Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Cupcakes (and Silicone Baking Cups)

I've been waiting to post on these cupcakes until I got the pictures off the camera... but it looks like that's not going to happen. Lately connecting the camera to my laptop has been resulting in, at best, a hung program, and at worst, an evil-sounding noise and what looks like the Mac equivalent of the dreaded Blue Screen of Death. So, no pictures. Which is a shame, because some of the cupcakes were really quite cute.

We dyed the icing pink, green, purple, and yellow, and spread/piped it in various Easter-themed ways. There were flowers, there were dots, there were stripes, there was even a bunny (or rather a bunny's ears and the top of his head from the eyes up). We put them on platters and took them out to be photographed in the sunshine and on the grass. But the photos, evidently, were not to be.

Anyway, we worked with the Magnolia Bakery cupcake recipe, which I've previously blogged here. This time around they weren't as good as I remembered them being. They tasted great, but I remembered them being softer and lighter than these were. What could have gone wrong? For one thing, I might have overbeaten the batter. For another, there might have been too much protein in the flour in the first place. Next time I'll probably use cake flour instead of all-purpose, and I'll probably substitute buttermilk for the milk. Meanwhile, it's still a darn good cupcake recipe. 

At some point, hopefully in the near future, I'm going to try out (and will blog about) a Cook's Illustrated recipe that claims to reproduce the moist, light, tender crumb that one gets from a boxed cake mix--but from scratch, and without all the awful other stuff they put in those mixes. Specifically, it's a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I'm eager to make it, but I'll have to wait at least a few weeks. 

At one point in comments Bee asked about silicone baking cups. I neglected to answer in my reply comment, so I'll address the question here. I quite like them: they're more cleanup-friendly than big one-dozen muffin trays, and they make it wonderfully easy to make only a few muffins (or cupcakes) at a time. This is especially useful when there's only one muffin eater in the house, and making a whole batch of a dozen muffins is just not wise. 

I've also found a few other uses for them since then. For one, they make a great mold for homemade peanut butter cups: just dip the bottom of the cup in melted chocolate and set on a parchment-lined baking sheet. When the chocolate cools and hardens, just slide the cup out and you have a little chocolate shell ready for filling! 

Another chocolate-related use: in the past, I would often throw away extra melted chocolate that I had left over from some baking project or another, as there wasn't really a good way to get it all together and save it. I felt terrible about that, because it's good chocolate and could be used for something else (not to mention the sting of throwing away expensive chocolate when one's on a tight budget). These days I spoon it into one of the silicone cups, let harden, and then pop out and put in a plastic bag for storage. As they say in the Guinness commercials, brilliant!!


Brave Sir Robin said...

Clever, clever girl. I love the idea about the chocolate.

Question - Have you checked your oven temperature with a thermometer? Perhaps the California oven is slightly hotter than the Houston oven? That's all I can think of?

Anne said...

I didn't have an oven thermometer the first time I made the cupcakes, but we had a thermometer in the oven this time around (since this particular oven has been acting up). It might still have been too hot, or perhaps we just baked them a bit too long. The timer was set for the lower end of the recommended baking time, rather than a minute or two before even that time (which is what I usually do, just to be on the safe side).

Anne said...

I should clarify that this time we had an oven thermometer and used it--we made sure that the oven was at the correct temperature.

Bee said...

This reminds me -- I must get an oven thermometer!

I will definitely be buying some of the silicone baking cups in TX, as per your recommendation. I couldn't function without my sil-pat cookie sheets.

I can't wait to try the Magnolia recipe -- and equally look forward to your "just like the box mix" cake. Although I almost never do box mixes of any kind, I must confess that I would love to find a yellow cake that has the spongey moistness of a box mix. Our bunny cake has already dried out and become "tough!"

Anne said...

Did you know that one can now buy rolling pins coated with silicone? I also have a silicone loaf pan. It's such a great material. Can you not find silicone bakeware in England?

I never do box mixes, either. It never even occurs to me to use a mix. Most basic cake recipes don't take very long, and I enjoy watching it all come together. I agree, though, that there is something attractive about a homemade yellow cake with some of the attributes of a box mix!

Bee said...

Newbury (closest town) actually has a pretty decent store called "Kitchen Monger" -- I bought a good knife there recently.

I will check out their silicone options. Generally this kind of thing is better (and cheaper) to get in the States. (Where I just happen to be going in 4 days! Not that I'm counting . . .)

Anne said...

How exciting! Are you coming back with family? I see from one of your earlier comments that you will be in Texas. Are you visiting family? Going anywhere in addition to Texas? We'll look forward to hearing all about it.

Bee said...

My Texas itinerary:

2 days in Houston -- friends
1 day in Austin -- friends
8 days in Salado and Hill Country -- family
2 days in Houston -- friends; family
2 days in Galveston -- friends

It will be great fun -- also frenetic. I can't even imagine baring my legs to the sun at the moment. I've been wearing sweaters and jeans for as long as I can remember!

Anne said...

Sounds wonderful! I hope the weather cooperates for you. Texas seems to be getting off to an early start with the tornado season. If nothing else, it should be a warm relief from the cold English winter!