Sunday, September 20, 2009

Carbomb Update

So the Irish Carbomb cupcakes were a hit!  I received many compliments on them-- people said they were delicious, all of the flavors worked well and that you could taste all three kinds of alcohol without any single one overpowering.

Hooray!  Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Irish Carbomb Cupcakes

Today's baking adventure involves booze!  My first foray into the world of baking with alcohol, and I think it turned out quite nicely.  A classmate of mine requested I make 2 dozen "Irish Carbomb" inspired cupcakes for a friend's birthday (later this would change to 2 1/2 dozen).  I, having no idea what an Irish Carbomb was or how to interpret it into cake form, consulted the internet.

Turns out (for those of you out there who, like me, are not liquor-savvy), an Irish Carbomb is a drink made from three different kinds of Irish alochol:  Guinness Beer, Jameson Whiskey, and Baileys Irish Creme.  A half shot of Baileys is poured, topped off with Jameson, and dropped into a half-full pint of Guinness which the drinker must consume as quickly as possible, or else the Baileys will curdle when combined with the Guinness.

So, after my research I made trip out to my local liquor store to purchase the requisite booze:

As it also turns out, this is a relatively popular cupcake variation! During my research, I found at least three different recipes for the cupcake itself, with many more techniques for the frosting and additional flavor components.  Some recipes had a Jameson chocolate ganache filling, some had the Jameson and Baileys in the frosting, but in the end I went for a Guinness cupcake with Baileys Swiss Meringue Buttercream (an adaptation from a Mojito Swiss Meringue Buttercream I found), and took this blog's suggestion and brushed the tops of the cupcakes with the Jameson before frosting.

The recipe I followed for the cupcakes was a little bit confusing. While most of the recipes I saw called for boiling the butter and Guinness together, this on called for the butter to be melted and then mixed with the Guinness, which concerned me because apparently the two do not play well together-- No matter how much I mixed and mixed, the butter just kind of curdled and sat on top of the Guinness.  No emulsion could be obtained, no matter how hard I tried.

Thankfully, with the addition of the rest of the ingredients things seemed to work themselves out-- had I purchased enough Guinness to start over without another trip to the store, I probably would have, though.  It really did not look like that batter was going to come together.  They turned out looking like pretty normal cupcakes, I am happy to say:

So then to tackle the frosting!  I have decided I love Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  One of these days I will get up the guts to try the Italian version, but for now simplicity is key.  The light not-too-sweet flavor and delicate texture are just perfect!  That being said, I am hardly a pro and I have had bad luck in the past so I was concerned about how additional ingredients could throw things off.  
Apparently, adding ingredients to the stuff is pretty easy.  There are many variations with additional ingredients, so I built up my courage and added a few tablespoons of Baileys after the frosting had reached the beautiful fluffy stage I love so much.  It didn't seem to do any harm whatsoever, and the frosting is just as light and fluffy as I had hoped it would be.
For garnish, just a slight dusting of ground chocolate finishes them off. (If these were for St. Paddy's day I would have done some green sugar, perhaps, or some fondant shamrocks.) 
The final product:

I don't know much about liquor, but I do know a think or two about cupcakes, and I am quite pleased with how these turned out.

Soon Halloween cupcakes!  I have already found some great designs that I am really looking forward to try.  Keep you posted!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

No, this post is not about cake.  No, I'm not going to apologize.

So for those of you not "in the know" about things like this, Amish Friendship Bread is a baking chain-mail phenomenon.  You receive an innocuous-looking bag of "starter" from a friend of yours, with instructions on how to care for it and at the end of 10 days you bake some of it into bread and  it is then your responsibility to distribute starters to your friends so that they can do the same.

If you do not have very many friends who bake, however, this can lead to difficulties unloading extra starters, especially after the 2nd or 3rd go-round (since presumably your friends will be giving you some of their starters once they reach the end of their starter cycle).  This website has a very thorough explanation for the entire process.

That being said, Amish Friendship bread is delicious.  So delicious, in fact, that even knowing I would have no one to give my extra starters to, I went and found a recipe for the starter and began the process myself.  This might have been pure insanity, but I justified it to myself by reasoning that the recipe is so endlessly variable, I can just make lemon Amish Bread and Banana Amish Bread and Ginger Amish Bread and Amish Bread muffins, etc...etc...  I fear I might have been delusional.

Thankfully the starters can be frozen for later use, so I have not committed myself to feeding these things every 5 days ad infinitum while they multiply!

So, on Day 1 of the cycle you receive the 1-cup starter, which looks something like this:

On days 2-5 you stir the mixture (if you keep it in a bag you have to burp it as well).  It is important to avoid using metal containers or utensils when doing this, because they can react with the yeast in the starter.

Day 6 the stuff requires feeding-- 1 cup each of flour, sugar, and milk.

Day 7-9 more stirring (and burping, for you bag people).

Day 10 feed it again, then divide it into containers with 1 cup of starter in each.  You should have 3 "friend" starters and about 1 cup leftover for your own bread.

When you give the starters away, you should include the instructions for how to care for it.

Now it is time to contemplate which variation of the recipe to use.  For this venture, I went with the traditional cinnamon variation and a powdered sugar glaze:

The recipe I had called for a large box of vanilla pudding mix, which I did not have on hand, so I substituted a small box of butterscotch pudding mix and 3/4 of a small box of vanilla pudding mix instead.  The difference in flavor is hardly noticeable, but it is a little bit richer.

I have not yet determined what to do with the rest of the starters.  One starter is still on my counter awaiting its fate, while the others are stashed in the freezer for the time being.  I'll see if anyone at work would be willing to take them.

Otherwise, perhaps I will foist them on friends over the holidays...I read somewhere that they travel fairly well, especially in cold weather.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mini Tiers

So tonight was an exercise of sorts in making mini tiered cakes. This was not the original intent, but I am happy with the results nonetheless.

An old coworker of Alan's requested a cake for his girlfriend's return to town. Originally it was going to be a two layer 6" cake, but since I only have one 6" pan I made the executive decision to alter the design so that I could fill all of the pans at once. The result: a cupcake on top of a 4" layer on top of a 6" layer. All chocolate. Dark chocolate cake, whipped chocolate ganache filling between the layers, and chocolate ganache frosting on the outside. The result?

It looks like it is much bigger in the picture! I used a new cake recipe for this one, and I don't know if it was due to that or my miscalculating the baking time, but the middle of the 6" layer sunk quite dramatically. Thankfully, because I was filling it anyway, I just mounded up the whipped ganache in the middle to even things out. The fact that I was using a firm outer frosting made this "fix" a little easier to manage as well.

The second cake I made tonight was for a coworker of mine who wanted a small cake for her boyfriend, "just because". His favorite cake is coconut, but this one is faux coconut. Because of the super-late notice (she just told me today), I couldn't try the recipe from Coconut Cake Revival that I have been eyeing for months. Instead, I doctored a cake mix. White cake mix with coconut milk instead of water, and fresh grated coconut on the outside.

I hadn't realized how difficult it was to gain access to a coconut! First you have to drain the water inside (by puncturing the eyes), then you have to bake it so that the husk will crack off, peel it, and finally grate it. It was quite the amount of work! But, fresh coconut has a much more delicate flavor than the store bought flaky stuff, so I am sure it was worth it.

Though it looks as though the traditional frosting is "7 Minute Frosting", I have never had much luck with it, so I substituted Swiss Meringue Buttercream instead. This is one of my all-time favorite frostings, especially atop devil's food cupcakes. Yum! The texture is light (from the egg whites), and it isn't cloyingly sweet like many frostings.

Unfortunately, I have yet to master it and while things worked in my favor this time (other than some irritating lumps due to my use of dried egg whites instead of fresh), I have not passed the 50/50 success threshold yet.

The final result for this one:

Again, the bottom layer is 6" and the top is 4".

They make a pretty pair, don't they?

Not bad for an impromptu night of baking, if I do say so myself!

Getting Started...

So, my name is Lindsey and I make cakes.

This is where I'll chronicle my (mis)adventures for anyone who cares to read them.