The trials and tribulations of a scatter-brained kitchen junkie.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Matcha-do about nothing

Disclaimer: Let me just start off by saying this is my first blog post, or attempt at blogging, in a very long time. It's not going to have spectacular formatting or writing, and yes, the whole thing is setup from a template. All of this will (hopefully) improve as time goes by.  But for now... 

Early last week I set out on an adventure...
Task: to create cupcakes for someone I knew very little about.
Challenge accepted.

My short checklist of what I knew about her:

  • She's a she
  • She's Chinese/Canadian (I think)
  • She's wicked brainy and on the nerdy side
  • She loves Japanese culture
  • She's a rather adventurous eater (My favorite kind!)

So after some quick soul (read: stomach) searching here's what I decided upon; green tea cupcakes, mandarin orange filling, and coconut buttercream frosting. Sounds easy, actually carrying out the tasks was another story.

To start I went in search of a green tea cake recipe, which turned out to be harder to find than I had predicted. I sifted through probably 50 recipes give or take that I didn't like for one reason or another.  However, I did quickly noticed a common theme, they all called for matcha (green tea powder I'm told), which I of course didn't know anything about.  I diligently made my trip to my local all things under the sun grocery store in search of this magic powder.
Asian aisle - nope.
Tea aisle - nope.
Asian aisle #2 that I randomly found - nope...
So I left the store empty handed; which is to say I bought all my other groceries but not the one thing I specifically went out of my way for.

Back to searching  through pages of recipes I settled on one that seemed decent enough. Then, of course, the day I was set out to start the actual baking I changed my mind completely and picked out a new one. But still this pesky issue of matcha ..., I would not be detered; to the internet! I found through a quick search that I could make (!) matcha by putting green tea into my coffee grinder and grinding the f*ck out of it. Seriously guys, this took forever.

Marjorie -1 
Ridiculously hard to find/non-existent green tea powder - 0

For reference, I took about 10 green tea bags, cut them open, and emptied the contents into my grinder. Grind, grind, griiiiiinnnnnnd. Check consistency, nope still solid, shake everything loose. Repeat. I'd say it took me about 7-8 solid minutes of grinding to get to what I would call a powder. This resulted in a little over a tablespoon of powder after being ground down.

And this is the cake recipe I finally decided upon.

Let me just say that this cake was quite, ummmmm, interesting, to  make. Even with all my other baking concoctions, when I'm doing a quick (cup)cake I still turn to a box mix a large portion of the time. This one was very time consuming amongst other issues. Luckily I decided to make the cake the night before so I wasn't pressed for time, and in the end but it was totally worth it. The cake smelled amazing going into the oven, and softly sweet coming out, the green tea added a really pleasant natural green hue to the cakes. I sadly am not familiar with sponge cake and over-baked these just a teensy bit; which is a catastrophic no-no in my book. I let it slide because I didn't have the supplies, energy or time to make a second batch, they weren't burnt after all, just a little more darker brown than I cared for. I let them cook over night covered and went back at them in the morning.

For the filling I went with an awesome mandarin orange marmalade that I stumbled across at the grocery store. It was delicious and bright orange which contrasted nicely with the soft green cakes; but a gigantic hassle to coerce through a decorating bag. The marmalade had long strings of candied orange peel that, though delicious, clogged my bismark tip completely. So I decided to go with a Wilton tip # 12 and some brute force to fill the cupcakes. I had to basically jam the tip through the admittedly rough skin of the cupcake and squeeze like mad to get anything to come out. Repeat, TWENTY. THREE. MORE. TIMES.

Finally, for the frosting, well, umm, you see, ... I didn't have a recipe. Much like the cake I looked at recipe after recipe of coconut buttercream and couldn't find one that I thought was right and quite a few of them had raw egg(s) in them; more than a little out of date I suppose. So I did what any level headed, mildly irate baker does, I winged (wung?) it with things I had in the house. (Yes, I do keep coconut milk in my cabinet, why do you ask?)  And let me tell you that this was the best decision I have ever made. The frosting was amazing and I can't wait to use it again and again and again...

Here's my recipe:

  • 1/2c butter softened to room temperature
  • 1/2c pure vegetable shortening
  • 3tbsp coconut milk
  • 1tsp coconut extract
  • 5c confectioner sugar approx.

Add the butter, shortening, extract, and coconut milk in a large bowl and mix until smooth and creamy. I use my kitchen aid, but for those without this gift from the gods, you'll at least need a hand mixer. Add the sugar one cup at a time until the desired consistency is achieved. I used all five and got perfectly flavored, still slightly thin frosting. It was great for what I needed.

Now, if you're satisfied here, you're done, but if you're like me and always need to push things a bit farther, add a cup or so of shredded coconut to the mix for a fun texture and smidge of bonus flavor. VoilĂ , frosting magique!  I left the frosting white because I didn't want to add more color and thus detract away from the fun natural green and orange I had already. Plus it would have clashed with the polka dot cupcake wrappers ;)

I attempted to pipe this onto the cupcakes with my standard lazyman's cupcake tip #1M, but the frosting  was too thick to go on pretty from the shredded coconut, so again I changed tactics. I did my least favorite thing and begrudgingly frosted each cupcake with an angled spatula and my hands, as if it were the stone age or something.

Once the cupcakes were finished being frosted there was still something missing, they needed a pop of decoration, hrmmm... I decided to quick toast some coconut and sprinkled it over each cupcake, shaking loose the excess. After this I grabbed a can of mandarin oranges in light syrup, drained them, and added one piece of orange to the center of each cupcake laying flat, with the curve facing left. Magnifiqué!

Phew, done and done. Delivered them to a surprised and happy friend and delighted in the joy people receive from (surprise) cupcakes. That feeling, at that moment, throws any and all frustrations from the task out the window.

I apologize for the lack of pictures for this post, I hope to rectify that going forward, but I didn't have a camera handy for this one.