Friday, May 28, 2010

A Double Dose Of Vanilla

(above) Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Mmmm. Cupcakes. The photo above makes me happy. The frosted cupcake with colorful sprinkles cheer me up, especially with exams coming up on Monday. It is somewhat reassuring to know that no matter how badly I do on the exams, there will still be these cheerful cupcakes waiting for me in my fridge at home. Anyway, about the cupcakes. The recipe was from Joy the Baker's post from a while back. The cupcakes were simple enough to make, although I ended up with 11 cupcakes, 1 shy from the promised dozen. A couple of them unfortunately turned out a little domed shaped. Anyone know why? Please tell me! I tried really hard to keep the mixing to a minimum to avoid overmixing the batter. Nonetheless, the dome-shaped-ness was fixed with a little cupcake-head slicing. The cake itself is delicious; soft, spongy and delightful. I cheated a little bit on the frosting part of the recipe and didn't bother measuring the milk or icing sugar. I kind of just adjusted the results until it seemed the right consistency to me. Beating the frosting with an electric mixer really helps it to get light and fluffy. Don't forget to top the cupcakes with bright sprinkles!

(above) The dry ingredients and butter go into a bowl and get mixed to a crumb-like consistency.
(above) The wet ingredients are blended in (first the milk, and then eggs, vanilla and more milk) to form a smooth batter. Oh, and applause is in order - I finally have an electric mixer!

(above) The batter is poured into cupcake liners.

(above) My cupcakes were done after only 10-12 minutes.

(above) The cupcakes! Some of them turned out a little domed-shaped on top, so I leveled some off slightly with a serrated knife.

(above) The frosted and sprinkled cupcakes.

(above) A cupcake.

Vanilla Cupcakes
adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
makes 12 cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
a scant 3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or use a handheld beater and beat on slow speed until the mixture is a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  2. Gradually pour in half of the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.
  3. Whisk the egg, vanilla and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated. Scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side or the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Continue mixing until the batter is smooth. Just a few minutes. Do not overmix.
  4. Spoon the batter into paper lined muffin tins, dividing between the 12 cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
makes enough for 12 cupcakes, double this recipe to frost an 8-inch cake
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Beat the powdered sugar and butter together in an electric mixer fit with a paddle attachment on medium low speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Turn the mixer speed to low.
  2. Combine the milk and the vanilla extract and slowly stream it into the butter and sugar mixture. Once incorporated, turn the mixer to high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.

The recipes were taken from Joy the Baker, who got them from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice

(above) Ginger Snaps with Milk
Perfect cookies are the best way to end an otherwise horrible, horrible day. Second semester of junior year is infamous for being pretty brutal, but I think that this month could quite possibly be hell. The good news is, in only two more weeks comes summer, which will be a welcome reprive.
A great stress reliever is a cookie filled with literally sugar, spice and everything nice. I find it rather sad that cookies such as ginger snaps are often reserved only for Christmas. Cookies as good as these should be enjoyed throughout the year, preferably on a daily basis. These gingersnaps from 17 and Baking did not disappoint and are just as chewy, spicy and sweet as was assured. Although I was a little hesitant about dumping in a whole teaspoon of cloves, I stuck to the recipe and got wonderful results.

(above) Right - dry ingredients, left - wet ingredients
(above) Gingersnap dough ready to be chilled for 20 minutes in the fridge.

(above) Heaping teaspoons of the dough are shaped into balls and rolled in sugar.

(above) Cookies are baked for 8 minutes and allowed to rest on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes.

(above) A stack of gingersnaps.

Perfect Gingersnaps
Makes 5 dozen 2″ cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
Sugar for rolling
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine together the brown sugar, molasses, canola oil, and egg until smooth. Mix the flour mixture into the brown mixture, stirring until dough comes together. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop up bits of dough by the heaping teaspoonful and roll into balls between your palms, about the size of a quarter. Roll the balls in sugar and place on the baking sheets 2 inches apart. Bake 8 minutes – if you like crispy gingersnaps, try 9-10 minutes.Cookies will be very soft but will firm up.
  3. Leave on the baking sheet several minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from 17 and Baking. The link can be found here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Slice

(above) Chocolate Caramel Slice.
So... I recently got a recipe from a friend (hi Harriet!) for an Australian chocolate caramel slice. It called for ingredients such as a can of condensed milk, coconut, chocolate, and butter. Anything with those ingredients has to be amazing (it just has to!). And it is! I was afraid the the slice would be too sweet, but as Harriet aptly said to me, "nothing is ever too sweet". The slice has a coconut cookie-like base, and is topped with a creamy caramel layer and dark chocolate. It is reminiscent of a Twix bar, but better. It's amazing how something that tastes so good can be so bad for you.

(above) Combining the dessicated coconut, flour, and brown sugar before adding the melted butter.

(above) The bottom layer of the slice after it is baked.

(above) In the pot - butter and golden syrup. Condensed milk will later be added to make the caramel.
(above) The caramel is poured over the slice and baked in the oven.
(above) After the slice as cooled, melted chocolate is poured over the slice and the slice is put in the fridge to set up.

(above) So you take the above...

(above) ... and your slice (take a look at that! Look at the layers of shortbread cookie base, caramel and chocolate).

(above) ...and do this.

(above) Store the slice away and keep it in the fridge.

Chocolate Caramel Slice
Makes 1 13x9 pan
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/3 cup desiccated coconut
1 1/3 cup self-raising flour
170g butter, melted

30g butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
395g (1 can) sweetened condensed milk

175 g semi-sweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Celsius fan-forced). Grease a 20cm square cake pan and line the base and sides of the pan with baking paper.
  2. Prepare the base. Combine brown sugar, coconut, and flour together in a large bowl until well combined. Add butter and mix until well combined. Firmly press mixture into prepared pan using the back of a spoon. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned and slightly risen. Set base aside to cool for about 10-20 minutes (while making caramel). Leave oven on.
  3. Prepare the caramel. Place butter and golden syrup in a medium, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When butter has melted, add condensed milk. Stir constantly over medium heat for about 9-12 minutes, until caramel thickens.
  4. Gently spread caramel evenly over base. Return to oven for a further 10-12 minutes (a 1/2cm border of lightly browned caramel should form around the edges of the slice). Set the pan aside to cool to room temperature
  5. Melt the chocolate chips using a microwave or double boiler and spread it over the caramel. Put it in the fridge for 20 - 30 minutes or until the chocolate has just set up.
  6. Take the slice out of the pan and cut into pieces. Store the slice in the fridge.

This recipe was adapted from The original recipe can be found here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not an Ugly Cupcake

(above) Chocolate Chip Muffins
Some people have referred to muffins as ugly cupcakes. I completely disagree with that statement. After all, there's nothing ugly about a warm, moist chocolate chip muffin with a crackly sugar top. Muffins are also a pretty good excuse to eat cake for breakfast as well. You can store them in the fridge, but they are best served warm so please warm them up for a couple of seconds in the microwave before consumption. These are so easy and quick to make that you could honestly finish making the batter in the 10 - 15 minutes it takes to preheat the oven. Put down that Betty Crocker Muffin Mix and make your own. Please.
You could also make your own "muffin mix" by combining the dry ingredients in a ziplock bag ahead of time. All you'd have to to is add oil, milk, vanilla and an egg.

(above) The muffin batter.

(above) The muffin batter in baking cups, sprinkled with a large pinch of the sugar mixture.

(above) Muffins fresh out of the oven. Leave them to cool for a minute in the pan.

(above) A lone chocolate chip muffin with a crackly sugar top.

Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes around one dozen muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Grease bottoms only of 12 muffin cups or line with baking cups.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, chocolate chips, and salt; mix well. In a small bowl, combine milk, oil, vanilla and egg; blend well. Add this to dry ingredients; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened (batter will be lumpy.)
  3. Fill cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle tops of muffins before baking with a large pinch of a combination of 1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. There may be some left over brown/white sugar mixture.
  4. Bake for 11 - 14minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 1 minute before removing from pan. Serve warm.

Adapted from "Chocolate Chip Muffins" on The original recipe can be found here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'll Have Cake With My Coffee, Thank You Very Much

(above) Yogurt Streusel Coffee Cake with a Cinnamon Swirl

If there's one thing that this blog has taught me, its that its ok to take risks. I have trust issues when it comes to recipes. I've had my fair share of unrisen bread doughs and tough pie crusts to realize that things don't always work out. However, this recipe is fool proof.
I love this recipe simply because of its flexibility. I ran short of yogurt and subbed the rest with softened cream cheese mixed with milk. The cake still turned out fine. I was worried that the batter was too thick. The cake turned out fine. I didn't follow the original recipe and added a cinnamon swirl. The cake turned out fine. With all the fruitless worries and paranoia came a wonderful cake. This coffee cake (named not because it contains coffee, but rather because it is best when eaten alongside a cup of coffee) has a streusel crumb topping, which is probably my most favorite part of the entire cake. I forgot to swirl the cinnamon into the cake batter, resulting in not so much of a cinnamon swirl as a line. However, next time I'll be sure to swirl it using a chopstick.

(above) Left to right: Flour mixture, strusuel topping, cinnamon swirl filling

(above) Half of the batter is spread in an 8x8 pan. The batter will be thick, but that's ok.

(above) The cinnamon mixture is then spread on. Unlike what I did, please swirl the batter once the rest of the batter is poured on.

(above) The whole thing is topped with strusuel.

Yogurt Streusel Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Swirl
Makes one 8x8 or 9x9 cake
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cinnamon Swirl
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter; melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 8x8 or 9x9 inch pan. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the yogurt and vanilla; stir to combine. in a separate bowl, sift together the flour, soda, baking powder, and slat. Add to the butter mixture and mix well.
  2. To make the cinnamon mixture, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon.
  3. To make the streusel, mix the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter until all the ingredients are combined and damp.
    Put half the cake batter in the pan. Spread this with half with the cinnamon mixture. Add the rest of the cake batter, and swirl the the cake with a chopstick. Then sprinkle the streusel on top. Bake the coffee cake for 40 minutes. Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to cool further.

Adapted from "Yogurt Streusel Coffee Cake" in the Stonyfarm Yogurt Cookbook. The original recipe can be found here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I Can't Believe Its Not Butter!

(above) Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Fluffy White Frosting

Mmm... cupcakes. I'm slightly obsessed with them - have you noticed? Anyway, these cupcakes are unique. Guess what? They have no butter!
I have nothing against butter, but I have to admit that it's pretty annoying to have to cut up a cold stick of butter and soften it in the microwave every time I want to use it for baking. Once I saw these cupcakes on Joy the Baker's blog, I knew I had to try it. These cupcakes use vinegar (you can't taste it, I promise) and baking soda to allow them to rise. Skeptical? So was I. I decided to give it a go anyway, and the photo above is speaks for itself. An added bonus is that you get to lick the cake batter since there is no raw egg (although, honestly - has that ever stopped you before?).
These cupcakes are moist. And I mean really really moist. They aren't too sweet, which makes it perfect when its topped with the fluffy white frosting. Oh, and the frosting is also pretty unique. Its made with whipped egg white and sugar, which results in a smooth, light frosting that pairs perfectly with the cupcakes.

(above) Just like Joy, I poured the batter into a beaker for easy batter distribution.

(above) You're supposed to let them sit in the pans for 10 minutes after taking them out of the oven. Being the rebel that I am, I only let it sit for 5.

(above) Fluffy White Frosting. Don't worry too much about raw eggs. The boiling sugar syrup that is beaten into it will cook it. You will have to beat it for a while to get the consistency you want, so I suggest that you either make a very buff friend whip it up for you, or use an electric mixer. I had neither, so I just spent 10 minutes beating vigorously while listening to Owl City.

(above) Frosting is piped onto the cupcakes and topped with confetti sprinkles.

(above) Cupcakes.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes
Adapted from Organic and Chic
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 cups cold water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Set aside.
    In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, water, vanilla extract and vinegar.
    Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients being careful not to overmix.
  3. Pour the batter until the cups are two thirds full and place in the oven for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cup comes out clean.
  4. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then place on a wire rack until completely cool before frosting.
Fluffy White Frosting
Frosts around 24 cupcakes
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, water and cream of tartar. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbly.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and vanilla to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar mixture while whipping constantly until stiff peaks form, about 7 to 10 minutes. Frost the cake of your choice.

The frosting recipe can be found here.