Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Funk cupcakes, double chocolate cupcakes, buckeyes and a baking fail

Saturday was a day of basketball for me. The best kind — college basketball, in person. My friend Erin was in town from Colorado, and we went to the KU-Colorado game with some other friends. It was fun, as men's games always are. I always get chills when I see that pregame video, with the likes of Danny Manning, Wilt, Mario's shot. It's awesome. But the second game we went to was the women's basketball game, and I'd never been to one before. We sat with Malcolm, our Kansan news adviser. It was really fun, and we were only a couple rows up. One player scored 31 points. 31! And we were playing Mizzou. No matter what sport it is, I will always be happy when we beat Mizzou. Pretty sure I was raised to hate the Tigers, and I actually have to check myself from hating them too much. Whatever, it's a college rivalry. And I love it!

Well, it's kind of the opposite of that hatred, but for Valentine's Day, I made some really chocolate-y cupcakes. I'm not a chocolate person, really, but someone at work asked me to make cupcakes for his wife for the holiday and include lots of chocolate. So I made these. Nothing out of the norm, really: they're my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe and that fudge frosting I used for my Kansas Day cake. Super yummy.

My other cupcakes of the week were inspired by my friend Christy at work. She said I should make funk cupcakes, and these were born. They're red velvet (for crushed velvet, get it?!) with a cream cheese frosting. The frosting was originally based off George Clinton's hair...and if you don't know who that is, please go listen to "Give Up the Funk" right now. A little multi-colored edible glitter and we're good to go! I posted these over at Hoosier Homemade's Cupcake Tuesday. (Edit: I was asked how I got the frosting that way. I painted a piping bag with stripes of gel food coloring and put the icing in, and voila! rainbow-striped frosting.)

Then on Sunday I did another baking day at Aunt Betty's. We did buckeyes again. They're darn tasty. I took them to a city-wide trivia contest I did with Jonathan, Trevan and Nick. A few people came by to sample I didn't have a whole lot to share. These are one treat, though, that I don't mind keeping to myself.

Last, and least, might be the worst dessert we've made. These are madeleines, a traditional French cake shaped like a sea shell. We got the recipe from a Martha Stewart cookbook, and they're rosewater madeleines. They look darn pretty, but they used SO much rosewater (two tablespoons PLUS two teaspoons) that when you tasted them, it was like gulping perfume. Or eating a bar of soap. YUCK. They sure looked nice though!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chicago cupcake crawl

This weekend was my trip to Chicago with Kelly to visit Megan. It was a great time, and actually the weather wasn't that bad. Unfortunately, Kansas had prepared me for freezing temperatures, and even snow flurries wasn't going to stop us from going on Michigan Ave. Also, we did a cupcake crawl, visiting five different cupcake bakeries. Originally we planned for eight, but after a certain point, they're too darn far apart! Here is my trip in pictures.

First, we went to Sprinkles Bakery, which was made famous in California (and whose founder is a judge on Cupcake Wars!). We got a black and white, which was a chocolate cake with white frosting (left), a chai latte cupcake (back) and chocolate marshmallow, which is also the first picture up top. The cupcakes were excellent! The chai one was very fall-y. The marshmallow filling in the chocolate marshmallow was great too.

Next we visited More Cupcakes, which Megan gets to her office all the time. We got a "flight" of these mini cupcakes, which were all alcohol-based. From the bottom, they were margarita, pina colada, pomegranate mojito, lemon drop, gin and juice and white russian.

They were very creative and tasty, although you couldn't really taste the alcohol in them. I think the pomegranate mojito one was my favorite, because it had a little bit of pomegranate filling.

Kelly also got a chocolate hazelnut one here, with a hazelnut bark. I'm not a huge fan of chocolate, but it was pretty good, especially with its filling.

The next day we went to Swirlz Cupcakes. They had a very pretty spread, as you can see.

There we got vanilla with chocolate icing, red velvet and the surprise cupcake (top), which was a chocolate cupcake with a raspberry icing. Megan got the gluten-free version, which was surprisingly good. The icing on the vanilla cake was unbelievable. I liked my red velvet, but I like my cream cheese icing colder.

Next was Molly's Cupcakes, which wins the award for most interesting bakery we visited. Inside, there were swings for sitting at the counter. Yes, swings. The tables were awesomely bright colors, and the music was Taylor Swift and Ke$ha. Needless to say, we liked it.

The variety of flavors was amazing too. They had basic flavors, but we went for the interesting stuff. Starting at top left and going clockwise, we got the "Ron Bennington," chocolate peanut butter Butterfinger, which had completely ganache-based frosting and a peanut butter filling. Next was the cake batter cupcake, which had a cake batter filling as well (picture above). Then the "Cookie Monster," the cookie dough cupcake, with cookie dough filling. Then the peanut butter Nutella, with a light frosting and Nutella filling.

I think this bakery was my favorite of the trip. The atmosphere was so fun, and the choices in cupcakes were just crazy. And everything tasted wonderful.

Our last bakery was Sweet Mandy B's, Megan's favorite bakery close to her place in Lincoln Park. I went there last time I was in town, but they didn't have a whole lot of variety that time. This time, they had a crazy amount of sweets, going way beyond cupcakes.

They had chocolate-covered pretzels, cookies, all kinds of sweets and various cupcakes, obviously. Kelly got a snickerdoodle cupcake. I got the lemon and white with purple frosting. Megan got chocolate.

This was my favorite basic cupcake. The cake was moist, and the frosting was unbelievable. I can see why it's so popular.

We definitely ate our fair share of cupcakes, but with the amount of walking we did around the city, I think it was fair to eat that many :) Now here's the rest of the trip in pictures, starting with this one, which was our view when landing in Chi-town.

Kelly and I went to the Art Institute of Chicago. These were some of our favorite pieces, which played on words. The one on the right is named 4 1/2 oxen. So cool.

We visited Shedd Aquarium, one of my favorite places in the city. The hour+ wait, however, was not fun. Worth it though.

They have a pretty awesome variety of animals.

My favorites, of course, are the otters, which are hard to get a decent picture of because they're always moving!

And of course, we definitely hit up Michigan Avenue, a must for Chicago shopping. We went twice. All in all, this was a great trip with great friends. Definitely a nice break from life in a gorgeous city.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Snowstorm baking: Thin Mint cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, jelly roll cake

So on Tuesday, I made my TV debut. I went on Jayni's Kitchen, our local station's cooking show. Let me tell you, it's completely and totally weird to see yourself on TV. I hear myself talk, watch how much butter goes into frosting (I think it's better people don't know that sort of thing), see myself awkwardly bite into a cupcake I've just frosted. Weird. Even weirder is when it gets turned on in the newsroom and a bunch of my coworkers watch it. Eeek! All weirdness/embarrassment aside, it was pretty awesome. I got to be on TV and do something I really love. I got a call yesterday while at work from a source from a story I wrote who had just seen me on TV. Not a lot beats that for improving a day. I'm hoping to get a video of my segment to post here. We'll see.

I was in part of that massive snow storm that hit the midwest last week. What that meant was my little car was not getting out of the house for a few days. I actually had to have my boss drive me to work one day. You know what else that meant? I ran out of white sugar because I couldn't get to the grocery story. I had no idea that was even possible. But it was, and I wanted to bake. So I searched for a cookie recipe that used only brown sugar, and found this one. Seriously, I think I found a new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. SO GOOD. They stayed soft and awesome and so wonderful. Who knew the snowstorm could bring good?

Another snowy dessert were these Thin Mint cupcakes. Who doesn't love Girl Scout cookie season? I saw this recipe on Langes Fadchen, Faules Madchen, a blog I follow, and knew immediately I wanted to make them. So I went to my fellow reporter Mark, whose daughter was my cookie hookup. A box of Thin Mints later, these cupcakes were born. I got two votes in the newsroom of best cupcakes yet, and I get why. Thin Mint on bottom, Thin Mint on top, minty frosting, Thin Mint truffle in the middle of a chocolate cupcake. Thin Minty-goodness all around.

Even better than the cupcake? The thank you card I got from Mark's kids for the cupcakes, diagram included. That, and the video of his son enjoying them. Seriously, cutest kid video ever.

I went home last weekend to see Grandma for the first time since she got out of the hospital. We watched Fantasia 2000, which has a scene with "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin. She started talking about how she remembered that song when she was young. I looked it up, and the song was released in Grandma predates it by four years. Then we watched Fantasia, and she talked about how that came out while she was in college (1940). We also watched Bringing Up Baby with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant and a leopard. I love going home to watch old movies with her. I also made a jelly roll cake while I was there, with a chocolate genoise cake from my Joy of Cooking and a Swiss meringue buttercream. Darn tasty, and the picture was taken on one of Cathie's tablescapes.

And a neat picture of Grandma. This was one of her favorite toys as a kid: Olive Oyl. You press the button on the bottom and she kind of collapses. It was one of my favorites at her house as a kid too. I like seeing the two together. Also, this weekend: cupcake crawl in Chicago!! Can't wait!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

First baking goal achieved: souffle, plus farmyard cake pops, Kansas day cake and potato chip cookies

When I was in school, my friends would often poke fun at me for how often I traveled (among many other things). Fall break, winter break, spring break, summer break. I wouldn't go somewhere every break, but pretty darn close. Chicago multiple times, Vegas a couple, NYC, Arizona, California (attempted but derailed by the airlines), Texas, Memphis, etc. I know it sounds super expensive to do all that, but to me, it's incredibly important to take time away from work and spend money on things I know will make me relaxed and that I will enjoy.

After not really traveling since last July (and that was a bit of a train wreck of a trip), I'm itching to get away. First up: Chicago. In a couple weeks I will be strolling down Michigan Avenue, probably in freezing cold weather and a bit (I hope only a bit!) of snow, but I can't wait. On the list of things to do: a cupcake crawl. Kelly is going up there with me and we're hanging out with Megan the whole time. My mom is coming down to meet us for a day too. I'm so excited to get back up to one of my favorite cities!

So last Monday I was off because I switched a shift (and taped Jayni's Kitchen — it's on next Tuesday, Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m.!), so I went to Aunt Betty's to bake. On the list was one of my baking goals, souffle. It was out of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," only the second recipe I've made from there (after the chocolate almond cake that was so darn good). We made plain ol' vanilla, but it was darn good. It rose like it was supposed to and was an excellent dessert.

I was also jonesing to make some cake pops. I've made plenty of plain ol' round ones, but I was ready to branch out and start decorating them. I went with the barnyard animals of cows and pigs. The cows looked a little goofy I think, but the pigs were really cute. I just thought this picture was funny.

I wrote about this the other day, but a quick update: for Kansas Day I made a cake and a how-to video. Yellow cake with fudge icing and chocolate sunflower seeds. I will most definitely be using that icing recipe good!

And last, another recipe I made for work for a story Sarah was writing. These are potato chip cookies, and they're just as weird as they sound. They're an interesting mix of salty and sweet and don't really spread, but they seemed to be a big hit in the newsroom.

Photo credits: cake photo taken by Richard Gwin, cookie photo taken by Mike Yoder
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