Summer Treats

It’s been so long since I’ve posted that I’m not sure I still remember how to do it. Sorry I’ve been missing so long. I’ve been baking, just not posting. I’m going to rectify that today with a few desserts that are perfect for July or any time you’re craving something sweet.

First up are Fourth of July Cupcakes. These are just plain ol’ vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting; the secret is the tri-colored batter! All you have to do is divide your batter in halves or thirds and mix in some food coloring. I of course went with red, white and blue, but you could do whatever colors you like.

Fourth of July Cupcakes

I created the two-toned frosting by filling two small piping bags with red and white frosting respectively and then forced them into one larger piping bag with a large tip. Squeeze frosting out until you see both colors, then pipe away!

The second dessert is a tart treat and perfect for a warm summer afternoon barbecue– Key Lime Pie! Though technically, I just used regular limes, so I guess it’s a Lime Pie. Either way, it’s incredibly tasty and incredibly easy. You can find the recipe I used here.

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

This pie is so easy to put together and holds up nicely in the refrigerator. I recommend making it the night before you want to eat it and waiting until a few hours before consuming to make and apply the whipped cream topping. It’s so delicious! Creamy and lightly tart with a really wonderfully simple graham cracker crust.

I’ve been baking so many things out of a new cookbook and I will post about it soon. I just have to make a few more things because I’ve been eating them before I can even take a picture!

Blue Moon Cupcakes

Blue Moon Cupcakes

Once upon a time, I didn’t drink beer. I was strictly a vodka-and-cranberry girl for a very long time. Then last year, something changed. In New York City, you are surrounded by craft beer. So many craft beers that eventually, you get a little curious and start checking things out. As my husband got more into the world of craft beer, so did I. A trip to the Dogfish Head brewery in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware last year sealed the deal and I became a convert.

Recently, I decided I wanted to start incorporating beer into baked goods. The most traditional thing out there is, of course, beer bread, but I wanted to do something sweet. So I scoured the Internet and found very little. Beer has a unique impact on baked goods owing in part to the yeast and hops and all those other goodies that make beer beer. So I was delighted to find a cupcake recipe that uses Blue Moon.

Blue Moon is owned by Coors, so it is technically not a craft beer. It is, however, much better tasting than a Coors. It is one of my favorite light, easy-drinking beers and it pairs well with a lot of food, particularly ones you eat in the summer. And its light, citrusy taste works especially well in this cupcake. The cupcakes have a great orange flavor with just a hint of wheat.

I’m excited to keep digging up new recipes that incorporate beer into baked goods. If you happen to know of any, please post them in the comments!

Blue Moon Cupcakes

Blue Moon Cupcakes
(Adapted from Miss Make)

Makes right around 24 cupcakes, depending on how full you fill your liners

Ingredients
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 TSP baking powder
1/2 TSP salt
3 eggs
1 TSP vanilla
orange food coloring
3/4 tsp grated orange zest
1 cup Blue Moon beer (I used the regular, but feel free to get creative and use the Winter Abbey Ale or Spiced Amber or whatever other seasonal is available)
1/4 cup milk
Orange Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

Directions
1. Line 24 cupcake trays with liners and preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar a little at a time and continue to beat until the sugar is completely incorporated.
4. Add the eggs, beating after each.
5. Add the vanilla, food coloring and zest and beat well.
6. Mix the beer and milk in a cup. Add the beer/milk mixture and the flour alternately, ending with the flour.
7. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake for 18 minutes until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.
8. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost each cupcake with the Orange Buttercream. (I frosted mine using an offset spatula to try to create a frothy look to mimic the foam on a glass of beer.)
9. Garnish each cupcake with a small orange slice just before serving, if desired.

Orange Buttercream Frosting
(adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients
1 cup butter, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 TSP grated orange zest
1 1/2 TSP vanilla extract
4 to 6 TBL orange juice

Directions
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the confectioners’ sugar a little at a time. Beat in the orange zest and vanilla. Add enough orange juice to achieve your desired consistency. Makes enough to generous frost two dozen cupcakes (with most likely some leftover).

Upcoming Events Where You Can Find My Baked Goods

Hi everyone!
The Brooklyn Baker is at it again. This coming week, I’ll be baking for two (count ‘em, two!) literary events at Word bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Tuesday night, you can find my Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting and Vegan Pumpkin Cupcakes with Vanilla ‘Butter’cream Frosting at a Largehearted Lit event featuring authors Nathan Larson and Joshua Cody. Wednesday night, you can sample Blueberry Scones and Lemon Scones for the book release party for Leanna Hieber and her new book “Darker Still”. Leanna is bringing Earl Grey tea to go with the scones!

Both events are free and open to the public! For more information, check out the Word events page at the link above.

French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes

French Toast and Bacon Cupcake

This past Sunday I took a DIY Food Photography class at Brooklyn Brainery, a ‘trade school’ that offers cheap, informative classes on pretty much anything you can imagine. In addition to DIY Food Photography, this month they also offered classes on Knot Tying, WordPress and Intro to Urban Forestry, among others.

We were instructed to bring a piece of fruit or a vegetable to photograph, or, if we were feeling more adventurous, something a little more complex. I figured that since I’ve a baking blog, I should probably take a baked good. And what would be a good, complex thing to photograph that wouldn’t take hours to create?

The answer came in the form of The Busty Baker’s French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes, cupcakes which blew me away the first time I saw them back at CupcakeCampColumbus 1.0. They were delicious and a sight to behold, with a little crowning piece of bacon on top.

French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes

So I whipped up a batch. The most difficult part of this cupcake (besides realizing I was out of piping bags and wasting half a batch of frosting trying to use a piping tip in a Ziploc bag) was cooking the bacon. I’m a skillet girl myself, but I wanted my pieces of bacon to be as flat as possible, so I went the microwave route. The first round of microwaved bacon got burnt black and left my entire apartment smelling like a pig in an incinerator. I finally got a handle on the cooking times and turned out some lovely pieces of bacon.

They certainly were a talking point at the class. Everyone else brought fruit or vegetables, which are very pretty, but come on. How often do you just NEED to photograph an onion? I am of the opinion that most of the people in that class will find themselves documenting full dishes than just the ingredients.

The class was great and I learned some very important things about my camera’s setting and how to use Photoshop to manipulate photos. I also learned that if I really want to get serious in photographing my food, I need to buy another lens. Isn’t that always the way?

Update: You can read another blog post about this event at Julia C. Smith‘s blog. Check out her pretty radish photos!

More photos!

French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes

French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes

French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes

French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

130/365

A couple of weeks ago I finally decided it was time to bust out one of my favorite recipes; Lemon Meringue Cupcakes. I don’t make them often because they are fairly labor intensive, but the craving had reached astounding proportions and I knew it was time to whip up some lemon curd and get to business.

I took these to work, where they were devoured in seconds flat. The best response came from one of the women in my office who ate hers and then left a note for me on my desk:

131/365

The recipe comes from Culinary in the Desert and hasn’t failed me yet. I highly recommend giving this one a try. But you’ll have to do your very best to not just stand in front of your refrigerator, eating the lemon curd as it cools. It’s incredibly addicting.

Lemon Meringue Cupcake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Filling and Peanut Butter Frosting

This past weekend, Rob and I went up to Scarsdale to visit some friends. They have three children, two of which are at cupcake-eating age. The last time we visited, I brought Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, which the kids loved. This time around, I decided to bring cupcakes.

Most people are huge fans of the chocolate and peanut butter combo. I like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as much as the next person, but in baked goods, it’s not my favorite flavor combo. But it’s a popular one and proves to be endlessly popular with kids. So I found a recipe and went to work.

The chocolate cupcake and peanut butter/cream cheese filling came from My Man’s Belly (I skipped her peanut butter/white chocolate ganache and chocolate frosting in favor of just peanut butter frosting).

I have two recommendations if you use this recipe:

1.) Fill the cupcake liners only halfway full because they puff up like crazy and will overflow.

2.) When you scoop out the middles of the cupcakes after baking for 15 minutes, DO NOT reuse that batter to cover over the peanut butter/cream cheese filling. I ended up with 18 cupcakes and almost enough new batter to cover them. I would recommend only making 15 cupcakes and using the leftover new batter to cover the middles.

I reused the partially baked batter, and when the cupcakes baked for their final 15 minutes, that batter didn’t look so hot. It tasted fine, but it wasn’t nearly as pretty as the cupcakes that used brand new batter on top. Just a suggestion.

Of course, frosting covers all sins, and the cupcakes turned out pretty good looking, if I do say so myself.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream  Cheese Filling and Peanut Butter Frosting

The cupcakes were a big hit with everyone who had one. Our friends’ eldest daughter worked on hers and proclaimed that “the frosting is the bestest part.” I had a few leftover that I gave to another friend of ours here in Brooklyn on Sunday night. A few hours later, he posted on my Facebook page “the Oscar for best peanut butter cupcakes goes to…”

I aim to please, folks. Aim to please.

Valentine’s Day Cupcakes

Valentine's Day Cupcakes

I enjoy chocolate as much as the next girl, but for me, Valentine’s Day means SweeTart Hearts, sugary little conversation hearts that are so much better than those Necco wafer things. I would take a bag of those over a box of chocolates anyday.

24/365
Beautiful, sugary gold.

However, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who feels this way, so when it came time to make some Valentine’s Day goodies, I knew I had to go with chocolate.

Danae over at The Busty Baker made these stunningly beautiful chocolate sugar cookies decorated with royal icing, which I really wanted to try. I didn’t have any meringue powder in the house to make royal icing, so I decided to buck up and visit New York Cake & Baking Distributors, which is supposed to be an amazing collection of all things baking related. I’ve avoided going in the past due to the reviews, but I steeled myself and made the trek.

Only to find the placed closed. It was 6:15 on a Friday night. I was completely baffled. I loaded up Google on my phone and, sure enough, found the hours to be Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The next closest places to get meringue powder were way, way up on the Upper West Side or in Queens. One required another 75 minutes at the least on the train going back up the city and then home to Brooklyn and the other required a drive, at a time when piles of snow made our parking spot prime real estate. I elected to put the sugar cookies off for St. Patrick’s Day (although now I’m leaning toward Irish Car Bomb cupcakes. Sigh.)

So, I decided to do cupcakes with pretty pink frosting. And what better way to spice up Valentine’s Day than with a little kick in the cupcake?

Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes it was! I scoured the Internet for an hour looking for recipes, but found very few options that A.) listed how many cupcakes the recipe made (C’mon, people, this is basic recipe-writing stuff) and/or B.) didn’t use boxed cake mix.

I finally found a recipe at Cupcake Villains that looked good. It used coconut milk and chili powder. A quick taste of the pre-baked batter revealed a nice flavor profile. Not too spicy, but a pleasant heat after the bite.

Unfortunately, that heat got mellowed out with baking. I skimped on the chili powder because I don’t particularly like spicy things and was worried that the cupcakes would be unpalatable. Next time I’ll know to up it a little.

Despite the lack of heat, the cinnamon added a nice taste and the cinnamon buttercream frosting was to die for. The frosting complemented the cupcake very well and the pink tint (along with the pink striped cupcake wrapper) definitely screamed “Valentine’s Day”.

Valentine's Day Cupcakes

Happy Valentine’s Day!