Elisa’s “From Scratch” Baking Experiment: Peach Cobbler

The Baltimore Cupcake Picnic was quickly approaching and I was all out of ideas for what kind of cupcake to bake. Thank goodness Stacy posted this peach cobbler photo to our Facebook page, because later that evening she suggested I bake them. On a side note: I love peaches and often pick them at Larriland Farm in the summer, so this was the perfect “filled” cupcake for me to try baking.

Of course I followed the recipe carefully (my golden rule of baking), but in the future there’s a couple of changes I would make:

• Chop the peaches smaller – I found that they were chopped a bit too big and made it harder to push into the batter. Next time I’ll make sure they are no larger than the very tip of my pinky, because that size seemed to work best.

• Add more cinnamon to the icing – There’s never enough cinnamon for my taste, and when I made the icing it seemed to lack flavor, so I very carefully added more and more until it tasted right. Overall I doubled the amount of cinnamon the recipe called for and beat the icing for 15 minutes so it would loose that gritty sugar taste and texture.

Though the picnic was canceled, my peach cobbler cupcakes were a huge hit with everyone that gathered at Stacy’s house. Mr. Ross, Jenn and Stacy’s dad and fellow cupcake lover, said it was his favorite cupcake of the day, and maybe ever! What a grand compliment for a humble, at-home-recipe-following-baker! My mom – who also loves peaches – really liked it too; she was also my icing tester, so that’s why the icing turned out so well. Thanks so much for your help mom. Crusader Stacy said it was the best cupcake of all my baking experiments – and I owe it to her for suggesting the recipe.

Overall this recipe was very easy to follow, easy to make, and tasted great! It is a cupcake I look forward to making again. Maybe next time, with a little more planning, I can make them with peaches I picked myself.

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


Elisa’s 30th Birthday Baking Experiment: Red Velvet Cake Pops and Vanilla Buttercream

Something you may not know about Crusader Elisa is that she loves her birthday. This means that her birthday doesn’t just involve a causal gathering with balloons and cake, but instead, it is a full day (sometimes a full weekend or even week) of fun activities and full on celebration. This year she celebrated her 30th birthday so of course, it had to be spectacular! Elisa decided that we would start the day at our favorite bi-annual Patterson Park Flea Market, then have a small barbeque (just the Crusaders, significant others, and Jenn’s daughter) at my house, and end the day with a party in a rented out room at one of our favorite Baltimore hang outs, the Waterfront Hotel in Fells Point. While we were discussing all the details of the day, I asked if she would like me to handle the cupcakes. She excitedly said that she would love if I would do that, and requested one of her favorites, Funfetti.

After much thought I decided that not only would I do Funfetti cupcakes, but I would make Red Velvet cake pops (she is our Red Velvet Crusader after all…) dipped in white chocolate and finished with rainbow sprinkles to match the Funfetti cupcakes. I also decided that instead of using pre-made frosting from a jar, I was going to attempt a rich vanilla buttercream.

On the evening of my baking adventure, I decided to start with the cake pops so they could have plenty of time to cool before dipping them. I pulled out a Red Velvet cupcake mix that had been given to me as a gift and got to work.

You may recall that during my last cake pop making experience, using a mix didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped. The cake pops were too fluffy and as a result there were a few casualties. I was determined to keep that from happening this time, so I compared the ingredients and add-ins from the packaged mix to the recipes that come with the BabyCakes Cake Pop maker.

It looked as if the results should be okay, so I continued with the instructions from the packaging. They didn’t rise as much as I would have liked, which resulted in one side being a little flat, but I figured that could be the bottom of the cake pop, where the stick gets inserted.

While those cooled in the refrigerator, I moved on to the cupcakes. I wasn’t worried about these at all.

Box mix – check.

Instant Jell-o pudding to add in – check.

Follow the instructions on the box – check.

It really was as easy at that. The result were light, fluffy, and moist “Rainbow Chip” (AKA: Funfetti) cupcakes. Before I tackled the more difficult portion of these cupcakes, the homemade vanilla buttercream frosting, I decided to go back to the cake pops. While the cupcakes were in the oven I had inserted the sticks so they were ready for dipping.

For the white chocolate coating I had two options, fancy bars of organic madagascan vanilla white chocolate and a bag of Nestle Toll House white chocolate chips, which were meant to be a backup in case I needed more. Well, I needed more, and I learned not to take the cheap road when it comes to white chocolate. The organic white chocolate melted, dipped, and set up beautifully, while the cheap white chocolate chips didn’t set up quickly at all, resulting in major drips.

It was definitely a struggle to work with, but with just a few “oopsies” I managed to finish the rest of the cake pops. The result was a stunning deep red inside with a crunchy sweet white coating.

With the cake pops out of the way it was time to focus on the frosting for the cupcakes. I was really worried about this at first, but after a mini Facebook conversation with Christi from Love from the Oven, I was feeling much more confident about experimenting without a recipe. We discussed possible add-ins and she shared links from her blog with me. In the end I decided on adding in marshmallow fluff. I had already ordered my madagascar bourbon vanilla bean paste and knew that I would add a touch of salt to balance out the sweetness. Armed with my three “secret” weapons, I was ready to tackle this next baking challenge.

To achieve a frosting I was happy with, I ended using the following measurements (approximately):

  • 2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Cups of Confectioners Sugar
  • Most of a 7oz container of Marshmallow Fluff (looking back I probably could have used the whole thing)
  • About a 1/4 of a 4oz bottle of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste (Christi told me to use a lot so I just kept on pouring…)
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • Whipping Cream and Milk until it reached my desired consistency

At first I wasn’t sure if the frosting was too buttery and not sweet enough, but when I tried it with the cupcake, it was a perfect balance! Even Jenn, who wasn’t thrilled with just the frosting at first, thought that it paired really nicely. And of course, Elisa, who loves buttery frosting, thought it was great! And really, she was the only opinion that mattered. But on top of all that, everyone at the party seemed to really enjoy all the sweet treats. It was my first attempt at a fancy buttercream frosting, and I couldn’t have been more proud of the outcome and I was so happy to be able to provide Elisa with the tasty cupcakes and cake pops she deserved on her 30th birthday!

(Photo by Kenneth Adam)

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

Elisa’s “From Scratch” Baking Experiment: Chocolate Blackberry Syrah

After such a successful baking experiment last time, this month I really wanted to stretch my filled cupcake boundaries! I did some recipe searching for chocolate cake with wine in it – because who doesn’t love wine and chocolate?! After finding this list of wine inspired cupcake flavors from Enjoy Cupcakes, I decided to try out a Chocolate Blackberry Syrah cupcake. Filled with a chocolate fudge filling, this cupcake sounded rich and decadent – just what I needed to warm me up in the cold month of February. I searched my usual websites for recipes and settled on these cake (www.epicurious.com), filling (www.foodandwine.com), and icing (www.epicurious.com) recipes.

Getting all of the ingredients wasn’t a problem this time around! The Safeway in Canton had everything I needed but the wine. For that, I happened to be at Boordy winery a couple of weekends ago with Stacy and her husband for their “Sip & Sliders” event, so after tasting their Syrah (Shiraz) wine I knew I wanted to use it in my recipe! I bought a bottle and took it home . I was ready to bake!

First step was the cake. The recipe was easy to follow, though tricky and a little scary once I got to the “folding” in the flour mixture and the wine part, but I trekked on. Not realizing the recipe would make much more batter than I needed for my dozen cupcakes, I used the rest to fill a 6″ round pan. (Note: While the batter had raw eggs in it, and I do not condone eating raw egg, I literally had to stop myself from eating too much of this batter – it was THAT good. Again, no one should eat anything with raw egg in it, and if they do, it is at their own risk.)

Once the cupcakes were popped into the oven I turned my attention to the chocolate fudge filling. The recipe intrigued and scared me because it seemed too simple. First, bring the heavy whipping cream to a boil – done. Then take off the stove and pour the chocolate morsels into the pot and walk away for 3 minutes. Wait, leave it for 3 minutes?! I read that part four times before I conceded that I should just stick to the recipe. I set the timer and did some dishes while I was waiting.

Ding! After mixing the cream and chocolate, then adding the confectioners’ sugar and whisking it all into submission, I almost whisked my arm off! It was a smooth rich “saucy” consistency that made my mouth water. I set it aside and moved onto the icing.

I love blackberries, fruity icing, and buttercream – so this icing is the trifecta for me! I thought that 5 cups of confectioners’ sugar was a bit much, so after adding each cup I tasted the icing and settled on 4 cups of sugar instead. (Check me out, all brave and deviating from recipes when it is only my second attempt!) The icing ended up a lovely purple color with flecks of blackberry bits in it – delicious and pretty!

By then, the cupcakes were done cooking – I tested them at exactly 30 minutes, any longer and they might have been too dry… so I advise: test, test, test! I took them out of the pan and set them to cool on the rack, while partaking in a glass of wine myself. The little cups of cake had a rich chocolate color to them, with rivers of cracks in the top, looking a little like brownies.

Now everything was complete and just needed to be assembled. I cut out a “plug” so that I could fill the cupcakes – which was my first taste of the cake, and WOW, I thought it was great! I carefully used a spoon to pour the chocolate fudge into the cupcakes.

Then, for the first time, I used a pastry bag and a fancy icing tip to pipe the icing onto the cupcakes. (Thanks to Stacy, who gave me my own little set! Having more of the tools definitely helps make you feel like a pro!) Check out those almost perfect piping skills!!

Complete and beautiful, I was done. There was nothing left to do but drink some more wine and try one! I waited until the filling set up and then cut one in half to see what it looked like. Yum! Fudge and chocolate galore!

This cupcake may be complicated, and more work than most, but it was well worth it! The cake is savory, decadent, and sweet all at the same time, with flavors that unfold in your mouth. The chocolate filling is thick, but rich and melty once it hits your tongue, it reminds me more of a truffle filling than fudge, but either way, it added just the right amount of creaminess to the cupcake. The icing was just that;  the icing on the cake. Creamy and fruity without being overpowering, all while being sweet enough to add a little sugar kick to the otherwise very savory cupcake.

I couldn’t be happier with the outcome! Carefully following the recipes, watching the baking time, and tasting everything twice are definitely rules I will continue to follow while I travel down my path of baking enlightenment. And this is a cupcake I will be making again and again!

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