Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Okay, time to get back into blogging.  So Fall has yet to really hit us in the Bay Area.  We're still wearing shorts and t-shirts during the days, and summer berries are still making a weekly appearance at our farmer's markets.  I grew up in British Columbia, where I took the change of seasons for granted, and I totally miss it.  Most of the food blogs I follow are in the full swing of Fall baking, and even though it's still summer here I can't resist making all these lovely treats.

I had the idea to make these cupcakes for our first Iron Cupcake Challenge here in the East Bay (more on that later!!).  I wanted to make an apple cupcake with a caramel center, topped with caramel frosting, and finished with a mini caramel apple on top.  I don't know why but I thought other than crab apples that there was such thing as mini apples, but alas I couldn't find any.  Then my Sunset magazine arrived with the most adorable mini caramel apples made using a melon baller.  Brilliant!

Well, making the caramel apples was a bit of a debacle.  The caramel recipe wouldn't really adhere to the apple since it was so damp.  So I gave up and found a similar recipe online using melted butterscotch chips.  Not quite the authentic effect I was going for but cute enough. 

One thing I have to mention is that the caramel sauce I usually make for cupcake fillings didn't quite work out this time.  I trusted my candy thermometer (which broke shortly thereafter) instead of my gut and I ended up with gritty caramel sauce.  I was really annoyed until it hardened up and my husband told me what I made was the center of our favorite See's candy, which is a fudgy textured caramel covered in milk chocolate.  Yay!  I'm going to try and recreate my mistake and hopefully you'll be seeing a caramel candy post soon. :)

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Caramel Cupcakes
from Magnolia Bakery

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temp
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped, peeled, crisp tart apples

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 24 muffin tins with liners (note: this makes more than 24 cupcakes, but most people I know don't have an oven large enough to fit more than two 12 muffin tins so you may need to do this in batches).
In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, on med speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.  Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with milk and vanilla.  With each addition, beat until ingredients are incorporated, but do not over beat.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape down sides making sure ingredients are well blended.  Stir in apples.
Divide the batter into tins, filling each about 3/4 full.  Using a large ice cream scoop makes this easy peasy.  Bake for 22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  After about 5 minutes remove to a wire rack to cool.

Caramel Sauce for Filling
from Martha Stewart

2 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt (if you like salted caramel increase this to at least 1 1/2 teaspoons)

Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over 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 from 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.

Caramel Buttercream Frosting
from Bakers Royale  (this website is all kinds of awesome)

½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons of heavy cream
½ teaspoons of kosher salt
1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
11/2 cup powdered sugar

To make the caramel portion: Add sugar and water into a saucepan over medium low heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Use a wet brush to remove any crystals that form on the side. Once sugar has dissolved increase heat to high. Now and then, using the handle give the pot a swirl to keep the mixture moving. Do not stir the mixture directly. The mixture will start to bubble after a minute. As the mixture darkens to a medium amber color, approximately 5-7 minutes add the 2 tablespoons of  butter and cream to saucepan. The mixture will bubble wildly. Whisk to combine (bubbles will subside upon cooling). Add salt and stir to combine. Set aside to cool completely before adding it to the next step.
Finishing the caramel buttercream frosting: Place butter and vanilla in a bowl and beat on high until butter is pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Turn mixer speed down to medium and add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time. Beat until combined. 3. Add in  caramel sauce and beat until combined.

Mini Caramel Apples
from Sunset Magazine 

3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
About 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup decorative mini orange candies
2 large red apples

About 20 slender but sturdy food-safe twigs, such as magnolia twigs, or craft sticks
1. Heat corn syrup, sugar, butter, and 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. cream in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat until mixture reaches 275° on a candy thermometer*, about 15 minutes, stirring often with the thermometer or a wooden spoon once it starts to brown. While caramel boils, prepare the remaining ingredients (you'll need to have everything ready before beginning step 3).
2. Grease a baking sheet and set aside. Put nuts, chocolate chips, and candies on individual plates and set aside. Using a 1-in. melon baller, cut apples into balls (you should get 8 to 10 from each apple). Push thickest end of a twig into each apple ball through skin side to center. Set on paper towels to absorb moisture.
3. Remove caramel from heat when at 275° and pour in remaining 1/4 cup cream, stirring until very smooth (it will come together after about 1 minute) and being careful of any splattering caramel.
4. Dip apple balls into caramel, making sure caramel comes over edges of skin and letting excess drip off. Dip bottom of each ball into either nuts, chocolate chips, or candies, then set on the baking sheet to cool.
*You'll need an accurate candy thermometer. Check it by immersing in boiling water; it should read 212°. If it's a few degrees too high or low, cook the caramel to a corresponding few degrees more or less. If it's way off, get a new thermometer.
Make ahead: Chill until ready to serve, up to 3 hours ahead. Serve at room temperature.

Linked to:
Sweet Treats Thursday

Monday, October 17, 2011

Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

Sorry for my lack of posts lately, I have a lot of stuff going on right now.  I still have loads of posts from the summer so here's an old one that I never got around to posting.  Peaches may not be in season for most of us anymore, but you could easily use canned peaches.

I made these luscious peach cupcakes for my birthday back at the end of August.  I used the pineapple cupcake recipe from Glorious Treats and subbed diced peaches in for the pineapple.  These were super moist and had a lovely fresh taste.  I had no idea what kind of frosting to use and my husband suggested brown sugar.  Brilliant!  The frosting was a little crunchy from the brown sugar and was a nice contrast to the ultra moist cupcakes.  A quick disclaimer:  I can't remember the exact measurements I used for the frosting so the recipe below might not be precise.  Frosting is one of the easiest things to make and fix so just adjust either the confectioner's sugar or heavy cream to get the consistency you're looking for.

I served these at my birthday potluck with a bunch of old friends, and they were a hit.  I actually got so many lovely compliments on them, I was truly flattered.  Maybe the idea of one day opening a bakery isn't so crazy after all. :)

Peach Cupcakes
adapted from Glorious Treats

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups diced peaches, the juicier the better

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until slightly thickened and a light cream color (about 2 minutes).

On low speed, mix in the oil and vanilla until blended.  Add in the peaches and sour cream and mix until fully incorporated.  Add the flour mixture and blend until just combined and smooth.

Line a 2 cupcake pans with paper liners and fill about 2/3 full. I find that using a large ice cream scoop is the ticket to perfectly portioned cupcakes

Bake cupcakes in a pre-heated 350*F oven for about 22 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Brown Sugar Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
4 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup at a time, alternating with the cream.  Beat until light and fluffy.  If it isn't the consistency you want, add more cream to make it runnier, and more confectioner's sugar to firm it up.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Snake Birthday Cake

I made this cake for a little boy's 5th birthday party today.  It's the biggest cake I've made, a 12 X 18 sheet cake, two layers of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, serving 60 people.  I was so pleased with the way the snakes came out, the big snake is made out of two mini bundt cakes and covered in fondant.  The little snakes and letters are all fondant.  Cute, no? :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Sweet Little Bird Baby Shower

My dear friend Jessica is expecting her second little boy any day now, and my friend Helen and I recently threw her an intimate baby shower in my backyard.  I LOVE throwing any kind of party, and Jessica kindly agreed to let me share the details with you.  :)

We made the invitations, nothing fancy, but cute:

Plenty of sweet treats of course:

Brioche Recipe
Recipe coming soon

I made the cupcake wrappers, they're super easy and it makes it easy to coordinate your party.  Find the instructions here.

The Wishing Tree: guests could leave wishes for the new baby

We invited guests to decorate a onsie for the new baby:

Me and the glowing mama-to-be:

Congrats Jessica!!!
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