Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cookie Overload 2011

Happy Holidays people!

I am at about the midpoint of my holiday vacation (my office is closed through New Years) and this is the first chance I have had to sit down.  Been super busy doing the holiday thing -- visiting people, eating, shopping in over crowded germy shopping malls until i swear never to set a foot back inside ever again but then come back a day later.. you know. That thing.

The days I WAS at home all day, i spent in the kitchen.  Because it's December and that's what i do!  I bake yummy things that are full of calories and then eat them myself, feel guilty for the gluttony and decide to share with my friends.  If they are all squishy and fluffy then i won't look too bad next to them, right?

Last year i made 5 batches of cookies.  This year there were 6.  Plus home made hot chocolate.  And labels and cute packaging.

So when i say batches, there were at least 2 if not 3 dozen cookies per batch.  In total there were 18 dozen cookies, more than 216.

A new cookie made it into packages this year.  White Chocolate Gingerbread.  Next time two small tweaks; less chips, no sugar coating.  But still good and somewhat different. 

Maybe a new cookie will show up each year.  This year i want to mention that there are two important things to note.  The first is that there are no nuts in any of the cookies.  That's because i accidently walnutted my allergic friend this past summer and I hope to never do that again.  The second is that although this took a combined 9 hours ( over two days and 200 Christmas songs) and it was long and tedious it went 100 TIMES BETTER WITH MY MAGIC MIXER.   Awesome investment.

My personal favorite is the chocolate chocolate chip one, in case you were wondering.

Funny story though, my last batch were the peanut butter cookies.  It was a long day, so i was excited to be done with it all.  Which only made the little kitchen disaster that much more devastating  I was cracking the second egg into the batter and my hand slipped and i put the whole egg into the mixer.  The whole egg with the shell.  Oy.  >.<  Had to start over again! 

My favorite part i think is boxing them up. And slapping on the labels.  It's like I am my very own production line.  Production like of Yum....

The other part to his present was hot cocoa.  I found this recipe on the Internets and figured that the only thing better than giving people diabetes, would be to give people cookies AND hot cocoa.  Super rich, chocolatey hot cocoa.  And so i did just that.

This stuff actually has white chocolate chips food processed into oblivion in the mix.  That's what makes it so creamy.  (And what makes the "Calories:  Made with love, there are none" line a bold faced lie.)  I misjudged how many white chocolate chips i would actually NEED though.  So i have a good 3-4 cupcakes in the cabinet.  I'm sure those will be put to good use.  I have had way too many requests to remake my blackberry cupcakes.  

I made about 40 servings of this stuff to give out.  Okay 39.  I kept one for myself.  I have to try everything once myself right?    That's how i learned that you need to use twice the amount of milk then what the directions call for.

I had some cookie bags that matched the hot cocoa bags.  I liked the bright colors. Good job Target.

But mostly it was a mix match of treat boxes.  Oh Christmas joy!  I've given out about half of the cookies so far, but i have a lot of people that i have not been able to see yet.  I am a little bit worried that i will end up with too many left over cookies and have to start eating them all myself.

And that won't be a good idea, seeing as I have eaten ALL THE THINGS these past few weeks.  So not quite sure if i will get to bake anything else before the end of the year.  Not because of time, or lack of ideas but because I DON'T WANT SWEETS NEAR ME RIGHT NOW.  >.<  I promised red velvet for a friend but i just dont know if i have it in me!

On a related note though, i got so many cute cupcake things for my birthday and Christmas this year so there will be LOTS of new posts in the new year as i start to use them all. I shall try to post about them this week, but if not expect me in the new year!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Oreo Penguin Cupcakes


Okay maybe it wasn't EXACTLY like that, but that's what it felt like on Sunday morning as i tried to quickly (I was about 1.5 hrs late to my dinner party, lalala) assemble my Oreo penguins on top of my cookies and cream cupcakes. Penguin body (face?) parts all over the place.

I actually made a list a few months ago of cupcakes I wanted to try to bake and I have baked almost all of them!  The only one missing is those darn tres leches cupcakes i never find time to make.  What I was able to scratch off the list this weekend were Oreo Cookies and Cream Cupcakes. I'm not sure why i wanted to try and make them since i don't actually even like Oreos that much ... however i saw a link on Cupcakes Take the Cake last month for these ADORABLE cupcakes that called for Oreo penguins as decoration.  Which meant i had to take it up a notch, of course. And lose the coconut.  Cuz i don't like coconut flakes.

To be exact my cupcakes had an oreo crumble crust, a vanilla cake, a cookies and cream frosting filling, a marshmallow fluff frosting top and were decorated for the holidays penguin style. 

I spent about a week looking up recipes and studying how different bakers/bloggers constructed their cookies and cream cupcakes.  In the end i decided to make mine a little like my smores cupcakes and to bust out my corer. God, how I love that little green thing. 

Oreo Cookie Crust
12 oreo cookies
1/2 a stick of butter 
zip lock bag
rolling pin

I don't think i need too many directions for this one. You can see below what to do to the cookies.

Then add melted butter to the bowl and mash together until it's workable.

Put a tablespoon into a lined muffin pan. Then smush it down with a spoon to make an even crust.

Pop them in the oven for 7 minutes and then set aside to cool.

Vanilla Cupcakes
(Makes 20 when you have a thick oreo crust at the bottom, if not probably around 16-18. Bake at 325*)
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter at room temp
2 large eggs at room temp
1/3 cup full-fat sour cream
1/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
2.5 vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk

I adapted this recipe from here.  I ended up changing it because i did not have real vanilla beans.  And so that kind of changed the order of how i had to bake things... so it ended up being a bit watery.  I mean it was still good, but i kind of wished i had chosen another recipe -- or at least been able to follow it step by step.  So i won't post what i did here.  Next time, ill have some changes for sure. They baked up a little like hills LOL. >.< oops?  Still edible and yummy though.

Once your vanilla cupcakes are out of the oven and they have had time to cool it is time to core the suckers.    I love doing it.  Save the tops though!  You need to be able to cover the holes.

And i am not going to tell you whether or not i ate the rest of the middles or i threw them away. Either answer is a bit deplorable.

Next you make that Oreo filling

Oreo Filling
1 stick butter
1/2 stick cream cheese
1/8 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
7 crushed oreos

Cream butter, cream cheese and whipping cream together.  Add the vanilla, and then the powdered sugar.  Beat until fluffy.  Then comes the fun part.  Throw in the crushed oreos.  It looks like this.  Haha.  It's like dirt.

Just fold them in carefully and evenly and you are good to go.  I threw them in a ziplock and snipped the edge so that i could pipe them in.  No tip required.

These cupcakes were just busting out with oreo goodness, weren't they? And i might have spilled powdered sugar everywhere at one point.  Oops. (Don't forget to cover them with the tops of the cored centers again!)

To frost the tops I used the recipe below.

Marshmallow Frosting
1 8 oz jar of Marshamallow fluff
1/2 stick of butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Beat butter and marshmallow fluff.  Add powdered sugar.  Add whipping cream IF necessary.  It's SUPER effing cold in my house right now, so i had to use whipping cream in both my frostings to get them to do anything.  Even if i leave out the butter and eggs for hours, things are still not "room temp".  They're cold as penguins.  The whipping cream helped to make both fluffier.

Now there is an easy way to finish these cupcakes.  And that is to garnish them with an oreo on top.Cute huh?

Two seconds, easy peasy and call it a day. Looks adorable with my black and white spotted liners.

And that's totally what i did with the last eight.  But first i had to struggle with making 12 penguins.  And by struggle i just mean it took me longer than i thought it would.  And i was late. And hadn't showered, and i wasn't dressed and i hadn't worked out.  AND worst of all, i had forgotten to buy heart sprinkles like i had wanted to.   I had wanted to make some girls too  :(

Penguin Faces
Oreo cookies*
Any left over marshmallow fluff frosting
Wilton Brand Eyes
Orange Starbursts

* Normal people will need one oreo cookie per penguin they make.  People like me need a whole freaking package for this endeavor.  Okay fine, two packages total.  Actually i suggest you try and do this part first.  Because the things you mess up you can use for your crumbs.  I ended up throwing away a lot of Oreo parts instead because every time i touched an Oreo it would just CRUMBLE in my hands. I BROKE SO MANY WINGS.  Stupid cookies.

One of the hardest part was twisting that cookie and having the cream stay on only one side.  It took forever.  Most because it takes more thank skill. It takes coordination.  Finesse.  Steady hands.  I have none of those.  But i got it done.

But guess what?  The cookies aren't that clean.  You still get left with some chocolate on the cream.  So i tried to fix that a little by putting a dollop of the marshmallow fluff frosting over the cream and spreading it out in order to hide as many imperfections as possible.

Then i added the eyes.  Not 100% white but it certainly helped i think.  The eyes (by Wilton) you can find at Target, Wal-Mart, Michaels, etc.  They're a little pricey but i am glad i did not have to worry about making eyes from scratch.

Next were the beaks.  Funny story about the beaks.  When i finally made it to my dinner party and someone asked me what the beaks were my response was a somewhat frazzled "mother effing Starbursts!".  This was because I was mentally transported back to kitchen - frantically microwaving Starbursts and smashing them into pliable strips that were not too hot or too cold while trying to text message "IM SORRY IM GOING TO BE SO LATE, I HAVE A FLOCK OF FACELESS PENGUINS TO CONTEND WITH OKAY????"

As illustrated in the picture below,  you take an orange starburst (left) and put it in the microwave for 15 seconds.  Then when its warm with super clean hands and a rolling pin you flatten it out so you can cut it with a knife.  The middle picture is what a cut strip looks like. You cut a triangle (right) and use that as a beak.  And you do this SUPER fast before it gets too hard.

That ladies and gentleman, is why its a mother effing starburst of a nose.

Lastly, your penguin needs wings.  This is where most of the massacre happened i admit.  Okay maybe i broke a few faces.  But mostly it was their wings.  Have you ever TRIED to cut an oreo with a knife before?

They break in 45 ways.  About 45 times.  And then maybe you get ONE wing.   As you can see i have a large pile of broken cookies on my (side note: isnt it so CUTE?) apple cutting board.  Try to cut them in half, and then cut off about the top 1/3 of one half.  That's a good size for wings.

It was an ordeal.  And then, THEN i was ready to make my penguins have a photoshoot.

Yes.  I made my cupcakes have a photoshoot.  Yes, i was late and unbathed and squishy but i still made them have a photoshoot.  (If there were some notabley female penguins in this photoshoot it would have made me uber happy though... I like to imagine that the white liners were the girls, the black ones the boys though.)

And yes, i found the only holiday tissue we had laying around and I made them have a background.

I mean come ON, they kinda deserved to be in the snow right? RIGHT?  They appreciated the camera in their face i think.  In fact, i seem to detect somewhat of a vain strut in their silent existence, don't you think?

Anyways, once I was done stroking their little penguin egos, i packed them up and went to my dinner.  When dessert rolled around i snapped a picture of the dissected cupcake for you guys.

Okay I am lying.  I dissected my friend's cupcake with the intent to give it back to her for her to eat.  What ended up happening however was that i dissected it. photographed it, put it back together, stared at it for a second and told her to get another one because i was eating it.  And so i did.  Everything except the Oreo face because what kind of monster would eat an oreo penguin face???

Bonus story:  I have a good friend who upon entering my phone number into his cell phone quite some years ago, typed in "Anna Penguin Face" because he didn't know my last name and because I genuinely like penguins.  And that's they way it reamined, said friend not entirely sure of my real last name for quite a few years.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I've got plans...

I've got plans for this weekend.  Big plans.  Stay tuned!  

Sometimes i have to sketch things out/write them down to figure out how I am going to do things.  I like to stay i am organized.  Others might like to say that i am neurotic.  Those who say the latter will not get any of these.


P.S.  There are no cupcakes in Costa Rica.  But i ate my weight in sweet plantains, so i am not complaining.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Autumn Themed Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting 2.0 turned into my first real baking failure.  Well, half failure.  Half the batch turned into a hot mess.  The other half were fine.  Luckily i was doing mini cupcakes though, so half a batch made 48 mini cupcakes, lol.  Exactly what i needed!  So this post wont be too heavy with the pictures on baking.  And  ill omit the actual recipe to the pumpkin spice cupcakes i made  (just use last years for now, and add more puree and sour cream).  I added too much butter, and while the first batch was cooking, the rest of the batter sat out on the cold counter and the butter started to congeal back together... so when it baked it was like broken butter bubbles.  Not pretty.

I WAS trying to add moisture to the recipe. So i added more butter, pumpkin puree, buttermilk and sour cream. But the butter was too much in the end... haha.

Instead we will talk about how ridiculously easy it is to make cuppycakes look fancy pants.  I found this tutorial online last year and book marked it.  When i found the same sprinkles later on i bought them so that i could use them one day. (Side note:  these were all the rage a few years ago in the cupcake world.  But since im just starting, its okay that i am behind on the times.) Then, last weekend, with two Thanksgiving dinners (omg so much food in two days) and limited time it became the perfect opportunity.  

So i made myself some quick directions that doubled as a template for the trees.  All you need is melted chocolate chips, Leaf sprinkles from Wilton, some parchment paper and a ziplock bag.

Melt some chips in the ziplock, make a small snip at the end of the bag (no tip needed) and make a thick tree trunk.  Then draw 4-5 branches.  Before the chocolate starts to harden, throw some leaves onto the branches.

 Don't forget that it's fall!  Not that many leaves left, therefore not that many needed on your tree.  I just made 4 and start to finish including clean up was 15 minutes.  Super easy.  Could have busted out more, but i had things to do that day.

Then i just carefully placed one little leaf on each of the mini cupcakes.  

And then i stuck the big trees in a cupcake and put them with the rest.  Super easy, super looks like it was hard work.  It wasn't.  Don't tell anyone.  :)

photo credit: pandipoo

photo credit: pandipoo

They were all eaten happily, with no one knowing how close to disaster the actual baking process was.  Sure more butter was consumed than was needed...  but that's Thanksgiving for you.  Your loved ones slowly killing you with fatty food.


P.S.  Happy Thanksgiving!  :)  I'm off to Costa Rica for 9 days, but i will be back the second week of December with an uber cute cupcake  >.< .  And then maybe something for New Years?  We'll see.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Special Delivery

So I have this awesome friend named Christine.  She's a busy bee and we seem to be on opposite schedules, but every now and then i get messages on my gchat of her raving about how she loves her cricut machine and wants to marry it and have its babies.  (Paraphrasing, of course.)

Last week she told me to look out in the mail for an early birthday/xmas present.

And so on Saturday morning it arrived.  And i of course ripped into it, not even taking care to open it like a lady.

And i found something awesome inside.  It was a very special delivery.

Do you know what these are?  These are hand made cupcake sleeves.  They go on the outside of the cupcake liner.  

There are so many cute ones it's ridiculous.  You just hook the back of it to itself and it fits around a cupcake all snuggly. 

I have no idea when I am going to use them yet.  Not because i don't like them, i do.   But i can't think of anyone that deserves these awesome little things. >.<  Not just anyone can get a pirate ship...

Then to top it off was when I unrolled this.

I literally got all ridiculously giddy.  No like really i did.  Notice how it is on my list of things i really wanted?  I'll have to take that off soon. <3  Luckily its contact paper and i can stick it more than once.  I'll need to move stuff around so i can stick it up somewhere in my room.  And (one day soon i hope) when I have a kitchen of my own, i can use it there too.

Summary and Conclusion of this post:  Christine is so awesome. <3<3<3


P.S.  And her bf San helped.  ;)  So he's awesome too.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blackberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting

So remember that crazy i talked about?  It makes me have internal monologues with myself like this:

Me: Look! Blackberries are on sale for87 CENTS A CONTAINER.  
Self: Oh Em Gee, that's hellah cheap!  Get one!
Me: Already on it...
Self: Would go great on your greek yogurt you know.
Me: I'm buying THREE.
Self: What, why? They're all ripe.  You can't eat that much yogurt.
Me: Yogurt? I'm going to bake all the things with it.
Self: For WHAT? You'd have to bake tomorrow. And tomorrow, you're sitting at home by yourself all day. You'd have to eat 12 cupcakes! Don't do it!
Me:  -.-
Cashier: Paper or plastic?

So in short, blackberries went on crazy sale and i decided to bake for no reason at all.  And guess what?  They were crazy good.  =x  I wish i could have given these to more people.  Because i actually thought they'd turn out bad, but they were nommies.  

I used the blackberries in four ways; 1) to flavor the cake 2) to make a filling  3) drizzle on top of the frosting 4) garnish.  Then i used Ghirardelli white chocolate chips to make a white choco butter cream frosting.  The result of it all was a pretty gosh darn good cupcake with all sorts of flavors playing off each other.  And as my dear Pam  said, the prettiest looking cupcake she has seen me produce yet! Haha. 

I ended up taking 100 pictures.  Makes sense since i spent the ENTIRE day in the kitchen.  So needless to say, prepare for a picture heavy post. 

I made 12 cupcakes.  Double this recipe if you'd like a full batch.

First step is to make the blackberries useful.  I did that by making them into a blackberry sauce.

Blackberry Sauce
2 containers of blackberries 
1.5 table spoons  of sugar

Wash and drain blackberries in a bowl.  Pour sugar on top and set aside for 15 minutes.  
Put berries into a saucepan and heat on low, stir frequently.  
Crush them with a potato masher.  
Turn off when they start to boil.
Throw into blender on puree setting. You will see lots and lots of seeds.

Pour into strainer.  This takes forever. >.<  You will have to (with clean hands) press down on the puree to make sure its going through the strainer.  You'll also have to stop at least once to scrape out all the little seeds and toss them.  Let it cool a little before doing this though, or you will burn your fingers.

You will end up with a very rich red sauce.  We will use it on it own as well as add it to other things.

The first thing we will do with it is use it to make the filling.

Blackberry Filling
1/3 cup blackberry sauce
1 cup water
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Combine sugar and cornstarch.  
In a saucepan on low heat, combine sauce, water and lemon juice.
Add in sugar/cornstarch mixture a little at time and stir constantly.
It's ready when its thick and gelatinous 

Sift cornstarch first to avoid lumps.

You can set this aside to cool so it's ready for the baked cupcakes.

But first the cupcake!

Blackberry Cupcakes 
1 stick room temp butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 room temp eggs
1 1/4 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup room temp milk
1/4 cup room temp sour cream
1/2 cup blackberry sauce

In one bowl whisk together the sauce, sour cream and milk and set aside.

This actually looks pretty good and i had to fight the urge to try some.  I don't think it would have TASTED yummy. 

In a second bowl combine salt, flour and baking powder and set aside.
Cream butter and sugar, adding in the eggs and vanilla.
Add dry ingredients and wet ingredients into the butter mixture in five sections; flour, milk, flour, milk, flour. 

This process looks pretty, as you make the batter more and more purple!

Line your muffin pan with 12 liners, and add a ice cream scoop size amount of prety purple batter.  Bake in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes at 325*.

Once they are done and cool comes the really fun part.


It's like my new favorite thing, I swear.  I bought this fun little guy at Target for like five bucks.  (When you buy yours, it wont have purple cupcake crumbs on it, don't worry.

How it works is that you stick the big part into the cupcake all the way to the base.

Then you twist it in a  circular motion and pull up.  You end up pulling up a core of the cupcake, making a hole in it and keeping the middle inside the corer itself.  Use the little part of the corer to take out the innards.

 You can toss the inside. Or eat it.  Or use it for cakepops.

This is what it looks like on the left.  I took a knife and cut the top off so that i could use it later to cover up the hole I made.

 Now you get to use the blackberry filling that we made to fill the holes! Pipe in the filling. And by pipe i mean shove as much filling as possible up in there.  Cuz you best believe this filling is yummy.

Cover with the tops!  See how they pop out?  Yeah, that's filling heavy for you.  

What's left to do?  The frosting.  This is probably the first time in a year that i tried making a frosting that wasn't cheese cream based.  And i am glad i did.  It was a little difficult to get the hang of, but i will try it again.  I was totally eating more of it than i should have.

White Chocolate Frosting
(taken from here)
5 oz. melted white chocolate chips
1 stick room temp butter
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons of room temp milk

Melt chocolate chips in microwave, set microwave on high and melt in 30 second increments, stirring often.  Should take 2-3 minutes.
Beat butter in mixer until fluffy, add vanilla.
Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time.
Add melted chocolate.
Pour in milk as needed.

 MAKE SURE NOT TO OVER COOK THE CHOCOLATE.  For reals.  Don't over melt  Watch it like a hawk.  Also, keep stirring once its out until you add it to the mixer because you dont want it to harden.  Scrape down the sides of the mixer as needed.

The end result is a thick thick frosting. That tastes just as yummy as it looks.

Pipe it onto all your cupcakes.  Work as fast as you can, because if it hardens inside the tips it's a pain to frost.

If you actually look closely, all the cupcakes look piped differntly.  That's because i used the wrong tip (2D instead of 1M) for half of them before i noticed.  Oops. They still look pretty though.

Next we get to re-create a murder scene.  At least that's what it looks like because i don't have a fancy squeeze bottle, and just took a spoon and splashed and dripped and threw the left over strawberry sauce over the cupcakes.

Once they allhave that drizzle, just add the finishing touch -- a blackberry on top.

Don't they look so pretty all together???

The best part of course, is the mixture of all the flavors.  At least for most.  When you slice it in half you can see that better.

My boss told me that she took a bite out of it and then decided to eat the inside filling with her finger. lol!

These might be my favorite ones I have made so far.  :)   Yes they took ALL day, but they were kinda worth it!