A Lot of Cupcakes

When you choose to take a service trip to Uganda, it costs a lot of money. Even if the program you are going to travel with keeps their costs low, flights and food are generally going to stay pretty expensive. For a college kid the price tag on a trans-Atlantic tip can be pretty frightening, however there are things that can be done to help lower the cost.
Luckily I have a generous church family that quickly step up and offer financial support (I love that my church values international missions) and through them I have nearly 80% of the funds that I need. Of course I don’t have a lot of spare change floating around, so I have had to come up with ideas on how to fundraise the rest of this money. What on earth could I make and sell that would be enjoyable for me to do and people would actually want to buy?

Oh yeah. CUPCAKES.

Now, I love to bake and cook, and at school I did not get a lot of opportunities to do so. That made it a little scary when someone asked me to make 50 cupcakes for a children’s party that would happen two days after I returned. I hadn’t made cupcakes in like four months, I didn’t have a reliable chocolate cupcake recipe, and I had to do all these cupcakes and frost them in one day, because the party was in the morning. What was I going to do?

Yeah, I was going to plan. I was going to pre-measure my ingredients, I was going to wash dishes as I went and keep the space decently clean. And that’s what I did.
Because I needed 20 cupcakes of both chocolate and vanilla I did two batches of each (both of the recipes make anywhere between 12 and 14 cupcakes), and since the order included 10 strawberry cupcakes, I did one batch of those.

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It did take nearly all day to get through all five batches and two batches of frosting. What helped me was the pre-measuring, really.

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And knowing ahead of time what the plan was going to be. I knew that I did not want to make another batch of frosting after I made the second one, and since it was vanilla (and I knew I had more than twice what I needed for the two dozen cupcakes on my table), I just added some cocoa powder to it and all of a sudden it was chocolate frosting. Imagine that.

Part of what saved me was that I was listening to the radio while I was working. I knew that talk radio would keep me from getting bored with the repetitive task at hand, and so I was able to stay focused and chug right along. I was chugging so hard along the tracks of the cupcake-making train that I forgot to take pictures after I made the vanilla cupcakes. Such is life.

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I still have about 20% of my funds to raise in the next few weeks that I am home, so I’ll be baking some more. At least this time I know how to handle a large order with out a freak out.

These are the links to the recipes that I used. I find these recipes very effective, I have them printed out and have made each of them multiple times:
Vanilla
Strawberry
Chocolate 

PS
You may be wondering what happened to the extra cupcakes that were left over from the batches that weren’t sold for the Christmas party, and I can tell you that they went to a good place. The bellies of some firemen. There was a fire in town the same day as the party and so I gave the rest to the duty crew that responded.

PPS
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Freyja had a little too much fun while helping decorate the tree.

Freyja had a little too much fun while helping decorate the tree.

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Ice Cream for Breakfast

It’s summer, we can do that, right?!?

Wait, no? Well I did it anyways. Kind of. It’s more like peanut butter-chocolate banana custard.

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You can eat it for breakfast without feeling guilty. To start, you should cut up a banana and put the pieces in an airtight container, a baggie is okay too, and then freeze it for at least 12 hours.

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They’ll look a little frosty, but that’s okay, we want them nice and cold. Next you want to put the banana hunks into a food processor and give it a couple of pulses to start the blending process. but before you get too far, you want to add a nice heading spoonful of creamy peanut butter (if you only have chunky, that’s a bummer but it will work fine).

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And a couple of table spoons of an instant shake mix in a chocolate flavor, like Slim-Fast or Carnation. If you don’t have this, again it’s okay, chocolate milk mix will be fine, but you’ll be missing some of the extra vitamins. Then again, this is kind of ice cream for breakfast.

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Blend that baby until it reaches the consistency of soft-serve ice cream or until all the chunks are gone. Serve it immediately, before it melts away.

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It’s nice and cool for a hot summer morning, but at the same time it has some great nutrition to start the day. You could eat it with some granola on top and keep it pretty simple. Maybe you should have some ice cream for breakfast this week!

The Best Sign of Appreciation

Cupcakes.

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People feel very appreciated when you give them homemade cupcakes. And they should,  I really do appreciate my teachers. And to show them I made some strawberry cupcakes for teacher appreciation week.

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“Round these here parts the weather has been a roller-coaster ride, but mostly it has been spring like (at least the past two days). I felt like strawberry was the best direction to head with the cupcakes.

So to make these cupcakes you should go check out this page and follow their instructions. It’s pretty simple, even though it does require cake flour and I have never used it before.

I’m sure you could use frozen strawberries to make the puree that goes into both the cake and the icing, but fresh works out best. The flavor will still come through, but you know, it might not be the same.

These have a real strawberry flavor that just shines. It really tastes like strawberries, and doesn’t taste artificial like what you get when you make the box mixes.

Also, the light pink color of the cake comes right from the puree, and even though I added a little red coloring to the frosting to liven it up, you really don’t have to.

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If you plan on frosting them with a knife, I would have to recommend cutting the icing recipe in half because you will end up with extra and it will spill out of your container when you try to close it.

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And it will end up on your counter. Nobody wants that.

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Overall, these cupcakes are spectacular, and would make any teacher (or mother (because tomorrow is mother’s day)) feel greatly appreciated. Because I do appreciate them, whether they force me to do my pre calc or my physics or teach a subject that I really enjoy, and they should really know how much they mean to me.

If you really don’t want to follow the link, this is the recipe, From Blissfully Delicious, again, it’s a wonderful recipe and a great blog

“Ingredients

Cake

2 cups fresh and ripe strawberries, washed, stemmed and hulled

2 1/3 cups cake flour

1 3/4 cups sugar

3 1/2 tsps baking powder

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla

Strawberry Butter-cream Frosting

3 sticks unsalted butter at room temp

4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

1/4 cup fresh strawberry puree reserved earlier

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions

Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper cupcake liners into standard-size muffin pans. Puree the strawberries in a food processor. Measure 3/4 cup for the batter and reserve 1/4 cup for the butter cream.

Sift the cake flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar and baking powder and blend on low just until combined. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix on low until combined. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg whites and vanilla. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and mix on low, scraping bowl as needed. Mix on medium a few more seconds until well combined. Using a 1 tablespoon scoop, scoop batter into mini cupcake liners.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Bake about 20 mins for standard cupcakes. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, remove from pan and allow them to cool on a cooling rack.

Strawberry Butter-cream Frosting

Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the confectioners sugar about a cup at a time and beat just until blended.

Add the puree and vanilla, scrape bowl as needed and beat until the buttercream is light and fluffy, approximately 3-5 minutes (mine was perfect at about a minute).

Frost cupcakes and decorate as your heart desires.

Yield: 72 mini muffins or 20 standard cupcakes”

It’s a Cookie in a Skillet

There’s a craze in the fine country of ours. It’s a craze of wonderfully gooey and chocolaty goodness. It is a craze of skillet cookies topped with ice cream and eaten with a group of loved ones, normally at a restaurant and for a special occasion. People gather around a table and the server brings out a cast iron skillet of some sort with the cookie inside and a nice big ball of vanilla ice cream on top (it’s already starting to melt by this time, bless its soul). the cookie is still hot, but y’all cannot wait to scoop it up and shove it in your face because it’s that good.

I attempted this yesterday, and I would have to say that it turned out pretty darn wonderful. I had a wonderful day a State Large Group Festival, with four events that all went well, and so we had something to celebrate, but it was only the three of us and we needed to not consume a huge ten inch cookie, so I did something a little different that what was described above, but stay tuned and you’ll hear what that difference was.IMG_7258

To start, preheat your oven to that magic number of 350 and mix up a batch of cookies, THIS recipe does wonders.

Then, take your wonderful friend of a cast iron skillet and put a good layer of cookie dough down and squish it around to make sure that it’s even and not awkward.

Now pop it in the oven until it’s just barely golden brown on the top and take it out of the oven to cool. If you can’t eat it all at once, let it go just a smidgen longer and it will look like this.IMG_7259

Now let it cool for just a couple of moments and then slice it up, serve it with some ice cream and then cry because you have finally witnessed beauty for the first time in your life ever (I’m kidding, that was when you heard music, but still this is also a wonderful experience).IMG_7265

I would like to take this time to remind you that you are a wonderful person and should be celebrated, as is your mother. You could make this for her for next weekend, I’m sure she would love it. I know my mom enjoyed it.

Drake Cakes

Recently, I had a friend qualify for the the Drake Relays. It’s kind of a big deal, she’s worked really hard to get to where she is and really deserves the opportunity to run this weekend. And she gets to! Last week we had some bad weather, and there was a possibility they wouldn’t qualify because they didn’t have a fast enough time and their next meets were likely to get rained out. However, they didn’t, and they ran and had a fast enough time to qualify. YAY!!IMG_7230

So I made cupcakes for her. Here’s how it goes.

You get your flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt and put it in your mixing bowl. Mix that stuff all together, and then get your stick of butter, eggs, sour cream, and vanilla and mix that stuff in. Then mix it until it gets all silky and stuff, then divide it into baking cups and bake it for around 20 minutes.

This batter is thick, it tastes great, and it makes some dense cupcakes. It does have butter and that’s always nice, but still, I really like the recipe. I think that it’s a keeper. Also, they are so easy to make, it takes less than an hour total, with frosting (if you don’t count cooling time, sorry).IMG_7224

I found the recipe here.

Here’s how they look. The frosting was the one on that page, but with blue food coloring for Drake. Yahoo!

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It’s Not Really All About the Icing

As a cupcake eater I have encountered a lot of cupcakes. Some are really good, others are not. I have made good cupcakes, and I have made not-so-good cupcakes, but weather or not I have personally made the cupcakes, the icing (or frosting, I call it both, it’s sugar) always comes into question.

Even if I make the cupcakes from a box mix (trust me, I do it more than I would like to admit), and the frosting is out of a can (no regrets, that stuff tastes awesome, even if it’s entirely bad for you), people end up talking about the frosting. That’s not what the cupcakes are about, though!!!

I put a lot of work in to mixing the cake and making sure that it bakes perfectly, the frosting takes but a few seconds with the mixer! The cake is never boring, either! I made some really good citrus cupcakes that had a good consistency and density, and they kicked butt (excuse my pride), so why do people get so excited about the stuff on top?

My thought is that it’s because it is on top. It’s what people see (and taste) first. It’s also really prominent, it’s almost always at least half the size of the cupcake itself, so it’s a big deal.

My thoughts about frosting in relation to cupcakes comes from my Thursday night. I went to the Newbo City Market and picked up a half dozen cupcakes from That One Cupcake Place (check out their page and their crazy flavor combos). I didn’t personally eat all of them, but I tried most of them. The flavors we bought were Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake, Red Velvet, Mint Oreo, Monster, and Banana. They are amazing cupcakes with amazing texture and flavor and great icings. But the icings aren’t all that’s going for them.

Here are some pictures to drool over. I didn’t have to foresight to photograph all of them before we devoured them.

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To be honest, I think the Mint Oreo was my favorite, even the cake had a minty flavor. I also really liked the Red Velvet, the red was really read, but the cake was moist and wonderful and the frosting was not overpowering. And the banana one was also fantastic, there were chocolate chips in the cupcake and the cake was like banana bread, but not.

I honestly have to restrain myself from returning to Newbo next Thursday night and buying all the cupcakes I can afford because these cupcakes are that good. They need to remain a treat though, or one might become too spoiled.

Cupcake Time

Last week I made some cupcakes for one of the AP Lang classes because of winning Penny Wars. The 3rd hour class got pizza, and so it would have been super unfair if 4th hour didn’t get anything. So I took the opportunity to make some fun, fruity cupcakes and expand my baking skills while treating the 4th hour to some sugar goodness.

I really wanted to do something springy with the cupcakes because it has been pretty gloomy and snowy outside still (we have a snow day today). So I found three citrus cupcake recipes and tried them all. Only to came out, so I’ll share both recipes here, but the other one didn’t come out at all so we’ll leave it where it is.

I started with a lemon raspberry cupcake, it had a lemon cake and a little raspberry jam in the middle. But when I baked it, they rose, and then they fell, really terribly. The recipe (find it here) used powdered sure as opposed to granulated sugar and that just didn’t work. They were really sweet, and so it was impossible to salvage the ugly cupcakes for cake balls or anything because of the sugar situation. I’ll leave it at that, I didn’t even take pictures.

The next batch was a key lime cupcakes. These turned out weird. But good. I liked them a lot personally. The expectation was for them to be a little jello-y, but they were more sophisticated than that. I found the entire recipe here, and I even used the frosting from this page. I really like how the frosting came out too, it wasn’t too sweet and it did a great job of balancing with the sweet cake.

 

Key Lime Cupcakes (From Bon Appetit)

Ingredients

CUPCAKES

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel
1/4 teaspoon neon-green food coloring
3/4 cup buttermilk

FROSTING

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

CUPCAKES

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners. Whisk both flours in medium bowl. Beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar; beat to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then next 3 ingredients (batter may look curdled). Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions. Spoon scant 1/3 cup batter into each liner.
Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool.

FROSTING

Beat all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Spread over cupcakes.

I used a decorating tip for frosting these, but the lime zest clogged it up and made some look a little funny, So I would recommend spreading it or using a round, smooth tip if you want to pipe it on. (Sorry for the extra crumbs in the background, they’re from the lemon cupcakes…)

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For the third and final batch, I made and orange cramsicle cupcake and they were marvelous!

I found the recipe for the cake here, then the recipe for the frosting was inspired by this one. They came out super delicious and wonderfully springy.

Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes (From Cooking Classy)

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp finely grated orange zest (from about 1 1/2 oranges)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer set on medium-high speed, blend together butter, granulated sugar and orange zest until pale and fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes. Mix in eggs one at time, blending until combine after each addition. Measure out cream into a liquid measuring cup, stir in orange juice, orange extract and vanilla extract. With hand mixer set on low speed and working in 3 separate batches, blend in flour mixture alternating with cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing just until combine after each addition. Divide batter among 14 paper lined muffin cups, filling each cup 3/4 full. Bake in preheated oven 23 – 25, rotating muffin tins once halfway through baking, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool several minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely then frost with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and garnish with an small orange slice if desired (just before serving). Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

 

I used a different icing than what was called for above, and I’m happy about it. Here it is though.

Orange Creamsicle Frosting (From Bird on a Cage)

1 8 oz. package cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
6 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
orange food coloring. Allow cream cheese and butter to stand at room temperature and soften. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, orange extract and vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar. Divide frosting into two bowls, add orange food coloring to one bowl.
I didn’t use any orange flavor or color in the icing, I left it to be very vanilla, but that’s the kind of orange creamsicle that I am used to, one component orange (the cupcake) and one component vanilla (the icing). I also used a decorating tip here, too, but there were no issues with zest this time, so no excuses. I’m very happy about the way that they tuned out, in all seriousness.
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Both batches were yummy and different from anything that I had eaten before, let alone baked. I’m pleased. I hope you get a chance to try them soon!