Making Whoopie…Pies

My kids love to puruse lovely food photos in cookbooks and tell me which things they’d like to make.  While my husband and son were making plans to watch the superbowl, my daughter was checking out a baking activity for us ladies.  In the Whoopie Pie cookbook by Love Food (UK) she spied after dinner mint whoopee pies, and that was it. She even checked the cupboard and saw we had the ingredients.  Except one which she couldn’t reach.  So while we were baking the cookies and getting ready to make the frosting I realized we were out of mint extract.  Oops!  Hmmmm.  Here’s where it’s good to have a stocked pantry and the ability to make substitutions and create your own flavors.  Although my daughter was hoping for lemon extract.  I’m not a fan of lemon and chocolate.  Orange, yes.  Lemon, no.  Next she suggested coffee.  I was surprised by her choice, but chocolate and coffee is a perfect flavor pairing.

 

So we made After Game Mocha Whoopie Pies.  My kids not having too many whoopee pies in their lifetime were surprised by how soft the “cookies” were.  I had to explain this is more like cake and the cookies aren’t hard like an ice cream sandwich.  They understood better after seeing them assembled.  And yes, they scored a touchdown with the whole family.  These would be great for Valentine’s Day.  You could even shape the cakes into hearts.

Mocha Whoopie Pies

(this makes about 30 pies)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

scant 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

large pinch of salt

6 tablespoons butter, softened

generous 1/3 cup vegetable shortening

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 large egg, beaten

2/3 cup milk

 

Coffee Filling

1 1/4 cup cream cheese

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 teaspoon coffee extract

1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugarm sifted plus extra for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, cocoa and salt.

Place butter, shortening and sugar in a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until fluffy.  Beat in egg followed by half the flour mixture and the milk.  Stir in the rest of the flour mixture until incorporated.

Pipe or spoon small mounds of batter on the cookie sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart to allow for spreading.  Beake, one sheet at a time for 8 – 10 minutes until risen and just firm to the touch.  Cool for 5 minutes on pan, then carefully transfer with palate knife or spatula to a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the filling, place the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat together until well blended.  Beat in coffee extract and confectioner’s star until smooth.  Chill filling in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

To assemble carefully spoon the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a star nozzle or simply spread carefully on flat side of half the cakes.  Top the filling with a second cake and dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired.

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Happy 8 and 48, with Single Layer Cake Recipe

Well she’s not a baby anymore.  I can’t believe my daughter is 8.  Turning 8 also coincided with finally being 48 inches.  I say “finally” because she has been waiting for that height.  48 inches opens many doors to kids, such as the slide at the community pool, a host of carnival rides and being able to drive an indoor go cart.  This is what she wanted to do to celebrate her day.  That and making a birthday cake of course.

I went to my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that I’ve had for 20 plus years and found this recipe for a Busy Day Cake (aren’t they all?).  This was a super easy single layer cake that was perfect for last minute making and decorating.  We omitted the broiled coconut topping and went with a classic buttercream frosting.  Which of course we needed multiple colors.  The birthday girl and brother did it all by themselves.  They did a lovely and tasty job.

 

Busy Day Cake

Makes 8 servings

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cups sugar

2 teasponns baking powder

2/3 cup milk

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a bowl combine flour, sugar and baking powder.  Add milk, butter, egg and vanilla.  Beat on low speed with electric mixture till combined.  Beat on medium speed for additional 1 minute.  Pour batter into greased and floured 8 x 1 1/2 inch round baking pan.

Bake in 350F oven for 25 to 390 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Remove cake from pan.  Cool thoroughly, then frost and decorate.

 

 

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The Other Half…Birthday That Is

So remember we celebrated my daughter’s half birthday on New Year’s Day.  You’ll also recall I froze the extra cupcakes for my son’s half birthday which is just 2 weeks later.  I of course made new frosting, this time chocolate.  I’m happy to report the unfrozen cupcakes were delicious.  But for some reason my son wanted his frozen.  He asked me to frost his and put it back in the freezer.  O.K.  This meant my daughter wanted to do the same thing. O.K.

What’s next…heated ice cream?

 

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The Cupcake Caper

This time every year I am faced with lots of stress over cakes and cupcakes.  This year has been no exception and there’s only been one birthday so far.  You see the summer is full of birthdays in my family.  This year we added a preschool graduation into the mix too.  I’m not sure what got into me, but I thought I was going to make cake for my daughter’s graduation when I first signed up.  Until I was told there would be 150 cupcakes needed or two half sheet cakes.  Oops!

So I bought them at the suggested bakery near the school.  They are quite popular (and $$) and use fresh ingredients, but somehow I wasn’t impressed.  Though most of the 125+ people were happy and the cakes were eaten.  They were somehow bland and dense.  They were super cute though right?  And was I going to bake cake for that many people?  Nope.

 

However I spent two days (and more time and agony) perfecting 24 cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday party the following day.  Months ago my daughter picked out a cupcake photo she wanted me to make for her birthday.  It was an adorable cupcake decorated with sugar jewels out of our favorite cupcake cookbook (see previous review).  Turns out these are not so easy to find except for online and quite expensive ($1 per jewel).

Edible Diamonds

I went to CakeArt, an amazing cake decorating and baking supply store (they also have classes) in San Rafael for help on the jewels.  I thought if I can’t buy them, I can make them with molds.  Turns out they had a few “diamonds”, but the owner warned me they are made from isomalt and not good on many people’s stomache’s if eaten (and you know kids would try them).  Well, my daughter quickly understood this was not a good idea.  Luckily there were so many other lovely decorations she moved on and chose others.  This was still a few weeks before her party.

 

She still couldn’t decide on cupcake flavor.  One day she carried the cupcake book everywhere and reviewed it all during my son’s baseball game.  First she wanted lavender vanilla and I bought lavender.  Then it was strawberry milkshake, and I shopped for strawberry extract (couldn’t find).  It was too overwhelming that she could choose any flavor cupcake and frosting and mix and match with her chosen decoration.  Three days before she decided chocolate cake and vanilla buttercream frosting.  Hooray, I thought the hard part was over.

test batch

Since she had been so indecisive, yet so obsessive, I made a few test cupcakes for her reviewa few days before the party.  Then she says “Of course I’m going to like any of them…it’s a cupcake.”  Oh glad I wasn’t worried.  But glad I did the test.  I learned two valuable things from this recipe.  Do not spray with cooking oil as directed.  See above how the papers fall away?  And next, filling 1/2 to 2/3 full wasn’t enough.  I was also able to convince my daughter that the white frosting looked the best (her ideas of striped and colors were tried above).

test #2

Filling 3/4 cull and skipping the spray worked much better.

looking good and practicing my piping

Making the buttercream ahead for the test, I thought I’d just re-whip the next day when it was time to make a whole batch.  Well, this didn’t turn out so well.  The morning of the party, I frosted half of them and realized the butter cream was separating and kind of melting after a bit.  Yikes!

buttercream starting to separate

I quickly made another fresh batch of frosting and the second dozen looked far superior.  My daughter came in and said “Are these a diffrent kind?”  Having about one hour (still needing to shower and get dressed myself and pack the car with other food and ice chest) I scraped the frosting off the first dozen and refrosted them.  I felt much better.  O.K. first she was obsessed, and now I was.  As you can see, it all turned out fine…we made it to the party (at a gymnastics studio), everyone had fun, and the cupcakes were a hit.  Big kudos to the cupcake carrier too.  (Purchased at Target)  Great invention to protect your creations when on the go.

scraping off the melting frosting
fresh frosting fixed everything
the birthday girl adding the finishing touches
off to the party!
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Review from Southern Living’s Big Book of Cupcakes

Who can tell?  What sets them apart?  Is it the paper wrapper?  No, sometimes muffins have papers.  Is is the flavor?  No they can both be sweet or savory.  Is it the texture?  No, both can be light and fluffy or dense.  Is it the ingredients?  Nope, pretty standard to have butter, sugar, eggs, flour, etc.  I think it comes down to frosting.

Many a time I’ve put a muffin in a paper cup and called it a cupcake when my kids were smaller.  But now they ask “where’s the frosting?”  I can still get away with making a healthy muffin (bran, fruit etc) in a cupcake paper and putting a bit of “frosting” such as cream cheese or plain fresh whipped cream.  However…a new  cookbook arrived at my house for review: Southern Living’s Big Book of Cupcakes by Jan Moon.  And things will change. 

My kids have poured over it page by page looking at beautiful cupcakes.  When I get a new cookbook, I start marking pages of recipes that look interesting and may try.  My kids have marked more than half the book and it won’t even close now.  I’m in trouble….

My mother-in-law is visiting and we happen to be celebrating her birthday, so it’s time to try the new cookbook.  After much deliberation, my mother-in-law chooses Lemon Ice Box.  Not only do these have a lovely whipped cream frosting, but also a filling.  I’ve never ventured into filled cupcakes.  Now we’re ruined.  This is definitely not a muffin.

bring on the filling
whipped cream frosting

The cupcakes took a bit of time, which was fine for another rainy weekend day.  My kids enjoyed helping the licking the beaters.  Funny thing was that I forgot the shortening.  I don’t ever buy shortening, so I guess I just glanced over when I read the instructions.  I didn’t even realize I fogot until I put the cupcakes in the oven.  Oops.  It didn’t matter.  The cupcakes were great – moist and fluffy and tasty.  It made me question why the recipe had it to begin with. Hmmm….

You’ll be reading more about this book and cupcakes from me soon, I’m sure.

My Review

Pros – there are many…appealing photos, yummy recipes, innovative ingredients and flavors (did I mention maple bacon?)  Really a bible for cupcake followers.

Cons – not many so far.  Although like many baking and cake books, there are some hard to find decorations (which if course you can substitute).  I question the use of shortening and butter.

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King Cake, Take 2 …Cupcakes

I was searching through more king cake recipes and found one for cupcakes on the king Arthur Flour website.  This was immediately exciting to my kids because they both realized everyone could get their own “baby” (walnut) and luck for the year.   

Since I haven’t tasted anyone else’s king cake version, I still can’t compare.   This cake had a few of the elements of the crescent version – including the cream cheese frosting and the decorative colors.  However these may be my new go to vanilla cupcakes.  The cake was moist and the cream cheese frosting very versatile.  The few unique ingredients that are in a classic brioch like king cake and not in a classic vanilla cupcake are the addition of Fiori di Sicilia (a combo citrus and vanilla flavor) and nutmeg.  I made a few tweaks to the recipe I found online, as there was too much sugar in the frosting, which was plenty sweet enough.  I used a mixture of lemon oil and vanilla extract as I did not have Fiori di Sicilia.

These are great for a mardi gras party with kids, so no one gets left out of the luck.  Just be sure of any potential nut allergies if you use the walnut “baby”.Also good for a small goup or family, rather than making a whole cake.  You can even freeze cooked, unfrosted cupcakes to enjoy another day.  Here’s how to make them…

  Mardi Gras King Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons soft butter
  • 2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia; OR 1 teaspoon vanilla + 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 2 large eggs

Icing

  • 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • colored sugars, preferably purple, yellow, and green
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers.
2)In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.
3) Cut butter into pieces and beat in with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.
4) Combine the milk and vanilla in a small bowl.  Add milk to butter mixture, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.
5) With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Add the second egg, again beating for 30 seconds.
6) Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat briefly, just till smooth.
7) Scoop the batter by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into the prepared muffin tin. A muffin scoop works well here.
8) Bake the cupcakes for 23 to 25 minutes, until they’ve domed, and are a light golden brown around the edges. They’ll spring back when pressed gently on top, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
9) Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and place on a rack to cool completely before icing.
10) To make the icing: Combine the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and lemon oil in a medium-sized bowl, and beat them together until light and fluffy.
11) Add the sugar gradually, beating well.
12)optional – you can 1 – 2 tsp. add milk if frosting is too thick.
13) Spread each cake with icing, and immediately dip in gold, purple, and green sparkling sugars, covering about 1/3 of the cupcake with each color sugar.
14) Store at room temperature for several days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.
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Happy Birthday with Ghostly Good Cake Recipe

My children’s b-days are both in July.  (Actually mine is too, but who’s counting?)  There’s always a lot of gatherings and feasts as the various grandparents each come to celebrate.  Of course this also means birthday cakes.  I’ve talked about my cupcakes and cookies for birthday and my cakes at the half (birthday), but it was time to try someone’s else’s recipe.  Luckily we had been to the library and found a really great children’s book called “The Bake Shop Ghost” by Jacqueline K. Oghurn.

It’s the story of a baker named Cora Lee Merriwheather who ran a wonderful bakery and was relied upon by the town for all it’s cakes, pies and pastries.  Cora Lee dies and she haunts the bakery; scaring away all the new owners and sending them out the door in hysterics.  After the shop sits for years a pastry chef from a cruise ship, Miss. Annie Washington, settles in and has it out with ghost Merriwheather.  Annie asks the ghost what she wants and Cora Lee replies “Bake me a cake to fill me up and bring tears to my eyes, a cake like one that I might have baked but that no one ever made for me”.  Annie is stumped and makes hundreds of recipes from around the world but can’t  please the ghost for over a month.  Finally she figures out the thing that Cora Lee never got… a birthday cake with her name on it.  The ghost and Annie continue to get along and bake together (unbeknownst to the towns people, of course) , now for the Washington and Merriwheather Bake Shop. 

At the end of the book is a recipe for that birthday cake that my kids and I made to celebrate the birthdays.  It really is one of the best (for this world and beyond).

Ghost-Pleasing Chocolate Cake

This rich chocolate layer cake would satisfy the hunmgrioest ghost.  Is is adapted from my friend Luli Gray, a wionderful writer and baker, from a recipe published in Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare two 8 or 9 inch round pans or one 13 x 9 inch pan, by lining the bottoms with parchment paper. 

In a Large Bowl Mix Together…

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups ll purpose flour, siften before measuring

3/4 cup cocoa

4 tablespoons buttermilk powder (available in supermarket baking sections)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a Medium Saucepan, melt over low heat (or you can use the microwave)…

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

Remove from Heat and Add…

1 cup water

4 beaten eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until blended.  Pour evenly into prepared pans and bake on the middle rack of the oven about 30 -40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with moist crumbs gathering to it.  Do not overbake.  Cool thoroughly on a rack before icing.

Easy Frosting

This frosting can also be tinted with food coloring for decoration or writing.

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/3 cup softened unsalted butter

1/4 cup water 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch salt

Combine all ingreidnets in a large bowl and beat until smooth.  If using an electric mixer, beat at low speed.  Add more sugar for stiffer frosting.

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