Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thanksgiving Cupcakes!

I haven't been doing much baking lately...busy with work...holidays...birthdays...I'm lazy...

I did, however, do some baking for Thanksgiving.  It was to be the very first time anyone in my family would taste my baking!  I was a little nervous.  Ok, I was a lot nervous.  Have I mentioned that there are some fantastic bakers in my family?  So...I decided that it was better to be safe than sorry...I decided to bake a cupcake I had already baked before.  Kinda.

I opted to make the ultimate vanilla cupcakes and then frost half with pumpkin crème brûlée and the other half with a Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting.

I didn't have time to bake before making the trip home.  So, here was the plan - I had to leave Kansas on Tuesday after work and then drive to Iowa, leaving me Wednesday to bake my cupcakes and also spend time with my family.  I did, however, find the time to pre-make my caramel.  Here is a picture of my caramel...doesn't it look lovely?

So, I packed up all my baking supplies for the trip.  This does include the Kitchenaid.  I refuse to bake without it.  When I got to my mom's house and started baking, I faced a whole new set of challenges.  First, I was baking in a new kitchen.  The great thing about my mom's kitchen is ALL THE COUNTER SPACE.  I'm sure my mom would disagree, but look at that center counter!

The bad thing was that I didn't know where my mom kept anything.  I swear, every step of the baking process involved a scavenger hunt.

Another bad thing is that my mom's stove top hates me.  Seriously.  I attempted to make meringue (duh)...which, as you know by now involves heating egg whites and sugar in a double boiler (or two pots) until the sugar dissolves.  I sat stirring this mixture for like 20 minutes with nothing happening.  Absolutely nothing.  Apparently mom's stove top has a sensor or something that notices when your pot isn't exactly centered and it shuts off the heat!  WTF is that noise?!  My pan is almost certainly not centered.  And it isn't going to be.  Fortunately, the stove top and I eventually made up and the sugar dissolved.  

The second challenge was baking with a helper.  Meet my helper, my niece - 

Isn't she adorable?!  Apparently she always helps her mom bake, and she planned to do the same with me.  Here's the thing...and I'm sure this is going to surprise you all very much...I'm a control freak.  Seriously.  I know, I know, it's a shock.  So...it was definitely a challenge to bake with four-year-old who wanted to pour everything into the bowl when about a quarter of what she poured "in" didn't make it (ok, that's an exaggeration).  But, she was an adorable helper (and, an adorable helper who got bored rather quickly, so it all worked out well).

But the biggest challenge of them all was all of the damn people in the kitchen.  They were all talking and in my way...Ian would ask me questions and, given his background, I would assume he was judging me (and he totally wasn't, he was just trying to ask questions based on my "experience" - which I find rather amusing)...how do people cook like this on a regular basis?  I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off when I am ALONE in my kitchen.  Add five other people to the mix and it is infinitely more difficult!

Oh, also - you remember that caramel I made ahead of time?  Well, turns out that might not have been the best idea in the world.  It was REALLY HARD when I went to use it.  This is remedied easily enough by warming it up, but after I warmed it, it separated.  I gave up and decided to just use store bought caramel, but Ian wouldn't let that happen and he spent some time using a "waka-waka" (which is apparently what my family calls a whisk, although I didn't know this until Thanksgiving...) fixing it for me!  

Anyway, all's well that ends well, right?  And this ended...ok.  I overcooked the cupcakes, and one of my nephews told me that they were gross (awesome), but everyone else seemed to like them!  They definitely didn't turn out as well as the first time, but these things happen!  The caramel Swiss meringue buttercream frosting, however, was TO DIE FOR.  

Here is me enjoying one of the cupcakes with some frosting on my nose.  

What I learned from this experience is that there is no point to playing it safe.  Even a recipe that was fantastic once still has the potential to flop the second time.  This means that for Christmas, I am definitely going to be more adventurous.  My sister issued me a challenge earlier this year, and I'm planning to take a stab at modifying some recipes and making my own cupcake recipe for the holiday.  Don't worry, it will contain lots of booze!

Anyway, that is just a little teaser of what's to come...there is a lot more to share with you between now and then though (if I stop being a slacker and start finishing some of my posts!).

Caramel -
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup packed light brown sugar
  1. Combine the butter, heavy cream, and brown sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat.  
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
  3. Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat to medium and continue to boil until the mixture is thickened, about 8 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool.
The frosting recipe can be found here.  Only modification = instead of adding strawberry puree, add in 1/2 cup of the caramel sauce.

After assembling the cupcakes, drizzle with caramel!  For this, I did use the store bought caramel...it drizzled better.  However, Ian insists that the homemade stuff tastes better...either way, the end product is delicious!

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