Monday, January 30, 2012

DIY: Cupcake Liner Jar

I pinterest.  Do you pinterest?  It's how i take up my time in between tasks at work.  Or how i end up wasting hours at a time.  Mostly i look at things like all white kitchens with baby blue appliances that would look perfect in my pretend kitchen in my pretend house.

I found this pin though, and fell in love with it.  In loooove.

So easy.  So simple.  So pretty.  I had to try it.  I forced counter space in my small little kitchen.  I went to Wal-Mart and spent 8 bucks on a 1 gallon jar and 2 dollars at Michaels for ribbon. Then I added my oodles of cupcake liners.

The result was super awesome.  No, my picture is not as pretty as the one above. Yes, the lighting is horrible.  And i am aware you are probably sick of seeing my white tile and red brick counterspace.   But this one's mine and its pretty and it make me smile every time i walk by it.

Also, it lives next to my pink love birdies and cupcake spatulas so that automatically adds a layer of cool to it.


Friday, January 27, 2012

14 Minute Walk to Yum: Cako Review

I went to Cako Bakery today.  They are on O'farell Street right off of Union Square and I am so glad that they are that far from me (14 minute walk, we timed it).  I am even more glad that you can't see their glowing pink store front sign from the main street... or my subconscious would be sabotaging me even more than it already is.  Because yeah, they're kinda yummy.

You can see my friend in the picture below.  I am pretty sure that he is walking away from the store, and me because I am embarrassing paparazzi on a cell phone camera taking pictures of EVERYTHING. 

The display case is full of real cupcakes.  Sprayed with who knows what to keep them looking alive and happy.  Here's some shots from the inside and outside. I see S'mores and red velvets and carrot cake!

So we got two cupcakes --S'mores and Pink Lemonade -- and then went across the street for lunch.  As you can see, my companion ripped into his before we even crossed the street.  Pretty!

I really really really liked mine.  A lot.  Raspberry cake, a lemon filling and lemon cream cheese frosting.  It was so good.  The cake was SO MOIST and thick.  I need to learn how to make my own version of this.

I didn't really like the S'mores one.  I mean, i think i make a pretty decent S'mores cupcake and this one was just okay.  Graham cracker crust, (but admittedly very moist) chocolate cake and marshmallow frosting.  I thought the frosting was too much.  And they could have filled it with some ganache.

My friend actually didn't even finish it.  He tossed most of it.  But since he has tasted mine, he felt that they could redeem themselves some.  ( I wish we could have exchanged them.)  He said he doesn't even like chocolate, but was lured in by it's appearance.  His fault for falling for slutty cupcakes right?    So when we went back inside after lunch it was no surprise his next choice was Strawberry Cheesecake.

It's a strawberry cake, graham cracker crust, cheese cake "filling" and a cream cheese frosting.  He loved it.  I liked my Pink lemonade more, but this was still really good too.  My only critique was that it was "filled" by putting a glob on the top rather than in the center.

They have a carrot cake i will have to try next.  Because I am sure there will be a next time, they are pretty darn solid. (Just skip the S'mores one.)  So much better than Cupcake Cove!  No crappy day old frosting.  But I still love me my CupKates.  ;)  


P.S.  I will be baking this weekend!  And its NOT cupcakes!  :) 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Give Me Back My Calories : Cupcake Cove Review

Le Sigh.  I hate it when i waste calories on things that aren't yummy.  Especially if i know i won't be headed to the gym that day.

And that's how i feel now, sitting at my desk at work reflecting on my lunch time cheat with Cupcake Cove in San Francisco's Financial District. 

I actually literally ran into this place two weeks ago when I went to Miette with a friend.  We had just had macaroons though, so we said we'd try these later.  And later was today.  I checked Yelp first and they got decent reviews, 4 stars.  But that was not our experience.

They do have a lot of flavors, which seem to change daily.  You can see their menu (and website)  here.  They also sell cookies - which i did not try.

The store front is TINY though.  No seats.  (Which is why all the pictures you will dirty SF streets in the background.)  It's okay though... because they give you your cupcake in a little plastic container fit for one cupcake.  ITS SO CUTE.  It looks a little like the cupcake carriers I got this year for Christmas.  I will have to try mine out ASAP!

In any case, the cupcake that was given to me in the cute plastic bubble was a Guava & Passion Fruit/Vanilla cupcake.

What this means, apparently is that its a Guava-Passion Fruit frosting on a plain Vanilla cupcake.

It's pretty.  My friend got a Coconut/Vanilla. Same thing.  Coconut frosting on a vanilla cupcake.

So far so good right?  Convenient location?  Check.  Variety? Check.  Cool flavors?  Check.  Pretty containers?  Check.

But I mean at three dollars a pop, it is a lot about how it tastes.  And I was underwhelmed.  For two reasons.  The first and most important is that is WAS three dollars for a cupcake whose frosting was wayyyyy dry.  As in I question if these were even today's cupcakes.  It was the same for both my Guava and my friend's Coconut.  The cupcake itself was all right, it was moist (enough) but the frosting was not up to par with what you can get in this area, what you can MAKE at home.   I could probably get a fresher cupcake at Walgreens... and that was the biggest issue for me.  It was at 1PM, they open at 11AM.  If you cant make them stay fresh for 2 hours, or even worse yet if you're giving me frosting you prepared earlier this week and shoved in the fridge to be used throughout the week?  Come on.  Really disappointing.

The second problem I had was the flavor combinations.   Let me explain.  All but one (maybe two) of the cupcakes there were EITHER a plain vanilla or a chocolate cupcake with a flavored frosting.  That's kind of taking the easy way out isn't it?  You're only baking two kinds of cakes and putting (old) flavored frostings on top?  No thanks.

That being said, the actual flavor of both of the cupcake frosting were not bad.  (If i wasn't totally aware that I was eating refrigerated 3 day old frosting, that is.)  The guava came through nicely, the coconut wasn't overwhelming and neither were sickeningly sweet.  If they had been FRESH I would have forgiven their lazy approach to baking.

But I bake cupcakes with 4-5 elements to them (cake, filling, frosting, garnish, sauces etc) so coupled with the old frosting issue, I cannot forgive Cupcake Cove.  Not when i have CupKates down the street.  The extra block is worth it anyways.  Burn more calories getting there?  Anyways, needless to say I will not be going back to Cupcake Cove anytime soon.  


Monday, January 16, 2012

Cajeta Tres Leches Cupcakes

Spoon or fork required.

These are so good I am personally writing a strongly worded letter to everyone I know to question why they aren't all doing  my evil bidding for me in exchange for these treats.

These cupcakes have as many Mexican components as possible thrown into them to make them Mexican and not just Latin American. Tres leches? Cajeta?  Mexican Hot Chocolate?  Triple check!

Tres leches cake  (three milks; condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream) is eaten widely throughout Mexico, Central and Southern American.  Countries squabble about it's true origin.  Honestly? I don't care where it's from.  It's my favorite cake.  I'm not even sure when i first discovered it, since my mom (who does NOT bake) never made it growing up.  But I am glad i did.  And it's been on my list of things to try to bake myself FOREVER.

I think last year I googled recipes and got discouraged because people complained about how hard and messy it was.  They take a long time, yes... but they weren't that bad.  And they came out fantastic!  Worth it.

For the cake, I adapted this recipe.  The biggest substitution I made to the cupcakes was that I did NOT use coconut milk.  MEXICANS DONT USE COCONUT MILK.  That's all.  =x

Spongey Vanilla Cake
350*, Makes 15

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup heavy cream

1.Cream butter and sugar until fluffy on medium speed. Add egg yolks Add vanilla, mix to combine.
2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a seperate bowl.
3. Add dry flour mixture with the buttermilk to the creamed butter beginning and ending with the flour.
4.In a small bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold into rest of batter.

One important note here.  Regular cupcake liners will NOT do for this project.  You will need either silicon liners, or a stack of foil liners like these.

At first when these were cooking  and first came out of the oven I thought I had somehow messed it up somehow because they were so pourous.  But then i realized that that is kind of the point.  They need to be able to absorb and retain a lot of moisture. Which is why regular liners will not do.  They will leak through -- and that's how you end up with a messy kitchen.

Let your cupcakes cool for a few minutes but then begin poking them with a toothpick as soon as you take them out of the pan.  Just go to town, making sure to get the sides.  TRY not to make holes in the liner though.

Now they are ready for the "three milks" part of the cake.  You can make this beforehand.

Tres Leches Sauce
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup condensed milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons rum

Take one tablespoon of the mixture and spoon it over the cupcake.  At first, it will puddle on the top.

Just in case it is slow going and won't go down, feel free to pole more holes with your toothpick.

In a minute or two, the cake should absorb the mixture.

Once you see that there is no more liquid on top, repeat this step.  Add another tablespoon of liquid to the cupcakes. (So two tablespoons total.)

When you finish, there should not be any big puddles but you should be able to cleary see that the cake is being soaked.

I put mine on a cookie sheet and covered them with saran wrap and then put them in the fridge overnight.  You should let them sit in the fridge at least 3-4 hours, if not overnight.

The next morning, I ate one.  Haha.  Yeah they are yummy by this point.  In any case, check one.  I added another teaspoon (NOT tablespoon) to each of them and let them sit for five minutes.

Then it was time for the yummy cajeta.

Cajeta in simple terms is just caramel.  Mexican caramel often compared or substituted for dulce de leche.  The difference between the two is that Cajeta is a regional caramel from the Mexican states of Guanajuato and Jalisco.  My mom is from Jalisco and I have fond memories of cajeta while vacationing in my early years.  The word caja means box and is how the caramel is traditionally housed.  It's also made from goat, not from cow.  Recipes call for the addition of vanilla/vanilla beans which makes it quite distinct from caramel sauce.  You taste the difference.  You can buy it premade at the Mexican grocery store  (but from cows) nowadays.  (If you don't have a Mexican grocery store, across from the Asian Market of course, then I urge you to move.  Real talk.)  In any case, we always have some in the fridge and so I felt it was necessary that it be included in this recipe.

It's thick and delicious.  I can eat spoonfuls of this stuff.

I took a spoon and drizzled the top of each cupcake with it.

Then I got the topping ready.  Combined with the cajeta, I think it's what makes these truly Mexican.

The topping is simply cinnamon mixed in with grated Mexican hot chocolate bars.  To make hot chocolate, Mexicans use these bars that are a mixture of cocoa and cinnamon and other fun bits.   (The picture on top shows a broken bar.  They come in rounds, and you break them into triangular pieces. Popular brands are Nestle's Abuelita and Ibara.)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Mexican hot chocolate triangle, grated

Set this aside and get ready for the frosting.  Because the cake is so sweet the frosting on tres leches cakes are typically very light.  Very light.

I used this classic recipe:

Whipped Frosting
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a chilled bowl, mix cold ingredients on high until stiff peaks form.

Frost cupcakes. Sprinkle your topping over the frosting.  Get ready for yumminess in your mouth...

Once I was done with that step, I ate another one. Yeap.  Two in one sitting.   The picture below initially was intended to have more cupcake in it.  Unfortunately my mouth was too fast for my camera.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

I Finally Went To miette!

I was going to be totally good this week.  And i was.. mostly.  But then a friend asked me to go to miette with him on our lunch hour.

You see, I don't know if i have mentioned this before but i work in downtown San Francisco. (The FiDi  to be exact.)  Most of the time, i'm grumpy because its early and i am at work and its cold.  It's always cold.  But every now and then i step outside and breathe in the SF air and actually take a look around and i realize what an awesome city it is.

I also realize this when i step out for a ten minute break and go shoe shopping.  I do that a lot, actually. 

So today instead of spending my lunch time shopping i got talked into going down to the Embarcadero, to the ferry building.  The ferry building houses a ton of cute little shops and restaurants and markets. 

Outside they even have a farmers market and food tents set up on certain days.  Yeah - it's the dead of winter right now and they are still there.  It's 62* and sunny in the city today.  Yeah you can be a little jealous.   Anyways, inside the ferry building is miette patisserie.  they are one of the places that i have been meaning to try.  it's one of those requirements of living in the bay that i somehow failed to meet.  

I was actually a little surprised by their store front.  I thought it would be a little bigger.  (I have been to the outside of the Oakland location and that one was bigger.)  But i guess i cannot be surprised.  All the shops there are pretty tiny.

But man what it lacks in size, it sure makes up for it in pure cuteness.  love at first sight.  i want to live there, real talk.

Everything is so adorable!  The cute little pastel cake stands are to DIE for and have convinced me to buy my own pink one later this month.

I love all the perfectly written signs and all the packaged sweets.

They have all sorts of goodies here.  They have cookies.  They have chocolate.  They have cakes.  They have whipped cream in a jar!  I honestly don't even know what that whipped cream in a jar thing is except that i want to photograph it. And eat it.

They also had birdies.  And you guys know me.  I love me my birdies.  These hold napkins.  WHERE CAN I FIND THIS IN REAL LIFE.  No, really.  WHERE???

They also have cupcakes.  Yummy looking ones at that.  HOWEVER i did not get one today!  Surprising, i know.

My trip to miette was not for the cupcakes though.  It was for the macaroons.  The friend i went with is a big fan.  And so i bought the ones below.  Well, not all the jars.  Just one of each.  (Blue Bottle) Coffee and Chocolate Orange.  He got three Hazelnuts.

Then we went outside to eat them.  Where i was once again reminded how awesome SF is.  I really need to start walking around the Embarcadero on my lunch time more.  Because the sights are admittedly much prettier than the mall is.  

 So back to the macaroons that were wrapped and sealed.  I love stickers.

They were good!  I was expecting more fruity flavors to be honest, so i was a little worried about my choices but i ended up liking them all.  The orange chocolate was interesting and took a minute to get used to, but they were still all really good.

I'd be interested in checking out more flavors though.  They seem to rotate them out.  So maybe in a few weeks?  And while i am there i could eat a cupcake too.  Oh and once, my co worker brought me back some chocolate covered gummi bears that were delicious... Want to join me?