Monday, April 30, 2012

Rutgers Day 2012

Hello all,

I told you I would share all of the exciting happenings of Rutgers Day, and I will not disappoint.

Rutgers Student Bakers made over twenty different recipes in order to prepare for this day, with sweets ranging from Red Velvet Rice Krispie Treats to Banana Caramel Cake Pops. My personal favorite? It would have to be a tie between the Crunch Berry Cereal Treats and the Strawberries N Cream Muffins.

With every dollar going to Share Our Strength's Great American Bake Sale, people just couldn't pass up the chance to try out our gourmet sweet treats!

Red Velvet Cereal Treats:

Fudgy Mint Oreo Brownies:

Trix Cereal Bark:

Cake Batter Sprinkle Bark:

S'mores Bark:

Chocolate Covered Oreos:

Banana Caramel Cake Pops:

Clementine Muffins:

Crunch Berry Cereal Treats:

Would you be strong enough to turn away any of those items? If you are, don't worry; we had even more to pick from. The Rutgers Student Bakers do not take baking lightly; only the amazing, the decadent, the mouth-watering comes out of our kitchen.

We had such a great turnout, with thousands of students. alumni, faculty, family and friends.

Everyone really got a kick out of our carrot-cake shooters...

and the members shared some great laughs together while supporting the cause to end childhood hunger.

In the end, we raised more funds than I could have hoped for, and I am so proud of each and every one of the members who played a part in this event this year. With baking every Friday in April and all day long the day before, these ladies deserve a serious round of applause. I have never been more honored to be part of a group and it reminds me why I love baking so much.

And now, drumroll please....

The following members are now officially Very Important Bakers (VIBs)
Congrats Ladies!

Shivani Amin
Allie Avillo
Tessa Caprio
Linda Ferreira
Jennifer Lee
Jenny Lin
Valerie Raziano
Elena Spathis
Prama Verma
Anne Wang
Smitha Yellayi

Another round of applause to my lovely fellow officers; without whom, I would have lost my sanity on numerous occassions:
Alycia So
Ashley So
Serena Mueller
Devon Stein

I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for an amazing Rutgers Day, and an amazing year full of wonderful baking memories.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Will Be Back to Baking ASAP!

Hello all,

Unfortunately I am writing this post to you to tell you I must take a short hiatus, as I've recently injured my knee and have to stay off of it until the swelling goes down >_<

Of course, when all I want to do is bake, I must actually do...(cringe) homework.

Alas, health comes before cupcakes. If you'd like to see my list of cupcakes I've been dreaming about baking, check out my board here on Pinterest.

But I shall return! With Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes!

AND I plan on sharing with you all the Rutgers Student Bakers All-Day Baking Extravaganza on Friday!

Rutgers Day, our biggest bake sale of the year, is this Saturday and we have been baking up every sweet under the sun to prepare for it. This Friday we will be whipping up gourmet cereal treats (Red Velvet Rice Krispies anyone?) and cake pops, so I plan on taking some awesome photos to share it all with you.

See you all soon,

Happy Baking Everyone!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

If you like Pina Coladas, and Getting Caught With Cupcakes...

Hello all,

I know, I know, its's a corny blog post title, but I honestly couldn't help singing it to myself while I was baking these cupcakes, or while eating them.

We had a little setback in the weather here in New Jersey for awhile (as if that's shocking to any of us who have lived here for our entire lives) but there's finally been a breakthrough! We hit 80s and now are headed to a balmy mid-70s range for for the rest of the week. So, with all the sun, warmth, and fresh air, I thought these pina colada cupcakes would be the perfect way to go during my month of cupcakes...and I was right.

I have eaten not one, not two...but many of these little cakes as they sat on my kitchen table, staring at me with their toasted coconut, just begging to be gobbled up before anyone notices they're gone.

After being treated to the Banana Split Cupcakes awhile back, some of my peers asked me if I could bring them a few of these to our next class. For once I actually wanted to say "there are no more" because I was thinking to myself "there won't be anymore after I get to them" but of course I said I'd be happy to.

But then, who would've thought this late in the semester I'd have such luck, my professor cancelled class today. It's a sign from God - I was meant to have all of these cupcakes to myself.

Is it going to cause a serious stomach ache? Most definitely. Do I care? Not in the slightest.

Every time I eat one I am reminded that there is roughly one WEEK left of classes for the entirety of my junior year, and I am that much closer to Summer Vacation.

I hope these send you off to a blissful summer daydream as well.

Happy Baking!

Pina Colada Cupcakes Via GloriousTreats

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups crushed pineapple, drained slightly

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two 12-cup muffin pans with liners.
2. In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs and sugar until it reaches a uniform consistency. Slowly beat in oil and vanilla.
4. Stir in sour cream and crushed pineapple until well combined.
5. Add flour mixture to wet ingredient mixture and beat until just combined.
6. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 way full and bake at 350 for 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Coconut Frosting Barely Adapted from Baked Perfection

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
4 tbsp coconut milk

1. Cream butter and coconut milk, then add vanilla.
2. Beat in powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nutella Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

 Hello all,

I think I've become obsessed with stuffing sweet treats with ooey gooey fillings. The Nutella-Stuffed Sugar Cookies, the Marshmallow Fluff-Filled Banana Split was only a matter of time before we had Nutella filled, Nutella Frosted, Chocolate Cupcakes.

Sigh. These made my week that much less stressful. With every bite comes an immediate relaxing sensation that everything: papers, exams and all, are going to work out fine.

I think we all need to stock up on these cupcakes.

They are really quite simple and easily adaptable to your needs. First, start out with any basic chocolate cupcake. You can whip up your favorite from-scratch recipe like I did, or even whip up a box mix. This is especially helpful for those like my nana with Celiac, who can now happily pick up gluten free cake mixes (and Nutella is gluten free!).

Once they are baked and cooled, cut out a decent-sized hole in the center of the cupcake. Proceed to filling said holes with lots of Nutella.

Are you interested yet?

I thought so. Now just whip up this amazing Salted Nutella Buttercream from MyBakingAddiction, pipe it on whichever way you please and ta-da!

Chocolatey-hazelnut perfection.

I hope these are as stress-relieving for all of you as they are for me. As I run this gauntlet otherwise known as upperclassmen college papers and exams, I know I will be sneaking one (or maybe five) of these cupcakes to keep me going!

Happy Baking!

Salted Nutella Buttercream By MyBakingAddiction 
(enough to generously frost 24 cupcakes)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1-13oz jar Nutella
8-10 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup milk

1. Place butter and nutella in large bowl and beat until well incorporated.
2. Add powdered sugar, a few cups at a time, and beat until stiff frosting comes together.
3. Add vanilla extract, salt, and tablespoonfuls of milk until desired consistency is reached.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Cupcake Challenge Continues - Maple Bacon Pancake Cupcakes

Hello all,

Now to be perfectly honest, I was never really into the whole "maple bacon" idea when it burst on the scene a year or so ago in the form of cupcakes, doughnuts, muffins and pretty much whatever other for it could take. But, with a slew of hungry male co-workers at the computer lab, I knew it was only a matter of time before the question popped up:

Can you make maple bacon cupcakes?

More specifically they asked for maple bacon brownies, but let's just say I wasn't ready for that deep of a plunge. I have yet to even try chocolate covered bacon, though it's supposedly out of this world.

So I hopped on over to another one of my favorite food blogs: Brown Eyed Baker. She pretty much has a recipe for anything, and I always love her recipe roundups (especially around the holidays). Of course, she had the recipe I needed: Pancake Cupcakes with Maple Bacon Buttercream.

Though they aren't bad, I have to say I was expecting more from these, more bacon and more maple to be more precise. Believe it or not I ended up just adding in tablespoon after tablespoon of maple syrup, all to no avail as the buttercream strictly refused to taste like maple. I also ended up crumbling in nearly twice as much bacon as instructed, but honestly who here is thinking "that's way too much bacon" ?

She did write up in her post that she was thinking of retrying the recipe with bacon in the actual cupcake, and I have to say I agree. The cupcake tasted great; it just didn't pack the flavor punch I was expecting.

I have to admit, however, after the Banana Split Cupcakes (I can tell you I lost most of my self control and ate entirely too many of those) it was probably pretty difficult to impress me. Hmm, perhaps if we stuffed the cupcakes with a maple bacon filling! Now there's an idea.

I've linked the recipe above but here it is one more time in case you missed it. I definitely recommend adding in as much bacon as you feel is necessary, even if it means way more than stated.

I usually like to keep things as surprises, but I have to admit I have had a huge craving for Nutella lately and I just found a wonderful recipe for it that I can't wait to try out this weekend.

Check back on Monday for the full details on how it turned out!

Happy Baking!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Banana Split Cupcakes

 Hello all,

So did any of you guess what this post would be about from my hint last week?

Well if you guessed Banana Split you get an A+ in my book. 'Banana Split' you may wonder 'how on earth do you turn an ice cream sundae into a cupcake?' My friends, it was hard for me to believe too, at first, but it's been done in the most perfect way by ConfessionsofaCookbookQueen and I am so delighted to share it with you here.

Step 1 - Take a French Vanilla Cake Mix and turn it into a delicious, soft, moist Banana Cake. Then proceed to cut a decent sized hole in the center of the cupcake and fill it with, would you believe it, Marshmallow Fluff.

As if this wasn't enough to make you drool, Step 3 is whipping up some decadent homemade Strawberry Buttercream and piping a unhealthy sized amount on top to hide the fluff and all it's marshmallowy goodness from unsuspecting taste-testers.

Now here's where I deviated. She suggested using Chocolate Sauce (like Hershey's chocolate syrup for example) but for me, I planned on having these around for more than a few days and needed a chocolate topping that was a little more sustainable and a little less "it's going to drip all over the kitchen table all week". So I opted to melt chocolate chips and drizzle it on top of the Buttercream instead. Add a dash of sprinkles and a cherry and voila!

Banana Split Cupcakes. I can't even express in words how amazing this cupcake is. It could very well be my most favorite miniature-sized dessert ever in existence. Though I do have an unhealthy obsession with cake pops...see now if we could turn this into a cake pop THEN we'd be getting somewhere.

And honestly, it's not that overwhelming to create yourself. It's a little more time consuming than other cupcakes, but just in that there are many steps to go through. The fact that she doctors a cake mix will save you tons of time (and less mess!).

Plus, if you're like me and need a distraction every now and then, just do these cupcakes in steps throughout your afternoon. I baked the cupcakes, then let them cool while I read half of one novel for class; then I'd frost them and read the other half of the novel, etc.

See? Procrastination can be turned into progress with the help of cupcakes!

Happy Procrastinating Baking!

Banana Split Cupcakes Via ConfessionsofaCookbookQueen

1 box French Vanilla Cake Mix
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) melted
4 eggs
3/4 cup water
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed

1 jar (7oz) marshmallow fluff

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2-12 cup muffin pans with liners.
2. In a large bowl combine cake mix, eggs, water, bananas, and melted butter. Beat with a hand mixer on low for one minute, then on medium/high for another 2 minutes.
3. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full (I always use a 1/4 cup measuring cup for a guide) and bake at 350 for 12-16 minutes or until cupcakes spring back lightly when touched. Let cool completely before frosting.

4. Once cool, cut a small hole in the center of each cupcake and fill with marshmallow fluff. (I suggest placing the fluff in a large plastic bag, snipping off an end and piping into said holes).

For the Strawberry Buttercream:

1 cup sliced strawberries, pureed
1 cup butter (or shortening)
5-6 cups powdered sugar

1. Beat butter and sliced strawberries together until well combined. Beat in powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Assembling the Cupcakes:

1. Pipe Strawberry Buttercream onto the cupcakes, covering the marshmallow fluff center completely.
2. Use chocolate syrup OR melted chocolate chips to pipe the "hot fudge" onto the cupcake. Quickly add rainbow sprinkles and cherry on top.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Nest Cupcakes

Hello all,

Did I ever mention I love Easter? I believe much of my enormous sweet tooth is owing to the awesome Easter Baskets the "bunny" left for my brother and me each year. Unfortunately the bunny no longer stops at my place, so I've had to make due with buying extraordinary amounts of Peeps and scarfing down these carrot cake cupcakes.

Easter = Bunny = Bunnies love carrots = Jess loves carrot cake = carrot cake cupcakes for Easter.

Plus I was so inspired by ParisPastry's Easter Nest Cupcakes that I just had to try it out for myself. I picked up these at Wal Mart the other day:

and got straight to work. Not bad if I do say so myself. :D

A breath of relief as I dig into one and it's absolutely heavenly; no need to relive the disappointment of the Chai Cupcake. 

And in case carrot cake isn't your favorite, here are a few links for some adorable Easter Sweet Treats I've stumbled upon that could be show-stoppers in case you're in charge of dessert this Sunday:

1. Easter Bunny Cake Pops by Bakerella
2. Chick Cupcakes by BirdonaCake
3. PeepCakes by 52 Kitchen Adventures
4. Basket Cupcakes by Dinners, Dishes and Desserts
5. Egg Hunt Cupcakes by InKatrinasKitchen
6. Easter Nest Sugar Cookies by PenniesonaPlatter
7. Coconut Macaroon Nest Cookies by PreparedPantry
8. Easter Bunny Macarons by raspberricupcakes
9. Ultimate Easter Crispy Treats by DoughPuncher
10. Easter Bunny Push Pops by Hungry Happenings

I hope one of these links comes in handy for you in preparation of the holiday - or if you just need another excuse to bake like I do.

Pssst - I have a secret to tell you! 
The next cupcakes coming up are going to be a smash hit!

Would you like a hint? Bananas + Strawberries + Chocolate = ?

Happy Baking!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes Via Yours Truly

1 cup flour
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line one 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
2. In a bowl sift together flour, baking soda and cinnamon. In a separate bowl beat sugar and oil until well combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla.
3. Stir carrots into wet ingredient mixture, then gently fold in dry ingredient mixture.
4. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 way full (I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup) and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean
5. Frost with vanilla or cream cheese frosting and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cupcake Challenge Day 2: Vanilla Chai

Hello friends,

So remember when I mentioned that this month would be a cupcake "challenge"? I originally employed that word because it was exciting and fun, but apparently I was quite accurate with the literal meaning of "challenge"....

Cupcakes are supposed to be stress-free, at least in my opinion they are.

Yet, as I type that I realize I spent 9 hours one day last April making over 1000 cupcakes with the baking club, and in reality that was one of the most stressful experiences ever. I must have missed the memo: cupcakes are now "challenging". Be warned.

I learned this yesterday as I attempted to bake up Vanilla Chai Cupcakes. I followed this recipe to a T but sadly, in the words of my favorite European judge Florian on Cupcake Wars: "this cupcake, it did not work for me."

The recipe said to only fill the liners with 2 tablespoons of batter. So first batch naturally came out like so:

Why did I think it was going to rise more? Who knows. So the next batch I filled it with 1/4 cup, my default when filling cupcake liners. Did they rise more? Yes, of course. Were they any better?

Sadly, no. Unfortunately it just tasted like a lot of ginger, and the consistency was chewy, sticky, and overall disappointing. It's worth trying again (I am a big fan of Bakingdom - anybody who shows me how to make homemade butterbeer definitely deserves another shot in my kitchen). But I have the sinking feeling that these will not be fought over at my workplace as in precious times...

Well, I didnt want to show you these, perfectionist that I am, but this IS about the experience, and not all of them can be as stellar as I'd like them to be. Challenge doesn't always mean success.

I know I usually include the recipe here, but I linked it above and instead I thought I'd share with you all a few links that I find really helpful when baking up cupcakes:

1. Missing an ingredient? Check out Diana's Desserts "Ingredient Substitutions" page for a whole slew of ideas on how to substitute ingredients for items you may already have in your pantry. After stumbling upon this site I never bought store-bought buttermilk again.

2. Basic Cupcake Tips from SomewhatSimple. She has a great list of tips for cupcake baking in general, including how to fill you piping bag, how long to bake cupcakes for, and what kind of liners to use with which kinds of cake.

3.  Basic Royal Icing Recipe from Sweetopia. This is an adorable illustration of how to make Royal Icing. Informative, quirky, and cute, it's a great printout to keep in your recipe book (or to repin onto one of your Pinterest Boards!)

That's all for now. I have (hopefully) something cute in the works for Easter later this week, so check back later for more cupcake concoctions and sweet tips.

Happy Baking!