Sunday, December 5, 2010

Many Worlds, Many Variations on Banana Bread

The Many-worlds interpretation postulates that many independent worlds exist. Rather than the wave function of a quantum particle collapsing and assuming one definite state the wave function continues -- just in another world. Schrodinger's cat is a popular thought experiment theorized by Erwin Schrodinger. The thought experiment places a cat in a sealed box with a Geiger counter that if it detected the radioactive decay of a quantum particle it would trigger a device to break a sealed vile of poison and kill the cat. Until an observation is made this quantum particle would exist in a superposition of states (decayed and not decayed); the many-worlds interpretation theorizes that the cat is indeed both alive and dead each state existing in an independent universe.

I have an awesome variation on banana bread that is moist, flavorful, and likely to satisfy everyone. Banana bread is such a classic and simple concoction that there seems to be a plethora of variations to the standard banana bread recipe - white chocolate & macadamia nuts, chocolate chips, toasted pecans, green curry, etc. I added candied walnuts to top a simple banana bread and the result was crazy good. The bread itself was smooth and moist and everything I could ever want in a banana bread while the topping was crunchy and sweet and delicious -- the perfect contrast.

On to the recipe...

{Banana Bread with Candied Walnuts}
(recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen; makes 1 loaf)

2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 TS baking soda
1/2 TS salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 c. plain yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 TB unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 TS vanilla extract

1 c. walnuts, chopped
1/4 c. sugar
2 TB butter, melted
1/4 TS cinnamon

1. Adjust a rack to the lower middle position of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking oil.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt; set aside
3. In a medium bowl, stir together mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, melted butter and vanilla.
4. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the center. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry careful not to over-mix.
5. To make the topping: toss together the walnuts, sugar, butter, and cinnamon until evenly coated.
6. Pour batter into loaf pan and sprinkle walnuts on top. Bake for ~45-50 minutes.
7. Once cooled, slice and voila!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Blueberries & Cream Cookies

Centaurus A is the closest active galaxy to Earth – about 11 million light years away. Galaxies with an active galactic nuclei contain a supermassive black hole in its center which is "feeding" on nearby material. The friction from its accretion disk causes the surrounding material to heat up and become very energetic which accounts for its high luminosity. Image courtesy of the European Southern Observatory

What do blueberries & cream cookies have to do with active galactic nuclei? Nothing, other than I spent the last four days of my life researching the former and this recipe kept popping up during every study break I took. I originally stumbled upon this recipe on the blog momofukufor2 which led to me watching Christina Tosi (of Momofuku's Milk Bar) make the cookies on Martha Stewart which then led to me thinking about it every free second I had. I thought that it only be fitting that I finally bake these when I was done with my research.

Well these cookies were well worth the wait. They taste like no cookie I have ever had before - the milk crumbs mixed with the blueberries is a match made in heaven. Like Martha said, they are reminiscent of blueberry muffin tops. I wish there was an actual Top of the Muffin to You! bakery from Seinfeld. But seriously try these cookies.

{Momofuku's Milk Bar Blueberries and Cream Cookies}
(recipe from Momofukufor2 - makes about 14)
Milk Crumbs:
1/4 c. plus 1 tablespoon nonfat milk powder
2 TB all-purpose flour
1 TB cornstarch
1 1/2 TS sugar
1/8 TS salt
1 1/2 TB unsalted butter, melted
1/4 c. white chocolate, melted

1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons milk powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Stir in melted butter until well combined. Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet and transfer to oven. Bake until dried and crumbly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove milk crumble from oven and let cool completely.
3. Transfer milk crumble to a large bowl and fold in remaining 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons milk powder and white chocolate. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Blueberries & Cream Cookies:
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 TS baking powder
1/8 TS baking soda
2 TS salt
1 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. plus 2 TB granulated sugar
1/2 c. plus 2 TB light-brown sugar
1/4 c. glucose (I used corn syrup)
1 large egg
3/4 c. dried blueberries
1/2 c. plus 1/3 c. Milk Crumbs

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Cream butter, sugars, and glucose until well combined. Add egg and mix.
3. Add flour mixture and mix then add blueberries and milk crumbs. Scoop dough into balls and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
4. Transfer baking sheets to oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through baking, until cookies are golden brown and tops begin to crackle, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Scary Good Snickerdoodle's

Vegan cinnamon swirl cupcakes topped with a fluffy vanilla frosting and cinnamon sugar

Named the Witch Head Nebula for its spooky resemblance to a witches head. This reflection nebula gets its color from the bright blue star Rigel in the upper right corner. Don't fear, this witch is located about 1,000 light years away.

This post was supposed to be in time for Halloween but obviously I'm a bit late. I've also been a bit late on starting my term project which got pushed aside until a week or so before it was due (hey, at least I didn't start on it the night before it was due! So that is an accomplishment I suppose). In the past few weeks I went to three concerts (The Walkmen, Interpol, & Jarrod Gorbel-- each was amazing in its own way), had to evacuate my apartment (again) due to a wildfire, and caught a cold. All in all, that is why I've been a bit late. That always seems to happen this time of the year too. I blame the changing seasons, not my misappropriation of time of course.

mmm... cinnamon sugary deliciousness

I love this time of the year; the crisp weather followed by the changing of the leaves is serene (especially so in Colorado - the Aspen tree's changing color is so pretty). I feel as if I have to enjoy every second of it before it gets too cold outside and I want to go running indoors every chance I get (on a side note, I am not looking forward to winter in Colorado).

I also love all of the yummy things to bake this time of the year. I, however, woke up one morning last week and decided to see if I could cut out all fat and sugar from my diet for a week, because I get weird urges like that, (leaving me to essentially only eat vegetables and oatmeal) and surprise -- I managed! Not wanting to scarf down triple chocolate molten lava cake (although that sounded tempting) I decided to ease back into the flow of things by returning to vegan desserts that are low on sugar but high in taste. That didn't sound too cheesy, did it?

I also ordered a bunch of healthy baking cookbooks online (such as Babycakes, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, and one on baking with olive oil) so watch out and be prepared for some new recipes!

Vegan Snickerdoodle Cupcakes:
(recipe courtesy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World; makes ~12)

1 c. soymilk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 c. + 2 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/4 c. flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp orange extract
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar

Vanilla Frosting:
1/2 c. Earth Balance (or refined coconut oil)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 c. powdered sugar
1/8 - 1/4 c. soy milk
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. raw sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with liners.
2. In a small bowl, mix together soymilk and vinegar and set aside for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together the cinnamon, brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil.
5. Add the remaining oil and the orange and vanilla extracts to the soymilk mixture. Stir together and add to the dry ingredients.
6. Beat with a mixer or by hand until the batter becomes smooth.
7. Divide the batter evenly among the baking cups and spoon about 1/2 a teaspoon full of the cinnamon mixture into each cupcake. Swirl it into the batter with a knife.
8. Bake for 19-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
9. Allow to cool and frost with vanilla frosting and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Beat the Earth Balance and vanilla together then add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until desired frosting consistency. In a separate bowl combine the cinnamon and sugar and top each frosted cupcake with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Globular Clusters

Globular clusters are some of the oldest formations in the universe, older than the galaxies that they are gravitationally bound to. They are tightly bound clusters of several hundreds of thousands of stars; in fact the stars are so close to one another that there are often collisions between stars. It is so dense in the center of the cluster that are hundreds of stars in a region of less that 3 light years wide. This image of M13 is one of the brightest globular clusters in the northern sky; if you have access to a telescope I highly recommend observing it.

These cinnamon sugar cake bite doughnut things will blow your mind. Seriously.

There is this late night bakery in Boulder called Boulder Baked. This place is awesome, they make cookies to order along with grilled cheese and other late night snacks. Its the type of place that I don't go to on a regular basis (thankfully, for my health's sake) but rather its the type that once I "rediscover" it, I'm hooked for a solid 3 days.

I introduced this place to my friend Nick and he became addicted to it, no joke. We would walk to Boulder Baked at 1am during the summer and eat all the cookies before we even made it back home. It's all about the journey not the destination, or something like that. On a few occasions when I would stop by his apartment on my way to class in the afternoon I found him passed out on his couch with a empty box of boulder baked cookies on his lap, a victim of an apparent sugar coma. I wish I had thought to take a picture. Priceless.

Last time I visited Boulder Baked I was feeling impatient about waiting a whole 10-12 minutes for a cookie and found these little cake-like doughnut things in the display case. Biting into them is pure heaven. They are soft and cake-like with a crunchy cinnamon sugar shell.
They have this cake-like taste but with the consistency of a moist doughnut... Its really hard to describe accurately. I knew that I had to recreate these at once. After questioning the guy working behind the counter for about 5 minutes he finally asked me if I was wanting to make them at home. Uh... obviously.

Since they would not divulge their "secret" recipe I turned to the internet. Coming up empty handed, I decided to combine a vanilla cake recipe with elements of a baked doughnut recipe and here is what I came up with:

Globular Clusters (aka Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut-Cake Bites):
(Note: I have no idea what their formal name is so I'm going to call them Globular Clusters--I think it rolls off the tongue easier than Super Yummy Cinnamon Sugar Two Bite Cake Doughnut Fritter Things)
makes 14

3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 c. melted butter
3/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

For the topping:
melted butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 35o degrees and spray a muffin tin with cooking oil.
2. Beat together sugar and the egg (~2 minutes).
3. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg; combine with egg mixture.
4. Mix in melted butter, milk, and vanilla.
5. Divide evenly among muffin cups, filling it about a quarter full, and bake for about 10-15 minutes.
6. Once they have been removed from the oven lightly brush the surface with melted butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Banana Equivalence

Oh what a cold and dreary day it is in Boulder. It has been raining all morning with no sign that the sun will make an appearance.

What is your favorite thing to do on a rainy day? For me, it is baking followed by watching old episodes of Cosmos, there is just something so soothing about Carl Sagan's voice. Surely I'm not the only one who thinks that.

Seeing as how the rain inspires me to pick up a spatula and I had promised my friends that cheesecake would be the next thing that I made, I set off to the kitchen. After a quick survey of my fridge I discovered that I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand to make cheesecake but what I did have were overripe bananas. I'm not insinuating that I was able use bananas in place of the cheese in cheesecake (even though it seems that you could use bananas in place of just about anything nowadays) but what I did do was stray a little away from cheesecake and made...... banana cupcakes with honey-cinnamon frosting! Just as good. Besides, I've never been a big fan of cheesecake.

The perfect afternoon snack to accompany a mug of tea on a dreary day.

Banana Cupcakes:
(recipe adapted from Martha Stewart; makes 12 - I got 15)
1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 1/2 c. mashed bananas (about 3 large ripe bananas)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Honey-Cinnamon Frosting:
1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 tbsp. honey
1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In the well, mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir just to incorporate flour mixture.
3. Divide mixture evenly among baking cups; smooth surface.
4. Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes. Immediately remove cupcakes from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
5. Spread frosting on cooled cakes and enjoy (yum).

Beat sugar, butter, honey, and cinnamon together until smooth, ~4 min

Once the weather starts to get cold again it makes me want to crawl under my blankets and listen to Interpol all day. I love this song, the singer has such a beautiful voice:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory, also known as the butterfly effect, states that small changes in the initial condition of a system can yield widely unpredictable outcomes. This image of two Lorenz attractors demonstrates a sensitivity on initial conditions which evolves in a complex non-repeating pattern.

I've been living in a state of disarray for the past few weeks. A busy schedule combined with exams has equated to chaos, especially so for my apartment.

This morning after waking up and tripping over the obscene pile of shoes on my bedroom floor (and nearly spraining my other ankle) I decided that something needed to be done and embarked on a cleaning spree, rubber gloves and all. Have you ever been scared to look under your bed, fearing that an Ewok is hiding under there? Yeah, um... me neither.

I think one of the best parts of cleaning is finding lost items or things that you forgot that you even owned, case in point:

The found items include: peacock feather earrings I impulsively bought in a restroom on my birthday, a library book I was positive I returned, a meteorite fragment, etc.

I also found a sad neglected bundle of freckled bananas that were beckoning to be made into something delicious. Besides, I think that I deserved to be rewarded with cake for all of the cleaning I did!

The recipe that I used was one that I had bookmarked for a while which calls for a box of white cake mix and usually I try to avoid using cake mix but seeing as how I was at a shortage of energy I decided not to fight it and the cake came out beautifully. I probably should have added a bit more of baking powder and flour since I live at a higher elevation.

I couldn't... um... find my cake pan so I put the batter in a loaf pan and used the rest to make cupcakes

White Chocolate Banana Cake:
(Recipe courtesy of Deborah's Culinary Confections)
1 (18.25 oz) box white cake mix
1 c. bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 c. white chocolate chips

1/2 c. powdered sugar
enough milk for drizzling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; coat a 9x13 baking pan with non stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl combine cake mix, bananas, eggs, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir until well combined; fold in white chocolate chips.
3. Spread evenly into cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.
4. In a small bowl combine powdered sugar and milk, a teaspoon at a time, until it creates a smooth glaze and consistency for drizzling. Top cooled cake with glaze.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cinnamon Pinwheel Swirl Bread

Luscious bread with a subtly sweet cinnamon swirl

This image of M101, also know as the Pinwheel Galaxy, shows a striking spiral galaxy located about 27 million light years away. The majority of galaxies in the universe are spiral galaxies. Through studying the velocity of spiral galaxies it was discovered that dark matter controls the rotational speeds resulting in the outer spiral arms to rotate at a uniform rate to that of the inner arms.

Seeing as how I'm temporarily disabled I have a little more time on my hands to update my blog with some fantastic recipes that I have baked recently such as cinnamon swirl bread.

I had been craving this bread for a while so one lazy Sunday I finally got with the program and made it. Bread always seems like an intimidating task to me because of the amount of time that it requires from start to end. But really, not a great deal of applied work is required; you kneed the dough, wait a while, punch down the dough, wait a while, roll the dough, wait a while, bake it, wait a little while longer, then eat a slice of warm fresh from the oven bread. The payoff is entirely worth it, trust me. The waiting part is the hardest; but in that time you can read a few chapters in your favorite Carl Sagan book, watch episodes of Invader Zim, or take the adorable dog your dog-sitting on a walk (who once said bread was cooling leaped up and grabbed a slice off the counter only to drop it at my feet like a gift), really the possibilities are endless.

The recipe for my beloved bread is from an old Better Homes & Gardens cookbook of my mom's. I first baked this bread when I was in high school and I baked it again and again and again. It takes a great deal of restraint not to eat more than half the loaf immediately after pulling it out of the oven, it is seriously that good. My entire apartment is filled with an amazing aroma that makes me want to do it all over again.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread:
(makes 2 loaves)
6-3/4 to 7-1/4 c. flour
2 packages active dry yeast
2 c. milk
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
2 tsp. salt
3 eggs

1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Powdered Sugar Icing:
(optional but tastes amazing on warm bread)
1 c. sifted powder sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
enough milk for drizzling

1. In a large mixer bowl combing 3 cups of the flour and the yeast.
2. In a saucepan heat milk, sugar, butter, and salt until just warm (115-120 degrees) and butter is almost melted; stir constantly. Add to flour mixture; add eggs.
3. Beat at low speed of an electric mixer for 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat 3 minutes at high speed.
4. Stir in as much of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6-8 minutes).
5. Shape into a ball; place in a lightly greased bowl; turn once to grease surface. Cover; let rise in a warm place till double (about 1 1/4 hours).
6. Punch down; divide dough in half. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.
7. Roll each half of dough into a 15 x 7 inch rectangle. Brush entire surface lightly with water.
8. Mix together cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle half of the sugar mixture over each rectangle.
9. Beginning with the narrow end, roll up jelly roll style; seal edge and ends.
10. Place sealed edge down in a greased loaf pan. Cover; let rise til nearly double (35-45 minutes).
12. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes; cover with foil the last 15 minutes to prevent over-browning. Cool on a wire rack.
13. Combine ingredients for powdered sugar icing and drizzle over warm bread and enjoy.

Nobody can resist homemade cinnamon swirl bread

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pink Lagoon Cakes

Vanilla cake topped with marshmallow frosting and sprinkles

The Lagoon Nebula, also known as M8, is located about 5,000 light years away in the constellation Sagittarius. Interestingly enough, pink is not a naturally occurring color. The color pink does not exist in the color spectrum and it has no attributed wavelength to it. There is not a single atom that produces the color pink. The human brain perceives wavelengths of light as color and it constructs the color pink as a means to bridge the gap between red and violet.

Oh gravity, thou art a heartless bitch.

I sprained my ankle tonight. Although this may sound like "no big deal" to most, I have managed to go my entire life without even the slightest injury. I also happen to be an extremely clumsy person with several close calls with danger.

Before you ask yourself what this has to do with pink cupcakes, it is because of the cupcakes that I injured myself. Well, they are at least partially to blame. I suppose my un-cat like reflexes are to blame as well... I was bringing my neighbor some cupcakes and it was dark outside which resulted in me under-calculating the staircase and falling down the last two stairs. To top it all off the cupcakes landed frosting side down!! There is a sad imprint of pink frosting a star sprinkles on the pavement still.

The cupcakes were pretty magical though. The marshmallow fluff frosting paired with the delicate vanilla cake was truly out of this world. Marshmallows make everything better, even a sprained ankle.

Vanilla Cake:
(Recipe adapted from all recipes; makes 12)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk

Marshmallow Fluff Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
16 ounces marshmallow fluff

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; line a cupcake tin with liners.
2. In a medium bowl cream together butter and sugar; beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla.
3. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
4. Alternate mixing in flour mixture and milk to batter and beat until well mixed.
5. Divide batter evenly among cups and bake for 20-25 minutes.
6. Let cool then frost.

Beat butter and sugar together until creamy; add marshmallow fluff and beat until blended.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Peach Pulsars

Vanilla cake with fresh peaches baked inside topped with vanilla cream frosting and peach sauce

This X-ray image taken by the Chandra Space Telescope is superposed with an image in visual light of a pulsar in the Crab Nebula. Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars.

Where on earth did the summer go? Well.... it actually happens to be approaching the southern hemisphere but that is besides the point. I realize now that I didn't do nearly half of the things that I set out to accomplish this summer such as:
-Finish reading Caesar's Gallic Wars in Latin as part of my "Summer of Latin"
-Visit the Very Large Array in New Mexico... or Roswell for that matter.
-Finish writing my science fiction themed short story
-Go to a concert at Red Rocks
-Party at the Jersey Shore............... just kidding with that one!

Things that I did manage to do this summer include:
-Making great food and enjoying it with friends
-Spending time with my family
-Stargazing in the mountains
-Lazy Sundays dedicated to my PJ's
-Going UFO Hunting while listening to techno music
-Spontaneous adventures and staying out late
-Picnicking by Boulder Creek
-Watch seasons 1-5 of the X-Files (I watched it spaced out over the entire summer, of course!)

All in all I had a great summer and although I didn't do some of the more ambitious plans I made I am happy that I spent my summer the way I did. I got a much needed break this summer and I think summertime is all about being relaxed and spending time with the ones you love rather than setting rigorous schedules (that is what school/work is for). One of my more favorite memories of the summer involves watching the movie Conspiracy Theory with Nick and making pizza and undercooked cookies while laughing hysterically at how crazy Mel Gibson is in that movie.

I'm a little late in posting this recipe, I actually baked this two weeks ago (on probably the hottest day this year in Boulder) and haven't had time to put up this post. I started classes last Monday and I'm excited to learn new things in all of the classes I'm taking (like the formation and evolution of black holes and of the theoretical existence of wormholes and time warps), BUT I'm not necessarily excited about all of the work that is going to entail. I can feel my coffee dependency slowly growing again... At any rate, my goal is to bake something at least once a week. Like last week I made homemade granola bars that I wrapped individually in saran wrap then took to class... I'm sure everyone was staring because of how amazing they smelled and not how ghetto I probably looked unwrapping the excessive amount of saran wrap I put on them to keep them fresh. Back to the cupcakes...

They have a great late summer flavor. I used Amy Sedaris' recipe for vanilla cupcakes and added fresh peaches and a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon to them. I dolloped them with Chantilly cream then drizzled a warm peach glaze over that. It is an extremely delicious (and addicting) version of peaches n' cream which is best if serving right away... and eating with a fork, otherwise the cream will melt and turn everything into a hot mess. I also made a vanilla butter cream frosting to frost the majority with so I could bring them to a BBQ as my contribution.

Peach Cake:
(makes 12)
6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups flour
2/3 cups milk
2-3 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced into thirds

Best Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting:
1-2 cups powdered sugar
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons whipping cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt together; set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Beat in egg until well incorporated.
5. Beat in vanilla.
6. Add flour mixture alternating with milk. Fold in peaches.
7. Divide batter evenly and bake for 16 to 20 minutes.
8. Cool completely then frost and savor the taste of summer.

Beat butter and powdered sugar for about 3 minutes; add vanilla and whipping cream and beat for another minute.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Neapolitan Nebula

Chocolate Strawberry and Vanilla cake topped with the trio of frosting, marshmallows, and melted fudge

This image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, is of the Key Hole Nebula which is part of the Great Nebula of Carina. Nebulae are interstellar clouds of dust and gas formed as a result of a gravitational collapse in the interstellar medium or from the demise of a star. There seems to be a beautiful harmony within all of the chaos in this particular nebula.

Am I in the mood for chocolate? Perhaps strawberry? Vanilla is always a classic. This is quite the conundrum... or is it?
Neapolitan, you say? Its only the most harmonious combination of all three of your favorite flavors made all the better by the addition of mini marshmallows and fudge melted atop.

I've also never been the type of person who enjoys foods straight from the refrigerator that are typically served warm. Pizza, wings (although I don't eat meat), soup, etc. These cupcakes however break that personal law of mine. In my opinion they are even better when served chilled its reminiscent of ice cream cake. Thats not to say that they didn't fly like hotcakes once I was done sprinkling them with marshmallows.

Marbled Buttercake:
(Makes 12, Recipe adapted from Cupcakes by Pamela Clark)
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon fresh strawberry puree
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons milk, extra

Butter Cream Frosting:
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon fresh strawberry puree
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons milk, extra
mini marshmallows

The final product sans the fudge. I was in a hurry when I was putting the final touches on them and the bag of hot fudge exploded all over my arm and one unfortunate cupcake. Those things always seem to happen when your running late for something. If only I had a dollar each time fudge exploded on my arm...

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12 hole cupcake pan with baking cups.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
3. Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer; add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Stir in sifted flour and milk, in two batches.
4. Divide mixture evenly among three bowls. Add strawberry puree to one mixture. Blend sifted cocoa powder with extra milk in a cup; stir into another mixture. Leave third mixture plain.
5. Drop alternate spoonfuls of the three mixtures into baking cups. Pull a skewer backwards and forwards through mixture for a marbled effect; smooth surface.
6. Bake cakes for about 20 minutes. Turn cakes onto a wire rack to cool.
7. Make butter cream.
8. Swirl cakes with the three flavors of frosting and top with mini marshmallows.
9. Drizzle melted fudge on top for an additional treat.

Beat butter in the bowl 0f an electric mixer until as white as possible; beat in sifted powdered sugar and milk in two batches. Divide mixture evenly among three bowls. Add strawberry puree to one. Blend sifted cocoa with extra milk in a cup; stir into another mixture. Leave the third mixture plain.

This is a poor picture taken from my camera phone of a previous batch that included fudge

Meteor Shower Cakes

Spice cake topped with cream cheese frosting, sprinkles, and an element of surprise

This image was taken in Colorado during the Perseid Meteor Shower. The Perseid Meteor Shower occurs every year in mid August when the Earth passes through the dust cloud of Comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet dust is vaporized as it enters Earth's atmosphere causing a bright streak of light. The Perseids is named such because all of the meteors appear to radiant from the constellation Perseus.

I made these cupcakes to kill time before we went up to the mountains to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower (we didn't leave until about 11:00 pm). There was an average of 142 meteors per hour this year making it a really spectacular show. It was amazing to be up in a dark secluded area in the mountains gazing at the night sky and seeing some brilliant meteors. Everything was so serene... that is until a bat flew into me.

I'm really glad I decided to make these though, the cake was moist and delicious with just the right amount of spice. The tangy cream cheese frosting really balanced out the cake very well. I left a few unfrosted and had one toasted the next morning with coffee, yum. I have a feeling that these cakes would also be fabulous with a streusel topping baked on top.

Spice Cake:
(Makes about 18, recipe adapted from Southern Food)
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups butter milk

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
3. Cream butter in a large mixing bowl; add sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Beat at high speed for 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
4. Add the sifted dry ingredients, alternating with buttermilk, mixing just until smooth.
5. Divide mixture amongst baking cups; smooth surface.
6. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

1. Beat cream cheese and butter until creamy.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar then vanilla. If frosting is too thick, add a little milk until desired consistency is reached.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Magical Maple Cakes

Maple cake with pecans and apples baked inside topped with maple frosting, toffee, and goodness

I enjoy everything about these cupcakes. I feel comfortable saying that they definitely top my list of favorite cupcakes. And with pure maple syrup, fresh apples, and pecans baked into a luscious cake with a hint of cinnamon, whats not to enjoy? The frosting is made all the more delicious by maple syrup... Mmmmm, I love maple syrup. Speaking from someone who almost always has a bottle of syrup on their person, pure maple syrup really makes all the difference. Trust me, these cakes will not disappoint. I haven't met a single person who hasn't loved these lil gems. My friend Nick practically ate these cakes as fast as I frosted them.

Maple, Pecan, and Apple Cake:
(Makes 12; Recipe courtesy of Cupcakes by Pamela Clark)
5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 eggs
2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup coarsely grated apple

Maple Frosting:
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons maple syrup

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12 cup cupcake tin with paper liners.
2. Beat butter with an electric mixer, add flour cinnamon, sugar, maple syrup, and eggs in a medium bowl on low speed until ingredients are combined. Increase speed to medium, beat until mixture is changed to a paler color.
3. Stir in nuts and grated apple. Divide mixture among baking cups; smooth surface.
4. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool.
5. Make maple frosting and toffee.
6. Spread cakes with frosting and decorate with toffee shards.

Maple Frosting:
Beat butter, sifted powdered sugar, and syrup in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Combine sugar with the water in a small heavy-based pot. Stir over medium heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered without stirring until mixture is golden brown. Remove from heat; let stand until bubbles subside. Drizzle toffee in whimsical swirls onto parchment lined baking sheets and let dry.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Martian Velvet

Red velvet cake topped with "cream cheese" frosting and red sprinkles

I love Mars and all of the "bad" sci-fi inspired by it (Stranded, Mission to Mars, the list goes on). Named after the Roman god of war because of its blood like color, iron oxide on the surface is responsible for giving Mars its reddish appearance.

Its been a while since I've updated my blog because a lot has been going on recently... I went to Vegas to visit the family and my darling baby, Gizmo. I also moved into a new apartment which was the most annoying and stressful move. Paul & I moved into another apartment in the same building (actually directly next door), sounds easy enough right? Wrong!! We had to move out of our former apartment on the 15th and couldn't move into our new apartment til the 18th so we had to move everything into storage only to move it all back to the same location just a couple of days later. I tried to be very efficient about packing at first then towards the end of the day things got messy (our old couch ended up getting tossed over the balcony, by accident of course)... Well the dust has finally settled and the wi-fi is up and running again which means... Martian Velvet Cupcakes!

These cupcakes were de-lic-ious as well as vegan. I used Tofutti's Better Than Cream Cheese for the frosting. The cakes had a great consistency and were very moist. Best of all, nobody was able to tell that they were vegan!

Vegan Red Velvet Cake:
(makes about 22, slightly adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World)
2 c soy milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 c flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 c vegetable oil
4 tsp vanilla extract
2 ounces red food coloring

Better Than Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 c Earth Balance, room temperature
1/2 c Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 c powdered sugar

I love these cupcake liners that match the red velvet cakes and my new red kitchen :-)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with baking cups.
2. In a large bowl, mix together vinegar and soy milk, set aside.
3. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
4. Add vegetable oil, food coloring, and vanilla to soy milk mixture.
5. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and beat until smooth.
6. Evenly distribute batter among baking cups and bake for 20 minutes.
7. Once the cupcakes have cooled completely frost and add a sprinkling of red sprinkles.

Beat the Earth Balance, cream cheese, and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time and beat until fluffy.

Gizmo loves cupcakes

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

Sirius A & Sirius B like.... PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY!

Vanilla cake with a jelly interior topped with peanut butter frosting

Sirius, which is the brightest star in the night sky is part of binary star system (compromised of Sirius A and Sirius B). Most stars are actually part of a binary star system! A mutual gravitational bond causes the two stars to elliptically orbit around one another. Sirius A is a white main sequence star while its companion, Sirius B is a faint white dwarf. Early in their lifespans, Sirius A & B were two bright bluish stars with Sirius B being the more massive of the two causing the star to quickly exhaust its resources eventually collapsing to a white dwarf star (~120 million years ago). Due to its prominence in the constellation Canis Major (Big Dog) Sirius is known as the Dog Star and the Ancient Greeks believed the appearance of Sirius foretold upcoming summer conditions therefore the season following Sirius' appearance became known as the Dog Days of Summer.

Let me just start by saying that I absolutely love these cupcakes! Peanut butter and jelly is a classic flavor combination that just can't be beat. As an added bonus, these delightful cupcakes are vegan! I cut back on the amount of sugar I put into the batter and instead opted to use a little agave nectar and maple syrup giving these cakes a warm rich taste without being overly sweet. I recommend using a high quality jelly to make them extra special, I used Bonne Mamman Four Fruit Preserves from Whole Foods.

I made these cupcakes to commemorate the 4th of July, I mean what is more American than a classic PB&J sandwich? I had a wonderful 4th of July, my friend Nick & I went on a fun road trip to Sulfur Springs (which is absolutely beautiful) and lounged in the hot springs for the better part of the day. We got some great Indian food for dinner and I must say that I never would have imagined that Indian food would be so tasty and authentic in a small mountain town. Then we finished off the day with fireworks in Winterpark.

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes:
I also think these cupcakes would be fabulous with a swirl of honey. Makes about 1 dozen.

Vanilla Vegan Cake:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 tablespoon light maple syrup
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Frosting:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup Earth Balance (or any vegetable oil spread), room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 - 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons coconut milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with baking cups.
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.
3. In a medium bowl combine agave nectar, maple syrup, coconut milk, oil, and vanilla.
4. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and beat until smooth.
5. Evenly distribute batter amongst baking cups and bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Once the cupcakes have cooled cut a dome (about 1 inch in diameter) into the center of the cake using a very sharp knife; cut the tip of the cone off and set the top aside.
7. Fill each cake with about 1/2 - 1 tablespoon of jelly and replace the cone tops to the cupcake.

A picture I snapped of Venus from my balcony while the cupcakes were baking (I know, I am a complete amateur at astro-photography!)

The final product.... yum!!

Beat the peanut butter, Earth Balance, and vanilla together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add milk until desired frosting consistency. Top each with a small dollop of jelly.

Nick & I at Sulfur Springs