Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

A moist, buttery vanilla cupcake topped with a divine chocolate frosting. There's no better way to start the new year.

Happy New Year! 2015 is finally here. I am super excited. This is the year I sit my final examinations and the year I graduate. 
A brand new year to try out a whole bunch of new recipes, to improve my photography, to try new thing, to visit new places,read new books, to watch new movies, to make new friends. 

To live life as fully as possible :)

2014 has been awesome but I'm ready to start afresh.

I spent a good part of last year perfecting this recipe. After about eight batches it's finally ready just in time for the new year.

The cupcake is of course my Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake. It is full of buttery goodness and comes out perfect every time.
I chose to top it off with a chocolate buttercream. This buttercream is very chocolate-y but not overpowering. It took me a few tries to find the perfect balance. At first the chocolate flavour wasn't coming through enough. Adding more cocoa powder made it too intense. I realized it needed something to counteract the chocolate flavour and really make it shine. The salt and vanilla in the recipe do this but the star player is the coffee. It gives the chocolate some real competition but the chocolate wins simply because there is much more of it. 

This icing is so good you don't even think that there is actually no real chocolate in it, only cocoa powder. It's perfect for me because, most of the time, I eat all the chocolate in the house before I can use it any recipe! 

Enjoy :)

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream
Makes 12

Ultimate Vanilla/Yellow Cupcakes
188g (1 1/2) cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
150g (3/4 cup) sugar
125 ml (1/2 cup) milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
113 g (1/2 cup, 4 oz) soft,unsalted butter
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and soda into a bowl and set aside.Separate the eggs and put the whites into a large bowl.
Cream the butter and sugar till really light and fluffy, for about 3-4 minutes with a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer.
Add the eggs yolks,one at a time, beating well before each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients, followed by the milk and then the rest of the dry ingredients. Be careful not to over-mix or the cupcake won't be as light (trust me,I would know).
With a large whisk, beat the egg whites until they are foamy and holding soft peaks. 
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cups. It's about 1/4 cup of batter per cup.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops of the cakes spring back when touched and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Leave to cool for 5 mins in the tin before taking them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream

230 grams/ 8 oz unsalted butter, softened 
440 grams/ 3 1/2 cups/ icing sugar, sifted
45 grams/ 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 tablespoons coffee (I used a teaspoon of instant coffee dissolved in some warm water)

Using a handheld or stand mixture on high, beat the butter until really light and pale, for 2 to 3 minutes. This will make sure the frosting is smooth and creamy. Turn the mixer to a low speed and slowly add the icing sugar and cocoa powder. Once they are incorporated add the salt,vanilla, milk
and coffee. Turn the mixer onto a high speed and beat for about a minute so that everything is well mixed and the frosting is very smooth.
Pipe onto the cupcakes. (I used an open star nozzle.)

Notes on the recipe:
-The butter must be softened to room temperature. It should be slightly soft, still a little firm but not cold. It should not be over softened so that it's greasy. This will affect the consistency of the frosting.

-The coffee should be cold when added to the frosting. Using warm coffee will make the frosting greasy. 

Here is another quick and easy way to frost the cupcakes. Just take a little frosting onto a small palette knife and swirl onto the cupcakes.  (I often do this when I'm feeling too lazy to pipe.)
Top it off with a few sprinkles.Always sprinkles! Life would be dull without them :D
For this method you will only need half the amount of icing the recipe above makes.

But do this only if you want a little frosting. But trust me, once you taste this frosting you will keep wanting more and more.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

There's nothing as comforting as a warm, delicious bread pudding. It's made even better by the little nuggets of chocolate buried in its creamy depths.

Here I am, in the middle of my last ever December vacation. I'm enjoying myself. I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen baking various things (cupcakes!) which I plan to post next year since I won't have much free time for baking and taking photos.

But something has changed. Normally vacation time is when I spend blissful weeks doing nothing. I eat, sleep, watch TV, read and bake. That's all I do. This time, however, I find myself studying. One reason for this is my parents who never let me forget that I have just four months left for my exams.

But actually, I've changed. I'm realizing that as you grow up there's no such thing as an irresponsible existence. You have to work for what you want. It's as simple as that. It's like having cold water thrown over you when you realize this. But that's life. The grown up thing to do is to study when you have to, even if it means spoiling your vacation. It will pay off in the end.

This bread pudding is seriously good. No joke. It's one of Nigella Lawson's recipes and after seeing her make it on TV, I had to make it. It's the perfect way to use up leftover, slightly stale bread. This is so easy to make. Just soak bread cut up into cubes in a custard, sprinkle over choc chips and sugar and bake! Easy as that.

The chocolate chips elevate this to another level. It probably would not be half as good without them.
I made a few changes to the recipe. Nigella adds a little rum to the mixture but that is optional so I didn't use any.
I also heated up a little of the milk and dissolved the sugar in that, just so that it dissolves properly.

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding 
Adapted from Nigella Kitchen

40 grams (1.4 oz) brown sugar
125 ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
250 grams stale bread (2-3 days old)
500 ml (2 cups) cream
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
100g (4 oz) dark chocolate chips
4 teaspoons brown sugar for sprinkling on top

Grease a 23 cm pie dish or any oven-proof dish and set aside.
Heat the milk in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. It doesn't have to be piping hot, just hot enough for the sugar to dissolve in the milk. Add in the sugar and stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool. Cut the bread into medium-size cubes and arrange evenly in the pie dish. Scatter over the chocolate chips, distributing evenly.
Whisk together the milk and sugar mixture, cream, vanilla and eggs. Pour this custard over the bread, pressing down on the cubes to soak them properly. Leave the bread to soak for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile. preheat the oven to 170C/350F.
Sprinkle the brown sugar over the bread and bake for 40-45 minutes until the top in golden brown and the custard is lightly set.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Purple Rose Ombre Cake

A simple yet stunning cake decorated with piped roses. It's much easier to make than it looks! Makes a great birthday cake.

This November was a dismal month, Weeks and weeks of rain ( I love rain but when it rains day and night it just gets depressing), extremely cold nights, and to top that all of exams! I haven't had time to bake much less blog.
This is usually how it is every year. October, for me, is an awesome month because my birthday(!) is at the end of it. Following the excitement of that November is pale in comparison.
So maybe you an guess what this cake was. That's right. My birthday cake!

I normally don't make my birthday cake. But this year, I just had to. 
Looking at these pictures, you could probably also guess what my favorite colour is. PURPLE!
Which is why this cake has 3 shades of it!

Piping these roses is not as hard as it looks. You just need a Wilton 1M tip  and this tutorial on the rose frosting technique. Couldn't be easier.
The cake underneath all these gorgeous roses is a simple white cake. Most of the white cake recipes available on the internet use only egg whites, I felt this was a complete waste of eggs, so I had to do quite a bit of searching to find a recipe that used whole eggs. I finally found one at Add a Pinch. It was perfect! Using whole eggs gives much better flavour to the egg and although this cake is not completely white, it's still pretty white (not yellow).
The cake is filled and crumb coated with a Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream frosting. The roses are done with the same frosting but with a lot more icing sugar in it.

Here is how I made this gorgeous cake. The colour of the roses can be changed if you like :)

The Best White Cake adapted from Add a Pinch
(Makes a 3 layer, 9-inch cake)

227 grams/8 oz/1 cup unsalted butter, softened
113 grams/4 oz/ 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (I substituted with margarine)
600 grams/21 oz/3 cups sugar
5 eggs, at room temp.
375 grams/13.2 oz/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
250 ml, 1/2 cup milk, at room temp.
125 ml, 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temp.(1/2 cup milk+ 1/2 tbsp lemon juice)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 180C, 350F. Grease and line three 9-inch round cake tins, coating the sides with a little flour.
Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Pour the milk, buttermilk and vanilla into a jug and stir with a fork to combine.
Cream the butter and shortening with an electric whisk, for about 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, one cup at a time, making sure each cup is fully incorporated.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition (you can add a spoonful of the flour to make sure the mixture does not curdle).
With the electric mixer on lowest speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk mixture,beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
Evenly distribute the batter between the three prepared pans. Bake for 20-25 minute until golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream

227 grams/8 oz/1 cup unsalted butter, softened*
375 grams/ 13 oz/ 3 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk
1/8 teaspoon salt

With an electric mixer on the highest setting, beat the butter for 3-4 minutes until pale and smooth.
Turn the speed to low and slowly add the icing sugar, 1/2 a cup at a time until fully incorporated. Add the salt, vanilla and  2 tablespoons of milk and turn the mixer to a high speed and beat for another minute or two.
If the frosting isn't at the right consistency for spreading, add the third tablespoon of milk and beat a little more on medium speed.

*To make this frosting very fluffy a lot of air must be incorporated during the beating process. For this to happen , the butter must be just softened and still a bit firm but not cold. It should not be over-softened so that its greasy. You should be able to press down on the butter and leave an indent easily without your finger sliding anywhere. If the butter is too soft, you won't be able to incorporate enough air.

Firm Buttercream (for the roses)

227 grams/8 oz/1 cup unsalted butter, softened*
625 grams/ 22 oz/ 5 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2-3 tablespoons milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
Purple gel food colouring*

With an electric mixer on the highest setting, beat the butter for 3-4 minutes until pale and smooth.
Turn the speed to low and slowly add the icing sugar, 1/2 a cup at a time until fully incorporated. Add the salt, extracts and  2 tablespoons of milk and turn the mixer to a high speed and beat for another minute or two.
If the buttercream is too thick add the rest of the milk and beat again.

How to pipe the roses.....

Prepare 3 piping bags fitted with Wilton 1M tips.
Take roughly a third of the buttercream and  colour it with enough food colouring to make the deepest shade of purple you want (it's entirely up to you).
Pipe the bottom of the cake with rosettes and if there are little spaces, fill those up with a star.
Once you are done with the bottom layer of roses, squeeze out all the remaining purple buttercream into a bowl, add some more buttercream and a little more colouring to make the second shade of purple. This way, no frosting is wasted!
Pipe the second layer of roses. Squeeze out the frosting in the bad and add it to the rest of the buttercream. Colour it the lightest shade of purple and pipe the top of the cake, filling up any gaps with stars as you go.(you can see how I've done this in the pictures)

*Gel food colouring gives a good intensity of colour without diluting the frosting.