Christmas Is All about Giving

IMG_0152Take a look back to the early 90’s.  These were the days when it was exciting to get a toaster oven for Christmas.  We now find ourselves in the 21st century when it is exciting to get the latest version of the iPad.  Thanks to the recession and life, most of us cannot afford to give our friends such lavish gifts.  Instead of searching around TJ Maxx to buy something luxurious for your friend at a bargain basement price that you can afford, give them something that will make a lasting impression.  Nothing says you care like something homemade.  I decided this year that I would make an assortment of cookies and other treats to share with my close friends.  You can make cupcake platterss, cookie trays, gift baskets.  Don’t forget that you can even have small dinner parties for your friends to enjoy your homemade delights.  I can guarantee that they all will appreciate the time you have put into your creations.  My grandmother always told me that the greatest gift you can give is your time.  Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.  Make sure you step back and take time to enjoy it yourself!

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These are lemon cream cheese frosted vanilla cupcakes topped with a ginger molasses cookie.IMG_0214
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This is a picture of my dining room all decked out with Christmas. ‘Tis the season.

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Hummingbird Cupcakes

So I’ve been taking a little break from baking lately because I’ve been very busy trying to finish up my final few months of my Masters program. The end is near!  But, I got some really cute cupcake liners for Easter so I knew I needed to make some cupcakes ASAP.  Cupcakes and cakes, for that matter, seem like such a celebration type treat, so I don’t make them on a regular basis. Recently, I’ve seen Paula Deen make hummingbird cake a couple times, and I’ve seen it in various other places, but since I’ve never baked or eaten it, I thought I would give it a try.

Hummingbird cake seems to be a southern thing.  Based on the ingredients and the final product, I would say it’s in the same family as carrot cake and banana bread. It’s almost like an easier version of carrot cake because you don’t have to grate the carrots.  The other great thing about it is that they typical frosting choice is cream cheese.  Yum.

So I looked around at various recipes, and based on mainly ingredient choices I settled on a recipe from Bake or Break.  This blog has an endless amount of delicious baked goods. They always seem decadent, but refined. They’re not wrapping cookie dough around Oreos.  These people are real deal.

Anywho, the cupcakes turned out great!  They’re definitely a great way to mix up your cake repertoire!

Hummingbird Cupcakes

Yields supposedly 36, I got closer to 30, from Bake or Break

Ingredients

Cake

  • 3 cups  flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups chopped bananas
  • chopped pecans or sanding sugar, for garnish

Frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 16 oz. powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350, and get the cupcake pans ready with the liners.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl.
  3. Add the eggs, oil and stir until mixture is uniform. Then add the vanilla, pineapple, banana, and pecans and mix until everything is relatively well distributed.
  4. Use an ice cream scoop or spoon to distribute batter into cupcake trays.  Each cupcake should be about 2/3’s full of batter.Batter up
  5. Bake about 25 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before you put the frosting on top!aren't the cupcake liners cute?
  6. To make frosting cream together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer.  Once this mixture is light and fluffy, add the vanilla and the powdered sugar (add the sugar gradually).  Mix until frosting is uniform and fluffy.  Refrigerate for a few minutes before you put it on the cooled cupcakes.Frosted!

Bakin’ With Bacon

This fall in business school I’m working on a marketing project all about bacon.  This is admittedly not my wheel house because I don’t actually eat bacon, but it has proven to be a great experience.  And yes, I realize I am a weirdo for not eating bacon.

Once we were given the assignment, we were strongly encouraged to test the product ourselves to get better insight into the consumer.  Initially I was not too enthusiastic about the idea, but then I realized I could parle this suggestion into a reason to attempt a baking project with bacon.

For my first try at baking with bacon I decided to stay relatively conservative.  I picked a few different recipes and flavor ideas to settle on a buttermilk cupcake with maple frosting and bacon garnish.  Initially I was going to go in the direction of a spice or pumpkin cupcake, but since the bacon is rich and fatty and maple frosting is pretty sweet, I thought the buttermilk cake would be a nice light compliment to the other components.  Plus I figure it’s a play on breakfast in a cupcake: buttermilk like pancakes, maple like syrup, and bacon like bacon.

These were definitely a crowd pleaser and I even doctored them up to play on the whole pig theme.

Buttermilk Cupcakes with Maple Frosting and Bacon Garnish

Yields 36 cupcakes from Martha, frosting from somewhere I forget

Cake Ingredients

  • 3 cups cake flour, (not self-rising)
  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbs (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 large whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks, room temp
  • 2 cups buttermilk, room temp
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients

  • 350g unsalted butter room temp
  • 500g powdered sugar
  • 5 Tbs Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tbs Vanilla
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 lb bacon for garnish

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Place bacon on cooling rack, then place cooling rack on top of a baking sheet.  
  3. Sprinkle brown sugar on the bacon and bake for 25 minutes.
  4. Once baked, transfer bacon to a layer of paper towels or paper bags to allow the grease to drain.  Once cool, chop the bacon for garnish later.
  5. Turn oven down to 350.
  6. Combine cake flour, AP flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
  7. Cream butter.  Add sugar, beat until fluffy.  Add whole eggs one at a time, then yolks one at a time along with vanilla.
  8. Alternate adding parts of the dry mixture with the buttermilk.  Once everything is in the same bowl make sure to scrape the sides and try not to over mix the batter.
  9. Pour batter three quarters of the way full in prepared muffin tin.  Bake 20 minutes until tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely before frosting (or else the frosting will just melt).
  10. For the frosting cream the butter with the sugar and add in the syrup, vanilla, and ground ginger.  Beat until light and fluffy.
  11. Frost the cupcake in desired fashion and sprinkle with bacon pieces for garnish.

    I turned the cupcakes upside down and added some food coloring to the frosting to make the cupcakes look like pig snouts to go with the theme!