Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thin Mint Cupcakes

I had heard of these somewhere and got it in my head that I had to make a batch for St. Patrick's Day. So, I did. And they were yummy. I tried a couple of different methods and found that some things just didn't matter (like trying to make a truffle that went into the batter... waste of time) and somethings that just didn't work (like putting a cookie in the bottom of my cupcake wrappers.) So, I adjusted and these were delicious! So yummy and minty and the chocolate cupcake is seriously easy and moist, and yummy. I loved that it wasn't a super dense cupcake and that it was "one bowl!" Seriously, so easy.  They were just as easy as any boxed mix.  Oh, and in the interest of honesty... I didn't have any Thin Mints... so I used the E.L. Fudge Grasshopper cookies. I don't think anyone noticed the difference.

The cupcake starts with a chocolate base, that I added a slight hint of peppermint to, and some mint cookie crumbs. There's also a hidden cookie inside the cupcake, which is entirely optional. (I put my cookies at the bottom of my cupcake wrappers, but the cookies stuck horribly to the wrapper... so bad that we had to cut them out.  I think it would work if you sprayed the inside of your cupcake wrappers with some baking spray. Otherwise, hide the cookie further up in the cupcake.)  The cupcake is then topped with a thin layer of mint ganache and topped with a light and fluffy mint buttercream.  The whole thing was delicious.

Chocolate Cupcake:
Recipe Source: Martha Stewart
Makes 18-24 Cupcakes

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons safflower oil (I just used regular old vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To make a "mint" version, you'll also need:

1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
about 1 cup of Thin Mint/Mint Cookie crumbs (I threw half a package of E.L. Fudge Grasshopper cookies into the blender, turned them into crumbs, and added that to my chocolate cupcake batter)
about 24 Thin Mints/Mint Cookies (optional... for inside the cupcakes)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; If you want to add a cookie to the bottom of your cupcakes, lightly spray the paper liners with cooking spray; set aside. 

2.  Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add cookie crumbs as well, if using.

3.  Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and peppermint extract, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

4.  Drop 1 cookie into the bottom of each cupcake liner.  (This cookie layer is entirely optional.  Feel free to omit the cookie and simply fill your muffin cups about 2/3 full.)  Cover the cookie, by filling the muffin cups about 2/3 full. 

5.  Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Mint Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup of Creme de Menthe morsels (Andes morsels or the Mint/Chocolate mix from Nestle all would work)
1 Tbsp. Heavy Cream

Melt the mint/chocolate morsels in the microwave. Once they're melted, stir in the heavy cream and mix until well blended. Set aside to cool slightly.

Mint Buttercream
Recipe Source: Adapted from My Recipes
Makes 3 Cups

Note:  This is a great buttercream base.  Just increase the vanilla to 1 tsp. and omit the peppermint extract.  Also, turn it into a chocolate buttercream by adding 1 cup (6 oz.) of melted semi-sweet or dark chocolate morsels.  Add it when you beat the butter and cream cheese.

1/2 cup butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
16 oz. powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk (I used less than this... add it slowly to eye the consistency)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract

1.  Beat butter and cream cheese until combined and fluffy.

2.  Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until combined.

3.  Increase speed to medium and gradually add milk and extracts.  Beat until smooth.

To assemble cupcakes:

Make the cupcakes as stated, adding the peppermint extract and cookie crumbs to the batter.  Add the cookie if desired.  Bake according to the directions and cool.

Once the mint ganache has cooled slightly, spread a thin layer on top of each cooled cupcake.

Pipe the mint buttercream on top of the cooled ganache and embellish as desired.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake Cake

So, I had a bunch of strawberries that needed to be used and this cake looked good, so I made it. And it was good. Soooo good. I LOVED this cake. I ended up inviting all my friends over to eat it with me because it's not one that will last a long time in the fridge. So they all came over and we sat around eating cake and chatting and it was a most perfect afternoon. And this cake made it all possible.

The cake portion reminded me a lot of the German cakes my mom used to make growing up. It's very dense and moist and so delicious. Then of course, strawberries make everything better. I wanted mine to be more like strawberry short cake and I don't like super sweet frostings so I substituted my very favorite Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting for Pioneer Woman's frosting and I found this cake to be truly heavenly.

I'm not going to lie... the cake part is a bit finicky. A LOT of the commenters on Pioneer Woman's site said that it fell in the middle and even mine sank a little bit in the center. My sister made it a week later and hers sunk a lot in the middle. I'm not sure what the secret is, but luckily, you're topping it and filling it with strawberries so you can hide most of the damage. Or maybe you luck out and it doesn't sink at all. Even with a slightly sunken middle though, this cake was divine.

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, slightly softened (but not TOO soft!)
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, well chilled

1. In a small bowl, whip the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, cream the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt until well combined and smooth.

3. Fold in the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and refrigerate a couple minutes to allow it to set.