Kitchen Experiments: Angel Food Cupcakes

Ah yes, angel food. A cake so light, fluffy, and fat free that angels sing about it and eat it exclusively. Or something like that. Angel food cake is one of my favorite experimental desserts. Not only is there a unique method but the bigger version of this cake is kind of show stopping, but that’s another post 😉

Angel food cake is a meringue based cake. I’m already familiar with meringues, so this wasn’t very new to me. Besides the fact that meringues and I roll mad deep, I’ve made angel food two other times. The first time didn’t go so well. My cake didn’t rise as high as it should’ve. While it yielded tasty results, it didn’t look like the cake I envisioned. What went wrong? I probably deflated the whites a bit. Since I now know my way around meringues, I knew this wouldn’t happen again, and I’ve got pictures to prove it!

Cupcake! 2

At first, I was skeptical to make these cupcakes. Angel food, the big cake, requires cooling upside down. It’s the weirdest thing but hey, I’m not going to argue with that recipe. I wondered how it would work or if the cupcakes would end up deflating after cooling. Even with those doubts in my mind, I went for it.

The first step to making this recipe is to separate a dozen large eggs. We only need the whites. Save the yolks, though! I have 12 yolks chillin’ in the fridge with no aim. I’ll think of something. After separating, leave them out for a while to get to room temperature. Egg whites are best separated cold but they whip better room temp. Strange but true. I separated mine and went to the gym. Seems oxymoronic to make these after the gym but that’s how I roll. I also went ahead and pre-sifted the cake flour, powdered sugar, and salt, and set it aside. When in doubt, mise-en-place it out. Quote me.

Egg whites and yolks

After I got back from the gym, I got to work. Let me preface this by saying all your utensils MUST BE GREASE FREE. Whites are so finicky, they won’t get all voluminous if there’s grease. They’ll never, ever whip. Ever. No fixing that, so make sure your bowl, beaters, and spatulas are grease free. A good way to do this is to wipe your tools down with either lemon juice or vinegar. Now that everything’s clean, preheat the oven to 350 and line a million cupcake pans. Okay, so not a million but this recipe faithfully makes 36 cupcakes, so line enough wells for that. Set all that aside and let’s get started.

Pour those whites into your giant bowl, or in your stand mixer if you’re a lucky duck. Start beating the whites until they get frothy and bubbly. Shouldn’t take too long. Add the cream of tartar. What is that? Well, it’s neither cream nor tartar. It’s actually potassium bitartrate, which is a byproduct of wine making. I hear they scrape this stuff off wine barrels. It’s purpose here is to stabilize the whites. With this stuff, your whites will not fall. Crucial stuff here.

After adding the cream of tartar, continue beating the whites until you have soft peaks. How do you know you’re there? Turn off your beaters, dip them straight down into the whites and pull them back up. Turn the beaters on its side and look at the whites on the tip. If some of the whites stay on the beater and look like the picture below, you’ve got soft peaks. No whites on the beaters? You’re not there yet! Keep going and check periodically.

Soft Peaks 2

Continue beating the whites and gradually add the sugar. Keep beating the whites until they’re super fluffy, and thick. At this point, they’re probably at a medium peak (like in the photo). Add the vanilla and beat it in. You know you’re done whipping the whites when the trail of the beaters stays on the whites. No trails? Keep going.

At this point, we’re done beating. Grab your spatula and pre-sifted dry ingredients as it is time to fold them in. The best way to fold in the dry ingredients is by doing it in thirds. Don’t throw it all in and mix because you’ll risk deflating the egg whites. We definitely do not want that. Despite the fact that there’s cream of tartar in here, it won’t help keep all that air in. Fold gently and carefully, but also making sure to completely incorporate the dry ingredients. My favorite folding method is the “cut and sweep.” I basically take my rubber spatula and “cut” straight down the middle of the bowl, then I “sweep” the side of the bowl into the middle. Rotating the bowl helps!

Folding the dry

Once done folding, spoon the batter in gently into the lined cupcake tins. Bake the cupcakes for 18-19 minutes or until golden and puffy. Cool completely and top with frosting. I went for a raspberry whipped cream because I low key made these for Valentine’s Day. Except not really but these make a cute lover’s day dessert! Like, I won’t tell if you and your partner eat all 36.

Cupcake!

Even with all that doubt in my mind, the cupcakes came out beautifully. Fluffy and light, just like they should be. They’d be completely fat free had I not topped them with whipped cream but it’s whatever! I hope I helped demystify the angel food process (in cupcake form, at least). While it looks intimidating, the results are way too delicious to not try and make these.

Angel Food Cupcakes – barely adapted from How Sweet It Is

Makes 36 cupcakes

  • 12 large egg whites (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar (sift before measuring)
  • 1 1/8 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Separate the eggs, and let the whites sit at room temperature. While that’s resting, sift the cake flour, powdered sugar, and salt together. Set aside. Line your cupcake pans, and place your oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 350F
  2. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, begin to beat the whites until frothy and bubbly. Add the cream of tartar, and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, while still beating, and continue until the whites have thickened and have medium peaks. From there, beat in the vanilla extract.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the dry ingredients in thirds, making sure to fully incorporate each addition before adding more. Once batter is smooth, carefully spoon the batter into the prepared pans.
  4. Bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven for 18-19 minutes or until golden and fluffy. Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • For the raspberry whipped cream, I beat a pint of heavy whipping cream until soft peaks, added two tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1/3 cup of seedless raspberry jam. I reckon a shot of booze will go good here 😉
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Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Whiskey Chocolate Ganache Filling

For the first time ever, I went to a Halloween party. Well, to be fair, it was more of a “get together” than a party. There’s a difference. My CO*OP family and I got together at our founder’s house for snacks, games, and super intense discussions on rousing topics.

As the self proclaimed class baker, I knew I wanted to bring something awesome. Two of my CO*OP friends requested chocolate cupcakes with black frosting. I’m all about pleasing people, even if it meant coloring some buttercream black (not that visually appealing but whatever). Regular chocolate cupcakes seemed so passé, so I went a slightly different route.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes 3

If you know me, you know that I LOVE putting booze in things. Sometimes, I put it where it doesn’t belong. I can’t help it! Liquor is every baker’s secret weapon, whether they admit to it or not. There’s just something about putting liquor in stuff that makes things awesome. It might be the liquor itself or the devious feeling I get from secretly putting it in things. Tomato, potato; same thing.

These cupcakes are extra boozy and special because it has not one, but two different liquor components. The cupcakes themselves are made with Guinness. Now, I know what you’re thinking; “beer in cupcakes?! NO WAY.” YES WAY! Guinness and chocolate are actually secret BFFs. There’s something about the dark richness of stout that pairs so well with chocolate. Not only that but the beer also helps the cupcakes stay super moist. Double bonus!

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes 1

The second introduction to booze in this recipe is through the ganache filling. At first, I thought adding a filling was a little extra but the more chocolate, the better! It’s just an ordinary chocolate ganache but with a couple teaspoons of whiskey. Here’s the part where I tell you I wish I had put more whiskey in this. I wish I had put more whiskey in the ganache. Do yourself a favor and add more liquor in there because what doesn’t kill you, ends up making you a little tipsy.

I swear my goal was not to get my friends drunk. Well, maybe considering I also brought rummy bears with me. Not really because the cupcakes couldn’t do it. Even so, they were fantastic. This was my first time dealing with beer, so I was skeptical but then surprised with the results. The cakes were super rich and chocolatey, with a slight taste of hoppyness (I guess?) from the beer. That was the only indicator that there was any beer in the cupcakes, unless I told you beforehand or you’re some type of beer wizard that just KNOWS when you taste things. The stout helped keep the cupcakes moist and make the chocolate taste more like chocolate. I guess it works a little like how coffee enhances the chocolate flavor. Then the ganache. Not too sweet with that hint of whiskey. It almost tasted like caramel. I don’t know what kind of sorcery the whiskey did in there, but I was all about it.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes 2

Let’s talk about the frosting for a minute. This isn’t your typical buttercream. I have been hearing on the internets about this awesome method for frosting that required less butter and sugar, but still had the buttercream taste. Intrigued, I decided to go for it. Initially, these cupcakes were supposed to have even more booze in the frosting, per Deb’s original recipe. Like I said above, I wasn’t about to get my friends drunk off cupcakes, so I refrained from adding more.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes 4

My sister’s a hand model

Either way, the recipe is just as easy as regular buttercream. Basically, you make a roux out of flour and milk on the stove, until it’s thick like cake batter. Yes, there’s flour in here. I know, I was like “whaaaaa” when I saw it  but trust; it works. Let that cool completely before proceeding to the next step, which is creaming softened butter and some sugar. Just one cup of butter with a cup and a quarter of regular granulated sugar. WAIT. Granulated sugar? I was skeptical about this too, considering you can feel the sugar even after creaming the crap out it. After joining the cold roux and the creamed butter, magic happens because it turns into a light and fluffy dream. It’s lighter than traditional buttercream but still has the taste. You can’t feel the sugar granules at all. Like MAGIC.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes 5

I must say, for a bunch of firsts in one batch of cupcakes, they came out extremely well and very much on theme. They so looked the part for Halloween. If anything, this success is just making me wonder what else I can put booze in. I guess I’m just going to have to figure that out with some trial and error 😉

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Whiskey Chocolate Ganache Filling – barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 22-24 cupcakes

  • 1 cup stout, such as Guinness
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling:

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1-4 teaspoons Irish whiskey, or any whiskey (the more the merrier!)

Directions:

  1. For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners.
  2. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.
  4. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way.
  5. Bake the cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 17-22 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.
  6. For the ganache: Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.
  7. Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped. Alternatively, you can spoon the filling into the cupcakes. Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter, an apple corer, or a paring knife with skilled hands, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way.  Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top. Or use a teaspoon to spoon the filling into the cupcakes. You can put a “lid” on the filling, by adding the tops of the cut centers back on the filled cupcakes but that’s optional.

Cooked Whipped Frosting – adapted from Can You Stay For Dinner?

Makes enough to generously frost all 24 cupcakes, and have leftovers

  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour and milk over medium heat. Keep whisking and cooking until the mixture has thickened and resembles cake batter; about 7 minutes. Take the mixture off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let mixture cool completely.
  2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the softened butter and sugar until light, pale, and fluffy. This can take anywhere from three to 10 minutes, depending on how long you can go. You basically want the sugar and butter to be really incorporated. Don’t be afraid to beat it more!
  3. Add the completely cooled flour mixture to the creamed butter, and beat until completely incorporated, making sure to periodically scrape the bowl. Add food coloring, if using.
  4. Place the frosting in a piping bag and frost cooled cupcakes. Enjoy!

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder in the cupcakes for three reasons; it was the only Dutch processed cocoa in the supermarket, it’s my favorite, and it tastes good.
  • I don’t have a small circle cutter, so I used a paring knife to cut out the circles freehanded. Use what you have!
  • I also skipped the piping bag for the ganache, and opted for a teaspoon to fill the cupcakes. 

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

Every baker has their own arsenal of classic recipes. They all have their preferred versions of almost anything, but not many discuss how long it took them to get to that choice of a recipe. I’m still very much a beginner baker, and as I try to build my own arsenal, there’s tons of trial and error in choosing recipes, testing, and tasting.

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I’ve been searching for the perfect yellow cake recipe for a couple of years now. It’s complicated because the recipe stratosphere is crowded with hundreds of variations of the same thing. There’s no way to test them all, and there’s no way to tell which one’s the best. As I go through many of these recipes, I ask myself what it is I’m looking for exactly. Criteria is important because how else will you know if a certain recipe is “it?” For me, it has to do with what I grew up with.

As a kid, I grew up with Dominican cakes; which consist of two yellow cake layers, a middle layer of some sort of filling, all covered in meringue frosting (similar to 7 minute frosting). My entire cake life revolved around this style of cake, and still kind of does. There’s only one bakery that does these cakes the “right” way (according to my mom, and everyone else we’ve introduced those cakes to),  but I have yet to find a recipe that resembles their yellow cake.

SO MANY

SO MANY

While that still haunts me from time to time, I set out on looking for a different kind of cake that still reminded me of my childhood. I’ve mentioned here before how my dad was the resident baker in my house way back in the day. I inherited his hand mixer, which we got at a garage sale, and consequently killed it last year (RIP green Presto mixer; you lived a long and productive life). He used it to make boxed cake mix for us every now and then. I watched him in the kitchen (obviously) when he made it because mixing powder with some eggs, oil, and milk into a real cake was mind blowing. It actually still is, more because I know how to make them from scratch now. He used to make them in a 9×13″ pan, which produced a golden brown pillow sized cake. I remember fighting with my sister over the who got the corner pieces, and arguing with my dad that cakes taste best warm so he’d let us eat it straight out of the oven.

Besides the awesome memories, I remember how the cake tasted. It was box mix, so it tasted exactly the same each and every time. It still tastes the same today, but I haven’t had box mix in forever. It tasted like perfection; like how all cakes should taste. There’s no other way to describe it. When I’m not trying to resemble those Dominican cakes, this is my standard. What cake recipe can resemble a box mix, without the box mix, and taste like what I remembered from when I was a kid?

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I had planned on making cupcakes a couple weeks ago for my class. I’m not back in school but am part of a program that requires a month of class. So, me and 11 other awesome grads hang out every night and learn about digital marketing, and other business skills we need to know. Since before classes started, I knew I wanted to use them as my guinea pigs for testing recipes. Sounds bad saying it like that, but I mean no harm! Anyway, I wanted to take some cupcakes in for two reasons; I hadn’t made any cupcakes in forever and because who doesn’t love cupcakes?! I thought about what flavor combinations I could use and came up with the classic yellow cake and chocolate frosting. I know most people grew up with this kind of cake for their birthdays. None of us are those people but the combo is such a classic, I wanted to go for it anyway.

Trust me when I tell you that this cake tastes like my childhood. It was ridiculously amazing. I’m still perplexed as to how I can bake a cake from scratch that tastes so similar to box mix! The cakes came out super soft and fluffy, with a hint of a golden brown hue from the oven. It was like a melt in your mouth kind of experience. Then coupled with chocolate frosting, it was just great. The frosting had a slight tang from the cream cheese and sour cream but still packed a chocolatey punch; thanks to the cocoa powder and semisweet chocolate in there. It also wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet, which happens with most frostings. I loved them, my folks loved them, and my class loved them too!

While this isn’t the recipe that resembles the cakes from birthdays past, it does take me back to being in the kitchen with my dad as I watched him transform a cake mix into a real cake. That right there is reason enough to put this one in my arsenal.

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Classic Yellow Cupcakes – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 30 cupcakes

  • 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (sifted before measuring!)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place cupcake liners into your cupcake/muffin tins.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Incorporate the vanilla, and add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
  3. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled and gross; do not be deterred!). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
  4. Spoon batter into lined cups, 3/4 of the way up, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 22 to 24 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes from the pan to finish cooling on the racks. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting – adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes enough to frost those 30 cupcakes (4 cups)

  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6oz softened cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 9oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
  • 3/4 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Over a double boiler, carefully melt the chocolate. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add the sugar/cocoa mix, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
  4. Pour in the melted chocolate until incorporated. Finally, beat in the sour cream and vanilla until combined.
  5. Frost cupcakes!

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Always, always, ALWAYS, sift your cake flour before measuring. Sift, and gently spoon into your measuring cups. Sift once more after measuring for added security. I know, it seems like a ton of work but trust me, it’s worth it!
  • The recipe calls for large eggs (as all recipes do; it’s the standard in baking) but I got away with using three jumbo eggs (my folks don’t believe in eggs that are smaller). Use what you have, just be mindful of the amount of moisture you’re adding vs. what’s needed. 
  • The frosting is pretty good but I feel like the sour cream can almost be optional. 
  • Deb lied to me in telling me this recipe made 22 to 24 cupcakes. I expected that many but ended up with 30. I usually have the opposite of that problem but just a heads up (not that 30 cupcakes is a bad thing; I’m happy I got more it’s just that I wasn’t ready to have my kitchen overtaken by cupcakes!)
  • To ensure the same amount of batter goes into every cupcake, use an ice cream scoop/disher to distribute the batter. 

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcakes

Before making this recipe, my sister decided she wanted to make it herself. I asked her if she would write a guest post and she accepted! Below is my sister Marilyn’s guest post! Enjoy!

Currently, Lucy is the resident baker at our apartment but there used to be a time where I was the baker. I could make brownies at the drop of a hat and I knew that recipe by heart, too (not anymore; something else has taken its place). Nowadays, she makes everything and if I’m craving anything in particular, I just ask her. Unless they’re plain blondies. She doesn’t really like making them for me without a million other ingredients (i.e. the “everything but the kitchen sink ” blondies she made a while ago) but sometimes I just need that brown sugary goodness without any extra fluff.

Anyway, this time I decided to try my hand at baking again and because I tend to live dangerously (not really), I decided to make sticky toffee pudding cupcakes with a caramel sauce. You can blame the recipe I found in an old issue of Runner’s World.

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The cupcakes looked delicious and I was totally game to try their recipe until I read it completely (rookie mistake!) and saw I needed pastry flour. Normally, I wouldn’t mind buying the special flour but when you’re trying to save money (and space), it’s better to use what you have. So off I went to look for a more accommodating recipe.

After a little research, I found this cake recipe from King Arthur Flour. Now, this recipe also includes the caramel sauce but if you have any dietary restrictions like me (I’m lactose intolerant), then you have to go on the search for alternatives. I found a recipe for a vegan caramel sauce that used coconut milk instead of regular cream and it’s adaptable enough that if you want to add butter, you totally could (personally anything that doesn’t contain much dairy, is a godsend for me. And Lucy. I’ll leave the reason why, to her).

This recipe used only figs but I had some dates hanging around so I decided to use both. I used small to medium sized dried figs and chopped about eight to nine of them to get half a cup and for the dates, which were roughly the same size as the figs, I chopped up about seven to eight. Their size totally depends on your haul of the dried fruit, just aim for half a cup of each if you decide to do it like I did. The recipe also suggests their brand of cake flour (duh) but I had another kind lying around and the cakes came out pretty awesome anyway.

After chopping up the dates and figs, I put them in boiling water and let them sit for about 15 minutes while I got everything else ready. The recipe uses custard cups or ramekins as the baking receptacles and it yields about six, but I used a cupcake pan instead and got nine cupcakes using a ¼ cup sized ice cream scoop to portion them out.

If you plan on trying this vegan caramel recipe, be warned that while it reduces, it will pop and bubble all over the pot. It can be a little scary and you’ll want to stir it while it reduces to control the sputtering but trust me, just let it do its thing for twenty minutes (no matter how scary). Once time is up, you can stir and it will turn from a bubbly looking mess to a smooth caramel sauce. I only made half of the recipe since Lucy and I are the only ones that were going to eat it, and it was enough for all nine cupcakes.

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The cakes were delicious. They were perfectly moist and spongy. You could taste a little bitterness from the molasses but the figs were definitely front and center. The sauce was sticky and delicious. Personally, I found them delicious both separate and together but Lucy found them a little too sweet with the caramel sauce, and thought the coconut was  a little overpowering (whatever, Kyle).

For this first foray into baking after such a long hiatus, it was fun. BUT! I spent a good chunk of time freaking out while making this recipe because Lucy was watching me the entire time. She had me all frazzled and running all over the place because she took it upon herself to question my every move, and quizzed me on the recipe (I had no idea baking had an oral exam portion). It was a miracle you couldn’t taste my nerves and fears in them.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcakes – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes six small puddings, or nine standard cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup dried mission figs, chopped; about 8-9 figs
  • 1/2 cup dried dates, chopped; about 7-8 dates
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup soft butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons dark molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour, sifted before measuring
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter six ¾-cup silicone baking cups, oven-safe custard cups, or line nine wells of a muffin pan. Combine the figs, dates and boiling water and let it sit for 15 minutes.
  2. After the 15 minutes, puree the figs, dates and boiling water until smooth. Set aside.
  3. For the batter, beat the 1/4 cup butter, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder until fluffy.
  4. Add in the egg, then the molasses and vanilla.  Slowly incorporate the flour, taking care not to overmix.
  5. Add in the puree and baking soda, and stir into the batter.
  6. Pour into the prepared baking cups or lined muffin pan. If using molds, place them on a baking sheet.
  7. Bake the cakes for 18 to 22 minutes, until a cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Remove from the oven, and cool in the molds or cups.

Coconut Caramel Sauce – adapted from A Full Measure of Happiness

Makes about 1 cup of sauce

  • about 1/2 a can of full fat coconut milk (from a 14 oz can)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter (optional, for vegans and those with special tummies like me!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Add the coconut milk, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt to a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring this mixture to a boil, and let it cook until thickened and bubbly; about 20 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and let stand one minute. Add in the butter (if using) and vanilla extract, and stir. Use immediately or store the cooled sauce in a jar or airtight container in the fridge.

Marilyn’s Tips:

  • Make sure your dried fruit is completely soft to make pureeing easy.

Autumn Mix Cupcakes

Happy Halloween! Although I don’t really celebrate and get dressed up, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays because I love watching others display their creative side. Another reason is obviously the candy.

When I was a kid, we went trick or treating only a handful of times because it was difficult for us to trick or treat in our neighborhood. Whatever candy I did get, I would categorize my candies by type; chocolate, fruit candies, and the cheap stuff. My favorite chocolates were Milky Ways, Snickers, and plain Hershey bars. In the fruit pile, I’d have my Skittles, Starbursts, Smarties, and lollipops. Finally, the cheap pile was a compilation of no name candies; like caramels, those strawberry candies that no one seems to like (except for me), caramel cremes, and peppermints. We got lucky because we never got raisins or apples, except one time, I do remember getting a few pennies in my pumpkin.

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Then of course, I had my favorites that I never got through trick or treating; Peeps and candy corn. These two faves are a common unpopular opinion. I have heard many people say they hate Peeps and candy corn, mostly because of the taste. I love marshmallows, so Peeps are a given; and candy corn is the quintessential Halloween candy, so no hate there. But my favorite type of candy corn to get is Autumn Mix.

To me, Autumn Mix is the best of all three worlds; candy corn, mellowcreme pumpkins, and Indian corn. Most say they hate candy corn because it’s too sweet. It’s pretty much concentrated sugar with a slight vanilla taste. Candy corn’s distinct taste is actually thanks to honey, which makes this sugary treat even sweeter.

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As we got older, My sister and I would buy our own candy. We’d share a bag of Autumn Mix, where she’d take most of the candy corn and pumpkins, and leave me with all of the Indian corn. I honestly don’t get the Indian corn hate. It was a welcome taste change when gobbling up pieces of monotonous candy corn. It’s the only one that is chocolate flavored, although the signature candy corn taste is still there. Indian corn quickly became one of my favorites, and is one of the reasons I decided to make these cupcakes. I wanted to highlight one of my favorites, and Indian corn is the underdog of all Halloween candy. These cupcakes are an ode to Autumn Mix, and my love for super sugary treats.

I used The Kitchn’s recipe for Quick Yellow Cake for these cupcakes. I tinted the batter according to the candy corn; a small amount of untinted batter on the bottom of the cup (for the candy and Indian corn), and orange for the corn’s bodies and for the mellowcreme pumpkins. To finish the color schemes off, I frosted them with seven minute frosting, one of my favorites, tinted accordingly; yellow for candy corn, green to top off the mellowcreme pumpkins, and a chocolate flavored one for the Indian corn. The chocolate frosting was important for me to get right for two reasons; I wanted to get the Indian corn correct with it’s chocolate flavor, and because I had yet to see a chocolate seven minute frosting anywhere online.

The cakes came out really moist and yummy! Although I wanted a layered effect with the candy/Indian corn ones, it sort of tie-dyed instead; which was a pleasant surprise. Another surprise was adding some cocoa powder to a portion of the frosting. It tasted really good with the cupcakes, something I was initially worried about. I think that melted chocolate would probably work best for a chocolate seven minute frosting.

Please enjoy yourselves this Halloween! Just remember to stay safe!

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Quick Yellow Cake – adapted from The Kitchn

Makes 18 cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Soften your butter, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line your cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
  2. Use a hand mixer or stand mixer to beat the softened butter and sugar together until fluffy and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until fully incorporated and light.
  3. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and gently beat it in, alternating withthe milk and vanilla. Beat everything together on low for 30 seconds, then high for 3 minutes.
  4. Pour some of the batter, about a tablespoon, into 12 of the cupcake liners. Tint the batter orange, using food coloring, and fill all the liners about 3/4 of the way up.
  5. Bake the cupcakes for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the tops spring back slightly when pressed.
  6. Let cool in the pans, on wire racks for at least 10 minutes, then remove from the cupcake pans onto racks to cool completely before frosting.

Seven Minute Frosting – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. In a large heatproof bowl, combine the sugar, water, egg whites, cream of tartar, and the pinch of salt. Beat with an electric mixer set at low speed for 30 seconds, then place bowl over your double boiler.
  2. Beating at high speed, cook the frosting for about 7 minutes, or until it’s stiff and glossy. Remove it from the heat, add the vanilla, and beat an additional 2 minutes.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Do not over fill the cupcake liners! I kind of did (heh), and they overflowed. 3/4 of the way works perfectly. 
  • To make a double boiler, place about 1-2 inches of water in a pot and set to a simmer. Do not boil the water and make sure your bowl does not touch the water! The steam coming off the simmering water gently cooks the frosting.
  • For the chocolate frosting, I folded two tablespoons of cocoa powder, sifted, into about a third of the frosting. Melted bittersweet chocolate can possibly work as well.