Sprinkles Vanilla Cupcakes

I remember the first time I heard of the California based cupcake bakery, Sprinkles. I was watching acclaimed reality show “The Girls Next Door”, the fairytale saga of Hugh Hefner and his collection of girlfriends. Bridget, his number 2 GF, was throwing a birthday party and brought in Sprinkles cupcakes for the occasion. “Doesn’t everyone order cake for a birthday? What’s the big deal?”, you ask confusedly. Well when you have your own kitchen staff like the Playboy mansion, you don’t have ANYTHING brought in unless it’s really spectacular.

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Several years later when I was interning at “E! News” in LA, I finally laid my paws on one during an event at the office. Little did I know that by then, a Sprinkles had opened in my home state of New York. It was everything I dreamed of: moist and delicate, with dense, creamy frosting. So when I found a recipe online, of course I wanted to try it. The recipe I found is for their peppermint cupcakes, so I adjusted it slightly to be plain vanilla, and to make 24 cupcakes rather than 12. I also used this fondant recipe to make the heart garnishes. Yes, I know they make the cupcakes look vaguely boob-like, for better or worse.

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Servings: Makes 24 cupakes

INGREDIENTS:

For the cupcakes:

3 cups all-purpose flour , sifted

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1 cup whole milk , room temperature

4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , room temperature

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature*

4 large egg whites, room temperature*

*If your eggs are warming too slowly, gently place them in a cup, then fill the cup with lukewarm (not hot) water until they reach room temperature

For the frosting:

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter , firm but not cold

1/4 tsp. salt

7 cups confectioners’ sugar , sifted

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. milk


DIRECTIONS:

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°. Make sure the racks are in the lower two thirds of the oven. Line 2 cupcake tins with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together milk and extracts; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared cupcake liners. Gently shake the tins so that any raised batter flattens. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes– I know this is a super scary way to test them as opposed to the toothpick method, but they’ll keep cooking in the pan so take them out as soon as you can touch the top without getting any residue on your finger. Rotate tins once while baking. Transfer tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

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For the frosting:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated. Add the extracts and milk and beat until smooth and creamy. Do not overmix or the frosting will incorporate too much air; it should be creamy and dense, like ice cream. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, if frosting does not have a spreadable consistency.

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To assemble:

While gingerly holding a completely cooled cupcake, scoop a large amount (thing about a half a tennis ball) onto the top of the cupcake using a spatula. Then, swipe the sides of the cupcake in a circular motion until the top looks flat and the sides are smooth, almost like a volcano. Place any decorations on top, then eat!

These can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.

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Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookies

I made these cookies about two weeks ago, and I still haven’t posted them! First, my Great Aunt was visiting from Florida, and next it was my birthday and then my birthday party (which my wonderful friend Mookie and her lovely roommates hosted for me). Needless to say, I’ve been a bit busy. I wish I had posted some of the amazing recipes I used for my aunt’s visit, like Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise, or Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Chip Pound Cake, both of which were met with rave reviews. But alas, it was a busy weekend so I didn’t have time to take photos while I baked. But believe me, both recipes are more than deserving of your time. Have you ever been amazed at how good something you’ve made is? Both of these recipes will give you and your guests that reaction. Or just you. I won’t judge if you make them for yourself. In fact, I will applaud you.

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When I made these cookies they were actually for my mom to bring to a beach gathering. It seemed a little counterintuitive since it was still pretty warm out at the time, but I was in the mood to make warm, chewy pumpkin desserts. They’re simple to make, and can be made with or without the sugary drizzle, though I recommend icing them. The cookies themselves are not super sweet, so a little bit of the icing goes a long way. If you do ice the cookies, make sure to let the icing dry before stacking them on a plate, or they’ll get stuck together- they just want to be friends! They can be kept in a container for up to three days (normally I suggest airtight, but because they’re so moist, they will create condensation which will change their consistency). So eat them quickly!

The original recipe hails from Allrecipes.com. I altered it slightly to omit the ground cloves; my mom has never used them so I don’t keep any around. If you like a hearty spice element in your pumpkin desserts, add the cloves back into the recipe, and add them alongside the other spices.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin puree (Libby’s or organic is fine)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 2 cookie sheets with non-stick baking spray. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; set aside.

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In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly. The batter will be very sticky so don’t be disheartened if they look like crazy, misshapen rocks. 

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Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven.

To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners’ sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.

Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork. You’re done! You did it! Reward yourself with a cup of hot apple cider and a few (handfuls of) cookies!

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Ooey Gooey Lemon Bars

These lemon bars, a must for any citrus lover, are the best I have ever made. My lemon-obsessed cousin Lara is about to have her second child, so this post is a sort of homage to her. Her husband and she smartly decided not to share the baby’s name until she’s born. So while Lara’s in labor, I’ll be eating stacks of lemon bars contemplating possibilities– hopefully I don’t eat all of them and can bring her some after the delivery.

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Anyway. Lemon bars. I haven’t made these in a long while, partially because when I do, I eat the majority of the pan. But I’m glad that I did, because OMGARETHEYDELICIOUS. Prior to making these, the last time I had a lemon bar was when my good friend Mookie and I took a day trip to Santa Barbara from LA. We found a little cafe to eat in, but couldn’t find a parking spot where we wouldn’t be ticketed, so we bought our food and ate it in the car on our way back home. I think we both got portobello sandwiches of some sort, and two different pastries. The lemon bar I bought was so large; it was probably the size of at least four of mine combined. I ate it as we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping only to take in the cinematic sunset at a little beach next to a retirement home.

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Mookie picking up seashells on our way back home.

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If California was a lady, she’d be very photogenic.

I like these lemon bars because the zingy lemon flavor is the star, with the buttery, crumbly crust taking a back seat. Using good lemons is a great way to ensure a tasty result. The lemons I used this time around were so juicy and sweet, they almost smelled like yellow Starbursts. This recipe heralds from The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread, and I simply can’t recommend it enough.

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INGREDIENTS:

CRUST:

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus more for pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

FILLING:

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 juicy lemons)

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

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Does that piece not look like Idaho??

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center of oven. Butter and paper a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. As you can see in the photos, I absentmindedly forgot this step. My lemon squares still came out wonderfully, but buttering and papering your pan makes the last few steps much easier.

 To make crust: Whisk together flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and work into flour mixture using a pastry blender or your fingers. I recommend taking the butter out of the refrigerator about five minutes prior to this step.

Pour crust mixture into prepared baking dish, pressing down with your fingers to create a 1/4-inch-thick layer along the bottom and 1/2-inch up the sides, pressing firmly at the edges to seal. Transfer pan to freezer and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake, rotating pan once during baking, until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, and flour; stir in lemon juice, milk, and salt until well combined.

Remove baking pan from oven. Stir topping and pour into warm crust. Return pan to oven and continue baking until topping is just set but not browned, about 20 minutes.

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Transfer baking pan to a wire rack to cool completely.Once completely cooled, dust extra confectioners’ sugar over the filling. Use a fine mesh sieve for even dispersion.

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Cut into 20 squares. Serve immediately or wrap each bar tightly with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Leslie

Baked Occasions Strawberry Cake

I’m always trepidatious when it comes to trying desserts with fruit in them. Fruit-bearing desserts almost always have way too much fruit, and way too little butter and cake and brownies and chocolate. For example, “berries and whipped cream” are almost always a bunch of blackberries and strawberries with a tiny dollop of whipped cream; I’m not in dessert for the fruit, I’m in it for the dessert.

In spite of my clearly defined feelings toward fruit masquerading as dessert, this Strawberry Supreme Cake, as it’s called in the cookbook Baked Occasions, caught my eye. I kept flipping back to the photo of the elegantly whimsical cake, on which three strawberries were neatly perched. The cake to berry ratio seemed to be in my favor. I skimmed the recipe and though it calls for multiple cups of fresh or frozen strawberries, it also calls for butter, heavy cream, and sugar, so my fruit fears were abated. (I want to reiterate, it’s not that I don’t like fruit, it’s just that it has it’s place, and that’s usually not on my dessert plate, or in salads… generally speaking, I find fruit in salads to be a bit wonky).

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This cake is probably the best homemade strawberry cake you’ll ever make. It’s fluffy and moist, thanks to the shortening and meringue in the batter. The frosting, which contains three sticks of butter, is fluffy and enchanting in texture. The strawberry preserves, which lie under the whipped cream filling, round out the cake perfectly. To be honest, I doubted whether I could finish my slice since it’s so, so sweet, but somehow I managed.

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Due to copyright laws I can’t reprint the wonderful recipe here, but hopefully the pictures will inspire you to buy the book, or try a strawberry cake recipe of your own!

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 Enjoy!

Baked Brooklyn Birthday Cake

Yesterday was my grandma, Nawnee’s, 79th birthday. Nawnee is a pretty fabulous woman, so she required a pretty fabulous cake. I like to do either classic double chocolate or funfetti for birthdays, but she isn’t a huge chocolate fan, so I opted for funfetti. I’ve only ever made funfetti from the box (which is delicious), but my recently purchased cookbook, Baked Occasionshas a homemade funfetti cake right on its cover. The recipe is pretty straightforward, just more time consuming than using a box mix.

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I can’t reprint the recipe here, but I encourage you to buy the cookbook; the recipes and introductions are funny, heartfelt, and mouth-watering good. Side note: if you’re wondering why this recipe has “Baked Brooklyn” in the title, it’s because the cookbook Baked Occasions is based on recipes that the authors, Matt and Renato, created for their bakery, Baked Brooklyn.