Age of Decadence Birthday Cupcakes

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Yesterday was my brand new  minion’s respected co-worker’s birthday, and I wanted to celebrate her first month on the job (and a milestone birthday she wasn’t really looking forward to) with her favourite treat: a dark, rich chocolate cake. Cake’s a bit hard to transport around the office, however, so I went with the cupcake version instead, and I made someone else do all the hard work for me in choosing the best recipe. I picked Sally’s Baking Addiction’s tried and tested Death by Chocolate Cupcakes and doubled the recipe (as I am wont to do). An entire bar of this lovely dark chocolate went into the process and I think it was entirely worth it.

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Like all good cupcakes, you start with butter and chocolate, and melting things. In the bowl of a double boiler (or in your microwave, but I no longer own one of those), melt together 1 cup unsalted butter and 4 ounces chocolate (the recipe calls for semi-sweet but I say use whatever is your favourite).

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Once that’s all smooth and sassy, set it aside to cool a little bit. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners and preheat your oven to 350°F.

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In a smallish bowl, whisk together 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Leave that alone and do the next thing.

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In a largish bowl, crack 4 large room temperature eggs,  then tip in 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Whisk-y, whisk-y, whisk-y.

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I kind of miss whiskey …

Pour the melted butter and chocolate into the egg/sugar stuff and mix until smooth.

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Grab yourself 1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, tip 2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice into a cup and top it up with milk. Give it a stir and leave it about five minutes until it’s curdled and thick. It’s not *quite* the same, though, and the Pie likes having buttermilk for pancakes, so I am using the real deal).  Alternate pouring some buttermilk into the chocolatey goo with adding the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. You don’t want to overmix this or the batter will bake up flat.

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And this batter is going to be THICK. Sally says it’s thick like pudding. I think it’s even thicker than that.

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Thick, like dog poo thick. But in a delicious way.

Spoon the batter into your cupcake cups and bake for 18 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centre cupcake comes out clean.

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Set those aside to cool completely and get started on your icing. Actually, before you do that, break up another couple ounces of that lovely dark chocolate and set them to melt in your double boiler. Once it’s all liquid, set it aside to cool almost to room temperature.

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Beat up about 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter in the bowl of your mixer until it’s pale and fluffy. Sift together (to avoid lumps) 5 1/2 cups icing sugar and 1 1/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder in a separate bowl.

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Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the fluffy butter and then tip in some of your icing sugar mix. Drizzle in, alternating with the icing sugar mix, 1 cup heavy cream.  Because I don’t remember where I put my mixer shield, this happened of course.

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This one’s for you, Eli.

And because none of my aprons fit me anymore, this happened as well. Baby bellies are cooking hazards, it seems.

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The Pie thought it necessary to remind me that I don’t own very many maternity clothes and should probably take better care of the ones I’ve got. I may have said a few bad words to him in reply.

But when you’re done you’ll get this lovely soft icing that’s pretty much exactly halfway between a ganâche and a buttercream. It’s very delightful. Use that and a wide tip to ice your cooled cupcakes.

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Age of Decadence Cupcakes 20And because age is just a number, I made little number signs out of that melted chocolate (poured on waxed paper and allowed to cool) and shoved them in the top.

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As I was making these, I remarked to the Pie that my youngest teammate, who is 23, was going to ask why there were “hashtags” all over the cupcakes, and he laughed. Then the next morning, the first thing she did when she walked into the room was go, “what’s with all the hashtags?” I so called it. Kids these days … 🙂

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Gluten-Free Choco-Fudge Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

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I hadn’t baked anything since before we left for NYC so I was kind of jonesing for some cupcakes, and these were a perfect match. They actually came straight off the package of Bob’s Red Mill quinoa flour that I was using. As far as gluten-free flours go, quinoa flour is probably one of the closest you can get, consistency-wise, to real wheat flour. When you bake with quinoa flour you end up with lovely fluffy sponge-y cakes. They do, however, taste like quinoa. So if you’re cool with that, then have at her.

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Start by preheating your oven to 375°F and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a medium pot, melt 1/4 cup butter with 1/2 cup water and bring that to a low boil.

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Whisk in 1/4 cup cocoa and remove it from the heat. Let it cool down from molten temperatures.

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Sift 1 cup sugar, 1 1/4 cup quinoa flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda into a bowl.

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Add in the slightly cooled cocoa mixture and mix that around.

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Separate yourself 2 eggs. Leave the whites to come to room temperature, and mix the yolks together with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup sour cream. Mix those into the cocoa mixture (make sure it’s not too hot so you don’t curdle your yolks).

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Now, whip up those egg whites until stiff and foamy and then fold them into the mixture.

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Drop that into your prepared baking cups and bake for  20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the centre cupcake comes out clean. Let those cool completely on a wire rack.

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While that’s baking, why not start with your icing?  I pulled this from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

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Melt 1/2 cup butter in a medium pot over medium heat.

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Add in  1 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

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Add in 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt and stir that in. Stirring occasionally, let the whole thing come to a bubble, and stay at a bubble for about 2 minutes, then remove it from the heat and let it cool enough that you won’t burn yourself on it. Because being burned by hot sugar is bad.

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Beat in about 2-3 cups icing sugar, a little at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. If you find you’ve added too much, don’t freak out – just add a bit more cream and you’re all set.

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Slather the icing all over your cupcakes. I tried to pipe mine but it was too thick so I went with slathering, but you can pipe it if you want. Giv’er!

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Chocolate Rose Birthday Cupcakes

Rose Cupcakes

Yesterday was Kª’s birthday (otherwise known as The Lady Downstairs).  She’s now 19, or somewhere close to that :).  She’s also the mother of two very energetic young boys, and if you include her husband, she’s outnumbered in the house by males 3 to 1.  So I thought that for her birthday I’d give her something incredibly girly — a flowered cupcake.  The recipe is Martha Stewart and I got the idea for the flower from here.  The decoration part is really time consuming (at least, with my amateur skills) but so totally worth it.

Rose Cupcakes

This recipe makes 24 large cupcakes.

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First, preheat your oven to 350°F and line two muffin tins with paper liners.

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In a bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda and give that a stir.

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In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, plop in 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) cocoa powder and 6 tablespoons hot water and mix them into a paste.  Apparently this helps to intensify the chocolate flavour.  I found I had to add an additional 4 tablespoons of water in order to get a paste, so keep that in mind.

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Add in 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) buttermilk (or soured milk), 6 tablespoons melted butter, and 2 whole eggs plus 2 egg whites and whisk until combined.

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Gradually add your bowl of flour and sugar and whisk until smooth.

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Scoop the batter into your liners and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the middle cupcake comes out clean.  Place the muffin tins on racks and allow the cupcakes to cool completely.

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While they’re cooling, plop a 250g package of plain cream cheese in a mixer together wtih about 2 cups icing sugar.  Whip that up until it’s smooth and creamy.  This is your icing.

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Frost your cooled cupcakes generously.

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Here’s where the ridiculous part comes in.  You’re going to need several packages of Fruit by the Foot, or some kind of store-brand equivalent.  I haven’t had this stuff since I was a kid.  The Pie was thrilled and went off in the throes of nostalgia, an extra candy sticking out of his mouth.

Rose Cupcakes

You will need 12 strawberry flavoured ones (red) and at least 1 apple-flavoured one (green).  I could only get these variety packs, so I had to cut the green bits from the multi-coloured ones, and I ended up with some purple roses.

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Unroll one of your red strips and use a knife to cut a sine wave down the middle of it lengthwise.  Don’t worry about being perfect — it will look fine no matter what.

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Take one of the halves and, starting from the end, tightly roll it up for about five inches.  This is your “bud.”

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Take the bud and plop it in the centre of one of your frosted cupcakes.  Carefully drape the rest of the candy around the bud, tapping it into the frosting to anchor it.  I find it helps if I sort of let it feed through my fingers on one hand and use the other hand to rotate the cupcake.

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Then cut out two small leaves from the green stuff and tuck them into the frosting under the flower you have created.

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And so you are done.

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Now you just have 23 more to go.  And actually the purple ones are kind of nice, I think …

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(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

The Pie is kicking butt and taking names with the Memorial University Geographical Society (MUGS) this term, and he volunteered me to be the official caterer for the group.  Last week MUGS held two open houses.  For the first, I whipped up a batch of Miss Awesome’s espresso cookies (because all undergrads need a little caffeine) and a batch of margarine chocolate chip cookies (with Caramilk inside each one, à la the Rolo cookies).  For the second, I decided to create two dozen of these cupcakes.

While chocolate and vanilla actually go quite well together, most people consider them to be opposites of each other.   As this is a geographical society, why not have the chocolate and the vanilla represent both poles on our planet?  Sure, it’s a stretch, I know, but bear with me.  Both of these batter recipes contain buttermilk, which is one of my favourite baking ingredients, and they both come from Baking Bites.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two muffin tins with cupcake liners.

For the Chocolate Cupcakes:

In a large bowl, whisk together 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together 1 egg, 6 tablespoons water, 6 tablespoons buttermilk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

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Alas, I forgot the melted butter in the microwave until it was too late.  It looks so sad and neglected.

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Pour your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk like crazy until you get no more floury bits floating around.

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Fill 12 of the muffin cups with chocolate-y batter. It’s easy if you use a spoon.

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For the Vanilla Cupcakes:

In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup room temperature butter until fluffy.

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Beat in 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract until the mixture is smooth.

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Pour in half your flour mixture and stir until almost combined.  Add in 1 cup buttermilk and mix again, then the rest of the flour mixture, and beat until all the ingredients are combined.

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Fill the other 12 muffin cups with that batter.

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Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the centre cupcake comes out clean.

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Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before using a fork to remove them to a cooling rack to cool completely.  I wish now that I had used large cupcake liners instead of medium ones.  Ah well, what’s done is done.

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For the Frosting:

Nothing says holy-crap-this-frosting-is-awesome like ganâche (well, at least, if you’re ME because I’m weird like that), and for me this is the easiest thing in the world to do.

Start by chopping up about 6 ounces each of dark and white chocolate.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Plop the pieces in microwave-safe bowls and pop them in the microwave.  Nuke ’em on medium power, stirring a few times in between, for about 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is smooth and liquid.  The white chocolate will likely melt long before the dark does, so keep an eye on it so as not to burn it.

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Stirring the whole time, add 1 cup room temperature whipping cream into each chocolate. The warmer your cream, the less lumpy your ganâche will be, but the longer it will take to set. Keep that in mind.

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Now, because I want something a little firmer than my usual ganâche, I’m going to add some icing sugar.  Start with 1 cup icing sugar and add more until you come to the consistency you like.  Chuck the frostings in the fridge for a bit to set.

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For the Writing Icing:

I was originally going to write on these cupcakes using store-bought piping gel, just because the results are easy and predictable.  It then occurred to me, however, that I’d purchased these gels to make a cake for the baby shower for a co-worker’s first child.  This was like three jobs ago, in a different province, and I think the little girl is five years old now.  It might be time to get rid of those.

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Instead, I decided to make a sort of royal icing and pipe it on myself.  So I started with two small bowls filled with 1 cup icing sugar each, a few tablespoons water, and some food colouring.

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Add a little bit of the water to the icing sugar and stir until you get a good consistency. Likewise, add some food colouring to the mix.

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I think this looks so weirdly neat.

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Add more icing sugar or food colouring until you reach your desired colour and texture and set those aside.

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Remember that this type of icing is kind of like a non-Newtonian fluid, so its physical properties might not be exactly what you expect.  AHA!  SCIENCE!  I like to sneak in a little learning on you now and then.  Sorry.

Assemblage:

Start by smearing your ganâche on your cupcakes, dark for the chocolate, and white for the vanilla.  Or the opposite.  Whatever floats your boat.

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Grate a little bit of dark chocolate on the surface of the vanilla cupcakes, and a little bit of white chocolate on the chocolate cupcakes.

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Looks pretty, right?  Now we’re going to de-classy it a little bit.

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Spoon your coloured icing into a piping bag and start writing.

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You probably don’t want to write MUGS on your cupcakes.  Unless you do. In which case, why?

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Store them in the fridge to keep them fresh, and enjoy them as you will.  I think they look a little like Franken-cupcakes, but the Pie likes the look of ’em, and he’s the boss.  I have no idea how they taste, either, because there weren’t any extras.  But I can only assume that they are passably tolerable, just like everything else I do!

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes