Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I'm still here!

Hey friends!

I promise I'm still here. I got a new job and it's taking me a little time to adjust to the changes and I haven't baked for awhile (sad, I know!). I'm working on some new posts and getting ready to do some giveaways! I can't wait! My youngest Little is going to be 1 soon, so I've started gathering ideas for her birthday. I can't wait to share with you!

What have you guys been up to? Have you baked or cooked anything fun? I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting with Strawberry Compote

Frosting is one of my weaknesses. I love a good frosting! You can transform a good or even a mediocre cake into something delicious with the right frosting. I have to thank my Aunt Karen and my cousin, Cheri, for the recipe. They made chocolate cupcakes with a version of this frosting and I fell in love. The recipe was originally made with raspberry extract, but I modified it a little and used strawberry extract. The beauty of this recipe is that you can use any extract you want and it will taste great.

I made chocolate cupcakes for my birthday and I thought a strawberry frosting would be awesome because I was craving chocolate dipped strawberries when deciding what to make. I love using extracts in baking and I wanted an even more potent strawberry flavor so I opted to add a compote to the frosting. What is a compote you ask? It's basically a fancy French word for fruit that has been boiled down and reduced in water and sugar with or without spices. When you made a compote, it basically concentrates the flavor of whatever fruit you are using. You cook it down until it's a jam-like consistency, so it's perfect for adding flavor to frostings or cakes because most of the moisture is evaporated and you are left with an intense fruit flavor. I also loved how fresh it made this frosting taste. I prefer using a compote rather than a fruit puree because the flavor isn't as strong with a puree and you also have to worry about excess moisture. If you don't want to take the time to make a compote, you could use a couple tablespoons of fruit puree, just know that it won't be as strong of a fruit flavor. Or you could even use a tablespoon or two of a seedless jam preserve. You can use almost any fresh or frozen berries for a compote. I opted for frozen because this is not the peak season for strawberries and frozen would be a better choice for getting more full-flavored berries. This frosting is also very sweet, so I'd make sure to use it with a cake flavor that will balance that out.

Now about extracts. Finding a good extract that doesn't taste artificial is hard to find. I love baking with extracts, but sometimes it takes some work to find good ones. I used strawberry extract from Beanilla. The quality for price can't be beat and the flavor is amazing! It tastes like fresh strawberries and it enhanced the strawberry compote perfectly.

Here's what you need to make the compote:
-1 pint of fresh or frozen strawberries *If using fresh strawberries, you will need to add some water to bottom of pan to prevent burning
-Juice from one medium lemon
-2-3 TBS vanilla sugar (or you can use agave, honey, or regular table sugar)

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Cook over medium heat for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. This may take more or less time. Just make sure you pay attention to the liquid. You want the mixture to look thick like jam. Remove from heat and cool slightly before adding to cake batter. You want it to be cooled entirely before adding to frosting so that it doesn't melt the fat in your frosting. When I made this compote the strawberries were broken down enough that I didn't need to put it into a blender or food processor. If you want a smoother consistency, blend it until smooth before adding to your frosting.

*Note: You will not use all the compote for your frosting. You can also put the rest into whatever cake batter you are using if you want a more intense strawberry flavor.

Here's what you need for the frosting: This will bake enough to frost 24 cupcakes or frost and fill (1) 9-in. round cake.

-1/2 C butter, room temp
-8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
-4 oz. white chocolate chips, melted
-1 tsp. vanilla
-2-4 tsp. strawberry extract (may need more depending on the quality of your berries used for the compote)
-1/2 C strawberry compote, room temp
-4-5 C powdered sugar
-2-3 drops of food coloring, optional

1. Using a standing or hand mixer, whip cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Turn off mixer and add melted chocolate. To melt chocolate, melt over a double-boiler, use a chocolate melter or microwave in 30 second intervals on 30% power. Immediately whip to incorporate. It's important to add the chocolate all at once because if you try incorporating it slowly, it will solidify and make lumps in the frosting.

2. After chocolate is incorporated, add butter and whip for another minute. Add vanilla, strawberry extract, compote and food coloring if desired. Stir until incorporated. Add powdered sugar and mix until incorporated and then whip an additional minute so that frosting is light and fluffy.

Use to fill or frost cakes or cupcakes. This frosting will store for about a week in the fridge in an airtight container. If you use frosting after refrigeration, allow to come to room temp and whip until frosting is fluffy.

Here is the printable recipe.

Enjoy and Happy Baking!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chocolate Cake/Cupcakes

I LOVE a good chocolate cake. This is one of my favorite go-to recipes. It's so easy to make, it turns out perfect every time and I always have the ingredients in my pantry. It's just as easy to make as using a cake mix and tastes SO much better.

One of my favorite memories from growing up was making this cake on Sunday evenings with my family. Sundays were church and family day and after Sunday dinner it was kind of tradition to make some type of treat (or Mollicks as we like to call them in my family). My brother, Andy, always seems to be the unofficial person that made this cake. It was kinda his thing. We would take a piece of warm cake right out of the oven and pour cold milk over it and devour it. We also affectionately referred to this cake as "snacking cake" because it is so delicious by itself that you don't need any frosting. Not that a good frosting would hurt this cake, but it really is so yummy plain. I made these cupcakes for my birthday with a fresh strawberry frosting that was so yummy. Honestly, this is my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe.

This recipe is versatile because it makes a great cake, double-layer cake or cupcakes. The cupcakes are slightly dense and very moist. They also hold up really well when doing filled cupcakes.

Here's what you need:
-1/2 C butter (one stick), room temperature
-1 1/2 C sugar
-2 eggs
-2 tsp. vanilla
-1/4 C cocoa powder (double this if you want a more intense chocolate flavor)
-2 C all-purpose flour
-1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1 tsp. salt
-1 1/4 C water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Cream together until fluffy, about a minute. Add eggs and vanilla and mix to combine evenly.

2. In a separate bowl combine all dry ingredients and whisk together to incorporate them. If you want to sift them together you can, but I just give it a quick stir with a whisk to make sure all dry ingredients are incorporated.

3. Pour half of the water into first wet mixture  Mix just until combine. Pour in half of dry mixture and mix just until combine. Pour the remaining half of water into bowl and mix until combine. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients.

4. Grease and flour baking pan or use cupcake liners. If using (2) round pans, I always line the bottom of pan with a circle of parchment paper to ensure that cakes can be easily removed from the pan.

Cupcakes: Fill liners 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
Cake 9x13: Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes
(2) 9-in round cakes: Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes

**Cakes are done with you touch the center of the cake and it springs back without leaving an indent of your finger. Or when you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean. I always bake the minimum time and then recheck it every minute or two until done. 

5. For round cakes and cupcakes: Remove pan(s) from oven and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Remove cake or cupcakes and transfer to a cooling rack. You can frost once cake is completely cooled.
    For 9x13 cake: Remove from oven and eat cake while warm or allow to cool completely in pan before frosting.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Frosting

Here is the printable recipe.

Enjoy and Happy Baking!