Mini Twinkie Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


I saw a box of Twinkies in the grocery store a few weeks ago and I couldn’t remember the last time I had tried one (I think I may have been 8 years old).  Then an idea popped in my head to make my own Twinkies. After I got home that evening, I did a little research online and it turned out there are several homemade variations. I decided to make my own version and added a little spin by adding chocolate buttercream to the sweet treat.  The end result was quite tasty and they got the seal of approval from my official taste-tester, Robert, and the therapists at the clinic seemed to really like them as well. My only complaint is that the chocolate buttercream  overshadowed the fluffy filling, but that could easily be fixed by not icing these bad boys; perhaps dusting the cupcakes lightly with powdered sugar instead. Either way, I don’t think you can go wrong!

Mini Twinkie Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

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Yield: 2 1/2 dozen

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:

  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ¾ cup Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 ½ tbsp. plus 1 tsp. heavy cream

For the Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsweeted cocoa powder (my favorite is Ghiradelli)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp brewed coffee
  • 2-3 Tbsp heavy cream
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

For the Cupcakes:

1. Adjust your oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line mini muffin tins with mini cupcake liners.

2. In a bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3. Add the butter, sour cream, egg yolks, and vanilla and beat until the the mixture is just combined (don’t over mix). Scrape down the sides with a spatula and hand mix to ensure the ingredients are fully incorporated.

4. Divide the batter evenly into the tins- I used about a 2/3 full scoop from my 2 oz ice cream scooper.

5. Bake until the cupcake tops are pale gold and a toothpick comes out clean, about 12-14 minutes.  Allow the cupcakes to cool for a few minutes and then transfer them to a wire baking rack to cool completely

For the Filling:

1. Place the butter and marshmallow creme in a bowl with a standing mixer. Mix with a whisk attachment on medium-high until light and fluffy.

2. Slow the mixer down to low speed and add the cream. Mix until incorporated

3. Gradually add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides.

4. Transfer the filling to a pastry bag with a medium-sized round tip or a squeeze bottle.

5. Press the tip into the cooled cupcakes and squeeze a small amount of the filling into the cake.

For the Buttercream:

1. Place the butter in a bowl with a standing mixer. Whip on high speed until fluffy (about 2 minutes).

2. Slow the mixer down and add the cream, vanilla, and coffee. Mix well.

3. Add in the salt and mix. Gradually add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder, about 1/2 cup at a time and mix until well incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides.

4. Transfer the icing to a pastry bag fitted with your icing tip of choice and decorate the cupcakes as desired.

5. Store the cupcakes in an airtight container.

Source: Cupcakes- Baking Illustrated; Filling- Annie’s Eats, Food and Wine; Frosting- Lolly’s Sweet Treats

Lemon Blueberry Crumb Coffee Cake

This is my favorite coffee cake recipe. I love the combination of lemon and blueberries and when you add in a streusel topping, I’m completely sold. Ina Garten introduced me to this delightful breakfast treat a few years ago (we’re on a first name basis ;) ) and I have been making it on a fairly regular basis ever since. I made this particular cake to bring into the clinic last week as a way to say thanks to the physical therapists who have let me hang around them during my practicum experience. I am happy to report there are only 16 days left until I graduate from school forever!

I’ve varied this recipe up a bit over the years- sometimes I make it into muffins, other times I swap in whole wheat flour, or I often crank up the lemon flavor with lots of extra lemon zest. Any variation you choose, you won’t be disappointed. This is one of Ina’s best!

 

Lemon Blueberry Crumb Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

For the streusel:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch round or square pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. For the streusel, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

3. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream.

4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely on a baking rack and serve sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.

Fresh Corn, Brie, and Jalapeno Frittata

In a continual effort to use the vegetables from our garden, I have been perusing cookbooks for recipes that help me maximize our bounty. When I came across this recipe, I knew I wanted to try it right away. I was planning on making it for a weekend brunch, but I ended up making it for dinner last week after I didn’t get home until later in the evening. The mild flavor from brie pairs wonderfully with the sweet corn and hot jalapenos. Robert and I were both pleasantly surprised with how much we liked this dish. I think it would be delicious with just about any vegetable you please- bell peppers, tomatoes, banana peppers, the list goes on and on.

Side note- the basil and jalapenos are from our garden, but the corn is not  (we only live on 0.17 acres, so that crop would be a bit tricky to grow!).

Fresh Corn, Brie, and Jalapeno Frittata

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 3/4 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 1 large ear of fresh corn)
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • 6 ounces Brie cheese, rind trimmed and finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • Basil leaves, for garnish

Directions:

1. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook for about 3 minutes. Add in the corn and jalapeno and cook until the corn is tender (about 5 minutes). Place the vegetable mixture in another bowl and allow to cool slightly.

2. Preheat broiler to high. Beat eggs lightly in a medium bowl to blend. Stir in vegetables, cheese, salt, and pepper.

3. Melt remaining 2 Tbsp butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add egg mixture to the pan.

4. Allow the egg to set slightly. Lift up the edges with a spatula and tip pan to allow uncooked eggs to run under until edge forms. about 1 minute. Cover the skillet and allow to cook until almost set, about 5 minutes.

5. Remove the cover and place the skillet in the oven and broil until the eggs are set and the top is golden brown. This should only take about 1 minute- watch carefully so it won’t burn! Garnish with basil, if desired.

Source: The Bon Appetit Cookbook

Classic White Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Tomorrow is my mother-in-law, Connie’s, birthday. I won’t tell you how old she will be, but I will tell you that I love her more and more every year that passes by. When I asked her what flavor she wanted, Connie requested a white cake. I used the classic white cake recipe from Baking Illustrated, filled the middle with a blackberry buttercream, and iced the cake in a vanilla buttercream. Robert and I were unable to make it back to Walnut Creek to celebrate her birthday this past weekend because my sister was in town from Virginia, so I sent the cake along home with my brother-in-law on Friday.

I hope you enjoyed the cake, Connie. We love you! :)

Classic White Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

Classic White Cake

  • 2 1/4 cups plain cake flour
  • 1 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (I was out of almond extract so I used 2 tsp vanilla instead)
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup marshmallow creme
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

For the Cake

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the bottom of a 11X15 inch cake pan with parchment paper. Generously grease and flour it. Dust with flour.
2. Pour the milk, egg whites, and extracts into a bowl and whisk until blended.

3. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix together briefly. Add the butter and continue beating at low speed until the mixture consists of moist crumbs.

4. Add all but 1/2 cup of the milk mixture to the butter/flour mixture and mix at medium speed for about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the remaining milk and beat for about 30 seconds longer. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the pan to make sure the batter is fully blended.

5. Pour the batter into the pan and spread out evenly. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a center gently springs back when you touch it.

6. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool on a baking rack for about 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife along the edges to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan. Allow to cool completely.

7. When you are ready to decorate the cake, place a sheet of parchment paper on the counter and carefully flip the cake over onto it. It should remove easily from the pan. Use a ruler to ensure equal portions and cut the cake in half (5.5 inches wide for each).

For the Frosting

1. Place the butter in a bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment. Whip the butter on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

2. Add in the marshmallow creme, vanilla, and salt. Mix until well combined.

3. Gradually add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Scrape down the sides to ensure the mixture is well combined.

4. Add the cream, 1 Tbsp at a time and whip until light and fluffy.

(For the blackberry buttercream- I took about 2/3 cup of the vanilla buttercream and added 2 Tbsp blackberry jam and an additional 2 Tbsp heavy cream)

6. Decorate the cake as desired :)

Source: Cake-Baking Illustrated, Frosting- Lolly’s Sweet Treats

Food Memory Friday: Fresh Pesto and Tomato Bread

This recipe is my Aunt Khaki’s. I first tasted it about 7 years ago while she was visiting my family during the summer. At that point in my life, I had never had (or heard of) pesto and I was instantly intrigued. After my first bite of the crunchy deliciousness, I wanted the recipe right away so we could recreate it after she returned to California.  Fresh out of high school and with next to no experience cooking, you can imagine my surprise when she said ” well I don’t really have a recipe for it, I just taste it as I go.” I was shocked- “No recipe?! But how can you make something without a recipe?” This is when I discovered you don’t have to go by the rules when you cook. You can add in or omit ingredients and tailor a dish so it fits your personality. As corny as it may sound, I believe cooking is a form of artistic expression. You may like your spaghetti sauce sweet, spicy, chunky, creamy, with mushrooms, or with cinnamon. Whichever you choose, there’s no wrong answer. Thanks to my Aunt Khaki and this pesto bread, I have fully embraced this philosophy (even if it doesn’t always yield tasty results). :)

Aunt Khaki and my cousin Camille at my wedding

Now- onto the Pesto and Tomato Bread. Our summer garden is in full swing and we have more basil and tomatoes than I can handle right now. As a result, I was more than happy to make this seasonal for dinner a few nights ago. It’s very simple to make if you have the ingredients on hand. I used walnuts and asiago in my pesto, but you can certainly use pine nuts and parmesan if you prefer.

Robert, previously a pesto hater, actually loved the pesto and tomato bread. There really is a noticeable difference between fresh and canned pesto and his change in opinion is proof positive. If you have a lot of extra produce on hand, this is a perfect dinner or appetizer to make. It can even be frozen for a few weeks. Just pop it in the oven until it’s heated through when you are ready to enjoy it again.

Have  a great weekend, everyone!

Fresh Pesto and Tomato Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch fresh basil (about 3 loose cups)
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 5 fresh garlic cloves
  • 3/4 Asiago cheese, roughly chopped (plus extra shredded cheese to put on top of the bread)
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 fresh baguette
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor or blender, place basil, oil, garlic, walnuts, salt and cheese. Pulse until well-blended.

Slice baguette in half and then lengthwise. Spread a layer of pesto on top of the bread. Place thinly sliced tomatoes on top of the pesto. Sprinkle with asiago cheese.

Put the bread on a cookie sheet and place it in the oven for 10 minutes. Turn the broiler onto high and let the cheese brown (about 3 minutes longer).

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Enjoy.

Source: Aunt Khaki

Fresh Ginger Ale

Attention all ginger lovers: this drink is for you!***

A few weeks ago Robert and I ate dinner at The Northstar Cafe downtown. If you live in the central Ohio area and haven’t eaten there yet, you should. It took us awhile to finally get around to dining at this glorious establishment and I wish it hadn’t- the food is wonderful. They use organic ingredients and most of their menu items are made from scratch, including their fresh ginger ale.  I am a ginger ale freak, so although I normally order water or unsweetened iced tea at restaurants, I excitedly jumped all over their delightful concoction without thinking twice. OMG- it was absolutely breathtaking! The spice of fresh ginger was infused with fresh lime and mint and just the right amount of sweetness. My actual dinner -an Asiago chicken sandwich with roasted red peppers and fresh arugula- was positively scrumptious as well, but this drink blew my mind. I immediately wanted to recreate it at home!

I did some research on the internet and read about different techniques. Some people used fresh lemon, others were serious about their ginger ale and added yeast and bottled it at home. I didn’t find anything all that similar to Northstar’s drink, so I had to experiment on my own. The first time I made it, I boiled chunks of fresh ginger with mint and lime peels (and too much sugar). The result was a rather bitter, excessively sweet drink . Disappointed  but not discouraged, I gave it a second (and third) go around until I finally found a method that resulted in a drink that (I think) tastes somewhat like Northstar’s wondrous creation.

This is a perfect summertime drink- it’s crisp, refreshing, and  a little spicy! It can also be transformed into a cocktail- add a little pear vodka and you have a tasty drink to help you unwind from a long day. I hope you enjoy this fresh ginger ale as much as I do. Thanks to The Northstar Cafe for the inspiration; and seriously- go try out their food if you can! They have three great locations in Columbus.

 

Fresh Ginger Ale***

*** I’ve changed this recipe and a new and improved homemade version can be found here

Ingredients:

  • 1 fresh ginger root
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (2 limes)
  • 4-5 sprigs of fresh mint
  • Club soda, chilled

Directions:

1.Peel the fresh ginger with a peeler (or a spoon). Rinse off any excess skin or dirt and chop it into course chunks. Place the chunks in a medium saucepan.

2. Add the 5 cups of water and turn the burner on high. Bring the mixture to a boil (watch it carefully- it can boil over quickly!).  Reduce the heat to medium and add the sugar, stirring until it has dissolved (about 2-3 minutes). Remove the mixture from heat and let it sit for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

3.Meanwhile, pluck the mint leaves of the springs and place them in a large bowl. Juice the limes and pour the juice onto the mint leaves. Gently crush the leaves with a wooden spoon to allow the oil from the mint to be released and blend with the lime juice.

4.After the ginger mixture has been sitting for 15 minutes, place a sieve over the bowl of the mint and lime juice and carefully pour the liquid into the bowl. Remove the sieve and discard the ginger chunks after they have cooled.Mix the concoction with a spoon. This is your ginger syrup. Allow it to chill in the fridge.

5. When you are ready to enjoy some fresh ginger ale, you can do it one of two ways: 1) for a single serving or 2) for a crowd. For the single serving, I keep the club soda and ginger mixture separate and combine 1/2 cup club soda with 1/2 cup of the syrup and then pour it over ice. When making it for a crowd, I combine 4 cups of the syrup and 4 cups of cold club soda into a pitcher and serve it over ice immediately. Either way, I found the 1:1 ratio of syrup and club soda to be a good combination, but you can certainly adjust it to your preference.

6. Garnish with  a lime wedge and a sprig of mint, if desired, and enjoy! :)

Source: Inspired by The Northstar Cafe

Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers


I made these cinnamon sugar palmiers a few weeks ago to go with creme brulee. My only experience with this type of cookie was making them with frozen puff pastry from the grocery store. They were perfectly delicious with this route, but I wanted to try puff pastry from scratch. The method I used is not technically puff pastry, but rather a shortcrust, because I didn’t repeatedly fold the dough. However, I still thought the dough puffed and was delightfully flaky after baking. Nonetheless, I need to clarify the terms of “puff pastry” (thanks for educating me, Dirk)!

The trickiest part of these palmiers is ensuring the dough is chilled enough to work with. If you encounter this, just pop the dough in the fridge or freezer and let it chill for a few minutes. Other than that, this recipe is very straight forward. The result is a crispy and delicious treat that would be a wonderful addition to ice cream, creme brulee, or a cup of coffee.

Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers

Ingredients:

For the Shortcrust

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 9 Tbsp ice water
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice (I left this out because I didn’t have any lemons on hand and it still tasted great)

For the Palmiers

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a mixer and mix to combine with the whisk attachment. Add a quarter of the butter and and mix until the butter is in dime-size pieces. Add the remaining butter and mix to coat the cubes with flour.

2. Combine the ice water and lemon in a small bowl (or just the ice water if you don’t have a lemon). Add half the liquid to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Keep adding the liquid, 1 Tbsp at a time until the dough starts to clump together. The dough will be dry and shaggy at this point.

3. Turn the dough onto a clean, lightly-floured surface and mash the dough against the surface with the heel of your hand to better incorporate the butter into the mixture.

4. Gather the dough together and press the dough in to a 8 by 4 inch rectangle. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

5. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Lightly flour a large piece of parchment paper. Place the dough on the parchment and roll it into a 16 by 14 inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.

6. Brush with the beaten egg.

7. Sprinkle the dough liberally with the cinnamon sugar, gently smoothing the sugar and patting it onto the dough.

8. With the long side of the dough closest to you, fold 3 inches of the outer edges toward the center, leaving a 2 inch strip in the middle.

9. Fold the outer edges in again so that both sides of the rectangles are folded in (on top of themselves).

10. Fold the dough in half, forming a rectangular log.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about 1 hour).

11. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the chilled roll into 1/2 inch thick slices and position 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake until the palmiers are golden brown, about 20-24 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack.

Source: Baking Illustrated