RumChata Cupcakes!

It’s my friend Brittany’s birthday today, known mostly to you readers as the genius who came up with the RumChata Ice Cream challenge to which I valiantly arose during my graduation party.

That giant bottle of RumChata that I bought to make the ice cream has been hanging out in my refrigerator ever since, just waiting for the opportunity to become some other sort of alcoholic dessert. I’d say that a 30th birthday is a good enough occasion to break it out again, yes? Yes.

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Now, Brittany has a deep appreciation for all things cinnamon, including Fireball and RumChata. Don’t believe me?

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I wasn’t the only one who thought that it would make a good gift.

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Shots of RumChata are a something of a tradition with us.

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She’s also a bit of a cupcake connoisseur, so it seemed like the perfect idea to conjure up some RumChata Cupcakes to bring to the party.

There’s plenty of alcohol in the actual cakes themselves, plus extra brushed on top, and then mixed up into the buttercream frosting, too, as well as a great deal of cinnamon.

RumChata Cupcakes
adapted from Betty Crocker’s Starlight Yellow Cake and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:
Cupcakes:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups RumChata liqueur (plus about 1/4 cup extra for brushing)
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs
1 heaping tsp. cinnamon (plus extra for sprinkling)

RumChata Buttercream Frosting:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2-3 tbsp. RumChata liqueur

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.

In large bowl, beat all cupcake ingredients together on low speed for 30 seconds, and then at high speed for about 3 minutes, until smooth and custardy. I like to start with the sugar and butter first, then the eggs, then everything else, but whatever works best for you.

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Whatever you do, don’t trust the lid on the baking powder, no matter how well it seems to be attached.

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Divide the batter evenly into the 24 cupcake liners, being sure to only fill each between 1/2 and 3/4 full.

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Put your face really, really close to the pan and get in a really good sniff of that cinnamon-y goodness before you have to put it in the oven.

Bake the cupcakes for approximately 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the tops spring back when touched lightly in their centers. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

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While the cakes are cooling, it’s frosting time!

In a medium bowl, beat the powdered sugar and softened butter together on low-medium speed until well-incorporated, then add the vanilla and 1 tbsp. of the RumChata.

Then, gradually add in enough RumChata, by drops, until the frosting is smooth and spreadable. I lost track of exactly how much I put in there, but I don’t think that I went more than 4 tbsp. You’ll know when you get there.

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Now, take your cooled cupcakes and poke some holes in the tops with a toothpick.

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Be sure to notice that your cats are up to something over in the corner, and have a balanced, logical discussion with them about how they shouldn’t try to eat cobwebs.

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Then, brush on a generous layer of RumChata and allow it to soak in a little bit.

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If you don’t let them dry a little bit, the tops of the cake will rip right off when you try to put the frosting on, so be patient if possible.

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I did end up having a tiny bit of RumChata left over after brushing all the cakes. You can guess what I did with that.

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If you said drink it straight from the measuring cup, you are correct.

Get a nice heaping scoop of frosting on a flat spatula and smear it on top of your cupcakes in a rustic fashion.

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Or, if you want to get fancy and pipe it on, go right ahead. However, this frosting recipe gives you just barely enough to get the tops done this way, so if you want something more elaborate, you should probably double the recipe.

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Then, with all your pretty little cakes in a row, sprinkle a touch of cinnamon on top of each one.

Pretty!

Now, what do these taste like? Here we have a stop-motion reaction shot, courtesy of the birthday girl.

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When they’re baking, they smell like butter and cinnamon and rum and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, all of the good things in the world. They taste that way, too, let me assure you.

Later on in the night, Brittany told me that they were the best thing that she had ever put in her mouth, and then she reminded me again later on Facebook. I’m not sure if I would go that far, but yes, they are definitely something special. They might be worth buying another giant bottle of RumChata for.

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Little Lebowskis – Dark Chocolate White Russian Cupcakes

I appear to have acquired for myself a reputation for making boozy desserts. I have absolutely no idea how that could have possibly happened.

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My friend Samantha recently moved away from New Orleans to Chicago, and for her going-away party, I asked her if she’d like for me to bake anything. She said that she didn’t care what the baked good was, as long as it was filled with alcohol, preferably White Russian-flavored.

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I was prepared with a ridiculous amount of Kahlua, but, as usual, some research was in order. I was going to be bringing this dessert to a bar (appropriately enough, considering the contents), so it couldn’t be some sort of giant cake or frozen thing. Cupcakes seemed portable and appropriate. Clicking around brought me to the Collegiate Baker‘s Chocolate Kahlua Cake, a thing of beauty that absolutely begged to be modified into cupcakes.

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All of the elements were there: chocolate, Kahlua, and even more Kahlua.

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As for the cupcakes part, the only modification that I made was to divide the batter into liners in a cupcake pan (obviously), and baked them for a slightly longer period of time (about 33 minutes, as opposed to the 25 in the original recipe). I’m not sure if the longer time comes from a slightly taller cake or from the fact that my oven is a lying liar all the time, but things worked out nicely.

Just a note, you end up filling the cupcake liners slightly higher than you think you need to because these don’t rise very much at all. Just go a little bit higher than the standard 2/3rds, and you’ll be just fine. You’ll get 18 cupcakes, plus a tiny 1/2-sized 19th cupcake just for you to enjoy.

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This tiny half-cake ended up being super important to the process here. Dan and I split it when the cupcakes had cooled sufficiently, and we discovered that, although the chocolate and coffee liqueur flavor was pleasing (that’s too weak of a word…it was freaking dense and delicious), it was not what you’d call boozy really. It didn’t have that little bump of tang and flavor that I’ve come to associate with those types of desserts.

So, after the cakes were totally cooled, I went ahead and remedied that by poking a bunch of holes in the top of each cupcake…

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…and brushing them with straight Kahlua to soak in. Each one got a good, full brushful, plus some extra drops drizzled into those gorgeous cracks on top. I think I used slightly less than 1/2 cup for all 18 cakes.

Then, I let that soak in while I made the frosting.

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Southern Living’s White Russian Frosting, because you don’t mess with perfection.

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It’s ridiculous how good this stuff is. And a warning, you’ll end up with way too much for just cupcakes, unless you are some kind of champion cupcake decorator who knows how to pile that stuff up way high. I think that I probably only used about half of the recipe, and the other half is currently sitting in my refrigerator, calling to me softly every time I walk by.

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Now, I am intimidated by frosting cupcakes. But if you are a close reader, you are probably not surprised by this information. This time, however, I had the frosting mojo. I was on a roll, making perfect little spirals with perfect tiny curls on top.

Until.

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My frosting bag betrayed me. Split right up the side. And then at the tip while I attempted to salvage the existing frosting and rescue the tip. While I scrambled to rig up a Ziplock bag to save the entire operation and not lose the frosting mojo, Dan took some artistic shots.

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Dang. I’m still proud somehow.

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Back on track.

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I was even smiling, and you know that rarely happens in my kitchen.

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Then, for the finishing touch, everything got sprinkled with some bittersweet chocolate shavings. You could make some chocolate curls for yourself, or you could go with my cheating, hacky version and buy some super fancy hot chocolate from Williams-Sonoma and use that instead. It’s delicious sprinkled on top of ice cream, too.

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Hooray! I sent out the call on social media for friends to help me with the name for these, as I couldn’t think of anything that was remotely clever or didn’t sound exactly like every other cake on the Internet. There was so many funny and interesting suggestions, but what really stuck out was how many people mentioned The Big Lebowski and the Dude.

I kicked myself for not thinking of that first, and then used elements of a bunch of suggestions to come up with Little Lebowskis, after the urban achievers in the film. And proud we are of all of them. (Do it in your best Maude voice.)

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Sam became the keeper of the cupcakes once they appeared at the party, and her smile makes me think that I did a pretty good job.

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I know that the quality of these pictures is bad, but bars are dark and no one else in the world cares if you like to take pictures of your food.

Anyway, the first bite of these is super dark chocolate and sweet buttercream. Then, the Kahlua kicks in and warms everything up, and makes everyone make the same simultaneously surprised and satisfied face. I’m going to have to make them again to use up all that extra frosting.

Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake – a tale of adventure, mishap, and Irish Cream

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I went to go and get a flu shot yesterday, and on the way home, I went to the grocery store and bought the following items:

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I didn’t need 3 whole cans of pumpkin, but they were on sale, and I was powerless to resist.

Since last week or so, probably since the calendar officially told us that fall was here, I have been daydreaming about a cake that incorporated 2 of my favorite things: pumpkin and cheap Irish cream liqueur.

I am aware that most people use Irish cream as a mixer in more elaborate cocktails or as a way to make their coffee more interesting, but, over the years, it has become my favorite drink all on its own. Just in a tiny glass with an ice cube? I have no idea why it’s so great, but it is. Irish cream is made with Irish whiskey, sugar (or honey), and cream, blended together into perfection. Its thick, silky texture makes it an easy substitute for milk in any cake recipe. And its warmth and slight hint of spice from the whiskey makes it, in my opinion, a great pairing for the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves inherent in pumpkin baking.

Putting them together makes so much sense to me that I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought of it before. Or really, that no one appeared to have. I found a whole ton of recipes involving combining pumpkin and rum in cake-y form, but nothing with delicious, wonderful Irish cream. This needed to be fixed.

In my kitchen, it’s not fall until…

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…now.

I went to Betty for inspiration and a basic yellow cake recipe, and then just experimented from there. There was a tiny bit of heartbreak along the way (ooooh, spooky foreshadowing!), but everything turned out amazing in the end.

Ready?

Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake
adapted from Betty Crocker‘s Starlight Yellow Cake and inspired by the glories of fall, in general

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups Irish cream liqueur (plus about 1/4 cup extra for brushing)
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease and flour the bundt pan of your choice.

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Seriously, do this thoroughly. (More foreshadowing, I know. Bum bum buuuuuuuuummmmm!)

In large bowl, put all ingredients, except for powdered sugar, and beat together on low speed for about 30 seconds, and then at high speed (or only halfway if you’re using a KitchenAid mixer, like me, because high speed would probably send pumpkin splattering all across yourself and your kitchen) for about 3 minutes.

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Pour batter into prepared pan.

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Admire the lovely orange color and the amazing smell for just a second before you pop it into the oven. While baking, that heavenly smell will only intensify. Your kitchen will smell like hot toddies and pumpkin pie. You will suddenly decide that you are the smartest person on the planet. Or maybe that was just me. I do tend to get a little bit cocky before the fall. BUM BUM BUUUUMMMMM!

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Now, here’s where things went a bit awry. I baked my bundt until a toothpick came out clean (about 50 minutes), which is usually the standard. However, this resulted in a cake that was just a little too…delicate for the rigors of being a stand-alone bundt. It’s super moist and delicious, and I wouldn’t recommend changing anything about the ingredients, but just increase the baking time in order to get a thicker, tougher crust on there that will prevent this type of tragedy.

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After I waited the normal 15-20 minutes to release the cake from the bundt pan, I made sure to run a butter knife along the edge, and flipped it over. And about a third of the top of the cake decided to stay in the pan. (It’s okay to gasp a little. I’m pretty sure that I did, too.)

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A few years ago, this would have probably made me cry a little. However, I decided that I am a grown woman, and instead, I got to work with a butter knife, making strategic cuts and delicately prying that cake top out of the pan and placing it in its correct place. I was determined to photograph and eat this goddamn delicious cake, and nothing was going to stop me.

Thinking back on it, I’m pretty sure that lengthening the baking time to least an hour (as long as nothing was scorching) and then waiting a little longer before attempting to get the cake out of the pan would probably solve all of these problems. I’ll definitely be making this one again soon, so I’ll be sure to report back.

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Then, I left the cake alone to cool properly (and hopefully decide to fuse together a bit) and made a salad. This is not required, but highly recommended.

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After the cake was fully cool, I poked it all over with a toothpick, steering clear of the Franken-cake pieced-together sections for fear of further damage.

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Then, I brushed a little extra Irish cream over the top, letting it sink into the top layer of cake. It was probably just a bit less than 1/4 cup, but who keeps track of these things? Just keep going until the top crust is saturated. Then, let the cake sit for just a little while longer, like about 30-45 minutes.

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That Irish cream layer will soak in and harden a little bit, giving the cake a sort of “shellacked” outer layer. Ideally, it won’t be sticky or too moist, just sort of thick and glossy.

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Now, sprinkle the top with a thin layer of powdered sugar. I debated going crazy and concocting some sort of Irish cream icing or frosting, but this cake is so moist and flavorful that you really don’t want to overpower it.

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And you’re done!

Slice into that glorious cake and take a bite. I’ll wait.

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It’s so good, right? It tastes like warm pumpkin pie, like whiskey and spices on a cold day. Dan took one bite and said, “I think I’m going to get drunk.” Hence the name: Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake.

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Go out and make one (and just keep it in the oven a little longer than I did) in order to bring instant pumpkin spice sass to any party or just to warm up a chilly fall night. You will be glad that you did.

Chocolate and Orange, Together Forever – Doctored Up Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake

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Beautiful chocolate and orange above the fold? Do I have your attention? Good.

There is a well-established precedent here on this blog that I believe that chocolate + orange = holidays. Therefore, Christmas dinner this year required for me to get up early to make a decadent chocolate and orange treat for everyone to enjoy after the long day’s festivities.

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Cue Joy the Baker‘s Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake. (By the by, the photos here were taken by multiple people, none of which were me, on various phones and cameras whilst I flitted about the kitchen wearing an owl apron and a super serious face.)

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This cake, by itself, is pretty damn delicious, but this was Christmas, dammit. Game had to be stepped up. First addition? I poked holes all over the beautiful finished and cooled cake and brushed fresh squeezed orange juice (from the lonely little orange that you zest and then ignore to make the cake) all over the cake, letting it soak in.

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See? Super serious business here.

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If you’ve got tiny bits of orange pulp all over the outside of your cake, you’re doing everything right. In life and in baking.

Second addition? Get out your favorite chocolate ganache recipe. Don’t have one? Betty does, and it’s pretty great.

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Pour it all over that cooled orange-drenched cake (with aluminum foil cake stand protectors, of course), and then admire it for a second.

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Then spread things out a bit with a spatula. Did you start to smile? Stop that. Baking is a serious business.

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Lovely.

Now, we haven’t even eaten dinner yet, so we can’t dig into this cake. Besides, ganache (which WordPress doesn’t believe is a real word, by the way) needs to set, which is a cruel, but necessary, step. What do we do while we’re in that weird between-time when we can’t eat dinner or dessert yet?

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Well, in my family, you make more dessert, apparently.

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Super basic roll-out sugar cookies, again from Lady Betty.  Cookie cutters from my awesome friends Brittany and Michele made their inaugural sugar cookie appearance.

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You may think that bunnies don’t belong on a Christmas cookie plate. You are wrong.

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I don’t know why I wanted to include this one, but I really like this picture somehow. I feel as though those cookies are cowering in fear from my threatening cookie-eating presence. They are right to fear.

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After dinner, all kinds of royal icing happened.

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Again, no smiling allowed. Decorating sugar cookies with icing, candies, and sprinkles requires extreme concentration from all involved.

We made approximately 800,000 cookies. Here are a few highlights.

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The kitchen counter got a little crowded.

After all that hard work decorating, it was time for cake!

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It was worth the wait.

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I feel like this would be even better in mini-Bundt size, where you can get an even more favorable ganache-to-cake ratio. It’s all about the balance between the floral, tangy orange and the creamy semisweet chocolate. And then overloading it with a whole bunch more chocolate.

Year-end roundup is not over yet! Remember when I said something about bunnies being involved? Those cookie cutters didn’t count. We’ve got way more bunny goodness coming up. I am still excited about it, and it’s already over. That’s saying something.

Cake and Salad and Excuses

Remember when I used to blog regularly? Ha!

Well, just because I haven’t been documenting my creative adventures on here doesn’t mean that they haven’t been occurring. They’ve just been…rather spaced out amongst general stress, work, and getting ready for nursing school which will be happening super soon.

I am excited.

Here is some evidence that I haven’t just been sitting at my computer watching cat videos (even though it feels that way sometimes):

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My favorite project as of late. The Red, White, and Blue cake. This came about when my dad requested a “red, white, and blue” cake for the Fourth of July without any other specifications. I think it looks like the Captain America shield here. Which is awesome.

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Imagine slicing open a plain chocolate-frosted cake to see that swirly goodness. I was such a dork, sitting there and trying to keep my face neutral while I waited for my family to tell me how cool that cake was. As usual, my expectations of how fantastic others will think I am fell a bit short.

But it tasted really good.

After all that, my parents sent me home with a giant bag of tomatoes from their garden that I had no idea how to use. I noticed that I had a bunch of cracked wheat that I had originally bought for some tabouleh that didn’t materialize and some mozzarella waiting for a pizza that I wasn’t going to make anything soon. Ideas began churning.

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Balsamic vinaigrette got shaken up. (I totally had to Google vinaigrette. I’m owning it. That is a hard word to spell.)

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Tomatoes, mozzarella, and baby carrots (I don’t know why, either. They were in the fridge, staring at me.) all diced up.

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Cracked wheat, basil, and dressing added and tossed up.

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It’s definitely a strange amalgam of things, but it was quite refreshing and delicious. I think I’m going to dub it — Caprese Tabouleh. It’s confused about its origins. It doesn’t know why it has carrots in it. But it’s just the thing to use up some tomatoes and cheese that you’d otherwise just shove into your mouth indiscrimately.

Caprese Tabouleh…with carrots for some reason

Ingredients:
4 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
slightly over a cup of dried cracked wheat
1/2 cup diced baby carrots
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, diced
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil

Dressing:
adapted from 200 Super Salads, Vinaigrette

1 tsp. sugar
pinch of powdered mustard
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
Prepare cracked wheat according to package instructions. (I just pour boiling water to cover it and let it sit for 15-20 minutes to absorb all the liquid. Then strain it if necessary and let it cool before adding it to the other ingredients, unless you’re alright with soft cheese in your salad.  Sometimes you’re impatient, like me.)

Combine dressing ingredients together in a mason jar and shake it all up. Leave it in the fridge while you prepare everything else to get it good and cold.

Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, carrots, and cracked wheat (once it’s cool) in a large bowl. Add basil and dressing and toss it up!

If it’s not cold enough, chill it in the refrigerator for a little bit so that everything can meld together and get cold and crisp and wonderful. Makes about 4 servings.

Enjoy!

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Hopefully, even with the oncoming onslaught of work and school, I won’t drop out of sight again. I’ve got a great new knitting project on the horizon. (Hint: it involves argyle and socks. That’s more like just telling you what it is than just a hint, I know.) I’m excited. I can’t help it.