Does it ever happen to you that the busier your week is the more you crave a project? I’ve been spending a lot of mental energy on things that are necessary but aren’t necessarily my favorite things to think about, and I figured it’s time to re-calibrate by a baking project from which I would usually back down.

Piping frosting. I think the stigma of piped frosting comes from growing up in a household where such steps as those were deemed a pointless use of time in the face of enjoying delicious cake. If you look through the archives of this blog, even, you’ll see that I rarely, RARELY pipe frosting and almost always mention how much I dislike doing it, and if you know me, you’ve probably heard the rant a billion times before. The reality is that I don’t mind the piping part, it’s getting the frosting in the darn bag that gets me every time. I always end up with frosting all over me and all over everything else, everything besides the cupcakes. A few months back I got some Julia Child cooking DVDs from the local bookstore and have watched her put frosting in a piping bag countless times. But as you all know and have experienced, she makes things look really easy, especially when you’re a novice.

This time around wasn’t so bad; my mess was contained and I managed to have extra frosting after successfully frosting my cupcakes. The piping itself needs a little practice, to be sure, and I might be convinced to do it more often now that I’m confident enough to face a bag with frosting without being terrified of the impending mess. I would suggest clicking through to the original recipe, her cupcakes are filled with lemon curd! Even though I wanted a more elaborate baking project, the lemon curd was overshadowed by my desire to pipe some frosting. Because the two are mutually exclusive? I’m just talking all over the place, now. Go, enjoy some cupcakes, and I’ll work on formulating some thoughts!

 Lemon Cupcakes

(Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction)

Yields 24 cupcakes (but halves beautifully if need be)

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups buttermilk, room temperature (or 1 ¼ cups milk with about 1 tablespoon vinegar)

4 egg whites, room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

Zest from two lemons, as finely grated as possible

½ cup, or 8 tablespoons, or 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon lemon extract

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the cups of a cupcake tin with paper liners or grease with baking spray. Center a rack in the oven.

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup, whisk together egg whites and milk.

4. If using a stand mixer, combine sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of the stand mixer. Combine zest and sugar with your fingers until moist and fragrant.

5. Add butter to lemon/sugar mixture and beat until light, about 3 minutes if using an electric/stand mixer. Beat in lemon and vanilla extracts.

6. Add flour mixture in thirds, alternating with two additions of one half milk mixture, making sure to start and end with the addition of flour. Beat until just incorporated between each addition, and then beat for an additional 2 minutes after all ingredients have been added, until batter is homogenous.

7. Divide mixture evenly among cupcake cups, filling each cup about two thirds of the way full.

8. Bake cupcakes in preheated oven for 18 to 22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean and cupcakes spring back when touched.

9. Move cupcake pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes before removing cupcakes from cups and cooling completely on a wire rack.

 

Lemon Buttercream

(Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction)

Yields a lot of frosting – if you don’t plan on piping, you might want to halve it

Ingredients:

2 cups, or 4 sticks, unsalted butter, softened

2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted to remove lumps

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Zest of one lemon

1-3 tablespoons milk (to add until you reach desired consistency)

**½ cup blueberries, pureed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice

**I added the equivalent measure of strawberry syrup from these baked strawberries, made last week. Can’t wait to try this frosting with fresh, pureed fruit, though!

Method:

1. In a large mixing bowl cream butter until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes on medium speed (this is easiest if you have access to an electric mixer).

2. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until blended.

3. Add in extract, salt, zest, and fruit puree. Beat frosting, on high speed, until fluffy.

4. Add milk, if necessary, to help reach desired consistency.

 

Assembly: Frost cupcakes with desired amount of frosting!

Storage: Cupcakes are best enjoyed as soon as possible after frosting. Mine lasted pretty well sitting at room temperature, in an airtight container, for one day. Otherwise, store refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days, bringing to room temperature before eating.

 

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First up, my apologies for not posting my Variety Flour recipe on Thursday. I think I’m going to try to play it off as some parallel universe Friday the 13th mix-up, one where everything I was supposed to do Thursday will be done on Friday. Mainly, though, it was relaxing cocktail of procrastination and sunlight.

Anyways… back to baking! I bought a small bag of brown rice flour last year on a whim. Shortly after buying it, I figured out that rice flour is the perfect ingredient in shortbread, giving an already delicious treat a fantastic textural highlight. Other than that, though, the rice flour has just sat in my freezer, next to all the other flours I use on a semi-regular basis (buckwheat, whole wheat, oat, etc), and that started to make me sad. No flour left behind, people!

Since my rice flour recipe box is embarrassingly sparse, I did what I usually do when I want more information about something, type it into the google machine and see what results come to me from the vast world of the internet. This approach doesn’t always work, but one of the first recipes that came up for “rice flour” and “cake” was, not surprisingly, a rice flour cake from Whole Foods.

I was skeptical without reason. Instead of making the cake, I decided to adapt it to cupcakes so they are easier to eat for people on the go (mainly my co-workers and room mates), and the only other change I made was to add a little bit of almond extract in place of some of the vanilla. I love the texture of these cakes, which is grainy/crunchy, almost like a semolina flour cake, and fall even more in love because the graininess of the rice flour doesn’t overpower the lightness of the cake itself. If you want to make cupcakes that are a little different, I highly suggest these, along with either the jam glaze listed after the recipe or just a smear of plain ol’ jam. Both options were great!

Rice Flour Cupcakes

(Recipe adapted from Whole Foods)

Yields 9 or 10 cupcakes (If you use a ¼ cup ice cream scoop, you’ll have 9 cupcakes and they will puff over cupcake papers, so if you prefer cupcakes not puffed over the top, use a scant ¼ cup measure.)

Ingredients:

½ cup, or 8 tablespoons, butter, unsalted and softened

½ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 ¼ rice flour, brown or white

1 teaspoon baking powder

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 9 or 10 muffin cups with cupcake papers.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Whisk in eggs and extracts until combined. Mixture will be grainy.

4. Fold in flour and baking powder until no flour lumps remain.

5. Fill cupcake papers using a ¼ cup measure, or about ¾ full.

6. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in pan for 5 to 10 minutes before removing them to a rack to cool completely.

Once cool, store unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. If frosting cupcakes with jam glaze, store frosted cupcakes at room temperature for up to a day and in the fridge, kept in an airtight container, for up to two more days.

Jam glaze

Ingredients:

1/3 cup fruit preserves

1 tablespoon water

Method:

1. Place preserves and 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil for a minute.

2. Turn the heat off and stir the glaze for another 30 seconds or so.

3. Glaze cupcakes.

 

On our first “date” as friends, this darling girl and I went to Sweet for cupcakes, and it has become a tradition. They switch up their menu with the change of seasons, and have special Valentine’s Day cupcakes (Which is coming up! Rejoice!), which we love because you never tire of the flavors. Conversely, though, you tend to miss the flavors you really enjoy when they are out of season, so to speak. One of those flavors is the chocolate orange cupcake, which I want to reproduce for her so she has a foolproof, easy to make recipe to use year round.

The only thing that I am deliberately changing about the chocolate orange cupcake is the cake itself. The Sweet version is a chocolate cake with orange buttercream frosting, but I would like to up the ante and find a recipe for chocolate orange cake. The first reason is personal, because I love zest in cake, but the second and REAL reason is that, just in case she doesn’t feel like making the frosting, she can simply make the cake and eat it plain. Although I’ll take this opportunity to say that I want to eat this frosting until the sun devours the Earth. Just sayin’.

All in all, I wasn’t particularly pleased with the way the cake turned out. The cupcakes were very, very crumbly, yet not overcooked. I’ve made vegan chocolate cake a few times before this, and was able to manage a moist cupcake, so naturally I was a little disappointed. The flavor was fantastic, even if it was super rich. The next time I make a vegan chocolate orange cake, I’m going to turn to Vegan cupcakes take over the world.

Random excitement, before turning over the recipe over to you, though! These cupcakes gave me a chance to use my cupcake corer!! It’s kind of a dream come true. As hard as it is to admit (because this is a baking blog, after all), I’m a frosting girl. So cupcakes filled with frosting, then topped with frosting? Yes. A thousand times, yes. I suppose you could fill them with anything you wish, but, again, this frosting is amazing.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes (vegan)

(Adapted from momofukufor2)

Yields 12 full-size cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup cocoa powder

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup orange juice

½ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon orange zest

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your muffin tins with cupcake papers.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.

3. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together all other ingredients.

4. Make a well in the dry ingredients, then pour the liquid into the dry.

5. Mix the batter until everything is just combined.

6. Fill the cupcake liners with about ¼ cup batter, or at least make sure they all have even amounts of batter.

7. Bake tins in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, testing them at 20. When a butter knife or toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out dry, you’re done!

8. Cool the cupcakes in the tin for at least 5 minutes, then let them cool on a cooling rack until they are room temperature.

Orange Frosting (Note: NOT vegan)

(Adapted from All Cakes Considered)

Yields more than enough frosting for 12 cupcakes, if you aren’t doing any crazy piping.

Ingredients:

½ cup, or one stick, unsalted butter, room temperature

3 ½ to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon orange extract

(Optional: 3 tablespoons of dried orange peel, or finely grated orange zest)

Method:

1. Using a mixer, cream the butter until it is smooth and fluffy.

2. Add 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, and while mixing on low, add the evaporated milk.

3. When the sugar is incorporated, beat the frosting at a high speed for at least five minutes (I beat mine for 8 or 9 minutes, which was almost overkill). Add more confectioners’ sugar to get your desired texture.

4. Add the extracts and zest, if using, and beat on high for another minute or two until even distributed through the frosting.

To assemble cupcakes:

Exhibit A. This is what happens when you do not let the cupcakes cool to room temperature, when you don't let the ganache cool to a reasonable temperature, and when you don't even make the ganache properly because you're so intent on eating.

1. Wait until the cupcakes are room temperature!

2. Frost the cupcakes.

3. Keep them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. If kept in the fridge, bring to room temperature or let sit for 10 minutes before eating because the frosting gets a little stiff when it’s cold.

Apricot-glazed Almond Cupcakes

November 20, 2010

Oozing like I imagine a cupcake volcano would, if it were to erupt with jam.

These cupcakes seem a lot of things. They seem kind of floofy. They seem kind of healthy. They seem hard to make. You get the picture, but the picture these kinds of things paint has no semblance whatsoever to the actual process and finished product. It’s true that they are beautiful, but they are super easy to make, super delicious, and probably not all that good for you (despite the almonds). Also, they are completely vegan.

I’ve already written on this blog that my ever-expanding circle of friends brings ever expanding preferences and demands, but I wouldn’t change that for a second! Baking, for me, is an absolute pleasure, and one of the most delightful parts about baking is sharing what you make and how you make it. The thought of someone not being able to enjoy a decadent baked good at any sort of outing at which I’m present makes me more sad than I’d like to admit. When I received Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero at a holiday gift swap last it, it was, literally, like walking through a door into a room filled with lots of other open doors and happy people dancing like the world was the best thing ever. After making a few of the cupcakes from the book, that vision was not only cemented into my mind, but I believe there have been a few actual happy dances surrounding the vegan cupcakes to come from this little book. (On another, more creepy note, I do refer to Isa by her first name because I’m a little in love with her books, her TV show, everything really. Accept my apologies.)

My non-vegan and vegan friends can enjoy the same treats, and still feel like they are being treated. Now that, for me, defines the idea of being perfectly content.

When I made these cupcakes, I happened to have a jar of apricot darjeeling jam from a local farmer’s market lying around. The results were fantastic, however, I know that these cupcakes would be just as excellent with plain apricot. Bonne Maman makes an apricot raspberry jam that would probably be spectacular in this recipe. Now that I’m thinking about jam, perhaps you could go crazy and use any jam you want!

Gorgeous cupcakes, in spite of my elementary food photography skills

Apricot-glazed Almond Cupcakes

(Adapted from from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero)

This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

1/3 cup canola oil

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup soy yogurt

2/3 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk, if almond milk is not your cup of tea)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup almond meal (You can make your own by whirring some almonds in a food processor for a few seconds.)

1/3 cup apricot preserves

For the glaze:

½ cup apricot preserves

1 tablespoon water

For presentation purposes:

1/3 cup sliced almonds

Method:

For the cupcakes:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a tin by lining a muffin pan with cupcake liners.

2. In a bowl large enough to contain all the batter, combine oil, sugar, yogurt, almond milk, vanilla, and almond extract.

3. Sift the flour, baking power, and salt together, then sift it into the wet ingredients. Mix until the batter is smooth.

4. Add the almond meal and mix just to combine. I wouldn’t recommend over mixing any sort of cupcake batter.

5. Fill each cupcake liner two-thirds full. Add apricot preserves by the half teaspoonful to the center of each cupcake. (Isa recommends tapping the jam to make it even with the batter, but when I did that the jam sank very far into the cupcake. When I left the jam sitting on top of the batter, it seemed to sink into the cupcake pretty nicely.)

6. Bake for 24 to 26 minutes. You probably shouldn’t employ the toothpick test to these cakes, because the reading would be foiled by the jam center, but you can press lightly on the cupcake and see if it springs back. That’s always hard for me, so I just keep an eye on them and watch the edges.)

7. Transfer to a cooling rack and bring them to room temperature before applying the glaze.

For the glaze:

1. Put the jam and 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, and keep stirring for a minute. Turn the heat off, but continue to stir for another 30 seconds.

Some assembly required:

1. If you have a pastry brush, use it to apply the glaze to the cupcakes, but a teaspoon sized spoon will work just as well. Add some almonds to the top, any way you choose: sliced almonds in the center, slivered almonds all over, crushed almonds around the edges, choose your own adventure!

2. Let them cool before serving.