Mother’s Day Mochaccino Cupcakes

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!

Margarita Cupcakes

Margarita cupcakes.  I mean, how can one go wrong?  The quintessential drink of the summer (or at least my summer) made into a delicious and refreshing cupcake.  Win-win!  I have now made these twice for my coworkers to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and they are always a hit.  In 2011, (yes this post is well overdue), it was my first introduction into my new job as the “baker girl” and there was a sign-up list of what everyone wanted to bring to the celebration.  I searched far and wide to find a cupcake recipe I thought would be worthy.  I fell upon this one from Annie’s Eats.

To say that I like margaritas in the summertime is an understatement.  They are definitely my go-to when it comes to summer cocktails.  I like the tart flavor of lime with that kick of tequila.  All around, a great cocktail.  I was a tad skeptical when it came time to try the margarita cupcakes because in all honestly, can a mini cake really stand up to the refreshing taste of an actual cocktail?  It was debatable to say the least.

The cupcake captured the intense lime flavor I was hoping for and the frosting was to die for.  The tequila added a nice punch in the frosting to make you feel like you were eating the actual cocktail.  I could not have been happier about the outcome, and I gained my notoriety of having some pretty killer cupcakes :)  How could you NOT win over a new office full of people with a boozy cupcake??

I also received this compliment from my coworker: “The texture of the frosting is like a heavenly cloud.”  :)

Cupcake Madness-Narragansett, RI

So this blog post, is very near and dear to me, but it has taken me about 5 months to get to writing it.  Wedding stuff had taken over my life (in a good way!), and Cupcake Madness in Narragansett, RI has fallen to the wayside for blog posts.  It is not any less exciting, and in saying that…I won second place for best frosting!  But I digress, a little background on the competition.  My future (Now) in-laws have a condo at Narragansett Beach in RI, and last year we had seen some posters up about a cupcake baking challenge.  I was a little late getting myself together for a cupcake competition last year, so I waited until this year, and even then I still debated what I was getting myself into.  This competition, is ALL RI professional bake shops, competing in various categories ranging from, best frosting, to best vegan cupcake, to best gluten-free, and on and on.  Truth be told, a rather daunting task for an at home baker.  I even debated pulling out of the competition the night before, even AFTER I had baked 200+ cupcakes for the challenge.  Luckily, I had my rock steady support group ready in the flanks and they kept pushing me along on this endeavor.
Here are some of my busy bees at work, or as my sister so cleverly named them, Binny’s Bitches:

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.

Bridal Shower #2

So, the time arose where I was to actually bake, frost, deliver, and present 75 cupcakes for my first official gig as a “baker” for my friend Kate and the bridal shower she was helping throw.  I am not in any way going to lie, that this was the scariest baking endeavor I was going to go through.  Firstly, because I didn’t want to disappoint my friend; secondly, because this bridal shower with it’s Tiffany theme depended on these cupcakes as dessert for the ladies; thirdly, because I didn’t want to fail on my first baking expedition.

The baking started on Friday night.  I was trying to get all of the cupcakes baked, so that I could frost them on Saturday morning before the delivery and spend enough time on frosting/decorations and packing up the car for the 35+ minute (what should have been 20 minutes) voyage.  Traveling by car with your hard work in the trunk and a new cupcake stand is very nerve-wracking.

So, to start the mayhem, I was making the chocolate cupcakes, and the Bailey’s cupcakes.  The Bailey’s ones came out beautifully and without a hitch (once I had my Dad run out to get me a huge bottle of Bailey’s because I had left mine at home.)  The chocolate, not so much.  The tops of the cupcakes bubbled over the cupcake tin and burned on to it, and then they were stuck and lopsided looking.  I was less than pleased and under a lot of stress.  My Mom and fiancé tried valiantly to pry these cupcakes off of the tin to salvage, but it was a disaster.  So, back to the drawing board, and I had to find a chocolate cupcake recipe STAT to bake and hope that they looked better for round 2.  Luckily, they came out much better and I will never use the chocolate cupcake recipe that bubbles over and burns again.

Then came Saturday morning, where I was to make the buttercream frosting in Tiffany blue, frost all 75 cupcakes, and decorate with candy pearls and sprinkles.  The frosting took longer than it had the first time I ran through my practice run, but it came out looking like the elegant Tiffany blue was supposed to.  I quickly frosted all of the cupcakes, decorated them, and packed them up for the voyage.

Here is my super professional decorating space:

The car trip was possibly the most stressful time of my life.  My Mom drove, while I tried to keep the cupcake stand upright and keep an eye on the cupcakes in the trunk of the Jeep.  Stressful!

Nevertheless, we made it to the church hall to deliver the cupcakes.  My Mom is the creative one so I brought her along for the delivery.  She can make a mountain out of a molehill, in a good way!  They came out beautifully and I was very proud of my first “gig and delivery.”  And I think the shower guests were very pleased with the cupcakes.  I even heard that women were fighting for the leftover cupcakes ;P

The final product.  Tiffany bow on top and all!

Bridal Shower #1

As mentioned in my previous post about my trial run for the mother of all first gigs as a self-proclaimed “baker”, I had plenty of cupcakes leftover for friends and family.  Probably too many, but such is life.  So, I spread the joy, and gave them out, and this post begins with I pawned them off on the fiances family, a family with a serious sweet tooth.  It was at that moment that I got contracted for my actual chronologically first gig because it was 1 week before the other shower for Kate with the Tiffany’s theme.  My future mother-in-law was hosting a bridal shower for a good family friend and wanted the exact same cupcakes with white and pink frosting.  Off I went to my second trial run!  You think I would have it down by the time the Tiffany’s shower came around, but some things can never be accounted for, as you will see in my next post.

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.

I never knew how popular the Bailey’s cupcakes would become after my first trial run, but as you will also see in future posts, Bailey’s cupcakes are a huge hit!  I also think it is a nice pairing with a chocolate cupcake, to have something a little more flavorful than vanilla, and, a little Irish cream never hurt anyone :)  I was so thrilled that these were a hit, and they were for a fantastic bride-to-be so I was happy to get 1 bridal shower under my belt!
Look at the beautiful display!

Pink Grapefruit Yogurt Cupcakes

One of my favorite things about winter is the abundance of fresh citrus fruits.  I am a sucker for grapefruit, even though I have an allergic reaction if I eat too many.  Such is life; hives won’t keep me away from this delectable fruit!  To celebrate the ripe delicacy, I figured there had to be a recipe out there on the Internet that would put this fruit to the forefront and let it do all the talking.  I found just that recipe on Ryan’s Baking Blog.  The grapefruit has a very nice tangy taste in these cupcakes, and the yogurt makes the cupcake nice and moist but does not overpower the citrus.  My favorite part of the cupcake was making the grapefruit sugar.  I think I may have to keep a jar of this on my counters throughout the year it was that good!  The grapefruit cream cheese frosting added a nice layer of tang but the cream cheese cut through so that the bitter fruit taste was not overpowering.  I think this recipe can be adapted to any of your favorite citrus friends: tangerines, oranges, clementines, you name it!  Truly a great dessert to brighten up your mood during those gloomy winter months and bring you to your happy place.
My happy little army of grapefruit cupcakes:

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

So since I have already received an order for Irish Car Bomb cupcakes for this years St. Patrick’s Day, I figured I should probably write my post from last year.  Don’t worry, none of my sense memories have failed me about making/consuming this delectable treat.  A chocolate Guinness cupcake (even if you aren’t a beer fan, you will be a fan of these moist little treats), chocolate Jameson ganache (to die for!), and a Bailey’s liquor buttercream.  It just doesn’t get any better than this.  First of all, St. Patrick’s Day is my second favorite holiday (first is 4th of July, purely for the fact that it is near my birthday and there are fireworks).  I mean, why not have my 2 favorite holidays be the (essentially) national holidays of my upbringing?  Anyways, St. Patrick’s Day to me is all about the Guinness and enjoying each other’s company while celebrating.  The Irish know how to party hard, and although you cannot order an Irish Car Bomb drink in Ireland (for obvious reasons) it is a widely known and enjoyed drink here in the States.  Putting this combination together in a cupcake, well it is simply divine.  2 years ago I made these cupcakes without the Jameson ganache, and I have to say I do not think I will ever repeat that “mistake.”  The ganache holds the moisture into the cupcake, and it is topped with a generous helping of Bailey’s frosting.  Beware: These cupcakes aren’t for the faint-hearted, but it is worthy of a taste test any day.  So much so, that we are having these as an choice option for guests at our wedding :)

Tiffany’s Cupcakes Trial Run

My friend Kate had “contracted” me for my first official gig, to do a Tiffany themed bridal shower that she was helping host.  I was thrilled and honored to start using my passion as a platform, but panicked all the same!  I had never made 50+ cupcakes for 1 event, nor did I have anything to display them on!

Luckily, my dad is a master carpenter (when he puts his mind to it :) ) and was able to build my dream cupcake stand.  It holds about 75+ cupcakes and we would be able to add additional shelving, or take shelves away for smaller gatherings.  He would be great on Cupcake Wars building the displays for the 2 bakers competing for the grand prize, and would totally fit by wearing the flannel shirt sporting a beard!

Here is the stand in all of it’s glory.  It now sits proudly on my guest room dresser awaiting its next debut.

So, to start this daunting task I decided I needed to do a trial run in order to make sure that I could make the cupcakes all in one night, decorating the next day, and being able to have enough time to pack them up and deliver them in time for the shower.  So, one Friday night, I set off to make 60 cupcakes, half were Bailey’s cupcakes, half were chocolate cupcakes.  The cupcakes were so simple.  I could make cupcakes in my sleep sometimes.  No problems there.  Then it was on to the frosting.

This is my arsenal of decorating tricks and tools to make these look Tiffany-esque.

So a Tiffany’s cupcake meant that I was to dye the vanilla buttercreams to a Tiffany blue color.  I spent a lot of time researching online to see what dyes would work best, in what amounts, etc.  I came upon a blog that highly recommended the Wilton frosting gel dyes and in the specific amounts.  So I set off to moderating the drops of gel into the frosting, matching it to the Tiffany’s box.  This was a long process, as I didn’t quite follow the online blog to a T, but I tested and kept going back and forth between the box and was very happy with the result when it finally came together.

Here is what I got for frosting.  Pretty darn good!

The next task was distributing the 60 cupcakes to family and friends, but I don’t think they complained about the freebies from my test run ;P  I was ready to take on my first official gig as a baker!

And the freebies that my family and friends loved me for-pre frosting!

Rootbeer Float Cupcakes

I am going to start this blog post off with, I was not thrilled at the way these cupcakes looked, but the taste was pretty good.  I am not a fan of soda, but when I do indulge, I like rootbeer to quench my thirst.  My fiance and I were going up to Stratton Mountain in Vermont to watch the US Open snowboarding competition with Brendan’s brother and his girlfriend.  I decided since they were being so kind as to let us stay with them, I would bring them a treat.  That is when I found the recipe for rootbeer float cupcakes on The Cupcake Project!  (Please note: this was also because I needed to use up some of the BJ’s sized case of rootbeer that Brendan compulsively bought-so I was on a mission to find a cupcake with rootbeer in it!)  I used the cupcake base recipe from The Cupcake Project, and the vanilla bean buttercream from Brown Eyed Baker.

I wish I had cooked these cupcakes longer, as I don’t think they would have fallen apart as easily, yet would still have retained the moisture.  I have yet to try another cupcake with a soda base, but I hopefully will soon because there are so many yummy recipes out there!

I made some friends with these cupcakes, and left some for our lovely hosts.  Though I am not a frosting fan, this was possibly my favorite part because of the flecks of vanilla bean in the frosting. :)

Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes a la Martha Stewart

Oreos are arguably the best cookie ever made.  I have a predisposed adoration for these chocolate and vanilla cream confections due to the fact that my grandfather worked at Nabisco.  Let’s just say as kids, my sister and I played the Memory game, with a Nabisco version that was the cookies as the playing cards, and the whole game board smelled like Oreos.  I have yet to be able to shake this infatuation with Oreos.

At my last job, I was known as the baker in the 13 person office, so when it came time that I received a promotion, the running joke was that the promotion was not official until I brought in a baked good to celebrate, so that is exactly what I did!  Now, I don’t know anyone who could deny themselves of an Oreo, ever! so I decided to make the Martha Stewart Oreo cheesecake cupcakes from the Martha Stewart Cupcake book (a should be staple for the home baker). They were a huge hit!  Even the people who didn’t like cheesecake, liked these cupcakes.  A full Oreo at the bottom of the wrapper, with crushed Oreos in the cheesecake batter.  What could be better?! The cheesecake is a good glass of milk substitute :)