Rocky Road Bars

Rocky road ice cream has been around since 1929, when enterprising ice cream maker William Dreyer decided to toss some walnuts and marshmallows into chocolate ice cream. His partner, candy maker Joseph Edy, had done something similar with a chocolate candy bar and Mr. Dreyer thought the idea would be a good one for ice cream as well.

The original recipe was one of the first ice cream flavors to mix these types of ingredients together, and as always, I’m amazed at how people once looked at various component parts and put them together into something absolutely delicious. The recipe below is adapted from one I found at King Arthur Baking Company; I decided to add some chopped almonds and drizzled chocolate to the top of the bars because they looked a bit plain at first. It helps to chill the bars just after drizzling them with the melted chocolate so it sets, making the bars much easier to cut.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3 1/2 cups chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons roasted salted whole almonds, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin.

Cream together butter, sugars, baking powder, salt, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Add flour and cocoa powder and beat on low speed to incorporate; stir in 2 cups chocolate chips and 1 cup almonds.

Spread batter in the pan; I used an offset spatula to create an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until sides are set and middle is still soft. Sprinkle with miniature marshmallows and 1 cup of the chocolate chips. Bake for another 4 minutes, until marshmallows are just beginning to brown.

Cool completely, then melt remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Drizzle over bars, then sprinkle remaining almonds over the top. Chill briefly to set chocolate, then cut into squares; store at room temperature.

Makes 24.

Mocha Chip Brownies

Mike’s coworkers seem to like coffee and chocolate, so this week I decided to bake another mocha-themed treat. These brownies are adapted from a recipe I found at King Arthur Baking Company, which recently re-branded from King Arthur Flour. King Arthur has been a great guide for me in my baking; I’ve mentioned their Cookie Companion many times on this blog. Their recipes tend to turn out very well, and I imagine they have an extensive test kitchen, not unlike Better Homes & Gardens. Test Kitchen Baker is my dream career, and I like to think I’m on my way with how much adaptation goes on in my kitchen.

This recipe is a spin-off of King Arthur’s toffee coffee brownies. Instead of topping my icing with toffee chips, I chose to go with miniature chocolate chips instead. There are also chocolate chips in the brownies themselves, so that seemed like a good idea.

Ingredients

For the brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

For the icing

  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 – 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin and sprinkle the bottom with sugar; this is my tip for a slightly crunchy bottom crust that adds a nice texture to otherwise soft treats like brownies.

In a large pot, melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar and continue heating for another minute while stirring, until the mixture is just hot. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and espresso powder, then whisk in eggs and vanilla extract. Stir in flour, then chocolate chips. Spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.

To make icing, place espresso powder and hot water in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon heavy cream, stirring until smooth. Add 1-2 more tablespoons of cream to reach a spreadable consistency of icing. Spread over cooled brownies, then sprinkle with chocolate chips. Allow icing to set before cutting into squares. Makes 24.

Orange Crisps

Some treats happen by accident, like these orange crisps. I meant to make an orange cream version of my vanilla bean sandwich cookies, but I slightly over-baked the cookies themselves. They turned out too thin and crispy to sandwich, but that’s actually okay – they taste delicious, so they can stand on their own.

Very crispy on the edges, but also slightly chewy on the inside, these cookies have a great texture and wonderful orange flavor. Mike decided he’s keeping them for himself, rather than taking them to work. Don’t feel bad for his coworkers, though – I’m going to bake something else this afternoon for them. Likely something else involving orange zest, now that I have a semi-bald orange in my refrigerator.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • About 1 teaspoon orange zest (1/3 of the orange)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and kosher salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add egg, vanilla extract, orange extract, and orange zest and beat on medium speed until smooth.

With the mixer running on low, gradually add flour mixture.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart – they spread quite a bit.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until tops are very light golden and just set.

Cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Makes 40.

Cappuccino Bars

We’re going to file these in the “looks ridiculous, tastes amazing” category of Amy Bakes in the ‘Burgh. Because holy cow, they look ridiculous. I mean, total amateur, what-was-she-thinking ridiculous. Fortunately they taste absolutely amazing. Almost like a tiramisu and a cappuccino got together and decided to make a whole new dessert.

Here’s what happened with this recipe, adapted from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: my first layer wasn’t exactly even. So my second layer turned out wonky, and instead of covering it with glaze as recommended, I covered it with a thicker icing and tried to make a sort of fancy feathering thing happen, kind of like those patterns you see on actual cappuccinos. Oh, boy, what a disaster. I was almost too embarrassed to have Mike take them to work, but I figured something that tasted this delicious should absolutely get its chance to be enjoyed. I already have several ideas for next time, because you can bet I’ll make these again…and they won’t look like a train wreck.

Ingredients

First Layer

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup instant coffee crystals

Second Layer

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Icing Layers

  • 3 cups powdered sugar, divided into one 2-cup portion and one 1-cup portion
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 baking tin with baking spray.

In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl well after each. Beat in the vanilla and coffee crystals, then add flour mixture and stir to completely combine.

Drop dollops of batter into the prepared baking tin and use a small offset spatula to spread it into an even layer; batter will be fairly thick. Bake for 15 minutes, until top is set; this means the sides have just started to pull away from the pan, and if you touch the center gently, your fingerprint will remain but will not break the surface of the crust.

Cool for 15 minutes while you prepare the filling. In a large measuring cup, combine sugar and flour; in a separate measuring cup, combine eggs, heavy cream, and vanilla. Add heavy cream mixture to sugar mixture and stir to combine completely, until smooth. Pour over crust and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center is set.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 1 hour, then chill until completely set. Once set, make your first layer of icing; in a medium bowl, combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach a spreadable consistency that’s still slightly firm. Spread on bars, smoothing as much as possible.

In another bowl, place remaining 1 cup powdered sugar and add heavy cream, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach a firm pipable consistency (mine needed about 2 1/2 teaspoons). Place in a piping bag and pipe lines across the bars; gently drag a toothpick through the lines to create feathering. Allow feathered icing to set before cutting, then cut into 30 squares.

Note: these bars cut easily, but my icing layer pulled away from my second layer a bit (contributing to the “looks ridiculous” situation). Next time, I might chill them for just a short time before cutting.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Full Bloom Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Mother Nature has the heat cranked up here in Pittsburgh, blasting us with the full force of a western Pennsylvanian summer. Right now it’s actually pouring at my house, a welcome sight for my flowers.

Full disclosure: I am obsessed with plants. My dream home, besides a cottage in the woods, would be smack in the middle of a botanical garden. Mike gets nervous when I go to our local nursery – conveniently located less than five minutes from our house – by myself, because I’m bound to return with something in need of planting. And as I’ve been practicing my buttercream flower piping skills this summer, I decided to go with a basic five-petal design (many thanks to Wilton for this awesome tutorial), along with some roses, carnations, and marigolds, for these treats. The flavor profile is botanical as well; chocolate orange, a wonderful combination involving two of my favorite things that grow.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Zest of 1/2 medium orange
  • 1 cup water

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon milk, if necessary

To decorate

  • Burgundy, golden yellow, red, and moss green food coloring
  • Wilton tips 5, 12, 21, 104, and 352
  • Flower nail
  • Disposable piping bags

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; this recipe makes 15 cupcakes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well-blended, then make three wells for the wet ingredients.

Place vinegar, vanilla, and vegetable oil into the wells; add orange zest next to the well with the vanilla extract. Add water and mix until the batter is smooth. The mixture will bubble up slightly when you add the water, so just keep mixing until you get a smooth consistency in the batter, which will be fairly thin.

Working quickly and using a 1/4 dry measuring cup, scoop batter into cupcake wells. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove from cupcake pans; cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

To make frosting, place butter in a mixing bowl and beat for a few minutes using the paddle attachment.

Add  powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Once incorporated, add the vanilla and orange extracts and beat for 1-2 minutes on medium speed.

If frosting is too stiff – you want a medium consistency for piping – add 1 teaspoon of milk to slightly thin it. You want a smooth consistency that’s easy to pipe, but not too thin or the flowers won’t hold their shape.

To decorate: use a small amount of white frosting on the top of each cooled cupcake for your base. Divide the remaining frosting into small portions for the remaining colors. I used the following:

  • Burgundy and red for the purple five-blossom flowers
  • Remainder of the purple plus golden yellow for a rusty orange for roses and drop flowers
  • Golden yellow for blossom centers and drop carnation clusters
  • Moss green for leaves

For five-petal blossoms: Using a flower nail, pipe five-petal blossoms using the technique outlined by the awesome folks at Wilton in the link above. Place on a baking sheet and chill for 5 minutes to harden. Place blossoms on cupcakes once they’re firm enough to handle; using light yellow frosting and a 5 tip, pipe one single dot or several dots in the center, whichever you prefer.

For roses (pictured below): use purple frosting and pipe a cone shape into the center of the nail, then switch tips to your 104 petal tip. You want the broader end of the tip to be toward the bottom as you pipe; pipe petals, turning your flower nail as necessary. I used the remainder of my purple frosting, mixed with golden yellow, for the rusty orange color of the other flowers you see in the photo below; I did some roses and some marigolds using the 21 tip with that shade as well.

For carnation clusters: Using a 21 drop flower tip and yellow frosting, pipe small clusters of flowers.

For leaves: Using moss green and the 352 leaf tip, pipe leaves.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Below, we have a blossom cluster featuring the five-petal blossom, carnation cluster, and marigold. 

 

Cactus and Succulent Cupcakes

Pittsburgh is in the full blaze of summer. It’s 90 degrees today, expected to be in the 90s for the next week, without a drop of rain in sight. I appreciate all of our seasons, but truth be told I prefer cold to heat – I’m more of a winter gal than a summer gal. I’d never survive in a desert climate. Well, not without air conditioning, anyway.

I’ve wanted to make succulent cupcakes for a while now, and today’s heat seemed like the perfect excuse. A few of my plants didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped, as I think my buttercream wasn’t as firm as it should have been, but it’s not bad for my first attempt. The color palette is exactly what I’d hoped it would be, and all in all, they turned out really well. They’re also delicious; the buttercream has a bit of lemon extract in it for a nice hint of citrus. Next time, I’ll make some of the buttercream a bit more firm (or I’ll chill it for a few minutes) to make more impressive spikes. For a great tutorial on how to make buttercream succulents, I recommend this video from Wilton.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract

To decorate

  • Brown, moss green, black, copper, and red food coloring
  • Wilton tips 199, 104, 352, 16, and 3
  • Flower nail
  • Disposable piping bags (or reusable, if you prefer)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; this recipe yields 14 cupcakes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for another 30 seconds.

Add vanilla bean paste, almond extract, and canola oil and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Batter will be very thin.

Using a quarter-cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared cupcake liners, filling half full.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter, then beat on medium for 1-2 minutes. Add vanilla, almond, and lemon extracts and beat to combine.

To decorate: divide your frosting into small portions. Leave one portion white and tint the others light brown, green, and pink. To make my pink shade, I used a small amount of copper and a few drops of red for a more dusty shade.

Frost the tops of the cupcakes with light brown buttercream for the “sand.” I chose to do barrel cacti, rose succulents, and some things that sort of look like aloe using the following techniques:

For the barrel cacti: fit a piping bag with a Wilton 99 open star tip and add green frosting; pipe the body of the cactus. Fit a piping bag with a Wilton 3 small round tip and add white frosting; pipe spines up the sides of the barrel. Fit a piping bag with a Wilton 16 small closed star tip and add pink frosting; pipe a blossom on the top.

For the rose succulents: fit a piping bag with a Wilton 104 petal tip. Add a small amount of pink frosting up one side, then add green frosting; pipe out a small amount to ensure you have both colors showing. Pipe petals, similar to how you would a rose; if you’re making smaller rose succulents, you can use a flower nail and let the smaller ones chill in the freezer for a few minutes. You can also do plain green rose succulents.

For the aloe-like succulents: fit a piping bag with a Wilton 352 leaf tip and pipe stalks in a circle. Add as many layers as you like; mine had three layers of stalks. For a deeper shade of green, tint your green frosting with a bit of black for a deeper color. Use your leaf tip or small star tip to make stalks.

If you’re making smaller succulents and using your flower nail, you’ll want to take a bit of frosting and use it as glue to stick your chilled succulents onto your cupcakes.

Store cupcakes in a cool place in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

 

 

Cinnamon Pumpkin Cupcakes

Who wants pumpkin treats in the middle of June? I do. While I love to bake with seasonal ingredients, canned pumpkin is an evergreen in my pantry, something I keep on hand no matter the weather. Earlier this week I had a not-so-successful run at some pumpkin oat muffins (they tasted fine, but the bottoms stuck in their wrappers) and had about a cup of pumpkin left over, the perfect amount for these cinnamon pumpkin cupcakes.

Many frosting flavors pair well with pumpkin, like maple and various spices. I chose a simple cinnamon buttercream to echo the cinnamon in the cupcakes themselves, and it turned out really well. Mike’s coworkers demolished them yesterday, proving that I’m not the only person who appreciates a good pumpkin treat in the summertime.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, to taste

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; my recipe yielded 19 cupcakes.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a large glass measuring cup, combine pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix well, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir until well-combined and smooth.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, fill cupcake wells about half full.

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven; immediately remove from tins and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, then add powdered sugar all at once and beat on low until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and beat well; taste and add more cinnamon if you like.

Fit a piping bag with a large star tip and pipe swirls of frosting onto each cupcake. Store at a cool room temperature for 1-2 days; these cupcakes are very tender and will get a bit sticky if they’re left out much longer.

Buttercream Rose Cake

Things I learned to do during Baking in the Time of Coronavirus: Make buttercream roses. My decorating skills are limited at best; I can tint frosting and make some pretty basic designs, but until this cake I hadn’t used a flower nail before. I watched this tutorial from Wilton before I got started, and while my roses are much flatter than the ones in the video, they turned out pretty well.

I used buttercream frosting with a medium consistency, and I’d recommend going with a thicker consistency next time for flowers that aren’t quite as flat. This cake is for my mom’s belated birthday celebration – she turned 74 this past week – and we’re having her over for dinner this evening. She won’t likely eat the buttercream flowers (Genny is a woman who prefers cake to frosting), but this was great practice.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) butter, at room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 8 ounces superfine sugar*
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces self-rising flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

For the frosting

  • 1 1/4 cups butter, at room temperature
  • 4 – 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons almond extract
  • Yellow, red, pink, and green food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 8-inch round cake pans with butter, then line each with a circle of parchment.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until combined; add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in flour and baking powder.

Divide batter evenly between the two cake pans, leveling the tops with a spatula. Bake for 18-20 minutes, then check to see if cakes are done; they will be light golden brown on top, have pulled away from the sides of the pan, and will spring back when pressed lightly.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for 5 minutes; run a butter knife around the edge of each cake and turn onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat butter with your paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes, until fluffy. Add 3 cups powdered sugar and beat on low until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla and almond extracts and beat to combine, then add another cup of powdered sugar; you’ll want a medium buttercream consistency that isn’t too stiff, but will hold its shape when you pipe the flowers.

Frost the top and sides of the cake with white, then divide your remaining frosting into two portions, with one portion much smaller than the other for your leaves. Tint the remaining white frosting yellow; I tinted my frosting using the same base color of yellow for the peach and salmon-colored flowers.

Fit a piping bag with a coupler and a plain tip; affix a parchment square to your flower nail with just a bit of frosting. Pipe a cone shape into the center of the nail, then switch tips to your Wilton 104 petal tip. You want the broader end of the tip to be toward the bottom as you pipe; pipe petals, turning your flower nail as necessary. When you’ve reached your desired size, slide the parchment off the nail and place it on a baking sheet. Once all of your flowers are piped, chill them until they’re firm.

To tint my frosting, I used the following color ratios:

Pale yellow – 2 drops yellow liquid food coloring

Peach – 1 drop red and 3 drops yellow liquid food coloring into the existing yellow

Salmon – 1 drop pink gel food coloring into the existing peach

Once the flowers are firm, place them on the cake in your desired arrangement; I also used a bit of buttercream to stick them to the surface of the cake. Tint the remainder of your frosting green; using the Wilton 352 leaf tip, pipe leaves next to your flowers.

Store at room temperature in an airtight cake caddy or cake stand for 2-3 days.

Makes about 10 servings.

Strawberry Lime Cupcakes

It’s June, and June means summer. Even if summer doesn’t technically start for a few weeks, I feel like it’s time to bake with summer flavors, like strawberry. I bought a ton of berries during my last grocery trip – berries are one of my favorite things – and decided to make a puree from some of the strawberries. While strawberry and lemon pair very well, I’d never made a strawberry lime combination, so I decided to give it a try.

These cupcakes use both lime extract and lime zest, but if you didn’t have extract you could just use a bit more zest. They have a lovely, almost pound cake-like texture that pairs well with a smooth buttercream. While lime is the dominant flavor in these treats, the strawberry brings a nice amount of sweetness; next time, I might use a bit less zest or omit the extract in the cupcakes so the flavor is more balanced. They’re still delicious, though, so I consider them a win.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime extract
  • Zest of half a lime
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature

For the strawberry buttercream

  • 10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup strawberry puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners; this recipe made 21 cupcakes.

Combine milk, vanilla extract, and lime extract; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine cake flour, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, then reduce mixer speed to low and add butter a few cubes at a time. Continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture looks like coarse sand.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour in the milk mixture and add the lime zest. Return to medium speed and continue to beat for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl well; the batter will become almost fluffy.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared cupcake pans, filling about 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from pans immediately and cool completely on a wire rack before filling and frosting.

For the frosting, in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and vanilla extract on low speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add first three cups of powdered sugar in half-cup increments, beating until fully incorporated.

Slowly add strawberry puree, mixing until completely incorporated, about 1-2 minutes, scraping your bowl well. If your mixture is too thin, slowly add more powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, until you reach a consistency that will be easy to pipe.

Fit a piping bag with a large star tip (I use the Wilton M1) and pipe swirls of frosting onto each cupcake; my recipe made exactly enough for all 21 cupcakes, which is kind of amazing, because that never happens.

Store in an airtight container at a cool room temperature or in the fridge for 1-2 days.

Pumpkin Sourdough Loaf

My cousin Barb inspired me to take the plunge into the word of sourdough. I’ve not baked much bread, let alone sourdough bread, but last week I stirred together some flour and water and began my sourdough starter. I’m using the King Arthur Flour sourdough starter recipe, and as Barb said, it’s sort of like having a pet. I’ve decided to call him Horatio, which means timekeeper, and I feed him more flour and water twice a day.

Part of sourdough starter maintenance involves discarding a portion of your starter and adding more flour and water to keep the friendly bacteria and wild yeast in your mixture working together to help the starter rise. At a certain point in development, you can start to bake with your “discard,” so I decided to give it a try with this loaf, adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Pumpkin Spice Bread simply by the omission of raisins. The end result, while not as high-rising as the one in the KAF blog post photo, has a lovely spiced pumpkin flavor and nice texture.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 3/4 cup sourdough starter discard
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 loaf tin.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together vegetable oil, sugar, molasses, eggs, pumpkin, sourdough starter discard, and vanilla. Pour into flour mixture and stir until combined, then stir in walnuts.

Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Store at room temperature, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for several days. Makes 16 slices.