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Entries in cupcake (14)

Wednesday
Mar272013

Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Cupcakes

The first signs of spring are arriving—slowly, ever so slowly, but surely. Living in the Upper Midwest, you might guess it to be the middle of winter if you took a peek outside my living room window. With twelve foot snow piles dotted around the buildings and snow drifts so tall it is difficult to see around intersections when driving a car, it certainly does not feel like the first day of spring has already come and gone. Just a few days ago, Mother Nature dropped the temperatures into negative digits once more; I have become so accustomed to the cold that I don't even wrap a scarf around my neck or reach for a hat before walking out the door.

It is hard for me to imagine that April is right around the corner.

Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Cupcakes Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Cupcakes

There is a ray of hope in all this snow, however, and it comes in the form of sunshine. Growing ever stronger, the rays are bright and warm in the sky, melting the snow and brightening the early morning hours even when the air is cold. When the light begins to fade at eight o'clock in the evening, I can scarcely believe my eyes (eight o'clock!). These small signs assure me that spring is near, even if it feels so far away right now.

When I was perusing the shelves of my local supermarket last weekend, I noticed that raspberries were on sale. While I know winter berries are not as vibrant in color or in flavor, I could not help but add a couple pints into my cart. After surviving on citrus fruits and apples since the advent of fall, I needed a little sweetness in my life in the form of a red, ripe berry.

Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Inspired by one of my favorite cupcake recipes, I swapped out the blueberries for red raspberries and a hint of lemon. A simple cream cheese frosting ties the flavors together. As with most of the sweets I bake in my kitchen, I feel they should be shared with others who may find a bit of happiness in a big bite. I took them to a gathering of friends and watched them disappear over the course of the evening. As I saw people reach for seconds (and thirds), I felt certain you would fall in love with them just as effortlessly.

In many ways, I feel as if this cupcake represents the transition between two places, between winter and spring. While the seasonal lemon is bright and fresh, ripe raspberries will be here sooner than I dare to believe—the merging of two seasons.

Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Cupcakes are vibrant, fresh, and perfect for the arrival of spring. A vanilla cupcake batter is infused with lemon zest, lemon juice, and few handfuls of red raspberries. The sweetness of the cupcake is countered by the tart fruits and the bold tang of the cream cheese frosting. Decorated with a few fresh raspberries, these simple cupcakes become a sophisticated dessert destined to be shared.

One Year Ago: Arborio Rice Pudding
Two Years Ago: Orange Scones

Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Yields about 18 cupcakes

Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes
3/4 cup (169 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 57 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1/3 cup (76 grams) sour cream (or plain, non-fat yogurt)
1/4 cup (59 ml) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (175 grams) cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces or 255 grams) fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a cupcake pan with baking cups.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar and lemon zest with your fingers until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes). Add the butter and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Gradually add in the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the milk and lemon juice, stirring until batter is uniform and smooth. Gently stir in the raspberries.

Fill baking cups about 2/3 full and bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack, and allow to cool to room temperature before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 57 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups (500 grams) powdered sugar

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. If frosting is too soft, add more powdered sugar until it reaches a spreadable consistency. Likewise, if the frosting is too stiff, add milk until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

Before serving, pipe or spread frosting on top of cooled cupcakes and decorate with a few fresh raspberries, if desired. If cupcakes will sit out more than a day, keep refrigerated in an airtight container to help preserve them. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday
Feb212013

Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream

Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream

Somewhere between the gentle rolling hills and foggy mists of England, I fell in love with black tea. After moving to the United Kingdom for a few months, surrounded by a new culture and colorful accent, afternoon tea seemed like a very British tradition to experience. Up until this point, I had never been much of a tea drinker, perhaps only stealing a cup of chai when my mother set the teapot to boil, but I still felt like I would grow to enjoy it.

Originating from a nation of coffee drinkers, tea sounded like a fresh, bright alternative to the acidic touch of a rudimentary coffee maker.

Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream

I remember my first trip to a British supermarket well. I paced up and down the aisles with an unusual level of fascination with the food lining the shelves. When I reached the tea section, I needed to take a moment to look over the vast display, feeling overwhelmed with choosing a place to begin my tea journey. I looked over different boxes in earnest, but with no concept of the difference between Earl Grey and Rooibos or English and Irish breakfast tea, it all felt as foreign to me as the new country I was in. I eventually snatched a box of PG Tips off the shelf, gambling with my future in tea.

Since that very first cup, brewed hot and fresh in my small dorm kitchen, I have not been able to turn back since. Black tea had utterly captured my heart.

Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream

Even now, I much prefer a mug of black tea to a mug of black coffee. On the weekends, when the morning is slow and responsibilities have been forgotten, I boil the water and brew the tea, adding a splash of milk and a drizzle of honey. You could, in many ways, call it my drink of choice.

Last weekend, while sipping a mug of tea and watching a winter storm turn the world white outside my window, I envisioned the flavors of my cup of tea as a slice of cake. Staying warm in my apartment, I started up the oven and turned my faint imaginings into a reality, creating a lovely little cake for two. My boyfriend, a strong believer in the powers of a good cup of coffee, fought me for the final piece. I think that speaks more about this cake than anything else.

Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream

Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream is a cup of tea turned into a slice of cake. The black tea cake is made by pouring the contents of three tea bags into warmed milk and allowing it to brew before adding the milk into the cake batter, tea leaves and all. The batter takes on a wonderful color, with specks of tea leaves to add a unique twist. After baking, the cake is topped with a honey buttercream that keeps the flavor without so much of the sweetness. The cake and buttercream taste just as their namesake, giving the classic cup of tea a new life. Tea lovers, this cake is just for you.

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Monday
Oct152012

Black Velvet Spider Cupcakes

Black Velvet Spider Cupcakes

In the middle of my childhood playroom sat a box of unspeakable horrors. Disguised as a brightly colored toy box, it frequently brought one of my adolescent fears to reality—my fear of spiders. The innocent toy box had a slight gap between the lid and the box. The occasional spider would crawl in under the cover of darkness leaving my sister and I to discover it in the morning. The toy box quickly became an object my sister and I dreaded to open. Though it held all of our favorite toys and games, we'd often weigh the possibility of finding spiders with childhood fun, deciding whether we wanted a toy badly enough to gamble the chance of arachnids.

The fear of spiders usually won.

Black Velvet Spider Cupcakes

When we were up for facing our fears, we'd slowly crack open the toy box together, our eyes immediately darting back and forth for signs of life (more often than not the spiders we encountered were already dead, but the sight of a spider, whether dead or alive, still elicited the same screams). Once the box stood open before us, we'd check whether the toy we desired sat on top or if it was buried deep in the pile. If it rested near the bottom of the box, the two of us would debate once more whether it was really really worth the chance.

If it was and we were feeling brave, I would roll up my sleeves, take a deep breath, and begin digging. As the older sibling, it was my responsibility to keep my little sister safe from the horrors of the world (and our toy box). Looking back, I can still feel the drop of my stomach and recall the real fear I felt as I carefully lifted each toy out of the way, inspecting it for creepy-crawlies.

Even today, the fears from childhood rush back whenever I must face the same toy box in my parent's basement to find a toy for a little cousin.

Black Velvet Spider Cupcakes

As I've grown older, my fear of spiders has, for most intents and purposes, disappeared. When I'm resting beneath the trees or walking on a nature trail, spiders and I can get along quite well together. I might even greet one hello if he treads close enough. Even so, I still don't like a visit from my spider friends when I'm not expecting it, as they dash across the bathroom floor when I step out of the shower or crawl up the white walls of the apartment as I'm watching television.

Afterwards, I can often be spotted chasing after them with a tissue, trying to convince the poor creatures that I'm not trying to kill them. After catching the frightened spider, I like to bring it outside and set him free. As I send him along his merry way, I politely ask him to visit the neighbors next time instead.

Black Velvet Spider Cupcakes

Black Velvet Spider Cupcakes are a wonderful addition to a Halloween menu. The flavor of the cupcakes match the classic red velvet cupcake, but are dyed black instead of the traditional red. These black velvet cupcakes can form the base of many Halloween inspired recipes, but today they are represented as frightful little spiders. A few decorative ingredients turn the black velvet cupcakes into creepy-crawly creatures which will (deliciously) frighten your guests.

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