Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Where my Peeps at?

There I go again starting off a post with a super cheesy title. I think this one fits better than the last though. Easter weekend is almost upon us. It seemed like a fitting time to try out some new decorating options for some cupcakes. I knew my co-workers would be happy to see me coming. Who doesn't love a festive treat before a holiday? Especially on a day like today. It's so dark and dreary here - a nice, bright and cheery cupcake is just what the doctor ordered. 

Since it's Spring (sort of) I decided to go with a standby Lime Buttermilk cupcake recipe that a friend introduced me to last year. She came across it on the Coconut & Lime blog. I've made them twice before. Once for said friend's 30th birthday and once for Cupcake Camp Ottawa last year. It's a pretty great recipe that's never given me any trouble and I think it turned out even better this time. Perfect consistency and the cupcakes baked up really even. The one modification Kristen suggested, and I agree with, was to up the lime juice to two tablespoons instead of teaspoons for really good lime flavor.

Naked limes

For the frosting I decided to go with the cooked flour frosting I used for my friend's wedding cupcakes. It sounds like a really weird thing to do. Cook together flour, white sugar, and milk until thick and bubbly. Beat until cool and add the butter. I don't know how it works, but it does! The recipe I used can be found here. It is so easy to pipe and holds up perfectly. The wedding was in August when it was unseasonably humid for the location and they looked exactly the same the second day. I also like that it uses regular white sugar instead of icing sugar. No sifting to worry about. I did add a bit of icing sugar at the end just to make it a little stiffer and to take away a bit from the taste of the butter.

Now for the fun part - the decorating! What says Easter like marshmallow Peeps, jelly beans, and mini eggs? This idea popped into my head a couple of weeks ago. It's not original, to say the least, but I thought it would be fun and cheerful. I started off by adding a little green coloring to the frosting since it would be serving as my base, or "grass". Next step - adding some more green coloring to shredded coconut to make more grass for the bunnies and toasting another batch of coconut to make the nests for the chicks. 

Assembly line

The next step was to get the Peeps attached to the cupcakes with toothpicks. The chicks were finished off with a nest full of mini eggs while the bunnies had a pile of jelly beans. Not too difficult at all and a really cute and festive result (if I do say so myself).


And some individual portraits...

I think they turned out really well. The frosting I used to stick the eggs and jelly beans to the nests and grass could be cleaned up a little bit but, otherwise, I was really happy with them. My taste testers today seemed pretty pleased. They were a lot less complicated to put together than people probably thought. I would definitely make them again.

What are your favorite treats (homemade or store bought) for Easter? Do you have any Easter baking or food traditions?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Australian Inspiration

One of my favorite Australian treats is the Cherry Ripe bar. It's a combination of cherries and coconut covered in dark chocolate. I know it sounds kind of odd but I really enjoy it and I think they're quite popular down there. Before I left for this last trip, I knew I wanted to bring back some extra Cherry Ripes to use for some baking when I got back.

Yesterday, I made my first attempt at some Cherry Ripe-esque cupcakes to take over to a friend's place. I started off with my go-to Martha Stewart chocolate cupcakes. I think my favorite things about this particular recipe are that you only end up with 12 cupcakes and it only uses 3 tablespoons of butter for the entire recipe. I thought adding some cherries and coconut to the chocolate batter would be sufficient to end up with the flavor that I was looking for.

I topped the cupcakes with a slightly modified version of this frosting. I ended up cutting the recipe in half and had more than enough for a dozen cupccakes. It looked great until I tried to add the chocolate. I started with about 1/3 cup of chocolate chips that I melted in the microwave. The result was pretty pale and not very chocolatey. Then I added a few tablespoons of cocoa powder to up the chocolate flavor. That made the frosting too thick so I ended up adding a little more butter and about a tablespoon of milk. I still had trouble getting the frosting to stick to the actual cupcakes, but I was running late at that point and I gave up. In the end, they looked pretty good though the frosting was a bit pale. A wedge of Cherry Ripe on top was the finishing touch.

The finished product was okay. We couldn't really taste the cherry or the coconut. The frosting had a good consistency but, to me, it mostly tasted like butter. One taster didn't think that was such a bad thing : ) I had considered just putting a bundle of cherry and coconut in the middle instead of mixing it through the batter. I think that's what I'll try next time. Another taster suggested using coconut milk in the batter to enhance the coconut flavor. Alternatively, I read a post where the baker made coconut cupcakes, added the cherries, and topped with chocolate frosting. I think that could be amazing. Especially with the frosting from the salted caramel cupcakes I've posted about before. Mmm...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I'm Bringing Blogging Back...

I know, I know - resurrecting the blog by starting off with a lame, out of date Sexy Back reference probably isn't the best way to attract your attention. But what can I say? Sometimes I'm not all that original! I can't believe it's been over four months since I actually posted here. Since then I've realized that this old blog is going to have to cover more ground than just my baking endeavors if I'm going to keep it current. I'm going to expand the subject matter quite a bit so be prepared. You never know what I might talk about...movies, music (including, but not limited to boy bands), fashion (or my version of it), travel, and, of course, there will still be baking!

What can I tell you about the last few months? I have not baked a thing since Christmas. I think after all of the cupcakes and Christmas cookies I just lost my baking mojo. I do have plans to whip something up this weekend that has the potential to be pretty awesome. I'll be sure to post, success or failure. I went to Australia...for the fourth time. The driving force behind the trip was to hang out on the beach in Coolangata (on the East coast) for a week and take in the Quiksilver Pro surf competition which is the opening event of the professional world surf tour. It was awesome. The town of Coolangata was really laid back. So much so that the shops closed early some days of the competition because everyone was at the beach.

The hostel was great too. I stayed at Komune Resort. I chose it based on the great reviews I read. I'll be honest - it took me a day or two to warm up to the place. It was a very different atmosphere than any other hostel I'd encountered but I enjoyed it in the end. Met some great people and had a great time. 

The view of Coolangata from the hostel balcony

Hostel pool area from the balcony

There isn't much to say about the surfing itself - hot, athletic guys in tight wet shirts running around the beach all day ; ) I think the pictures do it more justice than my words can.

The great Kelly Slater on his way to the final heat

Kelly ended up winning against Taj Burrow in the final heat. I've been to three surf competitions in my lifetime and Kelly has won all three. I think I'm definitely a good luck charm.

Other highlights included a close encounter with a koala

Meet my new pal, Penny

And a perfectly, though accidentally, timed trip down the Great Ocean Road

The Twelve Apostles

Then, a mere two weeks after returning from Australia, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Vancouver to attend a conference put on by my employer. The city is fully into Spring and it was so nice to see some green and foliage...even if we only had one free day.

Cupcakes from Cupcakes

Cherry Blossoms

The Olympic Cauldron

Scary Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

It was a lovely trip but I was glad to get home. Especially since I had it in my head that I wanted to get this blog started up again. I was excited to get to the computer and get started. So, apologies for the long ass catch up post. Hopefully you made it to the end without giving up. I'm really going to aim to keep this up on a much more regular basis. Feel free to let me know if there are any recipes you'd like me to try or topics you'd like to hear about. Enjoy!
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