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Welcome Back from AFRICA! Vegan Spiced Chai Latte Cupcakes + Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

17 May

This is a double welcome back from Africa!

I baked these requested cupcakes for Austin’s little sister (but she’s already 20!) as a sweet homecoming treat when she came back from her study abroad trip to South Africa last week!

You can read all about her adventures in her amazing blog here. You will be completely enthralled by her adventures cage-diving with Great White sharks, almost being blown off a cliff by 80mph+ winds, serving at a day-care, and touching cross-cultural experiences. Did I mention she met Desmond Tutu?! There’s a photo of her sidled right up next to him, shaking his hand and grinning. Adorbs. Miss Emily Elizabeth is one amazing young lady, and I love her. We are so glad to have her back at home with us.

And the second part of the “double welcome back” is my return to this blog! Yep, it’s been about 13 weeks since I posted any deliciousness here. I missed sugar so much when I was in Ghana that the first activity I did when I came back was bake up two batches of treats for the San Diego Food Bloggers Bake Sale, in support of the charity Share Our Strength. Totally cool experience, and I can’t wait for next year!

For readers that have been wondering about what I actually did in Ghana, see this post, or check out the extensive journals I wrote in my blog. In short, it was life-altering, and I have it in mind to return to little Saboba town and serve there again.

On to the the sweetness! Emily is a fan of chai lattes, and who wouldn’t be? I love their complex, spicy, exotic flavor. This version is vegan–no eggs, no milk, no butter, and therefore very dense like a muffin, but still SO delicious. Once you add the Swiss meringue buttercream, however, you can’t count the entire cupcake as vegan, . Too bads, but who’s complaining!? I may be a slightly granola Berkeley girl, but I will never give up butter… Unless my doctor tells me to, of course. Listen to your doctor, friends! Oops sorry, remnants of Saboba are still lingering with me, I guess!

Back on track! I was afraid of Swiss meringue buttercream after my first very soupy attempt, but I decided to tackle it again for the sake of Emmy’s cupcakes, and it turned out to be a success! Lesson learned: don’t let a one-time failure scare you into submission! You are the boss of the kitchen, and maybe it will take just one more try to conquer that difficult recipe. Got it? Got it. :) Now go on and try these scrumptious cupcakes!

Spiced Chai Latte Cupcakes
Makes about 16 cupcakes

2 1/4 c. Soy milk
8 Tea bags, black tea (I used Lipton yellow label, ubiquitous in Ghana ;] )
2 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 1/2 c. Flour
4 tbsp. Cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 tbsp. Ground Cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp. Ground Cardamom
1 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp. Ground Cloves
1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
2/3 c. Canola Oil
1 1/2 c. Granulated Sugar
1 tbsp. Vanilla

  1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, scald the soy milk (heat to just under boiling).
  2. Take the strings and papers off the tea bags if necessary. Remove the saucepan from the heat and steep the tea for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the tea bags, and re-measure the soy milk, making sure that at least 2 cups remain. If there is less, you can top off to 2 cups with some fresh soy milk.
  4. Whisk the apple cider vinegar into the milk and let it sit until it is curdled.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  6. Pour the soymilk, oil, and vanilla into the bowl and stir until just incorporated.
  7. Fill cupcake pan with liners, and put about 1/4 c. of batter into each well.
  8. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

    Heat and whisk your sugar + egg white until it looks like this!

Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

1 c. Granulated Sugar
4 Large egg whites
1 1/2 c. Unsalted butter at room temperature

1 tbsp. Vanilla
2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

  1. In a double boiler, or a metal pan set in another pan filled with simmering water, cook the sugar and the egg whites together, whisking constantly until all the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is white and uniform.
  2. Pour into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium speed until cool, and forms thick, shiny meringue, about 5 minutes. I used a hand-hend Cuisinart 7-speed mixer on speed 5.
  3. Add in the butter, 1 tbsp. at a time, beating after until smooth. If the mixture looks soupy or curdled, continue beating, and it will smooth out!
  4. After all the butter has been added, beat another 6-10 minutes on medium-high. Add in the vanilla and the cinnamon.

Recipe adapted from Love and Olive Oil

All you have to do after that is frost your cupcakes! You can use the regular ole knife method, or fill a piping bag (I just use a large ziploc) and pipe it on. I myself just used a large ziploc bag-in-a-cup method. Easy and delish.

Emily and everyone else in Austin’s family, and our family friends who came to the welcome-back-Emily party just loved them. :) Austin himself said, “AH… MAY… ZING” in a text. That’s how I knew they were good enough to share with y’all. And I hope you really do enjoy them!

Make them for your hubby to say welcome home from work.
Make them for your kids to say welcome home from school.
Make them for anyone you love to say now we’re together, welcome home.

<3 ATP

Secret Breakfast Cupcakes– Bourbon + Corn Flakes

2 Oct

Greetings, all! This lovely little experiment is what I would like to call the Secret Breakfast Cupcake, inspired by Humphry Slocombe’s famous Secret Breakfast ice cream flavor, just as promised.

And an amazing flavor it truly is! The San Francisco ice cream shop that I mentioned previously in this post creates this flavor with Jim Beam Kentucky bourbon and little bits of corn flakes scattered throughout, which makes complete sense. Of course you’d want a breakfast of bourbon + corn flakes to be secret! I am in no way condoning this type of nutrition or habit, but how very sassy of them! And what an interesting and novel flavor combination! This is among my favorite flavors at Humphry Slocombe, so I decided to make a cupcake out of it. Of course, if you’re not a fan of the cornflakes, just leave them out and you’ve still got scrumptious bourbon cupcakes! Hope you like bourbon. :)

It’s my first attempt at creating an original recipe, not borrowed or adapted from anywhere/anything, and I’ve gotta say, making your own recipe out of nothing was a long and arduous process! I did some research, I drafted and tried many recipes (I think 4 or 5 in total), and came out with many flops, finally arriving at this product. Throughout the whole thing, I was wondering, Do professional bakers do this? Do they make recipes up off the top of their head? What is their secret power?! Needless to say, after so many batches, I was quite frustrated, but when I tasted this version a few minutes out of the oven, I almost keeled over in surprise and triumph. It was SO good. I don’t typically like to toot my own horn, and I know I probably got a lot wrong in the traditional ingredient ratios and techniques involved in creating cupcakes, but gosh darnit!–these tasted delicious! But that is just my opinion. You’ve got to make these and judge for yourself :)

The cake I ended up with was very dense and moist, almost like pound cake or a quickbread. I tasted just the right amount of bourbon flavor, and the little vanilla seed specks throughout made the cake look oh-so-pretty! The buttercream frosting was very sweet and a little overpowering–I couldn’t really taste the corn flakes at the same intensity as I did in the ice cream flavor. However, after many trials and errors, adding the corn flakes on top of everything was the only way I could think of to not have them absorb moisture and lose all their crunchiness.

**As always, starred steps will have notes at the end.

Bourbon Cupcakes
Makes about 20 cupcakes

2 c. Cake flour
2 c. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
3 tsp. Baking powder
1 c. Unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 c. Bourbon, like Jim Beam
4 eggs, room temperature
1 c. Buttermilk (I improv’ed with milk topped it off with white vinegar)
2 tsp. Vanilla extract
2/3 Vanilla bean pod

  1. Pour your buttermilk into a measuring cup. Split the vanilla bean in half length-wise with a sharp knife. Using the non-cutting edge of the knife, scrape the inside of both bean halves to remove all the tiny black seeds. Add the seeds to the buttermilk, along with the pod, and let that steep for about 30 minutes, or until it reaches room temperature.
  2. At this point, preheat your oven to 350. Heat the bourbon in a saucepan over medium heat until it just reaches boiling. Set this aside to cool.
  3. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together and set aside.
  4. Using a stand or hand-held mixer, cream the butter and the sugar together for 5 minutes until it has gained volume and turned a very light shade. Add the eggs, mixing well after each.* Add the vanilla extract.
  5. Once the bourbon has cooled, add it to the buttermilk. Take the vanilla pod out at this point, of course.
  6. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the creamed butter. Mix slowly. Add 1/2 of the liquid ingredients, and mix slowly. Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix, then the last 1/2 of the liquid and mix, and then finally the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients.*
  7. Pour the batter into the wells of a muffin pan lined with paper liners, and bake for about 18 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Notes:

  • Since these cupcakes came out quite dense, you can try this method to make them a little fluffier: In this step, only add the yolks to the creamed butter mixture. Save the whites and beat separately until they form soft peaks. Gently fold these whites into the batter after step 6.
  • This method of adding the dry and wet ingredients in a series of 3/2 prevents a lot of gluten from forming when batter is over-mixed. This keeps the cake tender instead of tough.

Bourbon Buttercream
Makes enough to frost about 20 cupcakes

1/2 c. (1 stick) Unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 c. confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1/3 Vanilla bean pod
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
About 4 tbsp. Bourbon

  1. Cream the butter until light and fluffy.
  2. Incorporate about 1/2 of powdered sugar at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Cut the vanilla bean pod, scrape, and add the seeds.
  4. Gradually add the bourbon and mix well.
  5. Continue adding powdered sugar or bourbon until you reach the right consistency for piping. If you’ve reached your desired bourbon flavor, but the frosting is still too dry, you can add milk to avoid the overpowering bourbon taste.

You could frost these cupcakes with a knife, or pipe them like I did. I don’t have any piping tips, so I just mimicked this piped look by filling a ziplock bag with the frosting, cutting a 1/4-inch hole in the corner, and piping with that. I use a handy no-mess method to fill the baggie: open up the ziplock and place it in a glass, cuffing the open edges around the rim of the glass. Now you still have two hands to manage the bowl and your spatula :)

Of course, this recipe probably has  a lot of issues, especially coming from an amateur with very little baking experience. So if you’ve got suggestions for how to make this cupcake less dense, or how to incorporate the cornflakes so you can taste them better, leave me a comment in the space below! I’d love to hear your feedback!

I shared these cupcakes with my bf’s family! I hope you make them for a special person, or special occasion, or maybe just for Wednesday night dessert. Let me know if you tried them, and how you liked them!

“Irish Car Bomb” Cupcakes

25 Aug

While the name of these cupcakes is certainly politically incorrect, the taste is quite irresistible. The rich, full-bodied combination of chocolate and Guinness beer in the cake combined with the creamy sweetness of the frosting is downright wonderful. I hope you make these soon so you can taste their awesomeness! Make them for your Friday night get-together with your friends!

I made them for my friend Bryson on his birthday, per his request. Bryson was one of the first people I met in college, as he was suitemate to my boyfriend during our freshman year! In the four years since then, I’ve come to know Bryson as a kind, forgiving, fun-loving, faithful-till-the-end friend. He’s also very much the manly-man! Tha BF and I visited him at his home one summer, and found that his brother, his dad, and he had built a MAN-CAVE in their yard, complete with a motorcycle workshop, minifridge with frosty mugs, and a gun safe. Oh yes, I kid you not! So I agreed that these cupcakes, inspired by a guiness/bailey’s/jameson drink, would be perfect for his birthday. (SHOUTOUT, BRYSON!)

I got the recipe from the wonderful Annie of Annie’s Eats. Yeah, I gotta admit that I wanna be like her! She’s a loving wife, mother of 2 (gorgeous) kids, M.D., and blogger extraordinaire, and I can’t imagine her feeding her family anything not homemade. Check out her blog! You will love it!

“Irish Car Bomb” Cupcakes
Guinness/Chocolate Cupcakes
1 c. Guinness stout
2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2/3 c. sour cream (I used vanilla yogurt)

1.  While your oven preheats to 350, line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
2.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the stout. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth, then remove from heat to cool.
3. In a large mixing bowl whisk/sift the flour, sugar, bakingsoda, and salt together.
4. Beat the eggs and sour cream until well blended, then add in the stout and butter mixture.
5. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix gently until just incorporated.
6. Fill each cupcake liner with the batter until 2/3 full. Bake them in the oven for around 17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Bailey’s Irish Cream Frosting
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter at RT (room temp)
3-4 c. powdered sugar
4-8 tbsp. Bailey’s Irish Cream

1. Cream the butter with your mixer until light and fluffy.
2. Gradually incorporate the powdered sugar
3. Mix in the Bailey’s. You can play around with the amount of Bailey’s and powdered sugar that you add, until it’s your desired consistency.
4. Frost your cupcakes!

Do these strike your fancy? Would you like to make these for someone one day so that you can have your own batch of rich chocolatey, Guinness-y, Bailey’s-y goodness?! Who would you make these for? Even if you’re the only one eating these, let me know in the comments below!

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