27 April 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge - Cheesecakelets

Strawberry, Raspberry, Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple, Turtle, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Key Lime, Chocolate Coconut Cream, Pumpkin, Oreo, Dutch Apple Caramel, Chocolate Tuxedo Cream, Tiramisu, Dulche de Leche, Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla Bean, Kahlua Cocoa Coffee, White Chocolate Raspberry....Have I hit a flavor that tempts you yet? What do these all have in common you may ask? Look no further than the Cheesecake Factory's Cheesecake Menu and you will find these and many other delicious, mouth-watering flavors.

When we last lived in NYC, we had the Little Pie Company right around the corner from us and we went through a phase where we hit that joint weekly for their cheesecake and a few other goodies. Problem was they were a small business at the time and after a few months, I started getting a complex that I was maybe going there a little bit too frequently....that their employees were starting to notice those extra bumps and curves I was packing thanks to their sweet treats, and so I decided to back off for a while (and head to the gym a little more often).

The one offer I would never turn down though was a lunch and slice of cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory in Miami on one of the many monthly pit-stops I used to make there when I worked for Burger King's ad agency. I have many fond memories of dining there with my former colleagues Pat & Holly; we would usually spend a couple of hours there between early morning meetings at BK HQ and the jaunt to Miami International to catch our flight back to NYC dishing about our Clients and bemoaning their reactions to whatever it was that we were presenting that day. Nothing made tolerating even the worst Client meeting better than a slice of Vanilla Bean or Oreo Cheesecake.

I was so ecstatic when the April Daring Baker challenge was announced and low and behold, it was cheesecake! This is hands-down one of my favorite desserts and I will never refuse a slice when offered. (Even when it came on the heels of a meeting where I sampled about 20 different Whopper sandwiches as part of R&D -- true story!).

The other day I was walking past a restaurant in my neighborhood that proclaims it serves the "Best Cheesecake in Paris." They apparently even won an award for it. I have been steering clear of them since. In the meantime, I am happy to content myself with the recipe you'll find below.

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. I decided to reduce this down to cupcake form, or cheesecakelets, and made 4 varieties:
- Abbey's as it is published below which yields a nice creamy slightly lemon-flavored cheesecake
- A Pecan Caramel Variety (Pecan crust with caramel de sel de Guerande topping)
- A White Chocolate & Strawberry/Rose Petal Variety (white chocolate cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries and a strained strawberry/confit de rose petal sauce)
- A Triple Chocolate Variety (dark chocolate crust with a 2-layer cheesecake - milk chocolate and white chocolate topped with milk chocolate shavings).

Here is the recipe. You can make this as a regular size cheesecake or do as I did and render it into cheesecakelets. I halved the recipe and ended up with 12 regular-size cheesecakelets. Enjoy! And many thanks to Jenny for this awesome and so simple recipe!

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs (I used crushed Speculoos cookies)
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature (In Paris, you can find Philly cream cheese at specialty cheese stores or the American groceries. For this recipe, I used a mix of approximately 3/5 Mme. Loik fromage nature, 1/5 St. Moret and 1/5 creme fraiche. Next time I will definitely use the Philly cause nothing really compares!)
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan (I used a lined cupcake tin). You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. (If making cheesecakelets, you will want to fill each cupcake liner to just about the very top.) Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes (my cheesecakelets were ready in 21 minutes), until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill (You really do need to do this. I tried one about 2 hours after it came out of the oven and was not at all happy with the result. After letting them sit overnight in the fridge, they were excellent). Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Little Miss Cupcake Varieties:
Pecan Caramel:
When you throw your cookies into the food processor add in about 1/2 cup of pecans. After the cheescakelets have chilled, top with homemade caramel sauce. Make it more savory by using salted butter or throw in some sel de Guerande - coarse sea salt.

White Chocolate & Strawberry/Rose Petal:
At Step 3 of the original recipe, melt about 100 grams of white chocolate with the cream. Let cool for a few minutes and then stir into the cheesecake filling ingredients. For the topping, slice strawberries, mix with some granulated sugar and allow to sit for a few hours in the fridge. Once cheesecakelets have chilled, top with sliced strawberries and then mix some of the juice that has accumulated in the bottom of the bowl with some rose petal jelly. Pour over tops.

Triple Chocolate:
Replace butter in original crust recipe above with about 100 grams melted dark chocolate. For the filling, mix all ingredients except for the cream and divide into two bowls. For the milk chocolate layer, add a few tbsps. cocoa powder to 1/2 cup cream and then mix into one bowl. Use this mixture to cover crust in pan half-way. For the white chocolate layer, repeat as above in White Chocolate & Strawberry/Rose Petal variety and pour this mixture over the milk chocolate layer. Once cheesecakes have cooled, use a carrot peel to make milk chocolate curls for decoration.

**To see more Daring Bakers' cheesecake creations, please visit our Flickr Group : Daring Bakers Look Good**

24 April 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

Ever see The Good, The Bad & The Ugly? I'm not usually a big fan of Westerns, but this is a must-see. It's an epic Italian spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood and the final installment of a trilogy that commences with A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More.

It's classic Eastwood at his coolest and the final showdown between him, Angel Eyes a/k/a The Bad and Tuco a/k/a the Ugly will leave you hanging on the edge of your seat. Okay, even if you haven't watched it, I am sure the theme song is familiar. I've had this tune running through my head for the past few days as I got ready for this Western-themed order.

These are all Storm cupcakes decorated with marshmallow fondant cacti, desert flowers, cowboy hats and sheriff badges. Luckily the birthday boy these were made for is named Sander and so the "S" on the badges works perfectly on two accounts. Yippe-kai yay yee-haw!

20 April 2009

The Deets on Shopping and Bubbles

So, after a delightful week at the beach in Brittany, we are back and relaxed and enjoying this fantastic sunny weather in Paris. For those of you on the other side of the pond, it's the perfect season to plan a trip over. And while I am thinking about it, what will you be doing on the evening of May 6? I will be attending a fabulous event called Shopping & Bubbles organized by the even more fabulous MARIEluvPINK.

There will be Little Miss Cupcake minis on-hand, and champagne and up to 50% off on a great selection of designer accessories, shoes, etc. Did I mention it's taking place at a beauty salon where you can also get some great make-up tips while you shop....and eat....and indulge in bubbly! A "guaranteed girly night" is how it's being billed and I can't think of a better way to sum it up myself!.

SHOPPING and bubbles from 6 to 8 May (Free admission)
Cupcake party, Wednesady May 6 from 19H,
The sale continues 7-8 May from 12h to 20h
GLOSS'UP - 58,rue Charlot - 75003 Paris

Stay up to date with the details as they come in (and RSVP) at Marie's FB page:
Shopping and Bubbles3

I'll also be blogging about the event in the days running up to it and tweeting my prep work:

I'm a little unsure as to how many minis I can feasibly bake and carry with me so if you are coming down to try them out, I'd suggest you come early. I'll even be creating a special flavored cupcake for the event.

Here are the designers who will be showcasing their stuff:

- The sublime bags from VELVETINE

- Jewelry from LILA CONTI

- Scandinavian fashion by PLAGG

- High heels from CINDY GLASS

- And don't miss a luxury vintage corner with a selection of high-end accessories from Vuitton, Sonia Rykiel, Christian Dior, Marc Jacobs..etc...

What more do you need? Come check it out!

10 April 2009

Beach, Bags, Bubbly & More

We're heading out this weekend for a short sejour at the sea. My husband's boss said "Take the days or you'll lose them" and who was he to protest? I won't be taking any orders until 20 April so if you try to get in touch, know there may be some delay in my reply.

Before I go, I want to tell you about a private shopping event I will be participating in from 6-8 May called Shopping & Bubbles being organized by MARIEluvPINK. I met Marie last week and I can't wait to see the group of designers she has rounded up for this sale; she is a true fashionista and has excellent taste. She tells me there will be bags, shoes, vintage accessories, etc. for sale at a beauty salon in the Marais she is taking over for 3 days. Did I mention there will be champagne? And cupcakes of course on opening night! Watch this space for more details as they come.

I was in a bit of a fog today as I prepared the cupcakes shown thanks to my son and his first sleepover date last night. We hosted and though I did my best to get the boys in bed at 8:30 promptly, there were several hours of giggling, footsteps through the house, bathroom visits, requests for food, water and much more that went on til the wee hours of the night. It wasn't until I got the bright idea of separating them in different bedrooms that we are all able to finally get some shut-eye. Lesson learned though I think it will be a while before we try that again.

These are some cupcakes made for a customer's godson. His name is Martin and he just turned 5. They are Cookies & Cream cupcakes (chocolate cake and Oreo buttercream drizzled with melted white chocolate) and I Love You Honey Bunny (carrot cake) cupcakes. I decorated them with melted white chocolate covered in rainbow non-pareils and formed into hearts, number 5's and the letters of Martin's name.
For Every Occasion A Cupcake. These are my sweet way of bidding adieu to you all while we take off for some R&R.

08 April 2009

I Vant to Suck Your Blood (Orange Cupcakes)

As a child, I LOVED to watch scary movies. Anything with vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc. The only problem was that I also happen to be a major scaredy cat and so was terribly spooked by these ghouls and goblins, especially at bedtime. Many nights would find me in the kitchen with my mom putting off the long, lone walk to my bedroom while she would wash the dishes and clean up before coming to tuck me in. Most nights, after yelling after me, "Miss C (ironically my mom's nickname for me since childhood has been "Miss C" or "Little Miss C"), go to bed!!!" At which point, I would take off in a wild sprint, blazing down the hall, flying up the stairs and bound into my bed, pulling my sheets up to my chin -- so that no vampire could get his fangs into me!

One of my favorite shows in elementary school was an ABC soap opera called Dark Shadows which featured a main character named Barnabas Collins who just happened to be a vampire. As soon as the bus dropped me off from school, I would rush in and tune into the continuing episodes of the clan at Collinswood and from what I recall, this show was really campy. A classic example of '70's bad programming. While researching the show for this post, I actually learned that one of my favorite leading men,Johnny Depp, was a big fan as a child too and will be teaming up later this year once again with Tim Burton for a big screen version.

A close, close friend (not a vampire, at least that I know of) is visiting Paris this week from NYC. She was incredibly considerate and kind to schlep over two mini muffin pans for me. Minis coming soon to my menu! I baked up my first batch of Easter minis yesterday - one variety is my entry for this month's Iron Cupcake : Soda Pop challenge. The flavor combination comes from a classic bistro "cocktail" for kids called "un Indien," which is made from mixing Orangina with sirop de grenadine. These are Orangina cupcakes filled with a creme de grenadine and topped with blood orange buttercream.

The others pictured in the Easter minis assortment are vanilla minis with vanilla bean buttercream (green candy egg on top), chocolate chip minis with a peanut butter cream cheese frosting (orange egg), and white chocolate minis with a rose petal buttercream (yellow egg).

Here's the recipe for the "Indien"/Blood Orange Cupcakes. You should be okay eating them once the sun has gone down, just remember not to invite any strangers into your home to share them with you! ;)

Recipe for Indien/Blood Orange Cupcake
Yields @16 regular size cupcakes or @ 48 minis

4 ozs. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. fleur d'oranger
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups flour
1/2 cup buttermilk /lait fermente
1/2 cup Orangina

1) Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C. Grease or place cupcake liners into cupcake tins.
2) Cream together sugar and butter until smooth. Add egg, fleur d'oranger, baking soda, salt and mix until well-combined. Alternate adding flour and buttermilk in 3 batches, mix well until smooth. Add in Orangina and mix to combine.
3) Fill cupcake pans about 2/3 full.
4) Bake for 17-20 minutes for regular size, 10-12 minuts for minis, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from tin and let cool on wire rack.

Creme de Grenadine

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 - 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp sirop de grenadine

Beat the cream and 1/3 cup of powdered sugar in a large bowl until firm peaks form. Fold in sirop de grenadine until well-combined without over-mixing. It should have the consistency of a thick yogurt. If too thin, add in extra sugar 1 tbsp. at a time.

Cut a cone shape in the tops off of each cupcake and remove. Spoon the creme de grenadine into each. Place the cupcake cones back on the cupcakes.

Blood Orange Buttercream
4 ozs. unsalted butter
4-6 cups powdered sugar
2 blood oranges

Beat butter and 4 cups sugar until creamy and soft. Add in the zest and juice of the blood oranges and continue beating until frosting is of good spreading consistency. If too thin, progressively add more sugar.

And here's what I need to tell you about Iron Cupcake -- Voting will begin no later than Wednesday, April 29 at 8 p.m. at NO ONE PUTS CUPCAKE IN A CORNER, and will be open through Monday, May 4 at 12 noon. This is the April ETSY PRIZE-PACK I am competing for:

* A creation by FRUITFLYPIE
* a pair of cupcake earrings from LOTS OF SPRINKLES
* 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, and a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers.

03 April 2009

Happy 1400th Cupcake Day to Me!

When I started baking for other people a few months back, I figured it would be mostly friends who rang me up for cupcakes. Yesterday, I had a client from Australia (more on that below) and today, I finished off a box of 1400 cupcake liners I bought back in December! Wow, how the time flies when you are having fun! A big thank you to all of you out there who continue to support me in this endeavor.

I don't know if it's cause the markets are rallying (at the time of this writing) or cause the moon is in the 7th house, but people have been clamoring for cupcakes this week. I wasn't even this busy over the holidays! So here in photos is what I have been up to this week...

Little Miss Morsels:

A new product on my menu. The ones pictured are Kiss Kiss Bang Bang cupcake bites -- they come in several varieties but I recommend the chocolates -- made as a gift for the staff at a customer's daycare. What did she say about them?

"The creche staff ranted and raved today at pick-up. They can't even deal with how good they were. Yes, were. Not one was left by the afternoon. You have a total hit on your hands!!! I'll be ordering more in the future!!!"

Somewhere Beyond the Sea:
Nemo has long been one of our favorite movies. When I started working on these cupcakes for a birthday party with an underwater theme, my son went bonkers. He wanted me to recreate every sea creature in the movie. Which I would have liked to have done but as it is, I spent 3 nights molding and shaping these guys made from marshmallow fondant and marzipan.

I liked the starfish and their googly eyes the best.

My son came up with the idea for the electric eel. Much better than the simple sand dollars I had in mind!

Here's a close-up of an octopus which I think came out well.

Bake Like (and For) a Rock Star:
Here's the order that was called in from Australia....

for an American....

who happened to be in Paris for his birthday.

What was he doing here? Oh, he just happens to be one of the guys from sunny California's Machine Head. They were opening up for Metallica who were playing back-to-back sold-out shows. He's apparently a chocoholic so the request here was for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang red velvets and Chocolate Squared. I couldn't resist the Eiffel Tower gummies. Let's hope these gave him extra energy for last night's show.

Monkey See, Monkey Do:
My friend's son, James, is 3 tomorrow. He's an adorable kid and loves all things dinosaur, lion, etc. The design for these come from Hello, Cupcake!

They are Caramel Dolce lions (which you have seen here before) and Lemon Tart Monkeys. It was while I was baking these this morning that I used my 1400th liner. Woo Hoo!

Marguerites for Marguerite:

And last but not least, some cupcakes for Marguerite's baptism. A marguerite is a daisy in French so I thought these were fitting.

I paid 23 euros (!!!) without tax for these daisy cutters yesterday but I love how they came out. Simple and beautiful.

These are marzipan roses on Berry Berry Good strawberry cupcakes, and,

Marshmallow fondant daisies on Storm cupcakes.

Hungry yet? As I always say, For Every Occasion, a Cupcake and so glad Little Miss Cupcake could be a part of so many of your special occasions these last few months. Here's to 1400 more!!!! ;)


01 April 2009

Get 'Em While They're Cool.....

Little Miss Morsels...like Love in a Box. A new item on the menu! Smashed cupcakes mixed with buttercream and then rolled in milk chocolate. I'll be headed out of town next week for a short break over the coming Easter holiday but when I am back I'll have a second new menu addition. Something many of you have been asking for. Can you guess what it is? ;)