Four days, six dozen cupcakes, one big icing-induced stomach ache

Two things must be disclosed about me and my personality before this post begins:

1. I enjoy baking just for myself (you never would have guessed, right?), however the idea of baking for other people, specifically in potluck and/or BBQ settings really sends me over the moon.
2. I am incapable of saying no to any request that requires me to make copious amounts of baked goods.

More specifically, the first-year journalism student picnic that happened last Saturday.

Almost all the cupcakes

When my friend Averie asked if I wanted to bring a dessert to the event, I of course immediately knew that I would be bringing cupcakes. And lots of them. Since I’m not living with five other people anymore, two of whom had consistently hungry boyfriends, it’s a little more difficult to make the mass amount of cupcakes that I used to. I could eat them all, yes, but I’m trying to do things that aren’t detrimental to my health, remember?

Deciding what flavours of cupcakes to bring involved an extensive brainstorming session, one that saw me slumped out on our IKEA futon, scribbling ideas onto a piece of loose leaf. I didn’t want to make too many flavours that I had already tried, nor did I want to be super adventurous and become even more broke than I currently am (damn you Europe).

And so, after much inner conflict and personal indecisiveness, I settled on the following four flavours:

Featuring an attempted journalism-themed photography set-up

– Psychedelic cupcakes with a cream cheese icing*;
– Pumpkin cupcakes with a brown sugar cream cheese icing*;
– Snickerdoodle cupcakes with a cinnamon brown sugar cream cheese icing; and, my personal favourite,
– Mint double chocolate chip cupcakes with a peppermint buttercream icing

*repeat offenders

Once the key flavour decisions were made, I trekked over to the Bulk Barn where I, once again, managed to spend enough to put a noticeable influx in their quarterly budget report.  Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but I did buy so much cake flour, icing sugar and white sugar that it made my black shirt look like I had major dandruff issues. I brushed myself off and headed over to the actual grocery store, buying butter, eggs and cocoa galore. All in a days work.

What came next was not all in a day’s work.

I knew I wouldn’t have time to bake everything on Friday and Saturday and, considering I had training for two different jobs on those days, I knew time would be of the essence. The only logical thing to do was to start baking on Wednesday, before school started. For each of the next four days – Wednesday through to Saturday, I baked a batch of cupcakes a day. Budgeting my time effectively, I left the always-horrible task of icing until about 1:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, just a short three hours before the picnic was due to start.

Brief side-tracked confession: I hate everything about icing. Besides eating it. But really. The mixing, the PILES of icing sugar, the back-breaking piping work, the solidified chocolate ganache… the list goes on. </whine>

Oh wait, one more thing. Making icing also means I’m prone to accidents like this. Poor iPhone.

In the end, the cupcakes were done and delivered in time, thanks to a noble steed (my parents and their van) who just happened to be in town for the weekend. Life savers.

For those of you who aren’t j-school nerds, the -30- on the mint chocolate chip cupcakes is how a journalist indicates that a story is done. There, now you learned something today. You’re welcome.

Recipe: Psychedelic cupcakes (link)

Recipe: Mint double chocolate chip cupcakes with peppermint buttercream
Adapted from Canadian Living
For the cake:
– 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/3 cup cocoa powder
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1 cup cold water
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil
– 2 tsp peppermint extract
– 1 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
– 1 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk in
water, oil and vanilla. Stir in vinegar and fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop the batter into lined muffin tins and bake in a pre-heated, 350°F oven until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.

For the frosting:
– 1/2 cup butter, softened
– 5 cups sifted icing sugar
– 1/2 cup whipping cream
– 1 tsp peppermint extract

In large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Alternately beat in sugar and cream, making 2 additions of sugar. Beat in peppermint extract.

Makes two dozen cupcakes.

Recipe: Pumpkin cupcakes with brown sugar cream cheese icing
For the cake:
-1 1/4 cups sugar
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup canned, pureed pumpkin
–  1 3/4 cups flour
– 1 tsp. baking soda
– 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
– 1/3 cup milk

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and pumpkin. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Carefully stir in the milk.  Blend until just mixed.

For the icing (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):
– 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
– 1/4 cup cornstarch
– 1/2 cup powdered sugar
– 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
– 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch and powdered sugar. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and vanilla, beat until frosting is smooth and light. Chill the bowl in the refrigerator until it thickens back up a bit, about 30 minutes, then spread or dollop on cooled cupcakes.

Makes a dozen cupcakes. Use the leftover icing on the Snickerdoodle cupcakes below.

Recipe: Snickerdoodle cupcakes with brown sugar cream cheese icing
For the cake (adapted from Martha Steward [dot] com)
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
– 1 tablespoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/2 teaspoon for dusting
– 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
– 1 3/4 cups sugar
– 4 large eggs, room temperature
– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
– 1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean.

Ice them with the brown sugar cream cheese icing listed above.

Makes two dozen.

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