Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pina Colada Cupcakes

"If you like Pina Coladas
And getting caught in the rain"

Ironically it was raining outside as I made these unique and delicious cupcakes!  I made them for a wine tasting trip with a group of women I call my "Boat B****es".  We came up with the name for our little group while on a weekend cruise to Mexico and I can't think about boats, Mexican food, tequila or pina coladas without thinking fondly of these fabulous (and crazy) women!

The Pina Colada was created in Puerto Rico and in Spanish means "strained pineapple".  This yummy drink consists of rum, pineapple juice and coconut cream, none of which is usually found in the common cupcake.  Seems like a challenge to me and who doesn't like a challenge that involves drinking yummy Malibu Rum!?!  What I didn't realize when I set out to create these cupcakes was that it has already been done.  That's ok, mine won't be the first Pina Colada Cupcakes but I will make them the tastiest and hopefully the most creative!

Don't judge....I used a mix!  I don't always make my cakes from scratch (shhhhh....it's a secret)!  Sometimes when I am playing with a baking idea it is easier to use a mix until I get the flavors down and then work on my cake recipe.  With this one, I'm not sure I will stop using the mix, it was super easy and yummy!  Use any yellow cake mix or cake recipe you like and replace all of the water in the recipe with 1/2 coconut milk and 1/2 Malibu Rum!  The Rum adds to the Pina Colada experience and really brings out the coconut flavor in the cake.  I also add the Rum to my buttercream.  Can you say YUM!

The filling for these yummy cupcakes is a pineapple curd and is absolutely necessary to give it that tropical taste!

Give these cupcakes a try, you can even drink their liquid counterpart at the same time and pretend you are on the beach in Hawaii or a cruise to Mexico!  :)

Random picture of my kitchen helper, Cocoa, who is watching me make these cupcakes and begging me to drop something on the kitchen floor!

This recipe is featured on "Spatulas On Parade" and  http://www.foodiefriendsfriday.com  Linky Party

Pina Colada Cupcakes
Makes 20 cupcakes

One box yellow cake mix (or your own recipe)
1 1/3 cups water (I substituted 1/2 coconut milk, 1/2 Malibu Rum)
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup shredded coconut

Mix and bake cupcakes as instructed on back of box using my substitutions for the water and adding in the cup of shredded coconut.

Allow to cool completely.  Cut and remove a small section from the middle of the cupcake to prepare for the pineapple curd filling.

Pineapple Curd:
20 oz can crushed pineapple
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

Strain the pineapple, squeeze as much of the juice out as you can.  Should get close to a cup of juice, reserve the pineapple.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the pineapple juice, egg yolk, corn starch and sugar.  Cook, stirring constantly, over medium to medium-low heat until curd is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon.  This can take as long as 10 minutes or can be quicker, depending upon your stove and the temperature of the ingredients when you begin.

Take off heat and whisk in butter, one piece at a time.  Stir in the reserved pineapple and cover with plastic wrap to keep a film from forming on top of the curd.  Refrigerate until firm, this can take several hours.

Malibu Buttercream:
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup Malibu Rum (I may have added more, I am admitting nothing, LOL)

In an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, whisk the butter at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Turn speed down to low and add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time.  Slowly add in the rum and beat until incorporated.  Turn speed up to high and beat until nice and creamy.

Assemble Cupcakes:
Pipe or spoon the pineapple curd into the hollowed out center of the cupcakes.  Pipe buttercream frosting onto the cupcakes.  Decorate the tops of the cupcakes with toasted coconut and a cherry and you will have a gorgeous and tasty Pina Colada in cupcake form!!


Recipe Shared On:

This recipe is featured on "Spatulas On Parade" and  http://www.foodiefriendsfriday.com  Linky Party

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mario Brothers Cupcakes

Recently a friend asked me if I could make cupcakes with a Mario Brothers theme for her son's 8th Birthday.  Not a problem....cupcakes are easy (so I thought)!  While it is true that cupcakes are easy, making characters to decorate said cupcakes is not always a piece of cake (no pun intended)!

You may be surprised to hear that I have never worked with fondant.  I have absolutely no experience with it except for watching Duff work his magic on "Ace of Cakes".  Fondant always seemed a little scary to me so I just never even tried using it.  Well....those days are over.  I bought pre-made fondant (let's tackle one new thing at a time) and gel food coloring and started playing in the kitchen!  I found several pictures of Mario cupcakes on the web and used those pictures as a pattern for my designs.  SOOOOO much fun and not that hard, once I got the hang of it!  I don't have any special tools, I used my rolling pin and small, sharp paring knives for all of the cutting.  (sorry no pictures of the process, I was too absorbed in cutting to get the camera out)

I couldn't wait to share all of my cute pictures with my blog friends!

The cupcakes were just plain chocolate and plain white cakes so basically the only actual recipe I have to share with you is the frosting which is to-die-for!!  I used Martha Stewart's Swiss Meringue Buttercream which is perfect frosting, not to sweet, easy to color, easy to pipe.

Hope you enjoyed my little "Mario" album!  Lesson of the day: don't be afraid to play with fondant....it's like playing with playdough only it's edible!!!  ;)

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
2 1/4 cups sugar

10 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
8 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Gel-paste food coloring (optional)

Heat sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisking, until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes.

Return bowl to mixer, and whisk, gradually increasing speed from low to medium-high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla. Switch to a paddle attachment. Beat until air bubbles are gone, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Beat in food coloring, 1 drop at a time, until desired color is achieved. (If making more than 1 color, divide buttercream and work in batches.)

note:  when you begin to add the butter, the frosting will start to resemble cottage cheese.  This is normal...don't be afraid....don't throw the batch out....just keep beating.  Even if you have to keep beating for another 10 minutes....I promise it will turn out perfect!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Guest Post with "Is Butter a Carb"- Chocolate Mousse Cupcakes

Good morning and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today I am lucky enough to be a guest blogger on one of my favorite food blogs!   Liam, at "Is Butter a Carb", was kind enough to ask me to write a post for today.  I discovered Liam and his fabulous blog through  Foodbuzz in January and I have been a loyal follower ever since.  It is hard not to LOVE his blog....not only does he have fabulous recipes with plenty of chocolate, Nutella, and alcohol, but he is also hilarious!!  Once you start reading his blog you will be hooked.  Some day Liam will be a famous Psychologist/Trampoliner (Yes he competes on the trampoline) and I want you to remember who introduced you to him first!!

For this post I decided to go with something purely chocolate and with a touch of alcohol (in honor of Liam).  I made a chocolate cupcake with a chocolate mousse frosting!  YUMMM!

Head on over to "Is Butter a Carb" to read my post, get my fabulous recipe and check out Liam's fantastic blog!

Have a fabulous Saturday!!

Baker Becky

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Apparently cupcake challenges were the big thing in 2009 and people were making a lot of Martha Stewart recipes from her fabulous book "Martha Stewart's Cupcakes".  I missed the boat on that one but I'm definitely in a cupcake mood this year!  I have never been a big fan of the cupcake but now that I see all of the wonderful things you can do with them, I am hooked!  They are so much fun to fill and glaze and add different ingredients to....gone are the days of box cakes and tubs of frosting!  

When I was asked to make a special dessert for a birthday I thought to myself "what would Martha bake?"  I'm pretty sure she would be pleased with my selection.  I chose to make her Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes which sound more intimidating than they really are.  The cupcakes themselves were very simple. I actually made them the day before I needed them and they stayed super moist.

I'm not going to lie to you.....the caramel filling was a bit challenging.  On the first batch (yes, it took me two tries) I waited and waited for the candy thermometer to rise to 360 and when it was at 325 I turned away from the stove to take pictures of the cupcakes.  BIG mistake!  Burned the first batch.  The second batch I cooked over medium-high, as opposed to Martha's suggested high heat, and I never turned away for a second.  The caramel turned out perfect!  My advice to you is to just be patient and stay near by and focused on the caramel and it will be fine!

I used a cool little gadget meant for hollowing a cupcake but you could use a small paring knife to cut away a little of the center for the filling.  I actually poured my filling in but you can spoon it in if that is easier for you.

Second warning.....there is about 50000000 pounds of butter in this frosting!  OK, that's an exaggeration. But it is pretty close.  There is a lot of butter and a lot of chocolate and totally worth every extra calorie!  The frosting may be the best part of this dessert.  It was rich and chocolaty and, as you can see from the photo, so glossy and beautiful!  The cupcakes were meant to be sprinkled with fleur de sel but I decorated mine with dark chocolate decorations as they were for a birthday party and I wanted them to be festive.  Please do use the fleur de sel though, the salt goes perfectly with the sweetness of the caramel!

Martha Stewart's Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

The Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup warm water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined.

Spoon the batter into liners about two-thirds full. Bake approximately 15 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Transfer tins to wire racks and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 1 month in air tight containers.

To finish, use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake and throw away the pieces. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm Salted Caramel Filling into each hollowed-out cupcake. You will notice the caramel will sink into the cupcake a little, just fill it up a bit more. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.

Use a pastry bag with a medium open-star tip and pipe Dark Chocolate Frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Garnish each cupcake with a pinch of sea salt. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are filled and frosted. Store at room temperature in airtight containers - do NOT refrigerate. Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Filling:
2 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, preferably fleur de sel

Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.

Cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360°F. Remove rom heat and slowly pour in cream; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt.

Use immediately; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable.

Dark Chocolate Frosting:
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Combine cocoa and boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved.

With electric mixer on medium-high, beat butter, confectioners' sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture.

Recipe from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Homemade S'mores Pop Tarts

You heard me!  HOMEMADE POP TARTS!!!  ;)  What a happy day!

I don't remember eating pop tarts as a child.  Mom didn't like junk food for breakfast or sugar cereals (except for Captain Crunch on Christmas).  My first memory of eating one is as an adult and I remember they had the texture of cardboard and were way too sweet.  My children do not have such discriminating tastes, they love them and beg for them all the time.  Every once in a while I will buy a box as a special treat but for the most part pop tarts do not enter my kitchen.  (Ironically, my Mother sneaks them to the kids when I am not looking)

While I don't like to buy the sugary stuff I will make almost anything requested of me.  Knowing this, my youngest put in his order for homemade pop tarts.  The boys discussed it and agreed that they wanted s'mores flavor, of course, why make it easy on Mom and choose strawberry.

I used the pastry recipe on the King Arthur Flour website, I read reviews and everyone agrees this is the best.  For the filling I used my recipe for chocolate fudge that is spread on my Chocolate Revel Bars and a jar of marshmallow fluff.  The fudge recipe makes enough for two batches of pop tarts or you could save the leftovers for another use (or eat it out of the pan with a spoon, not that I would ever do that)!

Tips, tips, tips.....I think they were fabulous and flaky and gooey when right out of the oven.  I can only assume that the boys thought so too because all 9 pop tarts were gone in a day!  I think the only thing I would do differently is to add a drizzle of chocolate on the top of the pop tarts just to make them look a little fancier.   The boys wouldn't change anything except to have me double the recipe next time!

Caught you Max!  Gotta let them cool first!
Enjoy! These are NOT just for kids!!!  ;)



2 cups (8 ½ ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 quarter-pound sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter until the mixture holds together when you squeeze it, with pecan-sized lumps of butter still visible. Mix the egg and milk, and add it to the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive.

Divide the dough in half; each half will weigh about 10 ounces (about 280g). Shape each half into a rough 3" x 5" rectangle, smoothing the edges. Roll out immediately; or wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Fudge Filling:
2 tablespoons butter

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz package semisweet chocolate pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a medium saucepan combine the butter, the sweetened condensed milk, and the chocolate pieces.  Cook over low heat until chocolate melts, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla.

Assemble the Tarts:

If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8" thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9" x 12".  Cut the dough into nine 3" x 4 " rectangles.

Roll the second piece of dough just as you did the first and again cut nine 3" x 4" rectangles.

Beat the egg, and brush it over the entire surface of the dough. Pipe or spread the fudge filling onto each of the nine rectangles leaving a 1/2" border, I piped two lines of fudge leaving space between them for the marshmallow.  Pipe or spread a row of the marshmallow fluff between the fudge on each rectangle.  Place the second sheet of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around each pocket of jam, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangles.

Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake the tarts for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Makes 9 pop tarts.

Pastry recipe from kingarthurflour.com

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lemon Cheesecake Creme Brulee Bars and an Earthquake!

Earthquake!  Monday mornings are difficult enough but all of us in the San Francisco area were awakened by a jolt at 5am this morning.  The earthquake was a 4.0 magnitude and nothing too serious but big enough to jolt us all awake and keep me from being able to fall back to sleep.  It will surely be a very looooong and sleepy Monday.

Since I'm awake I will share with you a yummy dessert I made this weekend.  I have been dying to try these Lemon Cheesecake Creme Brulee Bars ever since I first saw them on Lauren's Latest.  They looked sinful and delicious, two of my favorite qualities in a dessert.

I had  a lot of lemons just waiting to be used up so this recipe was perfect.  The base is super easy to make and the filling is the easiest cheesecake filling you can imagine.  Fabulous lemon flavor but certainly not overpowering and the sweetened condensed milk sweetens it and makes the filling so creamy but does not make the dessert overly sweet at all.  It is a no-fail recipe for sure.

My favorite part of the recipe was getting to use my kitchen torch!  I love to torch things!!!  These bars are fabulous as is and certainly do not need to be bruleed (is that a real word?) but I love how they look with their crackly tops once you burn the thin layer of sugar.  If you do not have a kitchen torch and really want this effect, just stick them under the broiler for a very short time and then pop them back in the refrigerator to keep the bars firm.

Delicious!!  Hope you all have a fabulous and earthquake-free day!

Lemon Cheesecake Creme Brulee Bars

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons lemon zest
6 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons fine granulated sugar for brulee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 glass dish with parchment paper and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. In large bowl, combine butter, sugar, flour and vanilla until dough forms. Press evenly into the bottom of prepared dish. Set aside. In another bowl, whip cream cheese. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Scrape sides and mix again. Pour in egg, lemon zest and juice. Mix until mixture starts to thicken, 20-30 seconds. Scrape sides and mix again briefly. Pour over the cookie bottom and smooth the top. Bake 20-25 minutes or until cheesecake is set completely. Cool, then refrigerate. Cut into 16 squares and separate. Sprinkle the tops of each square with 1 teaspoon of sugar and spread around with finger to evenly distribute sugar. Torch the tops until the sugar melts and turns an amber color. {If you don’t have a torch, place under the broiler}. Return squares to fridge until ready to serve.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Caramel Brownies

We are continuing with our "comfort Mommy" collection of desserts.  Apparently it is not enough for my son to get his Driving Permit, he also needs to learn how to drive!  Who knew?  Yesterday he had his first lesson with the driving school.  Yesterday....when it poured down rain here in sunny California!  Luckily the rain stopped long enough for him to get his two hours behind the wheel but it was still enough to cause this Mommy much worry and many more gray hairs.  His reaction to this new endeavor...."that was REALLY hard"!!

My reaction was to make anything that has chocolate in it!!  There is nothing like dark, rich chocolate and ooey, gooey caramel to calm the nerves and make you forget that your child who is too lazy to turn the lights off when he leaves a room is going to be driving a 4000 lb car that may need lights turned on and off occasionally. 

I found the recipe for these yummy brownies at http://annies-eats.com/ and followed her lead with the exclusion of nuts.  Please feel free to add them back in if you choose but I think they are perfect as is!

My only tip is to refrigerate or freeze the brownies before cutting to keep the gooey caramel from running all over your kitchen.  After that, they are perfect at room temperature.  You may have to hose yourself off when you are done but I assure you, it will be worth it!

Enjoy and remember to be careful on the streets....there is a teenager behind the wheel!!!  eeeek!  ;-)

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” 
― Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!!!

Caramel Brownies

For the brownies:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1½ cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1½ cups pecan, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
For the caramel filling:
14 oz. caramel candies, unwrapped
1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil and grease the foil well with butter or cooking spray.  Combine the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth.   Remove the bowl from the heat.  Whisk in the sugar, eggs and vanilla until incorporated.  Stir in the flour and salt just until combined.  Spread about half of the brownie batter in the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven, maintaining the oven temperature, and let cool for 20 minutes.

To make the caramel filling, combine the caramel candies and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Heat, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth.   Immediately spread the caramel mixture over the bottom brownie layer.  Pour the remaining brownie batter over the caramel layer, taking care to pour and spread it evenly otherwise it will be difficult to spread evenly over the caramel layer.  Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the final brownie layer.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing and serving.  (To speed cooling, chill in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.)

Lift the brownies from the pan using the edges of the foil.  Remove the foil and cut the brownies into individual squares.  Store in an airtight container.

Recipe from http://annies-eats.com/