My sister absolutely LOVES cheesecake. If it is on a dessert menu, more than likely she will save room eating dinner just to have a little slice of cheesy heaven. It was natural when I asked her what she wanted to have for dessert for her birthday, and cheesecake one. I wanted to make a traditional NY style cheesecake without any accoutrements. I took the Philadelphia Cream Cheese recipe off of the box and followed it to a T. What I failed to follow though was the cooling to room temperature BEFORE putting it in the fridge. I rushed the process trying to cool the cheesecake down for us to eat. Needless to say, I had to come up with a plan B to cover my cracks. My defaults are always strawberries and chocolate. A little Hershey’s chocolate sauce and some cut up strawberries and we were in business!
To put this mildly, I am obsessed with Starbucks banana chocolate chip bread. Ever since I had it and becoming aware that it is on their lower cal menu, I have loved it. Every time I make banana bread now, I refuse to put in nuts and put the chocolate chips in instead. Huge crowd pleaser in my household because neither my husband nor I are huge fans of nuts in our baked goods. Chocolate as a substitute for texture, sign me up!
When I saw this recipe on JavaCupcake, I knew this was my next endeavor. My guinea pigs as I kindly put it (my coworkers) were the first ones to try out this new recipe I found. It was a huge hit! I think I got everyone on board for the chocolate chips replacing nuts in banana bread, AND the espresso powder was a nice touch in the recipe to give it a little zip.
For mother’s day, I decided to give my mom the choice of what dessert she would like to make, out of the Better Homes & Gardens edition of Cupcakes. If you are an avid baker, and have not picked up this special edition yet, you are missing out. There are some truly great recipes in this book. My mom chose the Mochaccino cupcakes. These cupcakes came with a complimentary with a pirouette cookie sticking out of the frosting-just a little addition to make these cupcakes a tad fancier. I mean, I never saw kids taking pirouette cookies to school with lunch, it was always an Oreo or Chips Ahoy-nothing wrong with either of those, but a nice pirouette for a treat is always a nice change of pace.
The coffee buttercream that topped this chocolate based cupcake was very decadent. And in all seriousness, the pirouette cookie made the presentation/taste that much better. Do NOT skimp on the pirouette cookies.
Look at how beautiful these are!
The process began on Thursday night. I sat in front of my baking cabinet (yes I have a whole baking cabinet) and emptied out the items I thought I would need to decorate and bake these cupcakes. Friday night, we got to the RI condo at about 8PM. We quickly unloaded the car, and I set off to the grocery store to buy all of my baking items. $200 later and I was on my way back to set up the kitchen for the next day of baking. Side note: I do not think I have ever been so grossed out by massive amounts of confectioner’s sugar in my life before this moment. Gave me a cavity just looking at all of the bags!
I had all of my recipes laid out and a game plan for which would take the longest. I had 4 different types of cupcakes I was making, with 4 different types of frostings. I left the frostings until Sunday morning, boy was that a fun fire drill! Thank god for my troops! These are the flavors I made with their oh so creative names my friends helped me out on: La Vita Bella Limoncello, Top P’ The Mornin’ Car Bombs, Sunny Strawberry lemonade, and Can I Have S’more?. I think about the only overlap I had in ingredients was flour, sugar, powdered sugar, and maybe a few (or a lot of!) citrus fruits here and there.
At this early point of Saturday morning, it was only myself and Brendan at the condo, and (luckily for him) he had a broken wrist. I was thinking I had a built in dishwasher, but apparently not! I got about 2 flavors of cupcakes into the oven before my reinforcements (my parents) showed up and could help me by washing dishes in between so I could keep the process going. I started baking at around 9am and finished at 3pm. Not worthy of Cupcake Wars time, but I thought it was pretty impressive to finish 4 flavors of cupcakes, 200 total cupcakes, with 1 oven, limited bowls, AND limited muffin tins in anything under 10 hours!
Here is a picture of all 200 cupcakes; pre-frosting:
Then it was time for lunch from our favorite deli in Narragansett, The Picnic Basket. I gave myself the rest of the afternoon/night off and we took a nice trip into Newport for dinner at The Fastnet, a dive pub that reminds me of Ireland-with Magners on tap!
Sunday morning was an absolute blur. I woke up early to start the frostings, not anticipating that these would almost take longer than the cupcakes themselves! Two of the cupcakes needed to be cored and filled, and then frosted. I couldn’t do that the night before because I was afraid that the cupcakes would get too dried out on the inside, so this was a morning of deal. The Irish Car Bombs needed to have a Jameson chocolate ganache on the inside, so that had to be made as well. Luckily the Limoncello ones just had a raspberry purchased jam piped into them. At about my second flavor of frosting for the Limoncello cupcakes, I had been frosting each cupcake with a mound of frosting (since I ALWAYS have leftover frosting when baking at home) and ran short. And in all of my calculations before the competition on groceries etc., I was hard pressed to be able to find enough of the ingredients to make another batch. I decided with the Strawberry lemonade cupcakes that this frosting would be close enough to match with the Limoncello, and could be a kid-friendly version! I started to frost the cupcakes with less frosting at this point, but still ended up running low on the Irish Car Bomb frosting as well. Note for next year: DOUBLE THE FROSTINGS! Then I had to decorate the S’mores cupcakes with graham cracker and marshmallows, and chocolate bars. Quite the endeavor.
While I was busy frosting away and barking orders at whoever was left in the condo, Brendan went over to The Village Inn early to pick out a good spot for Binny’s Buns to set up. With pink tablecloth in hand, he picked a perfect table, that he and my mom set up beautifully. I had the handmade cupcake tower that my dad made, my banner from VistaPrint, a few trinkets to dress up the table here and there and I was in business. My 3 helpers got my cupcakes over to the Inn while I ran through the shower and ran over for opening announcements. Needless to say, I was exhausted. Three hours of what seemed like thousands of people, walking around, asking questions, and buying up the cupcakes with their purchased tickets. I came home with 24 cupcakes out of 200+ cupcakes, and was thrilled. I felt very accomplished and cleaned up my table while listening to the awards.
Here is a picture of the table all set up:
Being one of possibly the only at home bakers in the competition, I continued on my task and half listened to these major wonderful RI bakeries win their awards. I had entered 2 flavors of cupcakes into 2 categories. For best frosting, I entered the Limoncello and Irish Car Bombs. For signature cupcake, I entered the Strawberry Lemonade and S’mores. I thought if any, the S’mores would win. It is always a crowd favorite. They got to best frostings, announced 2nd runner up, then 1st runner up was: Binny’s Buns with the Limoncello cupcakes! I nearly fell over. I couldn’t believe they said my name. Such an accomplishment for being a home baker from Connecticut and entering into a competition like this. I was so excited and I have to give a big thanks to Brendan and my parents for #1 putting up with my crazy dream, #2 for supporting me through this, #3 for helping me prepare 200 cupcakes for the greater good of practicing for Cupcake Wars . And a special thank you to my in-laws for allowing me to borrow their RI kitchen to make this dream a reality.
So the shower was on a smaller scale, but I still made around 50 cupcakes for it. I was so thrilled with the outcome, and the presentation (thanks to my Mom’s idea) was spectacular. I loved the cake plates and the alternating colors. I truly don’t think I have been so impressed with a end result that looked semi-professional. I think I will need to stock up on some cool looking cake plates for future displays like this one so I don’t have to steal my Mom’s.
So I am not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. It is a Hallmark holiday and I refuse to celebrate it. This year I decided, as I was celebrating home alone because my fiance was working, to make cupcakes. A familiar and popular treat on Valentine’s day, chocolate covered strawberries, so I combined that into a cupcake! I had seen a recipe for strawberry flavored cupcakes, flavored with strawberry jello. Then, to add in the Ghiradelli chocolate mousse, I used my handy dandy cupcake corer (best invention ever!) and put the chocolate mousse into a bag to squirt into the opening.