Baking Books

So I was reading up last year (or 2 years ago at this point…) and found a book called Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Sandra Bullock’s sister, Gesine Bullock-Prado.  To say that this book mirrors my lifelong goal is no stretch of the imagination.  She was working as a Hollywood Executive and dreamt of baking, all day every day.  What concoctions could she come up with?  What new recipes could she find?  Epitome of my days most days (to say that I was writing this on a lunch break from my 8-5 is not a stretch…).  I dream about recipes or what I will be making for dinner.  Pinterest is my best/worst frenemy.  I could spend hours on there, as well as in the kitchen, and never get through all of the delicious baked items I continuously pile on to my Food + Drink Board…

I digress.  Gesine’s book made me realize you can make your dreams come true and start a bakery to enjoy what you are doing.  Someday…

I also read It’s Raining Cupcakes for the Rhode Island Cupcake Madness.  This was a cute children’s story about a girl helping her mom realize her pipe dream of making cupcakes and each individual flavor.  I read the book in one sitting and got some great ideas for flavors for the competition.  The strawberry lemonade chapter may have inspired the 2nd place winner, Limoncello cupcakes :)

Pumpkin Spiced Latte Cupcakes

Fall. Not particularly my favorite season of the year because it leads into the dark and cold winter, but I do love ALL fall treats. Pumpkin anything. Candy corn. Apple crisps. You name it. My all time weakness in the crisp afternoons for a pick me up…pumpkin spice lattes. Fall flavors at their peak and so refreshing.

We were having a work bridal shower and the bride to be shares my love for pumpkin spiced lattes. I found this recipe on my favorite cupcake blog and just had to make them. Pumpkin Spiced Latte cupcakes. Whipped cream frosting and all the accoutrements. Can’t be beat! I believe I will be making here every fall as a treat. Less calories than the famous Starbucks drink and way more filling. I have to say, the whipped cream frosting sprinkled with cinnamon made this whole cupcake very decadent. My next hope that Javacupcake produces from the fall treats at Starbucks…the Salted Caramel Mocha!  Maybe I can take a stab at this one too :)

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Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

So my husband likes to brag to his friends that he gets baked goods frequently. It is status quo that when I make anything baked that I am expected to leave at least 3 of whatever was made for his consumption alone. Needless to say his softball friends caught wind of this baking expedition I take myself on and wanted to taste the cupcakes I make as well.  I decided, for a summer softball rec league I was going to go with a classic summer flavor – pink lemonade.  Refreshing after running around at a game in the dead heat and so easy to make.  This recipe called for Crystal light packets for the batter and frosting with a little bit of fresh lemon juice.  These cupcakes were so festively pink and decorated with pink sprinkles and a lemon wedge thrown in here or there :)  I brought the leftovers in to work and got this reaction from a co-worker “I bit into it not expecting anything and I thought, sonuvabitch! that’s pink lemonade!” Job. Well. Done.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

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.

 

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Shirley Temple Cupcakes

During my sister-in-laws second pregnancy her drink of choice was Shirley temples. Sweet, cherry, good summer flavor. Such a refreshing drink so it would make a perfect cupcake. We were going to Maryland to visit our godson and wanted to bring a treat with us.

First of all. I never thought maraschino cherry juice could be used in anything other than keeping those sweet not so typical cherries “fresh.”  I never thought to add them to a batter or drink for that matter but this worked wonders. It gave the batter a nice pink color that represented the drink and that telltale cherry taste you look for in the drink. And no one can say no to Cherry 7up. It’s that soda you don’t drink all the time but thoroughly enjoy when the situation presents itself. I am always a little weary of soda in cupcakes after my less than pleasant looking root beer float cupcakes but I am always willing to try. This attempt definitely paid off!  Refreshing cherry flavor with and airiness unlike any other. And such a fun color!

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Limoncello Cupcakes

So as most of you have already read my post about Cupcake Madness last year in Rhode Island, this post mentioning limoncello cupcakes will be of no surprise to you. I am rather behind on posts and Cupcake Madness took precedence over the old posts I had to write. I am still writing this post to pay homage to this mash up of flavors that so inspired my Cupcake Madness entry (and winner of 2nd place best frosting!).

I digress. Back to the star of this piece. A limoncello cupcake with a raspberry jelly center topped with a tart limoncello cream cheese frosting. Are your mouths watering yet??  I love tart flavors. Plain and simple. My coworkers give me all of their lemon flavored candies because I am the only one who thoroughly enjoys them. An ingenious combination for lemonade. Raspberry lemonade. This cupcake encapsulates these wonderful flavors and then some! The cream cheese frosting really pushes this cupcake over the edge by adding another layer of tartness with its smooth lemony undercurrent. Topped with a fresh raspberry and you are ready for a summer picnic!

Stages of deliciousness:

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Vanilla Bean Pound Cake Cupcakes with Macerated Peaches

Girls nights always call for a delectable dessert at the end of the night or meal. I wanted to plan something special for an after dinner treat at my friend Nancy’s house when we were going to do a Weight Watchers dinner party. I knew I wanted to incorporate some beautiful peaches I had just purchased in to the dessert. I found a recipe for vanilla bean pound cake cupcakes. Why such a heavy sounding dessert for a WW dinner you ask? Because I could and it was a WW approved recipe (or I at least convinced myself of this fact ;) .) To these little delectable morsels of vanilla heaven I macerated the juicy peaches and put them on top of the pound cakes. Vanilla + peaches = a summer match made in heaven. No lie, I think I will be making these every summer as a refreshing treat! To one up it, I may have to come up with a drink recipe to replicate this delicious combination of flavors ;)

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Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes

Cinnamon rolls. A true staple of my childhood breakfasts on the weekend. The delicious Pillsbury 8 pack of vacuum sealed goodness with a can of frosting. Bake up 2 cans of those bad boys and you are in business in the McNichols household. Light on the frosting for the parents. And all of the extra frosting for the sisters. Perfect combination with a big tall glass of OJ.

It was only fitting that I decided on a weekend at home to make cinnamon roll cupcakes featured in the Better Homes and Gardens edition of their Cupcake magazine. (Another hit in my house was the Mochaccino Cupcakes). Ooey gooey cupcakes with a simple standard icing. Truly cannot get any better than that! I will always be a fan of the vacuum sealed containers that pop into the oven, but these new cupcakes are definitely a crowd favorite. And, the best part about making it in cupcake form…you don’t have to let it rise like traditional cinnamon rolls! Just stir, pour, and bake! I will definitely be making these again. Maybe for some overnight guests :) Not the prettiest frosting, but it is a work in progress!

 

 

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Sangria Cupcakes

Sangria cupcakes.  How can one go wrong?  Sangria.  Good.  Cupcakes. Great.  Until…you try to convert metric conversions to standard baking measurements. It was all wrong from here on. The cupcakes SMELLED delicious but when the tops looked cooked enough I took them out to examine. The bottoms were still very wet and soaked through with wine. Not exactly how I had pictured them coming out…

 

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I think next time I will try to find a site where the measurements are standard and I actually put in enough dry ingredients so that I don’t have mush for cupcakes. The idea is great in theory, just a failed execution on my part.

Cake Suite Taste Test

So, we all know that I am obsessed with Groupon/Living Social deals, especially to try out new places in the area.  There was one back in 2011 (yes, this is old…) to a place called Cake Suite in Westport, CT.  My baker friend, Lauren, and I sat down for a taste test of 12 cupcakes that I got with my Groupon deal.  I tried to order all different cupcakes to get a wide variety and to see the span of flavors that this new bakery had to hopefully gain some good ideas for future cupcakes.

Let’s start off by saying, 12 cupcakes between to 2 of us, was a loooooot of cupcakes.  

Here is a picture of all the cupcakes we tasted:
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We didn’t need dinner that night for sure.  We rated each cupcake on a scale of 1 through 7 on sweetness and taste combination.  The first one we tried was Very Vanilla, and it was a dry cupcake.  I am more of a chocolate fan, so this one was rather boring for me.  The best frosting award, went to the Chocoholic cupcake.  Chocolate ganache with chocolate curls on top.  The Peanut Butter Cup cupcake was very filling.  Lauren’s favorite cupcake was the Red Velvet.  Cream cheese frosting with delicious strawberry curls.  My favorite cupcake was the Chunky Monkey.  It was a moist banana cupcake, with banana frosting and peanuts. Delish!

Overall, the cupcakes were delicious – I also gained the insight to add the little decor on top to add a small flavor twist in an appealing and delicate fashion.