Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cupcakery Review: Classy Girl Cupcakes - Milwaukee

This week my adventures took me to the beautiful, sunny Milwaukee!  Yes - despite being March, it was really beautiful and really sunny.  I got the best weather while I was there - not a drop of rain or even a cloud in the sky which made it easy to find Classy Girl Cupcakes.  Located on Cathedral Square in downtown Milwaukee, CGC is an adorable shop that seems to specialize in cheesecake cupcakes although they do have quite a selection of gourmet cupcake flavors as well. 

So - cheesecake or regular cupcake?  Obviously both!  I mean- who knows when I'll get to Milwaukee again.  My eye was immediately drawn to a plain looking cupcake whose name was "Caramel Stout".  Hmmmm - stout - it must be related to my Irish Stout cupcake!  Since clearly it's a cupcake that's party of the beer family, I had to try it.  Then onto the cheesecake cupcakes -  there were so many.  The lovely gal at the counter pointed out a few of their best sellers but my eye was drawn to the Malted Milkshake Cheesecake.  They wrapped both of my selections together and gave me a little spoon for the cheesecake treat.

First the Caramel Stout:  

The chocolate cupcake is made with Hinterland Luna Stout beer which the CGC website says "has notes of caramel, chocolate and espresso".  The Hinterland website says that the Luna Stout is infused with nitrogen which sounds like another famous stout from Ireland (that rhymes with Minnus).  If you've read my previous post about my stout cupcake, the Trevor Cupcake Cake, then you know I love beer based cupcakes.  The Class Girl version was really really good - the cake part was light but super flavorful which I imagine comes from the beer.  I've never had the Hinterland beer but maybe I'll try it in my recipe if I can find it in my area.  My only minor complaint was with the frosting - the caramel buttercream was just way too sweet for my taste and it was quite thick and a bit gritty - like the sugar hadn't quite dissolved all the way.  I tend to like a fluffier buttercream but overall the combination was good. I wiped off a lot of the frosting though as it overwhelmed the cupcake.

The Malted Milkshake Cheesecake: 

The Classy Girl website describes this treat as a milk chocolate cheesecake blended with malt powder.  On top is a chocolate buttercream with a malted milk ball.  I LOVE me some malt.  When I was a kid, I used to drive 6 miles to the ice cream shop that had powdered malt that they would put on top of your ice cream instead of the lame liquid malt that other shops used.  (Note....liquid malt=lame)  The bottom or crust of the cheesecake was brownie - yum!  So I was super psyched to dig into this concoction in hopes of getting a little piece of buttercream, cheesecake and brownie on my mini spoon.  Unfortunately, the spoon pushed the buttecream off in one lump.  Ok - no harm done except that the buttercream couldn't really be cut with the spoon.  So I just took a bite out of that - it was more fudge-like than buttercream but OK.  So then onto the cheesecake part - it was good - definitely chocolatey.  I didn't love it - it was a ricotta based cheesecake and I'm partial to more of a New York style cheesecake where it's mostly cream cheese- or at least you can't notice the grains of the ricotta like you could in this little cheesecake.  But if you like your cheesecake like that, then Classy Girl is the place for you.  Well done on the flavor of this cheesecake though - I'm sorry I wasn't partial to the textures.  

The shop:  

Very cute!  And they had cupcake merch - always a good sign of a devoted cupcake fan.  The cupcake prices are reasonable and the staff was friendly.  Definitely worth a stop if you're in downtown Milwaukee - let me know what other flavors you try!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cupcakery Review! Cupcake in Minneapolis!

I was in Minneapolis less than 20 hours.  Plenty of time for a 1 hour meeting and 1 hour of finding my way to Cupcake which is definitely worth the trip and completely worth fighting the current construction in their neighborhood.  The had at least 24 different cupcake flavors - not counting their Baby Cakes minis. 

 As this was only a few days before Paddy's Day, they were featuring an Irish Car Bomb Cupcake - you can see my recipe below - theirs was seemingly quite similar although I didn't try it.  I had taken a look at their extensive menu before I went.  There website is great and shows pictures of each cupcake but lucky for me, their bakers like to experiment!  If it's not obvious from my last post, I think the best way to consume booze is in cupcake form.  When I saw they had a "Bourbon Butterscotch Chocolate" cupcake, my jaw hit the floor and my mouth started watering.  And I'm so thrilled that I did.  If there was a Guiness World Record for the fastest cupcake consumption, I would definitely have won with the way I inhaled this completely amazing cupcake. Usually, I try to take only one or two bites of a cupcake (girl can not stay curvey on cupcakes alone!) but I couldn't even stop myself.   I'm not even sure I can accurately describe how this cupcake was constructed.  The frosting was amazing - I think it was either a whipped cream of some sort or a light swiss merigue - the key was that the frosting was just barely sweet and the bourbon was just enough to scent the cupcake.  If I had a bowl of this frosting, I would put my face in it.   I hope they keep this one on the menu as it would certainly earn its spot in their top sales category.

A friend I was travelling with ordered a Red Velvet and saved it for her flight home.  She later texted me to let me know that it was the best Red Velvet she's ever had.  Why these people aren't on Cupcake Wars, or in the Cupcake Hall of Fame (I just invented that!) or on the Ellen Show or some other fame creating device is beyond me.  

As a side note, the shop was really cute and the staff quite friendly.  They also have a load of cute vintage themed merchandise, much of which was cupcake related.  They serve regular food too - sandwiches, soups, salads, etc and looks like it would be a great place for lunch or a light dinner.  They have a pretty good selection of freshly baked breads too.  A great all-around bakery with a wonderful cupcake slant.  Stop by (or immediately fly to) Minneopolis to stop by Cupcake!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Irish Stout Cupcake! With whiskey ganache! With Irish Cream frosting! The Trevor Cupcake

I call this one the Trevor Cupcake after my buddy ...Trevor.  (I'm not so good with the clever naming system.)  Trevor is off the proverbial boat from Ireland - I think he actually took a place to get here when he moved to PA in 2008.  He was in the class with me in grad school that inspired me to start baking experiments.  So what does Trevor have to do with cupcakes besides eat them?  Well, when you think of an Irishman, what comes to mind?  Beer?  Guiness perhaps?  Whiskey?  An Irish Cream liquor?  Potatoes?  Sure - but I'm not down with putting potatoes in a cupcake.  So this was one of my first experiments.  Since then, I've heard it called and Irish Car Bomb cupcake, An Irish Stoudt Cupcake, or An Irish Party Cupcake.  There are a ton of variations with this cupcake but the premise of using traditional Irish booze remains the same.  These are great for your Saint Patty's Day celebration!  And sometimes there is leftover booze!  (If you have too much leftover, you might have forgotten your celabratory nip!)  Erin Go Braugh!

Note:  I originally found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen but have since adapted it a little based on my own preference.  The Smitten Kitchen recipe is also GREAT though!

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup stout
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream (full fat is best)
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • For the filling:
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup Bailey's Irish Cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey
  • For the frosting
  • Note: If you want lots of frosting on each cake, go ahead and double this recipe – I did!
  • 3 to 4 cups confections' sugar
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream (or more, to taste) Since I doubled I used about 3tbsp bailey’s and 3 tbsp heavy cream since I had that left over
  • Splash of vanilla & a splash of rum extract– why not?  I live on the edge.

Get ready: pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners.

Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Let cool a bit. I found that putting the pot into a shallow pan of cold water helped the cooling process.

In a separate large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just until combined. WARNING! – if you haven’t let the stoudt cool to a luke-warm it will cook the eggs when you add it here and you don’t want that!

Add the dry mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using a rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.

Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. I found that I had enough batter for EXACTLY 24 cupcakes.  Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly.  Cool 17-20 minutes.  Cool cupcakes completely.

While your cupcakes cool, make the filling!  Chop the chocolate into coarse but roughly even pieces, and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until it is simmering (but not boiling) and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for about a minute and then stir until smooth. If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can put it on a double-boiler or give it 20 seconds in the microwave to help the chocolate get sufficiently melty. And honestly – who uses a double-boiler anymore?!  WTF?!  Add the butter, Irish Cream, and whiskey and stir until combined.  You might need to stick it back in the microwave 10-15 second if the butter doesn’t melt all the way. Take a nip of the whiskey – you’ve got a while to go!

Make space for the filling. The original recipe suggests using an apple corer to cut out a section from your cooled cupcakes to fill, but lacking one I found that the cake is sturdy enough that if you gently cut out a circle using a small, sharp knife, it works just fine.  I used a grapefruit section knife.  You want to cut halfway to 2/3 of the way down. 

Fill the cupcakes. NOTE:  I like to do this when the filling has thickened a little – about 15-30 min in the fridge will help – stir it every 10 min.  You can pipe in the filling, or if it is still pretty smooth and fluid, you can just spoon it in.  I “piped” it by putting the filling in a ziplock bag and cutting the corner.

Make the frosting. In an electric mixer, mix the butter on medium speed until it is very fluffy. Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the confectioners' sugar, starting with a few tablespoons at a time of your sugar until the frosting looks thick enough to spread.  At this point, add in the Irish Cream/heavy cream and vanilla and whip it until combined. Beat in as much or as little of the remaining confectioners' sugar until the frosting has reached your desired consistency.  Since this is essentially a basic buttercream, here are my tips for a great buttercream:  This is best done on a stand mixer!  If your mixer has a glass or metal bowl, fill the bowl with HOT water from the tap and let sit for a few minutes to warm up the bowl, drain the water and dry the bowl and immediately add your butter while the bowl is still warm  - this will help your butter get fluffy faster without having to microwave the butter first.  If you’re spreading the frosting with a knife you might want it a little thinner.  If you’re going to pipe or decorate with a pastry bag I say go a little thicker.  I also thought about adding some orange zest at this point – I think that would go well – maybe will give it a shot next time.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sweet St. Patty's Day Shamrock Shake Cake

If you’re single and made it through Saint Valentine’s Day without slitting your wrists, I’m sure you’re looking forward to a more social holiday – Saint Patrick’s DAY!  Wahoo!  This month for me started out in Ireland and to continue celebrating my Irish heritage, I thought I’d devote this post to one of my favorite treats from this time of year:  The Shamrock Shake.  Since I don’t ever eat anything from the likes of a McDonald’s, it’s hard for me to look forward to something so delicious at a place that serves filler and chemicals and calls it food.  Since a SMALL Shamrock Shake is well over 500 calories (EEEK!!!), this is a treat that I get once a year at best – but really only once every two years since I  will only drink half.  YUM.  

The thing about the shamrock shake is that it has a sweet yet minty flavor combined with the fat in ice cream that makes everything better.  So if fat+mint+sugar=everything better, then what would we need to add to make everything better=everything awesome.  There is one clear answer – chocolate cake.  So I whipped up my standard chocolate cake in two 9in round pans. (recipe below)   I like this recipe because it turns out really moist with a deep flavor.  I used to omit the coffee and just use water but I think the coffee really does add an interesting note to the flavor – you can also use a flavored coffee for a slight change.  Anywho, while the cake’s a-bakin it’s time to make a minty green frosting. 

I used a standard buttercream frosting with about 2 tsp of peppermint extract and a smidge of green food color.  Then I chopped up some bittersweet chocolate for the chips in the frosting.  The only issue with this frosting is that the chips make it almost impossible to pipe.  The only way to really do it is to put it in a piping bag without a tip.  When in doubt, you can always pipe a dot border.  Mmmmm…minty green frosting dots. 

The cake turned out looking good and the frosting went way beyond my love of shamrock shakes – there are no bittersweet chips in the shake – take that McD’s!  Nor are there jimmies - I added the jimmies for dramatic effect - I think I got it.


2 c. sugar

1 3/4 c. flour

3/4 c. cocoa – dark cocoa is better if you can find it

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 eggs

1 c. black coffee

1 c. buttermilk

1/2 c. vegetable oil

1 tsp. vanilla

Combine first 6 ingredients and set aside.

 In large bowl combine all other ingredients, mix. Add flour mixture a bit at a time until just combined, batter will be thin.

Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into greased and floured 9 x 13 inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Broad Abroad

Sometimes you have to see the good in things that seem like a pain in the ass.  For example, sleepless nights at far away hotels and time spent racing through or waiting in airports means  a magical treat:  Frequent Flyer Miles!  YESS!!!!  All the work trips are worth it when you finally cash in your miles for a free vacation flight somewhere and this time it was Dublin!  So among all the sites:  Christ Church, Glasnevin Cemetery, and the Guiness Factory, I managed to suss out the really important details of the local landscape and culture like the best bakery in town. 

I researched where to go in advance but was unsuccessful in finding some of the places that Google told me about.  I managed to ask the locals who directed me to a shop cleverly named "The Bakery".  I usually just look for a cupcake shop but this place seemed too good to pass up.  Other reviews claim that it's good for a quick sandwich or soup or snack.  But I'm on a mission for cupcakes. 

The Bakery is in Temple Bar - a touristy area also frequented by locals for its many shops, restaurants and trendy bars.  I found it on one attempt on a Sunday but it was closed - I couldn't find the hours posted on the door so we tried again on Monday.  Finally at about 4:10 we popped in and they had quite a few cupcakes left so I got a vanilla.  They had some standard flavors, nothing exciting or original so I went with something simple.    It was AWESOME!  The cake was moist but had a small cell structure.  The frosting was good but a kindof unoriginal buttercream although they added some white (and pink) chocolate shavings in the middle which brightened up the frosting texture but didn't add much in the way of flavor.  I would have liked a fluffier frosting but that's how buttercream rolls - sometimes it's just too think.  Still yummy and I actually ate the whole thing.  I'd give The Bakery 3.5 stars out of 5 on my arbitrary scale.  It was a solid cupcake with good flavor but they lacked imagination in cupcake types - maybe because they aren't cupcake exclusive?  And the buttercream could have been lighter - again -maybe because they make so many other things.  

Either way - The Bakery is worth a stop if you're in Dublin!  They had all sorts of treats that might hit the spot for you when you're there!

Here's my cupcake experience: