What's Up, Cupcake? Menu

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

As you can see, I'm on a cupcake roll.  Not only that, but I thought I would try something completely new. I love to bake, but there are a few things I haven't made yet for a few reasons:

1. Creme Brulee: I have a torch, but playing with fire scares me.
2. French macaroons: There's only so many steps I can take while making something, and the thought of making it look so uniform makes me grimace.
3. Meringue: a) That's a whole lot of egg whites, b) what do you do with all of those yolks? c) it's just intimidated me.

Well, I stumbled upon a lemon cupcake recipe the other day while surfing the Cake Journal blog that had a meringue frosting.  Normally I would have just substituted the frosting for another kind, but I was feeling gutsy, and had a lot of eggs in the fridge.

Lemon zest

Spring liners

The cupcakes were your standard vanilla cupcakes with a lemon full of fresh zest.  That was the easy part.  I baked them in some cute spring wrappers (it's a beautiful, sunny day in the California Bay Area), and started inching towards the eggs that were glaring at me.

The hubby separated all of the whites and yolks for me (I keep him around for things like this), and placed them in a cute little lemon bowl (to stay on theme of course).

Lemon bowl filled with egg whites.
Add a bucket load of sugar, some vanilla, and mix.  So far so good.  Now onto the scary part - the double broiler.  I've done this method for plenty of things but the thought of doing it for finicky eggs was a daunting task.  I made sure to keep the water at a simmer and stirred constantly.  I couldn't find my candy thermometer so I just eyeballed it to see when the sugar was dissolved.

Mixing bowl in a pot on the stove.

Afterwards, I reattached the bowl to my stand mixer and let it whisk on high for about 5 minutes.  The recipe said it could take up for 12 or more minutes, but mine made it to stiff peaks pretty fast.  And there it is. Beautiful, fluffy, marshmallow like, meringue frosting.


I was so pleased with the results, and it made a ton! I definitely could have made a second batch of cupcakes and still had enough.

A beautiful cupcake on my new Crate and Barrel plate.

I piped some extra onto wax paper just to see how it would hold up.  Maybe a treat for later?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Featured Friend Friday! Veronica Darling

This month I'd like to introduce you to: Veronica Darling!  Another one of my favorite bloggers who not only makes gorgeous garments, but also always has amazing photos of her projects on her blog.  She is also one of the selected bloggers to participate in the Sew Weekly challenge where she will be sewing a garment for every week for the next year.  It's a great challenge that I'm envious she can keep up with.  Now I give you, Veronica Darling:

What inspires you?
To sew I need to think a lot about materials, about patterns and how it'll all go together, so I often find a lot of inspiration being in my (neat) sewing room looking at my fabrics or flicking through my vintage patterns. But in general I get inspired by conversations with my friends, by the newspaper, but stories, by things online, by everything really! I love print fabrics and I love vintage stylings, so any of those older things makes me happy!

What is your craft space like?
In the last 6 months we moved to Melbourne, and into a larger house with an even larger spare room that got to be my sewing room, and it wasn't really until this Christmas period where I ordered everything and made sure all my stuff was unpacked. As I work mainly with vintage or second hand materials, I have become a bit of a hoarder, but now I'm not cramped into the spare bedroom/book room/sewing room. My aim this year is to use only my stash, and try and avoid new things (even from the op shop) as much as possible. 
I love the suitcases in the back of the room!

Let us in on your stash... what’s coming, what’s in progress, what are you stumped with?
I always have a few projects and personal challenges on the go! I'm preparing for more of the Sew Weekly Challenge, where we are sewing a garment a week, all different garments, but with the same theme each week. I'm also planning on sewing up some darling vintage patterns that a pen pal, Amanda, sent me to test out for her. So hopefully more sewing!
Oh! I'm also in the middle of crocheting a massive king sized blanket for our bed, and I'd like to finish it before winter!
What is your favorite craft to work with? (Sewing, knitting, etc)
Totally sewing, I feel there's so much different creativity going on there and I feel I've got so much more to do with sewing before I master another craft completely. I'd love to draft my own patterns, like see a dress somewhere, and start to think exactly how to draft it. I rely a lot on vintage patterns for my styling, but I do feel limited that I can't break out of those restrictions.

What is your favorite thing that you’ve created so far?
For me, the last thing I make is always the fave, until I make the next one. I'm a bit in love still with this Chanel inspired dress I made last week, because I haven't worn it yet! It's my wedding anniversary next week, so hopefully I'll give it a whirl then!

Where can I read more? Etsy, Ravelry, Twitter, blog, etc.  (You don’t have to share all)
I'm Veronica Darling on everything! I'm addicted to social media, and have loved the craft world online, so if you search 'Veronica Darling Twitter' you'll sure to find me there (and Ravelry, Craftster, Burda Style, Tumblr, Pinterest, Etsy - although I don't have any things in my shop at the moment!)
But you can look at veronicadarling.blogspot.com as I daily update.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A warm winter treat...

It must be the Irish in me, but I absolutely love potatoes.  Ok, well I have no Irish in me, but that's further proof that I should.  I don't normally blog about non-Sweet Treat Saturday posts, but this was so yummy that I wanted to share.

I used four large russet potatoes for the soup.

Maybe it's the fact that it's winter, but I've been in the mood for some warm, hearty soups.  This past weekend I decided to act on that urge.  The only problem was that the weather was in the 70's, but that couldn't really stop me.  Smitten Kitchen had an irresistable sounding potato soup recipe, that also fit into my diet budget.  If my calculations are correct, it's only about 4 Weight Watchers points per serving (using light sour cream).  I just made a few changes to the recipe due to my own laziness/diet needs so I'm listing the revisions below.  

Potato Soup
By Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6

1 tablespoon of minced garlic (I didn't feel like using the whole garlic head per her recipe, but I'm sure it was delicious.  Maybe next time...)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and chopped small (Trader Joe's only had frozen chopped leeks so I used about a cup of them.
5 1/2 low-sodium vegetable broth (I didn't want it too thin but also, not too thick, so I went in between her measurements. Also used veggie broth as TJs didn't have a low sodium chicken broth in stock)
2 bay leaves
Salt (3/4 tsp and to taste)
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (that was about 4 potatoes for me)
1/3 cup (light) sour cream
Ground black pepper to taste

The below recipe is Smitten Kitchen's with my comments added to any changes I made.
In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add leeks and cook them until soft (but not brown), about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook another minute.Add the broth, bay leaves and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes. 

The leeks from Trader Joe's before mincing.

My vegetable broth was very orange in color but still delicious.

Add potatoes and continue to simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Mine actually took about 30 minutes until they were tender.  Next time I may cut them smaller.

Ready to simmer the potatoes.

Discard bay leaves.  Add sour cream to soup and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper to taste. Using immersion blender, process soup until chunky-creamy, leaving lots of potato texture intact. (Alternatively, transfer a portion of the potatoes and broth to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.) I did the latter method as I didn't have an immersion blender.  I blended most of the soup in my blender but made sure to leave a few chunks of potato deliciousness.

Blending the soup. Spoonfuls at a time.

Mixed the blended soup together and ready to serve.
Almost like sweet potato soup in color because of the vegetable broth.

Voila!  A little time consuming but very easy to make.  My soup was pretty orange due to the color of the vegetable broth.  I didn't really need to add anything though I imagine bacon bits and some cheese would have even made it more incredible.  It was perfect just the way it was though.  Definitely going to add to my 'make again' recipe pile.

Add your favorite toppings and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Color of the Year

So Pantone has announced their color of the year.  Having previously worked in a retail product development environment that had me living and breathing Pantone colors, I was interested in seeing what their idea is for 2011.

The color of the year is Honeysuckle which is a vibrant pink.  I actually like it - not sure how much I would incorporate it into my wardrobe, but I'm thinking it might make an appearance in my selection of colors for Colette's Spring Palette challenge.

Monday, January 24, 2011

In Stitches

I've been doing a bit of cross stitch, knitting and crochet recently. While you can spend hours cross stitch and not have a lot to show for it, I have made a bit of progress on my Baa Baa Black Sheep pattern.

4 sheep down, 5 to go!

I've also been working on another cowl, this time knit.  It's the Gap-tastic cowl pattern on Ravelry.  It's essential a seed stitch cowl just worked in the round.  Super easy and mindless knitting. I'm over half way done with it and can't wait to see the final results.  Especially because this yarn had previously been tied up on another project that just wasn't coming together like I wanted it to.  I finally decided to scrap it and create another cowl that I could put to use instantly.

Knit one, purl one, over, and over, and over...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Annnnnd... I'm Back!

First of all, please let me apologize for the radio silence.  I have a few excuses:

- Part of my new years resolutions also included focusing more on Irish dance.  This has inched into my sewing time a bit. I just need to manage my time (and energy) a bit more.
- My sewing machine has been giving me grief. I thought I was going to have to take it in for a tune-up, but after reading a blog post from Freckled Whimsy, I thought changing the needle might be a good place to start before I forked over my money (and my machine) to the shop.  It worked! So far my machine hasn't given me any grief (knock on wood) since I changed the needle.  Before it was skipping stitches and getting jammed constantly, but now it seems to be back to normal. Whew!
- Because my machine has been out of commission, I've been doing a lot of hand needlecrafts. I needed a friend to remind me that my blog isn't just about sewing, but crafting in general. So I'll be sure to update you on those projects too.

Now let me get back to my projects.  I finished our new duvet cover and I'm so happy with the results!  I love the color combination and it fits our bedroom perfectly.  Here are some pictures of the final product:

I didn't end up using the Amy Butler pattern at all, but just did a free form duvet.  I used ribbons to tie the cover shut, and to tie the comforter inside the duvet.

I love the main fabric design!

Hope you like it! Stay tuned this week for more project updates on a Featured Friend Friday!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Strawberry Cupcakes

What better excuse than the upcoming Valentine's Day to make pink cupcakes? Actually, the truth of the matter is that I really just wanted to make strawberry cupcakes and since they happen to be pink...

Ready to go into the oven

So I stumbled across a recipe for Sprinkles' bakery's strawberry cupcakes while looking for new recipes to try out. Ok, another truth, I'm dieting and looking at desserts that I can bake but couldn't possibly eat is one of my ways of torturing myself.  Now, onto the cupcakes!

Baked for 20 minutes exactly

These were really easy to make and once again, was made up of items that I had readily available.  I keep frozen strawberries in my freezer for my morning smoothies so I just dug into that stash.  I followed the recipe for the cupcakes and frosting exactly.

The frosting. I made sure not to overbeat per the recipe.

I almost made a cream cheese frosting instead, but I'm glad I didn't as the strawberry frosting was surprisingly delicious (I do like Sprinkles cupcakes, but I'm not really a fan of their frosting... or frosting philosophy).  Instead of piping on a large dollop of frosting, I topped it off the sprinkles way with a thin layer of frosting.  I think the amount was perfect to compliment the cupcake.  My husband, always one to come up with some weird comparison for my baked goods, described it as a strawberry milkshake made into a perfect cupcake.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Ricotta Cheese Cookies

Now for a complete opposite of last week's Sweet Treats post: Ricotta Cheese Cookies.  Or as my husband likes to call them, the 'All Kinds of Badness Cookies.'  This may possibly be his favorite recipe.

I was given this recipe years ago but I use it sparingly.  It's delicious, but once you get started, it's hard to just eat one.  The recipe makes a large amount of cookies, so it's great for parties or as gifts.  Enjoy!

Ricotta Cheese Cookies:
1 lb of butter
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 lb ricotta cheese
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour
1tsp baking soda

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Combine the eggs, cheese, vanilla and salt.  Add to the butter mixture.  Combine the flour and baking soda.  Add the dry mixture to the rest of the batter and mix until fully combined.

Drop spoonfuls (or use a small cookie dough scoop) on a well greased or lined baking sheet.

Bake for approx. 12 minutes.  The cookie should be just turning golden on the edges.  Be careful not to overcook them.  Let the cookies cool completely before topping with the frosting.

1 lb butter
2 tbsp milk
3 oz cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar

Combine the butter, milk and cream cheese until blended and smooth.  Slowly add in the powdered sugar until the frosting is whipped and smooth.  Spread onto the cookies.

Mmmm... yum! Enjoy!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting into the sew-ing of things

I may have mentioned this before, but I have a tendency to become hooked on a project or idea, throwing all others before that aside.  While it can be fun and I am able to try many creative things, it can get pricey and leave me left with a bunch of clutter of unfinished projects.  During the holiday rush, my sewing went this way as I frantically went back to needlecrafts for a lot of my gifts.  That being said, I’ve been resisting getting back into sewing.
I decided to start with something easy, but as soon as the machine started up, I was back in sewing mode.  I am putting together a new duvet cover and bedding set to replace our old, worn, Pottery Barn covers.  I was originally debating between doing a quilt, but decided that the duvet would be easier to maintain.  Since I’ve started, I think I’ll actually have enough leftover fabric to at least make a lap quilt.

I was originally going to work off of an Amy Butler pattern, but once I started working on the fabric, I just decided to go with my own design.  It’s coming together really fast, so hopefully I’ll have the finished product to share by the end of the week.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Banana Cream Pie

So to help everyone keep to their New Year's resolutions, I'm posting a fruit based dessert. Banana cream pie.  That counts, right?  I've been making this recipe for a few years and it's always a hit.  It's really fast and easy to make, but it does take a little time in the refrigerator after you're done assembling it.

For the purpose of this recipe, I just used a ready made graham cracker pie crust.  I was in a hurry, but usually I make my own.  You can do either... graham cracker crusts are all over the web and are really easy to make.  Onto the filling:

1 8oz. package of cream cheese
1 cup of confectioner's sugar
1 8oz tub of thawed whip topping (ex. Cool Whip)
3 firm bananas, sliced
1 (3.4oz) package of instant vanilla pudding
1 1/3 cup cold milk

In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese and confectioner's sugar.  Fold in 1 cup of the whipped topping.  Spread over the crust.

Assembling the pie: the first layer 

Arrange the sliced bananas on top.

Laying the sliced bananas on top

In the same bowl, whisk pudding mix and milk until thick.  Pour over the banana layer.

The pudding on top of the bananas
Top with the remaining whipped topping.  Refrigerate until serving.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

New Year, Blog Goals

I’m back to the blogging world! I needed to give myself a few days in the new year to get settled back into work and my regularly scheduled dance classes.  Work didn’t disappoint and I’ve been busier than ever!  However, I’ve had some time to think about the direction of the blog and my goals for the new year.
First things first: craftiness!  I really want to focus on all crafty activities this year.  I have a tendency to dive deep into one type at a time, leaving the rest to collect dust.  I need to work on this!  So here are my crafty blogging goals for 2011:
1.  A minimum of one garment per month. I was averaging a bit more by the end of 2010, but because of this my other crafts suffered. I definitely want to continue making clothes, but I’d also love to sew some other things (such as a new quilt or coverlet for our bed).

One of my quickly multiplying vintage patterns. 
They're like gremlins in water...

2.  Continue to develop my sewing skills by trying more advanced techniques.  Not only do I want to continue making garments, but I need to work on some more advanced projects.  I’d like to start the Ceylon dress by Colette patterns, and some more vintage patterns in more complicated designs.  I’m ready to take on the challenge!

3.  Work on my yarn stash and utilize some of the amazing patterns at my fingertips.  I have some great patterns saved on Ravelry, and some would be really quick, de-stashing projects.  I would like to work on both knitting and crocheting with things like more cowls, fingerless gloves, maybe another pair of legwarmers, and yes, that first sweater!

4.  Count off my completed cross stitch patterns! I have about three patterns that I’m working on simultaneously right now.  I’d like to finish at least two of them before starting another.  I did order some great kits and patterns, so I’ll be set for a while but I won’t finish any of them if I just keep starting new cross stitch patterns.

A project that I would love to start on...

5.  Last, I'd love to make some cross stitch patterns.  In my hunt for dancing patterns, I've found a big shortage in the Irish and Scottish category.  I'm hoping to try my hand at cross stitch patterns in some dance designs.

One of the few Highland dance pattern collections I've found.
I think these are pretty manageable goals.  I hope to still participate in other blogs, such as Sew Retro (when relevant), but I don’t want to stretch myself too thin.  I’m working on some other personal goals and want to make sure things are reachable.  Regardless, I’m excited for what 2011 brings!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Sweet Treats Saturday: Hazelnut and Mascarpone Chocolate Cake

Ok, so I've been a Giada kick.  I made this cake for a Hogmanay party I attended last night.  It was so easy (especially because you just use a boxed cake mix for the base) but the flavor was great.  A little hazelnut brittle, mixed with a mascarpone based frosting... and chocolate cake.  The chocolate and orange zest topping added just a bit of extra sweetness to the cake.

Here's the link to Giada's Hazelnut Crunch Cake with Mascarpone and Chocolate recipe.  Enjoy and wishing you a Happy New Year!!!
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