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Posts tagged ‘cake’

Blueberry Muffin Recipe #2371

I was going to tell you that this will be about the 5,000th blueberry muffin recipe posted on the internet but I decided to check my facts and apparently it will only be about the 2,371st. I know there are plenty out there because a few years ago my mother-in-law typed “Blueberry Muffins” into Google, reached into the cyber bowl of hits and pulled one out. It turned out to be a winner. I kept the printed recipe and have modified it in the interim. This summer while my recipe box was in storage she and I wanted to make the same muffins. After about thirty minutes of shaking the Google bowl with different word combinations and reaching in to find it again, we realized that picking the same hit twice is nearly impossible. We came close, but it wasn’t exactly the recipe we remembered.

Here is my version of the right one.

2/3 cup softened butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ cups vanilla yogurt

1 tsp lemon juice

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 TBSP baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1½ cups fresh blueberries rinsed and drained (if you need to use frozen, thaw them and toss them in flour)

375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Makes 24.


Assemble the wet ingredients.

Start by mixing the butter and sugar, just like cookies. You have to love a muffin recipe that involves Darth Mixer!

Add the eggs, yogurt and lemon juice. Mix.

Then it’s time for the fluffy white ingredients.

Note that it calls for the capital T, tablespoon of baking powder!

Mix until you have a batter that looks a lot like cake batter, which reminds me of my friend Anita Cory telling me about a funny video on the American obsession with cake. The line I think of when I make these muffins goes something like “What is the difference between muffins and cake? Nothing! Muffins are bald cupcakes. We call them muffins because we don’t eat cake for breakfast.” (Our good friend Google can take you to the whole stand up routine if you type in “cake comedy Jim Gaffigan”. It’s pretty funny.)

Now, the blueberries are entering stage left but they cannot jump in the bowl with Darth doing the mixing!

They need to be dumped in last and folded gently into the batter.

Scoop into sprayed muffin pans.

This left-over batter will not see dishwater in my house. That’s what a good spatula is for – yummy.

Put them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.

When they come out, spread some butter on their little tops while they’re hot…

…so that a sprinkling of sugar will stick. My children consider this the most important step.

Let them cool just a bit.

Pop them loose with a table knife or spoon.

I’m working with a new oven and I think I had the rack placed a little too high, so the bottoms are a little crispier than ideal. How embarrassing. Oh, well. Blogging perfection bites the dust again.

But, they were still very tasty!

I like these smooth cakey muffins but I think I’m also going to find a recipe with a crumble topping and more of a traditional muffin texture to add some variety during blueberry season. I’ll let you know when I come up with a good one. Of course if you’re reading this and have one to share, please send it on and save me from sorting through the 2700 options on the internet!

Cougar Graduation Cap Cupcakes

For the last three years we’ve coordinated the university ministry for our church and when it’s graduation time we have an open house with cupcakes for our grads. Washington State’s colors are “Crimson and Gray” so red velvet cake with gray cream cheese frosting works beautifully. The caps are made of little cookies with frosting tassels perched on a dollop of black frosting.

Notice how I’ve managed to work cookies into a cupcake design! Here’s how they’re made:

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ cup butter (cold – straight from the fridge)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp Wilton food coloring in your choice of color
About 1 TBSP water

Cut the butter into cubes and drop them into the food processor with the flour and pinch of salt.

Process into crumbles then add the sugar.

Separate the yolk from the white and drop it in. I do this by cracking the shell in half and plopping the yolk back and forth between the two shells until all of the white has dropped away. If some of it is clinging I kind of use the other shell to cut it away. I think this saves me a whole $2.00 splurge on an egg separator.

Add the vanilla.

Process again. It will get to a crumbly state like this. Then you can add the food coloring.

It will still be crumbly.

Add water a few drops at a time through the food processor’s feed tube until you get a ball of dough like this.

Divide the dough into four parts.

Flatten each piece into a pancake with your hands on an oversized piece of parchment paper.

Stack the “pancakes” and refrigerate them for an hour or two.

While you’re waiting, it’s a good idea to get the food processor cleaned up unless you want to see the stains from that food coloring for weeks to come. By the way, my food processor’s name “Princess P.” The P stands for what it can do: process, pulverize, pulse, puree. And, for how it sounds: it purrs. And, for Priscilla – because that also starts with P.

Okay, back to the dough. Usually by the time I pull the dough out of the fridge, I’ve overshot the target by a little and I need to actually let it warm back up slightly. When it is firm but pliable, place each pancake under a second piece of parchment paper. (So many P-s!) Then roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness between the sheets. (I now have a nice wooden rolling pin, thanks to my Uncle Pete’s suggestion, but it’s not getting anywhere near this much food coloring!)

Peel away the top paper.

Use a pizza cutter to form a grid of one-inch squares for the caps, with smaller lines of buffer dough between each row of caps. The buffer will be peeled away from between them and the caps will not leave their place on the parchment paper until after they have been baked. With cookies this thin, it is almost impossible to move them without mutilating their shapes.

Lift and peel the dough from between the cookies.

Poke little steam holes into the center of each cookie to avoid puffing. (I don’t know how critical this is but Julia Child says to do it with dough like this, so I do.)

Place the sheets of parchment onto a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes.

Remove them on their paper to cool on a rack.

Once they are cool, use your clean fingers to rub off the inevitable crumbs that will be stuck around the edges. Set them aside to wait while you go on to the cupcakes. The cupcakes can be any kind you want to make. If you want to hear about the escapades involved in making mine, go to…. Lessons in Red Velvet.

For this post we’ll go on to the dreamy cream-y cheese frosting.

2 boxes of cream cheese (at room temperature)
2 sticks of butter (at room temperature)
1 (2lb) bag of powdered sugar
Gel Food coloring

Drop the cream cheese and butter into the mixer and cream them

Add the powdered sugar. I don’t sift the sugar for frosting and the only time I’ve ever had trouble was when I used a cheap generic package. I also don’t add the sugar gradually…big surprise for those of you who’ve read my cookie recipes, I’m sure. Then, mix until it’s nice and creamy like this.

Pull out two small portions – one for the tassel color and one for the base of the caps.

Color the remaining frosting to the main color you’ve chosen. I made gray by adding a small amount of black Wilton gel food coloring. Gel food coloring is critical for frosting because it doesn’t mess with the consistency like liquid.

Don’t forget to color the other bowls of frosting. I use a table knife to get the color out of those tiny jars and then just use it to mix.

The final colors….Go Cougs!!

I pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes with a large frosting tip. I am only a perfectionist when I want to be and with frosting – I don’t want to be. As long as I come out with kind of cute layer on the cupcakes some way or another I’m happy.

Next I put on the base of the cap with a pastry bag that just has the tip cut off. Sandy and Susie taught me this tip-less trick while we were working on the Victorian Tea together. You get the cutest little dollops.

Press the cookies into place.

Then put the tassel-colored frosting into a piping bag with a fine line tip and make the top part of the tassel. (I am learning how to spell t-a-s-s-e-l by the way! Word is faithfully correcting me from “tassle”. I wish it would do so automatically and let me live in ignorance though.)

Then switch to a little frilly tip for the bottom part of the t-a-s-s-e-l.

Keep a toothpick handy to help cut off the end of each one if needed because it goes through open space from the cookie to touch down on the cupcake and it can be hard to lift the tip away without pulling the t-a-s-s-e-l away too.

Voila!!! Not one cupcake is perfect, but they’re pretty cute, especially with the happy graduates:



And, my hubby, the Army’s newest if not only Ph.D in Radio (Nuclear) Chemistry. He’s great looking for such a brain!

Last, but not least, a special thanks to Chris and Katie for making the sandwiches and setting everything up for the party while we were all at the graduation ceremony.

Lessons in Red Velvet

I know that we learn from our mistakes, but over the years I have decided that I am not a fan of this approach, which is why I read trustworthy cookbooks and put into practice what I pick up. This also happens to be a big reason why I study the Bible. I’d rather take wisdom where I can find it and not have to learn the hard way that God had a good reason for what He said to do.

Of course, in spite of the best guidance, I occasionally think I have better ideas, like with red velvet.

The foundation for this lesson started on Good Friday when I procrastinated about buying a cake mix (my usual approach to cake baking) and couldn’t find a red velvet mix in Pullman. A bunch of students were coming over after the Good Friday service to watch The Passion – and have dessert. I had racked my brain for what kind of desert might go with such a gut-wrenching movie and come up with a plan to make a cake that illustrated Isaiah 1:18. There was no time at the local IGA to think of a plan B. Thankfully, I had been ogling the Pioneer Woman blog and happened to remember that she had recently posted a red velvet cake. (See it here.) It was beautiful and I had looked pretty closely at the ingredients so I grabbed buttermilk and red food coloring and trotted home.

The cake turned out nicely – until I hurriedly tried covering over red crumbs with cream cheese frosting that was too thick for the job. It turns out that hiding crimson with white is harder than it looks in cakes, not to mention the cosmos. Anyway, there were crumbs of red embedded in the frosting, but the point was made, maybe even accentuated. Here are a few shots of that cake.

The real trouble with red velvet began when I watched a re-run episode of Bobby Flay’s Throwdown a couple of days before I needed to make red velvet cupcakes AGAIN for our graduation open house. (Note: If you missed my prior plug for that show, please check out the post on pulled pork (here). I’m still looking for someone who can explain the Zans!) In the episode we watched, a woman who owns a bakery made red velvet cupcakes, and she talked about how you shouldn’t use butter in cupcakes because it makes them dry. She believes in using oil. That got me thinking about the Pioneer Woman cake I had recently made, which called for shortening. I wondered if perhaps that perfectly delicious cake might have been too firm to be parlayed into scrumptious cupcakes. Meanwhile, Bobby Flay, used butter in his cupcakes and won, but I was already well down the destructive path of second guessing sound wisdom. Oil, butter, shortening – conflicting expertise – what a dilemma!

My solution – when the experts can’t agree appoint yourself as one. In my visions of blogging grandeur, I even took a picture of myself writing my own hybrid recipe from the two mentioned above. Stupid! I have studied cookies to the point that I can alter recipes with predictable results, but I have no business trying it with cake recipes, when my usual method involves pictures of eggs and oven dials on the back of a box.

This photo is now quite embarrassing!

But, we will never know exactly how this recipe might have turned out, because I failed to even follow my own plan correctly. Here’s how it happened.

Holly and Megan came over to bake with me, which was great fun.

I guess I was distracted with the novelty of a sifter being operated in my kitchen as Holly was measuring the flour and I told her the wrong amount. (It matters how much flour you put in cake, by the way.)

The batter tasted great, but I kept looking through the oven glass at cupcakes that weren’t rising and wondering why it was taking so long. Finally I pulled them out in a fit of aggravation and found that the bottoms were burned. WHAT!?

Worse yet, they tasted burned.

What you cannot see in this trash can is the chunk of my ego buried under the pile.

I called Ric who was already leaving the grocery store after shopping for other graduation party supplies and asked him (in a very miserable voice) to go back in and shake the place down for a red velvet cake mix. He felt so sorry for me that he bought me these flowers to make me feel better.

Maybe I should have baking mishaps more often!

He may have also been feeling bad about breaking the news that he did not find a mix. Instead, he found more red food coloring. Oh, yippee – a chance to redeem myself.

For the next batch I humbly followed the Bobby Flay Throw Down recipe exactly – almost. You can find it online here. The only exception was that I mixed the cocoa and the red food coloring like The Pioneer Woman recipe because it’s much prettier to dump red coloring into white batter. You get a picture like this….

Instead of like this…

…which is how it looks if the cocoa is added in with the dry ingredients. If I wasn’t blogging, I wouldn’t care, but now you’ve gotten to see some pretty red swirls. If you really want to see pretty red batter photography, check out the Red Velvet Sheet Cake on Ree’s Blog.

Both recipes made delicious cake – much better than I’ve ever gotten from a mix. So, the wheels are turning in my brain on this whole cake thing. I will conquer this process!

In the end, the lessons learned were profound. Follow directions when you’re not an expert and be careful about measurements.

Next Post: the graduation cap cupcakes that all of this trouble went into producing. Here’s a sneak peek.