Happy Birthday Lindsay! (ft. Martha Stewart’s tiramisu cupcakes)

Fact: every dessert is better in cupcake form.

Heck, lets just broaden that statement to say that anything is better in cupcake form.

Including tiramisu.

This past Friday was my roommate Lindsay’s birthday.

Since we haven’t been living together for very long, and because we are both lovers of good dessert, I wanted to make her something special for her birthday.  She requested either ice cream cake or tiramisu.  I settled on the latter, having already conquered the frozen fates when I made my homemade ice cream cake back in February.

Obviously I couldn’t just make any old tiramisu.  Silly you for thinking so.

Martha Stewart’s website has a bounty of creative cupcake ideas, albeit ones that are fairly complicated (to the point that the recipes come accompanied by a tutorial video – yikes!).  It was here that I discovered the recipe for these.

I have never used so many kitchen do-dads to make one batch of cupcakes.  I was boiling, brewing, sifting, melting and brushing… It all worked out though.  What can I say? #justcallmemartha

Having just moved into a new house with many left behind/forgotten baking utensils, I had to get creative with my methods.  For example, I used a cheese grater from IKEA as a sieve and a salad-bowl-in-a-pot as a double boiler.  I try to be resourceful, I really do.

The outcome of much kitchen labour was a batch of 15 pretty awesome cupcakes.  The cake was spongey and light (although a tad burnt on the bottom, woops).  The chocolate-marsala sauce that was brushed over the top tasted delicious (although, as Matt pointed out, it tasted a little like some sort of sushi sauce, but he is just crazy).  Finally, the pièce de résistance was the mascarpone cheese icing that was so light but so rich.

ONE more thing: I splurged and bought vanilla beans for these cupcakes!  A real life vanilla bean (actually, two).  It cost me an arm and a leg (AKA $7), but it was totally worth it.

PS (I lied with the one more thing): can you tell that I’ve been making a conscious effort to create the “setting” for my food photos?  I’ve noticed that most food blogs feature a bunch of random background items (emphasized by their sweet cameras and actual ability to achieve some sort of bokeh), so I thought I’d try doing the same thing.  These shots featured Lindsay’s container of cocoa and a silk scarf I bought at a garage sale.

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There, do you get the clever title now?  I have Brittany to thank for that one, it’s genius!

I think my entire life has led up to me making these cupcakes.  Ever since I started baking I’ve wanted to make a rainbow cake.  I was initially inspired by my favourite blog, Color Me Katie (check it out, she’s AWESOME!).  Here is a post about cute cupcake sandwiches she made.  Throughout my cooking adventures I’ve also stumbled on some other amazing rainbow-themed baked goods.  Ogle over them here, here, here, and here.

So I guess you get that I like colour, huh?

After a successful first venture into the world of colourful food with Christine’s American-themed birthday cake, I figured I could take a bit of a risk with this one.  Britt had a load of gel colours leftover from making cookies for one of her class projects, so I had all the materials on hand to make some legendary cupcakes.  I used Martha Stewart’s cake batter recipe and divided it into six bowls.  I excitedly dropped a small amount of dye into each bowl, and watched the batter transform before my eyes into multi-coloured hues.  The colours were so bright that the cake almost looked inedible.  Almost.  Kindergarten in a bowl.

Since I had no class to feed, my roommates were gifted with these.  Twenty cupcakes, six roommates, 24 hours eating time.  We’re averaging about four cupcakes per person… Healthy habits FTW.

Finally, I’m so happy that I got a new header out of these cupcake photos.  I had intended to revamp my blog, and these cupcakes were the perfect subject for my new site.  I figured it was about time I got a food related header photo…

I wasn’t sure how I wanted my header to look, so I took some 100 pictures of these cupcakes out on our patio.  At one point I made Amanda and Ariel hold up white paper to create a neutral background.  They were extremely (un)enthusiastic about this…

Fun fact: Amanda said she looked dirty and requested to be cropped out

In the end, I settled on a picture I took on top of our television.  Simple, clean, effective (I hope).

I topped my cupcakes with cream cheese icing.  My roommate Alex said that they were the best ones yet, and that they were even better than some of the cupcakes we’ve sampled as part of my Ottawa Cupcake Challenge.  I’m beyond flattered.

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Raspberry Lemonade Cupcakes: happy birthday to ME!

I do a lot of happy birthday wishing to a lot of different people on my blog.  This entry is a 100 per cent self-indulging birthday post to ME.  That’s right.  It is my birthday today and I am now 21.

My birthday celebrations, circa 1993. My cake was chocolate and shaped like a snake.

I wish I had time to post this earlier, but I’ve had an absolutely exhaustingly busy day.  Today in my television class we had our first same-day assignments due.  For those of you who don’t understand the j-school lingo, this means that we had to interview and edit a news feature piece on tight deadline.  It was a tad stressful in the end, but thanks to my two awesome teammates Ariel and Christine and a little birthday luck (also found wicked lucky quarter on the bus this morning), we got through it.

I didn’t actually intend to bake or cook anything special for myself, so when my class was cancelled yesterday morning, I spontaneously made the decision to spoil myself.  While I’m glad I did, my spontaneity left me with several kitchen dilemmas.  First, I had to rush to the local grocery store to buy milk, whole milk and raspberry jam.  Second, I realized after the oven was preheated and the cupcake batter was mixed that I was out of cupcake liners.  Oh terrible misfortunes!  THANK GOD I live in the best neighbourhood that has ever existed.  I quickly got changed out of my pajamas and rushed around the corner to Grace in the Kitchen where a speedy visit provided me with these semi-ugly but completely effective unbleached muffin liners.  Beggars can’t be choosers.  Also, while I was there I met one of the workers, Andrew, who says he has read my blog!  So what if this is mostly because I shamelessly plugged it to him when I bought a massive amount of white chocolate, it’s still neat.

Anywho, I got this fantastic recipe off of Tastespotting.  The blog is called A Spicy Perspective, and the original recipe was named “zingy raspberry lemon cupcakes.”  Two reasons I liked these: (A) the blogger totally made up the word “zingy” and (B) they were completely adorable.  As a half asian, I 200 per cent fulfill the stereotype of liking cute things.  I squealed with delight when taking the pictures you see below.

PS: Britt got me a brie baker for my birthday!  BRIE. BAKING. Need I say more?

Finally, can we please just appreciate the cool and creative qualities of iPhone photo apps (thank you Hipstamatic!)

The Ottawa Cupcake Challenge

Dear world:

A few weeks ago I was asked by Jessey to be a guest blogger for Local Tourist Ottawa, a cool blog that her and her friend Amy started a while back.  The idea behind the blog is great: it’s all about people sharing what they love about Ottawa and encouraging others to discover more about the city they live in (what fun is a city to live in if you can’t explore it, after all?).  When I saw that Jes wanted me to be a guest blog, I was out-of-my-mind excited.  Maybe this is a good time to say this: I have absolutely NO idea how/why people are still reading my blog or how I am suddenly a legit blogger.  People I don’t know comment on my posts, link to me off of their blogs, and everything!  Anyways, it’s mind boggling, and I’m so honoured and happy that people seem to like what I do.  So everyone, thank you so much for giving me even more validation to do what I love.  It’s really just so lovely.

Buuuuuut back to me guest blogging.  I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to write about at first, until one day it hit me:

I am going to find Ottawa’s perfect cupcake.

With that thought firmly planted in my mind, and I pitched the idea to Jes who (thank heavens) loved it.

So here is a shameless plug.  Please, please, please read my posts on Local Tourist Ottawa, as I sacrifice my dental health and well being for a delicious mission.  Here’s the link to the intro post I’ve already written, outlining the technicalities of my adventure.  I plan on trying/blogging about at least one cupcake a week, so please keep checking back for updates.  I’ve already got a list of more than a dozen bakeries/cupcakes to try (so many people commented on my intro post/tweeted at me suggesting places!), so I’ve got my work cut out for me.

A notepad appropriate of such a mission. Thanks mom!

Cookies and Creme Cupcakes with Oreo Cream Cheese Icing

I made these cupcakes late last week in preparation for a field trip I was taking on the weekend with my roommate Britt.  She, and the rest of the Carleton varsity nordic ski team, happened to be competing in North Bay this past weekend.  North Bay just happens to be a hop, skip and a jump away from my hometown of Sudbury, so I decided to take a little break from the madness of Ottawa and have a weekend breather at home.

Since I was bumming a ride off a bunch of athletes, I wanted to do something to earn their acceptance.  And of course, everyone loves cupcakes.  So, I set out across the Internet to find the most delicious looking cupcake recipe that I could.  I found the recipe for these ones on my favourite food blog, Annie’s Eats.

Get this – there was half an Oreo at the bottom of every one of these cupcakes (see picture below!), making the first bite a sweet surprise.  Then there were chunks of oreos chopped into the cupcake batter.  To top it off was a decadent cream cheese icing with crushed oreo crumbs and a cookie garnish.  I think I bought out the grocery store’s entire supply of oreos in preparation to make these, but it was totally worth it.  Also, making these cupcakes reminded me of how miserable I am at icing things.  Since proper piping bags aren’t really in my student budget (although I have managed to snag some of Britt’s in the past), I was using a floppy Ziploc bag with a hole cut in the corner.  Even though the cupcakes looked nice, I ended up with half the frosting all over my hands, in my hair, on my apron……..

The fancy schmancy Oreo base

While I modeled the food (aka ate part of the cupcake so a picture could be taken of the inside), Britt got her camera out on the bus.  After some shaky pictures taken while travelling down a bumpy northern Ontario highway, we decided to wait until we got to North Bay before having a full fledged photo shoot with these cupcakes.  And then, I shared with the team, and earned their acceptance, one cookie-filled bite at a time.

Have cupcakes, will travel.

Note: All these pictures were taken by my talented roommate Brittany.