Monday, June 30, 2008


Spent the better part of the day making a cassoulet from America's Test Kitchen. While it turned out well, it was pretty radically underseasoned. If I make this again (which I might), I'd definitely have to check the seasoning once the beans are done. We had the cassoulet with some broiled asparagus, grilled eggplant, and portobello mushrooms.

Earlier in the weekend, Seth made us some pineapple/pork skewers, which we had with some homemade guacamole and sour cream taco-style. Delicious! Saturday night, we had grilled kielbasa and some artichokes. I really love artichokes. Mmm.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Another picture of the cupcakes

Just because...


Sunday, June 08, 2008


So. Friday, we made cupcakes. More accurately, Friday, Ei-Nyung, Lindsi and I made 144 cupcakes for a pair of friends' wedding. That's a picture of the finished result at the wedding. I can't say much about the cakes themselves - Ei-Nyung's been making cupcakes semi-regularly over and over again over the last year. This batch was the best she's ever made, fittingly enough.

For me, I ended up doing the frosting. There were two kinds - a vanilla cream cheese frosting and a chocolate ganache. The vanilla was really simple - 2 sticks of butter, a package o' cream cheese (both whipped 'till fluffy), a quarter vanilla bean, 2 tsp vanilla extract, and 4 cups sifted confectioners sugar. No cooking required, goes together quick, easy as pie. I could probably have used a touch more sugar, and the frosting could have stood to be a little stiffer (made piping out something that looked nice difficult), but the flavor was awesome and complemented the cupcakes perfectly.

I'd 'stolen' the recipe from, which has so many delicious recipes for cupcakes it boggles the mind, but even more recently, from Jess, who brought over some vanilla cupcakes with the very same frosting.

The second frosting was chocolate - the original request was for chocolate/chocolate, so I looked around for a bit and independently of the first recipe, ended up at the same blog again (before having tried Jess' cupcakes, this was the recipe I'd found that I'd wanted to try for the choco frosting). Still, since H wasn't into the dairy thing, I wanted to try something dairy-free/minimal if possible. One recipe I'd seen was from David Lebovitz, who wrote a *spectacular* ice cream book called The Perfect Scoop. This one, strangely, had you melt the chocolate *in* water, then add a little butter and some sugar. It turned... interesting. You could make a really nice smeared-on-with-a-knife frosting with the stuff, but piping it was, far as I could tell, impossible. Impossible for me, anyway.

One weird side-effect of that frosting was that if you put it into a canvas piping bag and squeezed, you would separate the fat from the water, and the fat would ooze out the pores in the bag. Gross, and the resulting frosting was... not great. REALLY chocolatey when you smeared it on a cake, but unusable for what we were doing.

So, the end result was that I went with the Cupcake Bakeshop recipe - 4oz bittersweet, 5oz semisweet, 2 tbsp butter, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 cup cream, 2 cups sifted sugar. Heat the cream 'till bubbles form around the side, pour over the chopped chocolate. Wait a minute, stir to combine. Add vanilla, butter, mix till (at least mostly) combined. Wait 10 minutes (this is actually really, really, really, really, really important). Slap into stand mixer with whisk head, whisk in sugar, mix at high speed until thick enough to ribbon. By the time you get it into the pastry bag, it'll have set up enough to pipe.

I originally tried a triple recipe (at the beginning of the evening), but because when you triple a recipe any time-to-temperature sorts of conversions fall apart, it didn't turn out right. Those 10 minutes are there so that the icing cools down. If you mix it up to hot, it never sets up. I spent a couple hours trying to see if I could salvage that batch, then eventually gave up and made three single batches in series. Mix up frosting, pipe 20 cupcakes, wash (literally), rinse (literally), repeat.

All in all, it took way longer than it should have, though about an hour less than I'd mentally budgeted for the task. My piping technique got better as the night went on, but some of the early cupcakes were *ugly*.

We ended up topping the cupcakes with some little vanilla meringues we got from Trader Joes on a whim the evening before. Ended up being a real lifesaver. We'd tried making little fondant decorations - some little flower cutouts, but they looked a bit too cutesy. We then tried something more "realistic," which was a white calla lily thingamabob with a pair of pink and blue spheres contained within, but being novices with fondant, they were a bit more elegant in concept than execution. We ended up topping four of the cupcakes (the tops of the "trees") with the best of those. Part of the problem is that vanilla meringues are delicious, fondant really isn't. So, not really a problem - it all turned out for the best.

All in all, despite the lack of visual flair, the cupcakes ended up delicious, H&M were happy, the other guests seemed to enjoy them, and the wedding was a blast. Awesome.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


So, for the last couple weeks, the cupcake thing has been stressing me out in the back of my head - I'd agreed to do the frosting half of the equation, but I'd never been able to get it quite right. This weekend, I'd tried a recipe by David Leibovitz, which was a really bizarre ganache made by melting chocolate in water. It tasted great - *intensely* chocolatey, but the texture wasn't appropriate at all.

This morning at like, 4am, I woke up and a good portion of the reason was that I was freaking out that this was still an "unknown." Obviously, people *have* iced cupcakes well - there must be information out there. So, I spent a couple hours reading about frosting techniques, and 1.) figured out what I was doing wrong and 2.) found a recipe I thought would work.

This evening, I tried out the recipe (a relatively standard but not-overly-sweet chocolate buttercream) from the Cupcake Bake Shop blog. I'd picked up a "real" pastry bag at East Bay Restaurant Supply this morning. Tried a handful of different piping tips, but settled on the now-popular "no tip" method, which Jess had pulled off on some DELICIOUS vanilla cupcakes she brought over last time she was here.

The frosting was easy to manage, tasty, and looked alright (chocolate frosting on chocolate cupcakes... it's hard to make it not look turd-like...).

So, no worries. It'll work out. One batch of frosting looks like it's good for about 10-15 cupcakes, so I'm gonna need to make a LOT of the stuff, but fortunately, it goes together pretty quick.