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Churro Cupcakes for a Surprise 60th Birthday Fiesta!

4 Feb

I threw my mom a surprise party to celebrate her big 6-0 last month with my extended family – about 20-25 of us in all.  Given her East Los Angeles roots and inherent love for Mexican food, I decided to give it a fiesta theme.  I ordered a taco bar style set-up from a fantastic family-owned Mexican restaurant near us and of course a portion of their fantastic mole (mom’s favorite).  I made Tomatillo Salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, and three desserts for the party – Key Lime Bars with Pistachio Graham Cracker Crust (sans compote), Aaron Sanchez’s Mexican Chocolate Brownies, and these Churro Cupcakes.

Taco Bar - Who's Hungry?

Taco Bar – Who’s Hungry?

It’s been crazy busy at work the last few months, so I parceled out my time spent on crafting/planning over the course of about six weeks. For decorations, I found a few fun colorful pieces on Amazon that livened up our otherwise intentionally monochromatic home – paper buntings, serapes, festive patterned tablecloths, and pom poms.

Photo Backdrop

Photo Backdrop

Kevin and I also ended up hosting Christmas dinner which was two weeks before the party, so we had to hide everything away before she came over.  All of the streamers, party utensils, napkins, and plates were from Party City in every sort of bright color. I also bought a couple of cute craft kits from Paper Source – a mini pineapple pinata and a DIY set of six paper cacti. I used a white gel pen to add some “texture” to each cactus as well!

Cactus Kit

Cactus Kit

Jamie let me borrow her set of acrylic paints so I could add some color to the terra cotta pots I bought for the party favors.  They held the miniature cactus candles.  I also found some colorful candies to fluff up the favor bags.

Painting Pots for Favors

Painting Pots for Favors

Since Kevin and I had to go to a family wedding the morning of the party and with how long it takes to make cupcakes, I made these late the night before.  I was worried the crunchy topping that the original recipe suggested would get soggy overnight, so I skipped that component completely. Here is the recipe as adapted from Lady Behind the Curtain, without the crunchy topping!

INGREDIENTS:

For Cupcakes:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
For Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 cups confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

For Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. Whisk together both flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla, and reduce speed to low.
  4. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.  Fill each cupcake liner three-quarters full. Bake for 20 minutes.

    Cinnamon-y Cupcake Batter

    Cinnamon-y Cupcake Batter

  5. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

    Cupcakes

    Cupcakes

  6. Top with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

    Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

    Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

  7. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Set out 20 minutes before serving
For Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
  1. In a medium bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until light.
  2. Mix in vanilla and cinnamon; add confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time until all is incorporated.

    Churro Cupcakes

    Churro Cupcakes

Not having the time to actually paint anything, I searched online for some watercolor pieces to incorporate into the DIY dessert toppers, the invitation, favors, and more.

Dessert Trio

Dessert Trio

I had to keep the surprise from my brother as well until he came over, since he cannot keep secrets.  My mom thought she was meeting at my place and carpooling with me to a restaurant nearby.  I wanted to make sure I recorded her entrance, so I had my brother let her in the community gate when she arrived.  Right before she walked in, he asked, “Are you ready?”  Good thing she wasn’t already suspecting anything!

"Which dessert do you want?" "ALL THREE!"

“Which dessert do you want?”
“ALL THREE!”

My mom was really surprised and had a wonderful time, and it’s always great to spend time with my rambunctious family!

Instagram Lately – Holiday Delectables

3 Jan

I have been posting a ton of recipes made in our new kitchen lately, and have been hit or miss with including links to the recipes, so here they all are!

My round-up from Thanksgiving this year:

 

This year, instead of using all chicken apple sausage, I used half hot Italian and half chicken apple sausage to try and balance the sweetness of the cornbread.

Butternut Squash Soup with Scallops and Garlicky Swiss Chard

Butternut Squash Soup with Scallops and Garlicky Swiss Chard

I made the soup this time without the apple, and double the carrots and celery.

And here’s my December round-up:

Erica's Birthday Cupcakes - Chocolate Stout Cupcake with Salted Caramel Frosting

Erica’s Birthday Cupcakes – Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

I used the cupcake recipe from the Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes.  Being the practical baker that I am, I didn’t want to buy a whole 6-pack of Guinness since we’re not Guinness drinkers at home. So I bought a bottle of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, which worked great except I didn’t realize the bottle was 9% ABV which is over twice what Guinness is.  The cupcake was a teensy bit more beer flavored than the Guinness Cupake usually is, but it still tasted fine.  I used the frosting recipe from the Samoas Cupcakes, and added 1 cup extra powdered sugar to thick it a bit. Since I wasn’t dipping the cupcake in coconut flakes, I wanted to make the frosting a bit more substantial. It still wasn’t thick enough to pipe but it was delicious nonetheless.

 

Hot Chocolate Frosting

8 Feb
2014’s Holiday Bake-A-Thon wasn’t as busy as previous years have been.  I didn’t have time to do a lot of research and test runs of new recipes, so I ended up making some crowd pleasers from past holiday seasons, including Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies, Green Tea Sugar Cookies, Chai-Spiced Snickerdoodles, and Furikake Chex Mix.  I did try out one new recipe for a chocolate cupcake with hot chocolate frosting – the perfect cold-weather themed treat!  I keep reposting my favorite Guiness Chocolate Cupcake recipe that is truly my go-to recipe, so I’ll spare you from that. Here’s the recipe for the frosting portion as adapted from Cookies and Cups!
Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Hot Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Hot Chocolate Frosting

I made this for a two different parties, one with and one without the peppermint and I did find some people just don’t like mint and chocolate together, while others just do.  If I made this again, I’d make half the batch with the mint and half plain.  I found the Cookies and Cups’ version to be a little too sweet, so the second time around, I added a wee bit of salt to mellow it out a little.
INGREDIENTS
  • 1/2 C butter, room temperature
  • 4 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C dry hot chocolate mix (about 2 packets; without mini marshmallows)
  • 1/3 C + 1 TBSP heavy whipping cream
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a small saucepan combine hot chocolate mix and cream. Heat over medium until hot and steaming…not quite boiling, stirring consistently. You want the sugar in the hot chocolate to dissolve. Set aside to cool.

    Hot Chocolate Mix and Heavy Cream

    Hot Chocolate Mix and Heavy Cream

  2. In large mixing bowl cream butter until smooth.
  3. Add in powdered sugar and salt, and mix until combined. It will be very dry.

    Add Hot Chocolate Mixture

    Add Hot Chocolate Mixture

  4. Turn mixer to low and slowly pour in your hot chocolate mixture (I learned the second time around that it’s easier than throwing it all in and then mixing it together). Once all is added turn mixer up to medium and beat for about a minute until light and fluffy, scarping down sides of bowl when necessary.

    Ready for Spreading

    Ready for Spreading

  5. Spread or pipe on cupcakes.

    Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

    Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

  6. (OPTIONAL): If you want to make mint hot chocolate frosting, just pulverize some of your leftover candy canes in a food processor and sprinkle over the top.  I saw these pink mint-flavored marshmallows at Target and thought it sounded good but it didn’t look that appealing (see gallery).

It made for a great winter-y holiday treat!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting

14 May

I’m still terribly backlogged on posts, but thought I’d throw a more recent baking project into the mix. I’m going to be 30 this year and have really noticed my body’s growing inability to process sugar and junk food in the last year.  I’ve been forced to be more selective about what I consume now, both in quantity and quality. Maybe eating seven tacos at our annual Cinco de Mayo lunch at work isn’t the best approach to a healthy life, or finishing Kevin’s food and along with the extra food we were hoping to use as leftovers for lunch the next day won’t help my cause either even if it’s healthy food. My skinny jeans just aren’t as easy to put on or get off anymore, though I suppose they never were thanks to these God-given giant calves of mine. But there are certain homemade-type sweets – ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, anything with a good pie crust, or a good cake – just get me every time. One of those things is this chocolate cupcake recipe.

My contribution to Kevin‘s family’s Mother’s Day celebration was a chocolate cupcake with espresso buttercream frosting. The chocolate cupcake recipe is a reliable recipe that I first fell in love with when making my Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes for St. Patty’s a couple of years ago, and it’s still my favorite.  There is something about the Guinness and sour cream in it that just adds an extra special chocolatey decadence without making the cake feel overly rich and heavy.  Here is the recipe for this fantastic duo, as adapted from two different Brown Eyed Baker recipes (cupcake and frosting).

CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 C Guinness stout
  • 1 C unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ C Dutch-process cocoa powder  (MUST be dutch-process!!!)
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 C granulated sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking soda (use fresh baking soda less than 6 months old to get a good rise from your cupcakes)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 C sour cream

CUPCAKE DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring the Guinness and butter to a simmer in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool. Original recipe says cool slightly, but definitely cool it down til you can touch the pot with your bare hand.
  2. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to combine. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined.

    Always Sift Your Dry Ingredients Together

    Always Sift Your Dry Ingredients Together

  3. Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat briefly. Don’t overmix!!!  Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners.
  4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 16-17 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on a rack.

FROSTING INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2½ C powdered sugar
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ tsp espresso powder (use more if you want a stronger coffee flavor)

FROSTING DIRECTIONS:

  1. Mix the espresso powder into the vanilla until dissolved; set aside.
  2. Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping once to scrape the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar a little at a time, waiting until it is mostly incorporated before adding more. Once all of the powdered sugar has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to medium-high and whip until fluffy, about a minute or two.
  3. Add the espresso and vanilla mixture and continue to mix at medium-high until it is completely incorporated, scraping the sides as necessary.

    Espresso Swirl - Mix All the Way In

    Espresso Swirl – Mix All the Way In

It’s been a while since I’ve actually baked anything, so it was nice to get back into it. The frosting is a lighter buttercream and I think could be somewhat volatile in hot weather, hence some aggressive driving getting to the valley on a HOT Sunday afternoon.

Time to Frost

Time to Frost

It’s definitely not the thick Sprinkles style frosting. Just add more powdered sugar or subtract a little of the butter if you do like it that way.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting

I was definitely keeping tabs on Kevin’s family members to see if they were into the combo since Kevin told me last minute that no one really drinks coffee in his family, but it went over well and a couple people went back for seconds. RELIEVED.

 

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

15 Feb

In my early years at IMAX, I had many a heated debate with several coworkers about whether pineapple was a key ingredient in carrot cake.  I pretty much don’t order or eat a piece of carrot cake unless I know it has pineapple in it.  There is something about the pineapple that just adds moisture along with a little something special, and I think most bakers look to raisins to do this.  I LOVE cooked raisins, but I just don’t think they belong in carrot cake!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes - Cross-Section

Carrot Cake Cupcakes – Cross-Section

The IMAX Annual Thanksgiving pot luck is usually my opportunity to try out a new recipe on my office guinea pigs colleagues, so I thought I’d try to make a carrot cake cupcake.  Obviously after all the pineapple talk, I wasn’t about to try a recipe that didn’t have pineapple in it. Paula Deen’s self-proclaimed Best-Ever Carrot Cake Cupcakes sounded promising.  I loved the cake so much that I made these several times – for the aforementioned potluck, the 2013 Annual Kawasaki Family Christmas Party, Kevin’s friends Christmas party, and once for Christmas lunch with Kev’s family.  The cupcakes were well-received across the board, but I think it was best with a bit of toasted coconut on top.  A lot of cupcakes make great minis but I don’t know if I loved these as minis (I tried that, too).  The batter is a bit chunky, so the dough doesn’t cook consistently in each cupcake.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

As much as I loved Paula’s cupcake recipe, I also didn’t love the cream cheese frosting recipe.  It just seemed a bit bland and liquid-y for my preference. I changed it up a bit, adding more powdered sugar to stiffen it up a bit and some extra butter to add some creaminess.

Here is the recipe as adapted from Paula Deen’s (original recipe here):

CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS (Paula’s version):

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 8-oz. can of crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Small pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 cups grated carrots (or more!), grate with a food processor to make your life easier

    Fresh Shredded Carrots

    Fresh Shredded Carrots

FROSTING INGREDIENTS (my version):

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 C powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Fresh coconut, shaved and toasted for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, apple sauce, sugars, pineapple and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
  3. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and small pinch of ground cloves.
  4. Stir in carrots.
  5. Fold in pecans.
  6. Pour into muffin tin lined with beautiful paper or foil liners.
  7. Fill each liner 3/4 full.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 min.
  9. Let cupcakes cool completely. While cooling, prepare frosting.

    Ready for Frosting

    Ready for Frosting

  10. In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  11. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

    Cream Cheese Frosting

    Cream Cheese Frosting

  12. Pile the frosting high on the cooled cupcakes and garnish with the toasted coconut if desired.

    Topped with Toasted Coconut

    Topped with Toasted Coconut

Thanks, Paula Deen!