Saturday, August 30, 2008

Coconut Cupcakes With Pink Creamcheese Frosting

Oh lovely day! I baked these for my Auntie Lorraine for her birthday. We went to a Shanghainese Chinese restaurant in Richmond called "Shanghai Wonderful". Duck and taro root stacks wrapped in Chinese white bun; thinly sliced cold pig ear; "Shanghai buns" (xiaolongbao) which are savoury pork balls and soup inside handmade steamed dumplings (tricky to eat without burning your mouth with bursting hot soup!); 8 treasures sticky rice for dessert with red bean. And... coconut cupcakes with pink creamcheese frosting for dessert too made by yours truly!

I used the coconut cake recipe from my very well-loved Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, with a few changes (i used cake & pastry flour instead of all-purpose for extra fluffiness, and I added an additional 1/4 cup of coconut milk than called for), and I made up a very simple creamcheese frosting using light creamcheese, unsalted butter, icing sugar and a dash of coconut milk.

Coconut Cupcakes
yields 1 dozen or so medium cupcakes

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups cake & pastry flour
1/2 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 eggs
2 egg whites
1/2 tbs vanilla
1 cup coconut milk (I don't recommend using light coconut milk. Too watery.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fit 12 baking cups into cupcake tin.
1.Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in shredded coconut.
2.Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
3.Add eggs, egg whites and vanilla until incorporated.
4.With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the coconut milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined, but do not overbeat!
5.Use 1/3 cup measuring cup to dole out batter evenly into cupcake tin.
6. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pan, bake for 5 minutes more (or so!) Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the middle cupcake comes out clean!

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup creamcheese (light or regular)
2-3 cups icing sugar
1/8 cup coconut milk (or so)

1.Throw a teeny tiny bit of food coloring in there to make it pink, or whatever color you like! Blend until thick and pliable! I test my icing for spreadability by lifting up beaters. When the icing is stiff and doesn't drip down, it's ready for spreading or piping.
2. Sprinkle with shredded coconut and other sprinkly pretty things!

Wonderful wonderful day. Soft and rich coconut cake cupcakes and creamcheese delightful icing. Shanghai Wonderful indeed!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Journey Of A Sugar Cookie Elephant

A year ago I was like, "How in heaven's name does one make those sugar cookies with the icing done in such a precise and fancy manner that appears in bakeries and magazines?" Every year at Christmas we get together with my cousins and make the most in-edibly icing-frosted extremely nutty sugar cookies possible. Layers of clumpy sugar sweet icing lined with mini M&Ms and inch-thick piles of sprinkles-- making the craziest cookies is the challenge. But why do they never look like the ones for sale in bakeries, or lining the pages of Martha Stewart mag??

(Exhibit A--Christmas cookie made to resemble
"Chipits" mascot!)

The key to the iced sugar cookie, after some recipe book reading and some googling-- "royal icing!" This royal icing business can be made with store-bought meringue powder, or it can be made from scratch using egg whites and powdered sugar. Once made, you add water in small increments to create varying "degrees" of icing-- runny, medium, and thick-ish. Those aren't the scientific terms, but are useful in their description. Medium is used to pipe outlines of, say, an elephant. Add a bit more water (careful-- not too much, as too runny will result in watery non-drying very unsightly icing) and you get "runny," which "floods" the area in which you so delicately piped a bordered outline. Let this all dry first before adding your decorative piping, such as elephant ears, eyes, etc. Drying overnight is recommended. Yes, the sugar cookie can be somewhat labour intensive but the results are downright adorable and applause-worthy.

1. Bake your sugar cookies, then let completely cool
on wire rack thingies

2.Pipe outlines using medium consistency icing, and small icing tip and icing bag. Let dry 1 hour before "flooding" with runny icing. Once flooded, it's best to let it harden overnight.

3. Once dry, embellish with little piped ears, polkie-dots and
mini chocolate chip eyeballs!

Pie, Oh My, Pie

A crust, a crust, what a wonderful thing to lust, a perfectly fine and buttery flaky crust. To emulate the fork splashing down on the Tenderflake box, to be browned to fragrant loveliness and to be light and flavorful. Like a croissant repackaged into a rounded, ridged swimming pool holding the most delicious of summer's dark, sweet and bubbling bumbleberry bounty. To serve a pie to dear ones and to delight in its simple pleasure. Yes, yes, a pie, oh my.

Yep, I made a pie. While it was certainly a summer's delight, made even more yumchops with the billowy meltiness of homemade vanilla frozen yogurt, I only dream of making a pie as I described above. Such things come with practice, I have read! xo

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Welcome to my cupcake land!

Hi everyone! Welcome to my crazy new world of cupcake baking for the lovely people of Vancouver, BC. I am a self-taught baker with an adoration for all things cake and ice cream. Among other things, I am an interdisciplinary artist and an art teacher here in Vancouver, BC. One of my favorite past times is sitting in front of the oven with the little oven light on, watching lovely little cupcakes rise or perfect cookies crisp. I love the sound and feel of parchment paper, I love rolling pins, I adore my treasured pink Kitchen Aid mixer given to me as a wedding present from my beloved grandma! I love searching for adorable cupcake wrappers and vintage cupcake toppers, dreaming of amassing a mayjah collection of vintage and handmade cake stands, and I love love love trying new recipes and decorating techniques. Fondant roses? A new icing tip? Love it, love it.
My favorite feeling in the world is to make something very delicious and lovely to look at, and to give it to someone as a birthday present, holiday gift, or just-because. There's nothing like receiving a home-baked present. When I make a pie or cupcakes or a batch of cookies for someone, I'm always thinking about them while I'm mixing and getting covered with flour-- there will most often be music playing and light coming in to the kitchen. I'll smile and relax and get excited to give this little labour of love to that special someone!