Saturday, September 8, 2012

Carrot Cake!

This recipe of carrot cake is one of my favorites.  I created this recipe from looking at a few online (how I create most of my recipes).  If you want something to compare it with, I believe Bobby Flay had a similar recipe from one of his Showdown episodes back in the day.  I love these cupcakes!

Carrot Cake

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 raw cane sugar (or just more brown sugar if you don't have this)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, pureed
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 large carrots, grated
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese
2 oz. butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Directions for Carrot Cake:

Before you begin, make sure your carrots are grated, your muffin tins are lined with cupcake liners, and your pineapple is pureed (with a blender, food processor, or immersion blender).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Sift your dry ingredients, flour, salt, baking soda, and all your spices.
2. Cream, or at least mix the butter with the sugars until well blended
3. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well after each addition.
4. In a separate bowl, mix your buttermilk, oil and vanilla.
5. Add your wet into the butter/egg mixture alternately with the dry flour mixture, in a 3 to 5 ratio.
6. Mix this, though be careful not to over mix.  Add in the pureed pineapple and mix that in as well.
7. Fold in by hand the walnuts and the carrots to ensure no over mixing.
8. Using an ice cream scoop, fill up your muffin tins about 3/4 of the way up, or about one full scoop.
9. Bake cupcakes for 18-22 minutes.  Test for doneness by inserting a chopstick or toothpick into the centers of a few.  Mine are usually well done by 18 minutes.
10. You can also use this same recipe to bake 2, 9-inch rounds.  If you do that, use a liner in the bottoms of the pans and bake at same temperature but for 35-40 minutes.

11. Once your cupcakes have cooled completely, ice them with your cream cheese frosting and garnish with walnuts if desired.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

1. Cream the cream cheese and butter with a paddle attachment in your stand mixer.  Mix for 2-3 minutes so that the mixture is nice and light.
2. Add in your vanilla extract and mix a little more.
3. Now add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time and adding it a little at a time.  Scrape down the sides as needed.
4. Once all the sugar is added, mix the icing for another 2-3 minutes so that the sugar devolves and the icing becomes light and creamy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Gooey Caramel and Toffee Cupcakes

     Okay, I'll go ahead and post the recipe for these cupcakes though really, you can find it anywhere else online.  This recipe is essentially a "better than sex cake" or for the more prudish, a "Skor cake."  I've opted to call it something else entirely.


- 1 batch of homemade chocolate cupcakes (see previous post, or just buy a mix of chocolate cake from the store and make cupcakes)
- 7 oz. Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 6 oz. Caramel Topping (for ice cream, but make sure you get the real stuff that has actual dairy products listed in the ingredients instead of just caramel flavoring and coloring.  I used Hershey, and it was great!)
- 3-4 bars of your favorite toffee candy bar (Heath or Skor) [chopped into small pieces]
- 8 oz. of real whipped cream (for the purists)
- or, make up some of my Marshmallow Frosting (for something that holds its shape and is dairy free).

     Once your cupcakes are baked and cooled, go ahead and poke 7-8 holes in the tops with something like a chopstick.

     In a medium saucepan, combine and warm the sweetened condensed milk and the caramel topping.  You aren't cooking the sauce here, just warming it until it's nice and runny.  Once it is to the consistency and temperature you want, go ahead and pour a heaping tablespoon of the caramel sauce into each cupcake.  If your cupcakes are concave on top, then you're in luck and this step will be easier.  If your cupcakes are flat or convex, then you'll need to be very careful and pour the sauce in slowly, aiming for the holes so that the sauce is absorbed into the cupcake and not running over the sides and making a mess.

     Once all cupcakes are filled with their portion of the caramel sauce, you'll want to top them with either real whipped cream (if you plan on serving them right away), or the marshmallow frosting (if you plan on serving them later, see recipe below).  With whatever topping you choose, go ahead and pipe it on using any decorating tip you like, or just lather it on with a butter knife.  I personally chose to pipe a cool little swirl on each one with a 1M cake decorating tip, but any method is fine.

     Immediately after topping the cupcakes with cream or frosting, sprinkle a little bit of the crushed toffee bits onto each cupcake.  Put as much or as little as you like.  After that, drizzle on some of the caramel topping.  This is done easier if the caramel topping is at room temperature and not fresh out of the fridge.  I just dipped a spoon into the sauce and slowly let it drizzle over each cupcake, but I'm sure there are numerous other ways to do the same thing.

     Now they are now ready to be devoured!  Enjoy!

Marshmallow Frosting


- 5 egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cold water
- 1/4 corn syrup

     First, you'll need to start cooking a sugar syrup mixture on the stovetop.  In a medium sauce pan, add 3/4 cup of the sugar, the 1/4 cup of corn syrup and the 1/4 cup of cold water.  Cook this mixture over medium-high heat.  It's okay to stir the mixture at first, but once the sugar dissolves, go ahead and stop stirring, add your candy thermometer and wait for the magic.  Watch the syrup mixture carefully.  You'll want to time this to be done just after your meringue is done.

     Separate your egg whites into a mixing bowl.  Feel free to freeze your egg yolks for later use in things such as custards or ice cream.  I personally save mine for homemade ice cream.  You can also just throw them away as eggs are relatively cheap.  Using your stand mixer, or a hand mixer, whip up your egg whites to stiff peaks.  Once at stiff peaks, slowly add 1/4 cup of the sugar into the egg whites.  This will essentially give you a meringue, once all mixed and well blended.  The sugar should add an extra sheen to the mix.

     One the syrup mixture reaches 235-240, pull from the heat immediately and slowly, very slowly pour the scalding hot syrup into the meringue mixture while slowly mixing, making sure it falls between the beaters and the edge of the bowl.  If the syrup hits either side first, it will most likely seize up and not be fully utilized into the meringue.  Without fail, you'll get some on the beaters or on the bowl, but as long as 90% of the syrup hits the meringue and is blended in then you shouldn't worry.  Once all of the hot sugar mixture is added, go ahead and up the speed on your mixer to about medium and mix for 3-5 minutes or so, to help cool down the frosting.  For obvious reasons, the bowl and the frosting will be hot so mixing it at medium speed helps to cool it.

    If everything is done right, you'll end up with what I like to call, the most amazing substance on earth!  It's fun to eat right out of the bowl with your fingers or off of a spatula!  Since it's mostly egg whites (which are loaded with protein), this frosting is very fun to make and eat!  I love it!

Note:  When used as a frosting or icing on top of things, this marshmallow goo will dry out and become tougher, more like a marshmallow.  Just be aware this isn't a typical frosting, where frostings are concerned (though I still love it).  The reason I used this with the Gooey Caramel Toffee Cupcakes was because it's not very sweet.  With the filling, the toffee and the caramel, this cupcake was already becoming a diabetic's worst nightmare, so I opted for a frosting that wouldn't tip the scales.  This is the same reason whipping cream is used in the original recipes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Basics: Chocolate Cake from Scratch

     I would like to be witty and super informative on the beginnings of my first food blog (which I swore I would never do), but for sake of time I'm going to keep this post short and to the point (or at least as much as possible).

     I had intended to write the entire recipe for the Gooey Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel, but it's too involving.  Instead I will post the recipe through smaller posts of the individual components, starting with my favorite, the chocolate cake.

The Chocolate Cake:

This recipe is one of my favorites, very simple, chocolatey and delicious!  I've altered this recipe from one I found in a book called, "Cake Love" by Warren Brown.  My version however, is as follows:

- 1 1/4 (7 oz.) cups AP Flour
- 1/2 cup (2 oz.) Unsweetened cocoa powder (notice the UNSWEETENED part)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (though I would recommend just 1 tsp, the reason being, the past few times I made this recipe the cupcakes rose too much and made a mess.  For cakes, it doesn't really matter).

- 1 cup buttermilk (or half and half if you don't like buttermilk)
- 1 TBS vanilla extract

- 3/4 (3 oz.) stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/3 cup (3 oz.) vegetable shortening
- 1 3/4 cup (14 oz.) sugar
- 4 large eggs

     First, you'll want to measure out all of your dry ingredients, flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder (I use a kitchen scale when measuring things like flour and sugar).  Once all your dry ingredients are measured out, go ahead and sift it all and set aside.

     In a separate bowl (of a standing mixer if you have one), add the room temperature butter, shortening and sugar (if you don't like shortening, go ahead and use a full 1 and 1/2 sticks of butter or if you don't like butter, go ahead and use a full 6 oz. of vegetable shortening.  I like using the best of both worlds so in almost all of my baking recipes I like to use half butter and half shortening).  Cream together the sugar and fats with a paddle attachment on a standing mixer on low speed, or just stir it with a large wooden spoon or use a hand mixer, though the beaters aren't quite the same as a paddle attachment and may yield different results.  If stirring by hand, remember that this process is about creaming the sugars and the fats.  You'll want to beat long and hard until the mixture is smooth, well mixed and even slightly aerated.  Expect some sore and tired muscles if stirring by hand.

    Once the sugars and fats are creamed into a nice mixture, go ahead and add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each one into the mixture before you add the next.  Once all the eggs are added, scrape down the sides of the bowl (if you haven't done so several times before), and then mix on medium speed for 20 seconds, to bring it all together.

    In yet another separate bowl or large glass measuring cup, add your buttermilk and your vanilla extract.  Stir to combine.

     Now comes the tricky and most important part when making a cake from scratch.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet and dry ingredients alternatively in 4 additions (for the dry) and 3 (for the wet) into the sugar mixture, starting and ending with the dry (so basically you'll add 1/4 of the dry, then 1/3 of the wet, then another 1/4 of the dry, and so on and so on, until you have emptied both containers).  Once you've emptied both the wet and dry into the butter-sugar mixture, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl (do this really well so you don't have clumps of butter floating around).  Now, mix the batter on medium speed for at least 20-30 seconds to fully incorporate and combine all the ingredients and give the cake some structure (now that flour is added, you DO NOT want to over mix at this point.  Why? Because over mixing will activate the gluten in the flour and you will end up with tough and chewy cake.  Gluten is good for things like bread and bagels, but BAD for things like cake and cookies).  If things still don't look well mixed, just fold your batter by hand with a large spatula or spoon so you don't run the risk of over mixing.

     If making a cake, go ahead and prepare 2 9-inch round cake pans by cutting out some parchment paper the same size as the bottom of the pans (2 circles, one for each pan).  Place these parchment circle in the bottom of the pan.  Don't bother using any non-stick cooking spray, it's not necessary.  If making cupcakes, line your cupcake pans with cupcake liners.  Poor the batter equally among your 2 9-inch rounds.  Smooth out the tops with a spatula and then pound the pans a few times on your counter to level and remove any large air bubbles.  For cupcakes, fill the liners about 2/3 full.  Make sure they're level as much as possible and give the pans a hard tap on the counter as well.  Once everything is filled and ready in their respective pans, bake in an oven at 350˚F, for about 30 minutes for a cake, and about 19-22 minutes for the cupcakes.  Make sure you check the cake at the lowest suggested baking time to see if it's done early (never trust an oven nor suggested baking times).  I take out the cake and use a chopstick to poke into the center to see if the cake is done.  If the chopstick comes out gooey, bake another minute or 2.  If the chopstick comes out with only a few crumbs, then they're done.  Cool on a cooling rack for 25-30 minutes.  If you made 9-inch round cakes, you'll want to take a small knife and cut around the outside of the cake to help separate it from the pan, after it's cooled completely.  Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and freeze if it for later use, or put in the fridge to chill it while you make your frosting or filling.  Cake is easier to frost when frozen or chilled.  For cupcakes, once cooled completely, they are ready to be frosted and eaten.  Enjoy!


- Try having your ingredients all at room temperature if you can (milk, eggs, and butter).  This somehow makes things mix and mesh better, creating a better product.
- A kitchen scale is your friend.  Once you start to become serious about baking, you'll quickly learn and/or realize that weighing is the proper and more accurate way of measuring ingredients.  How do you suppose they measure large quantities of flour and sugar in professional bakeries?  With large containers that say 10 cups?  No, they weigh everything.
- Preparing your pans, sifting the dry ingredients, and having your oven turned on and set to the proper temperature should be done before you start mixing things.
- A KitchenAid mixer is another great friend to have in the kitchen.  I bought mine a few years back and have never regretted it!
- If you're serious about making a cake from scratch, go ahead and read other blogs and books on the same topic.  You'll have a better understanding and a better chance at success if you can compare more than once source.
- The best successes I have had in baking come only after several failed attempts.  So if at first you don't succeed, please try, try again.
- Also, feel free to ask questions.