cinnamon rolls

I love me some cinnamon rolls! These were super easy — I made the sweet dough the day before and proofed, shaped, rolled and sliced it and then let the rolls retard in the fridge overnight.  The next morning, I baked and glazed them — yummy!!

The sweet dough recipe and cinnamon roll instructions came from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. Organized Cooking posts the dough recipe here, and you can see the cinnamon roll instructions on America’s Test Kitchen Feed. The cream cheese glaze was actually that good old standby — Philadelphia Cream Cheese Frosting, thinned down with milk to a drizzling consistency.

waste not, want not chocolate cupcakes

Remember how I said I needed to use up the leftover icing in my last post? Voila! Chocolate cupcakes iced with the leftover Chocolate Buttercream and decorated with leftover Vanilla Buttercream.  The cupcake recipe is from Martha Stewart’s site, though I substituted plain lowfat Greek-style yogurt for the sour cream. The cake was moist and dense and not overly sweet — the perfect foil for the icing. Sooooo good.

many, many mini cupcakes!

I was asked to make mini cupcakes for a celebration at church last weekend. They were expecting about 175 guests, but left the specifics (varieties and number of cupcakes) up to me. After much gnashing of teeth and sketching out possible combinations in my notepad, I decided to make 3 different batters and 3 different icings, resulting in 5 different combos: yellow cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, dark chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, dark chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, and carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing. I thought this would provide the best selection for everyone’s different tastes while not creating an overwhelming amount of work for me.

The whole process went about as smoothly as I could have hoped, thanks to careful planning on my part. I knew I would have a limited amount of time to bake on the day of the gathering, so I made the icings the day before and refrigerated them. Before I used them the next day, I brought them to room temperature, gave each a quick whip in the mixer and I was good to go.  I also “mis-d” my cupcake ingredients the day before, with the plan that I would get up at 5am and have a solid 3 – 4 hours of baking before I had to leave for the morning, then return at lunchtime to ice the cupcakes, and have them delivered to the event by 2:30pm.  Everything really went according to plan aside from my anxious brain waking up at 3am and refusing to settle back down again.  At 4:30am, I called it quits on the night’s sleep and got to work.

All the cupcake batter recipes were from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.  Each recipe makes 24 full-sized cupcakes according to the book; when I made them, I portioned them with a #40 (3/4-oz.) scoop which worked out to between 65 – 70 mini cupcakes per batch.

The icings were from a couple of different sources.  The vanilla and chocolate buttercreams were from Brown Eyed Baker (vanilla here, and chocolate here). Both were scrumptious! The cream cheese icing recipe was the original Philadelphia Cream Cheese Frosting recipe from Kraft’s site.  I’ve tried a number of other cream cheese icing recipes and this one remains the most consistent.  I also added a tablespoon of Wilton Meringue Powder to each batch to stabilize the icing, since all were mostly butter (and cream cheese — notoriously hard to work with in warm temps). Note that the carrots on the carrot cupcakes were vanilla buttercream and not cream cheese icing. One more thing: a single batch of each icing was enough to ice all the cupcakes, with icing to spare.

The cupcakes were well-received and I was really pleased with the results.  There were a few minor snafus (AKA learning moments) that I have made note of — mostly having to do with juggling the fiddly little mini cupcake trays in the oven when rotating them and issues with air circulation in the oven, but nothing anyone else would probably notice.  Now on to planning my next batch of cupcakes… need to use up that leftover icing!

mexican chocolate cupcakes with dulce de leche frosting

I decided that this summer I would try my hand at making some less pedestrian cupcakes. For my birthday, I selected these goodies that I pinned a few months back on my “Things to Bake/Make” board on Pinterest. I also attempted (and succeeded) making Dulce de Leche from “scratch” (i.e. from a can of condensed milk) for the first time. When I originally selected the recipe, I thought I was going to be able to find already-prepared (canned) Dulce de Leche quite readily at my local supermarket, but no such luck. In spite of the extra step, they were undoubtedly the better for my having made my own Dulce de Leche.

I did a fair amount of research before making my own Dulce de Leche. The standard way is to make it by submerging a sealed can of sweetened condensed milk in a simmering pot of water for a couple hours or so, but apparently that technique comes with a fair amount of risk, of the can exploding.  That really didn’t sound appealing to me.  There are other techniques as well, including baking the contents of the can over a water bath (as David Leibovitz describes here) for an hour, or the method I employed: slowly microwaving the sweetened condensed milk at 30% – 50% power and whisking at regular intervals.  I felt the most comfortable with this technique because (a) it seemed to be the least time consuming, (b) it was a warm day and would heat up my kitchen the least, and (c) I felt I had the most control over the process this way.  I didn’t want to burn it or heat it to the point of turning the milk into rock hard candy. Since I would be taking the Dulce de Leche out of the microwave every couple minutes and whisking it, I would have a better handle at its state at any given point. I was really happy with this method and definitely would make it this way again. One tip — place the milk in the biggest bowl that will fit in your microwave. 14 ounces of sweetened condensed milk doesn’t look like that much, but when it starts to boil in the microwave, it really bubbles up. There were times when I was intoning “stop, stop, stop” as the milk rose to the top of the bowl. Fortunately, the microwave power always seemed to cycle off before it could boil over.

Here are directions I used, from Carnation’s site.  They seemed to use the most conservative time and power settings of the different microwaving instructions I’ve read. I cooked mine an additional 2 minutes at 30% power, for a total of 14 minutes at 30%. Note also that after the Dulce de Leche has cooled, you may have to warm it slightly over a warm water bath to make it pliable enough to beat with the cream cheese for the icing.

Pour 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk into a large microwave-safe bowl. Cook on medium (50%) power for 4 minutes, stirring halfway through heating time. Reduce power to medium-low (30%) power; cook for 8 to 12 minutes, stirring with wire whisk every few minutes, until thick and light caramel-colored. 

Note: Microwave ovens may vary; adjust timing accordingly. 

The cupcake and icing recipe is from Jennifer’s Bake or Break blog. The addition of cinnamon to the chocolate batter is what gives them a Mexican chocolate flavor. I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder (a mixture of Dutch-processed and unsweetened cocoa powders) for a darker, richer and mellower chocolate flavor, rather than using the straight unsweetened cocoa powder called for.

I also converted the volume measurements in the cupcake recipe into weights, as I am a compulsive scaler.  Here are my conversions:

  • 8.5 oz. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (I used a slightly heaping 1/2 tsp. of coarse sea salt)
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1.5 oz. mixture of Dutch-processed and unsweetened cocoa powder (such as Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder)
  • 8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
  • 10.5 oz. granulated sugar
  • 4 oz. light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. milk
You can read the rest of the cupcake recipe and the frosting recipe on the Bake or Break site.
To ice the cupcakes, I piped the icing on in a swirl (I don’t really like how it looks when I spread it on with a spatula), using a Wilton #12 round tip.  I had just enough to ice all 24 cupcakes with no icing left over, so ration carefully (and sample sparingly!). To finish, I garnished each cupcake with a piece of chewy caramel candy, cut into quarters. 
The cupcakes were phenomenal.  The cake itself was moist and rich and the icing’s cream cheese-Dulce de Leche combo was a great compliment to the cake — not too sweet and just a hint of caramel-y goodness. My husband took a few into work and they were very well-received. Thanks to Jennifer for a fabulous pair of recipes!