Monday, September 19, 2011

DETOUR: Beer Cupcakes

Recently, three things happened in my life pretty much simultaneously.  My cousin was getting married at the same time that I discovered her future (and now) husband had a major thing for cupcakes at the same time that a friend sent me a recipe for beer cupcakes.  I had been aware before that my cousin and her fiance were beer people from some time we had spent together (and the fact that they just seem awesome), so the idea of creating something that combined two of their favorite things (and my favorite things) seemed like a great way to kick off their wedding weekend.

Now, most baking that includes beer involves chocolate flavors and stout beers.  These cupcakes included some IPA and honey.  The recipe called for a strong, flavorful IPA and I chose a beer called Hoppy Feet from the Clown Shoes Brewery.  It was described as a Black India Pale Ale and had a reasonably high percentage.  I figured that the higher the percentage, the stronger the beer, the more the flavor would come through in the cupcakes.

I guess I was right, though it was kind of hard to tell.  To be honest, the cupcakes kind of tasted like banana bread when they were cooked.  Not because of the banana flavor (of which there was none), but because of that moist and mildly slimy consistency.  As someone who does not like bananas and is mildly repulsed by the scent of baked bananas, this was not an altogether welcome turn of events.  Some people who tasted them said they could taste the beer flavor, but only if they'd already been made aware of the secret ingredient beforehand.  The flavor was fine, it just wasn't really beer-y, which I was disappointed about.  Come to think of it, I once made a beer bread that also wasn't really beer-y, so maybe it's just something about my expectations and beer in baking...

For the icing, the original recipe called for lavender honey icing.  I like flowery flavors in foods even less than I like banana bread (well, it might be a tie), so that didn't go over too well.  I made two ganaches.  I made a dark chocolate ganache with cinnamon and ginger, and a white chocolate ganache with chamomile, rose hips and mint.  I actually used a bag of Tazo Calm tea that I ripped open and let brew in the cream as I was heating it to pour over the chocolate.  The flavor of the white chocolate ganache was very good, but it didn't set up the way I hoped it would, so I ended up adding a bunch of powdered sugar that eventually helped it set.  It was very sweet.  The dark chocolate ganache was very tasty and went way quicker than the white chocolate, but isn't that always the case?

All in all, I might have been mildly disappointed in the outcome of the actual cupcake, but the bride and groom were quite pleased and all the cupcakes disappeared off the serving plate.  Now that I have been opened up to this idea of beer in baking, I have lots to experiment with.  I'm thinking that next time, the beer goes in the icing!

The bride and groom seemed to enjoy the cupcakes!

Here was the display of the amazingly delicious cupcakes they had at their wedding.
The Grasshopper ones were to die for!

Next Stop:  Hummingbird Cake!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Stop 25: Ohio Cassata Cake

(Sorry for the extreme lacking of posts recently, I'm back now, with lots to update you on!)

You know how sometimes get an idea and you're really motivated to do it right then and there?  And then you start getting into it and you realize that it's a way bigger deal than you thought it was going to be?  That is what the Cassata Cake was.

I was going to a friend of the family's for dinner and thought, gosh, wouldn't it be nice if I made a cake as a dessert... I had been looking through the book with this friend the night before and we both marveled at the cassata cake, so it seemed like a good one to try out.  Here's what I learned:  The cassata cake is awesome.  It is also a cake that should not be started at 4pm for a casual weekday dinner.  I learned this when I was halfway through in the intricate (and time-consuming) baking process and again at the end when Brown described the cake as "extravagant."

The best part of this cake, though, was the karma.

The cake called for citrus oil and we searched far and wide to try to find some sort of citrus oil.  OK, we went to two stores, but we were on the Cape and there really weren't a lot of gourmet food stores in the area.  Except for one.  This fancy oil place that calls themselves a "tasting shop" and wants you go in and fill these little tiny cups with oils and vinegars that they normally charge somewhere between $12 and $15 for an enormous bottle and stick your finger in or drink them or something.  So we did that for a while and then, right when I was thinking about buying one of the overpriced bottles of oil my mother nudged me.  She nudged me kind of hard and in that, "don't pay that much for lemon-flavored oil, you silly girl!" kind of way.  So, I made our excuses and went on my way.  Once we left the store, I discovered that the reason for the nudge was not the price, but the fact that my mother had filled one of the little tasting cups with oil and left the store.  Now, officially, if you think about it, we hadn't done anything wrong.  I mean, we were going to TASTE the oil later, in the cake...  But anyway, that kind of set the tone for the cake and what happened to it later might have been retribution.

The cake actually came out quite well and the ricotta filling was super tasty.  Light, yet rich, very scrumptious.  We had some strawberries, sliced them up, whipped the cream, everything was good to go.  Time was going very quickly and the cake seemed to be cooling very slowly and we had to go to dinner.  When I went to assemble the cake, a few things happened.  

For one, I filled the cake with a layer of the ricotta filling and then a layer of strawberries, then I put the second layer on and it ended up a bit on the slippery side.  The second thing was the whipped cream, which I had whipped previously and then, for some unknown reason, left out on the counter.  Even when I was frosting the cake with the cream, I could tell that it needed to be rewhipped and wasn't really going to set correctly.  But, I was out of time and didn't have the energy to get the (now clean) mixer out again.  So I built the cake and we fashioned the ingenious little contraption to get it over to the place we were having dinner (otherwise known as a box).

And this is when the karma came around to bite me in the butt.  On the way to the friend's house for dinner, this happened:

Needless to say, the cake did not appear as beautifully as I hoped it would.  I am happy to say though, that it tasted really, really good.  I will definitely be trying this one again when I have more energy, more time and less bad karma coming my way.

And here is a picture, not of the finished cake, which was just plain ugly, but of the cake before the whipped cream fiasco.  Isn't it pretty?

Next Stop: Detour to beer cupcakes!