Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cupcakes for XSEED

I made cupcakes for an XSEED event on Thursday night. Here's AJ Glasser (Amanda) from Kotaku, and her plate of food... she skipped the savories and went straight for 4 mini cupcakes (1 of each flavor) upon arrival! Who needs dinner anyways?

The event was so much fun! Here are some of the cupcakes prior to leaving the house...

Organic O's Cookies n Cream -- Fast becoming Kjell's favorite.

Sweet Jasmine Meets Mango

The kitchen was covered with cupcakes everywhere! Devil's Mint Chip, Ice Baby Vanilla, Organic O's Cookies n Cream, Sweet Jasmine Meets Mango... I also made a few extras... Orange You Guavaliscious? (because you are), and Orange Chocolate Zing! Wheehee... so much fun!

140 cupcakes were made for the XSEED event.

Devil's Mint Chip with fresh mint frosting

Zoom-in on Amanda Glasser's plate of food :)


Orange You Guavalicious? and more deliveries!

What a busy week! Whew! More cupcake deliveries on Wednesday...

New flavors include:
  • Orange you Guavaluscious? -- Orange and guava cake, light guava buttercream frosting
  • Peanut Butternana -- old fashioned peanut butter and banana cake, peanut butter buttercream frosting, mini chocolate peanut butter cup topper!

Peanut Butter-nana (left) and Orange You Guavaluscious? (right)

A quick thought on the flavor of jasmine and guava, and how your senses perceive it...

I love guava. It's like my love for jasmine, the same type of sweet fragrance that hits your nose; not so much your tongue. I love the scent of sweetness, and when you've get a moist texture and sweet flavor on your tongue to pair with, it becomes a divine simplicity.

As you know (and as Alton Brown from "Good Eats" says), your taste buds can only really taste 5 flavors -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory. So how do you "taste" more complex flavors? It's actually the fragrance of these foods that comes through your nose... without your sense of smell, you wouldn't really "taste" the food and seasonings. Think of when you've got a stuffy nose and food tastes bland and yuck!

Sweet Jasmine Meets Mango

So, I've realized this early on when my bf was tasting my first batch of jasmine mango cupcakes, and now it's confirmed after some feedback from taster friends. When it comes to cupcakes, and depending on the situation or person, not everyone can "taste" the jasmine or guava. If you're putting the whole thing in your mouth, following it immediately with a drink or another cupcake, or if you're engaged in a conversation or other activity where focus isn't placed on the act of eating, then there's a good chance you will miss the jasmine flavor. (I repeat) Miss the jasmine flavor, completely. Since it's more aromatic than it is a flavor that can be tasted, if you have a slightly stuffy nose, you might be in the same boat.

Haha, so aromatic cupcakes has actually become a quite interesting experiment and study on taste and senses. All the more reason why I think the name "Sweet Jasmine Meets Mango" plays on the aroma and tastes of the cupcake itself.

Peanut Butternana

Peanut Butternana...

Yumm... a tantalizing cupcake. Organic old-fashioned peanut butter and baby bananas (not artificial banana flavor... which would be yuck!), and peanut butter buttercream frosting. Salty and sweet combinations are simply fabulous.

I used baby bananas as they're in season/available now, which makes the cake taste even better, since the baby banana is sweeter than the regular bananas you buy at the grocery store.

The baby banana is native to Columbia, and grows in bunches that contain ten to twelve "fingers," or bananas. The baby banana is loaded with nutrients. It's an excellent source of heart-healthy vitamin B6, and provides a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium

I've always been fascinated by the use of peanuts and peanut butter... Peanuts are so versatile. The fact that they can be used as salty, savory, or sweet, makes it such a perfect little nut, and the protein and nutrition is good for you too! Well... as long as you're not overloading it with salt or sugar.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cowgirl Creamery Fromage Blanc Frosting on Choco Cupcakes

Mmmm...Cowgirl Creamery cheese... Oh so good. And even better in fun mod designs.

Instead of regular store-bought Kraft cream cheese, I used Cowgirl Creamery's Fromage Blanc Cheese, which has a consistency resembling cream cheese (except it's a little more lumpy). The cheese is fresh, so it doesn't last long in your fridge, and recommended fridge-life is 3-5 days. But once you taste the frosting made with this cheese, I doubt the cupcakes will be around longer than 3-5 hours.

Add a chocolate covered espresso bean (or nut)!

I was hoping for a sharper, tangier flavor than Kraft cream cheese, and that's just what I got.

I used even less sugar for the frosting (I normally use less sugar -- about 25% less than what the recipe calls for -- since I don't like my frosting so sweet). With the fromage blanc, I used even less sugar, about 30-35% less, so the cheese's flavor would stand out even more.

I think it turned out really good, even better than expected!
Oh, and becareful of overbeating your cream cheese frosting, otherwise it liquifies... If it does liquify, you can still spread it smoothly across the top of the cupcake. Use a small circle fondant cutter/stencil that's smaller than your cupcake, place it on top of the cupcake, then spoon a little icing into the fondant cutter. Fill it just so it covers the the circle (don't fill too high), then take off the stencil, and the icing will spread evenly across the top of the cupcake.

Cupcake Delivery!

I did my first official cupcake sample drop yesterday! I went to three locations along the Peninsula visiting the wonderful folks at JVST, Koei, and IGN. I'll be doing more throughout this week!

I delivered three flavors: Choco Cream Cheese; Devil's Mint Chip with Fresh Mint Frosting; and Orange you Chocolate, Chocolate? Included in the box was a little list of flavors, and my business card.

I also put together a dozen individual tiny boxes with cupcakes for folks to take home to their loved ones to share! :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rannie's Cupcake

My friend Rannie is an amazing person. She's in a vicious fight with cancer, and somehow still manages to stay incredibly positive, despite everything she's been going through. She draws from her love and appreciation of friends and family, and from all that is good in this world.

So Rannie asked for some cupcakes, and a jasmine-mango combination instantly came to mind. I think it's because the fragrance of the flower and fruit is so sweet, while the taste of mango is tart, but they balance each other out. In a way, it reminds me of Rannie's outlook of on the world, the love we have for her, and her appreciation of the people around her. Despite all the pain she's going through, she always tries to make us feel better.

Sweet Jasmine Meets Mango

(jasmine essence with dried mangoes, and a light jasmine buttercream)


Sweet Jasmine Meets Mango

I was at the New May Wah Chinese grocery store on Clement a few weeks ago, and encountered a shelf filled with bottles of aromatic essences including jasmine and durian amongst the many. Durian's a pretty tough one to swallow for most people, since the spiky creamy fruit has a very pungent scent which evokes an immediate distinct love or hate emotion (hotels across Southeast Asia have even banned the fruit from guest rooms because the scent lingers long after the visitor is gone). I like the flavor, but not everyone does. So we'll leave that for another time.

Jasmine, however, is a whole other story. I have this enormous love for all things jasmine scented, which is probably why jasmine popped in my head when I thought of baking Rannie some cupcakes (the bottle has been sitting on my shelf for a while now and I've forgotten about it until now). The scent is so vibrant and refreshing, and like sunflowers, they just make me happy. If people can put lavender into their sweets, then I'm going to use jasmine.

The main thing was figuring out what to combine it with, since I'm not sure if you can actually eat the jasmine flower? Well, either way, I was thinking of some kind of fruit or nut. I searched around the kitchen, and was thinking of pistachios. Jasmine and pistachios, not bad. But I wanted something juicier, more moist. I found the dried mangos I had stashed in the cupboard a couple weeks ago, and behold, the perfect fruit! Tart with a sweet fragrance to compliment and balance the jasmine.

Jasmine grows in various temperatures and geographical regions. We've got lovely vine jasmine in San Francisco too (although the one I planted in our garden a couple of years back still refuses to grow). To me however, jasmine reminds me of childhood family's trips to Asia -- particularly China, Taiwan, and Thailand. The scents in those areas were strong, a mixture of industrial chemicals and sulfur, but every so often, a sweet floral scent would sprout from the dirty mix.

So what better fruit to pair with than a mango, indigenous to India, native to tropical weather and proliferate in Southeast Asia. I'm sure pineapples would work as well, but I'm not as big a fan of pineapple as I am of mango.

This turned out to be really quite good I thought. Especially if you're not opposed to floral-scented foods.

A couple tips on using jasmine essence --

1) It's extremely potent. Be sure to use it in small amounts when adding to the batter and frosting, and keep tasting so as not to over-flavor.

2) Because the scent is so strong, it actually blocked my smell from other aromas (almond, coconut). Therefore, if you're dividing up a batch of batter for different flavors, be sure to do jasmine last. Otherwise, you won't be able to taste or smell the other scents.

2) Have I mentioned that its scent is fairly potent? I'd suggest washing it off your hands if it gets on you. Not because of any toxic health risk, but because, again, of the smell. It made me a little sick after it rubbed off on my finger, I kept smelling it on everything I touched over the next hour. It's just that common nausea when you smell or eat too much of something (like too much vanilla extract)..


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Organic Oreos! Cookies n Cream Cupcakes

Organic Oreo Cookies n Cream
(Newman O's in white cake and buttercream frosting)

My bf loves Oreo cookies! I think it's probably his favorite cookie, although chocolate chip seems to be pretty high up there as well. So I wanted to make him a hunky mini munky cupcake à la Oreo. Using Newman's Organic O's of course.
I crushed up some of the cookies, and put it in the white cake batter I made, then folded it into the batter. That was pretty much it. Simple!

I found that baking at 325 degrees, rather than 350 degrees, tends to retain a bit more moisture. Undercooking just a tad is also a good thing, than of course, over cooking. These Organic O's are so tempting, I don't think most can resist. He said it came out deliciously moist, I think that was the tad-bit under cooking technique. Yummers!

Friday, August 21, 2009

New Mini Cupcake Boxes!

I got my new mini cupcake boxes earlier this week! Yay!

Cupcakes pictured: Sweet Jasmine Meets Mango, Organic O's Cookies n Cream,
Decadent Almond Coconut Crunch, Almond Crunch.

Too bad they don't fit perfectly. The holes are too big, so the cupcake falls through. Grrr. I guess tissue paper will have to do to fill the gaps for now.


A Dragon in my Cupcake?

My next cupcake ingredient... hot pink dragonfruit! ...maybe.

This fluorescent hot pink magenta color would put any 80's hypercolor to shame. I am so not even kidding about this color -- the colors in these photos were not Photoshop-ed, just straight up as the fruit bore it.

I event put myself in the pic to prove it's actually this color... It's like a flourescent pink kiwi fruit (has the same little black seeds). But it tastes a little veggie like.

Wikipedia has a nice photo of what the whole dragonfruit looks like. It's actually a really pretty fruit.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Diet Soda Cupcakes

I can't believe you can make cupcakes/cake using diet soda in place of eggs, water and oil for box mixes! It's a lower fat, lower cholesterol, and lower carb substitute for any standard box cake mix... And it works (I tried it a few weeks ago)... the cupcake actually gets pretty moist.

The only thing is, I'm not a fan of fake sugar -- nutrasweet, etc. -- so if you are sensitive to that taste, you can slightly taste it. But I think it might be only because I know it's there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pancake and Bacon Cupcakes

Pancake cupcakes. Seriously what?!

Oh but get this -- Moist chopped apple pancake, layered with fluffy scrambled egg, and topped with crispy butcher-cut bacon and maple syrup... oh now THIS is to die for...

Chop half an apple into small pieces to combine into batter. You can cut thin apple slices with the other half and place on top to bake.

Mix apples into batter, and pour into cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Though it's not shown here, in a seperate bowl, mix 3 eggs and 3 tbsp milk until well combined. Then gently pour a little of the egg and milk mixture into each of the cups, on top of the pancake batter.

Bake in the oven 325 degrees for about 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Meanwhile, microwave yourself some crispy, butcher-style thick cut bacon. Place 6 bacon strips on top of a paper towel, on a microwave-safe plate. Cover the bacon with another paper towel to prevent splatter. Microwave for 4 minutes. Check to make sure bacon isn't sticking to paper towels. If they are, peel them off, and replace with fresh paper towels. Microwave again for about 1-2 minutes. Remove from microwave, and set bacon aside on top of dry paper towels.

Once the cupcakes are done, take them out of the oven, and place in the oven warmer, or warm area in the kitchen (stove top).

Break up the bacon strips into little bits. Place a bunch of bits on top of your cupcakes, and serve with maple syrup when eating.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Opening Shop...

I've been thinking for years about how much I love working with food. The best part is watching people eat and enjoying some of the things I make. Over the past few months, I've been considering opening a cupcake shop (as if there aren't enough already in SF... but I've got some fun ideas cooking). There are so many logistics to manage and oversee, mainly the business side of things, but I'm going to try this online shop and see how far I can take it.

My little website went live last week to start take private and local orders, so please take a look as I'd love for some feedback. And if you're in San Fran/Bay Area and would like to support me in my ventures, please order some cupcakes!

I just completed a batch of 200 standard-size and mini cupcakes for an event this weekend, and they turned out great! I created a couple of new recipes that I'm in love with including: Almond Coconut Crunch, and Devil's Mint Chip.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Kahlua Kahlua Creme Cupcakes... To DIE for

Mmmm... a light buzz to go with your cupcake Ma'am? Oh yeah. Cupcakes and liqueur go fantastic together.

These are so rich and decadent you might need a special occasion to make them. But then again, if you're the type who believes that everyday is a special day, then today is your day for Kahlua Kahlua Creme Cupcakes. Kahlua chocolate cupcakes with Kahlua buttercream frosting.

The cupcakes turned out moist and frosting was super sweet. I've toned down the original recipe to make the frosting slightly less sweet. Note that when you first take the cupcakes out of the oven, the cake's texture is pretty dry. However, once they cool down for about 2 hours, they become more moist.

Kahlua Chocolate Cupcakes with Kahlua Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (salted)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed (I used dark brown sugar which works too)
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 cup strong cold coffee
  • 3/4 cup Kahlua
  • Kahlua Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg whites until frothy; then beat in sugar until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks one at a time. Sift flour, cocoa and baking soda together. Add to creamed mixture alternately with coffee and Kahlua; blend well. Fold egg whites into batter. Fill prepared cupcake cups to 3/4 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from tins and cool on rack completely before frosting. Makes 2 dozen standard-sized cupcakes, or 52 mini cupakes.

Kahlua Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 lb. powdered sugar (original recipe: 1 lb.)
  • 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp. Kahlua
  • 3 Tbsp. hot coffee

In large bowl, cream together butter and powdered sugar. Add cocoa powder, Kahlua and hot coffee. Beat until smooth. Frosts 2 dozen regular cupcakes, or 48 mini cupcakes (you can try to extend it to 52 minis).


Friday, August 7, 2009

UNO Charity Tournament Cupcakes

Last night was Gameloft's UNO Charity Tournament event for the press. I worked on the event planning with Carmen, and had so much fun! We put together the flowers ourselves, and I made choco choco UNO cupcakes with UNO sprinkles and m&m's for dessert (red, blue, green, yellow of course)!

Here are Sanette and Kelley with their UNO cupcakes...

Photo by: Kaiser Hwang

... and some photos of the flower arrangements we created :)

Ti Leaves wrapped inside tall cylindrical vases and submerged in water, with a burst of green hydrangeas, yellow mini cala lillies, and bright magenta/red/orange/yellow orchids.

Photo by: Kaiser Hwang

Photo by: Kaiser Hwang

Photo by: Kaiser Hwang

Photo by: Kaiser Hwang


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Can't Beet a Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing

I can substitute red food coloring with beets?

You can't beat a Red Velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting, made completely from scratch.

But you can when you substitute beet puree in place of the ridonculous amount of red food coloring that normally goes into a 2-doz. batch of red velvet cupcakes (seriously, two full bottles of red food coloring... gross!). Oh my god, a healthy red velvet cupcake!

I thought it was so weird when I first found that out on the internet, but then you realize that people have been using vegetables and fruit for centuries around the world to sweeten their pastries while keeping them moist. Think: carrot cake, fruit cake, any kind of cherry chocolate, strawberry, banana squash cakes, and the list goes...

And if you think about it, beet substitute is even better because it not only naturally dies the batter, but keeps the cake very moist, and is great for folks allergic to food coloring. Mmm... it's so good.

To be honest however, the most difficult part is getting the vibrant color to stay when you're baking... It won't be the bright, bright red that you normally see with red velvet cupcakes. But accessorizing the cupcake will bring out more of the red (red sprinkles, red liners, red box). And besides, who wouldn't want to eat healthier red velvet?

This is the batch I made early this week with cream cheese frosting and chopped pistachios on top. I didn't use enough beet puree, so you can see the beet color didn't stay so well... but it sure tasted fantastic.

I used a great Red Velvet Cupcake and Cream Cheese icing recipe from The Repressed Pastry Chef, and tweaked it a little with the beet puree. She's posted her 1 doz version, and the original 3 doz version on her site. I've reposted the 3 doz recipe at the bottom of the blog to show where I substituted beet.

So just some quick notes:

You definitely need a lot of beet puree -- about 2 to 3 cups of beet puree (blended with about 1/3 cup beet juice or water) for a batch of 2 or 3 doz. Otherwise, it will still look fairly choco brown.

However, rather than peeling fresh beets and dyeing your hands red for the next 7 days,canned beets work just as well -- 2 to 3 cans of beets (sliced works fine). I used only 1-1/4 cup of beets for the recipe that made 3 doz, so it was only at half the amount needed and didn't turn out red, but it was moist.

Check out the vibrant magenta of beet puree...

Beet substitute most likely won't get as red as food coloring or your standard red velvet, but you could always use less cocoa powder if you're not a huge fan of chocolate.

It's OK to give in and use some red food coloring. But use the coloring gel as it works wonders (and waaaaay better than liquid). Since you've already got the beet puree creating the majority of the base red color, you'll only need to add about 3 little toothpick globs (hmm...approximately 1/4 tsp...?) to the mix, rather than 2 full liquid bottles.

I separated out my batter, and did half beet puree only, and the added Christmas red gel to the other half. Can you see the difference below?

Combo tray with beet puree only on the left, and combo beet and gel on the right.

Baked with only beet puree as substitute.

Baked with beet puree and some red gel as substitute.

Here's the recipe with the beet substitute, it's truly incredible. Enjoy!

- 3½ cups cake flour
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- 2¼ cups white sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cans sliced beets to yield 2-1/2 cups puree (or 2 cups fresh beets; washed, peeled and sliced)
- 1/4 tsp red coloring gel (*optional*)
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla
- 1¼ cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2½ teaspoons white vinegar

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line 12-cupcake pans (or 24 mini-cupcake pans) with cupcake liners and spray with cooking spray.
- Drain liquid from canned beets into a bowl/cup. Set aside and measure out 1/3 cup of beet juice. Pour sliced beets into blender/processor. Pour half of measured beet juice into blender/processor, and blend for 1 minute. Add the remaining beet juice and continue blending for another minute or until beets look pureed. Set aside.
- Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.
- Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time.
With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring (and water or syrup, if necessary). (Take care: it may splash.)
Add vanilla.
- Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
- Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
- Divide batter among 12-cupcake pans, filling each about 2/3 full.
- Bake for 17-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (My standard-size cupcakes baked for 17 minutes, and my mini cupcakes baked for 11-12 minutes, so be sure to keep an eye on them, or check every few minutes after the 10 minute mark).