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Entries in cupcakes (63)

Thursday
Apr022009

Sweet Nostalgia: Cotton Candy Cupcakes

Carnie Cotton Candy Cupcakes
When a CakeSpy reader recently wrote asking if we had a cotton candy cupcake recipe, the response was immediate: no, but did we ever want to have one. 

Cotton candy is one of those foods that is loaded with nostalgia: the billowy clouds of spun sugar conjure visions of idyllic childhood summers, county fairs and carnivals. Now, we don't want to confuse the experience with the product, (after all, there are more realistic pitfalls to cotton candy, like its saccharine sweetness and the sticky, pastel-colored hands it leaves you with) there's no denying that cotton candy is just a happy sort of food.
So when a recipe wasn't immediately available, we decided to improvise; here's what we came up with--a buttery vanilla cupcake topped with cotton candy-infused pink buttercream frosting, topped with even more cotton candy. Not as if they need to be any sweeter, but the Bella Cupcake Couture wrappers and Carnie Cuppie toppers sure did make them cute. 
The overall result? Tastes like childhood to us.

Cotton Candy Cupcakes
Cotton Candy Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes
Yellow Cupcakes (cake recipe only via foodnetwork.com):
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • cupcake liners


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 

In a mixer with a whip attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to cream. Gradually add the vanilla and eggs and mix in well. Sift together the dry ingredients; then mix into the butter mixture alternating with the milk. Pour batter into cupcake paper-lined muffin tins filling them 3/4 full. Bake until puffed and firm in the center and light golden brown on top, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool. (Freeze at this point, if necessary.)

Cotton Candy!Cotton Candy Frosting
Cotton Candy Buttercream Frosting (adapted from this recipe)

Makes enough frosting for 24 cupcakes
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 to 8 cups Confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
  • 1 handful cotton candy (we used this prepackaged kind), broken into small pieces, plus another handful for garnish
  1. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla.
  3. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar.
  5. Add a few drops of red food coloring and mix thoroughly til it's a desired shade of pink.
  6. Stir in the small pieces of cotton candy, stirring until incorporated. It may melt a little bit into the frosting; this is ok.
  7. Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled. 
  8. Optional topping: tear off chunks of cotton candy and use as garnish; do this last step  immediately before serving, because it will wilt if left out.

 

Sunday
Apr132008

Eat Your Veggies: A Mischievous Carrot Cake Challenge

Carrot Cake Challenge
Lately, we've been thinking about carrot cake. Really, when you think about it, it's a bit of a strange beast: a culinary crossroads where cake meets vegetable and yields a beautiful result. How did that combination come about, we wondered? Well, turns out carrot cake (along with other veggie-rich baked goods like zucchini and squash breads) came into popularity during World War II, when butter, eggs and sugar were in short demand. During this time, many baked were made using oil instead of butter, which yielded a dense, pound-cake like texture--and vegetables gained popularity because the water they release during baking yields a tender crumb, and they added a bit of natural sweetness.


However, in this day and age there's no lack of sugar in the Cakespy kitchen, and so we wondered--why not give a try to some of the other fantastic vegetables out there? Surely we could sweetify any veggies out there to see if they might be cake-worthy; yes indeed, it was time to make some mischief in the kitchen.
Not Just Carrot CakeMixing in the Veggies

 

How'd we do it? We took this basic carrot cake recipe (we left out the nuts) and separated it into small batches, subbing different veggies for the carrots into the cake batter and mixing them into individual cupcakes (we did make one carrot cupcake--you know, as consolation if none of them tasted good). All of the creations were topped with cream cheese frosting, and for added cuteness and discernibility, each one was crowned with a veggie garnish.

As for how it all tasted...

BroccoliBroccoli Cupcake 

Broccoli Cake: What can we say about this cake? Overall, the taste was vaguely...healthy; while it might help the taster feel more virtuous while eating it, it does not make for an ultimately satisfying cake experience. With the bitter and sweet flavors vying for dominance, there was a little too much going on with this cake--all things considered, we think we'll leave our broccoli for the more savory fare.  

Snap PeasSnap Pea Cupcake 
Snap Pea Cake: We had a good feeling about this one--like carrots, snap peas have an inherent sweetness; it translated nicely into cake form. The sweet and slightly crunchy bits of snap pea added a nice texture and sweetness; the tangy cream cheese complemented it perfectly. We'd definitely make this again!

 

RadishesRadish Cupcake
Radish Cake: This one was a pleasant surprise; it had savory, spicy flavor that crept up on the palate, ultimately blossoming into a complex, unusual flavor--one that perhaps might not be for everyone, but it certainly kept us coming back for more. Overall though, if served this cake not knowing it was radish, we might not have been able to identify the flavor.

ParsnipsParsnip Cupcake
Parsnip Cake: Once baked, the taste of this one was so similar to that of carrot cake that if it were a blind tasting, we'll admit we might have been fooled. In fact, it was only the aftertaste, slightly spicy, which gave away the vegetable's identity as the carrot's albino cousin. If you've got extra parsnips (not sure how often that happens), give it a try!


Brussels SproutsBrussels Sprout Cupcake
Brussels Sprouts Cake: Brussels sprouts are one of those foods that has a bad rep. And well, it's not hard to see why: they taste bitter. They're pungent. They give you gas. But you know what? We adore these ugly little sprouts. But in cake? Alas, no pleasant surprises here: while we still think brussels sprouts make a wonderful side dish, upon tasting the cake it became instantly evident that these two worlds were clearly not meant to collide.

And so, having done it, how are we feeling? Well, as with many of our experiments, there is so much to consider. Clearly, carrot cake has been kicking so long for a reason: it's a wonderful combination of flavors. While some of our experiments (snap pea cake, parsnip cake) were pleasant surprises, it's hard to say if we liked them quite as much as carrot cake--or if it was more the aspect of novelty appealed. All things considered, we think that carrot cake's status of the veggie cake of choice is not in peril--while certain variations were quite 
toothsome, we realize that the learning curve and marketing involved in making these cakes appeal to the greater public would need to be quite intense. Of course, when it does catch on after some celebrity chef says that Parsnip Cake is the next big thing--just remember where you spied it first.

 

Wednesday
Nov212007

Out, Damned Speck!: Cupcake Pendants by Dottyspeck (Via Cakespy Seattle)

At Cakespy, we like to think that we wear our love for cakes like a badge on our sleeve.

However, now we want to wear it like a necklace around our neck, having spied this awesome necklace by Dottyspeck, the company run by Seattle-based metalsmith Kim Williamson. Williamson's work is cute but manages to run more toward sophisticated and slightly tongue in cheek than "cutesy". This pendant, which retails for $68, could just as easily dress up, adding a little bit of fun to a little black dress, as it could dress down, proclaiming your cupcake love in a hoodie and jeans.

Either way, it's going to make life a little sweeter.

Available at Fancy, Fancy 1914 2nd Ave., in Belltown, Seattle. For non-Seattleites, they'll do mail order too; contact them through fancyjewels.com.

Sunday
Nov112007

Cake Byte: That Takes the Cake in San Francisco

When a new bakery opens, it always sparks our interest. So when we read about That Takes the Cake's opening in San Francisco, we knew we had to get on the scene with due haste. We assigned our Bay Area Cake Gumshoe Bridget to brave those daunting San Francisco hills and try out their cupcakes; here's what she reported:

Cake Gumshoe Bridget: As I started my trek from Potrero to Fillmore I started questioning if this cupcake was worth the grueling series of steep hills (you know the ones halfway up you stop and look both ways deciding to continue or walk back down, but feel like you rule when you do make it to the top). Well, I fought off the negative thoughts and continued on my mission with a pit stop at Crossroads for some cute shoes (ankle boots)! Anyway I finally get to That Takes the Cake, which was small and that hospital-white clean. Then I saw the mother load-- shelf after shelf of cupcakes! They were all flawlessly decorated, which made my decision even harder. The staff was patient with my indecisive behavior which I think they are probably used to and the one counter girl even explained each cupcake and rated them. When it came to the red velvet she told me they sell out every day well before closing time. My mind was made up and I took it to go, thinking I could take a taste then save the rest for later. Yeah right--2 blocks later that cupcake was so gone. The cake was perfection and the cream cheese frosting was the perfect amount of sweetness. It truly lives up to the bakery's claim of being the reddest red velvet cake you ever had. Also what I thought was pretty there menu changes every day, but of course always having the staples (chocolate/vanilla buttercream, red velvet and devils food cake).

In short, we think it's worth a visit!

That Takes the Cake is located at 2271 Union St., b/t Fillmore and Steiner Sts.; online at saralynnscupakes.com.

Sunday
Oct282007

Batter Chatter: Interview with Sara Ross of Kickass Cupcakes

When you open a cupcake bakery with a name like Kickass Cupcakes, you're definitely going to be noticed. When we read about their opening on DailyCandy Boston, we were immediately intrigued by their offerings, which included some exotic new takes on the cupcake: cupcake shooters, deep fried cupcakes, and cupcake crisps, to name a few. Needless to say, we contacted them right away for an interview to find out more; happily, we found owner Sara Ross to be clever, witty, and just as much fun as her cupcakes, which are taking the Boston area by storm. Here's what we learned:

Cakespy: Has anyone gotten mad about your bakery's name? No offense of course, but some older New Englanders have a bit of a reputation for being...a bit uptight?
Sara Ross: The only people gave me any lip (was) the phone company…“Kickass Cupcakes…errrr…I don’t think we can list that”. But they did. Most people are loving the name. For anyone who has a problem with it, we say you can tell your wee ones it’s “Kick Stars” or “Kick’s”.

CS: When did you decide that you were going to open Kickass Cupcakes?
SR: Was there one defining moment? I think I was having a really bad day at work, and it pushed me off the fence about whether or not I wanted to really open up my own business rather than be someone else’s bee-atch.

CS: You're offering some unusual takes on the cupcake--cupcake "shooters", fried cupcakes, cupcake parfaits and cupcake crisps. Which of these products have been most popular so far?
SR: We haven’t started doing the deep fried cupcakes yet, those will be starting soon, and we’ve been getting a lot of people asking about them. The Go-Go’s and the Crisps are really catching on now, especially the Crisps.

CS: About those cupcake shooters. What exactly is a cupcake shooter? Are they cupcake flavored?
SR:
Shooters are one gulp cups of specially crafted beverages to down with your cupcake. Right now, we have a vanilla bean infused fresh from the local dairy milk, iced organic cinnamon tea and seltzer and syrup, choose your flavor of Sonoma Syrup and we’ll mix it up with a shot of seltzer. I recommend downing the shooter with your cupcake…licking sugar off your arm with your shot is highly recommended.

CS: You offer deep fried cupcakes. Be honest...are they tasty? We're kind of curious, but kind of think we might go directly to hell if we ate one.
SR: They are super tasty…who wouldn’t love a cream stuffed vanilla cupcake dipped in a sweet batter, deep fried to order, then drizzled with chocolate sauce...YUM! More like straight to heaven!

CS: Has a person ever accidentally eaten a pupcake (your cupcake-shaped doggie treats)? Was it hilarious?
SR: My husband ate one without realizing it was a pupcake (that was funny!). And customers order them all the time, not realizing they are for dogs. Even though they have a little dog biscuit on the top. They are on a lower rack though, so maybe it’s hard to see. So we always make sure to tell people they are for dogs. I made some new and big signs that say “woof “ and “meow” to place by the trays, but still…

CS: Where do your recipes come from?
SR: My inspiration for the basics come from Rose Levy Berenbaum, the Queen of Cakes. As for flavor ideas, that’s my favorite part of owning a cupcake bakery, coming up with new flavors of cupcakes.

CS: Do you think vegan cupcakes taste as good as dairy ones?
SR: Absolutely! Although they do have a different texture since they are oil and soy milk based (our other cupcakes are all butter based). The vegan cupcakes are luscious in their own way. In the Java Jolt, the chocolate and espresso really enhance the richness. And we just introduced a new seasonal flavor, Cinna-Punk, a pumpkin spice cupcake with cinnamon frosting.

CS: Do you or will you ever offer any non-cupcake items on your menu?
SR: I don’t think so, I’m too much of a purist. But I am tossing around the idea of doing a breakfast and lunch cupcake. For example, the breakfast cupcake could be a savory cupcake with eggs and bacon, or maybe a spin on French toast with maple syrup and bacon and the lunchcup could be a biscuit cupcake with butter and really excellent proscuitto and arugula.

CS: Be honest...do you ever go home after a long day of making cupcakes with pure ingredients...and just break out the Twinkies or something?
SR: OK, you got me…I love junk food, and lately I have been fixated on Pop Tarts. And candy bars, especially Butterfingers. I see it as a yin and yang thing…one must have balance in this world, or else it might explode.

CS: What is next for Kickass Cupcakes? Any next-step goals?
SR: Another location. I would love to open another location in Boston.

Kickass Cupcakes is located at 378 Highland Avenue, Davis Square, in Somerville, MA. For more information, visit kickasscupcakes.com.


Monday
Oct222007

Cake Byte: Hey, Cupcake! in Austin, TX

Has it all been done before? At Cakespy, we like to think not, and like to consider ourselves poised to be amazed by feats of baking. That's why we were delighted hear about Hey, Cupcake! through Cake Gumshoe Erin.

Hey, Cupcake! combines all the best things that hipsterdom has to offer: cheap ($2) cupcakes, an Airstream trailer, and a cute 29-year old guy baking and selling them in small batches in a convection oven.

And what could make us love the proprietor, Wes Hurt, even more? As he's quoted as saying in an article in News 8 Austin, "No shortening. We use good old butter. There’s nothing low calorie about cupcakes."

Swoon.

For more information, visit heycupcakaaustin.com.

Cakespy Note: There's also a very nice writeup on Hey, Cupcake! on one of our favorite blogs; click here to read it: cupcakestakethecake.blogspot.com.

Wednesday
Oct102007

Be Free: Complimentary Babycakes at Cupcake Royale in Seattle


What is better than free cake? Maybe something, but nothing comes to mind immediately.

For this reason, it would be wise to leave work early tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 11th) so that you can be the first in line for the 7 p.m. opening reception of the Derek Charm art show at Cupcake Royale's West Seattle location. Because in addition to seeing some great artwork, you'll also be privy to the limited supply of free harvest babycakes in the new fall flavors: pumpkin, caramel apple and carrot. Free!

West Seattle too far? We understand. Luckily, there's another opening reception at the Ballard location this Saturday (Oct. 13th) at 7 p.m., featuring the artwork of Brad Strain; more artwork, and another chance to cram as many babycakes in your mouth as possible.

Once again: free! Non-Seattleites, our apologies.

For more information and locations, visit cupcakeroyale.com.

Monday
Oct012007

Who Takes the Cake?: A Cupcake Tasting for the Ages


There's a lot of emphasis put on labels these days. Organic, pre-owned, skinny, punk-rock: you'd be surprised how frequently people will judge something before considering the whole package. People will often choose (or reject) things because of preconceived notions...and even seemingly innocent things like cake can fall prey to this! There are people who shun cake mixes because they're too fake, people who won't try vegan cakes because they're too hippie; at the same time, there are those believe that homemade by nature must always be the best. So who's right? Hard to say, but in a recent cupcake tasting hosted by Cakespy, we tried to challenge some of these notions! Here's the lowdown:

WHAT: A "blind" (though not blindfolded) cupcake tasting including three batches of cupcakes: homemade "regular" cupcakes, vegan cupcakes and from-a-mix cupcakes (below, from left to right in order of description). To try to keep things fair, we made each batch the same flavor combination: vanilla cake with chocolate frosting.
Cakespy Note: There were some inherent variations between the cakes, but we tried to keep them as similar as possible. The homemade dairy cupcake recipe came from Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans; the vegan cupcakes recipe came from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World! by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero, and Sara Quin; the Mix was courtesy of Betty Crocker.

HOW:
Each participant was given three cake samples labeled A (homemade "regular"), B (vegan) and C (from-a-mix), as well as a scorecard. Upon tasting each sample, filled in their cards with guesses on which cake was which, and voted on which one they liked best.

WHO: Cupcake testing is serious business, so we assembled an equally serious and eclectic group of tasters:
WHY: To see if people could tell the difference between the three batches; also, to see which ones tasted best.

RESULTS: Well, nobody had any trouble picking out the vegan cakes from the others; of course, their frosting texture was noticeably different and the cake much more dense. Nonetheless, we didn't see anyone who left the vegan portion uneaten, which in itself is very telling! A few people did mix up the homemade and mix-made cupcakes though.

But most importantly, which one tasted best?

The tally came in as follows: Homemade "regular" cupcakes came in first with 4 votes; Mix cupcakes and vegan cupcakes tied for second place with three votes each.

CONCLUSION: When it comes down to it, cake is an innately good thing, fulfilling both mentally and physically. Our testers' comments reflected this very much; while the denser cake was "spongy and satisfying" to one tester, the mix cupcakes brought on memories of "childhood sugar highs", and yet another noted that the dairy homemade cupcakes reminded him of those his mother used to make. Cake is about comfort, and no matter what the label, if it's made with love and enjoyed in good company, it's bound to be a rewarding experience. Awww.

Wednesday
Sep262007

Sweet Support: Sprinkles Unveils Pink Ribbon Cupcakes


Here’s a sweet way to fight breast cancer: if you’re in the Los Angeles or Dallas areas, buy (and eat!) a pink ribbon cupcake by Sprinkles Cupcakes. Featuring pure strawberry cake with strawberry flavored white frosting and topped with an adorable pink sugar ribbon motif, the cupcakes will be available daily from October 1 through October 14; proceeds will be donated to the Entertainment Industry Foundation's Women's Cancer Research Fund. Much cuter than the ubiquitous pink-ribbon cookie, it’s probably safe to surmise that they taste better too!

To find out more or for locations, visit sprinklescupcakes.com.

Photo credit: © Victoria Pearson for Sprinkles Cupcakes.

Thursday
Sep062007

A Wink and a Smile: Cupcakes by Wink


Cupcakes. They're so ubiquitous at this point that you almost want to stop eating them. Almost.

And now there's one more place in Seattle to get them: Wink Cupcakes. The brainchild of Zoe-Ann Bartlett, Wink was born after she decided to take some time off from a stressful corporate position to study baking in France. It must have made her reevaluate her goals, because she subsequently opened a cupcake catering business in lower Queen Anne (a good decision, we say!). And with their dense, moist cake (in yummy flavors like Peanut Butter and Hazelnut) and a generous dollop of creamy, buttery frosting, all we can say is bring on the elastic waistbands. They're primarily available by special order for the moment; however, individuals can pick up single cupcakes on Thursdays via the Queen Anne Farmer's Market.

And surely if it's just once a week, you can go ahead and eat one. Ok, two. Wink, wink.

Available 3-7 p.m. Thursdays at the Queen Anne Farmer's Market (1st Ave. W at Crockett St.); online at winkcupcakes.com

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