakes!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

Bring on the Warm Weather with these Orangesicle Cupcakes

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I mentioned in my last review, that it had been a long time since I had done any real cupcaking because of my crazy grad-school schedule. It’s been even longer, however, since I made my own cupcakes. But I’m happy to report that my work-load has lightened up some (at least until I start my summer class), and I was finally able to bake again.

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What really inspired me to get back into the kitchen, was Pillsbury’s Orangesicle cake mix, which I spotted on a recent trip to the grocery store. I also had a coupon for a free Duncan Hines’ Frosting Creations flavor mix, so these cupcakes were fated to be made and devoured.

I baked the cake mix according to the directions on the box, but since I had to put my own homemade twist on them, I made a marshmallow fluff filling (just marshmallow fluff and confectioners sugar) and added the Orange Créme flavor mix to my homemade madagascar bourbon vanilla bean buttercream frosting.

OrangeCreamsicleCupcakes2(Making my own frosting and filling meant that I finally had the opportunity to use my fancy new measuring cups and sifter.)

After adding the flavor mix to the frosting, I wish I had gotten two packets. With the amount of frosting I made (and with all the vanilla bean paste I used), one packet just didn’t cut it. Luckily, I had some orange extract, so I added about 2 teaspoons and that gave it the orange flavor I was hoping for.

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These cupcakes came out moist and refreshing, perfect for the warm weather months. Crusader Elisa said that because of the marshmallow filling they reminded her of Hostess’ Orange Cupcakes, which she grew up eating and sadly can’t get anymore.

Crusader Jenn was my kitchen assistant while baking these cupcakes, and since we weren’t making them for a specific event, we decided to have fun with frosting. Normally we try to make them all consistent, but this time we just experimented. First we tried to add a swirl of glitter gel frosting:

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But that didn’t end up giving the effect we were going for, so we tried our hand at giving the cupcakes a Crumbs Bake Shop vibe, which we actually really liked:

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I’m so glad I had a chance to finally bake again. I’ve really missed it, and it was even more fun because Jenn was there to help and there was no pressure to make them perfect for an event. There was also the added bonus of being able to surprise friends, family, and co-workers with cupcakes they weren’t expecting to get. Eating tasty cupcakes is usually reason enough to get in the kitchen and bake, but putting smiles on loved-ones faces is even better.

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Elisa’s “From Scratch” Baking Experiment: Boozy Blue Hawaii Cupcakes

It’s April, but feels more like February. Urgh. I am very ready for warmer weather, which must be why, when thinking about cupcakes to make for my next experiment, my mind wandered directly to tropical flavors. Coincidentally, I happen to have the Booze Cakes cookbook (which I have been eager to use) and found the perfect recipe to quench my tropical thirst: Blue Hawaii Pineapple Upside-down Cupcakes.

BoozCakesBook

I know… it’s not my own flavor combination, nor is it filled, but it was all I could think about making once I saw it. It was a complicated recipe, that included several challenges: homemade rum sauce and boozy whipped cream, dying and layering batter, and toasting coconut – all from scratch. After gathering all the ingredients, including a bottle of Blue Curaçao, I was ready to bake. I only hoped my cupcakes turned out as beautiful as the photo in the book.

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First things first, the Rum Pineapple topping. Butter, brown sugar, and rum makes the sauce, and I was so excited to use the Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum I brought back from a trip. (Side note: If you go to Jamaica, buy a large bottle of this rum, it is totally worth it.) The sauce gets spooned onto the pineapple rounds at the bottom of the cupcake pan. No liners for this baking experiment, the top was really going to be the bottom for this cupcake.

Pineapple-PineapplePan

Once the sauce and pineapple rounds were in place I moved on to making the batter. Having never dyed batter before, it was interesting dividing it out and adding the food coloring. It felt and looked more like I was mixing paint than making cake batter. Very fun! And I had no idea you had to cool the first layer before you add the second layer. (I’m now looking forward to the challenge of making more color layered cake recipes.)

Pineapple-BlueMix

The cake didn’t bake up the way that normal cupcakes do, instead it stayed very flat. But it looked that way in the pictures, so I tried not to worry too much and moved on to make the “spike whipped cream,” which was possibly the easiest and BEST recipe for really fantastic boozy whipped cream:
• 3 cups (1 pint) heavy cream, cold
• 5 tablespoons sugar
• 2 tablespoons liquor, wine or liqueur
• food coloring (if desired)

The Appleton Estate Rum made another appearance, and I couldn’t believe how much rum flavor came through in the whipped cream. Assemble and voila!

HawaiiBlueCupcake(Almost as pretty as the picture in the book!)

I managed to create my own little teleportation device in the form of a cupcake… all together the flavors whisked me away to a tropical beach! I literally closed my eyes and imagined laying on a beach while drinking a pineapple and rum cocktail. The cake turned out a bit on the dense side, but it was so moist and flavorful that it didn’t matter. Boozy for sure: you could definitely taste the rum and the blue curaçao in the cake, as well as the rum in the whipped cream. On a cold too-much-like-winter day in April, a little bit of the tropics is just what this Crusader ordered!

Moogie & Pap also made these cupcakes. To read about their results and to get the full recipe, click here.

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

A Baking Adventure: Cadbury Creme Egg Cupcakes

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I don’t think I need to explain the awesomeness of Cadbury Creme Eggs, right? There’s something about them that causes excitement for their return every spring. So it seems only natural for the cupcake-lover in us to desire a merge between these wonderful morsels and cupcakes.

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Because of this desire, there are A LOT of Cadbury Creme Egg cupcake recipes on the internet, but when I saw one from Pizzazzerie (one of my favorite blogs) it really stood out to me. I shared it with Guest Crusader Jen because teal is her favorite color and she loves Cadbury Creme Eggs more than anyone I know. She was visiting me the following weekend and quickly requested that we make them while she was here. So we did!

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After looking at Pizzazzerie’s recipe, Jen and I decided to make a few modifications. While I would have loved follow the chocolate cake (from scratch) recipe, we decided to use a boxed mix, adding in a pack of pudding for extra moisture. It turns out that this was a really smart choice because I managed to forget the eggs in our batter! Thirty seconds after placing the cupcakes in the oven, we had to pull them out, fish out the chocolates, dump the batter back into the bowl, just to mix in eggs and start all over again. Can you imagine how much I would have messed up a scratch recipe? It was not my night to bake!

Another small change we made was using mini Cadbury Creme Eggs instead of the full-size ones. The full-size chocolate eggs would have been better in the end, but it would definitely be more costly. The mini eggs sunk to the bottom and melted more than it seems the full-size do. One tip a friend gave me is to freeze the candy first and then it doesn’t melt as much during the baking process.

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I did make my own frosting, using Pizzazzerie’s recipe. Instead of almond extract I substituted pure orange extract, since Jen isn’t keen on almond flavor. I like almond, so I’m sure that would be an amazing complement to the Cadbury Creme Eggs, however the orange gave the frosting a hint of citrus flavor that went perfectly with the chocolate. I’ve only ever used fresh oranges for flavor, so I was concerned about overpowering the cupcake with citrus. For that reason, I only used 1/2 a tablespoon of extract. In the end, Pizzazzerie’s recipe yielded the perfect consistency for piping frosting (and also had a great flavor before adding the extract). It will now be my go-to buttercream recipe.

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Jen and I of course kept the teal color, since that was one of the elements that originally attracted us (and it matched the Easter cupcake liners perfectly). The piped frosting created a “nest-like” look around the chocolate egg, which I loved. Once done, I couldn’t help but think that these might be the prettiest cupcakes I’ve ever made! Well…maybe the teacup cupcakes were a close contender…

We hope you are able to indulge in some fun cupcakes this weekend. Have a Happy Easter!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

Guest Recipe Review | Cherry Almond & Cherry Coke Cupcakes

Fellow blogger, Tiffany from Fizzy Party, loves planning parties and baking cupcakes as much as we do. Today, she is sharing two recipes she made for an office party that took place last month. Thanks Tiffany!

I’m so excited to have a guest post here on Cupcake Crusaders. Not only am I a HUGE fan, but, like the Crusaders, I too love cupcakes. I have so many recipes I want to try and, thank goodness, I have co-workers who enjoy tasting all the minis I bring to work.

For February, I had the opportunity to try two different recipes (Woo Hoo!) for a Valentine’s Day treat party at work, which the whole office building was invited to. I made Cherry Almond and Cherry Coke cupcakes. Here’s my assessment of the two:

Cherry Almond Cupcakes

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The Cherry Almond cupcake recipe came from Better Homes and Gardens. I made these full size since they had a cherry in the middle. I prefer making mini cupcakes because they’re the perfect bite sized afternoon pick me up, but if I had made minis the cherry would have taken up the whole middle! The cake on these was moist and the cherry added a little surprise, but the frosting was just okay. My co-workers who tried these also said they were just okay. I think they were a little bland. This is one recipe I’m glad I tried, but doubtful I’ll make again.

Cherry Coke Cupcakes

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The recipe for these Cherry Coke cupcakes is from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen. When I went to take the mini cupcakes out of the pan I squished one. Oops! (But you know I had to taste it). Even with one cup of coke added to the batter, the cake tasted just like chocolate cake. I was disappointed. I continued on with the frosting hoping it would add to the cake. When I tried the frosting by itself it was super sweet and again, I was disappointed. It was already 9:00 p.m. the night before the party and my co-workers were counting on my bringing two kinds of cupcakes. So I frosted all the minis and quality controlled one. Oh MY! You take the disappointing just chocolate cake, add a little too sweet frosting and POW! The flavors burst onto your tongue. My co-workers raved about this flavor and even ate more than one. This recipe is a must make and a keeper.

- Review by Guest Crusader, Tiffany, from Fizzy Party