Sunday, March 29, 2009

Picnic Perfect Cupcakes

Picnics and cupcakes go together like...Husband and I (or birds and feathers if that makes more sense for you). And since we were going to a picnic, I decided to bring cupcakes.

I figured that a light vanilla cupcake would be the best cake treat for an outside meal, and I wanted to make cream cheese icing (who doesn't like cream cheese icing?) but decided to switch it up by incorporating some left over chocolate ganache, and then if that wasn't chocolately enough, some cocoa powder too.

The vanilla cake recipe was wonderful. I've fallen in love with (MSN's food and entertainment website) because every recipe that I've tried from that site has been very good. Recently they had a list of 40 or so cake recipes, and that is where I found the recipe for this cake. Once again, Delish did not let me down.

Now for my cream cheese recipe, I'm about to share a family secret. Actually, I don't know if it is a family secret. It's the icing from a carrot cake recipe (yes, I'll make one for you eventually) and I always get a lot of compliments when I make any cake with that stuff.

Look at them...aren't they just good enough to eat? Oh wait, someone has already started!

Basic Vanilla Cake
from Country Living
This recipe makes one 8-inch round cake. For my cupcakes, I doubled the recipe, filled the liners a little over half full and it yielded 32 cupcakes.

1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour*
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk**

1) Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8-inch cake pan with butter and dust with all-purpose flour. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl (you can do this in your KitchenAid bowl).

2) Beat in the butter one heaping 1/4 teaspoon full at a time, using an electric mixer set on low speed, until the mixture resembles coarse sand. (I didn't have enough patience for this step, I just cut up the butter and stuck it in the bowl and pulsed my KitchenAid.) Beat in the sugar a tablespoon at a time (I put it in all at once) until the mixture resembles fine damp sand. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and milk, and beat on medium-high, just until blended. Do not overbeat.

3) Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a wooden skewer (read: toothpick) inserted in the center comes out clean - 30 to 35 minues (for cupcakes, bake about 17 minutes). Cool in the cake pan and on a wire rack for about 5 minutes.

4) Un-mold and cool completely.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing

1/4 cup chocolate ganache (read: left over from the last time you made ganache, otherwise, just melt some milk chocolate)
2 (8 oz) blocks of cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound confectioner's sugar (feel free to add 1/4 - 1/2 pound extrafor a stiffer consistency)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

1) Cream butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) on medium-low speed until smooth.

2) Incrementally add the sugar and cocoa. Beat until smooth. Use immediately. Can be stored in an air tight container and stored in the refrigerator. I don't know how long it would keep. I'd say to be safe, maybe a week to a week and a half.

*Don't have cake flour? Neither do I. In fact, it's the only flour I do not keep on hand because it's cheaper to make. In a 1 cup dry measure, dump in 2 tablespoons of corn starch, then fill the rest of the cup with all-purpose flour.

**I don't know how it happened, but we had NO MILK. So it was between light plain soy milk, or half and half. I went with the half and half. The cake was still delicious. In fact, it might have been more delicious than usual because of the half and half.

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