Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pumpkin cupcakes

Happy Halloween, all!

This has been a very hard week, there was an unfortunate death in my fiance's family and something it has taught me is that one of the most important things in life is to make each other happy, and show each other how much we care before it's too late. Making other people happy and showing them you care can be a simple thing... obviously, I personally often turn to baking :) It happens to be something I am good at and enjoy, and it's a sweet way-- pun most definitely intended-- to share your love with someone or someones.

So, do me a favour today and hug your loved ones tight. Don't get too distracted by the Halloween stuff that you forget to tell each other how much you care.

On that note!

I knew I wanted to make a Halloween treat, but there are a few ways it can go. You can go cutesy (like Rice Krispies ghosts or sugar cookie witches' hats), or traditional (like caramel apples, or popcorn balls), but I wanted something a little bit more sophisticated.

I know I said last week that I love cinnamon... another thing I love is pumpkin. Pumpkin scones, pumpkin pancakes, and of course, pumpkin cupcakes! (Ironically, I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin pie, but if you put enough whipped cream on it I'll eat almost anything...)

I went looking for a good pumpkin cupcake recipe, and I began to discover they are ridiculously complicated. Some of them require an enormous list of different spices... and I'm sure they're delicious, but seriously, I was getting tired just reading the recipes!

I persevered, looked through my entire recipe stash, various books and online sites, and found a recipe that seemed to have the perfect amount of spice but was still fairly straightforward.

The recipe came with the typical topper for pumpkin cupcakes-- cream cheese frosting. That just didn't sit right with me either. For one thing I'd done a cream cheese frosting for you two weeks ago, and for another, who decided that pumpkin and cream cheese go together anyway? So I began searching again, this time for an appropriate buttercream with just a touch of spice itself.

I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted to make, but I felt like it was missing something. Then one day, these caught my attention...

They look like fairy tale pumpkins, sparkly and sweet. Exactly what I wanted for the piece de resistance on top of my cupcakes... adorable and attractive but still not cutesy.

I also found these, and it was love at first sight:

Black, ruffly cupcake liners, so perfect for Halloween-- they look like Goth tutus... I love!!

So, with the bottom layer (liners) and the top layer (candy pumpkins) in hand, we gather the rest of our ingredients.

You'll need:

1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup (packed) canned pumpkin puree

You know the drill-- set oven to 350 and line your cupcake pan. I'm going for the full-size guys this time...

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

Set aside. In another bowl, add the butter and sugar, and beat on high until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between.

Beat in the vanilla extract, then scrape down the sides of the bowl.

With your beaters on low speed, alternate adding the flour and pumpkin in batches, starting and ending with the flour.

Doesn't the batter turn a gorgeous colour? And it smells amazing, I love fall spices. If it seems to separate a bit when you add the first batch of pumpkin, don't worry-- the flour brings it all together again.

Once thoroughly mixed, spoon into your liners. This recipe makes only 12 full-size cupcakes or 24 minis, so you might want to double it if you're making these for a party.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until they pass the toothpick test. (Insert a toothpick into the middle of a cupcake, if it comes out clean, they are done.)

In the meantime, start your buttercream. You need:

1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup DARK brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp half and half

Add the butter and shortening to a bowl and cream together until fluffy. Then, add the brown sugar.

Isn't this stuff great? It's sparkly, and smells like molasses. Just beautiful.

Add the cinnamon as well, and beat until well combined.

Alternate adding the powdered sugar and half and half, beating well in between. Once completely beaten in, turn your beater up and beat a few minutes more, until the buttercream is stiff.

I used a large star tip to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.

And of course, the final touch!

And here you go... lovely, whimsical, and of course-- delicious Halloween cupcakes!

I hope everyone has fun and is safe tonight! And don't forget... if you attempt any of my recipes, send me a pic and I'll post it.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cinnamon sugar cupcakes two ways

I've got to say... I LOVE cinnamon. Seriously, I can't have enough of it. These cupcakes are an amazing way to use cinnamon, and I am bringing them to you today with a choice of two different types of topper-- because some people like their cupcakes with a ton of sweetness, others only like a little.

I also bring you, my little helper!

This is my fiance's 3-year-old son waiting patiently for us to start making cupcakes. He is a very appropriate helper because these cupcakes are easy enough for kids to make. (With supervision, of course!)

Seriously, these are so easy and so tasty, you will never go back to cake mix again.

Anyway! As with any cupcake recipe, you start the same way: preheat your oven (to 350 today), prep your cupcake pan with liners...

(... my helper is a bit random in his placing of the liners... but hey, as long as they all get in there!)

... And gather your ingredients.

For these cupcakes you will need:

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

3 tsp cinnamon

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

1 cup applesauce

This is a one-bowl recipe. (I TOLD you it was easy!) So, in a big bowl, whisk together the flour...

..baking soda, cinnamon...

and sugars.

Whisk together well.

Add the wet ingredients-- applesauce, butter and eggs.

Beat well. It's easiest to use electric beaters for this.

This batter is quite thick, and smells amazing... apple-y and cinnamon-y. It's quite different in texture from the lemon cupcake batter-- you'll see. It's another delicious batter to snack on... but it's not appropriate for children. Raw eggs and kids just don't mix.

When well beaten, transfer to your cupcake liners.

Bake for about 15 minutes or so, then use the toothpick test to make sure they're done.

Now... on to the two types of topper. The first we will work on is a cinnamon glaze.

You'll need...

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
Heavy cream

Combine the sugar and cinnamon and whisk together.

Add the vanilla, then slowly add the cream one tablespoon at a time, stirring in between. It will not take much at all, probably about 3 tablespoons, but it depends on how exact your sugar and cinnamon measurements. When it's done, it should be thin enough to spread, but be careful not to get it too thin or it will all just slide off your cupcake. (Don't ask me how I know this, lol...)

It should look like this:

My little helper has a little baker's set that has an adorable little frosting gun. I filled that sucker up with glaze and he went to town:

For those of us a little bit more obsessive-compulsive about frosting (who, me?), a small round tip like this is good:

I chose a cross-hatch pattern but anything is pretty in this lovely glaze.

My helper says it's yummy too :)

On to the other topper, a cinnamon buttercream. Mmmmm...

1/2 cup butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

3 tbsp milk

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

Butter goes first into the bowl, then add one cup of powdered sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the next cup, beat again, then add the final cup.

Beat until smooth.

Add the milk, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla, and beat for several minutes until frosting becomes stiff.

I prefer a star tip when frosting with buttercream. It's just so pretty!

And... yeah... pretty good, my helper says.

Now, an important part-- the cleanup... and I was particularly glad to have a helper for this part!

Now for our reward... yum yum!

You have now made cupcakes from scratch... doesn't it feel good? (More importantly... doesn't it TASTE good??) I hope I have convinced you how easy it can be to make something fantastic... if not, stay tuned for next week, when I will bring you a... seasonally appropriate treat-- no tricks required :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lunch Break Adventure: White Rock Beach

Oh, the days of beautiful summer weather and 2-hour lunches... none of which I am experiencing right now. Sigh. Oh well, at least I have these gorgeous pictures to share with you!

I work only minutes from the beach at White Rock which is a lovely place (if you don't mind driving around and around looking for parking, and then paying $3.75/hour when you find it!) Not only does it have wonderful views and adorable shops, you can see America from the boardwalk :)

A lot of other people were taking advantage of the gorgeous weather this day too.

This is White Rock's famous pier and boardwalk. Derek and I had originally thought about getting married in the summer at the end of this pier... wouldn't that be great? But time constraints made this unfeasible.

At the end of the pier is a breaker and a small marina, very picturesque!

At the end of the pier there are quite often crab traps. Here, a crabber measures his catch-- crabs have to be above a certain size and only male, or must be thrown back.

Of course, the crab had his own opinions about the situation... (here's his fighting face!)

At the entrance to the pier are railroad tracks, which made for lovely pictures with the ocean in the background...

And finally, I'll leave you with a picture of White Rock's famous white rock, and beautiful Baker in the background. BC is gorgeous, I'll give it that.

Hope you enjoy, especially on the dark, rainy, gloomy days that are fast approaching! :)