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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Crimes Against Humanity Cakes

The name pretty much says it all. I set out to make some ├╝ber delicious terrifyingly sweet cupcakes for a last minute birthday party invite. The catch, I had very little in the house, and even less desire to do heavy grocery shopping on an early Sunday afternoon when the stores were packed. Couple this with the birthday girl's insatiable love of chocolate and Crimes Against Humanity Cakes are born. The idea came from a series of random things I've found spread over the zillion cooking/baking forums I frequent. The basis came from an instructables post that I then tweaked a bit to clog the arteries  please the palate of the cake eaters. This recipe was perfect because all I needed (or so I thought...) was to pick up some Oreos.

A glimpse at the chaos inside.

What You'll Need
  • Box of brownie mix + the ingredients it calls for OR the ingredients and your favorite brownie recipe
  • Oreos regular or Double Stuf 
  • Smooth/creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 c vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 c butter softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (clear if you want the frosting to be really white)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk or water (I use water so the frosting is safe to sit out at a party/gathering all night)
  • Patience
  • Dishwasher

Assembling the (Cup)Cakes
  • Preheat oven to 350°   
  • Line a standard cupcake pan with 12 cupcake papers.  
  • Place one Oreo (I used Double Stuf because the BF insisted that the party guests would thank me) in the center of each cupcake paper.
    Single layer of Oreos
  • Pipe about 1/2 tbsp of peanut butter onto the top of the Oreo. It doesn't need to be measured, just eyeball it.Try to spread it across the whole cookie, leaving just a small ring of cookie showing underneath. Seriously, don't try to spoon it onto the cookie. Even with warmed peanut butter this was really messy and kept pulling the cookie up every time I tried to lift the spoon away.
      First round of peanut butter
  • Put another Oreo on top of this monster in the making. Try to keep your stack centered in the cupcake hole.
  •  Pipe a second layer 1/2 tbsp of peanut butter on to that sucker.
    Second round of peanut butter.
  • Mix up your brownie mix per the directions on the box/recipe you are using.
    Mmmm, brownie batter.
  • Scoop about 2 tbsp of brownie batter carefully on top of the peanut butter.
    Try to hit as close to the center as possible and let it slide down the sides of your cookie/peanut butter mountain. I used a medium cookie scoop and this worked beautifully. Especially compared to my efforts to cleanly transfer the batter using a regular table spoon. 
    Scooping the brownie batter.
  • Bake those suckers for 20-25 minutes, this varies depending on the mix you used. 
  • Insert a toothpick slightly off to the side to test for doneness. Obviously you can't poke straight down the  center as you usually would since the center is fully of still-fairly-hard-cookie. I pulled my brownies when the toothpick was mostly clean, but the brownies still appeared a bit tender. I wanted that gooey-ish texture to contract the crunch of the cookies.
  • Let rest in the pan, on a cooling wrack, until completely cooled. Trying to pull these from the pan while they are even slightly warm still results in the brownie tops separating from their cookie counterparts. 
A bit ugly, but that's what frosting is for!
Making the Frosting

Quick confession, I used gasp store-bought buttercream, but I promise I can explain! I had a giant tub of store-bought, though delicious, buttercream that was given to me by an aunt who had bought waaaay too many supplies to make her son's birthday cake. She wound up with a full extra tub of unopened frosting that she sent my way figuring I would use it up before her. It's now been kicking around my house for several months, so it needed to find a home. I also happened to have run out of powdered sugar, well I had about a cups worth which isn't enough to do anything of value with, so the tub saved me from a second trip to the store. All I had to do was crush up the Oreos (which was also a disaster because my food processor is no more) and mix them in. Had I made the frosting from scratch, this is what I would have done.
Crushing the cookies barbarian style.
  1. Cream the butter and shortening with an electric mixer on low-medium. 
  2. Add the vanilla and stir until combined.
  3. Sift in the powdered sugar slowly, scraping the sides down as necessary. Mix until thoroughly combined. 
  4. Add in the milk/water and beat until fluffy. Add more milk/water as necessary if the frosting appears too thick.
  5. Crush/grind up about 1 cup of Oreos. 
  6. Stir in the crushed Oreos.
  7. Use a butter knife or small spatula to spread the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes.
  8. Design/decorate as you see fit.
  9. Eat. 
The finished product

This was one of the messiest and most enjoyable recipes I have made in quite sometime. The calories are sky-high to match the joy level attained from whipping up a batch of these. The party guests, and most importantly, the birthday girl, were quite pleased with the results. I was too. We spent the night dancing, singing karaoke, and drinking cheap beer. Did I mention it was a Sunday night? Work the next day was...interesting. I'm very clearly not 18 anymore. I mean, 21, umm, cuz you know, that's the legal drinking age. ;)

Happy Baking!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Yummy Yam Cupcakes - AKA Week 0

Yams vs Sweet Potatoes

I was about 20 before I realized that yams and sweet potatoes were the same thing. Then I was 24 (aka about two days ago when I was making these) when I learned that they actually aren't. Education is a cruel cruel mistress. For anyone who's curious yams and sweet potatoes actually are two different vegetables, though the names are commonly used interchangeably. Soooo, these were technically sweet potatoes cupcakes according to the recipe, but the can I bought had the words sweet potato and yam on the packaging so I feel justified letting my title stand.

Over on reddit I signed up to (attempt to) participate in their 52 weeks of baking challenge. Each week we are given a theme and we get to design a recipe to bake. We then share pictures and recipes with the rest of the community. I joined this not only in hopes of expanding my baking horizons, but also as a kick in the pants to get more me time in the kitchen. Plus, the more fun experiments over there translates into more successful posts here.
Since people were so excited about the upcoming 52 weeks of challenge they decided to put together a week 0 challenge that we had the entire month of December to work on. Week zero was holiday cupcakes, and since I've had this recipe kicking around in my to-bake folder for a while I thought what better time than now!
Some people think of sweet potatoes as  a Thanksgiving only food, but I personally love them all through the winter months. There is something about them, much like pumpkin anything, that just screams cold weather soul food, so I give you sweet potato cupcakes.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes

I got this recipe from Better Homes & Gardens, and (as usual) tweaked it slightly. I also used my mother's cream cheese frosting recipe since there is nothing in the world that can top it.

The cakes
The sweet potatoes I used
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 20 oz can sweet potatoes in light syrup - mashed
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°
  2. Line a cupcake/muffin pan with 22 liners. (The recipe calls for 24, I got 23, and a few of my cupcakes were on the small side so I'll definitely condense next time.)
  3. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. Cream the butter & sugar until fluffy. 
  5. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
  6. Add the sweet potatoes and vanilla. I didn't pre-mash the sweet potatoes since they are so soft already and I was using my kitchenaid. If you're using a decent stand mixer I'd say you can skip the mashing in advance as well. 
  7. Add the flour mixture. Mix together until completely combined. Batter will be very thick and heavy.
  8. Spoon into lined cupcake pan.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes. The recipe states 20 minutes, but mine were still goo at that point.
  10. Remove from oven and cool on a wire wrack. 
This recipe was fairly straight forward and easy to follow though I did run into some snags along the way. First, the batter really didn't want to mix together, especially once the sweet potatoes were introduced. It's not that the sweet potatoes were too solid, quite the opposite actually; the sweet potatoes were so soft when they first were grabbed up by the mixer, that the eggs, sugar, butter mixture didn't want to combine with them. I turned off the mixture and just quickly incorporated the two by hand, then switched the mixer back on the finish the job. 
The second problem I came across was when adding the flour, when I say thick I mean thick. I think this was the thickest cake batter I have come across this far. That made getting it into the cupcakes holes both easier and more challenging simultaneously. Since the batter was thick, it was easy to scoop it up with a measuring cup, but then it does not want to release easily. I decided on a two hand approach; scoop up the batter with one hand, and use a spoon with the other to coax the batter into the cups. This was mostly successful.

I always forget to take pictures before I put the cupcakes in the carrier. Whoops!

The Frosting

  • 1 8 oz pkg cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 lb powdered sugar

  1. Beat the cream cheese until soft and smooth. About one minute.
  2. Mix in vanilla, scraping down the sides to mix thoroughly. 
  3. Slowly add powdered sugar while mixing on low. Scrape sides down as necessary.
  4. Eat with a spoon straight from the mixer if no one is looking. Seriously, it's that good. Then maybe get around to putting it on the cupcakes.
After the cupcakes are assembled they require sampling. For Science! These cupcakes were everything a cupcake should be; dense but still moist, sweet but not rot your teeth sugary, just the perfect balance of everything involved; true recipe success. This one is definitely a keeper and I think I may adapt it for pumpkin and perhaps banana cupcakes down the road.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mad about Macroonis

Why I'm here.
In order to push myself to write a blog about cooking/baking I decided I needed to expand my horizons; I needed to reach out to these types of communities for inspiration. That first oomph of inspiration came from The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011The gist was that I sign up to send out 3 packages of 1 dozen cookies to 3 fellow food bloggers, and in return receive 3 packages of cookies myself from secret santas. Then I have to blog the recipe. Read that again. I HAD to blog. Thus forcing myself to do something that, though I quite enjoy it, I keepfalling short in completing the task.

Now that the details are out of the way let me tell you about the cookies. I chose to make my (grand?)mother's macroonis. I don't know exactly where in the family tree this recipe came from, but I do know that from a very young age these have been my favorite cookies. And that is saying a lot from a girl who loves cookies.

What is a macrooni?
Every single time I get asked this question I kind of freeze up during my response. 
Q: "What exactly is a macrooni?"
A: "Awesome. Next question."
Really though, macroonis are coconut, chocolatey, orange bliss. And lucky for you I am obligated herein to provide you with the recipe.

The recipe.
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp orange extract (optional)
  • 4 cups sweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  •  12 oz. chocolate chips

Be careful to not overmix the cookies otherwise they will spread out and lose their shape.
  1. Preheat your oven to 375°.
  2. Quickly mix the eggs, sugar, melted butter, zest vanilla, and orange extract.
  3. Fold in the coconut.
  4. Fold in the flour.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Drop by rounded tbsp onto a greased (or lined with parchment paper) cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 11-14 minutes. The edges of the coconut should be lightly browned but the centers should still look soft.
  8. Cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes.
  9. Eat warm, or allow to cool the rest of the way and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

I know I said I'd post a Thanksgiving post, but my life has been very...chaotic as of late, and I was unable to devote the proper time to get together a post worth reading. Attempting to actually have totally put together posts each week(ish) instead of constant half-assery.