This August the Centre for the Arts celebrated their 22nd Film Camp for Teens. It was epic, exhausting and incredibly inspiring. Young filmmakers worked to the bone to create their own short film pieces. This training program is particularly special as it welcomes youth regardless of individual financial situations. With donations, they are able to continue this program. Shameless Vanilla donated 70 cupcakes to Film Camp for Teens to provide a tasty treat at the end of the film viewing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the event but was excited to hear from one of the camp producers that students and their families devoured the cupcakes.
For events like these, I like to keep it simple. I baked 35 Shamelessly Vanilla and 35 Humble Chocolate cupcakes for the event.
My good friend, Ngoc, who basically created this blog site had a house warming party. She recently moved from Peterborough back to Toronto (yay!!!) – you should check out her blog at thoughtsandshots.com. This party brought me back to University, particularly given the beer keg we drank from. Ngoc ever so awesomely had a cupcake stand ready to go for me to display the cakes I brought to the “kegger” house warming. I decided on lemon curd cupcakes and mint chocolate. One of Ngoc’s new roommates had raved about a Cupcake Girls mint chocolate cupcake she had in B.C. and I thought I would try my hand at it (I believe Cupcake Girls’ name for it is Mint Condition….the name for mine will be mint chocolate…much less creative and different recipe, I assume). Chocolate cake with mint extract along with mint buttercream icing. Topped it off with half slice of Andes chocolate mint.
This was definitely not my first time making lemon curd cupcakes. My family (particularly my grandparents, Inez and Innes) rave about this flavour which warms my heart. It had been a while and I wanted to test it on a group of fun-loving, beer-drinking friends. I truly believe the key to the cupcake’s deliciousness is the lemon curd. No, I do not make the curd from scratch. This time I used one from the local grocery store, cannot recall the brand but it isn’t the best – had a slight plastic taste to it. I highly recommend and usually use Mackays Lemon Curd which can usually be found in British food and gift shops. I should probably mention what curd is for those of you who don’t know – lemon curd is generally made with lemons and butter and eggs and sugar (I’m sure store bought has preservatives, etc). Curd is also smoother and creamier than pie filling or custard. Curd is just incredibly delicious – if you’ve not tried it, do it now. Smother it on a scone with some Devonshire cream and you’ll be in heaven. Lemon curd cupcake involves making lemon cupcake (using lemon rinds and juice), a layer of lemon curd spread atop the cake, followed with a swirl of vanilla buttercream icing, topped with lemon candy.
I believe both the lemon curd cupcakes and mint chocolates ones were a hit. Some issues I ran into were that I felt the lemon cupcakes were baked just a tad longer than I’d like. I used dollar store cupcake papers on the mint chocolate cupcakes which I had to remove in advance as they did not effortlessly peel away from the cake as they should. Please note that beer and cupcakes are an excellent pair – never shy away from this combo.
I invited my friend Dave over for Valentine’s Day and decided it would be a great idea to make dinner :S I may love baking, but I am not a great cook. I know about enough to survive and I am not creative when it comes to flavours. For example, I stuffed chicken with celery, hot peppers and shrimp (forgot the cilantro which would make it slightly more creative). For me, the effort of stuffing the chicken justifies slabbing on heaps of hollandaise sauce, drowning the chicken. I.e. butter was my go-to to impress for dinner. Good sign -> it was eaten.
Dave, an auburn-haired card shuffling genius, loves girly drinks. There are many reasons I poke fun at him, girly drinks is only the tip of the iceberg (just kidding Dave). To hopefully make up for my constant heckling, I decided to make cherry martinis, something I would NEVER do. Mixing drinks for me means stirring Kahlua into milk. Fortunately, I have a martini shaker although it refuses to keep the liquid within. I made these drinks using 2 parts pure cherry juice, 1/2 part grapefruit juice, 1 part sprite, 2 parts vodka with a “splash” of maraschino cherry juice from the jar. Shake, shake, shake. A little for me, a little for Dave, alot for my countertops and floors, threatening to stain! What cupcake would you make to go with cherry martinis? Cherry cupcakes of course! (sometimes I overdo things).
I have to say I really enjoyed the cherry cupcakes. I basically substituted half of the vanilla in the shamelessly vanilla batter with almond extract, a “splash” of maraschino cherry juice, and added a maraschino cherry in the centre of the cupcake. The cake itself wasn’t overwhelming in cherry flavour, but the icing! Oh the icing. It was the best part for me. I added 1/2 tsp vanilla to shamelessly vanilla buttercream icing along with more than 1 tbsp of almond extract, maraschino cherry juice to taste and a tad bit of red gel food colouring for light pink hue. A sugar heart to top it off. I received really good feedback from Dave, his aunt, and my coworkers Sandra and Mark. Cake was moist with a hint of cherry flavour, icing was sweet cherry deliciousness.
I asked my new friend, Dave, “chocolate almond or chocolate orange?” Chocolate orange sounded more “interesting.” I had some sour cream I wanted to use up. When searching “chocolate cupcake sour cream”, lo and behold Martha Stewart to the rescue!! I foolishly decided to change the recipe slightly – namely in the way I incorporate the ingredients. I’m a big fan of lightly mixing all of the dry ingredients together, then slowly incorporating the butter into the dry ingredient mixture, followed by nearly folding in the wet ingredients. It’s super easy and, with shamelessly vanilla cupcakes, the cake is moist and fluffy. This was not the case for Martha’s chocolate cupcakes…probably should have followed the expert’s directions. I made an orange chocolate cream cheese icing which I’ve fallen in love with (tastes nearly identical to the “Whack and unwrap” chocolate oranges I love smashing open).
Some of my university friends, Dave, and my coworker all agree – it tastes delicious but oh my is it dense. The perfect description is cupcake brownie. Nothing else could describe it as well; not quite fluffy like a cupcake, not nearly as dense as a brownie. I think I’m going to keep this on my list of possibilities even though it was a fluke.
It’s Superbowl at my friend Ru’s. I wondered if cupcakes were too girly for sport-viewing. So I decided a Guinness chocolate cupcakes with Baileys cream cheese icing would add the perfect dose of masculinity. They turned out to be “cute” in the end as I chose to decorate them as wonky-eyed purple ravens. A shamelessly classic vanilla cupcake with a layer of red marshmallow-based fondant atop a light layer of white buttercream icing seemed fitting for the 49ers. I should also say that this was my first time making and working with fondant. Marshmallow fondant is super simple, tastes excellent, and is easy to work with. Toss a teaspoon of water and a packet of marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl (I used glass), and microwave on high for a minute and a half, stirring every 30 seconds. Then knead in several cups of icing sugar until the texture is hard and smooth. If the fondant starts tearing, just add a drop or more of water. I had to use a ton of red icing colour paste to achieve the hue I wanted.
In the battle between Ravens and 49ers, Ravens conquered. There was a definite pull toward the Raven cupcakes among my Superbowl friends. I guess it would only seem fitting that the Ravens cupcakes were superior to the shamelessly vanilla ones that night. Not in this heart of mine, though. Vanilla wins my love every time.
– photos by Ngoc Nguyen, soundslikeknock.com
My love for cupcakes runs strong and deep. I’m excited to express my passion, describe my learning experiences, and to feed my friends more often in the hopes to achieve a fun blog. I have extremely encouraging friends and family, but now I’m really looking forward to unbiased criticisms and suggestions from you all. Please – send me your thoughts, ideas, challenges, comments!