Trekked from Arizona, Pt. 2

Healthy Guest Crusader Rebecca trekked cupcakes for me all the way from Arizona, and managed to stop by more than one cupcake location. My previous review about Sweet Things Cupcake Shoppe in Tucson went very well, so I was hoping that the cupcakes and cake truffle pops from Caketini in Gilbert AZ, would be just as delicious.

There were two HUGE cupcakes and six cake truffle pops for me to sample:

Salted CaramelCakeTini-SaltedCaramel

Almost too pretty to eat, this cupcake was simply beautiful, and tasted great too. The cake was airy with a classic vanilla flavor. The frosting was light, smooth and not very sweet. It also seemed to be whipped and it was very buttery, which is right up my alley. The carefully drizzled caramel and cracked salt crystals on top added flavor and texture that took this cupcake over the top. Definitely a cupcake I would eat again, and even one I would trek back from Arizona!

Celebration Cupcake CakeTini-BirthdayCake
Funfetti cake with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles on top = an Elisa kinda cupcake! Most of my friends know about my love of funfetti, Crusader Stacy even made me funfetti cupcakes for my 30th birthday, so I was dying to try this cupcake. Like the Salted Caramel, the cake was moist and light, but very flavorful and FULL of funfetti specks throughout. The vanilla buttercream frosting was smooth and sweet, pairing well with the cake. The edible glitter and sprinkles on top certainly didn’t hurt my affection for this cupcake; it looked like a party and tasted like one too.

Cake Truffles: (clockwise from top) Carrot Cake, Chocolate Strawberry, Key Lime, Red Velvet with Milk Chocolate, Red Velvet with White Chocolate, & Chocolate Hazelnut

CakeTini-TrufPops1WOW – Aren’t these so pretty all lined up? Maybe cake pops/cake truffle pops should always be sold in half dozens. lol.

CakeTini-TrufPops2

The shop staff recommended that the truffles be refrigerated and then eaten, as they prefer people to be able to crunch into the chocolate coating, so that’s just what I did. Each truffle was better than the next. All were moist and full of flavor, all had fantastic texture, and all were devoured in a day. (My goal had been to eat 3 and save 3 for the next day, but they were too good to stop eating!) My two favorites were the Red Velvet with White Chocolate and Chocolate Strawberry. While these two stood out, I would be more than happy to eat any of them again. By far some of the BEST cake truffles I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

If all of Arizona’s cupcakes are as good as the cupcakes I tried from Sweet Things Cupcake Shoppe and Caketini, that Arizona is one lucky state! There wasn’t one bad cupcake or cake truffle in the bunch, and that’s very impressive considering they passed through two time zones on a plane and were already a day old. A special thanks to Healthy Guest Crusader Rebecca (and her fiance Jim) for trekking these treats back for me – if this is the kind of payment I get for watching their new puppy Shelby, then count me in!

– 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: Margarita Cupcakes

Happy almost Cinco de Mayo! In honor of tomorrow’s holiday, I decided to take on the challenge of making a margarita cupcake for my next “from scratch” baking experiment.

After running the idea by the other Crusaders, they loved it and really helped plan out the cupcake, including a lime curd filling, tequila cake, and a salted buttercream frosting. Finding recipes for these pieces to the puzzle was not easy, in fact I took recipes and changed them to suit my needs – which is very scary and breaks my first rule of baking: follow the recipe.

For example the cake recipe is actually for Grand Marnier cupcakes – I just figured I could substitute the GM with tequila and leave out the orange zest. Then came the frosting. I settled on a vanilla buttercream, all the while knowing I would not be adding vanilla, but tequila and lime juice in its place. The lime curd was the only thing I knew I wouldn’t need to look up as I had much success with this lemon curd recipe and knew substituting lime for lemon wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Once I had all the ingredients I was ready to start! This time around making the curd was first on the list, as it needs time to cool before it can be used as filling. Just as last time, there was a moment of panic when the mixture hit the stove and created an odd consistency – luckily I knew to just keep stirring. Presto, the lime curd was complete and tasted great!

Then came the cake… While I did follow the recipe, I changed the Grand Marnier to tequila… both being clear, but brown alcoholic liquids, I didn’t think it would make a difference. While the recipe was very easy to follow I didn’t realize that the recipe was for 24 cupcakes, luckily my friend Sami at work recently gave me a cupcake pan/case, so I could cook all 24 at the same time! Following the recipe I cooked them for exactly 18 minutes and then set them to cool. I’ll admit, right off the bat they seemed to have large bubble holes in them, unlike most cakes I have made, but I trekked on…

The frosting was a very standard recipe, except when it called to add the milk, I added tequila and lime juice instead, and added an extra pinch of salt. I also only used 3.5 cups of confectioners sugar instead of 4 cups, as it was stiff enough and I didn’t want the frosting too sweet.

Once I began cutting the “plugs” to fill the cupcakes with lime curd, I knew something was wrong with the cake. Sadly, it seemed oily and oddly textured. There isn’t any oil in the cake ingredients, so I am not sure why it would seem oily. I tried one of the plugs – ok, I ate about half of them – and didn’t think the cake tasted bad, just not great, and didn’t give me as much of the tequila flavor as I was hoping for. I filled all 24 with the lime curd and after tasting it I thought, “That curd might just save this cupcake cake disaster.”

I whipped out my fancy pipping tools – thank you again Stacy – and loaded the pipping bag with the very yummy frosting… I cut straws and lime wedges to really add some character to the cupcakes: one of my other goals is to keep trying new ways to decorate, and I also added some pink sea salt for taste. (Side note: In fact, I was going to make candied lime peels to decorate these cupcakes with, but I was afraid the sugar would over power the salt in the frosting, so after buying 4 limes I didn’t need, I decided against it.)

While these cupcakes may look great and very festive, they only taste so-so. The lime curd is fantastic, even the icing is finger licking good… but the cake failed. Oddly oily and weirdly textured, I am not sure what went wrong. It isn’t a matter of too much time in the oven, or disregard for following instructions, it just didn’t turn out quite right. Together they really do taste a bit like a margarita… it’s just a shame the cake is so odd, otherwise these cupcakes would be a huge hit on May 5th!

Not everything can be perfect, and I knew it was only a matter of time before something wouldn’t go the way I wanted it to during one of these baking experiments. What’s most important is that I tried something new, made a new curd and frosting that I would eat again and again, and got one more baking experience under my belt!

Now I just have to decide what to try baking next month! Any suggestions or requests?

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