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Tis The Season…For Cupcakes!

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes with Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

Thanksgiving has come and gone and once midnight struck on the bountiful holiday that meant that it became fully acceptable to start preparing for Christmas! For me growing up, the Friday after Thanksgiving wasn’t known as Black Friday, it was the day that I helped my nanny decorate her entire house.

Each year my family and I would eat Thanksgiving dinner at my Nanny and Grandad’s and I would spend the night in order to help them bright and early the next morning. The artificial Christmas tree (needles are too messy for my nanny) was put up, lights were strung, the mini-Christmas village was put up on the mantle and the fake snowflakes were sprinkled on top. 

It’s memories like these that make Christmas time my favorite time of year (minus the start of hockey season of course). No matter how overplayed Christmas movies and songs get, nothing can deter my love for the season. This is why making Christmas-inspired cupcakes were perfectly acceptable to make while my Thanksgiving leftovers still sit in their containers in the fridge.

I was planning on making triple chocolate “Black Friday” cupcakes from Bitchin Kitchen, but when I went shopping this morning with my mom I found Andes peppermint candies in the holiday aisle. Andes candies are a family favorite every year (we usually make mint cookies) so I couldn’t pass up the chance to try them in a cupcake, which was perfect because a cupcake recipe using the morsels happened to be on the back of the package…it was like fate!

In making these cupcakes I broke my own vow and followed the recipe by using a boxed devils food cake mixture. I know I said I would avoid using anything out of a box from now on, but bridesmaid duties kept me tied up for the day and the taste of the cakes wasn’t hindered.

The main difference in using a boxed mixture is the density of the cake. The boxed cupcakes are much lighter and fluffier than a cake made from scratch. However, the peppermint candies in the cupcake and in the frosting added a cooling touch to the sweet chocolate, which reminds me of a york peppermint patti. 

The recipe on the back of the bag not only called for a boxed cake mix, but also a canned frosting, which I couldn’t bring myself to do. Instead I married my original idea with my new inspiration and the result was a fabulous addition to any holiday platter!

Recipe:

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 Box Devils Food Cake mix (holidays are hectic so a boxed mix wouldn’t be such a bad time saver, but any devils food cake recipe would suffice.)

1 C Andes peppermint candy (about half the bag)

Steps:

1. Follow directions on the boxed mix to make the cake batter

2. Fold in the Andes candies and put them in the oven for 18-22 minutes

3. Put the cupcakes aside and let them cool

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from the Cupcake Project

Recipe

8 oz (1 pkg) of cream cheese frosting- room temperature

1/4 C unsalted butter- room temperature

3 1/2 C confectionery sugar

1/2 C cocoa powder

Peppermint candies- any desired amount (make sure to save some to sprinkle on top)

Steps:

1. Combine the cream cheese and butter until creamy

2. Mix in the confectionery sugar one cup at a time

3. Once the sugar is mixed in add in the cocoa powder

4. Frost the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle the rest of the candies on top.

 

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Cream Cheese, Cupcakes, Desserts

 

Blue Devils Blue Velvet

C-C-S-UUUUUUUU: Blue Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

 

 

Blue Devil Blue Velvet Cupcakes

Blue Devil Blue Velvet Cupcakes

This past weekend was Central Connecticut State University’s homecoming game, and since beginning this blog I knew that no matter what I was going to be baking Blue Velvet cupcakes in honor of the CCSU Blue Devils. What better way to show my pride than with blue cupcakes topped with white frosting?

Sadly the Blue Devils fell to our in-state rivals, the Sacred Heart Pioneers (whose colors happen to be red and white, so traditional red velvet cupcakes would have definitely been out of the question), 37-24. As a reporter up in the press box I could feel the heartache interviewing the players and Head Coach Jeff McInerney. Being a sports editor of the Recorder gives me access that most fans can only dream of, but it also takes away from some of my experiences.

For instance, I can’t fully tailgate, which is always a college right of passage. I have to remain professional and represent the paper in a good light, so when my peers are drinking from red cups and paper bags with white and blue painted faces I am dressed in black dress pants a nice top and accessorized by my CCSU Media Pass. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t give up what I do for the world, but this week I learned to compromise. Rather than tailgating to get in the homecoming spirit I baked!

I first saw the concept for a blue velvet cupcake on the FoodNetwork show, Cupcake Wars. In one episode the bakers were fighting for a chance to have their cupcakes displayed at a LA Kings hockey game (which automatically made it my favorite episode). To make a long story short, one of the cupcakes was a “black and blue” cupcake, which was a blue velvet cake with blackberry curd filling. I loved the idea for the Blue Devils, but I couldn’t see myself enjoying blackberry curd.

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Instead I looked for a plain blue velvet cake, which I found on the blog, Sprinkle Bakes. What drew me to this cupcake recipe in particular was the coloring. From the research I had done, it seemed like the science of food coloring could be tricky. Too much and you could get teal…we’re the Blue Devils, not the Teal Devils, so that would be disastrous. The trick in this recipe was to not only add royal blue food coloring, but also a dab of violet to offset the reaction.

I couldn’t help but look at this batter and feel like I was mixing blue paint, but I can’t argue with the results. I had never made any type of velvet cake or cupcake before so as I was adding the baking soda and vinegar (yes, white vinegar) I felt like I was back in high school doing a science experiment, which isn’t a bad thing, because isn’t that what baking is anyway…experimentation?

Blue Velvet Cake (recipe adapted from Sprinkle Bakes)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter- room temp– Again when they say room temperature they mean it, if the butter isn’t soft when you go to mix it with the sugar it’ll become clumpy rather than cream together. If the butter is still cold when you go to mix everything together feel free to soften them in the microwave.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon Wilton Royal blue gel food coloring
  • 1 dab Wilton violet gel food coloring
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
Steps

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line the cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, mix until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs 1 at a time and mix well after each addition.

Mix cocoa and food colorings together to form a paste before adding them to the mixture, and then add to sugar mixture; mix well.

Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk.

Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture.

Pour batter into cupcake papers. Batter will be thick!

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting. 

Completed Batter

Baking in the Oven at 350 F

 

 

Cream Cheese Frosting
Once my sidekick and I had the cupcakes in the oven we moved on to the traditional cream cheese frosting. Personally, I don’t like a frosting that is too sweet, I like to be able to taste the cake without getting overpowered. Due to this lack of a super sweet tooth I only mixed in 3 1/2 cups of confectionery sugar rather than 4. I probably could have added just 3, but I wanted to be sure it didn’t taste too much like regular cream cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound softened cream cheese (2 regular packages)
  • 2 sticks softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups sifted confectionery sugar
Steps

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth.

Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip. Embellish as desired.

Finished Cupcakes!

 

There is a reason as to why this particular cake is called velvet, because that is the best way to describe it. Not as sweet as a traditional vanilla or chocolate cake, the sweet cream cheese frosting compliments the cake nicely. 

Check back next week, when I hope to have a profile of Wallingford, CT sweet spot, Mr. D’s!

 

 

“Any Given Sunday” Cupcakes

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean cream cheese frosting, topped with chocolate covered pretzels.

With this blog beginning the same weekend as the kickoff to the 2011 NFL season I couldn’t think of a better way to get things started than combining two of my loves; sports and baking. Once I decided that I wanted to somehow combine the ideas of football (extremely masculine) and cupcakes (very feminine) I decided to first attempt beer cupcakes. Nothing goes better with football than beer and beer and pretzels is a staple in practically every sports bar, so why not put all of these elements into a sugary and chocolatey treat?

The best recipe I was able to track down was from the blog, Pinch My Salt. The recipe calls for the use of Guinness stout, yogurt, which is healthier than butter and sour cream and the vanilla bean cream cheese seemed like an interesting twist on a traditional flavor. There is also an added bit of cinnamon added to the cake batter, which adds the perfect hint of fall flavoring.

Recipe: Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

Adapted from Pinch My Salt

2 large eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
6 oz. dark stout- preferably Guinness
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder- I used dutch cocoa powder, but any would work
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon- This is where I altered the recipe a bit. I love cinnamon, so instead I added 1/2 tsp, which you wouldn’t think makes a difference, but truly does.
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Step 1- gather ingredients: You know it's going to be a good cupcake when step 1 is go to the package store. When I was there I bought the wine for myself, it has nothing to do with the actual cupcake! Just saving myself a bit of time!!

Step 1 Continued

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with cupcake papers. Pinch my Salt instructed bakers to spray the liners as well, but I found that it then warped the wrappers and made the cupcakes look sloppy.
3. Melt butter in microwave or on stovetop, then set aside.
3. In a large bowl whisk together eggs and yogurt. Add beer and vanilla whisk until well combined.
4. Sift all the dry ingredients together (cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda, and cinnamon) into a separate bowl.
5. Add about a third of the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and using a hand mixer, blend well. Add the rest of the flour mixture, a third at a time, mixing well after each addition. When all ingredients are blended, add the melted butter then continue mixing until very well combined.
6. Pour batter into the twelve cups, filling each only about 3/4 full.
7. Bake on center rack of the preheated 350 degree oven and for approximately 25 minutes.
8. When cupcakes are done (toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake will come out clean), remove the pan to a wire rack.  Let cool for ten minutes then remove cupcakes from pan and let them cool completely on wire rack.

After sifting together the dry ingredients whisk together the liquids...and in goes the Guinness

The batter gave me no trouble, and the size of the cupcakes when filling them 3/4 of the way in the tins came out perfectly. The Guinness gave the batter a rich and dark color without it tasting bitter and the aroma of stout, chocolate and cinnamon was amazing. Where I had trouble was the cream cheese frosting.

The Guinness gave the batter a dark and rich color, while the mix of Guinness, cocoa powder and cinnamon smelt gorgeous

Frosting Recipe:

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
Seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean that has been split and scraped

In a medium bowl, blend together cream cheese, butter, vanilla and vanilla bean seeds. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing well until it’s all incorporated.  Use immediately.  The frosting will harden in the fridge, so plan on bring it back to room temperature if you must refrigerate it before frosting the cupcakes.

Bad Batch

I ended up having to make two batches of frosting in the end because being the health conscious person that I am, when shopping for ingredients I bought fat-free cream cheese. Well, I learned that that kind is made with skim milk, not cream, which means that the consistency of the frosting was runny instead of thick. At first I added extra cream cheese to try and thicken it, when that didn’t work the frosting went in the freezer, but that didn’t work either. When I remade the batch with actual cream cheese the frosting turned out perfectly, and I definitely recommend using the vanilla beans!!

GOOD BATCH! Who would've thought such a tiny detail could make such a big difference!

GOOD BATCH! Who would've thought such a tiny detail could make such a big difference!

In the final product you could definitely taste the Guinness used in the batter, but it wasn’t overwhelming, it was off-set by the strong taste of the cinnamon matched with the sweetness of the frosting. 

Final Product!

 
 
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