• Cupcake Parfaits In A Jar

    "Jarcake".

    “Jarcake”.

    jarcakeActually, carrot cake cupcake and maple frosting parfaits in a jar, to be precise. But you can use any cupcake and frosting combo you like. This dish is just a fun riff on cupcakes and, truth be told, helps you avoid some of the mess and cleanup associated with cupcakes and crowds. But your guests won’t think about any practical matters, they will just get a kick out of eating cupcakes in a jar and getting cake and frosting in each bite. Good fun.

    jarcake3jarcake6How did we come up with cupcakes in a jar? We didn’t. We first saw this dish at a farmers market in the Hamptons last summer and Carolyn got her “I’m gonna make that” look. So she waited for the Super Bowl and then pulled out some 1/2 pint canning jars, made the cupcakes and frosting and put these out along with the Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies. And, like the brownies, this dish was a hit and much better than the game…(and we are slowly getting over the loss.)

    jarcake4jarcake7As for the recipe itself, we use a riff on a carrot cake cupcake and maple frosting recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I think we all know Smitten Kitchen rocks, so other than encouraging everyone to buy the cookbook, we won’t drone on too much about the awesome recipes, photos and writing, etc. Carolyn does adapt the recipe somewhat, but this is “Carrot Cake 101″, and most bakers will be very familiar with the recipe.

    jarcake8jarcake9But we will share one important note about carrot cake for a crowd. We do not include walnuts or raisins in our carrot cake. Why? Well, for every person who just loves the raisins and walnuts, there are 2x the people who don’t. If you know every guest likes raisins and nuts, go for it. But we bet many folks will be happy if you just let the sweetness of the carrot and the spices shine through. And when you serve these cupcakes in the jar, your guests (or kids) will just think these are “spice cakes”. So if want to sneak in a few extra veggies, this is the way to go.

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  • Sweet Potato Cupcakes With Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

    Sweet Potato Cupcake With Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting.

    Sweet Potato Cupcake With Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting.

    spcake15If you visit Putney Farm regularly, you may notice an affinity for cupcakes. And this isn’t because cupcakes are all the rage these days (not that there is anything wrong with that), but because we have two boys with lots of friends, birthdays, sports and school events. And everyone knows we cook and are willing to be dragooned “volunteer”…. ;-) So when we want to feed a horde of crazed kids crowd, cake or cupcakes are very good options. (So is barbecue, but that is for another post.) We often make chocolate cake for a crowd, but there is something about the cupcake that is even more special. People from ages one to one hundred just love a cupcake. It’s sweet and tasty, it’s easy to handle and it’s all yours.

    spcake2spcake5spcake6But sadly, many cupcakes really aren’t all that good, the big blob of frosting covers for a dry chunk of cake. The problem, surprisingly, is the overuse of butter in most cupcake recipes. While we love real butter, it has water along with the butterfat and when the water cooks out it makes for a drier, crisper cupcake (the science is pretty solid, btw). This is good for pie crust, bad for cake, and especially bad for small cakes with a lot of surface area vs. mass (that would be the cupcake). The secret to a moist cupcake is to use vegetable oil (no water) and often to add another moistening ingredient. And this recipe not only uses oil but adds mashed sweet potatoes for an extra moist and sweet cake. Yum.

    spcake3spcake4spcake7Sweet potatoes in cupcakes? Well yes. They work famously well in biscuits, so why not cupcakes? You don’t taste sweet potato, but mixed with winter spices and orange zest you get a super-moist, caramel-colored cupcake with deep wintry flavors. Topped with sweet caramel cream cheese frosting, this cupcake is good all the way through. And as the oil and sweet potato keep the cake moist, you can easily adapt the recipe for either large or thimble-sized cupcakes with no loss of quality. A neat trick, and something to keep in mind when the size of the crowd may vary.

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  • The Election Is Over. Now Have Cupcake.

    Double-Chocolate Cupcakes.

    Regardless of whether your candidate won or lost, you deserve a cupcake. A double-chocolate cupcake. With buttery chocolate frosting. The cupcake can be a celebration, or a consolation. Either way, this cupcake will be tasty and you will sigh and smile. Perhaps one more might be even better…you deserve it.

    And this is no ordinary cupcake. This is a killer cupcake. Moist, sweet and with a wallop of dark chocolate, this is the kind of cupcake you get at the best bakeries (after you waited in line). And that is where the recipe comes from. The recipe is Carolyn’s adaptation of a cake recipe from the Miette cookbook. Miette is a small chain of bay area bakeries that features world-class cakes, cupcakes and confections. The Miette cookbook is a favorite in our kitchen, not only for the recipes, but some of the techniques that make for moist and flavorful cakes. The “Cake-Baking Essentials” section of the book should be required reading for bakers who want to take their cakes to the next level. Some of the “essentials” are a bit fussy and exacting, but with baking, “fussy” is what often makes the difference.

    And this recipe uses a few of these techniques for a better cupcake. The recipe uses oil instead of butter, as butter has extra water content that evaporates and makes for a dry, crumbly texture (we love butter, but it is better for crispy, rather than tender baked goods). Oil keeps the cupcake moist. The recipe uses both melted chocolate and cocoa power for deep chocolate flavor. And the recipe has you sift dry ingredients, very lightly mix the batter and then strain the batter through a mesh strainer to avoid lumps, and minimize mixing and gluten formation. In the end, you have a little extra work, but a very moist and flavorful cupcake.

    Otherwise, the basic steps for making the cupcakes are familiar. Line your muffin tin with cake cups and preheat the oven. Sift and mix the dry ingredients. Melt the chocolate and prepare the wet ingredients. Whip the eggs in a mixer, then add the oil, chocolate and other wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients, mix lightly and run the batter through the mesh strainer. Then put the batter in the cake cups and bake. After about twenty to twenty-five minutes you will have cupcakes. Then you have to wait for them to cool…and those minutes can be painfully slow.

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