one baker's humble attempt to change the world one cupcake at a time

MOVING MADNESS!

So from here on out, I will be posting with another blogging site at my very own DOT COM website: heyyyy www.youngidealisticbaker.com!!!

Please check it out! I’ve just posted a new (AWESOME) brownie recipe and have another post in the making to be up before the end of the week. You don’t want to miss them!

Thanks for reading, following, commenting, and in general for all of your interest. The baking continues at www.youngidealisticbaker.com and will only get more fun from here.

I can’t wait, and I hope you enjoy reading and maybe even duplicating recipes as much as I have been.

Love,

the Young Idealistic Baker (dot com)

Update

So, I haven’t baked anything new yet. I’m grocery shopping in an hour and baking ASAP.

A few updates though, so you’re not left wondering.

The website address will change — permanently — to youngidealisticbaker.com. I’m also going to be using a different hosting site so I doubt that typing in youngidealisticbaker.wordpress.com will automatically forward, but I will keep this site up with a link to the new site.

As far as new baking posts go, never fear! I have an idea for a slew of farmer’s market inspired dishes…Guess where I was this morning?

So, thanks for your patience and I will post a LINK to the blog site here as soon as I post my next recipe. The other site is already updated with all of the previous ones and can currently be found at yougidealisticbaker.blogspot.com and I will set it up to stand on its own (youngidealisticbaker.com) as soon as the next post is published.

In the meantime, please check it out and let me know what you think. (content, look, etc) This new blog is desperate for some comments and  loving from readers!

In addition to a better-equipped kitchen, baking at home offers another advantage to baking at school: the use of my dad’s digital SLR camera. While I love my pocket-sized camera, the SLR just does better with food. Using it, I get consistently clearer close-ups and better depth.

Before I went home last weekend, I asked my sister to make her recipe requests since we agreed to bake together. All she wanted was to replicate the Banana Oreo Muffins I posted a couple of weeks ago. Even though I wanted to try a new recipe using ingredients or baking ware that I don’t have easy (or free) access to at school, I decided to comply with my sister’s wish and asked my mom to buy bananas in advance so we’d have some nice mushy ones to work with. (For the full recipe, click the link.)

In between wedding festivities, my sister and I baked up a batch of muffins using the extremely ripe but never frozen bananas. As she obligingly mixed up the batter, I sliced up an extra banana to top the muffins. We also played with Oreo location again, splitting half of six Oreos into two pieces (one with cream and one without) and placing the cream topped half on the bottom and the other in the middle.

For the other six muffins, we placed full Oreos smack dab in the middle — I think these ones looked the best overall!

After the wedding festivities came to an end with brunch, I had time to play with dad’s camera and all of the props I could find in the house from my mom’s funky place settings to flowers brought home from the wedding Sunday night.

After a good 20 minutes of taking pictures of the muffins, I snapped a few of the cookie and M&M wedding party favors alongside the Florida Gators paraphernalia that my house has filled up with since my sister officially enrolled.

I always do my best to ensure my alma mater is well represented though — the introduction of Florida just adds a new element to the otherwise Big Ten dominated family rivalry (Michigan, Pennstate, and Wisconsin) that has been in effect since my first day as a Michigan Wolverine!

Back to the point. The bride and groom were both Gators and met while in school. Their school pride was well represented at the Rehearsal dinner in the form of party favors and again at the wedding in the form of a football helmet shaped cake.

Red Velvet!

The happy couple at their wedding

P.S. My blog moved! go to www.youngidealisticbaker.com to see my new yummy recipes!

Bon Appetite Dude!

This post is totally family inspired. Here it is broken down:

For a Fourth of July party, my dad made a watermelon salad (watermelon, red onion, mint, and lime juice) and I helped by preparing the watermelon and stashing a cup full aside for personal use. I also reserved a cup of the juice.

While my cupcakes were cooling, I searched the house for some kind of watermelon décor to use for a photograph. All I found was a hand-painted t-shirt in my sister’s closet.

My mom came home and found a watermelon plate that my sister had decorated when she was young. This plate became a prop and the basis for this post’s title. My mom also helped by holding the t-shirt up as I interrupted her dinner to take pictures.

So everyone in my family had a hand in this post, and with this particular post, I needed all the help I could get. Who would have guessed that making naturally watermelon flavored cupcakes would be so difficult? I guessed it actually, but not until after hours of research online.

A simple search for “watermelon cupcakes” provided dozens of beautiful cakes and cupcakes decorated to look like watermelons, but most of the recipes on these sites was for basic white or yellow cupcakes colored with food coloring. So, I turned to my favorite cupcake blogger who never fails to combine the craziest flavors to make deliciously weird sounding cupcakes. The peach tea cupcakes were her creation, but so are these avocado lime cupcakes and olive oil cupcakes with balsamic vinegar frosting. Both of these are on my to-do list!

But lo and behold, even Steph of cupcakeproject.com hadn’t come up with a successful watermelon cupcake. She has two posts that are titled attempt 1 and attempt 2, with a promise of a third attempt to come. A little disappointed, but not altogether discouraged, I studied her recipes and notes carefully, read through all the suggestions from her readers, and continued planning my cupcakes.

I started with a very simple white cake recipe (named accordingly) from allrecipes.com and began adapting.

Homemade watermelon plate - before we found my sister's

I ended with this strawberry watermelon cupcake recipe. The strawberries were a last minute addition because I was afraid that if the watermelon flavor didn’t show up, plain white cupcakes would be too boring and I wanted something to fall back on. A second motivating factor for adding the strawberries was the fact that they were beginning to get really old and I can’t even begin to express how frustrated I have been getting with prematurely molding fruit.

As my cupcakes baked, I pondered topping possibilities. I thought that watermelon buttercream frosting might have overpowered the cupcakes whereas a simple dusting of powdered sugar might not have been enough. I looked up glazes and simple syrups (because I wasn’t confident that I knew the difference between the two) and decided to start with a watermelon simple syrup and turn it into a glaze.

In case you were wondering, a simple syrup has a sugar to water ratio of about 1 to 1, while a glaze has a sugar to water ratio of about 1 cup to 1 tablespoon.

I made the simple syrup over the stove, let it cool, and then brushed the cupcakes with it before I made the glaze. I figured it couldn’t hurt to add more watermelon flavor and moisture to the cupcakes.

Despite my best efforts to infuse cupcakes with watermelon, flavor-wise the cupcakes were still lacking. The texture was great and overall, the cupcakes were moist and delicious, but they just weren’t watermelon-y enough.

The cupcake batter had plenty of watermelon pieces in it and the syrup was strongly flavored, so I’m not exactly sure how the flavor disappears in the cupcakes. I think the sugar eats it. Still, these cupcakes are delicious and refreshing, so they’ve earned their 10 seconds of fame amongst my small, but wonderful audience. I also wanted to share the pictures!

Strawberry Watermelon Cupcakes: (makes 12)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup finely sliced strawberries
  • ¾ cups finely sliced watermelon

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pan with liners
  • Cream butter and sugars
  • Add eggs, one at a time
  • Add vanilla
  • Sift dry ingredients together
  • Add dry ingredients and milk to batter and blend well
  • Mix in sliced watermelon and strawberries
  • Evenly distribute batter and bake for 20-22 minutes, until the center no longer looks juicy (these cupcakes will continue to feel juicy after cooled — a testament to their moisture-packed innards)

Mint-infused Watermelon Syrup Recipe: (Adapted from marthastewart.com)

  • ¾ cup watermelon juice (or a cup if you have it — I didn’t)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bunch of mint

Directions:

  • Heat 5 minutes on low-heat
  • Let sit 5 more minutes
  • Pour through a strainer to remove mint leaves
  • Bring to room temperature or refrigerate for further use
  • The directions say that this can be refrigerated indefinitely. Hello, Mojito!

I actually did make mojitos with this syrup. Use it to substitute mint and sugar and you’re in business!

Watermelon Mint Glaze

Mix about 1 ½ cups powdered sugar with about 5 tablespoons of your mint-infused watermelon syrup. Start with about a cup of powered sugar and 3 tablespoons of syrup, adding the rest slowly and stopping when you’re happy with the consistency. It should be pretty thick but also runny enough to drip over cupcakes. Be aware, this process will be messy and sticky unless you’re more coordinated than I am.

Watermelon Mojito Recipe (makes one)

  • 1 oz or less watermelon mint syrup (any more and it will be too sweet)
  • 1 -2 oz clear rum (depending on how strong you like you’re drinks)
  • 3 oz soda water
  • 1 squeeze of lime (as much as you like)
  • serve over ice and garnish with fresh mint leaves if you’d like

Drink responsibly!

P.S. My blog moved! For more yummy recipes go to www.youngidealisticbaker.com!

Groovy Tie-Dyed Fireworks Cake

I have to be honest here. I did not make this cake for the Fourth of July. I didn’t make anything in fact, despite high hopes (and drooling at the thought) of red velvet AND lemon ricotta pancakes alternating in a stack, topped with blueberries and whipped cream. Oh well, maybe next year.

The reason I was never able to make these fantasy pancakes was not due to laziness, but do a far more important post-wedding brunch I attended this morning. The wedding festivities actually kept me busy for most of the weekend, but I was able to bake and photograph one batch of treats — more on that later.

The cake featured here was made for my sisters’ and my graduation party way back when, to accompany those delicious peanut butter button cookies that disappeared all too soon. I found the original “groovy cake” on cuteeverything.com, and did my best to replicate the look.

Almost every component of this cake came from a box, can, or tube, making it incredibly easy.

Step One: Make a batch of white cake batter (I used a box)

Step Two: Separate about half of the batter into four small bowls and add food coloring until you have vibrantly colored batter

Step Three: Spoon batter into a greased cake pan, alternating colors and using the white batter as a base until all of the batter is transferred to the pan and you have a fun and splotchy mess of a cake

Step Four: Bake cake according to your recipe’s directions

Step Five: Allow cake to cool COMPLETELY

Step Six: Frost the cake with white frosting (I used frosting from a can)

Step Seven: Using gel coloring pens (or something similar), draw hexagons in groups of three or four (to create a spider web effect) in alternating colors randomly across the cake

Step Eight: Draw a toothpick through the colors to create the firework effect

Step Nine: Add skittles around the base of the cake, to the centers of each firework and randomly around the cake however you see fit

Step 10: Serve, and smile politely as people “ooh” and “ah” over the surprise tie-dyed interior

Before I could even snap a picture, my sneaky friend crept up behind me and stole a bite. Some people!

Happy Independence Day!!

P.S. My blog has moved! For more yummy recipes, go to www.youngidealisticbaker.com!

I’ve been desperately trying to recreate a complicated and intriguing recipe I found on Paula Deen’s website ages ago, but have been unable even to equip my kitchen with all the necessary ingredients and tools until now.

The recipe calls for overly ripened peaches, so I bought several peaches that were nowhere near ripe, and waited for them to ripen.

In the meantime, I bought a “fine sieve,” which to me, translated to a berry strainer. (From the looks of pictures online and the result of my cupcakes, I think I guessed the meaning correctly.)

Then, I bought mint as a garnish, returned home to my peaches only to find that they had become extra furry — moldy, in fact. These went in the trash right away.

I bought four very ripe peaches to replace the first lost cause, and pledged to bake the following day. After a busy day of working in a psychology lab as a research assistant and babysitting a family as, well, a babysitter, I returned home to start my cupcakes and was hard at work until close to midnight.

To add further insult to injury, one of my peaches molded over night. I was quite perturbed!

I made Earl Grey tea-infused butter relatively early in the evening so that the melted butter would have time to solidify by the time I wanted to use it. There were no pictures online of what the butter should look like once infused with tea, but mine took on a nice olive green color and looked totally unappetizing.

Looks delicious right?

Here, it looks even better

Sarcasm does not translate so well online — something to remember!

Overall, these cupcakes have the strangest texture I’ve ever seen in a cupcake. When they were done baking, they sort of looked like sponge cakes, and when I ate one sans frosting but fresh from the oven, it felt like I was eating peach tea. It was a very bizarre and enjoyable experience.

I chose to pipe on my frosting because I loved the picture on Paula Deen’s website, and wanted to replicate the look of those cupcakes.

Cupcake Recipe found and Frosting Recipe adapted from Pauladeen.com, created by Stefani Pollack of cupcakeproject.com.

Yields 18 regular cupcakes, but I decided to make 12 regular size cupcakes and 12 mini cupcakes. 24 > 18 — It’s pretty simple math.

For the tea-infused butter:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • about 1/3 cup whole leaf Early Grey tea (I used a fancy one called Royal Green, which may be responsible for the bright green hue)

Directions:

  • Melt the butter in a sauce pan on medium high until it has all just melted
  • Add tea leaves and stir for five minutes (the instructions on Paula Deen don’t say stir, but I impulsively did, so I think it’s fine either way)
  • Remove from heat and let it stand for five more minutes (I didn’t stir here)
  • Pour the mixture through a fine strainer (sieve) and press hard on the tea leaves to squeeze out all the butter. If you spill any leaves into the bowl, grab another and restrain.
  • Let it cool to room temperature and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it (If it is warmer/colder than room temperature when you want to use it, wait until it is)

Those are the messiest looking instructions I’ve ever seen. Sorry about that. The rest of the steps will be more straightforward I promise.

Cupcake Recipe:

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1/3 cup tea-infused butter (probably all of the butter you’ll be left with after straining)
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped overripe (but not moldy) peaches

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix sugar and zest and allow to sit for 30 minutes (or until you become too anxious to wait any longer)
  • Cream tea-infused butter with sugar zest mixture
  • Beat in eggs one at a time
  • Add ginger
  • Alternate adding flour and milk, a little at a time
  • Fold in peaches
  • Distribute evenly among cupcake liners and bake for 20 minutes (Here, the directions say bake until cupcakes bounce back on you when lightly touched. They sort of did after 20 minutes, and were starting to brown around the edges so I took them out)

Frosting Recipe:

  • 12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • a small squeeze of lemon (about 1/5 of the lemon’s juice)

Directions:

  • Blend cream cheese and butter until fluffy
  • Add powdered sugar a bit at a time
  • Add lemon and blend once more for good measure

I adapted the frosting recipe slightly because I only had 2 tablespoons left of butter. In fact, after these cupcakes, I’ve exhausted my butter, powdered sugar, and all-purpose flour supplies! I can’t complain much though because the resulting Peach Tea Cupcakes Topped With Cream Cheese Frosting Garnished with a Mint Leaf (whew, that’s a mouthful!) were totally worth it. My dutiful taste testers have named it a favorite!

Decorating Directions (if you so desire):

  • Put the inside piece (I don’t know the correct term) of a coupler inside a disposable pastry bag
  • Fill the bag 2/3 full of frosting (you’ll refill before you’re done, but it’s much easier to handle the bag this way)
  • Cut off the tip of the bag and attach a star shaped tip (I used a number 32) with the outside piece of the coupler
  • Practice piping into your bowl of extra frosting (waste not want not) and once you’re comfortable, pipe cupcakes from the outside in.

For  a better description of how to use disposable pastry bags, check out bakeat350.blogspot.com‘s tutorial.

And while I don’t actually grow mint in my little herb garden, I thought it would still be appropriate to set up a photograph with a plant in the background — just pretend that plant isn’t cilantro!

P.S. My blog has moved! For more yummy recipes, go to www.youngidealisticbaker.com!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuffed with PRIDE!

After I posted yesterday, I got a phone call from my friend in New York. He was standing at the start of the Pride Parade, and called to say he missed me and wished I were there. This saddened me for two reasons:

  1. I really miss him too
  2. I really love the Pride Parade

Pride Parade Two Years Ago

Another

And Another

After our phone call, I decided I had to bake something rainbow to honor the Pride Parade. Unfortunately, most rainbow colored treats require a fair amount of prep work, dying the dough and whatnot, and I didn’t have the time. Thank goodness for rainbow sprinkles!

A while back, I found a recipe for Oreo stuffed Funfetti cookies that were covered in rainbow sprinkles. I borrowed the concept, but not the recipe because I had a bag of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix in my kitchen.

Stuffed with Pride Rainbow Oreo Cookies

How I made them:

  • Cut out as many circles as possible with a diameter or 3 inches or less (but bigger than an Oreo cookie)
  • Refrigerate for an hour or so
  • Top cookies with rainbow sprinkles
  • Put an Oreo in the center of a cookie, top with another, and pinch the edges together
  • Refrigerate again for about an hour
  • Bake for 9-10 minutes

How I think I should have made them (what I’ll do next time)

  • Cut out circles and top with sprinkles before refrigerating the cookies
  • After Oreos are nicely pocketed between two sugar cookies, refrigerate the cookies for much longer than one hour (probably three or more)

While these cookies weren’t as perfectly pretty as the ones I found online, the taste was dead on and the rainbow sprinkles made me smile!

P.S. My blog has moved! For more yummy recipes, go to www.youngidealisticbaker.com!

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