Tuesday, April 17, 2012

High on Sugar, Short on Bliss: Sinful Bliss Cupcakes Review

I did not bake this weekend.

Why?  Because I was eating ALL the things, of course.  Yes literally ALL the things.  I had things to do, people to see, sweets to consume, pounds to gain.  And it looks like this weekend will be a repeat. Crap.  And now that it is officially Spring in the Bay there are just so many festivals and fairs and gorgeous sunshiney Sunday mornings to take advantage of!  (Take advantage is code for having me stuff my face while you live vicariously through me.)

Later this week I hope to bring you crepes, creme brulee, ice cream sundaes and  ice cream sandwich cookies.  But today.. .a review! The review is for Sinful Bliss Cupcakes in Pleasant Hill, CA.

This place is pretty close to me.  Close enough that I pass by it when I go to the movie theater or Michaels.  Close enough that friends and acquaintances will check-in or Facebook pictures of the cupcakes. I'd even yelped them to see if they were worth investing my oh co carefully allocated calories on.  But I had yet to go despite them being around since 2012/2011ish.  But last Wednesday I took a friend there for a post-dinner treat. Or at least I had hoped it would have been a treat...

The shop is in the middle of Crescent Plaza, next door to a frozen yogurt place.  I love the little canopy on top.  So much promise!

Once inside, there is the register and display place.  Behind the register is this cute little wall decal that welcomes you and encourages you to eat cupcakes.  Like that's needed...

On the right hand wall, there are black frames with the menu and pricing.  Cupcakes are $3.25 and minis are $2 each.  They also announce specials of the day and month.

The cupcake display is pretty solid.  There is lots to choose from.  Lots.  I spent a good five minutes taking pictures and debating what I would get. Not only is there good variety but almost all, if not all, of the flavors are available in the mini size!

We ended up with four in our little box.

Red Velvet, Salted Caramel, Raspberry and Coconut Macaroon. 

I didn't try the Red Velvet since it was for a friend, but the sugar crystals on top of the cream cheese frosting really deterred me from wanting to try it anyways.  The amount of sugar should have been a sign!

I had the raspberry which I did not take a picture of because I put it in my mouth too fast.  Oops.  I like food, okay?  The cake was good, it had chunks of raspberry in it which I loved, but the cake was not super moist.  It wasn't dry either though, it just... was.   The frosting part.was pure sugar.  Way way too much sugar.  I usually like to scrape off half the frosting anyways, but in this case I HAD to.  The frosting was also a little dry. 

The Coconut Macaroon was actually a pretty huge divergence in what I would normally get.  But i got it because I am trying new things.  I am not a fan of coconut, but I am giving it a try!  And actually the toasted coconut part of the cupcake was not that bad at all.  I think I will explore this coconut thing a  little more in the future.  The part that was bad... was again the sweetness. The caramel PLUS the frosting was too much.  I could barely taste the chocolate.  And if I can't taste the chocolate?  Well, then there is a serious problem!! At least it looked pretty?

My friend for the salted caramel.  He liked the salt/caramel and said the cake was fine... but he had the same reaction to the frosting; TOO SWEET.  CupKate's version of the Salted Caramel is on chocolate cake and the first time I ate one, I had to rethink all I knew about cupcakes.  That was not his reaction.  Or even close to it...

So would I recommend this place to a friend?  No, not when Kara's is one town over.  Or when you can stalk CupKates. (I also tried a new place that I have yet to blog about that is amazing and might be beating out my CupKate truck as new favorite. But more on that one later.) 

Would I come back?   Maybe. If I was next door, and really wanted a cupcake and the flavor of the month looked interesting and someone else was paying for it and they happened to be a hot guy with abs. 

What?  Could totally happen. 


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Carrot Cupcakes with Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting

... and the most adorable candy melt carrot toppers ever!

This is another one of those Anna is crazy pants things.  I baked for no reason at all.  There are 14 cupcakes sitting on my counter right now.  Luckily I can think of a few takers, but there's always the chance that I will end up with a pile of liners in front of me and a face full of crumbs.

In case you're looking for a last minute Easter treat to whip up before tomorrow you should try these.  So easy!  You probably already have most of these things in your pantry already.  I did.

Why did I bake these?  Well, it's because I discovered that I do, in fact, like carrot cake.  Wait no, I LOVE carrot cake.  Where had it been all my life!  It's only be in the last year or so that I realized this, so any time I have gotten the chance to shove these down my throat, I have.

I'm actually a crazy picky eater.  Ridiculous.  My food habits get annoying, I know, my poor friends.  At least for savory foods.  But for the sweet?  Man, I love sweets... So I don't know why I had always avoided carrot cake.  Maybe the thought of carrots? But what a huge mistake that was.

(Funny story, I went to the "Exploratorium After Dark" in San Francisco last week with some friends and the theme was food.  A bunch of different exhibits like making ice cream with dry ice and cricket chip cookies.  In one exhibit you drank some liquid that would dull your ability to sense sweet.  I refused to try this because I do NOT want to mess with my taste buds.  What if I could never taste sweet again???  The horror.)

Anyways, the cupcake recipe I adapted from here.  Something else I found on pinterest!  It's becoming so handy.

I got up at 6:55AM to start grating carrots for these.  Worth it!

The left over carrots I ate while I cooked.  I felt like Bugs Bunny.

Carrot Cupcakes
Makes 12-15, Bake at 350* for about 15 minutes

1 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tspsalt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 c canola oil
4 round pineapple slices
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temp
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (3 large ones)
1/2 cups walnuts  (1/4 c for batter, 1/4 c for garnish)

1. If using walnuts, lightly roast them on a baking tray for about 4-5 minutes. Cool, then process them finely.  I just chopped mine up small with a knife though.
2. Puree pineapple slices along with a bit of juice in a blender.
3. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger in bowl & set aside.
 until smooth and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, whisk sugars, pineapple puree and oil until blended. Add in eggs, one at at time and whisk. Add in the flour mixture and stir until blended.
5. Stir in the vanilla, carrots and walnuts.
6. Scoop batter into cupcake liners and bake awesomeness.

These end up baking up really nicely.  This has been the first time that I have used oil instead of butter.  It scared me a little at first, but in the end it worked out fine.  Also note that you don't even need a mixer for this!  You stir by hand.  Kind of awesome.   The end result is one of those cupcakes that you can visually see that there are 568 ingredients in it.  I love that.

Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 oz package cream cheese
1/2 a stick of non salted butter
3 tablespoons pineapple juice
2 cups powdered sugar

1. Cream butter and cream cheese until soft in a mixer.
2. Add pineapple juice.
3. Slowly add in sugar.
4. Refrigerate for ten minutes if too soft, then frost cupcakes.

Now it's time to work on the toppings.

1/4 cup walnuts
Around 15 green candy melts
Around 30 orange candy melts

Easy peasy walnut sprinkling... I tried to make mine look like dirt on top!

Then, I made carrots out of orange and green candy melts that were used to stick on top of the cupcakes.  Like they were growing out of the cupcake and dirt. I just melted the chips in microwaveable proof bowls and then scooped it into zip log bags to pipe onto wax paper. I had a stencil I hand drew to help me along.

I ended up doing two sizes of the carrots, to see which were better.  In the end I liked them both and used both.

I mean after all in real carrot patches aren't the carrots in all sizes?  And my kitchen/my front yard is totally like the real thing...  Or at least I temporarily turned it into the real thing.  :)

You can kind of see the difference in sizes in this picture below.  Cute huh?

A few months ago, I was at the Daiso Japan store  (Japanese $1.50 store that sells All The Things you don't need but really so want) by my work and I found this cute little stand for a pot.  I thought it'd look awesome as a cupcake holder.  I was right.

And don't worry these are just as yummy as you would hope they would be.

Happy Easter!


Monday, April 2, 2012

Red Carpet Ready Red Velvet Cupcakes

Makes sense.  After literally years of my friends poking at me, telling me to make Red Velvet cupcakes and me saying no no  (the taste of red velvet is meh, imo) I go and make them and hit disasters at every turn.  What do i mean by that?

Well for starters the event that I baked for would ideally have had about three hard core red velvet lovers in attendance.  They weren't able to come out last night though.  Sad face.  Second, pour-ing rain the entire time I baked -- and we all know my complaints about bad lighting.  The sun did not come out at all until I got in my car and started driving there. -.-  Third... was this guy.

What is this?  Just an egg right?  Yes just an egg. However it is NOT just an egg if you discover it on the counter AFTER you have put your cupcake batter in the oven.  Oy.  I had to run out and hope Target had not closed yet so that I could buy more red food coloring.

In any case, mini disasters aside,  I made red velvet cupcakes!  Fit for the red carpet I might add.  Well to be exact, they were made FOR the red carpet.  My friends tend to lean on the awesome side, including throwing theme parties any chance we get.  Last Saturday was a friend's Hollywood themed birthday party - red, black, gold stars everywhere, drag queens, red carpet, top hats, 5 inch heels. The works.  As soon as I heard about the party  the wheels in my mind started turning.

I thought back to the Heart Valentine's Day cupcakes I made and decided to make something similar.  Instead of making them with hearts though I did stars.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Makes 24+, Bake for about 18 minutes at 350* 
Doubled recipe found here.  

2.5 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons  regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 (1 stick) cup  unsalted butter, room temperature
1.5 cups  white sugar
2 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup  buttermilk
2 tablespoon liquid red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. In a big bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa.
2. In mixer, beat butter until soft.  Add sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add vanilla. Add eggs one at a time.
3. Combine buttermilk and red food coloring in a separate bowl and whisk together.
4. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures to the sugar/butter mixture in five additions, starting and ending with flour.
5. In a small cup/bowl add vinegar to baking soda and let fizz together.  Fold into the rest of the batter.
6. Scoop batter into cupcake pan and bake.

This scene totally looks familiar huh?  Haha.   Last time though, i used the heart cut outs to make little sandwiches.  This time I only sliced half of them so i did not have that many. 

 Unfortunately these stars did not come out as straight as the hearts. A little messy.  They'd come off half on the liner.  But i still used them.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1.5 packages of cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp heavy whipping cream
4 cups powdered sugar

1. Cream butter and cream cheese.
2. Add vanilla and whipping cream.
3. Add powdered sugar until you reach desired consistency.

I piped frosting onto half of them.  The other half with tops cut off were piped and the tops replaced.  It was a messy kitchen.  Red velvet crumbs everywhere.

Then I put the star cut outs on top of the other cupcakes to give them some color and star style.  I added gold sprinkles to both.

Ta-dah!  Pretty huh?

The best part was when I called the birthday boy a few weeks beforehand to go over the details.  Because he bakes cakes.  Like he bakes beautiful multi layer, you'd want this for your wedding, cakes.  And his cake sounded, and turned out fabulous.  Look at the detail!

 Matched perfectly with the theme of the night, and of course my cupcakes. Here they are all together!

Actually the entire party was great success.  Planned largely in part by my best friend Hugo, it was awesome.  Cute little details everywhere.

Had a blast with the props. None of my girl friends were there (not that i have too many of those anyways, haha), so I might have borrowed husbands/boyfriends.  That's Hugo with me on the right. Did you ever meet someone who makes your life better because they're in it?  Yup.

Don't worry.  I had time to cheers over my cupcakes.  And then of course... shove one in my mouth.


I saved three cupcakes though.  Because the horrible rain had pictured blocked me after all, and I was intent on getting pictures.

Sure enough, the next day was windy but we had some fabulous sun.  The kind where you want to just want to turn into a cat/dog and bask in it all day.

I had one of these and they weren't bad at all.  Which is a good thing since I dont like red velvet right?   I was kind of worried that I had over done it with the mess of golden sprinkles, but they worked out okay. 

I think my favorite reaction to them though, was from a friend of a friend who said "This is so good, I want to just put my face in that container."  I'll take that as a glowing recommendation.