Happy Father’s Day! Green Tea Cupcakes for you.

I attribute my appreciation of food and my sense of adventure when it comes to it to the man on the right.  He and my mom were on to the local and organic thing way before it was a thing, back when it was just called having a large garden and raising various livestock and using that as your main source of food for the year.  Imagine that.  He’s also always willing to try something new which I love (Indian?  Sure!  Ethiopian?  Why not.  Dim sum?  Loves it.)  Thanks Dad.

These cupcakes are an example of something that my dad would totally try and love even though they are a bit non-traditional.  Awhile back I had an awesome green tea cupcake at a teahouse and decided it was time to try making my own version.

I ran out and bought some green tea powder (Matcha) and did a bit of Googling and found a recipe that twisted the traditional vanilla cupcake a little bit by adding the green tea powder in.  I found another recipe that suggested using almond extract instead of vanilla extract which seemed like a bold move in the right direction.  Done and done.

I made up my own frosting recipe using mascarpone cheese instead of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and more green tea powder.  The results came out pretty darn good.  These cupcakes are for people who are not into overly sweet things but still want a treat.  And what a treat they are.

Green Tea Cupcakes (adapted from recipe found at www.thefoodieskitchen.com, original recipe source “Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes”)

  • 2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons Matcha (green tea powder)

Preheat the oven at 350ºF and line two 12-muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Whisk the Matcha with the milk and vanilla, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter using an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.  Add the sugar gradually and beat for 3 minutes or until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla.  With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over mix.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling about ¾ full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes.  Remove cakes from the tins and cool on a wire rack before icing.

Green Tea Mascarpone Frosting

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz. container of mascarpone cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Matcha (green tea powder)

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and mascarpone cheese until combined.  Sift the powdered sugar and the Matcha into mixing bowl.  Mix until incorporated.  If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of milk and mix until combined.

vegan gluten-free cupcakes are pretty good, it turns out

Gluten-free baking is a bit of a challenge, I’m not going to lie.  You have to buy a lot of different kinds of flours to blend together and then add a gum (like xantham or guar, not Wrigley’s) to take the place of traditional wheat flour.  And these other flours and gums are not cheap.  It makes sense, since wheat is subsidized in this country, but still.  You better believe I will use every last tablespoon of these flours even after Lent is over…  But I digress.

A few weeks ago when I knew I was giving up wheat I decided to order a few gluten-free baking cookbooks I had been eyeing on Amazon.  One of them was from a very well-respected gluten-free vegan bakery in NYC.  Vegan bakery?  Say what?  Seems kind of counter-intuitive, right?  Even though I never got around to visiting this bakery when I lived in New York (a wrong I intend to right on my next visit) I always heard great things so decided to test it out.

And you know what?  The results were pretty darn good.  I even had a few coworkers say they were the best cupcakes they ever had.

Even though the cookbook provided dairy-free frosting recipes I opted to thaw out some leftover strawberry mascarpone frosting from an earlier baking experiment that is decidedly not vegan but you can frost however you see fit.

Vanilla Cupcakes (from “Babycakes” cookbook by Erin McKenna)

  • 2 cups garbanzo-fava bean flour
  • 1 cup potato starch
  • ½ cup arrowroot (I substituted tapioca flour and it worked just fine)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/3 cups agave nectar
  • ¾ cup homemade applesauce or store-bough unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line 2 standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, potato starch, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt.  Add the oil, agave nectar, applesauce, vanilla, and lemon zest to the dry ingredients and combine.  Stir in the hot water and mix until the batter is smooth.

Pour 1/3 cup batter into each prepared cup, almost filling it.  Bake the cupcakes on the center rack for 22 minutes, rotating the tins 180 degrees after 15 minutes.  The finished cupcakes will be golden brown and will bounce back when pressure is applied gently to the center.

Let the cupcakes stand in the tins for 20 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack and cool completely.  Using a frosting knife, gently spread 1 tablespoon vanilla frosting over each cupcake.  Store the cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting (NOT vegan, clearly)

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 oz mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ strawberries, cleaned and pureed in food processor or blender

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat butter and mascarpone cheese until smooth.  Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, beat until light and fluffy.  Stir in pureed strawberries with a spatula.

marshmallow-y goodness

You would think with a title like “marshmallow-y goodness” this post would be about a recipe that revolved around marshmallows, right?  Well in this case, you’d be wrong.  We won’t even get to the marshmallow part for a while, but once we do it will make perfect sense.  Stick with me here folks. 

Last week there were two birthdays that I wanted to bake for and since it was for two separate people and the birthdays were celebrated in two separate places and because you can’t nicely cut a birthday cake in half and take one half to one party and the other half to the other party I opted to simplify things and make cupcakes instead.  Red velvet cupcakes.  I hadn’t made them in quite some time and they sounded good– plus, they’re usually a crowd pleaser so it seemed like a safe bet.

I’ve been on the fence about using food coloring for some time now.  I don’t use it except for red velvet cake and to color icing for Christmas sugar cookies but ever since I overheard a coworker say she made a connection between red dye in foods she’s consumed and her subsequently getting nightmares after consumption I’ve been even more freaked out.  But a little bit a couple of times a year can’t be too bad for you, right?  And how the heck can you make red velvet cupcakes if they aren’t red?  No one would know what to think.  (Yes, the thought has occurred to me to try using beet juice or some other such natural dye.  Some day when I have loads of time I will try this…)

My compromise was to use less red food coloring than the recipe called for.  The result was more of a burgundy-colored cupcake which I found to be quite aesthetically pleasing.  And no one questioned what kind of cupcakes they were– there was just enough red to them. 

Now here is where the title subject comes in… Years ago I was doing my usual routine of watching the Saturday morning Food Network lineup and Paula Dean made red velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting and to that cream cheese frosting she added melted marshmallows.  Eureka!

Paula’s recipe calls for one cup of melted marshmallows but if one cup is good two is even better, right?  The answer is yes, yes two cups of melted marshmallows in cream cheese frosting is supreme.  And to continue with my kick of substituting mascarpone cheese for cream cheese in frosting I tried that here too.  It’s to die for.  Heck, I even forgot to sift my dang cake flour before mixing so the cake from my batch of cupcakes was a little dense but the heavenly frosting more than made up for it.  No complaints whatsoever from the birthday peeps!

Red Velvet Cupcakes (adapted from Red Velvet Cake with Raspberries and Blueberries found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 2 ¼ cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tablespoon red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with muffin cups (this recipe makes about 18 cupcakes) and set aside.

Sift sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl.  Whisk buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla in small bowl to blend.  Using electronic mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition.  Beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 3 additions.

Pour batter into prepared muffin cups.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back when touched.

Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn the cupcakes out of the tins and onto a rack to finish cooling completely.  Frost with Mascarpone Marshmallow Frosting (recipe below).

Mascarpone Marshmallow Frosting (adapted from Grandmother Paula’s Red Velvet Cake Icing recipe found at www.foodnetwork.com)

  • 1 (8-ounce) package mascarpone cheese
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 cups melted marshmallows
  • 1 (1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar

Blend mascarpone cheese and butter together in a mixing bowl. Add marshmallows and confectioners’ sugar and blend.

how about cupcakes???

I had kind of a rough day at work a few weeks ago– it happens.  My cube-mate/friend/very-talented-artist painted this lovely picture for me to cheer me up.  And it worked!  It still makes me smile when I look over at it in the glare of the fluorescent office lights.  You need stuff like that.  Not only does it make me happy, but it inspired me to recreate it in real life!

 Who doesn’t like cupcakes?  I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t.  They’re cute, fun, pretty, taste great– what’s not to like?  I have made them in many iterations over the years but never strawberry-flavored, and since I picked a whole bunch of the lovely little berries last weekend I figured now is the time.

I did a bunch of research for a recipe before making them and wound up shooting from the hip with an adaptation of a strawberry cake recipe I found from Martha Stewart.  Her recipe was unfrosted and suggested baking the strawberries into the top of the cake but I wanted to mix them into the batter instead.

I decided that a cream cheese frosting might be nice on them, but then thought I’d shake it up a bit with mascarpone cheese instead of cream cheese.  I think it was a wise decision.

Voila!  You would have thought that my friend painted the picture after I made the above, right?  Nope.  Other way around.  Good thing I have a small flowered plate!

Strawberry Cupcakes (adapted from Strawberry Cake recipe found at www.marthastewart.com)

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped cleaned strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place muffin cups in 12-cup muffin tin.  Set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.

Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.  Fold strawberries into batter with a spatula.  Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups.

Bake cupcakes for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack.  If desired, frost with strawberry mascarpone frosting (recipe below).

Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 oz mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ strawberries, cleaned and pureed in food processor or blender

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat butter and mascarpone cheese until smooth.  Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, beat until light and fluffy.  Stir in pureed strawberries with a spatula.