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magnoliaredvelvetcupcakesif you asked me to pick a dessert i couldn’t live without, it would be cookies. cakes i could throw by the wayside, i love ice cream but could 100% live without it, and brownies, well – love them, but overall, they rate MEH in my book. but cookies, i can’t live without. that is, until i think of cupcakes. see, cupcakes are the best of both worlds: batter AND frosting. there’s something about a perfect cupcake, the combination of fluffy cake and light, airy icing, that just makes for magic inside the mouth.

such is certainly the case with these red velvet cupcakes. they’re from allysa torey’s more from magnolia book, which i “borrowed” from my friend katie two years ago and never returned. torey’s red velvet recipe is my favorite, and though she generally serves hers with vanilla buttercream, i opted to go more traditional, and topped my cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, because, well, cream cheese and red velvet go together like peanut butter and jelly.

for the cupcakes, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising, that’s different! i buy swan’s down, it comes in a happy red box)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons red food coloring (or, if you opt for gel, simply squirt ’til the dough is bright red – that’s how i roll)
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

here’s what you’ll do: 

first things first. preheat your oven to 350, and prep your muffin tins. i like to use foil wrappers, but you could use pretty paper ones if your heart desires.

in a small bowl, sift your cake flour and set aside. {sidenote: i never sift anything. i don’t even own a sifter. but you should do this, because it’s what allysa torey does} next, combine the butter and sugar in a large stand mixer (or large bowl, if you don’t have a kitchenaid) until light and fluffy. that should be approximately 3-5 minutes on medium. add your eggs, one at a time, and beat in.

in an even smaller bowl than your small bowl, whisk (literally, use a whisk) together your red food coloring, cocoa powder, and vanilla. {sidenote: if you’re using gel food coloring, like i do, this won’t mix as nicely as you’d like since there’s less liquid in gel than there is in, well, liquid. feel free to add a tiny bit of water to move things along}

add your red chocolate mixture to the batter, and beat well. at this time, you can add more food coloring to your batter if it’s not red enough. gel’s a bit hard to measure, so you basically just need to keep adding color until you’ve got the shade of your dreams.

pour your buttermilk into a measuring cup, and stir the salt into it. add your buttermilk in three parts, alternating with the flour. every time you add something, beat until incorporated, but don’t over-beat!

now, for the fun, science-experiment part of the day. in yet another small bowl, stir together your cider vinegar and baking soda. watch as it fizzes up, just like those “volcanoes” you made in 6th grade. WHEEE! what fun, right?

using a rubber spatula, scrape down your batter into the bowl, and ensure that all ingredients have been evenly mixed in. you’ll often find a bit of stubborn, unmixed butter at the bottom of the bowl, so be sure to check for that.

fill your muffin cups 2/3s of the way full. bake for approximately 20-30 minutes (it really depends on your oven, but keep an eye on your ‘cakes after 20), until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

when they’re done, let the cupcakes cool in their tins for about 5 or so minutes, then remove and place on a cooling rack and let ’em chill. go watch an episode of SVU, or house hunters.

then come back and make your frosting.

what you’ll need:

  • 2 8oz packages of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 stick of butter at room temperature
  • 1.5 cups of powdered sugar

what you’ll do:

basically, you’re just mixing all that goodness up in your kitchenaid. start with the cream cheese and the butter, add the vanilla, and then the sugar. beat until smooth. i usually beat mine at least 5 minutes, so that’s saying something. also, feel free to add more confectioner’s sugar if the frosting seems too watery. powdered sugar basically evaporates into the universe when you mix it into anything, so you really can never have too much of the stuff. i’ve added an entire box at times (SUGAR HIGH). just keep your eyes peeled, essentially, and don’t be afraid to taste test for consistency’s sake.

once your cupcakes are cooled, spread your frosting onto those babies, swirl your spoon around the top to make that little “magnolia dent” the bakery is so famous for, and eat! or dole out to coworkers, as i do. or, if you’re a person with a big heart and a big sweet tooth, do both (okay, that’s what i do).

 

 

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funfetti-caketoday is my birthday.* i am 28 years old. god, i can’t believe i just wrote that sentence. i’m tossing it around in my mouth, running the words from teeth to tongue, and damn, I AM OLD. when did this happen? i mean, i was always somewhat of an old soul, even as a child, but still. i’m on the precipice of turning 30. THIRTY, people. god help me, really.

excuse me while i go eat a giant piece of cake.

* i’m celebrating by taking a soul cycle class with my favorite instructor, isabel, at 8:30 tonight with all of my girlfriends – even a few who are total soul cycle newbies. i can’t wait to sweat it out with all my favorites, and then eat a cupcake afterwards. it evens out, right?

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have i told you guys that my feet (well, really just my left one) are falling apart? they are. i broke my sesamoid (a teeny, tiny little bone in the bottom of your foot bed) earlier this year, and spent 6 weeks in a hideous grandma-style orthopedic shoe/boot/sandal hybrid that pretty much resembled the tevas i used to wear at camp…on crack. and my foot got a little bit better, but not much. i then dropped $500 on custom orthotics (ouch, credit card bill), only to find that they didn’t make much of a difference, and they only fit in my sneakers. which would be fine, except that i hate sneakers. see, i’m about as un-athletic as they come, despite my love for bar method and recent affinity for soul cycle. i legitimately did not own real sneakers (besides rainbow sequin converse…) until i hurt my foot. and then i went out and bought a neon pair of nikes. and while i like them, i guess (they’re okay, for sneakers), i don’t love them. i don’t want to wear them. i don’t enjoy looking at them in my closet, nor on my feet.

but you know what i would enjoy looking at on my feet? these babies by new balance. they’re from the retailer’s collaboration with heidi klum (random), and are pretty much as cool as i think sneakers could get in my book. black, gold and coral? SIGN ME UP. and for less than $90 buckaroos, these have “birthday gift to myself” written all over them.

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red velvet cupcakes with gold sugar sprinkles

what did you do on MLK day? instead of going out and giving  back to my community like i should have, i went to bar method and then spent the afternoon crafting red velvet birthday cupcakes for my dear friend bruce. i feel slightly guilty about this, but i’d like to think that the hours i spent cleaning caked cat pee off of the crates at petco sufficed as my volunteer commitment for the weekend (i volunteer with a no kill cat rescue called kitty kind. they are wonderful, the cats are adorable, and i don’t even mind the pee).

so let’s talk red velvet. red velvet is one of those cupcake flavors that hit its heyday when cupcakes became a “thing.” you know, when magnolia and buttercup and baked by melissa and butter lane and sprinkles and the 9 million other scenester cupcake places opened. back in the day, people made chocolate and vanilla and they were satisfied with that. but then the fancy schmancy cupcake places came along, and lord, am i glad they did. otherwise, i’d never have learned of such wonders as chai cupcakes (holy food orgasm) and red velvet cakes (holy melt in your mouth amazing).

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doling out batter. kind of looks like little red turds, no?

red velvet’s funny, mostly because people seem to automatically assume that the red coloring corresponds with a ‘red’ flavor, such as cherry, strawberry, or watermelon. this isn’t the case. in fact, red velvet cupcakes are flavored with a hint of cocoa and a splash of cider vinegar; this is what gives them the sweet but ever so slightly tangy taste they’re known for. of course, there’s lots of red food coloring. i’m partial to this one, which i buy at ny cake (if you don’t live in NYC, ny cake ships!). gel food coloring is great, because it means you’re not pouring three bottles of chemicals into your cupcakes.

not that i poured three bottles into mine – i probably used about half the amount of food coloring recommended in the recipe because i was using gel instead of liquid.

so, want to make these babies for yourself? you do, they’re good. really, really good.  unless my taste buds and my friends lied to me, in which case, taste buds, i’m sorry, friends, go find your own cupcakes.

The Recipe (from the More from Magnolia cookbook) 

3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising!)

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 cups white sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature

6 tablespoons liquid food coloring (use only 3 if you’re using gel color)

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

to make, preheat your oven to 350, and line 2 cupcake pans (24 cupcakes total)

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mixing up the butter and sugar…heavenly.

to make the batter, sift the cake flour into a small bowl and set aside. in your stand mixer (or a large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy – this should take about five minutes. once light and fluffy has been achieved, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

next, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa and vanilla. if you’re using gel food coloring, it’s okay to add a few droplets of water to thin the mixture out a  bit (i didn’t have to, but you never know). add the red chocolate mixture to the butter/sugar/eggs mixture, and beat well. now the fun comes – your batter will start to turn a brilliant pinky red. BEAUTIFUL!

now, pour your buttermilk into a glass measuring cup, and stir the salt into the buttermilk. add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the cake flour. beat until the ingredients are just incorporated, but don’t overbeat.

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painting the town red with chocolate, vanilla extract, and red gel food coloring

in a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. it’ll fizz up like a second grade science project! volcano cupcakes! just kidding.

add the cider/baking soda mixture to the batter and mix well. use a rubber spatula to scrape down all the edges, and make sure the batter is smooth throughout.

divide your batter into the prepared cupcake pans – fill each cupcake liner 3/4 of the way full (don’t overfill or your cupcakes will overflow. trust me. been there, done that).

arrange the pans in the upper and lower thirds of your oven and bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, switching the pans halfway through. use a toothpick to make sure the cupcakes are done – you want it to come out clean; a goopy toothpick means that shit ain’t done!

cool cupcakes in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a rack before icing.

which brings me to the best part: FROSTING. i like cream cheese frosting for red velvet, but vanilla buttercream would be delish as well.

cream cheese frosting is the easiest in the world to make – which is part of why i love it.

Ingredients

2 oz. packages of cream cheese, left to sit out for a bit so they soften slightly

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract ( i used about 2 1/2 cause i loooove me some vanilla extract)

5 cups sifted confectioners sugar

to make, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed in your stand mixer for about 3 minutes, or until smooth. add the vanilla and beat well. gradually beat in the sugar, 1 cup at a time, until smooth and creamy. cover and refrigerate for a bit to thicken – or spread as is if you’re happy with the consistency as it stands.

i added gold sprinkles on top of mine because i’m fancy like that – but any toppings will do. sprinkles just make everything nicer, if you ask me. but these babies are so delicious they’d be fine with frosting and nothing else.

now, go forth and eat!

Imageyesterday was my birthday. i turned 27, an age i used to think i’d never reach. i remember when i entered high school, a shy, chubby, unstylish freshman who thought the seniors were absolutely, unequivocally the coolest people to ever walk the earth. i thought seventeen was the age when dreams came true. when you magically matured into a confident, beautiful, interesting, funny individual who hadn’t a care in world.

of course, it’s never that simple – but now that i’m a full ten years past my supposedly golden age, i have to admit i feel a bit disappointed. it’s silly, isn’t it? we’re never as far along as we wish we were, never as good enough as we hope to be. around me, as friends get engaged and high school acquaintances pop out babies, i look around and i wonder, do i have enough? am i enough? am i doing enough? yesterday, i woke up and i thought to myself, “27. and what do i have to show for it?” and the truth is, i have a lot to show for it. i live in new york city, which is a feat in and of itself – this place is wonderful but everyone knows it knocks you down on a near daily basis. i have a great job at a great advertising agency, and my job title is exactly what i hoped it would be when i moved to new york in the first place (and it took me four years of sweat and many a tear to get here). i have an apartment that feels solidly mine and at last 85% like home. i can count my best friends in the world on one hand – people i’d go to the end of the earth for, and those i know would do the same for me. i have a cat i am 110% obsessed with (cat ladies unite!). i have a family i wouldn’t trade for the world – a sister who simultaneously looks up to me and offers some of the best advice a girl can get, plus two mothers who have fought battles both for myself and for our family to be recognized. Image

and yet? sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. and i hate myself for writing this, i really, truly do – but sometimes, i just wish i too had a serious boyfriend, or was engaged, or was married. most days, i’m just fine with who i am and where i’m at, but somehow, birthdays always bring it out in me – that drumming sense of “you’re not enough. you’re not where you want to be yet. you’re here and what have you done?” add on top of that the fact that i adore birthdays and always have such ridiculously high hopes for mine to be the best day of the year (and consequently, am always let down, my own fault), and somehow, the day never stacks up as i want it to, and i always go to bed feeling disappointed that yet another has gone by and i’m still the same.

last year, i baked my own birthday cake, because no one had done any dessert-related thing for me at my dinner the night before, and i wanted a cake. let me tell you, i’ve never felt more pathetic in my life. until yesterday, when my office completely neglected to do anything (my previous job went all out for birthdays; i was the resident cake baker for our team), and i seriously contemplated buying my own damn cupcakes just so i wouldn’t consider the day a wash. and admittedly, i was sad yesterday – until a wonderful friend went out and bought a cupcake for us to eat, making the whole day about a zillion times better.

this post is really just a long ramble that probably feels like i’ve thrown myself a pity party complete with balloons (hey, there have to be balloons at any good party), and for the two people actually reading this, i apologize. the reality is this: should i be less into my birthday and expect less? of course. but you know what? i’ve gone 27 years believing birthdays are important and attempting to make my loved ones’ birthdays the best they can be, and goddammit, i’m  not giving up on the birthday dream! and when i have children, you better believe their parties will be special and their cakes delicious. and when i move up the ladder and have people working under me, i’ll schedule team lunches and get special cupcakes and leave flowers at their desk the morning of – because we only get one day a year that’s all about celebrating the fact that we’re still here, we’ve made it, and we woke up today with a smile on our face. and that’s a pretty special thing.

and you know what else? i’m 27, and i do have a lot to show for it. and when i forget that, i’ll look back on this post and be reminded that my life is pretty great. and when all else fails, i always have my cat.