Red Velvet Cream Cheese Buttercream with Chocolate Cupcakes

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This red velvet cream cheese buttercream is undoubtedly the star of the show. The chocolate cupcakes are great of course but when topped with generous swirls of this magical, wickedly good frosting, they outdo themselves.

The buttercream recipe was what intrigued me at first. I had all the ingredients on hand and so I set about whipping up a batch. Not only did it not disappoint, it had me weak in the knees with excitement. It was just like biting into a fantastic red velvet cake – sweet, tangy, a tiny bit chocolaty and oh so delicious!

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It was only when I had had three tablespoons of frosting, straight from the bowl, in the name of taste testing that I realized I needed to find an accompanying cupcake recipe for it and a bunch of people I could share those cupcakes with. Being home alone with a big bowl of addictive frosting was not going to end well.

Happy to report, I gave them away to the teachers at my toddler’s school and they loved it!

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You should definitely give this one a go. It will change your life. Baking life at least.

Read the notes at the end of  this post for an egg free version of these cupcakes made using Aquafaba

Ingredients

Cupcakes

  • All  purpose flour – 3/4 cup
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder – 1/2 cup
  • Baking powder – 3/4 tsp
  • Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Large eggs – 2
  • Granulated sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Light brown sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Vanilla extract – 2 tsp
  • Oil – 1/3 cup (Anything neutral will work. No olive oil) 
  • Buttermilk – 1/2 cup*

*I always make buttermilk by whisking yogurt with water. Here I added 1/3 cup yogurt in a measuring jar, topped it up with water till the 1/2 cup mark and whisked them to combine

Red Velvet Cream cheese Buttercream

  • Salted butter – 1/2 cup
  • Unsalted butter – 1/2 cup
  • Package of cream cheese (8 oz or 226 grams) – 1
  • Red food coloring – 6 to 8 drops*
  • Icing sugar – 3 to 4 cups
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder – 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp

*I used McCormick’s red food color. You can use any brand you want. Just follow instructions as given below

Note: This buttercream needs to sit for a few hours to reach its rich, deep red color. Aim for a dark terracotta color when you make it, store it for a few hours in the fridge (preferably overnight) and thaw it out before frosting. The color will have enough time to mature and you’ll have a true red velvet colored frosting to go on your cupcakes

Yield – 22 small cupcakes with frosting

Method

Cupcakes

  • Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 degree Celsius. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners
  • In a large bowl whisk all your dry ingredients together – flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  • In another bowl add eggs, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, vanilla extract, and oil. using a handheld mixer or a whisk, mix these ingredients thoroughly until combined well
  • Pour half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk very briefly to mix. Add half of the buttermilk and whisk again. Repeat this process once more time with the rest of the wet ingredients. Be very careful not to over mix
  • The batter will be thinner than a regular cupcake batter. Pour the batter into the liners till they are half to two thirds full. No more! These cupcake rise quite a bit
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Turn the tray around once in between. When done a tester inserted into the cupcakes should come out clean
  • Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting

Red Velvet Cream cheese Buttercream

  • Make sure your butters are softened and the cream cheese is chilled. In a bowl sift 3 cups of icing sugar and cocoa powder together and set aside
  • In a large bowl, using a mixer, whip salted and unsalted butter until it turns fluffy and light. This takes 5 to 7 minutes
  • Add the cream cheese and continue to whip until fully incorporated. About 5  minutes
  •  Add the vanilla and food coloring and whip on high speed until it turns light and fluffy
  • Gradually add the icing sugar-cocoa powder mixture to the butter and cream cheese mixture while whipping on low speed
  • Once you’ve added all the sugar and cocoa powder whip the buttercream on high speed until it is well combined. This takes 2 to 3 minutes
  • At this point you can add one or two more drops of food coloring to the buttercream. You can also add more icing sugar, one quarter cup at a time till you arrive at your desired level of sweetness
  • Keep in mind that the color of the buttercream deepens gradually over time. So aim for a deep terracotta color and keep it covered in an airtight container in the fridge for a few hours (preferably overnight)  and the color will turn a true bright red as you see in the pictures

Frosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days. For anything longer than that they will need to be refrigerated.

Notes – To make these cupcakes egg free use 6 tbsp (3 tbsp = 1 egg) of aquafaba. Whip it in a bowl till it turns frothy. Proceed with the rest of the recipe instructions as given. The egg free cupcakes will be a little more tender than those made with eggs but will taste just as fabulous! 

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The cupcake recipe is adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction and the buttercream recipe is adapted from Wicked Good Kitchen

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Pear & Almond Cake with Amaretto Caramel Sauce

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My toddler loves pears. Which is why I buy them by the sackfuls. Which is also why I always end up with a bunch of pears that ripen all at the same time. There’s only that many pears we can eat per day! There are oh so many elegant pear desserts I want to try but this particular bunch had gone too soft. Hence this cake.

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You can use bottom of the bowl, overripe pears and still have this cake turn out stellar! It’s a very simple, no fuss recipe. The only work involved is whipping butter and sugar and that only takes about 5 minutes.

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This recipe was originally measured out in grams. I have converted them to cup and tablespoon measures. I have included the weight measurements in italics if you prefer to go that route.

This recipe also mentions Self Rising Flour. You don’t have to rush out to the grocery store to buy a bag, or worse, abandon this project altogether! You just need all purpose flour, baking powder and salt and you can make your own batch of self rising flour. Recipe for that is given below.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • Peeled and roughly chopped pears – 3
  • Unsalted butter* – 1 cup (200 grams)
  • Granulated sugar – 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp (125 grams + 1 tbsp)
  • Large eggs – 2
  • Self rising flour** – 1 cup minus 5 tbsp (100 grams)
  • Ground almonds or Almond meal – 1/2 cup plus 4 tbsp (80 grams)

*If using salted butter leave the salt out of the self rising flour recipe given below

**Self rising flour – Take 1 cup all purpose flour, add 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk to combine. Measure and use as directed

For the caramel sauce

  • Salted butter* – 1/4 cup
  • Light brown sugar – 1 cup
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • Amaretto extract – 2 tsp (optional)

*If using unsalted butter add 1/2 tsp of salt to your recipe

Method

The cake

  • Preheat oven to 375 F or 190 degree Celsius. Grease and flour a 9 inch circular cake pan. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature and the butter is softened
  • In a medium saucepan melt 2 tbsp of butter. Add 1 tbsp of sugar and stir till it melts. Add the peeled and chopped pears and simmer till they turn brown and the sauce thickens a little
  • In a large bowl add the remaining butter and sugar and whip together using a mixer till it turns light and fluffy. This will take 5 to 7 minutes
  • Add the eggs one by one and whip thoroughly after each addition
  • Add the flour to this mixture in three batches and combine on low speed just until incorporated
  • Add the ground almonds or almond meal and using a spatula stir it gently through the batter
  • Pour the batter into the cake pan. Level with a spatula. Arrange the cooked pears evenly over the surface of the cake. Pour some of the sauce from the saucepan over the cake
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes till the cake turns golden brown and a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean
  • Cool the cake in the pan set over a cooling rack. Once it is completely cooled remove from pan

The amaretto caramel

  • Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat
  • Add the sugar and cream and stir. The mixture will foam up quite a bit. Make sure you use a saucepan with tall sides
  • Let it cook for about 5 minutes stirring constantly
  • Add vanilla extract, amaretto and salt (if using) and stir
  • Let the sauce simmer on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes till it reaches the desired thickness. For this cake I prefer an unsalted, slightly thin caramel sauce that pours easily over the cake without clumping

Assembly

  • Place the cooled cake on a cake stand or plate. Pour the amaretto caramel sauce generously over the cake and garnish with additional chopped or slivered almonds

This cake can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 days. Anything longer than that, it will have to be stored in the refrigerator.

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Recipe adapted from Frugal Feeding

Baked Churros

That’s right! Baked, not fried.

I’ve been wanting to make a baked version of these insanely addictive treats for quite some time now. My mom absolutely loves them and I so wanted to bake her a batch while she was here, visiting us. But every time we went out to eat she would skip the entree and order a plate of churros for herself. I did not want to double up on those calories so I kept delegating this recipe to the bottom of my baking to-do list.

Then I found the perfect motivation. I made a batch of Smitten Kitchen’s Hot Fudge Sauce. This stuff is indeed the bomb. I want to put it over everything! And what goes better with chocolate sauce than churros?

I mean, just check this out!

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It’s easy to make – half an hour from beginning to end – and it’s something you can easily whip up for company. Best part is, no special equipment needed. Just a saucepan, spatula and some elbow grease!

Let’s get started

Yield – 24 Churros each 4 inches long

Ingredients

  • All purpose flour – 1 and 1/3 cup
  • Large eggs – 3 (at room temperature)
  • Unsalted butter – 1/2 cup (If using salted butter leave out salt from the dry ingredients)
  • Light brown sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Granulated sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Water – 1 cup
  • Vanilla extract -1 tsp
  • Granulated sugar with 1 tsp of nutmeg or cinnamon for dusting finished churros – 1/3 cup

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400 F or 205 degree Celsius
  • Add butter, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, salt (if using) and water to a medium sized saucepan and place it on medium heat. Stir occasionally till the sugars and butter melt completely
  • Let the liquid come to a boil and then take it off the heat
  • Add in the vanilla extract and flour to the hot liquid and stir vigorously till a smooth dough is formed and it begins to gather around the spatula
  • Make a well in the center of the dough and and the first egg. Stir vigorously again till the egg is completely incorporated. It takes a couple of minutes. You will see the dough getting smoother and shinier after the egg is mixed in
  • Mix the other two eggs one at a time stirring thoroughly after each addition. Here’s a visual guide. The image on the right was taken after the three eggs were added

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  • Fill the dough into a piping bag fitted with a wide open star tip and pipe the dough in straight lines on a parchment lined sheet tray. I piped them about 3.5 to 4 inches long

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  • Spray or lightly brush the piped dough with oil. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes
  • When done the churros will be crisp and golden brown on the outside and will slide around easily on the tray
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes
  • Take granulated sugar and nutmeg (or cinnamon) in a wide bowl and mix. Toss warm churros in the sugar till they are lightly coated. Serve!

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Notes – These churros are best eaten fresh, right out of the oven. You can dip them in any sauce of your choice – melted chocolate, salted caramel, fudge – all work great! If you want to make these churros in advance, cool them and store in an airtight container. Just before serving, warm them in a preheated oven at 350 F or 180 degree Celsius for 5 minutes and then toss them in the sugar – nutmeg mixture 

Recipe adapted from Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt

Banana Bread with style!

Who doesn’t make banana bread, right? It’s almost the only thing that pops into your head when you spot over ripe bananas. But the thing is, it can get pretty boring pretty quickly. Frankly, I get bored just making it sometimes.

So when my toddler, who usually inhales anything with even a hint of sweetness about it, walked right past a slice of warm chocolate chip banana bread last week, I knew it was time to give this menu staple a makeover!

Loaf 1

Simply Recipes has a fantastic banana bread recipe that I use as a base for all my experiments. Turns out great every time! For this round, I replaced most of the APF with whole wheat flour and added pureed berries to the batter. Total yum!

Loaf 2

How good does that look! Here’s how it’s done

Ingredients

  • Whole wheat flour – 1 cup
  • All purpose flour – 1/2 cup
  • Baking soda – 1 tsp
  • Bananas – 2
  • Melted butter – 1/3 cup
  • Granulated sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Egg – 1
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • Milk – 2 tbsp
  • Blueberries – 1/4 cup
  • Blackberries – 6
  • Maple syrup – 1 tbsp

Note 1: I used salted butter. If using unsalted butter add 1/2 tsp of salt to the dry ingredients.

Note 2: You could any combination of berries you like. I used what I had in my freezer. This recipe makes more than you need. Store the leftover puree in the fridge. You could even use a berry jam instead of making your own. 

Method

  • Make the berry puree first: Add the berries, maple syrup and a tsp of water to a small saucepan and cook it on medium low heat, stirring regularly, till the berries soften and disintegrate. Add another tsp of water if you see the berries beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan. Once cooked down, cool the berries and puree them in a blender. Set aside.

Berry puree

  • Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 degree Celsius. Grease and flour a loaf pan. I used an 8×4 inch pan
  • In a big mixing bowl, mash the bananas with a fork till they become smooth and creamy. You should get approximately 3/4 cup of puree
  • Add the baking soda and salt (if using) and whisk briefly
  • Add the egg, sugar and vanilla extract and whisk to combine
  • Add both the flours and whisk till there are no dry streaks. Do not over mix
  • Add about half of the batter to the loaf pan. Add two or three tsps of the berry puree at multiple spots on the batter and swirl with a toothpick. Make sure not to swirl too much or the berry streaks will disappear
  • Add the remaining batter to the pan and top with a few more tsps of berry puree and swirl with a toothpick

Loaf pre-bke

  • Bake in a preheated oven for 55 minutes.
  • Check the loaf about halfway through and turn the pan around to ensure even baking
  • At the 40 minute mark, once you see the top of the loaf has browned, cover the top with foil and continue to bake till done. This prevents the top from burning and helps it retain that lovely golden brown color
  • At the 55 minute minute mark insert a toothpick or cake tester into the loaf to check. It should come out clean with maybe a few moist crumbs attached. The sides of the loaf should begin to pull away from the pan
  • Cool the banana bread in the pan on a cooling rack for about half an hour
  • Carefully remove the loaf from the pan and place it back on the rack to cool completely
  • Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days.

Slice 1

This loaf is not too sweet. A generous dollop of the berry puree slathered onto a slice of this banana bread just kicks it up a notch! You must try it!

Slice 2

If you do give this one a shot let me know how it turned out! Can’t wait to hear all about it 🙂

Caramel Sauce

I love a good dessert sauce. It adds a generous dose of glamour and oomph to even the most mundane of desserts. But as far as caramel sauce is concerned I’ve been sitting firmly on the fence for a long time. And I refuse to budge. I have to concede, however, that it is not always the adulterant I’d like to think it is. I may not like it on my ice-cream or in my coffee but it does pair very well with popcorn, apples or dark chocolate.

But have I ever tried making it at home? Nah! ‘It’s not worth the effort’, I kept telling myself. That’s until I came face to face with this recipe. It’s pure gold! image

I tried to drink it straight out of the jar. It was only when husband reminded me that I wasn’t pregnant anymore and that drinking dessert sauces neat wasn’t going to do my waistline any good, did better sense prevail. It’s THAT good!

For this basic sauce you need just three ingredients – Sugar, Butter and Cream. It’s super simple.

Follow the pictures below for a step by step visual guide. You’ll be done in 15 minutes.

Ingredients

  • Granulated sugar – 1 cup
  • Salted butter – 6 tbs (chopped into cubes)
  • Cream – 1/2 cup

Method

In a saucepan with tall sides, heat granulated sugar on medium heat, stirring constantly with a silicon or wooden spatula.

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The sugar will get clumpy before it melts into a thick golden coloured liquid. Keep stirring. Make sure not to burn the sugar. Reduce heat if required.

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Once melted, add in all the butter. The sugar will bubble up. This is where the tall sides of the pan come to your rescue. Keep stirring till the butter melts entirely.

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Slowly drizzle in the cream while stirring. This too will cause the caramel to bubble up and splatter. And yes…..continue to stir

image Allow the caramel to boil for a minute. After this stage, you can take your caramel off the heat and allow it to cool.

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If you’d like a thicker caramel which just a faint hint of bitterness to it….keep stirring on a low flame till it reaches the desired consistency. Remember, caramel will thicken further once it is cooled. Pour the caramel sauce into a jar with a tight lid and store it in the refrigerator. It lasts for up to 10 days. Reheat in the microwave, in short 5 second bursts before using.

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