22 August 2012

High School Reunion and Cupcakes-They Go Together

Last week I was in Michigan for my high school reunion, which just happened to coincide with my birthday! Since I have a summer birthday I was never able to bring a treat to school and do the little party with my classmates thing. To make up for that I decided to bake cupcakes for the reunion. A little on the dorky side I know; but it was still fun.

Because I would be working in my mom's kitchen, and I knew I had a fair few cupcakes to make, I ended up packing a lot of my baking things including a cupcake pan, pastry bag, apron, and some other random things (including 10 pounds of candy melts I didn't end up using). I also forgot how delightful it was to work in a kitchen that not only has a generous amount of counter space, but that has high counters. When my parents redid the kitchen when I was in college they deliberately built extra high counters.

Looking for Plan B

My reunion was on Saturday so I devoted most of Friday to baking. My class was getting two kinds of cupcakes: roasted strawberry basil with balsamic vinegar frosting, and salted caramel. My first batch of salted caramel cupcakes was a flop. Quite literally really. I followed the Martha Stewart recipe which, I'm sure works just fine for cake as the recipe intends, but doesn't work so well for cupcakes. The caramel all sank to the bottom and stuck to the cupcake liners and the cake was too light to make it as a cupcake. At least half the batch caved in themselves.

After baking with Mexican vanilla I just cannot go back to extract

On to plan b! Which means call little brother and ask him to pretty please stop at the store on the way home from work and buy me a bunch of stuff. I decided to go back to my standard chocolate cake recipe; it never fails me. I also ditched the idea of using real caramel in the cupcakes and decided to just go with a salted caramel butter cream frosting, which was a problem in and of itself. The recipe I used was basically just a butter cream with home made caramel and salt added, but I just couldn't taste anything other than vanilla. And since I was pretty sick of making caramel, that would be batch four of the day (batch 1 went into the disaster cupcakes, 2 had to be thrown out,and 3 was in the frosting), I decided to cheat. My mom had some Smuckers caramel sauce in the refrigerator so I squeezed just about the entire bottle into the frosting.

I missed having my ulu for chopping the chocolate

Then there were the roasted strawberry basil cupcakes. The recipe I followed instructed me to roast the berries with some butter and brown sugar for 2.5-3 hours. I really cannot say that doing that added any flavor whatsoever to the cupcake. So I won't be doing that again. I also quadrupled the amount of basil...and possibly could still have used more.

Look at all the counter space!!

And my mom is a genius. She keeps several sizes of ice cream scoops specifically for cupcakes and cookies. It was so much more efficient than using a spoon or a measuring cup; especially as the larger ice cream scoop was just about perfect to fill the liners. I need to go to Target now and get one.

Pure genius

I have to say though that otherwise the recipe was great. The batter was really nice to work with and the cakes were dense and tasty. The frosting was a bit tricky to make. Again a basic butter cream with balsamic vinegar which I added tiny amount by tiny amount. After a while I wasn't sure what I was tasting anymore and tried to use my brother as a guinea pig but he hates vinegar. So his feedback wasn't too promising. In the end I stopped adding the balsamic as soon as I detected a hint of the vinegar tang.

Speaking of my brother; I had a personal photographer while I was baking! He's expanded his photography repertoire to include portraits and I realized that there were hardly any pictures of me on the blog...so two birds. Check out the link to his website, especially in you're in Michigan and need a family portrait or senior pictures. Or you have incredibly good taste and realize you need to hang one of his landscapes in your house.

There might have been some tasting going on

Overall I was pretty pleased with the cupcakes. Never having done mass production I was pleasantly surprised how quickly I was able to crank out over 100 of them; even with the major fail of batch number one.

Happy face!

I had a good time serving them as well. I really enjoyed my reunion which surprised me because high school was like the most painful years of my life; well really the entire time I was at the horrible school was pretty bad but high school was definitely not fun. I had a great time catching up with people and found things in common with a few people I'm not sure I even spoke 10 words to during the entire time we were in school together. Funny how people grow up and move beyond that high school mess, isn't it? :)

Strawberry basil with balsamic frosting

Roasted Strawberry Basil Cupcakes (from the Young Idealistic Baker)

Makes 12-13 cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup roasted strawberry puree
  • 2-3 tablespoons basil, finely chopped (I used a lot more basil than this...a lot)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake liners
  • In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes
  • Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated
  • In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt
  • Alternate between adding flour mixture and milk to batter, mixing until just incorporated
  • Add extracts
  • Stir in strawberry puree and chopped basil
  • Distribute batter evenly in cupcake cups and bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean
  • Allow to cool completely before frosting
Balsamic Frosting:
Makes about 2 cups

  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 tablespoons whipping cream(optional)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Cream together sugar and butter until smooth
  • Add vanilla and whipping cream
  • Beat in vinegar one scant tablespoon at a time until you like the flavor
Chocolate salted caramel

Salted Caramel Frosting:
Makes about 2 cups
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.
  • Combine butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated.
  • Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add caramel. Beat frosting on medium-high speed until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. 


Erin Eddy said...

The cupcakes were A-MAZING, Andrea! I could have eaten all 100. :). Thanks for all of your hard work in the kitchen. Great pics of you on the blog, too! :)

Brianne Danczyk said...

Ditto! The cupcakes were awesome, and I must say it was nice to see your beautiful face at the reunion!