Archive for July, 2010

Under The Sea

Ariel: [singing] Up where they walk / Up where they run / Up where they stay all day in the sun / Wanderin’ free / Wish I could be / Part of that world…

In the midst of wedding cake preparation craze, I have baked a sweet treat to take to my friends Kate and Lesley’s birthday party. And, more miraculously, I have found the time to take pictures and post them with a recipe for you, before the event! I am never this timely with my posts, sometimes waiting days or even weeks before posting the recipe and pictures. However, somehow I have managed to get these uploaded onto the computer and they’re itching to get to your screens, eyes, kitchens, ovens, and finally into your mouths and bellies.

The party is taking place at a local lake (okay, okay, so “Under The Lake” would probably be a more correct title for this post…), and I know these fabulous women from my elementary teaching credential program, so it seems like a fitting occasion to bust out my Little Mermaid cupcake wrappers and crack a few smiles when I deliver them tomorrow! Hopefully, the cupcakes will also crack a few smiles on my friends’ faces and in their tummies – one of them is gluten-free, so these cupcakes are too. A crunchy rich Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcake topped with a Cream Cheese Vanilla Bean Frosting, and extra toasted hazelnut crumbs sprinkled on top…Well, I can’t imagine a better birthday dessert!

Scuttle: It’s a dinglehopper. Humans use these little babies… to straighten their hair out. See? Just a little twirl here and a yank there and voila. You’ve got an aesthetically pleasing configuration of hair that humans go nuts over.

Ariel: Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? / Wouldn’t ya think my collection’s complete / Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl / Girl who has everything / Look at this trove, treasures untold / How many wonders can one cavern hold? / Looking around you’d think / Sure, she’s got everything / I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty / I have whoozits and whatzis galore / You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty / But who cares? No big deal / I want more.

I have a few reliable fall-back gluten-free cake recipes that I always use. However, I wanted to add a hazelnut twist to a chocolate cupcake, and to do that I wanted to add both hazelnut meal (to get a little crunch) and hazelnut butter (to disburse and reinforce the flavor). I had to change the amount of liquid, oil, and flours to accommodate for the nut butter addition to the recipe, and I honestly wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I put these babies into the oven. When I was finally brave enough (and couldn’t stand the suspense anymore!) I peeked into the oven…and the cupcakes had risen beautifully, created lovely cracked tops, and didn’t show any signs of sinking down middle syndrome! They are a little dense because of the hazelnut butter, but dense in a good way, if you know what I mean. Like, nutella-dense. Mmm.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcake Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract
1/3 cup hazelnut butter
1/4 cup tapioca flour
2 Tblsp. ground flax seed
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup toasted hazelnut meal
1/3 cup sweet white sorghum flour
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1/2 tsp. xantham gum
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Pre-heat your oven to 350º F. Place cupcake wrappers in a muffin tin. Set aside.

Measure out your almond milk into a medium sized bowl, and add the vinegar. Mix vigorously, and set aside to curdle. Once it is curdled, add the oil, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract and mix to combine.

In a large bowl, sift the tapioca flour, cocoa powder, sorghum flour, quinoa flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the xantham gum, flax seed, and hazelnut meal. Stir together so everything is evenly distributed.

Create a well in the dry ingredients, and pour the wet mix into it. Mix with an electric mixer, or by hand with a whisk until there are no lumps. Because this is a gluten-free recipe, you don’t have to worry about mixing too much. Once there are no more lumps, add the hazelnut butter by the spoonful, and continue mixing until the batter reaches a smooth consistency.

Fill your cupcake tins about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Sebastian: Ariel, please! Will you get your head out of the clouds and back in the water where it belongs?

Look at these beautiful brown toasty hazelnuts:

Ariel: I’ve never seen a human this close before. Oh… he’s very handsome, isn’t he?
[Scuttle looks at the dog and scratches his neck]
Scuttle: I don’t know, he looks kind of hairy and slobbery to me.
Ariel: No, not that one. The one playing the snarfblatt.

Cream Cheese Vanilla Bean Frosting Ingredients:

1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine, room temperature
1/2 cup Earth Balance shortening, room temperature
3/4 cup Tofutti Cream Cheese, room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

Beat the margarine, shortening, and cream cheese together with an electric mixer. When you have a smooth, fluffy consistency, add the vanilla bean paste and confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time. Mix until fully combined. Add more sugar if you want a thicker frosting, but be aware that it can get quite sweet quickly!

I piped the frosting directly onto the cupcakes, and then sprinkled some extra hazelnut meal on top to make a pretty addition, as well as add some extra flair and crunch to every bite.

Sebastian: Down here all the fish is happy / As off to the waves they roll / The fish on the land ain’t happy / They sad ’cause they in the bowl / But fish in the bowl is lucky / They in for a worser fate / One day when the boss get hungry…
Fish: Guess who gonna be on the plate?

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Wedding Cake Testing Galore

It took six cakes, seven frostings, two fillings, and several over-full tummies to make a decision. But we finally chose the cake flavor for my friends’ upcoming August wedding. I’m not going to reveal the winning combination yet, though! You’ll have to stay tuned for upcoming recipes and descriptions, and of course photographs of the completed wedding cake. I do have some photos from the tasting process for you, so you can start salivating in advance of receiving the recipes!

Here is a delightful and light Almond Cake, with Blackberry Filling, and frosted with Honey-Vanilla Buttercream Icing. The Honey-Vanilla flavor ended up being too sweet, but the almond cake is one of my favorites and was definitely in the final rundown of cake flavors and textures!

Earl Grey Cake with Blackberry Filling, with two different frostings on top. On the left, you can see the Orange Blossom Buttercream with the blue flowers surrounding the edge of the cake, and on the right with the purple bougainvillea flowers is Lemon Buttercream. We ended up liking the Lemon Buttercream on the Almond Cake…

But, we couldn’t make the most educated decision without more cakes! Since we had ended up liking different icings with different cakes than we had originally paired together, we decided to change our tasting system the second time around. I baked four different cakes and made four frostings, and we left the cakes unfrosted – everyone took a scoop of each frosting and a slice of each cake, and tried each flavor combination possible. A little bit of this, spread on a little bit of that, and tasted in one mouthful, we discovered a little bit of heaven.

Clockwise, starting at the top left corner, we made: Fluffy Yellow Cake, Toasted Almond Cake (was more like a sticky torte than what we had envisioned), the same Fluffy Yellow Cake with freshly grated ginger mixed into the batter, Cardamom Spice Cake:

Clockwise from the top left corner, I made four creamy frostings and one fresh filling:

Vanilla Bean Buttercream, Cream Cheese Icing, Raspberry Jam Filling, Freshly-Picked-Blackberry (thanks neighbors!) Buttercream Frosting, and Spicy Ginger Buttercream Frosting:

Doesn’t the blackberry frosting have the most beautiful pink color? It also had a nicely tart taste that complimented the sweet buttercream base. The ginger buttercream was also surprisingly popular, and very refreshing and delicious! We had a complex tallying system to decide what flavor combinations we liked best, but in the end, chose something different than how the stars had seemingly aligned:

Stay tuned to see the winning combination of cakes and frostings, as I will be baking the cake for an August 1st wedding. I’ll post pictures and recipes afterwords! And before that, of course, I’ll be baking more yummy treats, and will tell you about those as they appear in my kitchen.

Lemon Topped Vanilla Cardamom Mini Cupcakes

Everything is a blur around here, as I am beginning baking up a storm, recipe and flavor testing for my friends’ upcoming wedding cake that I will be baking. We’re still mostly in the idea-stages, but yesterday I baked the first test-cake, and today I’m going to bake the second. I am thinking one cake a day, for the next week or two, until we come up with the perfect combination of flavors, textures, fillings, and frostings. As I whip out the sample cakes, I wanted to leave you with something to drool over. I may have found this picture in my archives, but I can still remember how delicately spicy these Cardamom Cupcakes were, and how perfectly paired the cake was with the tangy-sweet Lemon Buttercream. I don’t have the recipe, but if you add some cardamom to your favorite vanilla cupcake, and some freshly squeezed lemon juice to a buttercream frosting, then you’ll end up with a similar flavor explosion. Perfect for these summer days…

Salted Caramel Cupcakes


I recently ate at a vegan chocolate truffle shop in New York City. One of my favorite flavors, although not incredibly original like their other choices, was their salted caramel truffle. Messy, sticky, gooey, it was a perfect combination of sweet, salty, and dark chocolate. I had to recreate it in cupcake form when I returned from my vacation.

This is what my friends thought about the cupcakes:

Becca: Yum yum yum

Zoe: Intense rich chocolate flavor

Both Zoe and Becca: The caramel was to die for!

Rosa and Rachel thought these were the best cupcakes they’d ever eaten, hands down.

Julie: The caramel was like taffy and perfect. The chocolate cupcake was intense and not too sweet. A nice chocolatey-ness. The caramel was gooey and chewy and I couldn’t stop eating it!

Just thinking about these cupcakes again made all of us hungry, and we had to make a snack!


Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
4 Tblsp. very dark, or black, cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup caramel (recipe below)

Caramel Ingredients:
1 cup Earth Balance margarine
1 cup brown sugar
¼ almond milk

Note: Make the Caramel before you make the cupcake batter.

To make the caramel:
Melt the Earth Balance margarine in a saucepan over a medium flame. Add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Allow the caramel to begin boiling and bubbling, and stir intermittently until it thickens considerably. Meanwhile, heat the almond milk in a small pot until warm or hot to the touch. When the caramel is as caramelized as you would like, add the heated milk and stir rapidly until fully combined. Turn off the burner but allow pot to sit over the heated stove and preheating oven while you prepare cupcake batter.

To make the cupcakes:
Preheat your oven to 350º F. Line a twelve-muffin tin with paper liners.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powders, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large mixing bowl combine the almond milk, oil, maple syrup, sugar, vinegar, and vanilla. Beat this wet combination until fully combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two batches, mixing as you go. Beat until there are no lumps.
Fill your cupcake tins just under ¾ of the way full. Now it is time to spoon about a tablespoon of caramel onto the top of each cupcake. Dollop the caramel in, and let it rest on the top of the cupcake.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes sit in the pan for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Caramel Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (Earth Balance brand is good)
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup caramel, or to taste (see recipe above)
3 pinches of rock salt, or to taste, to put on top of your finished cupcakes

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy.
Add 2 cups of sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes. Don’t add the third cup of sugar yet, until after you add the caramel when you can decide if you want the frosting to be sweeter or fluffier.
Add the vanilla and the caramel, and beat for another 5-7 minutes until fluffy. If the frosting has a weird lumpy consistency because of adding a warm caramel to the cold margarine and shortening, then you can mix everything together and then refrigerate for about a half hour. Take out of the fridge, and whip using an electric mixer until you have a fluffy consistency. Add more sugar if you want a thicker frosting, but be careful to not make it too sweet since the caramel already has a good amount of sugar in it. Pipe onto the tops of your cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle rock salt over the tops, and enjoy!


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. Photos, Original Recipes & Text ©cookiesandcandids 2008-2010 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. If you repost any material from this blog, please give credit by including a link back to me. Thank you!