As I was reading through your posts, it suddenly occurred to me that, although I assigned the cupcakes, I didn't assign any frosting. Because I check off any recipe that I've made, I assumed that you do too. And because there are two frostings that aren't attached to other recipes (the Golden Neoclassic Buttercream and the Chocolate-Egg White Buttercream), and I'd already used the Chocolate-Egg White Buttercream when I made the Yellow Butter Cupcakes way back last June, I naturally wanted to make the Golden Neoclassic Buttercream so I could cross it off. And I did. But I failed let you know that this is what I had in mind, and so you just did whatever you felt like doing. The result is that we have cupcakes that all look very different, although they're the same staunch little cupcakes underneath whatever it is that you put on them.
That ranged all the way from Mendy (nothing) to Saira, who made both strawberry AND vanilla mousselines, AND who dyed the frosting for one cupcake a deep teal blue, just for fun.
Monica and Lois used the same frosting recipe: an odd recipe made with flour, but they both swear by it, Monica going so far as to dub it "The Best Frosting I've Ever Tasted." Lynnette just whipped up a basic buttercream (no recipe), but she made no claims for it being the best ever.
Zerin really went whole hog! She not only made a chocolate ganache to drizzle over the chocolate cupcakes, but she also made the yellow butter cupcakes for those who "don't dig chocolate"(another cake to cross off her list!) and frosted them with pretty pink frosting.
Vicki went the minimalist route, simply dusting hers with powdered sugar. Lest you think she let herself off the hook too easily, she also "mixed up" an espresso buttercream with creme fraiche.
Several people used leftover frosting. Leftover frosting? This is not a concept I understand. Kristina had some leftover raspberry cloud cream in her freezer. Seriously. Kristina is the kind of person who rummages around in her freezer and finds something called raspberry cloud cream. Faithy had both leftover ganache and leftover dreamy creamy white frosting. Her refrigerator is as much a treasure trove as Kristina's freezer.
Raymond does get to cross off another recipe because he did the Chocolate Egg-White Buttercream, although he said the cupcakes were good enough that they didn't need frosting. And that comes from the "old cuss" who has "no patience" for individual cakes, whether they're called cakelets, baby cakes, or cupcakes.
Jenn almost got to cross something else off her list because she (almost) made the Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream. You can read all about her Buttercream Drama on her blog.
The hard-fought FEATURED BAKER contest was especially keen this week, and ended in a draw: Julie (Brand new to the Heavenly Cake Bakers) and Jennifer. Julie gets all kinds of credit for baking the cupcakes from the Transplant House (her husband is waiting for a liver transplant (and, in all seriousness, I wish you both well in that scary-sounding path)) after her husband was hospitalized with an infection. Julie, who sounds like an amazing woman, did not let the fact that she was in a strange kitchen stop her from making both the cupcakes and the Golden Neoclassic Buttercream. Julie piped "Thanks" on each cupcake, which she gave to the nurses, noting somewhat apologetically that she would ordinarily not use tube frosting from the grocery store to write "Thanks," but she hadn't brought her own piping equipment with her. Julie, you are a trouper, and I look forward to seeing what you produce in your own kitchen with your own piping bag.
Julie shares the Featured Baker award with Jennifer, aka Evil Cake Lady, for two reasons. The first is sprinkles. Specifically, sprinkles artistically strewn over just one side of the cupcake. The second is her great description of a serious jones for chocolate:
There comes a time in every girl's life when she really needs her chocolate fix. Like, when all she is thinking about is chocolate, and when she can get some chocolate, and what kind of chocolate, and in what form of delivery she wants her chocolate, and when this chocolate consumption can take place. You may think she is listening to you talk about your in-laws, or your back pain, or that she is hard at work, but really she is just running through all of her chocolate options and deciding which one she will take advantage of. You may be able to distract her for awhile, or satisfy her temporarily with some other delicious something, but it won't be long before the chocolate cravings begin again. She might try to settle for an easier, cheaper, and less delicious chocolate option, but oftentimes that will only make the chocolate cravings more insistent and cranky. A girl knows better--she has to have her chocolate, the kind she wants, the way she wants it, and RIGHT NOW.
Let's talk about dry cakes--or as some people have said, cakes that are "almost dry," or "just at the edge of dry." This is a fairly common observation, or even criticism, about Rose's chocolate cakes. In the case of these chocolate cupcakes, both Saira and Lois mentioned that the cupcakes seemed dry. Jenn thought they were dry when she made them last year, so she tried syruping them this time around. Mendy didn't think they were dry, but described an odd texture, sort of like hard-boiled egg yolks. Other people described them as "perfect" or "moist." What's the deal?
First, I'll say that I don't think the cakes are dry. My own theory--backed up by absolutely nothing--is that people have gotten accustomed to super-moist cakes from eating too many mix cakes with added pudding, so that a cake that is a normal cake consistency doesn't seem moist enough. But it doesn't make much difference what I think, and if people think the cakes are dry, then they're dry. You can't really say, "You're a moron; this cake is NOT DRY!"
Back in 2006, blogger Aaron said he thought the culprit was water--as much as two ounces--evaporating from the water-cocoa mix, and said it was solved when he wrapped the mixture with plastic wrap. Rose agreed.
Frankly, I don't see how two ounces could evaporate from the cocoa mixture unless you're mixing the water and the cocoa a week before you bake the cake, but it doesn't hurt to cover anything with plastic wrap if it's going to be sitting for a while. I noticed that Mendy added a little bit of extra water to the last chocolate cake he made, and the texture looked quite moist. Vicki also says she's started to take her cakes out of the oven just before she thinks they're done, and she thinks that's been helpful.
Overbaking is something that's also often named as a culprit, and Rose's recipes generally advise that they should not start to shrink away from the cake pans until after the cake is out of the oven. But, as Joan can attest, sometimes taking a cake's temperature can cause more problems than it solves. In the same vein, some people advise that if you use a cake tester, you should remove the cake from the oven when some crumbs are still sticking to the tester. If you wait until the tester is completely dry, chances are the cake will be as well. Obviously, using too much flour wouldn't make for a moist cake, but this shouldn't happen if you weigh the ingredients. I was getting lazy about weighing eggs, but I started doing it after Woody chastized me. I noticed that my organic, cage-free eggs have less yolk and more white than the "standard" egg. I wonder if this could have any affect on the dryness of the final product. It seems to me that I remember reading somewhere that too many egg whites could cause a cake to be dry.
I know that others have wondered about this issue--does anyone else have other ideas?
Well, anyway, the next cake isn't chocolate. It's a fabulous-looking four-layer (well--two layers sliced in half) white cake with a fabulous-looking strawberry mousseline and a fabulous-looking chocolate frosting. Can you tell that the picture of this cake just calls to me? If you can find American Spoon Food's strawberry butter in your grocery store, you won't have to strain strawberry preserves. Otherwise, you will. Unless you disobey orders.
After that, another cheesecake. And another Quick-and-Easy. I think the only thing that might cause problems here is the cream of coconut. The recipe warns: "not coconut cream"! I think that cream of coconut is the stuff you buy in the beverage aisle of your grocery store or at your liquor store--the stuff you use to make pina coladas. Coconut cream, on the other hand, is like coconut milk, only thicker, and it's not sweetened.