Thursday, November 19, 2009

Caramel Appletini Cupcakes

The cupcake bug bit me again this weekend. Initially, I was planning to make some sort of meal/dish that I could post here, but then I recalled that Iron Cupcake: Earth is back with a vengeance for Year 2. Since I've been seriously shirking my membership duties in the Iron Cupcake realm, I decided to check out this month's challenge.

"Apple". What? Apple? Seriously? If you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably already know that I'm not really a fruit person. In fact, my biggest cupcake FAIL occurred while creating a cupcake for the Iron Cupcake "Summer Fruit" challenge. Need I say more?

The only way I could justify creating this destined-to-fail cupcake was to add alcohol. I know what you're thinking. I just made Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes last week. Isn't it too soon to make another alcohol-infused cupcake? It's never too soon. If you're even questioning this, then obviously you don't know me. I began thinking about how I could make this apple cupcake thing work out in my favor. And it hit me...Caramel Apple Martinis. Or rather, Caramel Appletinis. Yes. Yes. Yes. And then, I discovered some leftover apple vodka in the alcohol cabinet. Obviously, this cupcake was a part of my destiny.

After the usual perusal of blogs, I determined that Cupcake Rehab's Caramel Cake was a good "base recipe" to build on. Of course I made alterations. Why else would I even bother to take on the Iron Cupcake challenge?

Caramel Appletini Cupcakes
adapted from Cupcake Rehab's Caramel Cake
yields ~18 cupcakes
  • 1/2 cup chunky applesauce
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Caramel Syrup (I used Smuckers Sundae Syrup instead of making my own. I love shortcuts!)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • splash vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 3 Tablespoons apple vodka
1) Preheat oven to 350F.

2) Cream butter and applesauce for 20-30 seconds.

3) Add sugar and salt. Beat until light and fluffy.

4) Slowly pour caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed.

5) Add eggs & vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

6) Mix flour, baking powder and baking soda together in a separate bowl.

7) In another bowl, mix together the milk and apple cider. (It doesn't curdle!)

8) Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients.

9) When incorporated, add half of the milk/cider mixture, a little at a time.

10) Then add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk/cider mixture and finish with the dry ingredients.

(In theory I'm sure this works really well, but as I spent 10 minutes trying to determine whether or not the milk and cider would curdle when I mixed them together, I completely forgot to execute steps 8 and 9 and just dumped in the milk and cider all at once. So...if you're wondering whether or not this will kill the cupcakes, let me tell you that it won't!)

11) Once incorporated, add the apple vodka and beat for another 20-30 seconds.

12) Pour batter into cupcake liners, about 3/4 of the way to the top.

13) Bake at 350 degrees for ~25 minutes. (My second batch actually took 30-35 minutes to bake so make sure they're done before you take them out of the oven.)

Appletini Frosting
adapted from Cupcake Rehab's Vanilla Caramel Buttercream
  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 Cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 Cup milk
  • 1/4 Cup apple vodka
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a few drops green food coloring (optional)
  • green sugar crystals (optional)
  • Sugarbabies for topping the cupcakes (optional)
1) Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of the sugar and then the milk and and vanilla.

2) Beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.

3) Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition, until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency.

4) Add the green food coloring and mix thoroughly.

5) Before spreading on top of cupcakes, do the following:
  • Poke holes in the top of the cooled cupcakes
  • Pour 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon apple vodka over cupcakes
  • Let soak for 5-10 minutes
  • Spread a thin layer of caramel over the cupcakes

6) Spread frosting on top of cupcakes. (I was too lazy to pipe the frosting, but there was definitely enough frosting to pipe onto the cupcakes.)

7) Top cupcakes with a sprinkle of green sugar and a single Sugarbaby.

Before anyone states the obvious, I know that I did not include caramel in the frosting for my Caramel Appletini Cupcakes, even though I used a Vanilla Caramel Buttercream as a base recipe. Caramel extract is pretty hard to find these days, ya know.

The cupcakes were pretty sweet and denser than most other cupcakes I've made. This probably had to do with using mostly applesauce instead of butter. But the cupcake was still pleasantly moist. I didn't use as much confectioner's sugar in the frosting as I typically would. I didn't want the frosting to overtake the cupcake flavor. The frosting ended up being slightly sweet and pretty light, so I really enjoyed it.

I pretty much got the same reactions all-around: "Tastes good, but definitely not a Caramel Appletini flavor." Ugh. The fruit-cupcake-curse has struck yet again! But I agree. It was difficult to pinpoint the apple flavor. My client said she could see there was some sort of fruit in it, but wasn't sure which fruit. I thought the applesauce, apple cider, and apple vodka would be enough, but apparently not. Maybe there's an apple extract available on the interweb somewhere...

The caramel flavor was also not very prominent. Kimmy thought I should rename the cupcakes Apple Cider Cupcakes, since the apple was more outstanding than the caramel and apple vodka. Yes, sadly, I couldn't taste the vodka! It just goes from bad to worse. The cupcake was denser than other cupcakes I've made, so it is probable that the apple vodka was lost in there somewhere. I purposefully added more vodka to the cupcakes and the frosting in order to recapture this flavor, but somehow it still eluded me. Katrin says the cupcakes were good, but not the best that she's ever had from TBK. I understand. The cupcakes didn't really live up to their name. But I will persevere and keep trying to come up with additional recipes to wow my blog-stalkers (I know you're out there somewhere!) and my friends to whom I force-feed my creations.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes

The crazy cupcake lady is back! Betcha missed her! The other day, I realized that I hadn't created or blogged about anything new lately in the world of cupcakes.

Enter my friend's "Wine Tasting Party". Hmmm...somehow I still feel like we're still too young to really appreciate wine, but I was inspired by the concept. Why couldn't I make red wine cupcakes? So off I went to research this great new idea on the internet. And lo and's already been done. Yep. There are countless recipes on the internet dedicated to creating red wine cake/cupcakes. Why am I just hearing about this?!

Of all the web sites and blogs that I stumbled upon, my favorite was a blog called We are Not Martha. There's nothing scientific about how I chose their recipe. Their blog looked fun and of course, there was a giant "cupcake" cake in one of the red wine cupcake photos. Obviously, this was going to be a winner.

Red Wine Cupcakes
yields 25-30 cupcakes

  • 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 oz. chocolate chips (about 1/2 a regular bag of chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 C boiling water
  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 C flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 3/4 C red wine (I used a Shiraz, but you should use whichever wine you like to drink)
1) In a heatproof bowl combine cocoa powder and chocolate chips and pour in the boiling water.

2) Using a whisk, stir the chocolate until it’s all melted.

3) In a larger bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Then beat in each egg one at a time until they’re all mixed in.

4) In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then slowly add this to the mixture, making sure it’s all combined.

5) Add some of the chocolate to the mixture, then some of the wine, alternating until all of it is blended.

6) Pour batter into cupcake liners, about 3/4 of the way to the top.

7) Bake at 350 degrees for ~20 minutes.

This cupcake adventure is a little unusual for TBK. I don't usually use the cupcake recipe "as-is" from another blog, which is what I did here. Here's the reasoning: 1) Chocolate & Red Wine: If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it. Really, what could I do to enhance this cupcake? Not much. Although.... 2) I did find some Ikea Lingonberry jam in my refrigerator. (Lingonberries are pretty similar to cranberries, which I love!) I figured if I was going to use this jam in my cupcake, it would be best to use it in the cupcake frosting. The new name? Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes with Lingonberry Cream Cheese Frosting. Whew! That was a mouthful. Like I said, I didn't want to mess around with the cupcake any more than this.

As I started to create the frosting, I got a little anxious about the lingonberry cream cheese frosting. In the end, I decided it would be a good comparison project to frost half of the cupcakes with the regular cream cheese frosting and the other half with the lingonberry cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
(adapted slightly from We Are Not Martha's Red Wine Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting)
  • 1 C butter, room temperature
  • Salt, pinch
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 5-6 C confectioner sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 3 t Lingonberry jam for every 4 oz. cream cheese*
Note: If spreading the frosting onto the cupcakes, you only need to make half the recipe above. I piped the frosting so I needed to make the entire recipe.

1) Beat the butter with the salt until it’s nice and fluffy.

2) Add the cream cheese and continue beating until it’s all combined.

3) Add the powdered sugar to the bowl about 1/2 C at at a time and beat to combine. Keep adding more until the frosting is at the consistency and sweetness-level that you desire.

*4) If making the Lingonberry Cream Cheese Frosting, whisk in the Lingonberry jam until combined.

5) Spread or pipe onto cupcakes.

This cupcake is a favorite. I think it may have been a bit under-done, so I would recommend leaving the cupcakes in the oven for a full 20 minutes instead of the 18 minutes that I left them in for (hey, the toothpicks came out clean!). My cupcakes sank a bit once they came out of the over, no matter how much batter I put in the cups. So the cupcakes ended up being flat instead of slightly domed. Can someone tell me where I went wrong? Thankfully, I don't believe the cupcake flavor suffered at all from this.

The chocolate was rich and I could definitely taste the red wine flavor, minus the red wine's alcoholic content. The cream cheese frosting was excellent. It was buttery and fluffy. One taste tester said she would just eat it by itself, minus the cupcake. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I definitely understand! The lingonberry cream cheese frosting was sweet but also tart, which is to be expected. My roommate really enjoyed it with the cupcake. I don't have any pictures of the lingonberry frosting because it wasn't very photogenic. Imagine a red blobby mess and that was my lingonberry frosting. I used reduced fat cream cheese in my frosting, which I think led to the softer texture. There is a very important lesson to be learned here: Don't skimp on the fat!