Archive for July, 2010

Cupcake Tour: Austin, TX

Subtitle: How to Sell Cupcakes.

My cupcake “spiel” includes two questions:

1) Are your Cupcakes Powdered sugar based?
2) Are you on Twitter?

First, if you work as the salesperson at a place that sells baked goods (or any special type of food), you should know a little about your baked goods. Cakes and cupcakes only come with a few types of frostings, you should know something about their composition.

I asked one bakery if their frostings were powdered sugar based. They said “yes, except the cream cheese.” which wasn’t “based” on powdered sugar, but had it in the recipe. Not the same.

On the twitter, None of the bakeries I have been to this trip have been able to answer the “What is your twitter name” question. While I realize that social media and in person marketing are different, when I am tweeting pictures to the social media, it would be nice if I didnt have to search the internet on my cell phone to get your twitter name.

So far, cupcakes have been okay. Nothing spectacular, but nothing horrible either. (Well, except for the one that tasted like canned frosting, that was kinda weird.) Amy at Cupprimo (@cupprimo was extremely nice, and we had a great discussion of cupcakes, including the travels of her bakers to NYC. She also pointed out that it seemed like the Austin “foodie” scene liked cupcakes, but seemed to be fairly standard in their flavors, with only a few that are outside the box. Their red velvet was really red, and their Brownie Sundae was actually a brownie! The minis are a dollar each, or 6 for $5, or 12 for $10. Very reasonable, and tasty, and a good way to get a taste of all of the cupcakes offered.

6 delicious mini cupcakes

Cupprimo Mini Cupcakes

My second stop today was Be My Cupcake, in Round Rock, TX. These cupcakes were larger, but much more expensive. (3.75 for a large cupcake, and 2.50 for a mini.) They did advertise the cupcakes as “large enough for two.” I tried a Neopolitan Cupcake, which was a great mix of Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry in both the cake and the frosting. I also had a (2oz!) frosting shot of their Oreo Frosting, which was Amazing! I need to go back before my trip is done to try their Oreo Cupcake.

Array of Cupcakes at Be My Cupcake

Be My Cupcake

Currently, I have two more stops planned (One is Lick it, Bite it, or Both, because I want the cupcake and ice cream combo.) Otherwise, unless I hear of an Austin Cupcake place that sells Non Powdered Sugar Based Frosting, I am done.

Any leads? :)

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Yes, this is a cooking blog, but if you haven’t noticed, I am obsessed with Cupcakes.

Recently, Serious Eats did a ““Best Cupcake of New York City”. I was delighted to see Robicellis on the list. (Surprisingly, the cupcakes used in the taste test from Robicellis were over a week old! And they still placed 10th in the City!)

(BTW, if you have not seen it yet, go watch the Robicelli’s Cupcake War Audition Tape)

Number one in the city was Baked, based in Red Hook. For me, Robicellis were better than Baked. However, Baked Totally won over my heart with their Red Velvet Cupcake. Why?


Ahem, sorry for the caps. I have no idea where the whole “Red Velvet with Cream Cheese” craze started. The original, and correct, icing is Cooked Flour Frosting. This frosting can be tricky to get right, but it tasted oh so divine.

Surprisingly, I have done only a few cupcakes on this blog.

What type of cupcakes would you like to see?

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How many Frostings are There?

A lot. And, almost infinite variations thereof.

I created a list of the types of frosting. Some categories overlap, or some frostings can be considered in multiple sections. Butter means real butter, but in many instances, you can substitute Shortening.

Buttercream: Made with Butter without Powdered Sugar

There are many types of buttercream. For me, the best ones include butter and granulated sugar, with something to make it fluffy. (Scientific, right?)

  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream: Egg Whites are heated with sugar, then beaten until fluffy, then have butter added. (Such as my Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue)
  • Italian Meringue Buttercream: A sugar syrup is heated until it reaches 240 degrees, and then the syrup is added to beaten egg whites, and then butter is added.
  • (You can make Swiss Meringue and Italian Meringue by not adding the butter. Or, rather, make the meringue into buttercream by adding the butter.)

  • French Meringue Buttercream: Instead of egg whites, whole eggs are used. I have not made these yet, but the Robicellisuse French Buttercream almost exclusively, which is one of the reasons their cupcakes are awesome.
  • Pastry Cream Buttercream. I found this in CakeLove: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch. it involves making a pastry cream with egg yolks and milk, and then whipping it and adding butter.
  • Heirloom Frosting (Often called a cooked flour frosting): A roux is made with milk and flour, and allowed to cool. Sugar and Butter are creamed together, and then the roux is added.

Other Cooked frostings

  • 7 Minute frosting Kinda like a swiss meringue, in which sugar and eggs are heated over the stove, but the mixture is beaten while cooking. This creates an almost marshmallow like consistency.
  • Marshmallow frosting: like a 7 minute frosting, but with additional ingredients to make it more like a marshmallow.
  • Fondant: Technically, Fondant is a candy. It can be made to be rolled out, or liquid to pour over cakes.

Powdered Sugar Based Frostings

These frostings contain powdered sugar.

  • Glaze: Powdered sugar is mixed with a tiny amount of milk, to create a glaze like substance.
  • Royal Icing: Powdered sugar is mixed with Egg Whites, to create a very hard setting frosting.
  • Powdered Sugar Buttercream: Solid Butter and Powdered Sugar are mixed together. You can add infinite flavors and other foods, such as Chocolate and Orange Marmalade
  • Cream Cheese Frosting: Cream cheese and powdered sugar are mixed together. Sometimes this includes butter.
  • Brown Sugar Frosting: Butter and Brown Sugar are cooked together, allowed to cool, the mixed with powdered sugar.

Cream Based Frostings

Frostings made with cream.

  • Ganache: cream and chocolate mixed together. Depending on the proportions, ganache can be poured over (or inside) a cake, or cooled and whipped.
  • Whipped Cream: Cream is whipped, usually with sugar, and often with gelatin or other stabilizers.

Am I missing types of frostings? Please let me know in the comments!

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Weekly Plans

Today starts my attempt at the SITS Problogger Challenge. The challenge is a set of 31 things that I can do for my blog (post one is an elevator pitch) to increase how successful it is.

I have a few cupcake attempts in my future for this week. The first came from Cupcake Wars, in which one of the items was pulled pork, and everyone skipped it for the much easier bacon. If professional cupcake bakers shy away from it, I want to try it!

The second was a discussion of how the realities of my partner and myself overlap, as evidenced by this graph. Thus, I must attempt these cupcakes.

Exciting week! :)

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My First Cake

My first cake that I made up using formulas and percentages, that is.

I finally bought BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes, which is a Must Have for geeky cooks that want to make up their own recipes.

There are a few bakers formulas and percentages that I used, and all of these are by weight.

Eggs => Fat
Liquid+eggs = Sugar
Fat = 50% of Flour

I pretty much exclusively use King Arthur unbleached all purpose flour, which is a high protein flour. Adding cornstarch to all purpose flour creates something that is more like cake flour, which is why this step is there.

I am still unsure on the whole leavening thing. The Cake Bible, as also quoted in Bakewise, suggests 1 1/2 tsp baking powder for 6-8 inch cakes. There is also suggestions of 1 to 1 1/4th tsp baking powder per cup of flour. Also, in Bakewise, Shirley Corriher suggests keeping batters slightly acidic to help proteins set faster. This batter may be too acidic due to the buttermilk, as it did not brown that much on top. It domed pretty high, so perhaps too much baking powder? So confused!

My kitchen HATES the creaming method, because as I started making the cake (before preheating the oven), it was 85 degrees in my kitchen. Standing here, above the oven, it is now 98 degrees. So, any method that requires keeping butter in a solid state is pretty much not available to me during the summer. I used the “dissolved sugar” method, which is supposed to create a denser cake, but still moist.

Yes, this calls for an entire tablespoon of vanilla extract. Since I am not using butter, vanilla is the main flavoring of the cake. I noticed while looking at the recipe for Sweet Revenge’s Pure Cupcake, that she uses 3 tablespoons of Mexican vanilla! So, I have since felt more confident about using more extract.

Amanda’s First Cake
(Created with guidance from BakeWise)

6 oz all purpose flour
1 oz cornstarch*
7 oz sugar
3.5 oz canola oil
3.5 oz eggs (2 eggs)
3.5 oz buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp baking soda**
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract.

(In a totally unrelated story, as I was converting halving and converting Billy’s Bakery Vanilla Vanilla Cupcake recipe to weight, the proportions are almost Exactly the same :)

In a small bowl, combine eggs, 3 tbsp of buttermilk, and 1 tbsp of vanilla extract. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, combined flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and blend for 30 seconds. Add oil and remaining buttermilk. mix on low for 30 seconds, then medium for 1.5 minutes. Scrape the sides. Add 1/3rd of the egg mixture, mix for 20 seconds, scrape sides. Repeat twice until all the egg mixture is in the bowl.

Bake. I used a 6×3 pan. My cake domed quite a bit, and the edges were done before the middle was, so perhaps next time I might use another pan, like an 8×2.

The cake was dry. It tasted fine, just was a bit dry. Most likely it was overbaked, as the middle took ForEvEr to cook in the middle. I will perhaps try it again in a smaller pan.

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Microwave Single Serve Rice Krispy

Since I can burn Rice Krispies, I decided to go with the microwave. Leaving out the butter creates a slightly different tasting treat, but one that is still great!

The original recipe includes 4 cups of marshmallows for 6 cups of Rice Krispies. Using a fancy skill called Math, that is one cup of marshmallows for 1.5 cups of cereal.

Spray a glass bowl with nonstick spray. Put marshmallows into the bowl, and melt. (You could melt butter in the bowl first, then add marshmallows and stir, if you want butter.) It takes about two minutes in my microwave, so it will probably take less in yours.

Spray a silicon spatula with non stick spray. Dump rice Krispies into the marshmallows, and stir. Eat.

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Mexican Chocolate Cupcake with Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Frosting

Woohoo for Air conditioned kitchen! Boo for still melting my frosting!

I am kitten sitting for some friends of mine, and while I am here, I am taking full advantage of their air conditioned kitchen to play with baked goods. I also did not bring butter or milk over with me the first day, so I needed a vegan cupcake.

I found this Mexican Chocolate Cake recipe listed a few places online. I liked the fact that it didnt use any milk substitutes, and that it had balsamic vinegar for acidity (rather than white vinegar, which is also not in this kitchen.) “Mexican Chocolate” is typically spiked with cinnamon for a slightly spicy kick, and these cupcakes also have cayenne pepper. They do have a spicy after kick.

I wanted to try this Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream, because I think it may go well with my dulce de leche cupcakes. The frosting was great, except I think I overbeat it, and/or the kitchen was too warm, so the butter started to melt.

This is different than the buttercream curdling. Most meringue based frostings (as well as my Cooked Flour Frosting) go through a stage where they look curdled. This is normal, and the answer is to keep beating it. However, when it starts to look like tiny fat globules and shiny liquid, something happened and you need to start over. (Or, ya know, eat it, because it is butter and sugar and therefore tasty, just not smooth and not pretty.)

Spicy Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes
(Recipe from
Makes 12 servings

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup canola oil*
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

This is a one bowl cake. Put everything in a bowl, and mix it up. Do not overbeat, but stir until just smooth. You can leave out the cayenne pepper, or substitute chili powder for less heat. (Edit 7/25/2010: Since this is an egg and dairy free cake, you actually can agitate the flour a bit, because it is the gluten that holds the cupcake together. Making this a second time, i put in 1 tsp of Cayenne pepper, and I think the chili powder provides a slightly better taste. I also upped the Cinnamon to 3 tsp., as I think the cinnamon came out more pronounced. The downside was that many thought the chocolate flavor wasn’t there.)

*(Note: Serious Eats has made this cake without the canola oil, so it may be optional. I would think that the cake would be drier, and I tend to like moist cupcakes.)

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. You can also make one 8 or 9 inch layer, and cook for approximately 30 minutes. A toothpick will come out clean when finished.

Top with Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

A few notes on the swiss buttercream: when the eggs are at proper temperature, you can feel the mixture and it will no longer feel gritty. Make sure that everything is clean, otherwise the initial meringue will not fluff up. When adding the butter, “curdling” or it looking lumpy is fine, just keep beating. “Melting” is not okay. Make sure your kitchen is cooler than 75 degrees or so , otherwise the butter may melt. If you are really worried, watch this video on 123 Swiss Buttercream.

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