Saturday, March 30, 2013

Robin's Nest Cupcakes

With Easter arriving this weekend, family and friends coming together and kids running around gathering colored eggs, what better reason to add to the sweetness? I'll have to preface this alcohol-free post with a plea from my nieces to be able to return to their coveted post as taste-testers. Not only was this a chance for us to be in the kitchen together but a chance to put our hands in melted chocolate! The bird nests are made of Chinese chow mein noodles covered in chocolate. Unfortunately, the only way to shape them is to use, as Ina Garten says, a cook's best tools: clean hands. Autumn however took this opportunity to sneak chocolate noodles out of the bowl as I was tediously trying to form nests. The flavors this time around are pretty subtle,  simple vanilla cake and two flavors of chocolate were used. But the end product was really more about the presentation, my girls would eat any flavor of cupcake as I'm sure any child would. Easter may have many different meanings to many people but one thing seems to be universal, families coming together and sharing food and love. So I send you love and hope for great food this weekend from our thoroughly destroyed kitchen to yours!

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 2 sticks butter (unsalted)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar, adding the eggs and yolks alternately. Once it has been beaten thoroughly add the vanilla and whipping cream. Slowly add in the dry ingredients until it is well combined. This batter is rather thick, but have no fear, I have yet to steer you wrong with a faulty recipe. Just be sure to keep one eye on your batter and one on your niece...raw batter doesn't seem to faze her. Bake them for 20-22 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Allow them to cool completely until you frost them. I used a leftover bag of white chocolate chips, melted them down and tinted them green, then spread them over the tops of the cakes and gave them a healthy dose of green sprinkles. 

Chocolate Robin's Nest

  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 can of Chinese chow mein noodles, check the Asian foods section
  • Clean hands!
After tempering the chocolate in the microwave sparingly add the noodles, making sure to cover each piece until the can is empty. Now comes the fun part, dive right in and attempt to mold a respectable bird nest. Trust me, it is harder than you think and you must work quickly before the chocolate begins to cool. In the end they will have a adorably rustic look to them, add candy eggs to complete the illusion. And your family is sure to be thrilled with your cupcake ingenuity and praise you for straying from the traditional route when it comes to Easter sweets. You could even go the extra mile and bring the cupcakes already frosted and allow the kids to make their own chocolate nests!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shamrock Shake Cupcakes

Being the good Irish non-Catholic girl that I am, St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays, not only for the parties and green beer, but the camaraderie that comes with it. I'm sure we are all familiar with the sentiment "Kiss me, I'm Irish!" but on this special day anyone can be Irish and the bonds of drunken friendship are bound to blossom. These particular cupcakes are less about highlighting the alcohol, because there will be plenty of that, and more about fulfilling that 1:00am beer-induced need for something sweet. The creme de menthe can be pretty potent stuff, and at first the 1/4 cup the recipe called for had me fearing for my audience's taste buds. But the flavor becomes much more subtle after baking, and it provides the cakes with a nice minty green color. This recipe requires a lot of time for the ingredients to meld together properly, so be sure that you can devote ample time to this endeavor. Although I would have gone a different route with the white chocolate frosting I stuck with the timely recipe and it turned out to be the perfect compliment to the cakes. Lesson learned: Always follow the rules....well, in baking that is! If I can handle it, this month may be a two-for-one deal, with cute alcohol-free Easter cupcakes in a few weeks. My nieces are getting pretty fed up with their lack of involvement as my primary taste testers, I imagine my brother would not appreciate them consuming alcohol, even if it is disguised as a cupcake ;)

Shamrock Shake Cupcakes

  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup creme de menthe
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Allow the egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Also in a glass measuring cup combine the buttermilk and creme de menthe. Let me tell you a little secret about buttermilk, add some lemon juice to regular milk and allow it to stand for 10-15 minutes. Cause who has more than one use for buttermilk anyway! Beat the shortening and sugar together until whipped, add the vanilla. Alternately combine the egg whites and the milk mixture to the shortening and sugar until it is well combined. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full with the batter and bake for 15-18 minutes. 

White Chocolate Frosting

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, roughly half of one bag
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar
Heat the heavy cream over low heat until just simmering, add it to a bowl with the white chocolate chips, allow it to sit for 5 minutes before you stir. After stirring until smooth allow it to sit for 15 minutes while you beat the butter in a larger bowl. once the time is up add the white chocolate mixture to the butter and slowly add the powdered sugar,  one 1/2 cup at at time. This sounds like an agonizingly slow process just to make frosting, but trust me when I say that it is worth it!

Remember: We are all Irish on the inside!