Friday, August 24, 2012

Spice Cupcakes

Want to get a copy of the recipe that is commentary free?  Go here.

I have an issue.  With all the baking and cake decorating going on in my kitchen, I’m running out of cupcake and cake recipes to try.  I have 3 new cupcake and cake books and there are a ton of recipes, but most all of them require a specific frosting or glaze to finish them off.  I need to use decorating frosting, so it doesn’t help me at all.

This recipe from Taste of Home wasn’t any different, but I thought I could make the frosting work in my favor.

© You Want Me to Cook?
Spice Cupcakes
I had some issues with the frosting, but I still got them nicely frosted.  I left the walnuts off the top because was going to place flowers on top.  You’ll notice the tunneling.  I did a little research and baking911 said it could be from the oven temperature being too high, under-mixing or extreme over-mixing or too much leavening.  Honestly, I have no idea which one it is, although I’m pretty sure my oven temperature isn’t the problem.

© Taste of Home
These cupcakes look so pretty.  My frosting wasn’t nearly as smooth, so even if I had tried, I’m not sure I could have made these look this nice.

For more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessEH – Measuring flour continues to be an issue for me, but that’s the only mess I really made prepping both the cupcake and frosting ingredients.  There was substantial equipment needed and I did have to scrub the saucepan in which I made the frosting.  The most mess comes from filling the cupcake pan and transferring the raisin water to the mixer.

Start-to-Finish Time: ALMOST TWO HOURS – There is almost an hour of bake and inactive time, but that still leaves a significant amount of time that you’ll be hands-on.

Servings: I got 6 jumbo cupcakes and about 6 standard-sized cupcakes.  The recipe, which is for standard-sized cupcakes only, says you should get about 14.  I’d say that’s pretty accurate.

Prep Work: ALL FINGERS STILL HERE – But that won’t be accurate if you’re using pre-chopped walnuts.  I used pre-chopped and I initially rating this NADA.  I went back and changed it because of the walnuts.

Ease of Recipe: MORE THAN I BARGAINED FOR – For the first time, it is because of the recipe.  It wasn’t clear on what to do with the raisin water.  It required me to go out of my comfort zone and go rogue.  It turned out okay, but I did contact Taste of Home to say they should specify it in the recipe.  New bakers could get confused. 

Also, the frosting was weird… At first, the frosting was way too runny to even attempt frosting the cupcakes.  I let it set and then it was like concrete.  I ended up reheating it until it was spreading consistency and then worked quickly to frost the cupcakes.

OverallSORRY HONEY, NO LEFTOVERS – These cupcakes can put you in a diabetic coma, but that didn’t stop us from gobbling them down.  On the jumbo cupcakes, it seemed to be a perfect combination of savory and sweet.  The regular-size cupcakes were a little too sweet… but I still ate them like it was the last food on Earth.

Nutritional Information:
I am not a doctor or dietician.  I make my nutritional assessments with the aid of Spark Recipes.  I run the original recipe and my altered recipe through their calorie counter and then compute the differences I find.  My numbers are to be used as a guideline.  Anyone who is under dietary medical supervision should follow the advice of their medical professional if their opinion differs from mine.  PLEASE!

Taste of Home didn’t have any nutritional information in the book.  I had no illusions making these cupcakes that they were going to be less than healthy.  I was estimating sugar carbohydrates being off the charts.  Once I tasted them, I figured I probably WAY underestimated the number.

I did use fat-free half-and-half, but I didn’t think it was going make these “healthy” by any stretch of the imagination.  Still, I had to plug them into my calculator to see the damage.  The nutritional information calculated is:
  • Calories 378.2
  • Total Fat 11.6 g
  • Saturated Fat 4.7 g
  • Cholesterol 24.0 mg
  • Sodium 221.6 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 68.2 g
  • Dietary Fiber 0.8 g
  • Sugars 55.8 g
  • Protein 2.8 g
Yeah, this could send people into sugar shock.  And there wasn’t anything redeeming in eating the raisins!  Arrrgh!

As I was writing this, I wondered if they put this recipe on-line.  Yes it was!  I also got to see their nutritional information.  My numbers and their numbers were almost exactly the same.

You’re going to find everything you need at your local grocery store although you may have to look for the fingerling potatoes.

© You Want Me to Cook?
Spice Cupcakes - ingredients
2 cups water
1 cup California raisins
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup fat-free half-and-half cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups confectioners' sugar

California RaisinsThe original recipe called for raisins, but at the grocery store they made a very distinct point of separating raisins from California raisins.  The California raisins were on sale, so that was what I used. I did a little research online and they are raisins that harvested at a certain time of the year and left to dry on the ground at the base of the vines.  According to the California Raisins company, it gives raisins harvested in this manner "wonderful texture and earthy sweet rich taste".

FlourWhen measuring the flour, lightly spoon it into the measuring cup and level it with the flat side of a butter knife or anything that has a level edge.  If you scoop with the measuring cups, you may pack the flour and end up with too much.

Walnuts – To save time, I use pre-chopped walnuts found in the baking department.

Brown Sugar – The original recipe doesn't specify what type of brown sugar to use.  In most instances it will specify dark brown sugar if that is what should be used.  I used light brown sugar for this recipe.

Half-and-Half – I had some fat-free half-and-half left over from a previously made recipe.  I used this in the recipe instead of regular half-and-half.  I did have some consistency issues with my frosting, and this may be the reason why, but it wasn't anything that made the frosting uneatable or difficult to use.

Butter – The original recipe doesn't specify to use salted or unsalted.  Most of the time, you use unsalted butter in baking and the recipe would specify only if salted is needed.  I used unsalted.


© You Want Me to Cook?
Spice Cupcakes - equipment
Spoon – mixing
Butter Knife
Large Saucepan
(2) Large Spoons
Stand Mixer
Plastic Scraping Spatula
Large Bowl
Jumbo Muffin Cups
Large Muffin Liners - white
Disposable Decorating Bag
Toothpick / Cake Tester
Wire Rack
Extra-Large Saucepan
Cupcake Icing Spatula

Butter KnifeI use a butter knife to level the flour in my measuring cups, but you can use any flat-level edge to level your flour.

Mini-Chop I bought my walnuts pre-chopped, so I didn't need this piece of equipment, but if you have to chop yours, you'll need some method to do it.

White Large Cupcake LinersI was decorating my cupcakes, so I didn't want my liners to clash with the flowers.  You can use whatever color liner you like, I just used white.

Disposable Decorating BagThis is the easiest way I found to fill my cupcake pan.  You can also put batter in a ziploc bag and then snip to corner to get the same effect.

(1) Prepare the raisins:
(a) In a large saucepan, bring water and raisins to a boil. It should take about 5 minutes.
(b) Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside - do not drain.
(2) Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Line your cupcake pan with paper liners.

(3) Meanwhile, make the cake batter:
(a) Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.
(b) Beat in egg.
(c) Stir in raisins and raisin water.
The recipe doesn't say to add the raisin water.  I added the raisins only and the batter was really dry. Most of the water absorbed into the raisins anyway, so I slowly added the water and stopped when I only had a 1/4 left. Looking back, I should have added it all.
(d) Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl; add to the creamed mixture until well blended.
(e) Stir in walnuts.
© You Want Me to Cook?
Spice Cupcakes - batter ready
(f) Pour some of the batter into the disposable decorating bag. Pinch the bottom so that there is a little space between the tip and the batter. Snip the tip of the bag and use it to fill paper-lined muffin cups with 1/3 cup batter each. If you need to refill the bag, simply set the bag in a measuring cup being sure to crimp the tip so the batter doesn't run out as you fill it.

(4) Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean.
The original recipe called for 20-25 minutes, but my cupcakes were jumbo cupcakes so they needed to bake longer.  Start watching your cupcakes at 20 minutes to be sure not to burn them.
(5) Cool for 10 minutes.

(6) Remove from pan to a wire rack to continue cooling while you make the frosting:
(a) In a large saucepan, combine brown sugar, cream and salt.
(b) Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, approximately 10 minutes. Cook and stir until smooth.
(c) Stir in butter and vanilla.
(d) Remove from the heat; cool slightly.
(e) Stir in confectioners' sugar until smooth.
(7) Frost cupcakes. Top with nuts if desired.

If you’re looking for a very sweet treat, this recipe is for you.  We loved them and it ended up working nicely with my decorated cupcakes.  I wasn’t sure it was going to happen, but it did.

If I were going to make any changes:
  • I definitely would be careful about mixing the batter.  Only mix it enough to incorporate the dry ingredients and that is it!
  • I would add all of the water in the recipe.  I’m not quite sure why I didn’t.  If memory serves, I was concerned I was going to have too runny batter.  Once my batter was fluid, I stopped adding the water.
  • I would try adding a little more confectioners’ sugar while the frosting is still hot and zap it with a mixer to smooth it out and frost immediately.
If anyone makes this recipe, PLEASE let me know.  I’m curious to see if anyone else ends up with the tunneling.  If you do, it may have something to do with the recipe.

Until next time… happy baking!

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