Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Folks, I Have Problem:

I am in love with this little man.....
In fact, so much so that I often go to bed with a smile on my face anxious for the morning when I get to be greeted by that amazing-melt-your-heart smile. Ok, so that isn't a problem.....the real problem is that in a few short weeks I am going to have a one-year-old.  I have been thinking and daydreaming about his first birthday for a lot longer than I wish to admit. But then I would often stop and scold myself as it would be silly ordering anything or making any solid plans with his birthday being so far off....and then all of a sudden it hit me last week,  I am behind schedule and risk the possibility of running out of time. Oh the horror of that realization! Seriously, where did my 6lb 8oz newborn go?  I had no choice but to jump into high gear and now I have party planning on my mind 24/7.  It's an epidemic. Last night I kept waking up and unable to go back to sleep with my mind flooded with thoughts of balloons, cake and sock monkeys.  My problem is this, I can't just do something half-way....it's either all or nothing.  I need a theme, I need inspiration, and I need perfection.... and pronto people!  I warned you, it's a problem.

Good thing I knew my theme months and months ago: SOCK MONKEYS!!!! And here is my inspiration.....
Source: http://pizzazzerie.com/parties/childrens-parties/sock-monkey-1st-birthday-party/
Isn't that adorable?  I love the brown and red with pops of aqua.  And who doesn't love a classic sock monkey, it's like the epitome of  baby cuteness.  I can't wait to see how everything turns out, I will be sure to share lots of pictures, recipes and ideas once it's all said and done.sniff. And then I may need some moral support as I wrap my mind around the fact that my baby is growing up.  Double sniff.

Great, now I am sad and mopey.

Good thing I have just the cure for such a time as this.....can I get two cheers for CUPCAKES!!! I have realized that not only do I have a problem with being a perfectionist in party planning, but I also have a problem with cupcakes. See, my little sister asked me to make cupcakes for her wedding, I of course agreed.  Naturally I had to do a bazillion and one trial runs with different frosting combos and such.  My husband begrudgingly was my taste-tester. I say begrudgingly because every time he would say, " you really need to stop all of these trials because I keep eating all of them and they are going to make me fat." Sounds like a tough job, eh? And for the record, I don't think he gained an ounce. 

My sister had only one request, one of them must be banana.....that may sound easy enough.  But you try finding a banana cupcake that doesn't taste like it should be a loaf instead of a cake.  But I think my persistence paid off and this was the finale in the cupcake taste-off.

BananaCupcake with Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

For the Cupcake: Check out Schweet n Savory

Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
 (Source: Sweetpolita)
If you have never made Swiss Meringue Buttercream before I urge you to read Sweetpolita's tutorial as it can be a daunting frosting to make, but it is by far my favorite to work with.  It always looks beautiful if done correctly. I also used store bought 100% egg whites that were pasteurized as to make absolutely sure there was no possibility of Salmonella. But if done correctly the egg whites are cooked enough to kill any potential food illness.

Yield: 15 cups (enough to frost and fill approximately three 8" round cakes)
16 large egg whites (30g each--total 450g, or 2 cups)
4 cups granulated sugar (800g
5 cups (2.5 lbs, 10 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
30 ml (2 tablespoons) pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups caramel sauce
Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk attachment, small bowl, and whisk with paper towel and lemon juice (or vinegar), to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar,  and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160 degrees F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot (you can feel a drop in between your fingers to ensure no granules.).
Take off of stove, and place bowl back on electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, begin to whip until the mixture is thick, glossy, and neutral (you can feel outside of the bowl to test temperature). Switch over to paddle attachment and, while mixing on low speed continously, add butter one cube at a time until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).  Add vanilla and salt, mix well. Add in caramel sauce and continue to beat until thick and creamy.

You can also add a wide variety of flavourings, extracts, and more. If buttercream is too runny, the butter was possibly too soft--place into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, then beat again. If still too runny, add a few more cubes of butter and keep beating. Use immediately, or refrigerate/freeze.

Keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes.
Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.
If buttercream still doesn't have its satiny finish after rewhipping, microwave 1/3 of the buttercream for approximately 10 seconds and add to remaining buttercream in mixer bowl, beating for a few moments to incorporate.

I sprinkled the tops of the cupcakes with toffee pieces, which added a nice crunch to each bite!

Oh but I am not done here.....this next one is a beaut.  

This was my absolute fave. When I did a tasting for Shannon (the bride) her comment was "I am tasting a bit of heaven with each bite."  These are pretty heavenly, you get a fix for any chocolate craving that is rinsed down with a creamy melt-in-your-mouth cream cheese frosting.
Cookies n Cream Cupcakes:
(Source: Annie's Eats)
Yield: 24 cupcakes

-When I made this for the wedding I didn't put the oreo half on the bottom as sometimes I had problems with it sticking, but it does add a fun little surprise when you take a bite!

For the cupcakes:
24 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped (I quarter them)

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. heavy cream

For garnish:
Oreo cookie crumbs
24 Oreo cookie halves

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line the wells of two cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.  Place an Oreo halve in the bottom of each liner, cream side up.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir together with a fork to blend and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Blend in the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Add the milk and beat just until combined, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.  Gently fold in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, being careful not to over-mix.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  Beat in the confectioners' sugar until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Add the heavy cream to the bowl and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired.  Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs and garnish with Oreo halves.


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