Thursday, January 31, 2013

week's muse

It's been a nice week, apart from Tuesday, and just this morning I had my first taste of school since - well, it kind of feels like it's been ages since school. In fact, I hadn't even been aware there would be school today, and I probably wouldn't even have shown up had I not been fortunate enough to receive one of those automated telephone calls from the school itself just the other night reminding students and parents. Bless those automated telephone calls.

Tuesday was a whirlwind of events. It began with an early rising and some hurried preparation for my job shadow at the orthodontist's, and from eight-thirty to noon I was immersed in the world of teeth and dentistry. It was a highly fulfilling experience and I learned much more than I'd expected to, but it left me brimming with anticipation for when I'll be able to step foot inside a dental office and carry out the tasks that were simply being demonstrated and described to me on Tuesday. I've decided that I find the environment of a dental office to be appealing and relaxing and I appreciate the slightly-upwards-of-steady, but well-maintained, pace of work.
Buoyed by the success that was my job shadow that morning, I was in relatively good spirits when mother bird offered to buy me some treats from Cobs Bread for lunch. I indulged in this delicious little pizza roll and a pretty cranberry custard danish that I can only dream of ever possessing the skills to replicate. We stopped by Sobeys on our way home and it was there, somewhere between where we parked the van and the sliding doors of the store, that one part of my retainer dropped from my coat pocket and fell onto the snowy road.

Why, you wonder, was my retainer in my coat pocket? There can only be one answer, and though not an answer that places me in a particularly favourable light, I will share it: carelessness. I am always so careless! I stuff my retainer in the strangest of places whenever I am at a loss of secure containers or pockets in which to store it; oftentimes I can make do with a zipped pouch in my handbag, and the majority of the time, when I can remember to be good about it, I do bring along the plastic little retainer case, but I hadn't anticipated we would be buying treats from Cobs and so I hadn't foreseen any need to remove my retainer to eat.

So, fast-forwarding through all this babbling about my retainer, I'll skip to the part where mother bird threw a fit and was in a storm about this, because I've lost both parts of my retainer before, and might I mention that a retainer is not a pacifier. If it's not worn, my teeth, which have been carefully arranged into beautiful, straight rows from the costly labour of headgear and braces, will shift and move and resemble the crooked parked cars of a market lot in the slums. (Heaven forbid!) Retainers come upwards of a hundred-twenty dollars apiece, and neither my mother or father was very pleased to pay it forward the first time, so I can understand their frenzy about this time.

Luckily for all of us, but mostly for me, when I returned to the orthodontist's this morning to have the impressions of my teeth redone for a new retainer, I brought donuts from Tim Horton's and a thank-you card, for allowing me the opportunity to spend a morning in their offices as a bothersome little shadow, and the lovely receptionists Julie and Renee (who I've gotten to know quite well by now) asked the Dr. whether or not I could go free-of-charge on this retainer.
He agreed!

This has been a really long post (so far) about nothing but my retainer, so moving onto today's events. I've been stuck with an incredibly challenging teacher this semester, a teacher who is known for pushing his students to great heights and lengths and whatnot, but personally I can't thrive under this sort of pressure. I prefer to be in an environment that places as less stress on me as possible, one that allows me to manage my own time and assignments, set my own pace, learn my own way. I've already campaigned my counsellor for some rearrangements in my timetable, and frankly it's all I can think about since I've left her office. I'm itching to e-mail her right now but all I can think to do would be to ramble on about how much I need to have things the way I want!

Something that I've been looking forward to is my birthday. My birthday happens to be on Valentine's Day, somewhere around nine in the a.m. according to mother bird's memory, and it's a family tradition that there is no birthday party. I can't remember the last time I threw a birthday party - maybe when I was twelve, or thirteen? For a few years now, it's just been a night at home with a cake, and presents I could count on the fingers of one hand, but I have no complaints. I love to love the little loves in life and I love that all the birds around me love me. That's really all I could ask for. Recently it's been a recurring theme in our birdhouse, though, to treat the bird-of-honour out to a dinner on the town for the occasion.

I still have some recipes that I'd like to post on the blog when I can find the time to, and although all the time that had been spent mourning my late retainer, celebrating my new one, grieving about school and anticipating my upcoming birthday in this post could have been exchanged for posting a recipe, I feel like I really had to get all of this nonsense off of my mind in this week's muse. Sometimes you just need an outlet, and when you're too lazy for old-school journalling, too creatively exhausted for music, too sleepy for exercise and too busy for artsy projects, blogging's the only way to go.

I bought bite-sized dried prunes, natur-a organic soy milkboxes, and laughing cow light swiss cheese wedges from Superstore this afternoon. I've been scouring produce departments for fresh prunes, but it seems like they're nowhere to be found in stores. Are they simply out of season, or are they only available at fresh-fruit vendors, like farmer's markets?
Nevertheless, I'm pretty thrilled about these purchases. Now my lunches will be coordinated and pretty.

Mother bird is heating some lasagna in the toaster-oven while she rambles about nothings to her sister-in-law over the telephone. Not only does her voice occasionally distort my thought processes, the aroma of hot cheese, pasta and meat sauce wafting throughout the house is seriously distracting.

She makes the best lasagna, hands-down. To drive this point home, I think I'm going to neglect the momentum videos my teacher asked me to watch and plant my butt on a kitchen chair just to wait for the oven timer to ring.

Monday, January 28, 2013

brown butter blueberry muffins

I have to wake up at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning to job-shadow my orthodontist. I can recall being quite excited when he agreed to my proposition, but the lazy, whiny baby in me is beginning to regret sacrificing an entire morning for it.

On a brighter note, with a bunch of berries back inside my refrigerator and a multitude of hours to spare, I took to baking with blueberries once again this afternoon and experimented with a failsafe recipe from the Williams-Sonoma baking cookbook. (I consider anything published inside a cookbook to be "failsafe".)

In place of 1 stick of butter, melted, I substituted 1 stick of butter, browned, and I've never browned butter before but it seemed fairly straightforward and bakers across the blogosphere have been raving about its effects. I've never thought to use brown butter until now, and since I've never tried these muffins without brown butter, I can't vouch for how much it enhances a recipe.

But I can and will vouch for these blueberry muffins. The result is moist and chewy, very soft and plush and it holds its shape. Each muffin has a wealth of blueberries and the best part, in my humble opinion, is that the top of the muffin isn't sticky or greasy at all. It's almost like a cupcake, but more dense and thick and hearty.

The recipe I'm about to post below contains 1/4 tsp cinnamon more than the original cookbook's recipe, because I'm a cinnamon-lover and there will rarely come a time when I do not add cinnamon where it is allowable.

Blueberry muffins are just so classic. These ones are sweet, buttery and spiced, and sister bird, who, as a rule, only ever eats one of anything I make, had two. I think that's a fair testament to how much my family loved these muffins. Mother bird was impressed with the texture, but her all-time favourite muffin is Second Cup's maple walnut muffin, which I'm hoping to try to replicate in our kitchen once I get my hands on some walnuts!

I find that these taste absolutely wonderful once they're cooled and rested for a couple of hours. Then again, I don't care much for hot or molten blueberries, so I prefer them when they're just a little cold and chewy. It's been nearly five hours since the blueberries came out of the oven, and they've been sitting on a plate, covered, at the breakfast table ever since, and they're still nicely soft and moist.


(yielded 12 large muffins)

muffin ingredients -
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, or 2 cups + 2 tbsp cake flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, browned
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup blueberries (heaping or scant, to your preference)

directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and either grease a muffin pan or line with liners.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.
  4. Brown the butter. (Whisk over medium heat until butter turns amber in colour, then remove from heat and continue whisking for approximately thirty seconds.) Immediately add it to the milk and eggs mixture from Step 3 - (it will foam!) - and combine.
  5. Add the combined dry ingredients from Step 2 into the browned butter mixture from Step 4 and stir until just blended.
  6. Fold in the blueberries until incorporated.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup about three-fourths full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  8. Let them cool in the pans for 3-5 minutes, then remove. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

japanese cheesecake

A lot has been happening lately, and that includes a lot of baking.

To begin with, my exams have occupied most of my week, so despite having a small bundle of recipes to post and reflect upon, I have to limit myself to one for now. And that would be the earliest of the batch, the Japanese Cheesecake.

Famous for its soufflé-like texture and light taste, I figured it'd be a nice treat to make for my family, since all save mother bird and I lack sweet tooths. The procedures it calls for are a bit more complex, such as double-boiling mixtures and baking the batter in a roasting pan with water, but we managed to make due, mother bird and me.

I think what I liked the most about this cake was that it was airy and spongy. It wasn't as dense or heavy as, say, a New York-style cheesecake. The absence of a crust makes it even lighter. The taste is somehow more delicate than an American cheesecake and frankly, it's addictive. Taking a lick off the fork once I'd finished using it to pry a slice out of the pan for mother bird to try was all it took to persuade me to have a slice of my own, even though I'd told myself I shan't.
Well, that's what cakes do.
This cake happens to be especially good at doing it.

cake -
(recipe adapted from Jo)
  • 10.5 oz cream cheese (I used one 8 oz. package + 2 tbsp)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 egg-whites
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup milk 
  • 1/4 cup sugar
directions -
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare a cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. Beat the egg-whites and place in the freezer to chill.
  3. In a large bowl, melt the butter and cream cheese and whisk to combine. (This can be done in a double-boiler - that is, placing the butter and cream cheese in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water on the stovetop - or, as I did, in the microwave by ten-second intervals.) Your objective in this step is not to get a liquid, melted mixture. It'll be soft and slightly fluffy.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the egg-yolks, 1 tbsp of sugar, and cornstarch. Set aside.
  5. Heat the milk over the stove until it comes to a boil. Careful - milk rises fast when it reaches a boil!
  6. Add it to the egg-yolk mixture from Step 4. Place it in a double boiler/heatproof-bowl-over-boiling-water-on-stove and whisk until it thickens.
  7. Add this mixture to the cream cheese mixture in Step 3 and combine well.
  8. Remove the egg-whites from the freezer. The edges should be frozen. Scrape them into a new, clean bowl and add a small amount of the 1/4 cup of sugar. Mix on medium speed until a soft meringue forms.
  9. Add 1/4 of the meringue into the cream cheese mixture in Step 7 and mix to combine. Add the remaining meringue by gently folding it in with a rubber spatula.
  10. Fill the prepared cakepan and smooth the top with the spatula.
  11. Place the cake pan into a roasting pan and add boiling water until it comes approximately half an inch up the cake pan.
  12. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 and reduce the heat to 300 for the next 25 minutes. When the top turns slightly golden, turn off the oven and let it sit inside for another 40-60 minutes.
  13. Take the cake out of the roasting dish and place it on a wire rack to cool. Refrigerate the cheesecake and chill it completely before taking it out of the cake pan.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

sugar 'n' spice cookies

"sugar and spice and all that's nice,
that's what little girls are made of."
These are my new favourite cookies.
I've long since given up chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies due to allergies, and I thought I would be stuck with eating dry gingersnaps or bland flax cookies my whole life.
And I am so glad to have been able to prove myself wrong with this creation.

These may not be end-all-be-all cookies, but they're light, flavourful and quick bites that are nice to pop whenever you're in the mood for something chewy between your teeth. I like them because of the spice more than the sugar - actually, they came about because of my aversion to overly sweet cookies, like sugar cookies. So this is a sort of sugar cookie with a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar to give it a more dimensional taste.
(This aversion of mine actually extends to cakes as well. I tend to favour unfrosted fruity or spiced cakes more than plain cakes with heaps of sugary frosting.)

I baked them in honour of sister bird's homecoming. I was trying to decide between baking a peach cake, an old vermont cake, or these cookies, and it came down to these cookies because mother bird said I would need to be speedy today; she needed the oven from four until six to prepare a special dinner.

And these cookies conveniently take a rough ten minutes per round.

The last round ended up with slightly crispier sides because I suppose I should've checked them sooner. No doubt with the oven running through three rounds of cookie sheets, the temperature would be pretty darn high by now. It overcooked the final batch by a teensy-weensy minute or two but those gosh-darned seconds turned out to be pretty precious. So, my advice? Don't overbake. Underbake, if possible, because that's always best. Remove from oven early, allow to sit in the pan for several minutes to finish cooking by the carry-over heat, then transfer cookies to the cooling rack to cool on their own.

Then, snappy as a swinging door, you must seal them away in an airtight container so no one else can eat them they do not harden.

I think I'll bake a cake on Tuesday. Tuesday is my first half-exam of the study leave, and once I've mauled that in the morning, I'll whip up something nice and celebratory during the afternoon to help me relax.
I swear, baking should be included on the list of therapeutic remedies for stress. I think every kitchen fanatic in the world might agree with me on that.

Sister bird just returned home. She found me in my bedroom insufficiently engrossed in my textbook and said the cookie tasted, "really good!" Well, I wasn't expecting such an enthusiastic response from her, since she doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, but she loved them. She remarked about the cinnamon flavour in particular, so I suppose that might have offset the sweetness for her. Even I find it hard to appreciate sickly sweet treats, so I'm glad this cookie isn't one of them! 
UPDATE - Morning after and they're still intact. Still chewy, still cinnamon-y, still wonderful. Mmm, I love these cookies.

A cookie in ten easy steps, here is what little girls must be made of.

 (yielded 20 cookies)
sugar cookie -
(recipe adapted from Averie)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp milk, or cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup bread flour (all-purpose flour may be used, too)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
spice -
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 granulated sugar
  • 1/2 brown sugar
directions -
  1. Prepare a cookie sheet and preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth.
  3. Add the sugars and cream until combined.
  4. Add the egg, cream or milk, and vanilla, and beat until fluffy.
  5. Add the flours, baking soda, and salt, and mix until combined.
  6. Mix in the cinnamon until incorporated and set aside to make the spice mixture.
  7. Combine all the ingredients for the spice mixture and mix well with a fork.
  8. Use a spoon to scoop out cookie batter and flatten with fingers. Spoon a small amount of the spice mixture into the middle - only about 1/4 tsp is needed - and wrap the dough up into a ball. Dip the top of the ball into the spice mixture and place onto cookie sheet. 
  9. Repeat step 8 for remaining cookie batter.
  10. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. The cookie might seem too soft to remove from oven, but if the toothpick emerges intact, then take them out anyway. Underbaking and allowing them to finish during the cooling process is preferred to overbaking.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

saturday's cake

So this is Saturday's cake.

Mother bird and I stopped by Safeway on the way home from paying her bills at Sears so that we could pick up some blueberries - I also bought bread flour, on Averie Sunshine's recommendation, and now I am so keen to try those bread recipes I've been compiling into a heap of what once was wasted space in my foodgawker favourites file. (In actuality, though, it remains wasted space until I find yeast...)

As soon as I decided the cake was cooled, I drizzled on the lovely glaze and I cut myself a slice and had a bite and scalded my tastebuds and had to sit and rest and watch mother bird cut herself a slice and have herself a bite, but she liked it, and that's enough to please me.

I was worried about this cake, to be honest. I thought it might be dry, like some coffee cakes, but I had no reason to doubt it, because there was a fair amount of sour cream in this cake, and most avid bakers are aware that anything like sour cream or yogurt will moisten a cake a fair amount.

In all honesty this isn't what I would tout as a world-class achievement. It tasted much better the morning after when the blueberries had cooled and the cake had firmed and the glaze had kind of melted into the crumb. I liked it a great deal the morning after, but not so much right out of the oven, which is probably a peculiarity for baking.
One thing this cake does have going for it, though, is its texture: it's very soft. My favourite bit of the cake is the streusel drizzled with honey - it really lends a sweet taste to the tart blueberries. (Should blueberries even be tart? I think it might just be because they're out of season, but breakfast cake should never be out of season.)


The texture of the cake was a nice surprise, being very moist and so soft. It wasn't quite like sponge cake, but it was a nice chew to combat the crunch of the crumb and the tartness of the blueberries was balanced well by their warmth and the vanilla honey glaze. Ever since I discovered a blueberry vanilla muffin at Phil & Sebastian's, I've been thinking that blueberry and vanilla are flavours that ought to go together naturally. (And the proof is in the cake.)

Blueberries, vanilla, butter crumb and honey is a delightful combination and I'm glad I found it. The cake might not be the prettiest thing to grace this blog, but I reckon further down the line I might try another swing at these flavours, or maybe I'll just redux this entire recipe.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

thursday's lunch

One half-exam is over and done with and thankfully without grief. As I was leaving the classroom, my instructor paused between wishing the departing crowd a good night and discussing class averages with another student to mention that I "did really well" on the half-exam.

Thank goodness!
Now I can finally kick back and relax until, perhaps, Sunday. Sunday seems like a fine time to start studying for another half-exam on Tuesday.

Sunday's also the day that mother bird and I have decided to venture downtown to hunt for a prom dress (for me!). I do have a back-up dress in my closet - (well, really it's a dress that sister bird ordered for me, because I adored it to pieces, and when it arrived mother bird would not hear of me wearing such a thing to my graduation ceremony, and so now she's determined to find me a "better option") - and it's a quaint little thing with cream and raspberry colours, sparse ruffles, and a very vintage look that I absolutely love.

thursday's lunch

There aren't any words to explain how I've been functioning these past three nights. I think the term is "barely there"; lately all I can think about is Saturday's cake. This Saturday's cake is going to be interesting, that is for certain, because it's been the only thing in my head since I decided that Saturday was a day for cakes.

Saturday's cake is going to be a coffee cake. And not a coffee-flavoured cake but an American coffee cake, just a simple, one-layer cake with a crumb topping and maybe a light drizzle or a nice glaze, and I'm a little bit anxious to be going on like this about Saturday's cake when it hasn't even been made yet. I might curse it, you know, with these winded words of mine, and it just might not turn out very well at all.
I wonder if all bakers feel this way when they're about to make something completely new.

and this Saturday's cake is going to be about blueberries,
because mother bird surprised me a couple days back
 with newly bought blueberries.

I've made coffee cake before, and it was a decent jab at the recipe, but it wasn't a very pretty thing, no, and a little dry on the underside.
It's these kinds of memories, the recollection of failures past, that really haunt me when I thought I might've been prepared to try again.

There are a lot of measures I could take to make it all a little lighter on my shoulders, I'm sure, like finding a recipe and following it to the letter, and you know what, I would probably get a very lovely, very tasty coffee cake from all that.
But the idea for Saturday's cake is just not going to go away, not now and not never, and I know this because it's been swimming around in my busy little mind for what seems like ages now, having me excited when I should be focused and having me obsess over getting the details absolutely flawless.

Time is just flying by and I'm aware that everyone says this but it is. Afternoons like this afternoon when a friend offered me a slice of pizza and I thought to myself, "What the heck, I can eat healthy when I'm a university student" and took it with gusto, they give me a kind of unpleasant whiplash because I've only got five more months until I really am a university student! And by then I'll be packing boxes and heaving my bags up to the next town over and living out on my own with brother bird in a small apartment and riding the bus to school and moping around campus instead of moping around the house. There are definitely moments when all of me looks forward to all of this, and is so enthused at the prospect of having such rustic, overcrowded avenues to explore, but sometimes mother bird will tell me that she wishes she could move with me, and I just kind of bite my lip and wish that, too.

After Thursday's lunch I spent a few hours sitting in the library and picking cookbooks off of the shelves to glance through, and most of the books at the school library are old and dusty and hardly ever opened, so they're fairly clean (and new, in this respect) but the vintage cookbooks didn't have many pictures, and oftentimes I had to read the instructions in detail and try to envision the end product in my mind's eye.

I found them simple in the most dampening, unexciting way.

A flummery recipe I likely won't ever try. I especially liked its name though.
For someone like myself, who is always bursting at the seams with ideas, some which work and some which won't, I always appreciate simplicity but not when it's just simplicity for the sake of convenience. A common trend in the older cookbooks was that the selling point to much of their prints were the apparent ease and speed with which a birthday cake or thanksgiving pie could be baked.

And really, what's the fun in speed-of-light baking? This is precisely why I don't enjoy using hand mixers, food processors or pastry cutters. I have arms and hands and tons of time and I want to get the full experience of finding comfort in my kitchen.

I'm not implying in any way that someone who believes or does otherwise is someone who doesn't enjoy the craft. I set myself apart from others because I arrange a schedule for my baking experiments, and not just that all Saturdays are for cakes. I normally know when it is that I'd like to get my apron on, and I plan it ahead of time, like four days ahead, and I'll be giddy with anticipation right up to showtime.

And I may seem calm as I write this, but in actuality, I am giddy with anticipation right now. I am so ready for Saturday's cake!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

tiramisu cupcakes

Effective today, my 2013 resolution is hereby to stop. eating. ice cream.
I've become addicted to the stuff, especially the cheap-grade, soft-serve vanilla that's sold at Costco and Dairy Queen. It vanishes within ninety seconds, guaranteed. I've never been a health nut but I suppose now's as good a time as any to start being more conscious about my nutrition.

In light of my new resolution, I denied myself the soy milk I normally buy from the supermarket, because I only just realized this morning that it wasn't even fortified with nutrients or calcium. I've been drinking empty calories under the impression that I was nourishing myself!

The adorable Annie posted a brand-new cake recipe to ring in the new year: Gooey Butter Cake. It looks amazing (like everything else she makes!) and it's definitely something I'd be prepared to try, but I'm not sure whether mother bird would approve of so much butter. (I'm also hesitant to call this cake a better choice than ice cream!)
Well, what the heck. I'm bookmarking it anyway. Maybe once my exams are over, I can pull it up and bake it to celebrate.

Speaking of mother bird, she and I have been going everywhere together as of late. We like to have our adventures in the early, early morning, when the public places are peaceful and the streets are quiet. This particular morning saw the both of us enjoying a fairly-priced feast for brunch at a quaint little coffee joint tucked into a remote corner of the local mall.

coffee cake, pain au chocolat, blueberry vanilla muffin,
and roasted lamb sandwich, c/o Phil & Sebastian

Unfortunately, mother bird wasn't too satisfied with her meal: she was quite disappointed when she discovered that American "coffee cake" doesn't actually contain any significant coffee flavours. 

The very first cake I baked independently happened to be a strawberry cream-cheese coffee cake by a recipe I found on foodgawker. I keep it on file for its sentimental value only, since I wasn't thrilled with its taste. I remember asking mother bird to try a slice when it first came out of the oven, and though she liked it, she was convinced I'd added coffee because of its name.

So I got on the ball and started to research treats that had any trace of coffee, espresso, mocha, or latte flavours. What I found were tiramisu cupcakes - and mother bird is the biggest fan of tiramisu! Enthused, I whipped up a batch the very next day, the result being a charming crop of miniatures.

We arranged them onto three trays and brought them with us to a New Year's Eve party. They were a hit! Due to their size, they were easy bites to pop, fairly tidy fnger-food, and too light and airy to be filling, so people were popping these left and right, as appetizers and dessert. There was a scant plate of cupcakes left over by the end of the night, but mother bird rapidly gobbled the rest of these up in the following few days, claiming they were just too good to throw away.

I think it's safe to say they were a success!

(yielded 56 miniature cupcakes)

the original recipe yields 24 regular-sized cupcakes.
this recipe has been adapted and modified. you can
find the original at Lizzy's blog: Your Cup of Cake


cake ingredients -
  • 1 box white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist White)
  • 2 egg-whites
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used canola)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk*
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 strong coffee**
* I didn't have buttermilk on hand, so I warmed 3/4 cup milk in the microwave for thirty seconds, then added 3/4 tbsp of vinegar. After letting it sit unstirred for a few minutes, I mixed it up and used it.
** My "strong coffee" was 4.5 tsp instant coffee granules, mixed with 1/3 cup of boiling water.

filling ingredients -
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese + 4 oz. (1.5 packages)
  • 2 tbsp strong coffee
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
topping ingredients -
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • 4 oz. mascarpone

directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line cupcake pan with liners.
  2. Sift cake mix into a small bowl and set aside. (If you beat your batter by hand, like I do, sifting all your dry ingredients creates an easy, smooth mixture right off the bat.)
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the egg-whites, egg, oil, buttermilk, sour cream, and vanilla.
  4. Stir the cake mix into the wet ingredients.
  5. Divide the batter into two bowls. To one of the bowls, add the strong coffee and combine well. (I added a bit of all-purpose flour to this mixture to keep the texture consistent with the plain batter.)
  6. Use the plain batter to fill the cupcake liners about 1/3 full.
  7. Scoop the coffee batter on top of the plain batter in the liners, filling them to the 3/4 mark. (They rise quite a bit, so I wouldn't recommend filling the liners to the brim!)
  8. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean.
  9. To make the filling, combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
  10. To assemble, use a small knife (I used a peeling knife with success) to cut a bowl-shaped hole in the top of each cooled cupcake. Fill the hole with the mascarpone filling.
  11. To make the topping, beat the heavy cream. Beat the mascarpone and cream cheese in a separate bowl and add the powdered sugar and vanilla. (I microwaved my cream cheese for approximately fifteen seconds to quickly soften it.) Add the whipped cream to the mixture and beat until stiff peaks form.
  12. Garnish with chocolate shavings or cocoa powder. (I used both.)