Category Archives: dessert

Mimosa Cupcake

Sweet champagne cake with orange curd frosting…I wouldn’t mind a taste! See it at Cupcakes Take the Cake.

In honor of National Ice Cream Month

I recently cleaned out a closet in my house and found an old hand-crank Donvier ice cream maker that I had as a kid.  My mom gave it to me when I moved into this house five years ago, and it was put on a shelf and forgotten about.  When I found it a couple of months ago, I thought I should give it a try.  I tried two of the recipes that were included with the machine…the French Vanilla didn’t come out quite right, but the French Chocolate Silk was perfect.  I also tried the “low fat” recipes that called for only milk and no cream…I’d recommend sticking with the traditional recipes if you care at all about texture and flavor.

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OMmmmmG Fried Oreos

America loves its fried food, and while I generally refrain from making it part of my diet, I have been continually intrigued by the trend of frying things like Twinkies, Snickers, and other junk food that was bad for you even before dipping it in grease.  For the sake of my arteries and waistline I have avoided seeking out places in DC that serve fried goodness, but this weekend they found me.

I was in Hidden Valley at a friend’s ski cabin for the weekend and, while letting my toes thaw out after snow tubing, noticed an intriguing item on the menu at the snack bar…Fried Oreos!  I couldn’t resist. They looked like beignets, with some powered sugar and chocolate drizzled on top.

img_01201Biting in, I expected them to be crunchy, but the cookie had actually become a soft, gooey, chocolaty center. The cream filling of the Oreo had become soft as well, adding a wonderful sweetness mixed with the chocolate cookies.

img_0121All I can say is, I’m really glad that I do not know where to get these in DC because I would not be able to resist getting them on a regular basis!

Happy Mardi Gras!

photo by caitlinator on Flickr

photo by caitlinator on Flickr

When I was a kid, my grandmother would send us king cakes from New Orleans every year for Mardi Gras. The kind that she would send us was lighter and not as bready as ones that I see at most bakeries, and I loved loved loved them. And I would throw a fit if I did not find the baby in my piece. Since I was the youngest, my parents would always do their best to ensure that I would get the baby, even if it meant jamming it in the bottom when my back was turned.  I still owe my older sister a big thank you for putting up with that for so many years…

My grandparents past away many years ago now, but I have yet to forget the excitement of receiving that package from them every year.  This year I decided to try making king cake at home.  To achieve a lighter cake instead of a bready one, I used a basic cinnamon roll recipe from Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything.”  I formed it into a big circle, traditional of king cakes, and baked it for just over 20 minutes.  For the frosting, I mixed powdered sugar and water, and topped with sprinkles (purple, yellow, and green of course!)

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The end result was not quite as light as the cake my grandmother used to send (I really wish I could remember which bakery it was from…) but it was still very good, and not overly sweet since the basic sweet roll recipe didn’t call for very much sugar.  And since the basic recipe is a cinnamon roll recipe, I think the leftovers will make an excellent breakfast!

A holiday favorite: peppermint oreo balls

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I originally got this recipe from my roommate and they have since turned into a favorite holiday treat. I also discovered that Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe Joe’s make them even more amazing than before.

For the recipe, click here.

Pumpkin Pie

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I made what has to be the most labor intensive pumpkin pie ever for Thanksgiving this year.The only thing that could have added more work was to actually grow and puree the pumpkin myself.…I chose the canned stuff, as well as pre-made crust instead.

However, the elbow grease was well worth it as this was one of the yummiest pumpkin pies I have ever eaten and I was proud to get credit from the family for making it. The recipe, from Cooks Illustrated, called for the addition of candied yams and maple syrup, as well as cooking the filling to bring out the flavor. You then press the filling through a strainer to get a wonderfully silky smooth texture. You can find the full recipe in their November/December 2008 issue. I highly recommend topping it with brandied whipped cream from their Holiday 2006 issue. Update: Emily Weinstein, contributor to NYTime’s Bitten, posted the full recipe recently along with her baking tale.  The recipe includes a note on how to get the texture of the filling just right: “Too many pumpkin pie recipes result in a grainy custard in a soggy crust. For our pumpkin pie recipe, we avoided this outcome by drying out the pumpkin puree (and adding roasted yams for complex flavor) on the stovetop before whisking in dairy and eggs. The hot filling let the creamy custard firm up quickly in the oven, preventing it from soaking into the crust.”

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Battle of the Cupcakes

For months now we have had an ongoing debate in my office over who has the better cupcakes: the over-hyped Georgetown Cupcakes or Baked & Wired. (I think you can guess which side I am on) I was recently in Georgetown on a day when the Gtown Cupcakes did not have a crazy line, so I decided to pick up some cupcakes and have a side-by-side comparison in an effort to give an unbiased review of the two cupcakeries. To keep my review fair, I also had my sister and brother-in-law help with the tasting.

By the way, this is where I think Washington Post’s Cupcake Wars is flawed. They only tested 2 at a time, making comparisons of all 12 difficult. Can you really compare the sweetness of the frosting and moistness of the cake if you don’t try them at the same time? I say no. At the same time, 12 cupcakes in one sitting makes even my sweet tooth cower. Next time, they should do a bracket system to come up with a true list of the best cupcakes.

What do I look for in a good cupcake?

  • Cake-to-frosting ratio has to be just right
  • Moistness of the cake
  • The cake cannot be too dense
  • Sweetness of the frosting – it can’t be too sweet or too tart or plain

I am also a firm believer that to make good cupcakes, you have to get the basic vanilla with vanilla frosting right. So I got vanilla/vanilla from both bakeries, as well as red velvet – a fairly challenging recipe since so much rests on achieving the proper density and richness for the cake. Red velvet cake has become pretty trendy in the last couple of years, but my New-Orleans-raised mother has been making it for us since I was old enough to know what cake was. Needless to say, my sister and I have pretty high standards for this recipe. For an interesting recap of the history of red velvet cake, check out this post at Serious Eats.

And the results…In all pictures, Georgetown Cupcakes is on the left, and Baked & Wired is on the right. (pardon the blurriness of these photos; the auto focus was clearly not cooperating)

Vanilla: This was very close but I found the moistness of the Baked & Wired cupcake to be a step above Gtown, and I liked the frosting better. My sister actually disagreed with me on the cake issue but agreed about the frosting. Something just tasted a little off…it wasn’t necessarily too sweet but seemed to have a strange ingredient in it that neither of us could pinpoint.

While the Georgetown Cupcake (on the left) looks like it has a higher frosting-to-cake ratio, the two were actually pretty equal. You’ll also notice that Baked & Wired cupcakes are in a hand-folded piece of wax paper, a nice personal touch. Georgetown Cupcakes, however, are pretty darn cute the way they are decorated. Although, as a friend pointed out, you feel like you should be dressed up with a pretty bow in your hair when eating them. Maybe they are just a little too pretty?

The red velvet cupcakes were actually both excellent and Baked & Wired won out only because Georgetown Cupcakes’ frosting was still just a bit off. I was very impressed at how dense yet moist the cake part was on both of these. While the darkness of the red is different between the two, both had a good rich flavor.

The verdict: Baked & Wired won…but only just barely. I wanted to be able to slam Georgetown Cupcakes once and for all, but in the end I have to admit that they are pretty darn good.

Hello Cupcake!

After my post about the cupcake wars the other day, a dear friend was so kind as to surprise me with a small box of cupcakes from Hello Cupcake! I still plan to visit the store for myself but the surprise dessert was a very welcome surprise after a long day at the office.

My review: The cake part of the vanilla with vanilla frosting and vanilla with chocolate frosting was a little dry but I suspect it might have just been an issue with that batch because the other two flavors we sampled were very moist and flavorful. (No, I did not eat 4 cupcakes, although I was tempted! We just sampled some of each of the 4 flavors). The chocolate and vanilla frosting both get solid reviews from me. They were sweet but not too sugary, had a good consistency, and there was a pretty good frosting-to-cake ratio (very important). The other two flavors, “triple coconut” and “de lime and de coconut” were quite tasty as well…I don’t love coconut but the lime one was a great mix of flavors that I would recommend that to anyone wanting a more summery-tasting twist.

I also want to say that I think their website is one of the best of the cupcakery bunch. Georgetown Cupcake’s site goes a little overboard with the flash in an intro page. Their main page is very well laid out but is a bit too sophisticated-looking in comparison to the flash stuff you see right before it. Hello Cupcake!‘s site is a bit more whimsical and adds a cute feature called “Anatomy of a Cupcake” that is a little silly and juvenile, but isn’t that the point of cupcakes? Both sites do have pretty good great flavor guides that are broken down by day of the week and explain the different selections, although I kind of like how Hello Cupcake!’s shows you a picture of each one.

I am now sufficiently hungry and realizing that it’s definitely a Friday if I just spent that much time analyzing cupcake websites…

Cupcake Wars

image by Swamibu at Flickr

image by Swamibu at Flickr

It all started many years ago with a little New York bakery called Magnolia sparking happy childhood memories in the minds of everyone who picked up the brightly frosted treats. And now, this cupcake craze is spreading like wildfire around DC. Like it or not, the cupcake trend is still going strong.

The playing field in town is starting to get quite crowded, leading to debates about where to really get the BEST cupcake. You have the “it’s not worth the hype,” yet still insanely popular spots such as Cakelove and Georgetown Cupcakes; the new and highly anticipated arrivals, Hello Cupcake and Lavender Moon Cupcakery; and the bakeries that happen to have really good cupcakes among their selections of other fresh-baked goods, Baked & Wired and Sticky Fingers (my two current favorites).

Have a favorite? Go on over to vote at the Going Out Gurus Cupcake Challenge. Want to help determine the best at a live contest? My good friend at Blonde’s-I-View has you covered with the first annual DC Cupcake Contest at the Washington Club on September 25th.

I know plenty of cupcake lovers and cupcake haters…I admit the tasty treats are getting a bit too trendy but I am still a lover. Honestly, I just don’t like sharing desserts very much so having a single-serving wrapped up just for me, with sprinkles and sugary frosting, just makes me happy.

UPDATE! The Food Section of the Washington Post will be tasting cupcakes from 12 area locations over the next six weeks and posting their reviews. I have to strongly disagree with their review of Sticky Fingers, but maybe they just got there on an off day? The gluten-free cupcakes (sounds gross but is actually quite good) I have had there on multiple occasions have been moist, rich but not too sweet, and had an excellent frosting to cake ratio (part of the key to the perfect cupcake).

About those peaches…let's talk pie!

Since I can’t eat all those delicious peaches before they get too ripe, I decided to combine them with blueberries to make mini pies. Just mix the fruit with some flour, sugar and lemon juice, and put into mini graham cracker crusts from the store. I like to go light on the sugar and top with brown sugar instead. I also recommend eating them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.