TARDIS cake – happy 50th!

Let me preface this by saying that I have the coolest roommates ever.

Phillips, being the perfect person she is, threw a Doctor Who 50th Anniversary viewing shindig, in which all guests dressed up and came over for Doctor Who-themed snacks like Adipose marshmallows…

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…and, of course, to actually watch the new episode and collectively freak out.

Kaitlyn, being the perfect person she is, used her artistic powers for good and turned our door into a TARDIS.

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What? It’s bigger on the inside, you say?

Why, yes, it is.

Sam, being the perfect person she is, sat through several episodes and a crash-course powerpoint presentation (courtesy of Phillips) so that she wouldn’t be lost during the party, and even dressed up as Sally Sparrow.

Sadly, I don’t have a photo of this.

My contribution for the night was a TARDIS cake, inspired by this wonderful tutorial by the Artisan Cake Company.

The results (with a borrowed sonic screwdriver):

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Ooooooh.

Of course, I’m terribly nitpicky, so it kills me to compare my cake to the tutorial. I’m already looking for an excuse to make another one and perfect the design. Probably a bad idea, considering how long this one took me, but I’m not going to think about that.

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This cake was…quite an ordeal. It began on Friday night with the cake itself, the frosting, and the modeling chocolate. The frosting started out as a Swiss meringue buttercream, but I evidently haven’t mastered that yet, because it quickly turned into a regular buttercream. Thankfully, nobody I know is opposed to regular ol’ buttercream. 😉

The cake–well–it was definitely the easiest part of the whole process. I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe from foodess. It’s darker than most chocolate cakes without being overwhelmingly rich, it’s moist, and it has a soft crumble that’s hard to stop eating.

The modeling chocolate, made using this video’s recipe (also referenced by the tutorial), turned out way greasier than the instructions suggested it would. I ended up draining the excess water/grease as I mixed the corn syrup and melted chocolate. I was a little nervous that it would turn the chocolate into a crumbly mess (as threatened by the video), but after sitting wrapped up overnight, it was just as perfectly malleable as I’d hoped. Phew.

Which prompts me to say: if you’re using Wilton candy melts, you’re going to end up with alarming amounts of liquid as you’re mixing. Don’t panic. Drain the excess, wrap the chocolate in plastic wrap, and go to sleep. It’ll be fine. Really.

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There are few situations I could’ve imagined in which I’d be molding a cake using a paring knife. This is what happens when there’s no way you can get your hands on an exacto knife.

Several layers of modeling chocolate later, I had a vaguely shaped blue box. Hooray!

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Windows, decals, and a lot of coaxing later, I had turned my blue box into a TARDIS-shaped blue box. Double hooray! 🙂

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In the interest of keeping this cake as cheap as possible–and actually finishing it in time for the party, which was a struggle as it was–I passed on the white fondant and the intricate painting of windows, using leftover buttercream and a bit of black gel food coloring to finish the decorations.

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I also used a tiny balled up piece of aluminum foil instead of an actual floral light.

I’m a college student; what am I supposed to do with an entire pack of floral lights?

Topped that with leftover modeling chocolate painted black, and I had a “light” for my TARDIS.

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At some point during this process, I switched from apron-clad apartment baker to a femme eleventh Doctor putting the finishing touches on her precious ship.

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The suspenders and blazer showed up later.

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All in all, definitely a successful project. It was painful finally cutting into the cake–but also beyond worth it when everyone actually got to enjoy it.

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The support straws got sliced in the process and looked rather silly.

Also dang, look at those slabs of modeling chocolate. I didn’t even realize how much frosting and chocolate had been layered on there until I cut the thing open.

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Overall: 10/10, would definitely try something this out there again. Too much fun!

For progress photos & many more detail shots, head over to my flickr. Most of these are courtesy of Kaitlyn, who is responsible for the majority of the party documentation.

Thank you, Kaitlyn!

Next time, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming that includes far less time-consuming recipes.

To my UChicago friends: happy 10th week! And to all, happy December! Let the season of peppermint and huge sweaters begin 🙂 x

slutty cupcakes: a story

Picture it if you can:

Wednesday night of 10th week. Classes are done for the year, finals are still far enough that the panic hasn’t set in, and the ladies of PBT are rocking out to Taylor Swift in a dorm basement kitchen.

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Note how excited Emma and Estelle are. As they should be.

Their mission for the night has been long awaited, but what better way to welcome reading period than with stress baking? Yes, the night was simply perfect for slutty cupcakes.

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You’ve never heard of slutty cupcakes? Victoria is skeptical.

Now don’t ask me why they’re slutty. I can’t answer that question in any remotely satisfactory fashion. What I can tell you is that they’re so rich, so deeply indulgent, and so damn easy to make that they should be illegal(Except not actually, because then what would we do without them?!) These classic but slightly terrifying muffin-cupcake-brownies–because one name is not enough to capture what they are–consist of a soft cookie dough base, one full Reese’s Cup, and one full Oreo layered over it, all topped with a healthy serving of gooey, moist brownie batter.

Warning: more than one of these may kill you.

So we assembled the trays. Readymade cookie dough, Reese’s Cups, Double Stuf Oreos, and Betty Crocker brownie mix. They looked like those adorable chocolate-covered marshmallow and graham cracker cookies, whose name completely evades me.

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So cute already!

The baking time was an educated guess, so I set the timer for 20 minutes, and we went off to find a way to amuse ourselves.

Victoria remained skeptical.

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I was domestic.

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Emma vandalized Sheena’s whiteboard.

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And we took incredibly cheesy photos in our matching dresses.

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Somewhere in between all of this, Victoria ended up with a busted ankle. No worries–she’s fine now–but the valiant sacrifice of her body will not be forgotten.

Finally, out came the slutty brownies, hot and baked to perfection, crisp with melting insides. We probably should’ve let them cool longer, but we couldn’t help it. We dug in.

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Estelle is super excited…

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…and super cute when caught off-guard. Sorrynotsorry, girl.

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Nina’s allergies deprive her of slutty cupcakes and make her sad. (It’s okay; she got real cupcakes after this.)

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Emma shows off those beautiful layers.

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And Sheena is simply pleased.

Satisfied, we split up the remaining cupcakes and called it a night. Almost zero effort for a small treat that goes a long way–and makes a great gift for physics TAs, as we found out.

Seriously, make these. You won’t regret it in the slightest.

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On to baking logistics things! One package of brownie mix and one roll of ready to bake cookie dough yielded 24 cupcakes, with leftover brownie batter. Our cupcakes stuck to the paper liners pretty badly, especially once they’d cooled. If you don’t want to deal with that, I’d suggest forgoing the liners and simply spraying the pan. That should solve the problem.

20 minutes at 350F was enough to bake these really thoroughly. As you can see in the photo above, the brownie batter formed a light, flaky skin over the Oreo just as it normally would, and the surrounding edges were crisp like the edges of a pan of brownies. I would actually start checking the cupcakes around 16 minutes to make sure they don’t overcook. The cookie dough will definitely be cooked–you’ll just want to test the brownies, which you can do with a toothpick as normal, cooking until a toothpick inserted into the batter (away from the Oreo!!) comes out clean/with a few moist crumbs.

IN OTHER NEWS…

I’m back! In case that wasn’t obvious. After a week at home to settle in, I’m getting back into the baking swing of things, and updates will become regular again (every weekend!). Unfortunately, being back home means the UChicago cupcake orders have been put on hold for the summer. That being said, if enough people around here want custom cupcakes, I’ll consider making this a second location. Just drop me a comment/message! 🙂

And speaking of UChicago–shameless self-promotion! HUGE thanks to Hannah at Spoon, a UChicago food magazine/blog for writing about tlc baking this month! Spoon is growing quickly, and is definitely worth keeping an eye on even if you don’t go to UChicago. Check out their site here, and read the article about tlc here!

Aaaaand that’s it for my very, very long post. Sorry, guys! Making up for lost time here. 😉

See y’all next weekend!

dark chocolate + butterscotch chip cookies [tracey’s culinary adventures]

Who doesn’t love a warm, chewy chocolate chip cookie with a tall glass of cold milk? There’s something so simple, so childlike and comforting about milk and cookies. And sometimes–most of the time–dining hall cookies just don’t cut it.

So I took matters into my own hands last week and turned to my absolute favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures.

Honestly, I was going to go for just plain chocolate chips, but I had none left. But this ended up working in my favor because butterscotch and dark chocolate how could you go wrong

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I’ve been using this recipe for a while now. It’s my favorite for two reasons: 1) brown butter. ‘Nuff said. 2) Everything is whisked by hand, so there’s no need for a stand mixer or a handheld blender or really anything more than a stovetop, a heatproof bowl, and a whisk. It’s extremely conducive to dorm baking.

You might think the instructions are strange at first–whisk, wait, whisk, wait, etc.–but don’t skip any steps, because it will make a difference in the final product. It’s not a difficult recipe; it’s just precise. And it’s definitely worth being a little patient. 🙂

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The only change I made was replacing the 1 1/4 cups of semisweet chocolate chips with 1/2 cup dark morsels and 1/2 cup butterscotch chips. The slight bitterness of the dark chocolate, the nutty toffee hints from the browned butter, and the creamy sweetness of butterscotch all combined in a chewy, buttery explosion of flavor. The only reason I still have a couple left? They’re too good to finish.

Seriously, I can’t rave about this recipe enough. (In case you couldn’t tell.)

Way more than the butterscotch or dark chocolate, it’s the brown butter in the base that makes these cookies so delicious–and so different from most other chocolate chip cookies. I’m sure you could throw just about anything into this dough, and it would taste fantastic.

A last note on the baking: err on the side of taking the cookies out too early if you really want them to be chewy. They won’t get hard even after about 13 minutes, but they won’t be quite as soft as they could be. And if you want them thicker than the ones I made, after you portion the dough into balls, freeze it for a couple hours before baking. It works wonders.

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That’s it for today! I think I’m gonna go find myself some milk and eat what’s left of these. 😉

Have a great week!

s’more poke cake [confessions of a cookbook queen]

Last night, I was joined by the lovely Gabby Costa in my somewhat janky house kitchen, where we attempted to recreate these beautiful squares of marshmallow-and-graham-cracker-goodness.

Let me tell you: it got messy.

But I mean in the best of ways–the kind that includes fluff stuck to fingers and far more Aaron Carter than is probably acceptable anymore.

And on the topic of fluff, can we address how terrifying the stuff is? It sticks to anything and everything except what it needs to, its shelf life is alarmingly long, and somehow, it is still delicious. Seriously, there’s something wrong with this picture.

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Nothing wrong with this picture, though. All those golden, perfectly toasted marshmallows topping a fudgy chocolate cake made even more gooey with smooth chocolate pudding.

Oh yes. That’s quite the cake.

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So this particular recipe was actually chosen by Gabby. I was instantly sold when I saw that there was chocolate pudding involved. Spouts of pudding? Inside my cake? Yes, please!

Unfortunately, as you can see from my photo (especially compared to the ones on the original recipe), the pudding never quite made it into the cake. Despite borderline destroying the cake with holes, we couldn’t get much of the pudding to actually sink into the cake. This brings up two issues:
+ Make big holes for your pudding! Either use a wooden spoon with a thicker handle, or just push the handle around to make the holes bigger. Otherwise, the pudding won’t actually fill your cake.
+ 3.4 ounces of instant pudding is a lot. Like a lot. Like way more than you actually need for this cake.

And you know what else is a lot? 13 ounces of marshmallow fluff. I ended up using just over one 7.5-oz jar of fluff, and if you look, it was enough to coat the 9×13 cake with a good, thick layer of marshmallow. Save yourself the trouble of dealing with 13 ounces of the monstrously sticky stuff, and just use less.

Lucky for us, we were baking in a dorm, and we had no trouble getting rid of things like extra chocolate pudding and fluff.

Other adjustments: I dropped the sugar from the graham cracker crust–the cake is sweet enough–and increased the baking time of the actual cake from 20 minutes to ~30, because mine was still jiggling after only 20. You want it to be just baked, so that it can still sit in the oven for a little while after the pudding and marshmallows are added.

The final product was gooey, got all over our hands/faces/clothes, and went perfectly with a tall glass of milk. The only way I could cut through it so neatly was with a heated knife (which Gabby thought of; thanks, girl!). But they really did taste like s’mores fresh off a campfire, with the golden-crusted marshmallows and everything. All in all: would definitely bake again. 😉

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That’s all for today, folks! Don’t forget to keep placing those cupcake orders! Remember that Relay for Life will be getting 50% of the proceeds from orders placed between now and May 17th 🙂
And in the meantime, enjoy the beautiful spring sunshine!

oreo cupcakes [foodess]

Several technical difficulties later, I’m back with a new post! Sorry for the delay, guys.

For those who know me/are friends with me on facebook, you saw some photos of these about a week ago. My older brother was coming home for the weekend, and he had asked me to bake something for him to bring back. Of course, being my brother, he gave me no specifics other than “something sweet”, so I had far too many options on my hands. After some intense grilling–and a very helpful suggestion from his friend–I finally got him to settle on the best possible cookie to bake with: Oreos.

I have so many Oreo/cookies and cream recipes bookmarked that it’s actually alarming.

I knew instantly that I wanted a really moist chocolate cake, over a full Oreo base and with cookies and cream frosting piled high on top. I dug through my bookmarks and found this moist chocolate cake recipe from foodess and this white chocolate whipped cream one from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. Don’t get me wrong–the cream cheese frosting from foodess looks absolutely heavenly, but I wanted something lighter.

This turned into an…interesting endeavor. One of my favorite tricks for really moist cupcakes is adding 1 cup of sour cream and 3-4 ounces of instant dry pudding mix to a boxed cake mix (which I first tried with this recipe). I wanted to avoid the extra fat of sour cream, and opted instead for Greek yogurt. It was a risk, but with the yogurt and a couple of other tweaks, I ended up with light, chocolatey cupcakes that were soft and moist on the inside and still had a crispness around the edges.
The frosting…well. Let’s just say that I have yet to master homemade whipped cream. I’m still not sure why this happened, but one minute, I was mixing glorious peaks of rich white chocolate whipped cream, and the next, I had dollops of white chocolate butter surrounded by liquid. (If someone wants to explain that separation to me, I’ll be eternally grateful!) Once I figured out that I had butter on my hands, I decided to turn the whole mess into a regular buttercream with Oreo crumbs folded in, and thankfully, that worked out well. I suppose the whipped cream will have to wait. 😦

All in all, I was pretty pleased with the results.

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Man, I wish I had just one of these left.

Adjustments I made to the recipe:
+ Place one full Oreo cookie at the bottom of each baking cup
+ 1.5 cups of sugar, instead of 2
+ 1 cup of honey flavored Greek yogurt, instead of buttermilk
+ Add 2 tablespoons of instant chocolate pudding mix to the dry ingredients
+ Add 2 tablespoons of hot water in addition to the 1 cup of coffee

The resulting batter was thin, but not runny.

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I tried to fill the baking cups about 2/3 of the way, then popped the trays into the oven for 23 minutes. I let the cupcakes cool overnight (yay, late-night baking!) and frosting them the next morning with the Oreo buttercream.

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Hello, handsome.

There’s just something about the black and white contrast of cookies and cream.

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My favorite part, though, was definitely the surprise cookie at the bottom. The Oreos stayed crunchy through baking, and they held up the cupcakes perfectly.

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My brother was pretty happy, too. 😉

And that was my end-of-break baking adventure! A couple mishaps, many fingers crossed, and finally, some delicious cupcakes to share with my family.

Enjoy what’s left of the weekend! See you guys next Friday 🙂

chocolate peppermint cupcakes [a pumpkin and a princess]

Last week’s candy cane crinkle cookies were just a part of a much larger peppermint kick that I was on right before winter break. Nearly every one of my finals week study breaks involved baking. I knew there was one treat that needed to be part of my week’s menu, more than anything else: peppermint cupcakes.

Much googling led me to this beautiful post at A Pumpkin & A Princess.

Everything seemed so simple, yet so rich: Betty Crocker cake mix, CoolWhip frosting, all infused with peppermint and topped with ample Andes peppermint chocolate pieces and chunks of Ghiradelli peppermint bark.

Boy, did they deliver.

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I spent a couple hours on these, but that is by no means necessary. You can mix, bake, pipe, and decorate in no time–especially if you have actual Andes Peppermint Crunch baking chips on hand [which I did not, so I spent a good deal of time beating up Andes Peppermint Crunch Things, as well as smashing mini candy canes for the vanilla-frosted ones].

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I also switched to pre-made vanilla frosting [topped with candy canes, as you can see] when I ran out of the CoolWhip chocolate one. Really, you can use any kind of frosting you want. I’d love to make these again with a thick, creamy homemade buttercream with some chocolate pudding mix and sour cream thrown into the batter, too!

The CoolWhip frosting had a texture almost like ice cream, which was an unusual and pleasantly surprising change from most cupcakes you’ll find. Unfortunately, that also leads me to a major warning: CoolWhip frosting will melt on you! So don’t frost these babies until you’re ready to serve them, unless you plan on refrigerating them.

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These were a big hit with my house. They didn’t last long.

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Say a sweet, minty, wintry goodbye to the cold weather with these delicious cupcakes–and let me know how it goes!

See you next week 🙂

candy cane crinkle cookies [what’s cooking with ruthie]

I love the holiday season. Not because I necessarily celebrate the actual holidays, but because of the music, the decorations, the general spirit of festivity ringing through every street–and most importantly, the peppermint.

I love peppermint. Especially with chocolate.
And I’m sure you have some candy canes left over from December, hiding in your kitchen.

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These candy cane crinkle cookies come from What’s Cooking with Ruthie. The box mix base cuts a good deal of time out of the prep, and you certainly won’t lose any flavor because of it. I made these cookies in the middle of finals week–half celebration, half a reprieve from studying. They were more than worth the time.

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Pillowy, chocolatey cookies that aren’t too rich cut by melted down peppermint–you won’t be able to stop at one, especially if you make them as small as these ones.

I substituted all-purpose flour for the cornstarch, and it worked perfectly well. I imagine the cookies will be even fluffier if you use the cornstarch 🙂

Is there a specific type of recipe you’d like to see next? Let me know in the comments! Coming up soon, we have more cookies, cupcakes, and perhaps even one of my own recipes ooooooh~
Happy Friday, folks!