Friday, April 27, 2012

Heavenly Cupcakes...It's Angel Food Cake~

Dedicated in Loving Memory of Katherine Pennington. Happy Birthday April 27th!
She was a loving mom to Paul, Laurie, Larry and all of us who needed one.
She's an angel who watches over us all.
~ Miss you and Love You Katherine~

Growing up, I remember my dad had a bit of a sweet tooth, and Angel Food Cake was the perfect dessert as he watched his weight and his cholesterol! Angel Food Cake was 'dads' dessert, while we ate 'the real desserts' least that's how I remember it :o)

I remember sneaking bites of dads cake...Angel Food Cake was sweet and spongy...not like the crumb of the Devil's Food Cake my grandmother, Me-Me, frequently made for us. I wonder where the name 'Devil's Food' came from. Its flavor is just as well, that's a good topic for another day; today it's Angel Food Cake!

This was my first home baked Angel Food Cake for no other reason than it has always been too easy just pick one up at the grocery store. I actually decided to try this out because not 1... but 4 friends suggested this flavor all just last week!
I don't need much of a reason to bake so that was enough for me.

I LOVE the way the batter becomes this airy, whipped, thick indulgence...different than any other batter I've made. It was such a pleasant surprise!

It took a little trial and error before I figured out how much batter to put into each cup. Though I love the King Sized baking cups for my cupcakes, I much prefer the standard cup size for Angel Food Cupcakes. It not only worked better for me, aesthetically they were more pleasing. I found that serving 2 or 3 standard rather than 1 king size makes one feel more indulgent :o9...when it comes to cupcakes...2 is ALWAYS better than 1! Since Angel Food Cake has fewer calories (around 150 with a fresh strawberry vs. upward of 400+ for other types), even placing 2 on a plate still leaves you with fewer calories! I have to admit, though I haven't added any photos, we did make homemade whipping cream and dolloped a bit on each cupcake. They are scrumptious!

If you use a box mix, all you have to add is water!! Doesn't get any easier than that. From scratch, we're talking 12 egg what to do with the 12 egg yolks? Pound Cake? :o)

Below you can see the difference in the King Size (1st photo) and the standard (the 2nd). I couldn't control the tops of the King Sized like I was able to on the standard. That's why I preferred the latter.

So as it stands...the standard cupcakes are slightly more heavenly than the larger ones.

 Skipping higher calorie toppings such as Chocolate Ganache or whipped cream (which adds fat calories) and instead opting for fresh fruit such as strawberries or seasonal berries lends to a healthier dessert choice!

Guilt free dessert is a blessing!
I had just as much fun photographing these cupcakes as I did baking and eating them!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Poppyseed Cupcakes with a light Orange-Almond Buttercream


It's not uncommon for families to have traditional foods they prepare during holidays. We have an entire menu of those favorites in our family, but there are three that come to mind quickly! Two of the three are my great-grandmother's recipes for baking a Thanksgiving Turkey and her famous Oyster Rice Dressing. The third entered the family menu about 30 years ago. It has become a staple for holiday desserts...any and all holidays :o) That dessert is Poppy Seed Bread, passed to me from my youngest brother's mom. Family recipes bring such great memories of everyone gathered together. The tastes and smells can catapult you back to special times in an instant. 
This is a down-home recipe with a flavor that simply makes you feel good!

Though I'm NOT a fan of 'imitation' or 'artificial' anything, the butter flavoring does have a purpose in this recipe. It is a necessary flavoring in the glaze and/or buttercream. The buttercream frosting does use REAL butter, but it just doesn't give it enough of the rich buttery flavor that comes from the butter flavoring. The Poppy Seed Bread calls for oil vs butter. Though you can substitute butter for oil you would have to increase the amount of butter (fat) in the recipe to do so.  Butter is 80% fat and oil is 100% fat. So to keep the volume of fat the same, you would have to increase the amount of butter and reduce the amount of milk (liquid). I haven't experimented with this option (simply because I love using the original family recipe), but I know I need to break down and give it a go :o)

The Poppy Seed Bread recipe below is a three loaf pan recipe. It's topped with a 'glaze' rather than frosting. This recipe actually has more of a cake flavor and texture than that of bread and it's for that reason I thought I'd try it as a cupcake. I added just a touch more baking soda to the recipe to 'lighten' the texture a bit and traded the orange glaze for an Orange-Almond Buttercream. The Orange-Almond Buttercream maintains the same wonderful flavors of the glaze, but is more suitable to cupcakes. Overall, the result was an outstanding Poppy Seed Cupcake, with the same rich flavor of the bread.

The fact is, these can disappear as you take them from the oven if you don't have a watchful eye!  Enjoy!

Poppy Seed Bread

Grease and flour 3 medium size loaf pans.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda (for cupcakes only, eliminate this ingredient if making loaves)
1 1/2 TBSP poppy seeds

Mix in medium sized bowl with a wire whisk and set aside.

In a large bowl blend:

2 1/4 Cups of granulated sugar
1 cup of whole milk at room temperature (can microwave for 30 sec. to take the chill out)
3 eggs at room temperature

Then blend in:

1 1/2 tsp. Pure Vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. Almond extract
1 1/2 tsp. Butter flavoring
1 cup Canola Oil

Now add your flour mixture in three sections, blending well between each. Blend on medium speed for 3 minutes then immediately pour into *3 loaf pans.

Cook all 3 loaves at the same time for approximately 50 minutes. To check for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the loaf and if it comes out clean the loaves are done. Place on a cooling rack and immediately pour glaze over hot loaves.  For cupcakes and buttercream frosting COOL COMPLETELY before frosting, about 30 minutes.

*This will also make 3 dz. king size cupcakes. Check cupcakes for doneness in 15 to 20 minutes.

To prepare Glaze (buttercream recipe is below):

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
1 1/2 tsp. Butter flavoring
Mix all ingredients in a 2 cup measuring cup and pour over hot loaves as soon as they are removed from the oven. DO NOT use buttercream frosting on hot loaves or cupcakes, it will melt.

This is the buttercream frosting, less is more on these cupcakes. The cupcakes are so good you could eat them without frosting, but be sparing as you don't want to detract from the luscious flavor of these moist and wonderful cakes. I did however poke the frosting tip down into the center of the cupcake to fill them, then dolloped just enough on top to be perfect!

Orange-Almond Buttercream

1 stick salted butter (never sub with margarine) at room temperature
4 Cups Powdered Sugar, sifted

2 TBSP Meringue Powder sifted into powdered sugar
1/2 Cup no pulp Orange Juice
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. Pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. butter flavoring
With a handheld mixer, blend on med-low for about 10 minutes. More orange juice can be added 1/2 tsp at a time if you want a thinner frosting consistency. I prefer mine to stand in firm peaks.

I actually cut the original Poppy Seed Bread recipe down to 2/3rds of the ingredients. This yielded 24 mini cupcakes and 12 king size cupcakes. It didn't effect the consistency or texture of the cupcakes. Since I just didn't need 3 dz king size at the time, I was happy this worked out!

These are wonderful served with a nice cup of coffee, hot tea or big cold glass of milk!

Best of all, the kids love these as much as the adults! Just the right amount of sweetness for after dinner or as an anytime snack cake!

 These beauties will still remain a family holiday tradition...only now they'll be served as sliced loaves with glaze AND as cupcakes with buttercream frosting...the best of both!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Our Girl Erin Turned 25!

Love you sweetheart~

This is a vanilla bean cake with a coconut buttercream frosting. I mildly flavored the cake with a hint of coconut using coconut milk and coconut extract.

Crumb coated and waiting for the marshmallow fondant~

I made extra fondant to cover the cake board surrounding the finished cake.

I have a lot of practice ahead of me before mastering what should look like lacework! Next time, I'll add a whole lot more of the cut-outs and make the lines between them shorter. For every line that was piped properly I broke 5! I was attempting to redo a broken line and instead of patiently picking up the broken piece of royal icing with a damp paint brush, I blew on it.

They will collapse :o(
Because of time constraints, I didn't redo the top of this cake. And even though she loved it, I promise to make a spectacular cake on her 26th!!

This is my experiment with pearls, lace and frilly ruffles...not bad for a first attempt.

I decided to post a close up to show how messy the lace looks when not done properly. In person and in full cake photos, the lace looked just fine. But if you look closely you'd have seen the broken strands of royal icing.
I WILL GET BETTER! I'm determined to perfect cake designs!