Posts Tagged ‘Cakes and Cupcakes’

I know a lot of people rave about their KitchenAid mixers.  I like mine.  It’s useful.  But I don’t want to marry it.  My kitchen isn’t that big so it can’t just sit on the counter, and sometimes it feels like pulling it down from the top of the fridge is more work than just stirring the batter by hand.

So, here is a super delicious dessert that requires no mixer.  It’s good.  Really good.  The recipe itself is really basic and perfect as is, but would probably also be lovely with some cinnamon added, or maybe even some minced fresh rosemary.

Buttery Apple Cake
Recipe by Martha Stewart

Vegetable-oil cooking spray
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a box grater (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Heavy cream, for serving (optional, I skipped it and instead went for a dusting of confectioners’ sugar)

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 325. Coat an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray; dust with flour, tapping out excess. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread apples in pan; set aside.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, oil, and eggs in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour over apples. Bake until set and pale golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Make the topping: Stir together butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a small bowl. Remove cake from oven, and pour topping over cake.

Bake another 25 minutes until golden brown.  Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.  Remove sides of pan, and transfer cake to a serving plate.

Serve slices drizzled with cream or a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

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I love limoncello.  It’s one of my favorite adult beverages.  I haven’t tried to make my own yet, but it’s on my cooking bucket list.  Until then, I will just have to buy the bottles of stuff to drink straight or add to these cupcakes.

I think this recipe might have originated with Martha Stewart, though I might be mistaken.  In any event, there’s several iterations of it floating around the internet, though I followed the instructions from Brown Eyed Baker, who got hers from Tartelette.  Their recipes involved making a lemon curd and filling the cupcakes with that, but I wasn’t that ambitious.  I figured the cupcake and frosting was enough of a project for a Saturday afternoon. 

 I loved the frosting.  The cupcakes were good, though they were a little dense for my liking.  Despite the cupcakes’ flaws, they were a perfect base for the delicious frosting, which I wanted to eat with a spoon.  

I had visions of piping beautiful swirls of frosting onto the cupcakes, but after an epic battle with my pastry bag, I remembered that I don’t have any hand-eye coordination.  I wound up making a huge mess and had no lovely swirls. 

Thankfully, colored sugar sprinkles can really make non-artistic white blobs look quite sparkly and cute.   Woot!

Limoncello Cupcakes

Yield: 1 dozen


For the cupcakes
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons limoncello
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

For the cream cheese limoncello frosting
2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon limoncello
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center. 

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.   Slowly add in the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each.    Add the limoncello and beat an additional minute. 

Reduce the speed to low, and slowly add in the flour and milk.  Alternate each, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Finally, add the lemon juice and zest and mix on low speed just until incorporated. 

Divide the batter between 12 muffin tins.  They should be filled almost to the top.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.

Cool them completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the limoncello and beat for an additional minute.  Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat until fully incorporated and smooth.

The lemon flavor in the cupcakes will be subtle, so I think next time I might double the lemon zest.  But, they are a lovely spring or summer dessert – particularly because the frosting is so creamy and tangy.  We had them for dessert after my friends’ amazing home cooked Indian feast, though I think they’d be great for just about any occassion.

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I wanted to make a cranberry dessert for a Thanksgiving potluck.  Martha Stewart had this recipe for a New England Cranberry Duff.

I am from New England and have never heard of a duff before.  After playing around with The Google and learning way more about this dude than I have ever cared to know, I learned that it’s usually made with plums, and better known as plum pudding.

Also, it looks nothing like this recipe.

So between Martha’s screw up, and my changes, I’m calling it a snack cake.  A very delicious, buttery, fruity snack cake.

And if it’s not cranberry season, I think this would be excellent with fresh berries.

Cranberry Snack Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
1 12 ounce bag of cranberries
1/2 cup ground almonds
2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, being careful not to brown., and set aside to cool slightly.

Line a 9X13 glass baking dish with parchment paper and generously butter it, using about 4 tablespoons of the butter.  You don’t want this to stick, so just spread it thick.   Then, pour the cranberries evenly over bottom of dish.

Sprinkle the ground almonds and 2/3 cup of sugar on top and set aside.

 Mix the eggs, the remaining white sugar, and the brown sugar in a bowl, until thoroughly combined and thick.  Add the vanilla extract.  Gradually stir in the flour and salt.

Add the melted butter to the mixture slowly, stirring until smooth.

Slowly pour batter into pan to cover cranberries, making sure that they stay spread out evenly.   Bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge to loosen, and invert to unmold.  It will be somewhat upside down cake like, so you want to flip it so the cranberries are on top.

I sliced mine into 28 wedges, which made for a perfect size for a party with lots of desserts.  If this was the only dessert you were serving, you would probably want to cut bigger slices.  You can serve it warm or at room temperature, with forks or without. 

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I should have known from the moment I saw these in the February 2009 Martha Stewart Living, that they would be another labor of love.  But I’m a sucker for pretty foods and I didn’t listen to the little voice in my head telling me that my cupcakes would never be as gorgeous as Martha’s.

After a few ugly cupcakes and some internet consultations, I figured out the trick to making the pools of jam to look almost as nice as those of the domestic goddess.  Hopefully, my tricks will help you out should you dare to attempt them.

I made a couple substitutions from the original recipe, namely, replacing the chocolate cookie crust with a gingersnap one.  Chocolate just didn’t sound right to me with a springy, apricot dessert.  If you wanted to do chocolate, then I think a berry jam would go better.  Of course, I happen to think apricot really is the only jam worth making this with.  Red jam wouldn’t look like anything, and I love how these look like eggs or suns.

Finally, the recipe says it makes 18, but I think it’s really a 14-16 cupcake recipe.  The crust recipe was a little short, and I had to grind more cookies up.  Then, I filled the tins, but couldn’t get to the top and they didn’t rise up.  They were a little bit flat.  So, I’ll probably do 15 next time.

Mini Cheesecakes with Apricot Jam


3/4 cup crumbled chocolate-wafer cookies (about 18 cookies)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 pound cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sour cream  (I used nonfat plain yogurt)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup apricot jam (at least, I probably used about 3/4 cup)

I also added a teaspoon of lemon zest.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Mix cookies and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar in a bowl. Stir in butter. Press 1 tablespoon of mixture in bottom of each cup. Bake until set, about 7 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks.

Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees.  Beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until smooth.  Add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, then vanilla and lemon zest, if you are using it.  With mixer running, add eggs slowly, scraping down side of bowl.  Add sour cream (or yogurt) and salt.  Pour batter into muffin cups, filling almost to the tops.

Bake until sides are set but centers are wobbly, about 20 minutes.  Let cool in tins on wire racks.  Wrap tins tightly with plastic, and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Now, this is where things get tricky.  My cheesecakes were not wobbly, they were firm and slightly domed.  To make the pools, here’s what I did. 

First, I lightly etched circles in each of the cupcakes using the tip of a grapefruit spoon.  You could use a knife or whatever you’ve got.  I recommend the grapefruit spoon if you have one, since it’s sharp, it will scoop better than a knife will, and it’s a little smaller than a spoon.  

After etching the circles, I wiped the spoon clean, and heated it over a flame (just turned on a burner on my gas stove top).  When it was still very hot, I carefully cut away the circles.  It’s important that the spoon or knife that you use is hot, because that helps melt the cheesecake and you get a neater hole.  You’ll have to wipe the spoon off and reheat every cupcake or two.  You also may have to go back over the holes with a warmed spoon to smooth out the edges a little.

Warm the jam in a small saucepan until liquidy.  Strain through a sieve.  Spoon 1 teaspoon jam on top of each cake.   It’s really much easier to do this while the jam is warm because it will firm up again as it cools, so you may  have to reheat in the middle of the process.

The good news is that the jam pools do firm up, so these are fairly portable.  I carried mine in tupperware about 12 blocks and they were still pretty looking upon arrival.

The recipe says that the cheesecakes will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.  While this is probably true, the leftover ones were looking not so pretty after about 24 hours.  So, don’t make the jam pools until the day you want to impress people with them.


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I first found this recipe on the food blog Smitten Kitten and was so intrigued, I had to try it. It uses the entire clementine – rind, pith, and flesh – and it uses no butter or flour. So, you can make this for your gluten-free friends.

The original recipe is by Nigella Lawson of the Food Network, and is supposed to be a cake, but I thought cupcakes would be fun for my book club meeting. The comments on the Food Network site were a little all over the map on this one, but I managed to get some good advice from them.

First, keep in mind that this is not a particularly sweet cake. The rind makes it somewhat bitter, so it doesn’t taste like a typical dessert. A five year old is not going to want this for their birthday. Second, the fruit you choose is very important. If the rind or pith are too thick, it will be too bitter. Clementines are really the ideal fruit to use, since the rind is so thin. Nigella suggests doing this with regular oranges and lemons, but increasing the sugar. You can always taste the batter before you pop it in to the oven to add a little more sugar if you need to. Finally, while the original recipe does not call for vanilla, I think it adds a nice flavor to the cupcakes, and I’d recommend using it.

I also made a little orange-vanilla glaze for them, though the recipe says you can eat the cake without it (and would be delicious plain, particuarly as a nice cake for a brunch).

This recipe makes 1 8 inch cake or about 20 cupcakes.


For the cupcakes
4 to 5 clementines (about 1 pound total weight)
6 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups ground almonds
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

For the glaze
One orange, zested and juiced
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 pod from the vanilla bean (optional)


Put the clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 hours. I had to add extra water at about the one hour mark, since a lot had boiled off.

If you are using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the pod, and pulse in a food processor with the sugar.

If you are planning on making a glaze, put the pod in with a cup of confectioner’s sugar, and let sit until you are ready to make the glaze.

Drain and cool the clementines. Cut each clementine in half and remove the seeds.

Puree the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor until very smooth.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line the cupcake tins with cupcake wrappers, or butter and line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Mix the sugar, ground almonds, and baking powder.

Beat the eggs. Stir in the pureed clementines. If you are using vanilla extract instead of a bean, I would add it here.

Slowly pour the dry mix into the wet mix and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan or tin. I baked the cupcakes for 20 minutes. If you are making a cake, Nigella says to bake for 1 hour, covering with foil after about 40 minutes.

Let the finished cupcakes or cake cool on a rack. The cakes will keep for at least several days, and in fact, the flavor will improve over a day or two, so feel free to make in advance.

To make the glaze

Take the powdered sugar and slowly add in the orange juice, a teaspoon or so at a time. Add a pinch or two of finely zested peel. Whisk until incorporated, and add more juice as necessary. You want the glaze to be thick, about the consistency of glue. If you put a drop on the cake and it runs too much, just add a bit more sugar to thicken it up and try again.

Do not add the glaze until you are ready to eat the cake. After it’s been on the cake for 12 hours or so, it will start to absorb into the cake. While it’ll still taste good, it will look weird.

To frost, just take a small spoonful and drop it on each cupcake. It should spread out a little without too much running or dripping.

And that’s it.

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This delicious little cake from Gourmet, via Epicurious, has been all the rage on the food blogs lately, it seems. It sounded so good, and I thought it would be a wonderful Christmas morning breakfast. Unfortunately, as I discovered earlier this fall, cranberries are in short supply out on the west coast. After checking at several stores, all of whom said that they stop carrying cranberries in November, I found a small, overpriced pint of them at the fabulous Ferry Building on Christmas Eve. They were $6, but I didn’t care. Cranberry vanilla coffee cake would be mine.

The recipe is easy and absolutely delicious. It’s not too sweet and it smells heavenly.
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (6 ounces)
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
Note: I actually used an addition splash of milk…probably about 2 tablespoons worth. The batter seemed incredibly sticky and it just wasnt’ absorbing all the dry mixture. You may find you need to do the same. Also, while the recipe calls for a 9 by 2 cake pan, I think I will do this in a spring form pan the next time I make it. It would probably make the cake easier to remove.
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.
Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a food processor with tip of a paring knife (reserve pod for another use if desired). Add sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl.
Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not purée).
Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.
Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined.
Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Top with remaining batter and smooth top. This was the trickiest part because the batter is thick and hard to spread. I just dollopped it on in small spoonfuls all over the cranberries and gently spread the dollops together with a spoon.
Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining tablespoon each of butter and flour using your fingertips. Crumble over top of cake.
Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, crumb side up.

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These cupcakes were so good. They are pure Martha Magic. They are not too sweet and incredibly moist. They taste like apple cider. The buttercream works perfectly with them, though they would probably be good on their own with just a dusting of powdered sugar.
To Make the Cupcakes

Makes 2 Dozen
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups coarsely shredded apples, such as Macintosh (about 1 3/4 pounds)
I highly recommend shredding the apples first, then cleaning up before you do anything else. I shredded them while the butter and sugar were mixing and my kitchen looked like an orchard threw up on it. Even though I shredded the apples in my Cuisinart, the sticky juice and stray apple shreds got everywhere. While it won’t affect the cupcakes, its better for your sanity.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; mix in apples.

Add flour mixture; mix, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until just combined.

Divide batter among lined cups, filling halfway; bake until tops are springy to the touch, 18 to 20 minutes. Actually, I filled mine more than halfway, but they still came out normal height. Maybe my muffin pans are smaller than Martha’s. I’m not really sure.
Remove cupcakes from tins; transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

To Make the Buttercream
Makes about 4 cups
4 large egg whites
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons

In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water, whisk together egg whites, sugar, and salt. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.

Transfer to the clean bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and cooled, about 15 minutes. Raise speed to high; beat until stiff peaks form.

Reduce speed to medium-low; add butter, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, until fully incorporated.
This is where I started having problems. I’ve never made buttercream before, so I didn’t realize how tempermental it could be. I learned after the fact that you can overwhip it, causing it to overheat and separate. Apparently if this happens, you can chill it and try rewhipping it. I didn’t do this, because it tasted fine. It just was slightly lumpy and not as smooth and pretty as Martha’s.

If you see lumps, it is not butter that hasn’t been fully incorporated. So stop whipping.
In any event, it still tasted fine, so I frosted the cupcakes. And to try to disguise the lumpy frosting, I sprinkled some pretty fall colored sugar on them. I definitely recommend storing these in the fridge because the frosting won’t really hold up otherwise. You can let them come to room temperature before eating them though.

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