29 June 2009

Can You Feel It? Can You Feel It? Can You Feel It?

What I am feeling right now is a mix of...

Anticipation. We leave in less than a week for 2 glorious weeks at the beach. Just me and the kiddies! We'll be hitting the road in just a few days - literally as I am driving there. Don't know what I had in mind when I suggested this. As a native NYer, when I am in a car, it is usually behind that plexiglass screen that divides the front seat from the back in a yellow cab. I've never been a regular driver and 5 hours in the car alone with 2 kids might be biting off more than I can chew. But God willing, we will get there! :)

Sadness. My husband will be staying behind in Paris because someone has to pay the bills. 2 weeks without him has me blue and I'm sure the kids will be asking for him constantly.

Anxiety. Since last Fall, I've quietly been building a small business. I've nurtured it and lovingly cared for it as you would....a plant or.....a child or an.....entrepreneurial adventure. And now I am closing up shop for about 6 weeks. Will people really remember Little Miss Cupcake come this September? Luckily, I'll be back in Paris towards the end of July and already have some orders booked but as they say out of sight, out of mind.

Relief. We just came in from the park where it was about 85 degrees in the shade! Thank goodness, I won't be baking in my hot kitchen all summer!

Frustrated. I'm going to go almost 6 weeks without baking cupcakes! The last time we left for a week I was really wishing I had brought a cupcake tin along. I may have to sneak one of those silicone jobbies I never use to the beach in case a bout of creativity hits me. Which has been known to happen after spying a basket of fresh blueberries at the market or during a Thai dinner out with friends. I guess I'll need to check the oven there since I've never used it for more than reheating a quiche.

Ancient. I'll be celebrating my 30+ birthday towards the end of July and am having a hard time grappling with how quickly life seems to be moving these days. It feels like just yesterday we were walking in a snowstorm at 2AM to the hospital in Manhattan where my son was born. Tomorrow, he graduates from kindergarten. Not to mention my daughter who was just a baby scooting along the floor a minute ago and now has about 100 words to her vocabulary including "jump" which she is constantly doing.

Elated. I'll be visiting NYC this summer after a 3 year absence and catching up with lots of old friends. I'll finally see my best girlfriend married and sample some of the cupcakes I have been reading about all these years at various cupcakeries in and around Manhattan.

Nostalgic. Two of my childhood idols passed away this week. You know who they are. I can still remember running on the beach and playing with friends in our backyard as a little girl pretending to be Charlie's Angels. We would always fight over who got to be Farrah. She was so beautiful with that dazzling white smile, perfect body, and immaculately coiffed blond mane. You ever see that classic Whoopi Goldberg skit where she has the pillowcase on her head and pretends she is the princess with the long flowing blond hair? Well, that about sums up my resemblance to Farrah - me being the brown-haired, brown-eyed child who carried about 10 lbs. of "baby fat" well into my 20's. But a girl can dream right? Not to mention Michael, who thrilled ed us with the moonwalk and his other moves, and turned MTV on its ear in my HS years. They played Thriller every hour on the hour the weekend it premiered. All 13.5 minutes of it. I even owned a pair of black penny loafers which I am sure were influenced by him. The white glove, the red leather jacket...there were kids in my school who proudly donned both. They must be having one helluva party up in that great celebrity clubhouse in the sky!

Stressed. There is so much to do before we leave. The dry cleaner. The bank. The supermarket so that my husband has food while we are away. Does he even remember how to cook for himself? The pet store for the fish food. The cupcake orders that I have to finish this week. Which reminds me...what am I doing here on the blog when I should be getting this other stuff done? :) So, I'll see y'all later....

Hope you enjoyed the cupcakes in this post which are a mix of an order I did this weekend for Emma (who is in the US but wanted to send something nice to her friend here in Paris who recently gave birth) and my Summer Berries Iron Cupcake cupcakes, Le Murier, Strawberry Swing & Raspberry Berry Berry Good, which you have seen before but this is just a reminder that VOTING IS NOW OPEN!!!!

**RELATED POSTS** Little Miss Cupcakes aka Oh Thank You Emma!

27 June 2009

Daring Bakers' Challenge - Bakewell Tart....er, Pudding

I'm going to preface this post by sharing an old adage that you have all heard a million times, "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it." That's how I felt about this month's Daring Baker challenge results. :(

When I found out about the challenge, I spoke with a British friend's mom who told me in her day Bakewell Tarts certainly did not include frangipane and are traditionally served with a layer of cherry or strawberry preserves and icing on top. But since the challenge told us any curds, jams, etc, were welcome, I decided to mix things up by making 3 varieties: one with lemon curd and blackberries, one with confiture du lait and one with a fig/violet jam. The results were less than stellar but as I said, my lips are sealed.

If you have always dreamed of making a Bakewell Tart, this very well may be a recipe you want to try. As for me, I'm sticking with cupcakes! What follows are the mandatory info and the recipes/directions from Daring Bakers. Enjoy!

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Bakewell tarts…er…puddings combine a number of dessert elements but still let you show off your area’s seasonal fruits.

Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is the “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is the “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling.

The version we’re daring you to make is a combination of the two: a sweet almond-flavoured shortcrust pastry, frangipane and jam.

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes


Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

23 June 2009

Yes, It Is Another IC:E Entry!

Okay, this one is coming late in the game but it's actually the first idea that came to mind when I heard this month's challenge was Summer Berries.

When I first moved to France, I knew of and loved many of the traditional bakery favorites like eclairs, millefeuille and pain au chocolat. Now that I live right above a bakery, I have learned to explore and embrace an ever-expanding assortment of patisseries (unfortunately my backside has expanded with them!). Things like a Tigré, which is a chocolate chip spotted vanilla sponge cake with a fondant chocolate center,

Or a Divorcé, two puff pastries which have been melded together - one filled with a coffe crème patissier, the other with a chocolate one and a squiggly line of whipped buttercream dividing it down the middle (the ones on the far left),

Or a Gland, my husband's favorite which is a cream-filled puff pastry coated with a slightly green tinted sugar icing. Sometimes the icing is subtly tinted like a cool lime but other bakeries do a full-on fluorescent green one. It is often half-dipped in chocolate sprinkles for a two-tone look. Go figure.

One of the more popular bakery desserts at this time of year is the Fraisier. It is made from a genoise cake that is halved; creme mousseline and strawberries are smoothed in the center and then it is reassembled. It is usually topped with a thin covering of marzipan and some decorative strawberries and other objects.

Frequently, when you buy it sliced in the bakery, there is a thin cellophane film surrounding the slice to hold it in place. Thus was my inspiration for my 3rd and final entry in this month's Iron Cupcake:Earth. I call my creation Le Murier cupcake since blackberries in French are called mures. To make them I took a simple vanilla cupcake recipe and threw a bunch of freshly chopped blackberries in the mix. Once they had baked, I sliced them in half, spread home-made lemon curd in the center, popped a few blackberries in too and put the cupcake back together. It is topped with a cream cheese frosting, a marzipan cap, sugared lemon slices and a blackberry. Enjoy!

Le Murier Cupcakes

Take your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe. I'm going to share Amy Sedaris'with you as I keep my vanilla cupcake recipe closely guarded!

Once cupcakes have cooled, you are going to slice them in half. I placed mine in recycled chocolate pudding pots to hold them together but you cause any old container like a coffee cup or empty yogurt pot. Cover the bottom with a dollop of lemon curd and some blackberries. Then cover with a layer of cream cheese frosting and marzipan cap.

Amy Sedaris Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes About 24

1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups of sugar

Beat well, then add:

Add 2 large eggs
2 Teaspoons of pure vanilla
½ teaspoon of salt
2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
2 ½ cups of flour
1 ¼ cups of milk

Beat well, (I mixed in about 1 cup fresh blackberries that had been picked over and slightly chopped) fill cups, and bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Lemon Curd

1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1/4 cup strained lemon juice
3 tbsps. butter
3 egg yolks

Mix together sugar, grated lemon, butter and lemon juice in a small pot over low heat. In a seperate bowl, whisk yolks til liquidy. Once the lemon mixture comes to a boil, very slowly pour half of mixture into yolks, constantly whisking so that the eggs don't cook. Then pour that mixture back into the pot, still whisking, whisking, whisking until fully combined. Continue to cook as curd thickens and almost comes to a boil, whisking all the time. Remove from heat, pour into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure to press plastic wrap firmly against curd. Refrigerate and use when cool.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package of Philly cream cheese
1/4 stick butter
2-3cups sifted powdered sugar
seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean

Bring cheese and butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours. Beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add 2 cups sugar and beat until combined. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Add more sugar until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.

**Picture Credits** Tigres from www.achat-essonne.com, Divorce from www.terredesaveurs.com, Gland from www.imageshack.us and Fraisier from www.mescoupsdecoeur.com

As a reminder, here's what I am competing for in this month's Iron Cupcake

21 June 2009

Tag, You're It!

A few weeks, months, (years?) back I was tagged by Jessy at Apparently Jessy to do these lists of 8 things. I always fear these things like chain letters and worry that I am going to get bad karma (or at least my cupcakes won't rise while baking) if I break the chain! So here with some pics of cupcakes for Father's Day and with dominos for a Cuban-themed party are my 8 things......

8 things I am looking forward to:
2. Attending my best childhood girlfriend's wedding in August. It's been a looooong time in the making.
3. Introducing my father to my daughter. She is almost 2 and still hasn't met her maternal grandfather.
4. Seeing Transformers 2 with my husband next weekend.
5. Walking on the beach and feeling the sand under my toes (in 2 weeks!).
6. Celebrating my 30+ birthday in a big way - my mom is flying over and we'll see who else we can find to party with us. I've already told my husband I want to go on an African safari as a birthday present - though admittedly it'll be a few years before we can go - so I guess I have that to look forward to too!
7. Enjoying vacation with my husband and our kids - we'll have absolutely nothing to do for 4 whole weeks except relax, recharge and enjoy!
8. Climbing into bed this evening between our crisp, clean sheets. It's been a crazy week!

8 things I did yesterday:
1. I made cupcakes (how original, I know!).
2. I sat on a blanket under the Normandie sun in my friend's beautiful green garden with my husband and daughter (my son was too busy running around with a water gun to sit with us).
3. I cuddled with a beautiful horse and felt its warm breath on my face.
4. I ate all sorts of yummy food like BBQ burgers, guacamole and tortilla chips, cheese dip with hot jalapeno peppers, a coffee ice cream cone, and a cupcake (I sound like the Very Hungry Caterpillar).
5. I washed it all down (see #4) with some chilled rosé.
6. I drove the family home from Normandie.
7. I made domino cupcake toppers out of marshmallow fondant.
8. I found my watch (fearful that I had lost it and the hubby would KILL me!).

8 things I wish I could:
1. I wish I could introduce my children to my grandmother. She's been gone for 9 years now and I know she would have adored them and they her.
2. I wish I could teleport like Hayden Christensen in that movie, Jumper. It just seems like it would be a really cool superpower.
3. I wish I could get by on 3 hours sleep - there's so much to do and never enough time to do it.
4. I wish I could spend more quality time with my family (which I should be doing right now instead of compiling these lists).
5. I wish I could keep my kids innocent, playful, and full of the joy and love I see in them everyday while they are still young. The world can be such a dangerous place and I want to protect them from the ugliness and hurt as much as possible.
6. I wish I could travel to the Pyramids of Egypt, spend an hour watching Picasso paint, cook up a blanquette de veau with Julia Child, pilot a plane, swim with some dolphins, feed every starving child in the world, have a cocktail with Martin Amis, cure cancer, walk on the moon, swing high above an audience on a trapeze, have Stephen King read me a bedtime story, have dinner delivered from the world's finest chefs every night to my husband and I in bed -- Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, Thomas Keller I am talking to you!
7. I wish I could find a good tattoo artist in Paris.
8. I wish I was opening a cupcakery after the summer break!

8 shows I watch (I have to preface this list by saying that we don't watch TV - French television is garbage. We try to keep up with our favorite shows by DVD but it's not a common activity for us. We're big film buffs though):
1. The Shield (I was devastated to watch the final season - I'm in denial that it's really gone!)
2. Nip/Tuck
3. 24
4. Heroes
5. (ok, I have run out of shows so here are some of my favorite movies) True Romance
6. The Godfather Series
7. The Matrix
8. Pulp Fiction

Okay, now it's my turn to tag 8 people!
1. J from J Two O
2. Carrie from Fields of Cake
3. Kari from Retro Bakery
4. Anna from Very Small Anna
5. Lyns from Sweet Cuppin Cakes
6. Clara from IHeartCuppycakes
7. Tania from Love Big Bake Often
8. Stef from Cupcake Project

19 June 2009

Upside Down You're Turning Me....

It's the final haul before the end of the school year and it has been absolute madness here in the Little Miss Cupcake kitchen. Between end of the school year parties, graduations, birthdays, etc., my phone has not stopped ringing and I've been churning out cupcakes left and right. But you know what? I could NOT be having more fun with it! So as I am already thinking about all that needs to be done before we take off on summer holidays, I wanted to thank all of you who have supported and encouraged me this year. I'll be closing up shop for a good part of the summer and look forward to more baking adventures at the rentree.

For those of you who are interested, I will actually be in NYC over the summer and am looking forward to checking out some of the cupcake shops that have opened since I was last home such as Sweet Revenge, Butter Lane and ChickaLicious Dessert Club. If you know of some cupcakes I should definitely try in the Big Apple, leave me a reply here or shoot me an email.

Without further ado, I present the highlights of the week....

The week started off with cupcakes for Natalie's boy who was turning 1. She requested an assortment off my Black & Whites menu. I find that no matter how many exotic flavor combinations I can dream up, these chocolate and vanilla combinations are the most frequently ordered.

Next came an order for an employee at Bank of America who was celebrating 40 years on the job. Now that's what I call company loyalty! The party was a surprise so her colleagues snuck me into their corporate kitchen when she wasn't around. I can tell you that trying to hide while carrying 2 cupcake couriers is no easy feat!

On Wednesday, I made cupcakes for Eleonora who is turning 18 this weekend and graduating from secondary school! Way to go! Her mom swung by to pick up the cupcakes which she was then transporting to Monte Carlo by car. They were for a party happening Friday and I just hope they survived the trip. I am feeling so snazzy as this is probably the farthest my cupcakes have traveled (and definitely the ritziest destination)!

She had a hard time deciding what flavors to choose so I made an assortment of Black & Whites as well as After Eight, Caramel Dolce, Cookies n Cream, Chocobutter, and Strawberry Chocolate Berry Berry Good cupcakes. She requested the all pink and red theme.

Last weekend, Cupcakes Take the Cake hosted a cupcake meet-up in Central Park and if you follow their blog, you must have seen the cupcake kebobs one attendee made for the event. I pilfered the idea for my son's class picnic. (UPDATE: Holy cupcake kebobs, Batman! I just learned this pic below was selected as one the of the 500 most awesome/interesting pictures of the day on Flickr: Explore!!)

I made mini cupcakes in a variety of flavors: Sweet Thai O Mine, Raspberry Berry Berry Good, Storm, Rogue, Vanilla Lovers, Le 4H Gouter and After Eight and the skewered them with different marshmallow candies.

They were a huge success - in fact one mom went so far as to cover them up with a towel because it was the only thing the kids were eating despite there being a number of other cakes and desserts lying around. If you're looking for a fun, colorful snack for a kids' party that is sure to be gobbled up, these are so simple and will be gone before you know it.

This evening a gal I know is hosting a fundraiser for Breast Cancer Research. She wanted something very simple and pink. I thought the simple pink ribbon on chocolate buttercream would be a nice touch.

I am also donating a gift of a Little Miss Cupcake party pack to an auction being held at the event. The winning bidder will receive 2 dozen specially-themed cupcakes for a future party. If you are attending, I say bid high and frequently! It is for a good cause after all!

Lastly, here are some cupcakes for Marie-Anne who is hosting a baby shower for a pregnant girlfriend who is expecting twins.

I adore how these came out. So pretty and pink. The decorations are flowers, tiaras and "gigoteuses" which are a sleep sack people put their babies in here.

In France, you call a girlie girl a "fi-fille." I did a play on words by writing "fille fille" on some. And my husband suggested a twist on Einstein's famous E=mc2 equation with a "Joie = fille2" or "joy = girls squared."

Oh I'll be back soon with some more cupcakes before we officially leave on holiday. And an early Happy Father's Day to all you Dads out there!

*RELATED POSTS* Cupcake Take the Cake - More Kupcake Kebobs

12 June 2009

2nd IC:E Entry - Raspberry Berry Berry Good Cupcakes

When it comes to desserts, I'm not usually a believer in the simpler the better. I LOVE sweet things and any dish that combines a variety of them at the same time is a friend of mine. Case in point, if I had to pick just one, I'd say my favorite ice cream flavor is Ben & Jerry's Phish Food. You know the one...it's chocolate ice cream with swirls of caramel and marshmallow and milk chocolate fish mixed in. The only way it could be improved upon is when it's served in a dish and smothered with even more caramel sauce, hot fudge and whipped cream....okay, I'm getting hungry. Anyone else? Bring on the cupcakes!

I do find the irony in that one of my most requested flavors is a very simple cupcake I call: Berry Berry Good. I make it in several varieties; you can have your choice of vanilla or chocolate cake and raspberry or strawberry buttercream. It's a very straight-forward cupcake that gets its intensity from the quality ingredients that go into it. In the vanilla version, I do a triple Vanilla cake using vanilla beans, vanilla sugar and vanilla extract that I make myself using Bourbon Vanilla beans from Madagascar. Making the extract yourself is incredibly easy and once you've done it, you'll never go back to supermarket extract again!

As for the buttercream, it's best to make a very fine puree of fresh strawberries or raspberries and mix that in to your favorite vanilla buttercream recipe. Honestly, it's that simple.

These Raspberry Berry Berry Good cupcakes are my second entry for Iron Cupcake: Earth - Summer Berries. You can read more about what I am competing for here.

And if you'd like to try your hand at making your own brew of vanilla extract, here's the recipe that was circulating on the web earlier this year. I use Absolut vodka because it's what we have in the liquor cabinet but really any brand will do - the alcohol burns off in the baking process. Do splurge on the best premium vanilla beans you can afford though.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

- 6 medium vanilla beans
- 2 cups rum, brandy or vodka

Sterilize a bottle (I recommend glass) by rinsing it with boiling water. Allow to dry.

Using a sharp knife, slice the beans open lengthwise to expose the seeds. Stuff the beans in the bottle and fill with liquor. You want the beans to be fully immersed in the liquor so you may need to push them down.

Close the jar, shake it a few times, and place it in a cool, dark cabinet. Shake it once or twice a week; you will notice the mixture turning a deep amber color over time. By the end of 8 weeks, your vanilla extract will be ready to use.

When you notice that you're running a little low, you can top off the bottle with more liquor (preferably of the same type) and shake again.

Since I use vanilla beans straight from the pod in many recipes, I often feed the empties into the vanilla extract bottle so as to extend the life of my vanilla extract.

RELATED POSTS: Zen Cupcake - Raspberry Berry Berry Good Cupcake

11 June 2009

Strawberry Swing Cupcakes for IC:E Summer Berries

This is my first entry for the June Iron Cupcake:Earth challenge - Summer Berries. I was thrilled when this challenge was announced because I had been eyeing a recipe from the new Martha Stewart Cupcakes cookbook which I had seen on her site and then was able to drool over in person when my copy finally arrived from Amazon.co.uk! Hers is a Strawberry Cupcake with a Strawberry Meringue Buttercream. And lucky for me, it's strawberry season here in Paris.

The most common varieties on the market here are Gariguette, which represent 20% of the French strawberry production, and Mara des Bois. I used the latter for this recipe - it's a small, sweet, somewhat firm berry reminiscent to the wild strawberries we used to pick in the fields when I was a little girl at camp in Maine.

After taking a more in-depth look at the Martha recipe, I decided hers might be a little too full-on strawberry for a gal like me who is preferential to chocolate and caramel, and also a little bland for IC:E where the flavor combinations are key to the challenge. So I decided to scrap that idea - sorry Martha - save for the strawberries.

So, what did I come up with? A strawberry cupcake loaded with white chocolate chunks and topped with a strawberry and pistachio twist buttercream. It's name,"Strawberry Swing" is taken from Coldplay's Viva La Vida which I was listening to while I baked them.

I have to admit that despite the flavor additions, these were still a bit too strawberry potent for me. I think next time I may chop the chocolate finer so that you get more chocolate in every bite, and up the ratio of pistachio to strawberry buttercream.

In any case they make a nice summery dessert and would be perfect for sharing at a picnic or 4th of July party. The recipe follows. Enjoy!!!

Strawberry Swing Cupcakes
For 16 cupcakes:
4 ozs. unsalted butter/beurre doux, softened
1 cup sugar/sucre en poudre
1 large egg
1 tsp. baking soda/bicarbonate alimentaire
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups flour
1/2 cup buttermilk /lait fermente
1/2 cup hot water
100 g. white chocolate, chopped
3 cups fresh strawberries, chopped in small pieces (you may want to reserve about 12 whole strawberries for decoration)

Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C. Grease or place cupcake liners into cupcake tins.
To make cupcakes, cream together sugar and butter until smooth. Add egg, vanilla, baking soda, salt and mix until well-combined. Alternate adding flour and buttermilk in 3 batches ending with a flour addition, mix well until smooth. Add hot water last and mix to combine. Fold in white chocolate chunks and 2 cups strawberries.
Fill lined cupcake tins 2/3rds full and bake for 18-22 minutes. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Remove cupcakes from tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Pistachio & Strawberry Buttercream:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 tbsps. milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup strawberries (reserved from above)
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled and crushed

Place strawberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed.
In a bowl or mixer, beat together butter and sugar on low speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and milk and mix well. Divide buttercream into 2 bowls, fold strawberry puree in one; fold pistachios into the other. Mix well. Fill a pastry bag with pistachio buttercream on one side and strawberry on other so when you pipe, you get a half and half mixture of each coming out. Frost cupcakes. EAT!

I am competing for an ETSY PRIZE-PACK this month, which you will find right below the photo of my new tote! Why is there a pic of that groovy tote bag in the midst of my cupcake blog you may ask? Well, it's just my way of giving a shout out to my friend Melissa at Etsy shop: Haut Totes. I won a contest she was running on Twitter last week (I honestly never win anything!) and won an awesome, so very cool tote from her! Yay! Do you likey????

Here are the Iron Cupcake June prizes:

* A sweet cupcake ID bracelet by INSANEJELLYFISH
* A groovy linocut piece from BLOCKHEAD PRESS
* a sweet surprise from Sweet Cuppin' Cakes Cupcakery,
* PLUS, IronCupcake:Earth can not forget our good friend, CAKESPY, who is now going to be doing a piece for our winner each month until further notice - sweet!

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, , JESSIE STEELE APRONS; TASTE OF HOME books, a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers.

08 June 2009

You're Out of Touch, I'm Out of Time

I have had this little Hall & Oates ditty circling 'round my brain for the past week as on several occasions I've realized just how far removed I am from my former life and native country. I've always considered myself to be a pretty savvy girl, so you can imagine my surprise when I found out waaaaaay after the fact that Jay Leno had taped his final Tonight Show. When did this happen? And why wasn't I told? And this wasn't the only incident!

I've been looking for an apartment to rent in my old neighborhood for a trip later this year, and wouldn't you know when I asked the owner of one potential place if she was down the street from x restaurant...you know the one...where all the celebs on Page 6 (the NY Post still exists doesn't it?) are photographed, there was just radio silence on the other end. Followed by a "Oh, I think I know which one you mean. Yeah, they closed a loooong time ago. There's a Starbuck's there now."

So, no, I don't know why everyone is gaga over Lady Gaga. Or who this Jon and Kate really are (except I gather they have lots of kids and he has some commitment issues!). I don't know who won American Idol or Dancing with the Stars, and has Izzie (whoever that is) been killed off of Grey's Anatomy yet?

It's tough being an expat sometimes and being so far from where I came from. It's like living in a time warp or a parallel universe where the place I started at still exists but for me it's the NY/America of 2003 while for everyone else, time has moved on and life has continued.

This is a roundabout way to get to the cupcakes today but just wanted to get that off my chest. It's had me kind of down lately and guess I'm feeling a little "out of touch." Thankfully, I have expat friends here who can totally relate to the America of long, long ago that we all come from! Many of our conversations include the "Did you ever watch/see/go to/eat etc.?" and there will inevitably be lots of "Yes, I love those!" in response. One of these recent conversations centered on a good old American favorite - the Reese's Peanut Butter cup - which I gather is one of our most coveted and missed snack foods here (though being the savvy girl I am, know that these can be found at Monoprix from time to time on Ave des Ternes - pass it on!).

An expat friend (though she is Franco-American, so only half of her qualifies) invited us to a BBQ this weekend to which I offered to bring cupcakes. I know she loves peanut butter - in fact, security check took 2 jars off her mom at the airport recently cause apparently it's not allowed in your check-on - and was in on the Peanut Butter cup conversation. I headed to my "go to" site for recipes to find something suitable. The following comes from Chockylit who I wish with all my heart would come back to cupcake blogging. She truly knows how to work a cupcake! Maybe in a parallel universe she is hard at work, happy and blogging away, and one of these days, "out of touch" me will finally discover this!

This is the cupcake version of a Reese's Peanut Butter cup and is one of the most delicious cupcakes you will ever taste. It takes some time to bake, make and assemble but I guarantee it is worth the effort. Creamy peanut butter filling, rich chocolate ganache and a light, airy chocolate cake which balances it all out. I'm reposting the recipe but gotta give Chockylit 2 whisks up for this excellent recipe!

Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Cupcakes
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

5.4 ounces dark chocolate or 3/4 of a 200 gram bar of Valrhona 61% cocao
22 tablespoons butter
1-3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
4-1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

1. Melt chocolate and butter over a water bath.
2. Add sugar and stir, let mixture cool for 10 minutes.
3. Beat in an electric mixer for 3 minutes.
4. Add one egg at a time, mixing for 30 seconds between each
5. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and a pinch of salt into the mixture and mix until blended.
6. Scoop into cupcake cups and bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Peanut Butter Filling
(note and update via Chockylit)

4 ounces or 1/2 package of Philly cream cheese
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

1. Beat cream cheese and peanut butter until combined.
2. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until combined.
3. Add the milk and beat until combined.

Note: This makes a pretty stiff mixture, like the center of a peanut butter cup. If you want something pipe-able, you could add more milk. I wanted to retain the strong peanut butter flavor, so I kept the milk to a minimum.

Update: I think that the filling was too thick. As I was eating a cupcake (I managed to resist them until late last night) the peanut butter filling fell out onto the plate. It wasn't too terribly hard to stick back on the cupcake, but if I were to do these again, I would add more milk to the filling.

Chocolate Ganache

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
5 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar

1. Chop chocolates and transfer into a heat proof bowl.
2. Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan, pour cream over the chocolate.
3. Let sit for 1 minute then stir until combined.
4. Add butter and vanilla and stir until combined.
5. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixture and let cool for 10 minutes.
6. Sift powdered sugar into the mixture and beat until combined.
7. Continue to beat with an electric mixer until lighter in color and creamy.

1. Using a small pairing knife, cut off the top of the cupcake in the shape of a cone. Flip the top over and cut off the cone.
2. Fill the cavity with a teaspoon or so of peanut butter filling.
3. Replace top.
4. Frost with ganache.
5. Decorate as you wish. I topped the cupcakes with fondant and peanut butter flowers.