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Adventures in Baking part two - the best cupcake?

currently: watching Cupcake Wars. Fitting for this post.

[read part one here]

I believe cupcakes are a gift to fix world problems.
This is for the following reasons:
1) They are like cakes. And everyone likes cake.
2) They are a miniature version of cake. And people find miniature stuff adorable.
3) They taste delicious. And delicious food makes people happy.

So for a week during work, I looked forward to my final break of the day where I would indulge in a delicious iced cupcake. Eight hours of work goes faster when you have something to look forward to. It was also nice to end a couple of my working days with me and Boyfriend sharing my cupcakes as we walked to the bus stop.

My "Quest for the ultimate cupcake" was to attempt to bake different cupcake recipes till I could find something close to delicious as the SPCA cupcakes that I had tasted. This was because my original plan had failed.

My wonderful friend Monique is a fantastic baker. Or maybe I can call her a certified p√Ętissier now since she's finished her year studying. Either way, she had access to the recipe I was looking for.

It was her p√Ętisserie class that took part to make hundreds of cupcakes for SPCA's Cupcake Day. Specifically, this chocolate cupcake:

Moist, soft, chocolately....This was the oh so delicious cupcake I desired to make. And so when she offered to get me the recipe, I was ecstatic.

But then...

Monique's lecturer had failed to remember to give her the recipe. So to stop the risk of looking a bit loony and obsessed over this one cupcake recipe, I made my first batch of vanilla cupcakes; the recipe from our kitchen calendar.

The next day, Monique Facebooked me the "Chocolate Awesome Cupcake" recipe. She had finally got it.

I think I benefited from not diving straight into the chocolate cupcakes as it gave some practice and some learning experience. For one I knew not to overbeat the mixture, and the process of mixing wets and drys separately first. But of course, there was still much to learn.

It was the week before Christmas, and the buttermilk my mum got for me to use in the recipe was close to expiration. I hadn't had spare time earlier as I was busy with Christmas preparations, and most days after work you just don't feel like doing anything (a habit I need to break). But I chose that day to finally take the whisk and go for it.

I followed the brief but precise recipe as it said, being as accurate as I possibly could. But straight away, I made errors.
Apparently, I had been told before (but never remembered) that in baking, you are meant to use certain types of sugar. There's white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, and caster sugar; and in baking, caster sugar is what you are meant to use.
I however did not think of this. Sugar to me was whatever was labelled "sugar" which in our house was the packet of white sugar in our pantry. I was halfway through measuring and sifting all the dry ingredients when my mum came in and suggested I double the recipe (to use up most of the buttermilk). So when I went to grab the white sugar, she questioned what I was doing. Confused, I said I was getting the sugar as the recipe said. She then went to correct me that white sugar is not baking sugar. I then realised why I had found it so difficult to get the white sugar to sift...

I don't know if white sugar makes a massive difference (other than through the process of sifting), but I continued on, since the white sugar was mixed in with the flour. The other half of the sugar in the doubled recipe correctly used the caster sugar. Close enough.

I began to combine all the wet ingredients together. It's a bit different to the vanilla cupcakes I had made earlier as that recipe used butter, and this one oil. The buttermilk was slightly chunky-like when I poured it in, and I not so elegantly put the eggs in the mix. The recipe also asked for a bit of instant coffee which at my mum's advice, I mixed in with hot water before mixing it with the oil and buttermilk. I was slightly confused, and grossed out, when this final "wet mix" result appeared.

The oil was not mixing into anything and the egg hung off the whisk like... well like snot to put it plainly.

"I don't know if this is right," I told my mum, "but I'm just gonna hope it cooks a lot better than it looks right now."

Well I didn't need to jump to conclusions about my baking. Because once I put the wet and dry mix together, it began to look like decent cupcake mixture. Maybe a bit runny, but maybe it was suppose to be like that.

Finally, after making sure I didn't overmix, it came to putting the mixture into the cups. I don't know what's with me and having cupcake mixtures close to overflowing too, but I seem to always end up with almost "too much" mixture. Mum suggests that cupcakes should be filled two thirds of the cupcake. I don't know how I do it, because I use the same amount in the ice cream scoop to fill the cups, but I had cups that only left 1/5th of growing room. Which made some of my cupcakes grow and spill over the top a bit.

But thankfully, most of them turned out perfectly. Some obviously got a lot more heat than others, but they looked so nice all cooling. 24 chocolate cupcakes. The cutest things ever.

And when I finally dared to open one up and try one...
It was delicious. Not perfect because I feel mine were not as chocolately as the one I had, but they were moist, delicate, and just tasty, which made me surprised in myself. Maybe there is a chance for me to be domesticated after all!

I did very little to decorate it this time. Mainly because my mum said I could use these "icing pens" or something, where premade icing in these little paint-like tubes can help you write and draw stuff in icing. So with leftover icing that my mum made for my sister's birthday cake, I simply decorated four cupcakes for friends I was visiting that week. Each one had a little Smarties on top (they're like M&Ms).
Unfortunately my drawing skills with icing are not fantastic. The blue one was meant to be a flower but after seeing the failure it was becoming, I turned it into a butterfly. And then I ran out of ideas for shapes so I made the green one into a 'splat' like it was a squished spider or something. I don't know why the blue icing looked so runny, but I couldn't really salvage it.

Since it was close to Christmas, I gifted those four cupcakes in small cupcake-sized boxes (the design which I found off the net but cannot remember where from...). My mum was even nice enough to cut up some gold card (leftover from a fancy chocolate box - thumbs up for recycling!) and lined the bottom of the boxes so they weren't weak.
I chose the red paper since it looked "Christmas-y", then decorated with black ribbon so it stayed closed and looked presentable (which you can see in the very first image of this post.)

I like to think that when I gave it to them, the wrapping made the present look better and possibly taste better than it did. My one friend was shocked that I had even made cupcakes and was actually willing to feed it to other people. As you can see, my reputation for not being a domestic kitchen goddess precedes me. But my friends found them delicious, as did my family and Boyfriend who declared them as being the most amazing cupcakes I've made - which doesn't say a great deal considering I've only made them twice. But still, the compliment is appreciated.

I don't know what is next in my cupcake adventures. Trying to perfect the craft perhaps? Trying different sorts of icings? Actually having something to take to a bake sale should the issue arise? Who knows... But hey, now I don't always have to wait around for someone else to make cupcakes. Cause I can make some pretty decent ones myself.

And they don't smell like playdough. ;D

(special thanks to Monique who got me the recipe despite my crazed desperation. And to my mum for getting the ingredients, for making sure that I don't poison anyone, and making sure I didn't burn the house down.)

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