Three years ago today I started Bella Eats. This little site was much different then, dedicated to a healthy diet and my progress in training for a 10-mile race. Today I bring you cupcakes. My, how things have changed. :)
Thank you to all of you still here from that first year, and all of you who have found me along the way. I can't wait to see what year four has in store!
Frosting Ingredients (you may want to doule this if you like a lot of frosting. this recipe makes enough for a decent dollop on each cupcake)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 350℉. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, sugars, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
Divide the batter among the prepared tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
Cream the butter in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar and beat on medium high until fluffy. Scrape the bowl again. Add the maple syrup and beat until well combined.
There's something in the water around here. It seems as if Brian and I are surrounded by friends having babies! We have officially become the only couple amongst our close Charlottesville friends who does not have a tiny addition to the family. And, it kind of freaks me out. Just a bit. We're not ready for all of that yet, but it sure does get the gears in your head turning when you're tickling those tiny toes or witnessing first giggles. Those turning gears, they're something that I was never all that sure I would experience and now that I am...wow. Mind-boggling. Brian has asked me more than once who I am and what I've done with his wife, for this whole biological clock thing was never something that either one of us gave a whole lot of merit. Well it exists, I assure you.
The arrival of these tiny humans brings along something that I can wrap my mind around...baby parties. The kind where both men and women are invited, and the focus is on good food and fun [yard] games and great friends giving advice to the new parents-to-be. I love an excuse to plan a party, and the arrival of a new being sure seems like a wonderful reason to celebrate!
A couple of Saturdays ago I helped to plan a baby party for our good friends Tommy and Kristin. Their little girl arrives in just over a month, and we couldn't be more excited and happy for them! This party was a fiesta of sorts, decorated with bright balloons and citrus-y hues. We had carnitas tacos, and veggie tacos, and cilantro lime slaw, guacamole, black beans, and dulce de leche cupcakes. I fully intended to photograph the carnitas to share with you but, well, when you're co-hosting the party it is tough to remember to pick up your camera. I did manage to capture some images of the cupcakes, so they will have to do. I promise, you won't be disappointed.
These cupcakes come from Joy, who never ceases to amaze me with the cleverness of her recipes. If I think of something, chances are Joy's already done it. And every single recipe I've ever tried of hers has been a winner, so I typically don't question her methods. This was no exception. Seriously, who could go wrong with cream cheese and dulce de leche whipped into a buttercream frosting? It is one of the best things you'll ever taste, I promise.
3/4 cup dulce de leche (I used canned, Nestle brand, dulce de leche. Not the best, and next time I'll find a better brand, but it still worked well in the frosting.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
To make the cupcakes:
Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two cupcake pans with paper or foil liners. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and pale brown, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add one egg. Beat on medium for one minute. Add the remaining eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute between each addition. Stop the bowl and scrape down the sides as necessary. Beat in vanilla extract.
Add half of the flour mixture to the egg and butter mixture. Beat on low speed and slowly drizzle in the buttermilk. Beat until just incorporated. Stop the mixer, scrape down the bowl and add the rest of the dry ingredients. Beat on low speed until just incorporated. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and finish incorporating with a spatula. Try not to over mix.
Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake pans, filling each liner about 2/3 full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the cakes comes out clean. Let rest in the cupcake pans before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Cupcakes should be completely cooled before frosting.
To make the frosting:
Place cream cheese in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds, until very soft and pliable. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the butter and dulce de leche. Beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Stop the mixer and add the salt and powdered sugar. Beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until fluffy and lighter in color.
Use a large frosting tip to swirl the frosting onto the tops of the cupcakes.
Garnish with fleur de sel, or coarse sea salt.
For more pictures of Tommy + Kristin's baby party, visit the AHPhoto blog!
Here we are at the end of March. Spring has claimed her space and unpacked her bags, kicked off her shoes and accepted a glass of lemony iced tea. She's fully settled in and ready to chat for awhile, her pony-tail bobbing enthusiastically as she shows you what's in store for the next few months.
There are predictions of 83* sunny days in Charlottesville this weekend...83*! That is shorts weather, my friends, and tank tops and strappy sandals and [eek!] swim suits weather. It was all very exciting until I pulled out a pair of those shorts last night and realized that this month coming to an end, the month full of birthdays and cake and cocktails, has done a number on certain, *ahem*, areas. Those well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions set in January were shaken with the arrival of Brian’s birthday 29 days ago, and continued to slowly slip away as we celebrated our way through March.
This last weekend was the culmination of all of that good cheer. With my Daddy in town for four days spoiling us rotten, there were indulgent meals shared at favoriterestaurants and bottles of wine Brian and I could never justify buying ourselves. As a “thank you!” for all of that generosity we had a little barbeque Saturday afternoon, complete with Double H Farm baby back ribs smoked on the Big Green Egg, the best baked beans I’ve ever had, salad with a hearty base of [local!] emerald green spinach and a delightfully moist lemon mousse cake. Although the air was a crisp 50*, we had a cloudless Caribbean-blue sky and a brilliantly radiant sun to warm our skin and confirm the departure of [old man] Winter.
And now today, with all of those birthdays behind us and the very last of that lemon mousse cake tossed away in the trash (but not before a bite or two passed my lips to verify its staleness) it is time to think of April, the second to last month before the water flowing steadily through our surrounding rivers warms to a point that justifies the loading up of kayaks and the donning of swim suits. It’s time to welcome the farmers back to downtown Charlottesville, to our Saturday morning City Market that starts this weekend(!), and to embrace the first gifts of Spring. It’s time to lighten up and brighten up, to take a break from all the sugary-sweet goodness of March and indulge in the green that comes with April.
But first, I want to give you more cake.
With a buoyant crumb that bounces back at the poke of a finger and an airy, lemon-tinted mousse so cool and refreshing you'll have to fight yourself not to finish the entire bowl in one sitting, this cake seems to be the perfect welcome for Spring. It's a persuasive cake, the kind that you want to always have under a dome on your counter, ready to share with important guests while sitting on the front porch drinking a tall glass of iced tea. It seems that, when being offered a cake like this one, it would be impossible for those guests to leave.
That's my hope anyway, as I embrace Spring and ask her to stick around for awhile.
This is a very long recipe, but is actually very simple. Especially if you divide the tasks between two days - the cake and lemon curd on the first, the mousse, frosting and assembly on the second.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup milk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 fresh lemon, seeds discarded
for the lemon curd
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 medium lemons)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
for the lemon mousse
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup lemon curd
for the lemon buttercream frosting
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 tbsp heavy cream
1-1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
make the cake (up to one day ahead)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350*. Grease and flour two 8" round cake pans and line the pan bottoms with parchment rounds.
In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks, butter, milk and vanilla. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt to blend. Add the egg yolk mixture and stir until well combined. Set aside.
In a clean dry bowl, using clean dry beaters, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Lower the mixer speed to medium and gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating the whites until they hold stiff peaks. Stir about one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Gently fold the remaining whites into the batter, in two batches, to blend thoroughly.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pans, filling them equally. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sides of the cakes begin to pull away slightly from the pans and a wooden skewer inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.
Set the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes to cool. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and carefully remove the parchment. Reinvert the cakes and allow them to cool completely on wire racks.
If making the cakes the night before (as I did), wrap them tightly with plastic wrap once entirely cool and keep at room temperature.
make the lemon curd (up to one week ahead)
In a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, whisk the eggs and egg yolk with the sugar, lemon juice and salt. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 10 minutes or until thickened.
Remove the curd from the heat and add the butter, stirring until melted. Strain the mixture through a mesh sieve into a small bowl. Stir in the lemon zest.
Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly on the entire surface of the lemon curd to prevent a skin from forming. Chill the curd in the refrigerator until firm.
make the lemon mousse
In the bowl of an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the cream until it holds soft peaks. Working in three batches, gently fold the cream into the lemon curd. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using.
make the lemon buttercream frosting
In a clean bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, cream, vanilla and lemon extract. Mix on medium-low speed until well combined.
assemble the cake
With a long serrated knife, trim the rounded top off each cake layer to create a flat surface.
Squeeze half of the juice from the lemon over the cut side of one layer of cake. Place that layer, cut side up, on a serving plate. Spread the lemon mousse evenly on top.
Carefully place the next layer, cut side down, on top of the first layer. Squeeze the rest of the juice from the lemon on top. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the lemon buttercream frosting. Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least an hour to set. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Let's talk about cupcakes. Really, really, good cupcakes that don't need too much of an explanation. Why? Because its a three-day weekend dear readers, and I have a date with my husband and some good friends at the bowling alley in an hour!
I want you to have this cupcake recipe today though, just in case you want to make them for a 4th of July party, summer picnic or barbeque, a little girl's birthday party or just because you have a craving for some chocolate this weekend. They would be well-received at any event, as they were at our barbeque last Saturday.
Many thanks to the lovely Tara, whose family is filled with a bunch of chocolate fiends, and whom I knew would pull-through for me when I asked "What is your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe?". Pull-through she did, even helping me out as I pondered the type of frosting to use. You see, as I've mentioned before, my dessert of choice for any outdoor event in the middle of a hot Virginia summer typically involves lemon. After realizing this problem, I decided to go with chocolate for our barbeque, but was worried that a chocolate on chocolate combo would be too heavy and rich. Tara agreed, and supported my idea of going with a berry-flavored buttercream, a la Love and Olive Oil. Now, if only I could learn to decorate my cakes as beautifully as both of these ladies do...
The cupcakes were delicious - rich and moist with a delicate crumb and perfectly domed tops. The tang of fresh raspberry puree' whipped into sweet buttercream frosting complimented them wonderfully. The combination was so good, in fact, that they caused a dear friend of ours to eat the two cupcakes sent home with her that were meant for her 3-year old daughter. Shhhh...I won't tell, no worries. I can't say that I wouldn't do the same thing.
For those of you celebrating, have a Happy 4th!
Chocolate Cupcakesoriginal recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook (One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes) with adaptations suggested by Tara at Seven Spoonsmakes 24 cupcakes
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups dutch-process cocoa powder
2-1/2 cups sugar
2-1/2 tsp baking soda
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
1-1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus 2 tbsp
1-1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups warm water
Preheat oven to 350*. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer. With the paddle attachment, mix in the eggs, yolk, milk, sour cream, oil, vanilla and warm water. Beat on low speed until smooth and combined, about 3 minutes.
Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each about 2/3s full. I actually over-filled mine a bit, and still had enough left over for 2-3 additional cupcakes. Next time I’ll probably plan to make 30 cupcakes total with this recipe.
Bake, rotating pans halfway through, for 20-27 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Mine took 26 minutes, but like I said, they were slightly over-filled.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Raspberry Buttercream Frostinginspired by Love and Olive OilI made two batches of this frosting for 24 cupcakes and had about 1/4 of it left.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups confectioner's sugar
5 tbsp fresh raspberry puree, strained
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
Cream the butter in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy. Slowly add 1 cup of the sugar and beat until smooth.
Slowly add the raspberry puree and mix until combined.
Add remaining confectioner's sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and beat until well incorporated.
Add the vanilla extract and continue to beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
The frosting can be made the night before, but do not refrigerate it. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.