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Not so Spooky Halloween’s Eve Cupcakes

30 Oct

I had every intention of making devil’s food cupcakes in honor of it being Halloween Eve.  I was missing some key ingredients though, so I turned to a much less spooky, more ‘angelic’ sort of cake.

But this one still got some candy corn devil horns =]

I was a bad blogger and didn’t take any pictures of the process, but I promise it’s totally easy.  And after a whole batch got gobbled up in a day, I knew I had to share the recipe with you.

Plus there’s a good story behind these cupcakes.

I always make cake for birthdays in my family.  But whenever I take a fancy cake over to my mom’s house to feed my little sisters (they’re 5 and 7 now), they never eat it.  I made a spice cake with espresso buttercream.  They didn’t eat it…fair enough.

So I made a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and raspberry puree in the middle.  Kids love chocolate, right?!  They didn’t eat it.  Really?

So then I decided to make the most boring, kid friendly cake I could think of.  Sure to impress even the pickiest of children: a vanilla milkshake cake.  A malted vanilla cake, filled with pastry cream (which is more or less a vanilla ice cream base), and frosted with a sweet vanilla buttercream.

The main problem with this was that there are very, very few malted vanilla cake recipes out there.  Chocolate malt cakes are all over the place, but vanilla? No dice.

So I was pretty proud at having to adapt this recipe from the one malted cake recipe I could find to taste more like a vanilla milkshake…

The cake still doesn’t taste like a vanilla milkshake, but it is still one of my favorite vanilla cake recipes.  These cakes rise perfectly, they are moist and spongy on the inside, and the malt powder gives a depth of flavor missing in your average vanilla cake.  Frost with a vanilla buttercream that ‘tastes exactly like vanilla ice cream’, and the milkshake is complete.

I’m sure these will make it through a few more trials…eventually I will create that perfect vanilla milkshake taste.  This batch got pretty rave reviews regardless, so for now, make yourself some delicious malted vanilla cupcakes.

Oh, and in case you were wondering…the kids still didn’t eat my vanilla cupcakes.  But I hope you will!

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Malted Vanilla Cupcakes

Adapted from Annie Eats
Makes ~12 cupcakes

¼ + 1/8 cup all purpose flour
¼ + 1/8 cup cake flour
½ cup malted milk powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
1 T vanilla extract
¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
1/3 cup buttermilk

‘Tastes like Vanilla Ice Cream’ Buttercream
From Sweetapolita
1 stick of butter, softened
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
1 T heavy cream (or whole milk)
1 tsp  vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

I halved the frosting recipe and only had enough frosting for 9 out of my 12 cakes…so either make half a batch and go light on the frosting (not recommended), or make the whole batch and eat the extras with a spoon (you should do this)…or freeze for later use.

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F, and line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, malted milk powder, baking powder, and salt, and set aside
  • In a large bowl beat together the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, and oil, until well combined and light in color.
  • Alternate additions of the dry mixture with and the buttermilk into the egg mixture, starting and ending with dry.  Pour in 1/3 of the dry mix, stir gently until combined, then pour in 1/3 of the buttermilk, stir gently to combine, then repeat (ending with dry mixture).
  • I used a 1 oz ice cream scoop to measure out the batter evenly into 12 cupcake tins.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  • To make frosting: On low speed, beat together butter and powdered sugar until well combined.  Add in vanilla extract, salt, and the heavy cream.  Beat at high speed for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Hurricane Sandy and Candy Corn Rice Crispy Treats

29 Oct

Hunkering down for the hurricane getting you down?  You probably need some treats of the Halloween themed variety to get you back in the festive mood.

I think the worst is over here in Norfolk.  The winds have died down quite a bit, but it’s still pouring.  The backyard is about halfway underwater, and I’m pretty sure most of the roads are flooded, but the house is dry and the power is on, so I’m happy.

Ew, look at all that trash.  Kids, don’t litter or pollute your water.

Rice crispy treats are actually one of my favorite desserts.  I don’t make them that often, and I don’t think about them that often, but once I get my hands on a plate of those chewy, crunchy, marshmallowy squares of goodness, there’s no stopping me.

So I made some rice crispy treats on a dark and stormy hurricane morning, and then I threw some candy corn in there…because I have most of a 4lb bag of the stuff I’m still working through.  And they were delicious.

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First, assemble your ingredients.  You will need to work relatively quickly, so make sure you’ve got your candy corn, marshmallows, and rice crispy cereal ready on your counter.  And grease your 8×8 pan very well, and set aside.

Melt some butter and candy corn in a medium sized saucepan over low heat.

Melt? Candy corn?  Whattt?  Yes, it will melt.  You may have to crush it and stir constantly, but it will melt…it’s essentially made of just sugar and corn syrup you know (which also means you can make some other fun candies out of it, but that’s for a later date).

The candy corn and butter won’t necessarily combine very well, but stir them together as best you can.  Once everything is mostly melted, stir in the marshmallows!

Yeah, I used some funny colored halloween type marshmallows.

It made for some funny color marshmallow goo.  At this point, cut the heat, and stir in your salt, cereal, and additional candy corn.

It’s super sticky, and you want to work quickly.  Once everything is combined, pour into your greased pan, and pack down gently to even it all out (best accomplished by smearing some butter on your fingers or spraying them with non-stick spray first)

And that’s all, folks!  Allow to cool…as long as you can wait, and then enjoy!

I know, the lighting is wonky…I blame the storm…

I wouldn’t say these treats taste strongly of candy corn, but the flavor is there subtly.  They are sweeter and chewier than your average rice crispy treats, which is reminiscent of a chewy candy corn.  I think they’re totally delicious, and I hope you do too…I’m sure you’ve got some candy corn lying around, and rice crispy treats couldn’t be easier to make.  So give these a try =]

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Candy Corn Rice Crispy Treats
2 T butter
1/3 cup + 1/4 cup candy corn (divided in those amounts)
1/2 a 10 oz package of large marshmallows (or 2 cups of miniature ones)
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups crisped rice cereal

  • Assemble all your ingredients so they are ready when you need them.  Also grease a 8×8 or 9×9 pan and set aside.
  • In a medium size saucepan, melt the butter with 1/3 cup of candy corn over low heat.  You will need to crush and stir the candy corn well, but it will melt.
  • Once butter and candy corn are melted, stir in the marshmallows
  • Once marshmallows have melted, turn the heat off.  Stir in the salt, cereal, and 1/4 cup of candy corn.  Work quickly, as the mixture will be quite sticky.
  • Pour into your greased pan, and press down gently to smooth with a greased spatula or your greased hands.
  • Allow to cool slightly before slicing into squares and enjoying

Brown Butter and Cinnamon Apple Bread

27 Oct

I know I haven’t posted a dinner in ages.  I made this sesame chicken dinner last night, and it was so freaking good.  I also realize that every other dinner I post is from Iowa Girl Eats…here’s what happens: I have all these great ideas, then I go to her blog and she has posted something that looks even better…so I make that instead.

Anyway, you should make that sesame chicken.  I followed the recipe exactly, and her pictures are better than mine would have been.  I especially loved the coating…egg white and cornstarch for a light ‘breading’…perfect and genius!

But I did do something cool this morning: I baked something from a recipe I came up with.  Big deal, guys.

I was thinking pumpkin or banana bread, with tons of fresh apples from an orchard in Charlottesville, and the apple pie I made on Wednesday nearly gone, apple bread it was.

And this bread is AWESOME.  Not just because I crafted the recipe myself…it is soft and moist, but perfectly spongy.  And the flavor!  The cake tastes of cinnamon sugar—but not in an overly sweet way—with subtle undertones of caramel from brown butter.  And the apples are nice little pops of fresh, bright flavor.

Seriously, one of the best things I’ve ever baked.

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Alright, start by browning some butter.  My last tutorial was pretty lame, so I decided to try again.  Put your butter in a small saucepan, then onto the stove over low-medium heat.

Stir occasionally.  It will foam up, obscuring your view.  Stirring helps you to see what color your butter is, and for some reason seems to make the process go more quickly.  Still, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Everyone says you wait for the butter to smell ‘nutty’.  I kind of think that regular melted butter smells nutty, so that’s not much help.  There is a pretty distinct smell change though, so it is a good indicator.  I would go with ‘caramel’ not ‘nutty’ though to describe it.

It also changes color to amber.  Duh.  And develops some light brown flecks in the bottom of the pan.  Those are your best indicators…much easier to see in a lighter colored pan (versus my Ikea cancer pan that I used last time)

Once you see this, remove from heat, and continue to stir.  Not all the butter may look brown yet, but residual heat should get the job done.

Let that cool while you combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl:  all purpose flour, oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.

Now assemble the wet ingredients!  My brown butter was still warm, so I added the sugar first to cool it down, then whisked in two eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk.

Pour the wet mix into the dry and stir well to combine.  It will be pretty liquidy.

Then chop up your apples!  (Your batter will thicken a bit as the flours absorb some of the moisture).

My last apple cutting tutorial was also pretty lame, so here it is again: the easiest way to peel and chop apples.

First slice off the top and base, then peel with your knife.  Just carefully follow the curve of your apples with the knife.  Then core and chop.

Easy!  All of your apple sides have nice flat surfaces, making it totally easy to cut these up.

My cubes were pretty small.

Fold into your batter, then pour into a greased loaf pan and into the oven for 30-40 minutes.  The edges may brown a bit, and your top should develop a nice crack, and be cooked through in the center.

Yay!  Look how pretty.  And of course you already saw the inside, but just to convince you you need to make this:

It’s delish.  Cinnamon, sugar, the caramel accents from brown butter, and apples…this is fall at its finest.  Even without any pumpkin =]

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Oh, P.S., for anyone in the way of this MONSTER storm coming through the eastern US…stay safe, stay warm and dry, and Happy (early) Halloween!!

and GO TRIBE!! It’s homecoming weekend at my alma mater…hark upon the gale and then eat some apple bread =]

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Brown Butter and Cinnamon Apple Bread
Makes 1 9×5’ loaf

4 T butter
1½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup oat flour (grind dry oats in a food processor or coffee grinder till fine)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
¾ cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk*
2 medium-large apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small cubes

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a 9×5 loaf pan.
  • Begin by browning 4 T of butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  It will smell caramelly, turn amber in color, and develop small flecks in the bottom of the pan.  Remove from heat, and allow to cool for several minutes.
  • While the butter cools, combine both flours, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Whisk to combine.
  • Once the brown butter has cooled slightly, stir the brown sugar into it (this will cool the butter more, so no worries if it’s still relatively warm).  Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla extract, and buttermilk.
  • Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir to combine.  It will be pretty wet.  Set aside while you chop, peel, and core your apples.  This will give time for the flours to absorb some of the moisture.
  • Stir apples into the batter.  Pour batter into a greased 9×5 loaf pan, and into the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the edges are lightly brown and the bread is set in the center.

*I didn’t use real buttermilk for this…I poured one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into a 1 cup measuring cup, filled it to the top with 2% milk, and let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken into ‘buttermilk’.  Works like a charm.