Radio Potluck Party aka Christmas Baking Part ONE

It is currently 12:23 a.m. and I am sitting at the kitchen table waiting for a chocolate cake to bake.  This cake is for the family potluck (i.e. my six roommates and close friends) are having tomorrow eve.  While I listen to Glee music (which is WAY too peppy for my current mood), I figured I might as well type out a new blog post.  Please excuse me if my sleepiness is greatly apparent within this post.  Grammatical skills depart as the evening goes on.

So today was our last radio class of third year (sob).  Through newsroom days and the rest of the semester our class has gotten pretty close, and I’m hoping that most people will be in Thursday TV next semester so we can have more delicious potlucks.

PAUSE: One of my cake layers just finished baking!!  This is very good news, the other half has now entered the oven and sleep time crawls more and more near by the minute.  Hoorah.

ANYWAYS, back to radio.  Since I baked something for two out of three newsroom days, I figured it was only appropriate to end off the semester with a Christmas-themed potluck.  Also, I actually look for ANY excuse to hold a potluck and was extremely eager to once again display my baking skills to an audience other than my roommates.  At one point in the afternoon, Mary (our professor) actually said: “this is the reason why I don’t believe journalism students are too busy,” or something along those lines… Not true.  I just have ZERO life and spend any time that would normally be consumed by a university student’s social life baking.  It’s an addiction.

Okay, but seriously.  This potluck dealt me the perfect opportunity to begin my Christmas baking.  And so, I spent approximately 10 hours this past Sunday baking to my heart’s content.  Although some people dread it, I LOVE doing this sort of thing and the unfortunate “woman slaving over a hot stove” thing totally applies to me here.  Did I just set feminism back decades?  Apologies.  Let me explain: I’m actually the LEAST domestic person in the universe.  Sure, I love cooking, but I’m not a domestic diva or anything.  Yes, I occasionally answer to the name “Martha Stewart,” but I really want nothing more than independence, adventure, and zero children (until I’m old and have lived my life).  There, perhaps feminism has been restored to its 2010 level.

Okay, so here’s what I made:

1. Peppermint brownie bites
2. Ricotta cookies
3. Chocolate-dipped orange shortbread rounds (don’t these cookies look like little Spock heads?)
4. Gingerbread cupcakes with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting – SO amazing.  The recipe came from the blog Sweet Girl Confections and they were just wonderful.  Thank you so much!

Now, for any Canadian Living fans out there, I can tell you that the top three recipes came from the magazine’s special “Holiday Cooking” edition.  All three were marvelous, but I especially appreciated (a) their freezing ability from Sunday-Thursday, and (b) the fact that CHEESE can be put in cookies.  Fantastic, right?

Also, I made hand-moulded chocolate Christmas trees.  It was fun.

Alright, better check on the other half of my cake.  Later days!

AND the preparation/chaotic packing mess…

Christmas tree farm?

One more thing… In anticipation of tomorrow night’s cake and the blog post to follow it, please just take a look at what my baking looked like last year at this time.  I hope to improve on this times a badgillion.  Yes, the icing did melt off the cake, laugh away.  I’m so ashamed.  On that note, I’ve come a long way, n’est ce pas?


Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Filling and a Brown Sugar Icing (whew!)

Congratulations to you all if you managed to get through the name of my cupcakes in one breath.  It’s a mouthful, I know (just like my cupcakes), but I unfortunately had no other way to describe my entry into the 2010 Capital Cupcake Camp.

via

As you have all seen from my previous blog post, the cupcakes at the competition were absolutely amazing.  At the end of this post I’ll do a blog round-up of all the posts I’ve seen from the event, so you can get a better idea of the cupcake calibre!

Anyways, my cupcakes:

Rather than going out downtown like all normal university students would on a Saturday night, I stayed in with my roommate Britt and made brown sugar icing from sunset until deep into the night.  The icing was the most difficult thing I have ever encountered, due to the fact that university students are rarely in possession of stand-up mixers.

But lets go back to the beginning of this icing tale, shall we?

As soon as she found out I was entering a cupcake competition, Brittany exclaimed eagerly that I had to include this brown sugar icing that she had made in the summer.  While describing it, I’m quite sure she said the words “orgasm” and “heaven” all in one sentence.  I knew it must be good.

The icing recipe turned out to be an adaptation from the one used on the blogAnnie’s Eats.  Everything was going well up until we had to actually beat the liquid-like syrup into some sort of frosting.  There was cream of tartar AND eggs in said liquid, so you it would beat, right?  Wrong.  Britt and I stood in our kitchen for one whole hour, taking turns holding our $15 hand mixer.  I think we can blame the lack of standup mixer for the almost-failure.

To fix this little disaster, we ended up adding about 1 1/2 cups (approx) of icing sugar to Annie’s original recipe, finally creating that state-of-heaven which Britt had described earlier.  Once I tasted it, there were no regrets.  It was like a butterscotch dream!

After this ordeal was complete, we spent the rest of the night “piping” frosting onto the cupcakes with a squirt bottle I bought for $5.  Britt can 100 per cent attest to the fact that I am the most miserably messy icing attempter that has ever walked this earth.  It worked though, and into the fridge the cupcakes went (they somehow fit after rearrangement of food for six girls) in preparation for the morning’s events.

The rest of the cupcake was easy peasy.  I used my mom’s pumpkin muffin recipe and just beat some cream cheese with sugar and eggs until I had a smooth consistency.  Cutting the middle out of the cupcakes, I added a dollop of cream cheese to them, re-hatted them with the cut out cupcake and, as you already have read, iced my heart out!

The result: delicious.  I am proud to say that my cupcakes were some of the first to disappear out of more than 100 bakers.  I got to try some amazing cupcakes as well, including a spicy “Chili Chocolate” cupcake by Kelly and an amazingly decorated and equally tasty “Death by Chocolate” cupcake by Jenny at Geek Sweets.

Overall the afternoon was an amazing success.  More than $6,000 was raised for Women Alive and the Youth Services Bureau in Ottawa.  EVERYONE should go to this event next year.  No excuse!

Other blog posts about Capital Cupcake Camp (I know there must be more, sorry if you’re not here!):
Heartful Mouthful: A sweet success: cupcake camp 2.0
Vanilla Bean Baker: Back from camp
The Twisted Chef: No more cupcakes
Apt 613: No crumb left behind, Cupcake Camp 2.0 wrap-up
Blurasis: Capital Cupcake Camp 2010
The Village Cake Lady: Capital Cupcake Camp
The WildWorks Station: The return of the ever yummy cupcakes in the capital

Gorgeous Flickr photos (again, sorry!  I know I missed so many of you!):
Shawn

Recipe: Pumpkin cupcakes with a cream cheese filling and a brown sugar icing

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Mix together:
-2 1/2 cups sugar
– 1 cup vegetable oil
– 4 eggs
– 2 cups pumpkin, or 14 oz. canned pumpkin

Add dry ingredients:
–  3 1/2 cups flour
– 2 tsp. baking soda
-1 tsp. cinnamon
– 1 tsp. nutmeg

Carefully stir in 2/3 cups of milk.  Blend until just mixed.  You can make cupcakes, muffins or loaves.  Recipe will make about 3-4 doz. muffins or about 2-3 loaves.

Cream cheese filling
– 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
– 1 cup icing sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla

On medium speed, beat cream cheese with icing sugar until smooth.  Add in vanilla and mix until combined.  To fill cupcakes, use a small knife to cut out the centre of the cupcake (my cupcake holes were about an inch in diametre).  Fill hole with a blob of cream cheese filling and put the cut piece of the cupcake back on top.

Brown sugar icing (via Annie’s Eats)

NOTE: This is the original recipe from Annie’s blog.  In her recipe, she calls for you to use a stand mixer.  Since we don’t have a stand mixer (just a crummy $15 one from Zellers) in my student kitchen, I had to add an extra 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar to give my icing the right consistency.  You might have to play around a bit with this one!

– 2 cups tightly packed brown sugar
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 8 – 1 oz. pieces
– ¼ tsp. cream of tartar

To make the icing, heat the brown sugar, heavy cream, 2 – 1 oz. pieces of butter, and cream of tartar in a 2-3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, while bringing the mixture to a boil.  Allow the mixture to continue boiling while stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Transfer the bubbling hot mixture to a stainless steel bowl and allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding.  Place the cooled mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, adding the 6 remaining pieces of butter one at a time, until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Increase the speed to high and beat for an additional 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on high for an additional 1 minute until light and fluffy.


Capital Cupcake Camp 2010!

Just a few pictures from the second annual Cupcake Camp that happened today in Ottawa…

A picture of my cupcakes…pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese filling and a brown sugar icing.  Super decadent!  More pictures and an accompanying blog post to come in the next few days!

Other cupcakes by super talented bakers:

“Happy Birthday Canada” Cupcakes (and a brief narration of Canada Day from in front of the Terry Fox statue)

If there is one thing that you need to know about me, it is that I love my country.  With such knowledge now in your craniums, I’m sure it’s not hard for you to guess just what it was I was doing on July 1.  Decked out in my red shorts and Canuck shirt, I trekked to downtown Ottawa, to experience Canada’s birthday the way it should be celebrated: on Parliament Hill.

(It was windy, we were trying to fly)

11:30 a.m.
So the Parliament Hill thing didn’t really happen…apparently you have to come a wee bit earlier than 11:30 if you wish to even claim a smidgen of space on the Hill.  Alas, myself and a few of my fellow Summer O leaders camped out in front of the Terry Fox statue, where we managed to see the Queen in her red pantsuit (very patriotic of her) and get scared as 21 shots rang out into the afternoon heat.  Special shout out to Iman who found her soulmate on this balmy July day: a tall, photo-taking, prominent jawline man who we have appropriately named Eric (after Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid).  All in all, my feet were run over by strollers, bicycles and walkers, but not even sore feet could smother my patriotism!  I swear, if they had played that Olympic “I Believe” song, I would have broken out into tears.

My tippy-toes view of the day’s events:

Mass chaos ensued as we tried to escape the drowning push and pull of red-and-white…

On to the treat!
Since it certainly isn’t everyday that your dear country turns 143, I thought I should do something extra special for this Friday’s treat, in honour of this festive occasion.  Between coming home from being swamped downtown and going to see the fireworks at night, I managed to churn 27 pretty little cupcakes out of my ghetto student kitchen.  I even melted red chocolate into maple leaf moulds!!  Come on, how cute is that?  Even after a long, frustrating struggle with the Stove from Hell and our pathetic mixer (I am so buying a counter mixer with my Visa reward points), we were complete.  Here is the result, which I am rather pleased with.

So what did I think of Canada Day in the capital?  AWESOME!!  Next year’s plan?  Parking myself on Parliament Hill at 8:00 a.m. sharp, picnic blanket and Canada flag in hand (and painted on my face).

I hope you all had as great a Canada Day as I did!