I got this recipe from Inquiring Chef, who in turn modified it from Bakerella. I think it’s awesome. Challenge accepted.
Inquiring Chef came up with four batches of different flavours: blueberry, raspberry, lemon, and mint. She tried kiwi but apparently it didn’t gel, so I left my kiwi purée in the freezer for the time being. I did whip out my frozen fruit from Costco and came up with six different flavours: blueberry, mixed berry (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry), strawberry, mango, and raspberry. I planned to turn whatever was left into a mélange and call that one “fruit salad”. I left those to defrost in the sun while I made The Un-Cola.
You only need 3 tablespoons of purée per flavour, but I wasn’t sure how much would be left over after I finished straining out the seeds and skins, so I kind of eyeballed it.
So, in a food processor, purée those fruits all up.
Strain them to remove the seeds and skins and whatever else is in there.
Push the stuff against the sides of the strainer with a spoon to get ’em to go. Some are easier than others.
Some are downright lurid.
Now we’re ready to go. Five flavours here.
And my “fruit salad” here.
The recipe below will give you two flavours. I obviously multiplied it by three to match my six flavours.
Grease or spray 2 5″x 6″ pans for the gelatinizing of them there gum drops. I used 8″ pie plates and cake tins, because that was what I had on hand.
So. Plop 3 tablespoons purée of one flavour into the bottom of one large heat-proof bowl, and then another 3 tablespoons of another flavour into another.
In a large pot, sprinkle 4 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin (sorry, this isn’t a vegetarian recipe) over 1 cup cold water. Leave that to soften for 5 minutes.
Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over the gelatin and stir to dissolve.
Pour in 4 cups sugar and bring that to a boil over medium heat. You will need to stir this constantly so it doesn’t boil over. And you will need to do this for 25 minutes straight. No, you can’t run to change the radio station or answer the phone. I managed to do this while talking on Skype with my parents, but they’re an indulgent sort and Skype is hands-free after all. They only stuck around for one batch of the stuff, though. I had to do that three times.
Pour half the boiling sugar-gelatin foam over the purée in one bowl and the rest into the other. Working quickly, stir to mix the purée completely into the sugar syrup.
Pour the mixtures into the sprayed pans.
Shove those suckers in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 2 days). See how nice and firm that is?
Pour about a cup of sugar onto a baking sheet. Then run a knife around the edges of the nice firm gelatin and gently release it from the pan.
This will take a bit of persuasion, and I found a metal spatula to be very handy here. Don’t worry about damaging the gelatin — it’s pretty resilient.
Place it in the sugar. When I’d done this I almost felt like I’d done some sort of organ transplant, and this was the one waiting for donation. It looks like a lung or something …
Then flip it to coat both sides — this will keep things from getting super sticky. You’ll get sticky enough as it is.
Put the gelatin on a cutting board and use a long knife to cut strips from it.
I then used scissors to cut the strips into 3/4″ cubes, or close enough approximates. You can use a knife for this if you want to get straighter lines, but seeing as I was making squares out of something that was originally a circle, I wasn’t that concerned. Plus as things get stickier, scissors are way easier.
Cut the strips into the sugar.
Then get in there with your hands and toss them to coat.
A just-tossed gum drop, up close and personal:
Transfer the finished gumdrops to parchment paper and leave, at room temperature, for 2 days to crystallize and get all good. This is my dining room table, completely covered in candy.
Then give them all away — or save a few for yourself! It always amazes me how simple candy always turns out to be — and that’s probably why it’s so good!
You can see more pictures of the gum drop adventure on my Flickr page.
I spent 1990-1995 living on a relatively high security naval base in British Columbia. As a shy girl with an overactive imagination, living in the relative isolation of that place was the best time of my life, despite the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War followed by a subsequent vicious and terrifying CUPE strike. I went back to the base in February of 2002, and it just wasn’t the same. For one thing, there were actual guards at the front gate now, with really big guns. As an adult I was subject to quite a bit more scrutiny than I had been as a child. But it was fantastic to visit the place where I used to have so much fun.
My front yard was twenty metres from the ocean and a rocky beach. Helicopters would land in the field behind my house. The admiral would let me pick roses from his garden. Destroyers, frigates, and minesweepers would signal me in pseudo-morse code when I waved (well they would if my dad or someone I knew was on them). Frogmen would magically appear next to me on the beach, having emerged from the ocean. Things got exciting when nuclear submarines came to visit. There were enormous cliffs to climb and fantastic old ruins to hide in. And there were wild apple trees, cherry trees, and a blackberry bush the length of a football field.
It wasn’t uncommon to pass by this particular bush on any given day in the summer and find it full of not only bees and wasps but engineers, sailors, police officers, and anyone else who happened to be passing by and wanted a snack.
We ate a lot of blackberries in those summers.
My mother would stew the blackberries with a bit of water or juice, a spoonful or two of sugar, and a little dab of corn starch to thicken it. We would eat this stuff on ice cream, cake, pie, pancakes, waffles … you name it. It’s a multi-purpose sauce and can turn any dessert into an elegant treat in a flash.
Blackberries are obviously my favourite ingredient, but you can use any other kind of berry you want. Living in Newfoundland I have discovered that partridge berries make a nice tart sauce. Raspberries, blueberries, and halved strawberries work well. Frozen berries work very well in this, as you don’t have to work on breaking them down as they cook. I will try to quantify the amounts for you here. If you’re cooking for a dinner party, make the full recipe below, but you can halve (or double) this recipe easily.
Take 2 cups fresh or frozen berries and bung them in a small pot. I used blueberries this time. Add in 1/2 cup of water or juice (I like to use cranberry juice to boost the flavour) and 1/4 cup of sugar. You’ll need a little extra liquid if you are using fresh berries.
Heat on medium, stirring often, until all the berries are defrosted and broken up.
Suspend one tablespoon corn starch in three tablespoons water or juice and pop that in as well.
Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
Remove from the heat and drizzle over the food of your choice.
The Pie and I were married on 22 August 2009. We wanted to do our wedding on the cheap, because we are stone broke, and we also wanted to give our guests a little taste of our personality. With that in mind, we turned down my parents’ repeated offers to make fruitcakes (‘but it’s a traditional Scottish wedding cake’) and decided to make cupcakes instead of buying a tiered and costly confection.
Which flavours were we to pick? The choices were almost endless and we didn’t know where to begin. My mother gave me Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake as a Christmas present, and we decided to start there. With one exception, all the recipes we tried are from there.
I chose a panel of a dozen people at work to help us to test our cupcakes, and every one of them looked forward to Cupcake Friday. By the time I was finished the experiment (which ran from the beginning of March to the end of June 2009), my panel had doubled in size and I was a very popular lady at work.
A crucial piece of machinery without which I would have gone MAD is the Kitchenaid stand mixer. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who does a lot of baking. Also my camera, of course. I took a lot of pictures during this period. You can see the rest of them on my Flickr site here.
#1 Apple Cinnamon Sour Cream
These were extremely tasty but not particularly attractive, texture-wise. Aesthetically they weren’t much to go on either. The icing was also quite runny and very sticky, but also very good. The sour cream mixed with the lemon and the icing sugar made a tangy topping. The Committee thought it would make a good brunch baked good.
One thing to note about these is that I had to re-cup the cupcakes after they were baked, because the bottoms had burned a bit in my antiquated oven and I wanted to hide that. Fun fact: if you re-cup a cupcake, the cupcake will not stick to the paper cup anymore, as you can see in the photograph.
#2 Carrot Cardamom
I really like the word ‘cardamom.’ These ones turned out exactly like the picture in the book, which was gratifying, and they had a much smoother texture than the Apple Cinnamon, which was reassuring.
I’m not a huge fan of walnuts, however; they have a bitter after taste that I am not fond of – I much prefer pecans. The mascarpone icing, however, was incredible and there was an enormous amount of it. If these cupcake experiments taught me anything (and to quote one of the Committee members), ‘there is no such thing as too much icing.’
#3 Cherry and Marzipan Cupcakes
These little boogers were a spectacular failure on my part. The recipe involved putting half the batter into the cup, then sprinkling it with grated marzipan, then putting the other half of the dough on top. Silly me, I did all the bottom halves first, then all the marzipan, and by the time I got around to the tops, I had run out of batter.
In addition, I had to deal with runny icing and artificial cherries, and that’s never a good combination. Let us not forget as well that I had to face the inevitable comments at work that these strongly resembled boobs. So much for professionalism.
Overall, they were too sweet, and too much of a pain to make. Vetoed.
… then something magic happened …
… my oven exploded!
I’m totally serious. The Pie was making dinner one night and I heard this loud thrumming noise coming from the kitchen, accompanied by a yell that I should probably get in there. I ran in and saw bright white light coming from the oven window – element was arcing and sending off sparks. It was making the thrumming noise. We turned off the oven and got the hell out of there. Two days later my landlord bought us a new oven. It’s so low tech that it has no interior light and you have to shine a flashlight in to see if your stuff is done, but it works really well, I will give it that.
#4 Creamy Coconut Lime
It was from this new oven that a new generation of cupcake was born. I could now actually follow the recipe when it came to temperature and cooking time. Nothing burned, or exploded. It was inspiring, actually. The first experiment to come out of the new oven, or ‘tailgate special’ as I like to refer to it, was this perfect confection. It was unanimously voted by the Committee as the perfect cupcake for a wedding. Nothing I made after this counted for much in their opinions. I was, however, undaunted, and continued on with my experiments. I couldn’t stop now – things were just getting good.
#5 Orange Poppyseed with Mascarpone Icing
In these, I substituted canned mandarin slices for regular orange segments. Other than the fact that I am truly lazy and did not want to segment several oranges, the canned pieces meant that my cupcakes would be uniform and also that the quality of the fruit would be good. Living in Newfoundland, especially during the winter, means that produce quality is always a guessing game.
These cakes were popular with those who liked poppyseeds. I liked them, but the Pie was not a huge fan.
As you can see, I was really getting into my groove here. My photographic cupcake record had turned more artistic now that my appliances were cooperating.
#6 Blueberry and Lemon with Cornmeal
These little beauties contained fresh Newfoundland blueberries stuck right into the batter, and were made with cornmeal, which made the batter a sunshiny yellow but which created a texture many were not expecting.
I thought they were great but most people were unconvinced. In any case, I had a lot of fun with my new zester, creating and photographing my confections.
Martha Stewart eat your heart out:
#7 Maple and Pecan
I had a lot of fun making these – and burned myself severely in the process. They were one of my favourite cupcakes, taste-wise, but many people found the hard caramelized sugar too sharp or tough to bite into, the Pie included, so they were eventually scrapped.
Playing with melted sugar is a lot of fun. If I ever made these again, however, I would let the sugar cool a bit more before pouring it, to keep the fluid from spreading too much – I think that was my major failing here.
#8 Bittersweet Chocolate Wedding Cupcakes
I ended up renaming these bad beauties Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse, because that’s pretty much what they tasted like, and that’s pretty much all the ‘icing’ really was: hot whipping cream poured over dark and bittersweet chocolate and then whipped into a light foam. They are truly divine. The batter itself was a little bland, however, so I thought I could improve somewhat.
You can see at this time that spring was coming, and my seedlings were on the sprout. But spring comes late to Newfoundland, and we had a while yet to wait.
#9 Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Icing
I can pretty much guarantee that I will never make these again. I have never been so disappointed with myself. I didn’t want to serve them to the Committee, and some Committee members refused to even finish them. They were dry and tasteless and the crystallized ginger on top was too strong. It was supposed to be stem ginger in syrup but this being Newfoundland I couldn’t find any.
I had to redeem myself.
#10 Marble Cupcakes
When these were finished they looked nothing like the photograph but boy were they tasty. Inside was a chocolate-vanilla swirl cake that really wasn’t visible unless there was no icing but which was nice and moist and light.
The icing was cream cheese mixed with cream and icing sugar. You can’t really top that, but of course that would mean leaving out the caramel.
I used Smucker’s caramel ice cream topping, but had I been thinking I would have used real dulce de leche, because it would have held its shape better and not oozed everywhere. These cupcakes certainly entailed sticky fingers.
#11 Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes with Ricotta Icing
The Pie and I wanted to experiment with a few lower-fat options, and this was one of them, containing no butter at all, and of course using ricotta cheese instead of cream cheese for icing.
They turned out really well but weren’t quite what we were looking for.
#12 Chocolate Fireworks
These were meant to be served with lit sparklers in them, but I wasn’t sure how I would get them into the office.
I settled for the little silver balls instead. Did you know they are called ‘dragees’?
The icing was rather unimaginative and runny, but the batter had some orange in it that kept in moist and gave it a nice tart tang.
#13 Raspberry Trifle
Unlucky number 13. We were drawing to the close of our experiment here, with only three more recipes to try, and I was pretty tired of making cupcakes at this time. It seemed every week I was adding someone new to the Cupcake Committee email distribution list.
I made these while watching Detroit lose to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I was cheering for the Red Wings (my beloved Senators didn’t even make the post-season) because I hate Crosby, but alas, I was out of luck.
This cake was really good, though, because it was chock-full of raspberries. I thought the custardy topping could have had more flavour, but that might have had something to do with me failing at making custard.
#14 Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake
I left the picture of this one small because it’s blurry. It was late, I was tired, and these were such a hassle that I forgot to take a picture until super late at night.
The recipe called for slicing off the top of the cupcake so the cream cheese topping would set, smooth and flat, like a real cheesecake. I cut off the tops, which was a pain, considering I then had to re-cup the cakes, and then topped them. And discovered that the topping wasn’t going to lie smooth and flat anyway.
There was some swearing.
In the end, these were one of my favourites: a fine vanilla cake with vanilla cream-cheesy ‘icing’ and sliced strawberries on top. The fanning of the berry was my idea, as the berries I got weren’t of the quality that they would stand up on their own, like they were in the book.
#15 Gluten-Free Chocolate Cheesecake
Another cheesecake-y recipe that didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. The Pie’s grandmother is a celiac, as is one of my former coworkers, and both of them were coming to the wedding. I didn’t want them to feel excluded from the cake part of the festivities, so I experimented with a gluten-free recipe.
It was an all right cupcake, but it wasn’t light or fluffy, the potato flour I used made the texture a little grainy, and, all in all, it was rather bland.
#16 Coconut Cream
This was my final cupcake, and it wasn’t really an experiment.
One of the people in the Cupcake Committee had been talking about the Barefoot Contessa’s Coconut and Cream cupcakes for a while so as a final treat I decided to make them. You can get the recipe from the Food Network here.
The cupcakes were huge, and I knew I wasn’t going to make them for the wedding – they were pretty time-consuming. But everyone on the Committee had been talking about that other coconut recipe for ages, so I thought I would end it with an echo of the earlier recipe.
They were fabulous and if you ate more than one you felt ill. We had wayyy too many leftovers and I think we ate them for three weeks straight. Or at least it felt like that. They were good though. I recommend giving them a shot.
And that’s it. Sixteen cupcakes in seventeen weeks.
Which ones did we eventually choose: Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake, Fireworks (but with the icing from the Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse), and the Raspberry Trifle (but with a lemon cream cheese icing instead of the custard. They were a hit.