The Breakfast Club

I had my monthly “bitchin’ book club” meeting last night, and we discussed our disturbing book choice while nibbling on different breakfast foods and (strawberry) mimosas. Alongside our overwhelmingly delicious mimosas (Andre Strawberry + orange juice = Heaven.), we selected from vegan almond coconut balls, mini vegetable or bacon and egg frittatas, delicious and crisp home-fried potatoes, granola, fresh fruit salad, and these…

Cinnamon swirl cupcakes with strawberry-maple cream cheese frosting and maple bacon. Two things I must point out before I get all excited about these-1) I did not make this recipe up, I stole it from a Cupcake Wars contestant, and 2) I do not, and will not ever again, promote the eating of roasted, smoked, maple pig fat.

With those things said, I aim to please. I know bacon is loved and obsessed over by many, and I’ve been wanting to make cupcakes with bacon on them for quite some time. The combination of sweet/savory/maple/salt sounds lovely, and since I don’t consume bacon myself, I had to make these:

“Don’t judge me-I’m delicious!”

Veggie maple bacon. I’m sure it sounds unappealing to those of you who like pork bacon, but I quite enjoy my Smart Bacon roasted with maple syrup, thank you.

The intention of this cupcake is that it has a variety of flavors from breakfast foods-a cupcake that tastes like French toast, a frosting that has fresh strawberries and maple syrup, and of course, bacon all rolled into one little bite-sized treat. When slightly overbaked and crisp (i.e. a little burnt), the cupcakes resemble the taste of cinnamon toast, and when slightly underbaked and soft, they’re similar to French toast. Quite frankly, it’s one of the most delicious cupcake recipes I’ve ever tasted, and if you choose to try, the cupcakes can be made entirely vegan without sacrificing taste. I’ve included the replacements below.

Cinnamon Swirl Sour Cream Cupcakes with Strawberry Maple Cream Cheese Frosting and Maple Roasted Bacon

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 24 cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 oz salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 oz) sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • Strawberry Maple Cream Cheese frosting, recipe to follow
  • Maple-Roasted Bacon, recipe to follow

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and line two muffin pans with 24 cupcake liners.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small mixing bowl, and set aside.
  3. Using the paddle attachment in a stand mixer at medium speed, cream the salted butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the vanilla extract and one egg at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary to incorporate the ingredients.
  5. Decrease the speed of the mixer to its lowest setting, and alternately add the flour mixture and the sour cream (3 additions of flour, 2 additions of sour cream).
  6. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and add the cinnamon and brown sugar. Using a rubber spatula, fold the ingredients into the batter so they create a nice little swirling effect.
  7. Using an ice cream scoop and a small spatula or spoon, scoop 3-4 tablespoons of batter into each cupcake liner. Bake the cupcakes for 32-34 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and spring back when pressed lightly. Remove from the oven and cool slightly in the pans. Move the cupcakes to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Hollis Wilder on Foodnetwork.com.

Strawberry Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 4 oz strawberry jam
  • 1/4 cup strawberries, hulled and diced

How to Do It

  1. Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, whip the cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, and fold the jam and strawberries in with a rubber spatula until the ingredients are blended. Set aside or place in the refrigerator until the cupcakes are completely cool.

Recipe adapted from Hollis Wilder on Foodnetwork.com.

Maple-Roasted Bacon

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 1/2 lb thick-cut smoked (organic) bacon
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp good-quality maple syrup
  • Baking sheet, pastry brush, non-stick cooking spray, wire rack, parchment paper, tongs

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray a wire rack on both sides with non-stick cooking spray, and place the wire rack securely on top of the baking sheet.
  2. Line bacon strips in a single layer across the wire rack, and roast in the oven for 15 minutes, or until slightly browned.
  3. Remove the pan carefully from the oven. Using the pastry brush, brush the bacon with a generous coating of maple syrup. Use the tongs to flip the bacon strips, and brush the underside with maple syrup. Carefully put the pan back in the oven, and roast them for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until they’re browned and crisp.
  4. When the bacon is done, transfer it to a plate lined with paper towels to cool. Chop it into small pieces to top the cupcakes.

Recipe from Barefoot Contessa on Foodnetwork.com.

Assemble the cupcakes by adding a tablespoon of frosting and sprinkling bacon bits on top

Vegan-ize it!

I’ve recently discovered my local grocery store sells a pretty decent replacement for sour cream and for cream cheese. These cupcakes can easily be vegan-ized (or made healthier and dairy-free) by using Earth Balance buttery sticks in place of butter (add 1/4 tsp of sea salt for the cupcake recipe), sour cream replacement, and cream cheese replacement. The eggs can be replaced with egg replacer or flax seeds soaked in water, and the bacon can be replaced with Smart Bacon. However, Smart Bacon only needs to be roasted for approximately 5 minutes (turning the strips in between) before adding the maple syrup. Enjoy your completely guilt-free breakfast cupcake 😉

 

Almond Angel Food Cake

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, avoiding grocery stores and drug stores, and ignoring all sorts of social media, you know Mother’s Day just passed. If you weren’t aware of that and you missed it, then perhaps you should save yourself the desperation and guilt, and consider a culinary treat for your mum rather than fighting to find a lame gift and card on clearance. Lucky for me, my mother, or Momma or Moogle (who needs a Google when you have a Moogle?) as I affectionately refer to her as, prefers thoughtful treats and ideas over flowers and candy.

I attempted to make her favorite dishes-a delicious mac and cheese with spinach, smoked gouda, sharp cheddar, and a little parmesan with an angel food cake for dessert. Unfortunately I attempted to make the mac and cheese at 11:00 at night after a very long day, and rather than adding flour to make a roux for the cheese sauce, I added confectioner’s sugar. Needless to say that, while edible, the pasta didn’t come out quite as creamy and delicious as planned. The angel food cake though was a different story. I honestly thought it would be tricky to make the light and fluffy cake, which I planned to serve with a strawberry compote and fresh whipped cream, but the end result was worth the effort and the less-than-fabulous dinner. I may not be the greatest cook in the world (or perhaps I just shouldn’t attempt to cook a meal when I’m exhausted and have been going nonstop for 18 hours…), but I sure can make one heck of a dessert. 😉

Onto angel food cake…it’s more simple than you can imagine, but in order to get the right texture, you need to have patience and time. It involves more than having the right ingredients and the right measurements. You need to use baking knowledge and experience to judge texture and timing also, especially when making the meringue, which is the base of the cake. Whipping meringue is similar to whipping whipped cream, but it takes twice as long for the right chemical reaction to happen so runny egg whites turn into soft fluff. If the meringue isn’t the right texture, the angel food cake won’t turn out quite so angelic so it’s important to get it right. My best suggestion is to ensure that the egg whites are at room temperature and follow the recipe for additional ingredients exactly, and be patient. Egg whites may look frothy nearly immediately, but they won’t turn to meringue for several minutes.

Meringue with soft peaks

Meringue with stiff peaks

Think of it this way: if your egg whites look and feel like  you can throw them on a sandwich with peanut butter, then they’re ready to use in your batter.

My next bit of advice goes against most things you’ve ever heard about baking cakes-do NOT grease your pan. Angel food is so delicate that if you grease the pan, your cake will come out greasy and hard rather than light and fluffy. Cool it in the pan for 20-30 minutes before attempting to remove the pan, and it should maintain its shape nicely.

I made this cake with an almond extract, but if you’re not crazy about almond, feel free to replace it with vanilla extract for a more traditional taste. Enjoy!

Almond Angel Food Cake with Strawberry Compote and Whipped Cream

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes one 10″ fluted tube pan

  • 12 large egg whites (actual egg whites, not out of a carton please)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated or superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla if you prefer, or orange if you’re really daring)
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 non-stick 10″ fluted tube pan
  • Baking sheet
  • Strawberry compote (recipe to follow)
  • Whipped cream (recipe to follow)

How to Do It

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Let the egg whites stand and get to room temperature. Add the cream of tartar and salt.
  2. Beat the egg whites until frothy, and begin gradually adding the sugar 2 Tbsp at time until stiff and glossy peaks form, about 5-7 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract. When the meringue is finished, it should resemble the photo above.
  3. Gently fold the cake flour into the egg whites in two additions until completely incorporated. Be careful not to deflate the meringue, but be sure that the flour is not still in dry clumps.
  4. Spoon the batter into the tube pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until the top of the cake has risen very high and is lightly browned and cracked. Remove from the oven, and immediately invert the cake onto a baking sheet to cool. Cool completely before attempting to remove from the pan.

Gently fold in the flour

Recipe adapted from Recipebridge.com.

Strawberry Compote

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes approximately 1 cup

  • 1 1/2 pint strawberries, washed, dried, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Small saucepan
  • Food processor or blender

How to Do It

  1. Combine 1 pt strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until the strawberries are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool.
  2. When the syrup is cool, place it in a food processor or blender, and puree. Add the remaining strawberries, and mix (not puree) well so there are still large pieces of strawberry in the syrup.

Recipe adapted from Food.com.

Whipped Cream

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes approximately 2 cups

  • 12 oz heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

How to Do It

  1. Begin whipping the cream on low speed in a stand mixer or with a sturdy hand mixer. Add the sugar and cream cheese, and increase the speed to high. Add the cream thickens and begins to form soft peaks, add the vanilla, and continue to whip until it thickens. If you need more tips on making whipped cream, check out this.

Winesday de Mayo

I have to admit…I have a real addiction to cheese. I’m not kidding. I’ve been trying to give it up and get it out of my life for quite some time now, but I physically need to have a little bit everyday. It’s not exactly healthy, often lacking any real nutrients and loaded with saturated fats, and it’s not exactly a good path to take when you’re still hoping to be a vegan someday (these are dreams I have along with becoming a yogi master and running a marathon…but often, I’m too busy watching my DVR-ed shows and eating cheese and crackers and drinking wine to accomplish these goals…). Anyway, it’s hard to resist the rich, smoky flavor of smoked cheeses like Gouda or the slightly salty taste of mild cheeses like Fontina, and as it turns out, cheese actually does have addictive ingredients, like morphine and casein…so, see? I’m not lying, it’s a legitimate problem. I need to work on it.

Well, one particular cheese, brie, actually makes me smile. 🙂 Sick, isn’t it? I love brie-on anything: brie on a Ritz cracker, brie in a sandwich, brie with some jam baked in some pastry…and I’m feeling hungry all over again. This past Winesday, my friend Amber decided to combine two recipe ideas into one and came up with our entrée for the week-brie crostini with roasted grapes and thyme. Ridiculous. See the recipe below.

Another successful yet overdue Winesday.

The Wine

  • San Sebastian Rosa. If you’re not aware of my wine obsession, please check out what I gave myself for my birthday. San Sebastian produces delectable wines from a small variety of Florida-grown grapes, and their Rosa is one of my favorites. It’s sweet and fruity with a slightly dry finish and goes well with just about anything, other than chocolate, which is a shame really…

Image from b-21.com

The Entrée

  • Brie crostini with roasted grapes and thyme. Although roasting grapes may seem like an odd way to treat them, they were actually incredible. By lightly covering them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh sprigs of thyme, you create a more savory jam. When the grapes are roasted, they soften and burst slightly, making it easy to eat them on crostini.

Stuff You’ll Need

  • A large loaf of Ciabatta bread, sliced-we always use Chabasco, which is an incredible Ciabatta bread that comes in five varieties (roasted garlic is the most delicious) and is sold in many supermarkets in the bakery section
  • 8 oz package of good-quality brie that can be sliced
  • 1/2 pound-1 pound red grapes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Fresh thyme
  • Baking sheets

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Line the slices of Ciabatta bread across a baking sheet lined with foil, and brush them with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Lightly toast the bread in the oven until the slices just begin to brown. Remove from the oven, and place 2-3 thin slices of brie on each slice of Ciabatta bread. Set aside.
  3. Toss the grapes with a tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl, and then line them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Dust them with salt, and lay several sprigs of fresh thyme across the top. Roast for 20 minutes or until the grapes begin to soften and burst. Remove from the oven, and set aside.
  4. If the brie hasn’t melted completely on the Ciabatta, toast the slices for a few minutes longer in the oven.
  5. Serve with warm grapes on top of each slice of bread. Enjoy-I guarantee you’ll go back for seconds and thirds! 🙂

Recipe adapted from TasteSpotting and Alexandra’s Kitchen.

The Dessert

  • Double Feature Cupcakes with Mexican Hot Chocolate Frosting. Another one of my favorites. I consistently get good feedback on these cupcakes when I make them. As in, they’re gone within a few minutes, and people are taking seconds when they’re available. They’re in the range of 400 calories per cupcake so I usually try to have just one at a time, but it can be hard. Be warned-they’re more suited for a lighter meal because they’re so rich and spicy. You’ll enjoy them more if you’re eating them with little else.

Cinco de Cupcake

It’s Cinco de Mayo this weekend as well as the Kentucky Derby. Other than tequila, mint juleps, and big floppy, flowered hats, I can’t think of any better way to celebrate than festive foods.

With that said, holy mole, these are my favorite cupcakes in the world. No cupcake shoppe I’ve ever been to has made anything close to comparing to this, and I’ve been to a lot. This combines the dynamic duo of peanut butter and chocolate (of course) with spiced chocolate cream cheese frosting so the flavors are so fun you’ll think there’s una fiesta de la boca happening.

If you’ve never baked cupcakes with cookies or candy in the middle before, my best suggestion would be to avoid the temptation to push the mini peanut butter cups all the way into the batter. Not only will the batter rise while baking, the peanut butter cup will naturally begin to sink because it’s heavier than the surrounding batter. You’ll be covering it with a bien grande glob of frosting anyway so no one will see the candy until they bite into the cupcake, and then muy bueno! It’s a surprise in the middle! If you bake the cupcake and the peanut butter cup has sunk all the way to the bottom, it means you’ve pressed it down too far. Just press each candy slightly down, and they’ll turn out perfect.

Surprisingly, the cupcake itself is not the star of the show. The cream cheese frosting is a form of spiced chocolate that is incredibly pleasing to the palette. If you haven’t tried spiced chocolate in any form but you’re a chocolate fan, you need to immediately add chilli powder and cinnamon to your next chocolate fix. This frosting in particular has the subtle taste of chocolate with a kick of these spices that will have you saying “muy caliente!” Luckily, the cream cheese keeps it from getting too hot.

Chilli powder, cream cheese, peanut butter cups, and basic chocolate cupcakes may sound like a less-than-normal combination for dessert, but I promise-these will disappear faster than you can shout “Ole!”

Double Feature Cupcakes with Mexican Hot Chocolate Frosting

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 12-14 Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 12-14 miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups, unwrapped

For the Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted plus a little extra for texture
  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Combine the butter and chocolate for the cupcake batter in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat for 1 minute, or until both ingredients are melted. Be careful not to overheat and burn the chocolate. If the butter is melted, you can continue to stir the chocolate until it melts as well. Set the bowl aside.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Blend, and set aside.
  4. Pour the melted butter and chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add the granulated sugar, and beat with a handheld mixer or by hand until the batter is smooth and combined, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix fully between each addition.
  5. Gradually add the dry ingredients, and whip until the batter is smooth. Do not overmix.
  6. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full using an ice cream scoop or large spoon. Gently place a peanut butter cup in the center of each cup, and press down slightly.
  7. Bake the cupcakes for 10 minutes, and rotate the pan. Bake another 10 minutes or until the cupcakes spring back when pressed lightly. Remove from the oven and cool slightly in the pan. Move the cupcakes from the pan to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  8. Prepare the frosting by creaming the butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. It’s best to use the paddle attachment for this step if available. Add the chilli powder, cinnamon, and salt to cream cheese mixture, and whip until they’re blended. Add the vanilla extract next. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar a cup at a time until you’ve added the 3 cups. Continue to add confectioner’s sugar 1/4 to 1/2 cup at a time if you need a more dense texture.

Recipe from Food Network.

 

Fall Flavored Cake Still Works in the Spring

Certain flavors and foods are associated with specific seasons-strawberries in the summertime, gingerbread in winter, pumpkin in the fall. I’ve always thought of anything spiced, pumpkin, or really anything else with an orange hue as an autumn treat, but I recently came across a few delightful recipes that I had hidden away that incorporated some of those flavors. I bought a box of spice cake mix a few months ago when I was feeling inspired to make a caramel apple spice cake, but lo and behold, life happened and I never made the cake. As I flipped through an older recipe book that I had to brush some dust off of (really, who uses cook books anymore when there are so many fantastic choices online?!), I fluttered several pages of cakes using spiced cake mix. I found one that used mashed sweet potatoes and Cool Whip that sounded beyond easy but extremely tasty and comforting. I tend to think of spice cake and sweet potatoes as something for the cool, gray days of fall, but the weather here has been a bit dreary lately. Plus I’m moving in a few weeks, and I’d sure like to avoid bringing anything extra that could be used first.

Turns out, this cake is a hit. I brought the extra pieces into work, and they were gone before lunch. I followed the recipe below exactly as described, but I managed to find some seasonal cinnamon Cool Whip at the local grocery store, which only leads me to believe that I wasn’t the only one thinking about autumn yummies.

Sweet Potato-Ginger Cake

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 1 pkg spice cake mix (18.25 oz)
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 15 oz can of yams packed in syrup, drained and mashed
  • 6 large egg whites or 3/4 cup egg whites
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 8 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 13″ x 9″ cake pan, parchment paper

How to Do It

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line a 13″ x 9″ cake pan with parchment paper and non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Combine cake mix, water, mashed yams, egg whites, oil, and ground ginger in a large bowl. Mix until combined, and pour into your prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 32-34 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. Frost with whipped topping immediately before serving.

Recipe from Cake Mix Magic by Favorite Brand Name Recipes, Vol. 1, No. 8, May 26th, 2009

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