Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jack Skellington Cupcakes

Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my favorite Halloween AND Christmas movies. In the spirit of the season, I thought it would be fun to make some Jack Skellington cupcakes. They were surprisingly easy to make. Rolling out, cutting, and drawing Jack's face on the fondant is a bit time consuming, but definitely not very difficult since his features are pretty simple.

I simply cut out this template of Jack's face (you will need to adjust the size) and laid it out on each circle of fondant. Because I don't trust my own drawing skills, I then traced Jack's features with the end of a thin paintbrush. After the features are impressed on the circle, I filled them in with a black edible food pen. If you don't have a circle cutter, I would suggest investing in one- it makes it much easier to create clean shapes.

The actual cupcakes are a simple chocolate cake with vanilla bean frosting. These are not gluten free because I haven't created a fabulous chocolate cake in the Pixie Crust test kitchen yet.

For the Chocolate Cupcakes (makes 24):

2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup hot water
1 cup sour cream

Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with paper liners and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift cake flour and salt together. Set aside. Cream together butter, sugar and eggs. Once light and creamy, add vanilla extract using a stand mixer. Melt baking chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Add chocolate to mixer. Add dry ingredients in two additions, alternating with sour cream. Once fully combined, add hot water and stir to mix.

Bake for 20-24 minutes until cupcakes spring back to touch.

For the Vanilla Bean Frosting:

3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla bean paste
2 tbsp cream cheese (for taste and texture to cut the sweetness a bit)

Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add in powdered sugar. Mix until light and fluffy. Add vanilla bean paste and food coloring.

To assemble:

I like to place fondant decorations over the icing so that the frosting still peeks out. That way, someone could choose to remove the fondant topper and still have a good frosting: cake ratio.

Frost cupcakes with pastry bag fitted with star tip, don't pipe frosting on too high. Add Jack head to the top of each cupcake.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pumpkin "Trick or Treat" Cupcakes (GF)

It feels so nice to be posting again. I've had a really busy couple of weeks, including a work conference (for my 9-5 job, which is not nearly as interesting as pastry) in Palm Springs.

In addition to being busy, I've been feeling a bit like a scientist in the kitchen now that I've switched over to exclusively gluten free baking. It's so exciting, but so different! And so frustrating! I made about 4 attempts yesterday at the perfect GF yellow cupcake and have yet to have succeeded. Luckily, these pumpkin cupcakes turned out beautifully.

These cupcakes are pumpkin with brown butter frosting. They are inspired by a "trick-or-treat" pumpkin basket and when you look at them, you can't help but get nostalgic. I love Halloween and today I spent a full day of child-like fun with Mr. Pixie Crust painting pumpkins to put outside of our apartment. He is a true artist! I'm so impressed by his raven pumpkin!

Mr. Pixie Crust and I had a conversation today about Halloween and what we used to dress up as. Neither of us have ever had the inkling to dress up as anything too spooky. In fact, I pretty much only wanted to be "pretty" characters growing up- a princess, a fairy (I was a fairy probably about 7 times), a mermaid, Cleopatra, a ballerina, etc. I guess some things never change!

For the Pumpkin Cupcakes:
*For non-gluten free readers, you can try this recipe I used for my Harry Potter cupcakes.

1 cup superfine sweet rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup superfine brown rice flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks butter, unsalted at room temperature
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Sift together the flours, corn/potato starches, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon. Set aside. Cream together brown sugar, white sugar, and butter. Add in vanilla extract. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients in two parts, alternating with water and pumpkin puree. Mix for 2-3 minutes.

Fill liners about 2/3 full and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

For the Browned Butter Frosting
1 stick butter, room temperature
2 sticks browned butter (see below)
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar (or more, depending on how sweet you like your frosting)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp Wilton Orange food coloring gel

Slice two sticks of unsalted butter and place in 1 qt sauce pan. Melt over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and continue to heat until bubbly and light brown (about 4-5 minutes). Be very careful in this step- the butter browns quickly and can burn if you don't watch it carefully.

Set melted browned butter aside to cool completely (I put mine in the freezer for a couple of minutes to speed the process).

Once completely cool, combine browned butter and one stick of regular butter with powdered sugar in a stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until fully smooth and creamy. Add food coloring and mix until fully combined.

To Decorate:
-pastry bag
-small round tip (I used a Wilton 3 tip)
-Mini-sized candy of your choice (I used Nerds, Tootsie rolls, and Mini Reese's Cups)
-Small amount of orange or black fondant
-Orange sanding sugar

To decorate the cupcakes like pumpkins, I used this tutorial from the Hello, Cupcake! book.

To make the pumpkins, place a generous amount of frosting on each cupcake and smooth into a rounded top. Pour orange sanding sugar onto wax paper or a paper plate and gently roll each cupcake into it. You can sprinkle sugar onto any bare spots. Next, use a toothpick to mark indents on pumpkin and use a pastry bag fitted with small round tip to pipe lines onto indents.

Once you've made the pumpkins (minus the stems, unless you make them all into plain pumpkins, which is still adorable-see photo below for proof), cut out the pumpkin face from a piece of rolled out black or orange fondant. Use a bit of frosting to glue each piece on.

Next, place the candy on the top of each cupcake. Put the largest item as far back as you can and then add the smaller items in front. Use a whole piece of licorice for the basket handle by arching over cupcake and pushing each end into it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Spun Sugar Spider Web Flourless Chocolate Cake (GF)

Flourless chocolate cakes are one of my new favorite things to make. They're so simple to put together. I love that they use such few ingredients and take hardly anytime at all to mix up and bake. Plus, you don't even need to frost them since they're so decadent!

For this version, I decided to make it more festive by adding some spun sugar "webs" and fondant spiders.

For the Cake (Recipe adapted from Givers Log):

-9-inch springform pan
-Offset rubber spatula
-2 large mixing bowls (an additional large mixing bowl if you use a stand mixer to whip the egg whites)
-A fork (for spinning sugar)
-Parchment paper
-Non-stick cooking spray

-12.5 oz good quality chocolate (I use a mix of bittersweet, dark, and milk)
-5 eggs, separated
-1/4 cup granulated sugar
-1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of the springform pan with an 9-inch circle of parchment paper. Spray the sides of the pan and parchment paper with non-stick cooking spray.
Set aside.

Chop chocolate and melt by heating in microwave in 45 second-1 minute intervals. Stir well after heating. Once the chocolate is fully melted, add in the cubed butter and stir until melted and fully combined. Set aside to cool.

Whisk egg yolks and vanilla extract together until pale yellow and creamy looking.
Pour egg mixture over chocolate and mix until fully combined. If bowl containing chocolate/eggs is not large enough to contain whipped egg whites, transfer to larger mixing bowl.

Using stand mixer with a clean bowl, whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar. Once soft peaks start to form, add in sugar little by little. Continue whipping until egg whites form stiff peaks.

Add 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the chocolate mixture and fold until combined. Add in the rest of the whites and continue to fold until combined (it's better to leave few white streaks than to over mix or take the air out of the whites).

Spread batter into springform pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the rack for 19-23 minutes.

For the Fondant Spiders:

I used leftover store bought gum paste (you could also use fondant or marshmallow fondant) to create these little critters. I colored my gum paste with AmeriColor Royal Purple food coloring.


Roll enough medium sized balls (about the size of a gumball) for the number of spiders you want to make. Next, roll the same number of smaller balls sized about 50% of the larger balls. Combine the two balls to form the body. Form legs by rolling small logs and placing underneath body. Shape legs to 45 degree angles. Allow spiders to dry/stabilize for a few hours or overnight.

For the spun sugar web
, I used the recipe and tutorial from Sprinkle Bakes. One extra tip, you REALLY need to watch the sugar as it begins reaching high temperature. I overcooked mine slightly, but luckily, the sugar still spun okay.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pumpkin Spice French Macarons

When I say that I love pumpkin, I mean it! There are likely to be several more pumpkin recipes on the way, but for now, I'm posting the recipe for these delicious Pumpkin Spice Macarons. I was surprised how pumpkin-y these tasted, given that they don't have any actual pumpkin (only pumpkin pie spice) but they are completely Fall worthy.

 UPDATE 11/01/2013:  Check out the pumpkin spice French macarons on my new blog, Sprinkle Liberally.

Macaron cookie shells (makes approximately 46 shells, depending on size)

1 cup plus 2 tbsp almond meal
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1 scant tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
3 egg whites (aged 24 hours at room temperature)
Pinch of cream of tartar
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp caster sugar (also called “baker’s sugar”)
Orange gel food coloring

Sift almond meal and confectioner’s sugar together two times in a large bowl. Sift in pumpkin pie spice. Set aside dry ingredients.

Using a stand mixer, whisk egg whites on medium-low setting. Once foamy, add pinch of cream of tartar. When egg whites have soft peaks, slowly add in castor sugar. Increase mixer speed slightly and add gel food coloring. Continue whisking until whites form stiff peaks. Using an off-set rubber spatula, gently fold almond flour/confectioner’s sugar mixture into egg whites until no more lumps remain and mixture ribbons off the top of the spatula.
Place mixture in pastry bag and pipe into circles onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Bake at 275 degrees for about 15 minutes. Rotate cookies 10 minutes into baking time.

Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/2 tbsp vanilla bean paste

Once macarons have fully cooled, pipe a dollop of buttercream onto the center of one shell and gently press the other shell on top.