Monday, March 30, 2009

Cupcake Camp Update

Yesterday was Cupcake Camp!

It has taken me a whole day to get to writing about it because I was so tired from the weekend with baking and working and enjoying the sun and then so full of sugar and goodness from the camp, that I came home and immediately passed out!

Cupcake Camp was a lot of fun and I was surprised to see how many people showed up, and I think maybe the organizers were too! There were over 100 bakers with nearly 3,500 cupcakes and close to 400 people eager to eat cupcakes, making it the largest camp to date! Yay Ottawa!

I made 3 kinds of cupcakes for Cupcake Camp:
1. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
2. Dark Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes
3. Caramel Apple Crumble Cupcakes

I started preparing on Friday by buying all of the ingredients that I would need for baking on Saturday. I was planning on baking Saturday and doing the frosting on Sunday morning. It was gloriously sunny and warm on Friday, so I had to go and enjoy the weather with a few friends on a patio!

I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning and went and got myself a coffee, a few more ingredients I forgot to get on Friday and a new cupcake tin (and a fresh croissant!). I was making 3 different kinds of cupcakes, so I had to organize how I'd get through all of them in one day. I also had to be at work for 5:15pm so I was faced with a time limit too! And Bruce, the reporter from the Citizen, was coming over to watch me bake so I knew I could have company too.

I started off by making the cookie dough for the Cookie Dough cupcake. The balls of dough had to go in the freezer for at least an hour before I could use them, so that gave me time to start on some of the other cupcakes.

Bruce showed up right about at the point when I was cooking up the bacon for the Bacon cupcake. I'm not much of a bacon cooker, I love eating the stuff though, so it was an interesting experience to say the least. Bruce was laughing at the fact that I was cooking it in a wok! What? I love my wok!

As the bacon was cooling I made the Caramel Apple Crumble cupcake. These went off without a hitch, except for not having enough brown sugar, but luckily my roommate had some. Phewf. Then I made the Bacon cupcakes, and I ran out of oil, so I went out onto the lane and borrowed some from my neighbor! I made 2 extra large cupcakes lined with bacon for the 2 bartenders at work special request! And last but not least, I made the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough cupcakes. Surprise, surprise, I didn't have enough cocoa for these, so I had to go out to the Bridgehead to buy some. It was soooo nice outside that I didn't mind going out for a walk, and to get a bit of a break.

It took me pretty much the whole day to get all the baking done with all the talking I did while the reporter was over and with all the breaks I had to take to find my missing ingredients. I finally hopped in the shower at 4pm! Can you say 'time crunch'?

Sunday morning I woke up at 7:30am!! That is WAY too early to be up on a Sunday. But, I knew I wanted to have plenty of time to get everything done and not be stressed out. My mom came over bright and early too to help, with extra missing ingredients (I obviously didn't plan very well!!) and coffee in hand! What would I do without my mom?!?! My mom organized and cleaned while I made the apple crumble (twice because I messed up the first batch) and the chocolate chip cookie dough frosting.

My biggest challenge of the day was going to be the caramel and the caramel frosting, which I had yet to find a good recipe for. I decided to try a recipe that I found in The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook. It called for Golden Syrup which I luckily found at the Bouchey's on Elgin! I love Bouchey's! OMG, it was AMAZING! The first batch I made was too thick for frosting, so I used it to coat the cupcakes with. It was so thick and gooey and tasted like those little square caramels that you can buy for Halloween. The second batch I used for the frosting, which ended up being way too thick to add 8 cups of icing sugar to. But it was still really good, and I only added 2 cups. I was straining pretty hard to frost the cupcakes and I blew holes in the piping bag to boot! Pretty funny!

I put all the finishing touches on the cupcakes, including some Hawaiian red sea salt that my mom brought over for the bacon cupcakes, and then I was done! Yay! And with plenty of time to spare. AND my mom had cleaned all of the dishes too! I took a shower, got ready (made sure my hair looked okay because I knew there would be a pro photographer there!!) and then we were off!

Caramel Apple Crumble and Bacon Cupcakes ready to go

It was a miserable rainy day, but that didn't put a damper on anyone's spirits at Cupcake Camp! There was a HUGE line-up of bakers registering their cupcakes that took quite awhile to get through. You had to give them your cupcakes, they tagged them all in a pre-set order, photographed them and then whisked them away to be set up on the tasting trays and the judging trays. We got there early enough that we had some time to kill before the doors opened to the public.

By 2pm, when the event actually started, the room was already full and there was a MASSIVE line up outside of people wanting to get it! I can't believe so many people showed up! Obviously the rain didn't stop people from coming to get their Sunday afternoon sugar-fix!

There was a big table set up in a "U" shape in the middle of the room and every 15 minutes they would bring out a new batch of cupcakes. There were 10 batches and each batch contained about 15-20 different kinds of cupcakes. They set down the trays and the feeding frenzy began! My cupcakes were all in Batch #2, so they were brought out early when everyone was still really excited, which I was happy about. But since there was such a huge line-up, none of my friends were able to get in in time to taste my cupcakes :( (but this was okay since I had extras in the car!) Every time a new batch came out they would announce what kinds were on the trays. I was happy to see that mine were included with a wide variety of 'chocolate' and 'vanilla' cupcakes, making mine stand out all the more! When the announcer came upon the Bacon Cupcake he stumbled a bit, said "wow, that's different" and asked the crowd who was excited for a Bacon Cupcake and they all cheered! And I must note that the Bacon Cupcake was the ONLY cupcake that got ANY reaction from the crowd...THANK YOU VERY MUCH! :)

Tons of people at Cupcake Camp!

All the while the judges were up front EATING all of these cupcakes! I have no idea how they did it! They each had a jug of milk to wash down all those tasty treats!

Cupcakes ready to be judged!

A few of my friends showed up, but not all of them were able to wait that long to get in. But Kellie stuck it out and waited in line for over 30 minutes to get in!! Thanks Kellie!! Evan only had to wait for about 10 minutes despite the length of the line-up. I was very impressed with all the cupcakes that Kellie ate! She had 1 of each of mine and then some! I was afraid she would go home and fall into a cupcake coma! Evan ate a bunch of cupcakes and then I tried to make him eat my Caramel Apple Crumble cupcake, but he said he was so cupcaked out and plus it didn't look very moustache friendly. But I made him try 'just a bite' and then he asked if he could eat the whole thing! They're THAT GOOD folks!

My mom at Cupcake Camp!

The judging took place at 4pm. My heart was racing, which could partly be due to the extremely HOT temperature of the room. It was sooooo hot in there, I thought I would pass out! So many people, so much energy! Anyway, I was kind of nervous and I really wanted to win. They announced each category and the winner and I was pretty disappointed when I didn't win. I totally wanted to win! But I'm okay with the fact that I didn't. My friends and family still think mine are the best and that I'm their Cupcake Queen. PLUS...I'M the one who was featured in a HUGE article in the Ottawa Citizen!

So, all in all, the event was a HUGE success, I had a lot of fun, I ate a lot of cupcakes (but not as many as some) and I got to see what everyone else was up to in the cupcake world in Ottawa. I'm looking forward to next year's event and I'm positive I'll win then! And now I'll see where this whole Cupcake thing takes me. Who knows, maybe someone famous will read the article in the paper or read my blog and ask me to bake cupcakes and then they'll fall in love with them and then maybe I'll be whisked off to NYC to become some world famous baker to the stars!!! Who knows...a girl can dream, right?!

Oh, and I'd like to thank my mom for helping me out through out the whole process, including calming me down, bringing me ingredients and coffee and sticking it out for 4 hours in the cupcake sauna! THANKS MOM! :)

Oh...and don't forget to check out the article in the Ottawa Citizen! The link doesn't include the picture of me, so I'm posting it here for all to see!

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Girl Can Dream....

So, I was walking by J.D. Adam in the Glebe the other day and saw the lovely-est display of purple and green dishes and kitchen supplies. And I saw THIS...


"C" is also for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcake

I've already made quite a few different kinds of cupcakes prior to starting this blog. I've posted some pictures on Facebook and have gathered quite a collection of positive comments and buckets of drool! Thanks guys! I have had some requests for recipes so I'm going to start going back and posting the recipes for those cupcakes.

The first one is for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcake, as requested by Sara and Ange-Tina. I first made these a few weekends ago for a birthday party. Of course, after making them and taking pictures, I had to try the cupcake to see if it was good or not! Since I cut the cupcake in half to take a picture of the delicious hidden centre, I ate just one half first. It was so rich and delicious that I had to save the other half for later. So I ate the other half while getting ready to go to the party and called it dinner! Yum! At the party the cupcakes sat on the table with everyone glancing over at them for half the night. I guess everyone was waiting for it to be 'dessert time'? and no one wanted to be the first to dig in. Also, no one knew what kind they were. So finally someone took the first cupcake and needless to say, within 10 minutes they were nearly all gone! We all worked off our sugar highs by playing Wii Bowling!

So here is the recipe for quite possibly my favourite cupcake so far! Wait...I take that favourite Chocolate-based cupcake so far! (Like I've said before, I'm indecisive!)

If you're looking for a quick and easy cupcake to make, then skip over this one! There are many parts to this creation!

There are 4 parts to this recipe:
1. The Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough - You can use store bought cookie dough, but this recipe is really easy to make and probably tastes way better then anything you'll find in the frozen aisle.
2. The Chocolate Cupcake - You can use any chocolate cupcake batter recipe. I've tried a few different recipes and I've found that the Martha Stewart recipe is really rich and tasty and easy!
3. The Egg-less Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough - This cookie dough is incorporated into the frosting, which is obviously not cooked, so it's safe to eat.
4. The Frosting (that includes the egg-less cookie dough)

Part 1: The Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
I found this recipe on The Cupcake Review blog, which led me another blog, etc. etc. It is for "The Chewy" by Alton Brown. I baked a few of the cookies while I was at it, and they were really tasty!

"The Chewy" by Alton Brown
Makes 2.5 Dozen

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

- Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat.
- Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
- Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
- Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Chill the dough.
- Form the dough into balls using about a tablespoon of dough. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for about 1 hour.

If you want to make the actual cookies themselves follow these instructions:
- Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet.
- Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Part 2: The Chocolate Cupcake
I used Martha Stewart's One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcake recipe, although any chocolate recipe can be used.

Martha Stewart's One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 18-24 cupcakes (I always half the recipe and get a perfect dozen)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons safflower oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside.
- Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.
- Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.
- At this point add 1 ball of frozen cookie dough to each cupcake. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed.
- Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

**Note: If you don't have buttermilk, or don't want to buy an entire 1 litre container of it (because seriously, what would you do with the rest!) you can make buttermilk by combining 1 cup of milk and 1 tbsp of white vinegar, stirring it and letting it sit for 10 minutes. Make sure to stir it again before you use it because it will be a little clumpy.

Part 3: The Egg-less Cookie Dough
Okay. So now you have your cupcakes cooling and it's time to make the frosting. I found this recipe on the Lovin' from the Oven blog. I never said this recipe would be easy and it sure wasn't easy to find exactly what I wanted to make! I spent a lot of time googling...!

Eggless Cookie Dough
Makes enough for 1 batch of frosting (which is enough for 12 if you made 2 dozen cupcakes double this recipe and the frosting recipe as well)

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
2 teaspoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
a bit of milk (I added this ingredient myself because I found the dough to be a bit too crumbly. Add about 1 tsp of milk at the end just to make it more dough-y. You can add more if you don't like the consistency.)

- Cream the butter and brown sugar in a small bowl. Add water and vanilla and mix well.
- Add flour and salt and stir to combine.
- Stir in mini chocolate chips.

**Note: I'm not sure how easy or hard it is to find mini chocolate chips, but you can use regular chocolate chips and just chop them up. I initially tried doing this by hand and was extremely frustrated when it came time to pipe the frosting. I would recommend just blending the chocolate chips in a food processor until they're fairly small pieces but not powdery.

Part 4: The Frosting
The frosting is essentially a basic buttercream with cookie dough added in as the flavouring. When you make the buttercream it will look like you won't have enough to even frost 6 cupcakes, but remember, you'll be adding a whole batch of cookie dough to the mix! I also found this recipe on the Lovin' from the Oven blog.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Buttercream
Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes (if you made 2 dozen cupcakes double this recipe)

1-3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
Eggless cookie dough

- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, unsalted butter, salt, and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.
- Add milk and continue mixing until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary.
- With the mixer running, slowly add remaining 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, mix until well combined.
- At this point you can mix in the eggless cookie dough. Mix in enough cookie dough to suit your taste.

**Note: I added almost all of the cookie dough, for flavour purposes, but then found that the frosting was too thick to pipe. If this happens you can add a little splash of milk to thin it out a bit. But remember to mix the frosting with an electric mixer again or your frosting will be grainy looking.

***Note 2: Any cookie dough left over you can gladly eat! There are no eggs in it so it is safe. Yum!

Now that you have your cupcakes and your frosting ready, it's time to frost the cupcakes. If you want to get that fancy, pro-looking swirl then use the fitted into a piping bag! It's super easy! This is the part that has caused me frustrations every time, without fail. Chunks of chocolate chips get stuck in this tip very easily and ruin the whole swirly effect because all the frosting gets backed up. So, either make sure your choco chips are small enough to begin with, and if they're not then you can use a hand blender to mix up the frosting to crush up the chips some more. This also blends the chips into the frosting and makes it taste a whole lot more chocolatey! YUM YUM YUM!


Take a look INSIDE this beauty! I think this is pure perfection right here!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cupcake Camp

This is my long-winded story about Cupcake Camp and how we came to meet...
A few weeks ago I went out for my best friends birthday. She requested vegan cupcakes. While at first I cringed, I finally decided to adapt a recipe I wanted to try into a vegan recipe. It was for the Meringue Hi-Hat Cupcake found on my newly discovered favorite cupcake blog - HowToEatACupcake.

So I made the cupcakes, and they were a huge hit!

While we were at dinner, my friend Corey asked me if I had heard about this Capital Cupcake thing-a-ma-jiggy. So of course I went home and googled it and up popped CUPCAKE CAMP! . Oh boy, was I excited to see this.

Basically, "CupcakeCamp was originally the brainchild of a group of folks in San Francisco. The idea was to bring together cupcake lovers, bakers, and eaters. The first Canadian CupcakeCamp took place in Toronto at LabSpace Studios on January 25, 2009. CupcakeCamp is an opportunity for our community to come together and share their enthusiasm for cupcakes with all proceeds going to Ottawa’s Woman Alive/Femme Active Program! Everyone who brings cupcakes will have the opportunity to brag about their creations which will be presented to the Tasters for a cupcake tasting frenzy!"

CupcakeCamp Ottawa will be taking place on March 29th, 2009 at Jack Purcell Community Centre from 2-5 pm. It's $5 to get (with all the proceeds going to Woman Alive/Femme Active Program) and you can eat all the cupcakes you want!! How cool is that!!

So, I registered as a baker and submitted my 2 recent favorite cupcake creations: The Bacon Cupcake and a Caramel Apple Crumble cupcake. All I did was tell them what kind I would be bringing, no photos, no recipes, nothing! (Although I've included pictures here of the cupcakes!)

Last Friday I got a "Media Request" email from a reporter at the Ottawa Citizen telling me that he wanted to write an article about CupcakeCamp from the points of view of two of the competitors and the organizers gave him my email address. Naturally at first I thought this was some crazy guy who somehow got my email address and wanted to meet me to do 'an interview' and then chop me up into little bite sized pieces and eat me! After my wave of paranoia subsided, I contacted the organizers and they confirmed that YES they had given the reporter my name and that they were really sorry that they didn't give me a heads up warning! The reporter had requested 2 bakers that the organizers considered unique to the event, and they thought my submissions were in their top favorites, so they gave him my name! Can you say FLATTERED??!! Hell ya!!

Seeing as I was being interviewed about cupcakes, I had to MAKE some cupcakes for this guy. So I made some Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes that I had made last weekend and were a HUGE hit. My mom had really wanted one, so she came over in the morning before the interview and picked up a few to take home to my dad, the vacuum cleaner.

I met with Bruce, the reporter, this past Monday at the Bridgehead around the corner (funny enough we live 3 blocks apart) and we talked about cupcakes and baking, and cooking - how long I've been baking cupcakes (ummm..2 months?!), why I like cupcakes, if I see a future in cupcakes, my background in baking and cooking, etc. etc. We both kept staring at the cupcakes that I brought, so we finally split one. It was definitely a rich treat for 10:30 in the morning. But he really liked it - which was great seeing as he's a baker himself but doesn't really like sweets or cupcakes...hmm... - and brought the remaining 2 to his food editor at the Ottawa Citizen! I pretty much rambled on for about an hour and every time he said he had to go and get back to work I would just start talking about something else. It was pretty funny thinking back on it.

Anyway, the article is going to be in the Ottawa Citizen on Monday March 30th, 2009. I'll post a link to it when it comes out. Bruce will be coming by this Saturday to watch me bake. Uhhh...that'll be kinda weird, especially if he brings a photographer! I better get up early and make sure I look good!! I will be baking on Saturday and then doing the frosting and finishing touches on Sunday, with the help of my mom :) And then it's off to CupcakeCamp.

There are 4 categories that the cupcakes will be judged in:
1. Best in Show
2. Most Unique
3. Best Decorated
4. Best Chocolate

I'm hoping to win in all 4! Go big or go home, right?! Most of my friends already think I'm the Cupcake Queen and their Cupcake Hero, but I want all of Ottawa to this so too! :)

Come one, come ALL to CupcakeCamp next weekend! I look forward to seeing everyone there!

Cupcake Liners

While a cupcake has to taste good, I think it actually has to look good too. I'm all about the whole kit-and-caboodle! And I like things to look pretty. Sooo...that set me off on a quest to find pretty cupcake liners.

First I tried Loblaws, and then the Bulk Barn, and then Michael's, The Great Glebe Emporium, J.D. Adam and every other baking, cooking or supplies store I could think of. All I could find were the plain ol' white cups, silver and gold cups, ugly pastel cups, and cheesy 'themed' cups. Nothing fun or different...not even just plain colours.

I've seen many pictures of cupcakes with dark brown liners and I thought that they were the most beautiful and elegant things and I really wanted some of my own. So, after A LOT of googling and researching online, I finally found a great CANADIAN site that sells a whole array of pretty cupcake liners as well as cupcake and baking supplies.

I got a little over-whelmed and wanted to buy ALL the different liners, but I whittled it down to about 8 different kinds (which is still A LOT!...I'm very indecisive!). I placed my order and sat patiently waiting for them to arrive....

Finally, earlier this week THEY ARRIVED!

I opened up the box and there they were all nestled in a lovely bed of pink tissue new cupcake liners! It was an exciting day! :) Who knew someone could get so excited about PAPER! (I just checked the website today and there are a whole bunch of NEW liners. OMG...I might need to place another order...yikes!)

I definitely think these liners will add that perfect finishing touch to all of my cupcakes and I'm excited to start baking with them!!


So, I've finally taken the 'blogging' plunge! I read a ton of blogs, all my friends have blogs, so that made ME want MY OWN blog! you can guess, this blog will be all about things CUPCAKE!

I recently got asked why I like cupcakes and the answer is simple (apart from being soooo delicious)...they let you be creative, which is something that I pride myself on being. There are so many aspects to a cupcake - the cake, the frosting, the filling, the 'look', the liners, the taste -that let you be creative and try different things, which is definately something that I like doing! So it's a perfect fit. Even though cupcakes are something that I've recently just fallen into, it's something that I've become a little obssessed about!

Soooo...come back often and see what's new in my cupcake world!