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.