Saturday, October 15, 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

This week, something very exciting happened for me...I was approached at work by a couple of coworkers who basically wanted to order cupcakes from me.  The thought of this happening had never really occurred to me...I mean, I am learning to bake, I'm not a the fact that someone wanted to buy my cupcakes and serve them at an event was very exciting for me!  It also caught me off guard (I mean, how do you know what to charge people for things like this?).

These cupcakes were made for a baby shower.  The baby is a girl, and the mom is apparently obsessed with the Beatles.  So, the people hosting the baby shower decided that in light of the Beatles' song "Strawberry Fields Forever," strawberry cupcakes with a pink frosting would be perfect. 

The baby shower is tomorrow (Sunday), but I told my coworkers that I would try to bring the cupcakes to work for them on Friday so they didn't have to make a special trip to the office to pick them up.  Unfortunately, I hit a little baking snag.

You see, I find my recipes online, but then I print them off and work from the printout at home.  I also am not one of those good people who measures out all of their ingredients before starting to mix everything together (please don't tell my high school home-ec teacher!).  Instead, I read the step by step instructions and measure things out as they are called for.  This lead to a major cupcake default on Thursday night.

You see, the website and the printer had a disagreement, I think, and part of the directions didn't actually print off...but they looked whole, so I didn't notice.  I did my thing, mixing my ingredients and filling my baking cups and baking my cupcakes.  Then, when I pulled the first 24 cupcakes out of the oven, I noticed unopened bag of sugar on the counter.  At this point I thought to myself, "Um...did I add sugar to these cupcakes?  I don't think so....I wonder how important sugar is..."


The cupcakes LOOKED like cupcakes.  The cupcakes TASTED like biscuits with strawberry bits.  The cupcakes ended in my trash can covered with leftover batter and I went to bed knowing I would need to try again another day.

On Friday, I went back to the store, got replacement ingredients, and obsessed over the fact that I WOULD NOT forget to add the sugar this time!  And I didn't! 

These cupcakes came from Amelia's favorite baking blog, Annie's Eats.  The process of baking these cupcakes had its highs and lows...

Highs -
  1. Working with new ingredients (like cake flour)
  2. The cupcakes are delicious
  3. learning how to separate an egg! 
  4. The frosting is fantastic!
  5. I LEARNED HOW TO DO A CUPCAKE SWIRL! (I watched a tutorial video...)
  6. I made strawberry puree (which I had seriously never considered was JUST STRAWBERRIES...that you puree...)

Lows -
  1. My food chopper (used to chop strawberries) decided it didn't want to come apart to be washed and that lead to me banging it on the counter.
  2. Cake flour is hard to I had to hit the sifter with my meat mallet to get the flour through and that took a really long time.
  3. Because I was making these cupcakes for other people for a special occassion, I couldnt just say, "well, that was a flop!  Guess I will just try again next week!"  Instead, I had to try again the next day!
  4. I may have filled my cupcake liners too full, causing the cupcakes to be a little malformed.

I think my favorite part of these cupcakes is the frosting.  The frosting is a Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream...and it is so rich and creamy and delicious!  It was also one of the more difficult frostings I have made, so after the cupcake flop, I was nervous...

This frosting involves heating egg whites and sugar over simmering water until the mixture reaches a certain temperature and the sugar dissolves...

I don't have a thermometer, so I had to just eyeball it! 

Then there is A LOT of mixing (thank God for the KitchenAid).

The directions I followed were very helpful.  She was very optimistic and warned of problems that may happen in the frosting making process (like the frosting gets runny (which happened) or the frosting curdles (also happened))...and how all you have to do is KEEP MIXING and it will turn out just fine.  And she was right! 

So, my suggestion is that if you want a really rich, creamy, and delicious frosting and you have some extra time, you should try a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting (apparently there are many different flavors you can make!)!  Definitely worth it!  I have a lot of extras and love it so much that I am trying to convince someone else to bake a cake and frost it with my leftovers just so it wont go to waste!

I think these cupcakes are DELICIOUS!  They are light and fluffy and very moist with a good strawberry flavor.  I have no idea what the babyshower people will say...but I will update if I get any comments! 

Strawberry Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups cake flour (I didn't know cake flour existed until this recipe...)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla (I still can't get my vanilla opened, so I used vanilla bean paste)
2 cups chopped strawberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line cupcake pans with liners.
  2. Sift flour, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl (may require a meat mallet to beat the sifter...).  Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter AND SUGAR until light and fluffy (remember, sugar is important!).
  4. Add eggs one at a time until combined. 
  5. Add buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and beat until combined.
  6. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.
  7. Fold in chopped strawberries.
  8. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full with batter.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  10. Cool completely on wire rack.
Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries (8 oz), rinsed, hulled, and coarsely chopped
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  1. Place strawberries in food processor or blender and puree until completely smooth.
  2. Combine egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees ferinheit and the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes (the bowl should be cool to the touch).
  4. Reduce speed to medium and add butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer).
  5. Blend in the strawberry puree until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  6. Put in pastry bad with desired tip for decorating.
If you run into issues with this frosting and you need a pep talk re: it will all work out, go helps! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baby Lawyer Tries to Mediate...

One of the best, and worst, parts about being a baby lawyer is all of the new experiences associated with having never done anything before.  It is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating the first time a partner lets you do something, ANYTHING, on your own.  It is like a emotion roller coaster...and the best/worst part is that you don't really have a choice.  These are being at school.  So, ready or not, you are pushed into the deep end to either sink or swim...and usually there is a record for someone to pick up at a later date to evaluate your performance (or, at the very least, there is a client and another attorney in the room to verify that you were either excellent or a total flop). 

Today I had one of these experiences.  Today, I did my first mediation.  It was...interesting.

In this case, I represent the defendant.  The plaintiff has sued my client to recover $15,000 in damages...our last offer to settle was around $1000.  Because of a statute, if the plaintiff recovers more than $1000, he will also be entitled to attorneys' fees.  I have been preparing for this mediation for a while, and I feel very comfortable with the case and my (and the partner's) determination that our initial settlement offer is fair.

So, this morning I wake up and put on my lawyer suit, get in my car, and drive two hours to the mediation (and get lost thanks to the awesome GPS on my phone...).  I arrive at the mediator's office and find my client.  The plaintiff is already there, but we don't actually see him.  We are taken to the mediator's office where he tells us what he thinks of the case, asks me if I am ok with him swearing (me being the only lady in the room and all), and takes off to meet with the plaintiffs to get the mediation ball rolling.

Shortly thereafter, the mediator comes in and says that their first offer is to settle for $15,000 (for those of you keeping score, that is exactly what they claimed for their damages...) and will agree to not seek attorneys' fees.  Ok, great.  Not exactly what I was expecting, but I've discussed my first move with the partner on this case, and I know exactly what our first counter-offer is.  My client and I discuss, we provide some more information to the mediator, we do some math (did you know you have to be able to do math to be a lawyer?), and then we tell the mediator that our counter-offer is $3,000.  Mediator takes the offer to plaintiff.

About 10 minutes later, the mediator comes back into the room and says, "Well, the chickens have flown the coop."  Apparently displeased with our counteroffer, and unwilling to come down from $15,000, the plaintiff just decided mediation was a waste of time and left.

So...I tried to mediate.  Mediation failure. 

The good news = I may actually get to try my first solo jury trial!  There's always a silver lining!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Banana Chocolate Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

In keeping with the previous cupcake, this cupcake is the result of a special request from a coworker.  You may have noticed that I have been much better as of late in keeping with the "boozy" theme of this blog.  Personally, I have rather enjoyed the booze addition to my baked goods.  However, we have a few people at the Firm who, for various reasons, do not drink.  One of these people is Brad.

Brad is a toddler associate...meaning he is in his third year here at the Firm (in a comment to a previous post, I was asked if the designation of "baby lawyer" was something that the partners actually call us around here.  The answer to that is no, it is just my way of describing what I feel I am)!  He is on my team and offices just two doors down from me.  Brad doesn't drink.  He does, however, enjoy baked goods.  On the day of the delightful Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes at work, Brad came into my office to tell me they looked delicious...and then to request that I make a cupcake or two sans the booze so he can also participate in eating them.

Because Brad was the person who requested the non-booze cupcakes (and because I didn't have any non-booze cupcakes on my baking list), I let him decide what flavor of cupcakes he was looking for, and he settled on banana.  After a scavenger hunt through various baking blogs, and multiple emails, he decided on Chocolate Banana Cupcakes from The Cupcake Project. 

He wasn't picky about the frosting, and said he trusted my judgment on that one.  The recipe called for a Macadamia Nut Butter Frosting, which I wasn't really in the mood for.  I decided I would rather honey cinnamon cream cheese frosting...which I found various recipes for all over the Internet, and used the one at the bottom of the page, but cannot for the life of me remember where it came from. 

Anyway, baking this cupcake was...well...interesting.  The week before I baked these cupcakes, I had some bananas in my fruit bowl that were ripe, and friends told me to freeze them to save them for baking.  I've never frozen a banana before and then defrosted them to bake with.  Let me tell was DISGUSTING!  The banana was all limp and floppy and brown...there were juices...definitely not my favorite part of the baking process.  But, it worked.

The batter was also strange for this cupcake.  I made a double batch of the cupcakes, which amounted to 36 cupcakes.  I only have one cupcake pan (I used to have two, but apparently soaking a cupcake pan for two days leads to rust.  Who knew?!), so I had to bake my cupcakes in three different installments.  Scooping out the batter into the pan for the first 12 was no problem.  But, as those 12 cooked, I think the melted chocolate used in the batter started to harden back up, because the batter was definitely more clumpy the second time around.  The third time around it was dang near impossible to work with.  But, it worked and all the cupcakes turned out just fine!

My absolute favorite part of this cupcake was the frosting, and I think a lot of that has to do with the HONEY!  Ian and I recently went to his cousin's wedding.  His aunt and uncle have 6 beehives and recently harvested their honey for the year, and all of the wedding guests got a cute little container of fresh from the hive honey to take home with them! 

Cute, right?  The only downfall to using this fresh from the hive honey?  I used it all in my I definitely need to get more because it was DELICIOUS! 

Overall, I wasn't overly thrilled with these cupcakes.  I thought the chocolate tasted weird, there wasn't enough banana flavor, and the cupcakes were dry.

EVERYONE ELSE seemed to like them.  No one agreed that they were dry, the cupcakes disappeared faster than any other batch (maybe because people finally know where they are coming from and have learned to trust that I'm not going to give them food poisoning?), and overall I had really great reviews.  I did have some agreement that there needed to be more banana, so if you choose to make these, add a banana for more flavor!

Absolute best part of this cupcake, though, was the frosting, hands down! 

Banana Chocolate Cupcakes - (makes 18...if you only make 18, do 1/2 the frosting!)
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla (vanilla bean paste)
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
8 oz dark chocolate, melted.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake liners.
  2. Cream butter and sugar.
  3. Add eggs, sour cream, flour, and baking soda.
  4. Add vanilla and mashed bananas.
  5. Stir in melted chocolate.
  6. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting -
1 cup butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons honey
4-8 cups powdered sugar
  1. Cream butter until light and fluffy.  Add the cream cheese and beat for another two minutes.
  2. Mix in the honey and cinnamon.
  3. Gradually add in the powdered sugar one cup at a time until you get your desired consistency. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes & Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (aka - the orgasmic cupcake!)

I have officially been baking cupcakes and bringing them to work long enough that people have started making requests.  Well, maybe not people...maybe just Amelia...

Amelia is one of our newbies and we originally met when we interned together at the Firm.  At the time of our internship, I was in between my second and third year of law school, and she was a year behind me.  Amelia and I became very good friends over the summer, and I am VERY happy she is finally working with me!

Amelia LOVES pumpkin spice lattes.  Apparently this isn't that rare...although I personally am not a fan (I don't like anything coffee flavored).  One day at work a couple of weeks ago, Amelia walked into my office and handed me this recipe and said, "Please make these for me!"  So I told her it would go on the list (and I seriously have a list of cupcakes that I want to make!  Actually, I have multiple lists but I keep losing them)!  

Well, I finally got around to making these cupcakes, and let me tell you, they are a crowd pleaser! 

So, I didn't follow the recipe completely on this one...and I think that may be a first!  The first change I made was driven my desire to (1) not include coffee in the cupcake (although I couldn't get rid of the espresso powder) and (2) to include BOOZE!  So...instead of brushing the still warm cupcakes with coffee, I brushed them with Kahlua!  Yummy!

The second change I made was to the frosting.  The whipped cream frosting just  So instead, I made Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting, which is probably one of the best things ever!  The cinnamon frosting was an excellent addition to these cupcakes (also, delicious all on its own...)!

So, here's the bad news - I didn't like these cupcakes.  All I could taste was the coffee...

Now, for the good news - EVERYONE ELSE LOVED THEM!  I had TONS of people stopping by my office and emailing me all day to tell me that these were wonderful.  I had two separate people tell me that these were the best cupcakes they had had in their entire life...and, now for my favorite coworker said the cupcakes were almost orgasmic...and then added "it was good for me!"

So...if you are looking for a seasonal crowd pleasing treat, these are an excellent option!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons espresso powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs
Kahlua for brushing (you can also use coffee or espresso)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.  Stir together and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and oil.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  4. With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.
  5. Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full. 
  6. Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.  Let cool in pan for five to ten minutes.
  7. Remove cupcakes from pan to a wire rack.
  8. While the cupcakes are still warm, brush them two or three times with the Kahlua (you can use coffee or espresso for a non-alcoholic version), allowing the first coat to soak in before repeating.  Let cupcakes cool completely.
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (half stick) butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (add more to taste)
2-3 cups powdered sugar (add more or less to make it a stiffness that you like).
  1. Mix cream cheese and butter well.
  2. Add vanilla and cinnamon.
  3. Add powdered sugar to stiffness you want.
  4. Pipe onto completely cooled cupcakes. 
  5. Drizzle caramel on top.