Saturday, February 27, 2010

A trifecta of birthdays

Pop quiz:
What do you get when you have three lovely young ladies with birthdays just days apart?
a. A celebratory dinner to kick the night off
b. A Gossip Girl-themed dance party where the DJ's spinning great tunes all night and guests are dressed a la Blair Waldorf and Nate Archibald
c. A perfect occasion for cupcakes
d. All of the above

This one's a no-brainer, people. The answer is d! Obviously.

I was thrilled when Jessica requested a batch of cupcakes for her joint birthday celebration with friends Jen and Tiffany. Two different cupcakes to cater to an assortment of tastes -- for the three birthday girls and their dinner guests. Here's what my assistant and I whipped up:
Red Velvet cupcakes with Bailey's cream cheese frosting -- these bad boys have been a crowd favorite lately with their rich buttermilk cake base, hint of cocoa, and generous swirl of cream cheese frosting infused with Bailey's Irish cream.
For the chocoholics (and we never forget the chocoholics), we made some Midnight Mocha cupcakes:
Dark chocolate cupcakes with Kahlua poured into the batter for a deep coffee flavor, all topped with silky chocolate mousse frosting. While the decadent mousse might nudge you towards a food coma after a heavy meal, it's the Kahlua that'll keep you wired and ready for a night of partying. Something to the effect of a Red Bull vodka, but far more pleasant, wouldn't you agree?
Happy birthday, Jessica, Jen, and Tiffany! I hope you ladies had an evening as fabulous as you are and as Upper East Side-esque as can be...just short of lunching on the Met steps with Queen B.

Carrie Cakeaway

Sunday, February 21, 2010

French and fabulous

The dustings of flour, swirls of sugar, and streaks of eggy batter on every other shirt and sweater (the silly goose doesn't believe in aprons) are proof that most of the time my assistant spends in the kitchen is time spent baking. However, every now and then, she likes to take a walk on the savory side. Opportunity presented itself when her friend Justin invited her to a French-themed dinner party he was hosting for a crowd of friends. While she brought dessert (naturally), she had a ball watching the process of savory cooking unfold into a meaty souffle, rich consomme, hearty beef bourguignon, buttery mashed potatoes, and caramelized fennel bulbs, all a la Justin.

For a sweet ending to a delicious, indulgent meal, she brought some Vanilla Babycakes splashed with Grand Marnier to fit in with the French theme:
Sweet, bite-sized vanilla cupcakes with the tops brushed with Grand Marnier syrup and a swirl of Grand Marnier cream cheese frosting, these mini cupcakes were perfect photography subjects. I like to call this one, "Peas in a Pod":
And the following, "It's All Relative" -- is that a very, very small cupcake or a very, very large flowerpot?
Thanks, Justin, for hosting such a fabulous dinner party! I hope you and your guests enjoyed the cupcakes as much as my assistant and I enjoyed making them and taking them on our little photoshoot.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sugar and spice and everything nice

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you.

Especially if you give that special someone a cupcake on Valentine's Day.

Whether you're a guy or girl, love cupcakes or hate them (shame on you!), I think it's fair to assume that gifting a cupcake -- on Valentine's Day or otherwise -- makes you something of a sweetheart, particularly in the eyes of the lucky recipient.

Case #1:
Myron wanted to surprise his wife Katherine with a small batch of cupcakes -- a tasty surprise among all the heart shaped boxes of mass-produced chocolates and, worse yet, chalky conversation hearts.
Diamonds aside, these are a girl's best friend: rich red velvet cupcakes with swirls of Bailey's and raspberry cream cheese frosting.

Case #2:
Same cupcakes, different presentation. Gloria wanted to surprise her boyfriend Mike with a half dozen of Carrie Cakeaway's Valentine's Day Special, so my assistant decided to package them in a smaller box rather than the large, 10 x 10 inch bakery boxes we normally use. Compostable and sturdy but not particularly attractive, this little to-go box just needed a cute little drawing to spruce it up:
Pop open the lid, and it only gets better from there:
Thanks, Myron and Gloria, for being the sweethearts that you are. I hope you and your significant others enjoyed the cupcakes.

And happy Valentine's Day to all <3

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lazy Saturday afternoons

After a stressful work week, there's nothing quite like going to a farmers market Saturday morning, picking up fresh produce, nibbling on delectable samples, and soaking up the sunshine that few places outside of California offer in the middle of February. Well, all that or sleeping in. I'd personally choose the latter option (being imaginary and having no need for sleep, the concept fascinates me). but my assistant -- ever the morning person -- chose the former, strolling leisurely from stand to stand before meeting up with her friend Max for a lazy afternoon of baking.
The pineapple cupcakes that Max requested turned out nicely -- fluffy vanilla rum cake studded with crushed pineapple, cream cheese frosting infused with rum and fresh pineapple puree, and a juicy pineapple slice for garnish -- what better way to chase away stress and simply ease into the weekend?

Thanks for hosting, Max! I hope you and your coworkers enjoyed the cupcakes.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Carrot cake with a wild streak

Oh, carrot cake -- so deliciously moist, delicately spiced, and jam-packed with nutritious carrots and all that beta carotene -- who do you think you're fooling?

With all that cream cheese frosting, you sure pack a caloric wallop! But I'm one of many who will happily turn a blind eye to the fact that underneath the veneer of wholesomeness lies a very decadent cake. Are you bored yet? Of looking like the perfect angel next to the more obviously rich devil's food and pound cakes of the world? Well, I have a little proposition for you.

Julia, James, and Rob have a request that'll transform you from wholesome cake-next-door to wild child that'll make even the red velvets blush. Are you in?
Well, that was easy.
Don't let the cute little exterior fool you. This cake, brimming with fresh carrots, packs a boozy punch. Generously brush three layers of lightly cinnamoned carrot cake with rum, even more generously fill and frost them with rum-infused cream cheese frosting, add plenty of sweet, crunchy candied pecans, and you've got yourself one bad ass carrot cake.
Thanks, Julia, James, and Rob! I hope you enjoyed the cake. And Julia -- welcome to the Bay :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

The cake that almost got away

In my previous post, I alluded to the story of the cake that almost got away. Well, now's the time to share it. You're probably very familiar with this cake. It's hugely popular and can be spotted from a mile away. One might even call it the rock star of the cupcake world. Yes, you guessed it: I'm talking about the red velvet -- the crimson-hued buttermilk cake with hints of cocoa and a huge fan following.

For the longest time, my assistant and I loathed red velvet cake, dismissing it as nothing more than a vehicle for cream cheese frosting, a cupcake with an identity crisis (seriously, are you chocolate cake or not?), and an artificially enhanced attention whor--um, hog of a cake. A little harsh, I know, but it was all out of spite.

You see, right around this time last year, my assistant took a first stab at making this bakery favorite. Big flop. She accidentally added an extra cup of sugar, ending up with a sticky mess of bright red candy masquerading as a bundt cake. Attempt #2: She followed the recipe and instructions to a T despite her qualms about emptying an entire little bottle of red food coloring into the batter. The result? A cake that looked nice, tasted fine, and was a success!--or so she thought. That was until she was left with a bitter aftertaste that lasted for not one or two but three days! Attempt #3: A slightly different recipe, much less food coloring...same lingering bitter aftertaste. At that point, she considered herself licked and I was plenty bored with red velvet. There were more interesting cakes to be made.

It's been about a year since that trilogy of red velvet disasters, and my assistant, after tasting many a red velvet -- some good, some bad -- decided that it was time to give it another go. Opportunity presented itself during a Supper Club dinner hosted by friends Sara and Tat, for which she signed up to bring dessert. So, was it a long-awaited success or another big fat hairy flop? See for yourself!
Moist buttermilk cupcakes with a tender crumb and just a hint of cocoa, a generous swirl of rich cream cheese frosting with a touch of Bailey's, enough red to be unmistakeably red velvet (sans the diabolical glow), and absolutely no bitter aftertaste thanks to a no-taste red gel in place of evil liquid coloring.
These were a hit, and boy, am I happy to say that the cake that almost got away, well, didn't. Red velvet, we no longer hate you. My assistant will be the first to admit that those were only sour grapes. I still think you're a tad overrated, but am nevertheless excited to welcome you into the repertoire of Carrie Cakeaway's offerings. Welcome, rock star. Make yourself at home.