Friday, March 25, 2011

Tale of Two Cake Fails

Yes, I contributed to this.

As a foil to the savory sausage rolls that were served up for St. Patty's Day, I also baked close to 100 mini green velvet cupcakes.  The recipe I used is that of the lovely Janelle of Jaay's Thrilling Sweets. She spearheads a custom-order mobile bakery and is somehow able to whip up specialty cakes in a toaster oven and save the world from environmental disasters in the same day. 

These cupcakes tasted fantastic, all were eaten, and I typically didn't take any pictures.  But I think that is probably just as well since I tried to cheap out and use several-years-old reconstituted primary color gel-based dye instead of real deal food coloring.  Evidently I had more yellow than blue and the result looked a bit like bile or Ecto Cooler and had to be heavily frosted to hide the evidence.

So the green velvet cake made the following weekend was more of an aesthetic pursuit from the get-go.  My friend Jill suggested a recipe which sounded great that she had found in a book I gave her for Christmas that brings together our shared love of cocktails and baked goods.  However, when she said "SoCo" I for some reason heard "Kahlua", and it was all downhill from there. 

Exerpt from the recipe headnotes:  Say “Southern Comfort” and most people will roll their eyes and groan, “SoCo. I haven’t had that since college.”  But I was optimistic, since I have fond memories of drinking the sweet whiskey mixed with organic berry juice out of a tumbler with a built-in straw.  It also stated that SoCo  "lends itself to baking, yielding a subtle hint of whiskey without overpowering the other flavors."  Optimistic.

Now I will say that the cake part itself was gorgeous and had a really appealing deep shade of green (appealing if you like artificially colored things of course).  But the smell that gave me a gag when I first opened the mason jar Jill brought over pervaded the whole cake (and the house and my clothes the next day).  And instead of a subtle hint of SoCo, it in fact dominated the flavors of everything that I had eaten all week.

Problem number two was the cottage cheese-like frosting.  For the lumpy texture, I'll lay fault on myself for not being able to find the electric mixture.  But for the runniness and awful backwoods flavor I'm going to shift the blame onto a certain someone who decided that "when in doubt, add more booze" was a good rule to follow when baking.  Tsk tsk.

That being said, if you do follow the directions for the frosting correctly, and can actually enjoy the taste of SoCo without the buried traumatic memories of it that I evidently have, the cake's got a great texture to it and looks divine (and you can find the recipe on msn).

Instead and for posterity's sake, I'll leave you with Janelle's recipe which really is excellent and which you should also follow to a T and not stuff up by being cheap with the ingredients.  If you're not leaving the cupcakes outside all day, the cream cheese frosting would be delicious.  Otherwise you could do what I did and go the cooked route.

Green Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe from Janelle of Jaay's Thrilling Sweets

Makes about 30 cupcakes
Total time: ~60 minutes (Active time: 40 minutes)

For the cupcakes:
  • 2 1/4 cups (275g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 12 tablespoons (330g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (300g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 bottle (1 oz, 30mL) of green food coloring
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (300mL) milk
For the frosting:
  • 6 oz (170g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons (80g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups (260g) confectioners sugar

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in yolks, food coloring and vanilla. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Beat just until all ingredients are incorporated.

Divide batter among cupcake liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pans to rack to cool completely.

Frosting: Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add sugar and beat until easy to spread.


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