Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes

I've had my eye on this recipe for a week or so, but life is busy right now, with the end of school hoopla. I think teachers are every bit as excited to get rid of our kids as the kids are for summer. The last week of school is filled with kiddie pool parties, Olympic and Field Days, movie afternoons, and parents are trying to cram in those last birthday parties. Plus, i've had three weekends of graduations. I'm excited summer is nearly here. Not that my life will become less crazy, but perhaps less scheduled.

Today i happen to be home with the kids without boys or men of any kind. The kids are happy to run off and play, and i knew the time had come to have my kitchen to myself.

I found the recipe on

Fruit topping:

1 can (20 oz.) pineapple chunks (i used pineapple rings)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Cake batter:

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup reserved pineapple juice or milk
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously grease a muffin tin with shortening.

Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice. Lay pineapple on a plate layered with paper towels to drain completely.

In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar and melted butter for the topping. Divide evenly between the cups. Arrange the pineapple on top of the topping decoratively. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix together your dry ingredients. With an electric mixer, beat in the pineapple juice and the butter. Beat for 2 minutes or until batter is smooth. Add egg and beat it in well. Spoon (or use an ice cream scoop) to add the cake batter to the muffin cups. Bake for 30 minutes or til a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool cupcakes for 5 minutes and then place a wire rack over the muffin pan and turn them out onto it. Let cool completely.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

If you choose to use pineapple rings, which i did because i think it's nicer, please note that you will have to cut sections out to make them fit.

The recipe itself did not warn me this was going to be such a hot mess. Be warned. I had to loosen each cupcake from the sides of the tin with a spoon. I did turn out a few onto a wire rack once cool, but i don't recommend it. The pineapple tends to want to slide off. So i used the same spoon to lift each one out and turn it over to the rack after that.


They turned out well though, after i figured that last part out!

I don't have any fancy way to get natural light photos, nor do i have fancy plates and all that good stuff yet. Don't they look delicious? They are too. I have already eaten two. These won't last 5 minutes once the boys get home.

Right after i popped these in the oven, i doubled up the recipe and made a 9x13 cake with this recipe. It's taking longer to bake but YUM. I love pineapple upside down cake!

ETA: A photo of my cake!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Low-Fat Oatmeal Banana Bread

I've had some bananas slowly going downhill on my counter for a few days. You know how it is. I figured if i didn't make bread or something, then it would just be another waste.

Instead of going with my stand-by banana bread recipe, i thought i would try something different. Once upon a time i made a kickass pumpkin bread with oatmeal in it and i can't find the recipe anywhere. It's really annoying. No one in my family except me will eat oatmeal AS oatmeal. I'm always trying to find ways of putting it into their food so it's just there, but in a tasty way. I grew up on oatmeal, and i love it, and don't understand any of them at all as they turn their nose up at it.

I found this recipe which was adapted by Joy the Baker from the Weight Watchers recipe.

Lately, i run back and forth from my kitchen to my computer as i read recipes. I'd write them down but that takes longer. I find writing them down doesn't really help me in the long run because i just lose it and have to do it again later if i want to make it again. That's what happened to my oatmeal pumpkin bread recipe. I'm awful about it. I have recipes all over the place.

Well, the down side to this is sometimes i just throw things together and then by the time i read the recipe again,  i think 'Oh, crap... that's not what i did!'

So, i will now hopefully entertain you (or not) with the method to my madness.

The recipe goes like this:

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour.
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
3 tsp canola or walnut oil
1 large egg, beaten
2 egg whites
3 large ripe bananas
1 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour loaf pan and set aside. In a large bowl stir together the dry ingredients, including the oats and cinnamon.

At first, this was all i read of the recipe. I was like 'Gotcha!' and ran off to the kitchen.

So i combined my dry ingredients in one bowl (i used allspice since i couldn't find my cinnamon anywhere!), and mashed my bananas in a 2nd bowl, and then i threw my egg, egg whites, and 3 Tbsp (not tsp.) of applesauce instead of oil into one bowl together and kind of beat the hell out of it with a fork.

And then i came back and read more of the recipe, to make sure i wasn't forgetting anything.

In a smaller bowl, mash bananas with a fork. Add oil and whole egg and mix thoroughly.

Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Batter will be fairly thick.

In a medium sized bowl, with an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites until medium stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter in three additions.

Pour batter into pan and bake until top of bread is firm to touch, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes in the pan. Then flip out and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Loaf makes about 10 slices, 4 WW points apiece.

Hmm. Well, obviously i didn't follow the recipe. So i got my electric mixer and mixed the egg/applesauce mixture for a couple minutes. No way i was going to get stiff peaks but whatever.

And i didn't fold it into the mixture either. I dumped everything together and mixed it with my mixer for a minute.

I slid my loaf pan into the oven.

I looked around and i thought to myself... I have 2 bananas left. I wonder if it would make a difference to make another loaf with just those two bananas? The first loaf came out and as it cooled i noticed it was a shallow loaf. The photo Joy the Baker has on her page looked the same, but i also wondered if there would be a difference in the loaves if i actually followed the recipe like i was supposed to.

So i made another. Same as before, i used 3 Tbsp applesauce (i thought the original recipe used 3 Tbsp canola oil, but i misread it) and i subbed allspice for the cinnamon. 2 bananas. I also added a couple handfuls of walnuts. My kids hate nuts in their breads and cookies, but i love them, and so does my husband and son.

I did a side by side comparison of the loaves. On the left is the first loaf, and on the right the one i followed by the recipe and added nuts. There's a slight difference in size but it's really negligible.

So my husband and i did a taste test for comparison after dinner.

My husband said it was okay, but drier than my usual breads. Basically, he's asking me not to do this again.

And he's right. They are not as moist as i expect my quick breads to be. But it could be the oatmeal. Old fashioned oats probably suck up some of the moisture that would normally be present in the bread.

Well, i decided that my final decision would be based on the age old question:

How does this go with coffee?

It's better with coffee. Not really the best bread, but it IS low-fat. I mean, i warned you in the title of this blog. I didn't want the fact that it originally came from Weight Watchers to weigh in on my decision, and i think i am being fair to say i didn't. I also did not warn my husband it was low-fat before he took a bite because i didn't want him to be biased.

I would say that if you're looking for something low-fat for either a breakfast bread or a snack, this would be good. Hey, with the oatmeal, it's also heart healthy! And that's always good, right?

After all the cake i have made lately, it's probably good to eat something like this once in a while.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Margarita Cupcakes

Today i am sharing something that was ridiculously easy. Anyone can throw this together and look awesome.

My sister was graduating on Friday and i wanted to do something special but i have to admit, this was one of those weeks. You know, when all your bills get paid so you're broke, you're out of cocoa powder, Mother's Day is in 3 days and your kids are driving you bonkers.

We all have those weeks, don't we? Maybe you don't have kids to drive you crazy. But you have something driving you slowly to the brink. I know you do.

I was poking around the internet looking for a recipe. I knew what i wanted to make. Margarita cupcakes. I may not have cocoa powder, but we generally always have the makings for margaritas.

I found this recipe. She adapted this recipe from RecipeGirl, found here. The picture is what grabbed me. I love beautiful cupcakes. My cupcakes never look like the photos i see, but i like to keep trying.

I scrolled through it, and to my dismay, it calls for a boxed cake mix. For a while, i just sat here, contemplating it. I hadn't used a boxed recipe in a while. I finally decided to give it a go. I felt like i was cheating, but i figured if i drank a margarita while making these cupcakes, the guilt might fade away. And since the recipe actually called for me to drink the leftover margarita, i was all set.

The only thing i changed was using applesauce instead of vegetable/canola oil, and instead of Grand Mariner in the cake, i used Triple Sec.

The buttercream recipe calls for a lot more sugar than i normally use. I thought i'd try it since i wasn't spreading it on a cake. It turned out lovely and creamy. I was surprised. For the lime icing, i used maybe a teaspoon of orange extract in addition to lime juice for a more citrus-y kick. Her recipe calls for Grand Mariner in the frosting, and i didn't have any of that, nor did i want to risk having my icing too soft for piping.

Up next i made some cupcakes for the kids. I made another box mix white cake and topped them with standard frosting which i added a bit of caramel liquid flavoring to. They were really good.

My sister loved the cupcakes and said they devoured them overnight. In the end, i can't be too grumpy at myself for my shortcut since they turned out so well. Sometimes compromise is good, and it's the icing that really set these apart.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hats Off To My Grads!

It was a very busy weekend around here. Friday we had a wonderfully unique evening ahead of us. I knew for a couple months that one of my best friends was graduating from nursing school (again!), but it wasn't until the beginning of last week we found out my husband would also be walking in the same graduation ceremony! You see, he was getting his degree after 4 years of grueling night classes in Building Trades, but the college had our address wrong and we didn't get any of this information until someone called him up to personally find out if he was coming! Of course we wouldn't miss it for the world!

Both of my beloved graduates deserve a nice cake, don't you think? I thought so!

My friend wanted a chocolate cake. She had pinned an interesting nursing themed cake on Pinterest with a big hint that she would really like one like it several weeks ago. You can click here to take a look at it. 

A lot of people would be like "Aww, hell no, i can't do that!" I'm one of those weirdos who think, "Well... i don't know about that, but let's see what i can come up with." (By the way, to the people who know me, this is not a challenge to find something more difficult for me to do. Haha. Thanks.)

In order to end up with a cake of a decent size, i knew i needed to start out with a large cake. I had to go out and buy a new pan. I chose an 11x15 Wilton's pan that i found at WalMart in the cake decorating aisle. I also picked up some cake boards and a cake box.

Again i used the pound cake recipes on this website, as i did for my last cake. For my friend's cake, i used the double chocolate recipe, and i added chocolate chips this time instead of grated chocolate. Mainly because it was quick and easy and i knew i was going to be trimming this cake down quite a bit from the original size.

I baked my cakes and filled them between with standard vanilla buttercream icing. My buttercream icing is very simple. It doesn't vary much at all from any other recipe out there. I don't use shortening at all. I did once, but it was too greasy for my taste. You can get a nice buttercream by following this short recipe:

2 sticks butter, softened
3 ½ - 4 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar)
1 tsp vanilla

Put your butter in your mixing bowl and beat til smooth. Add sugar a bit at a time. I usually add about 1/3 cup at a time and beat it smooth in between to get a nice consistency. Since i'm spreading this as smoothly as i possibly can (which i am still practicing at), i generally don't add more than 3 ½ cups total of sugar. You can add your vanilla anywhere in the mixing process. I usually add it after about the first full cup of sugar has been mixed in.

I thought about how to get a uniform shape on the cake. I had no template to go by, and one of my biggest worries was getting it all lopsided. I like symmetry. It drives me nuts if things aren't symmetrical when they should be.

I looked around my kitchen and saw these thick wooden skewers that my husband uses for corn on the cob and inspiration struck. I'd use one like a pencil/stylus! So i sketched the edges of my shape with one and when i made a mistake, i could correct it. All my mistakes would be covered in frosting when i was done.

Once i had the entire outline drawn out, i used a piece of aluminum foil i took off the cake and got a straight line for the bottom of the cake. (I waited to draw the right side of the 'shirt' because i was afraid my perception of that line would throw off my bottom line. If that made sense.)

Then, a nice crumb coat.

I asked her what color she liked best. She said she didn't have a favorite, but she'd like something bright. Well, i like purple. I looked online to see how bright the violet gel coloring i had would get, and i thought it would look nice.

I used my Wilton's #47, flat side up, for my sleeve and collar details. I was very pleased with how smooth i got the frosting on the top of the cake. It's my best job yet.

Now, the cake seems about half done, doesn't it? I wish. This was all easy-peasy lemon squeezy, as my daughter would say.

I had done some experimenting with fondant earlier in the week, preparing myself for war. I knew i would never approach the real look of the materials in the example cake from Pinterest. Some of them i am certain are actual products, and not made of fondant or modelling chocolate at all.

I did manage a reasonable cartoon-y facsimile of some of the items. I think i did a pretty good job, considering i haven't worked with fondant much. This was a huge challenge for me.

Voila! Finished!

She loved her cake, and i was pretty pleased with the end result myself!

Now, for my husband. He got his cake a little late, because the nursing cake took up a huge chunk of my time and i was just exhausted over the weekend. We had so much going on. But i finished it on Monday while he was gone to work. Well, i almost got it finished. He came home extra early and i had to make him leave while i finished up the final touches.

When he asked me for a graduation cake, he told me he wanted a big pipe wrench on it. He's a journeyman pipefitter now (since graduation) and they have this HUGE pipe wrench outside their local union hall.

I don't have progression pictures of the cake, because i was totally done trying to document my progress. I just wanted to get it done and made and have time to get laundry done. But it turned out pretty nice. He was very pleased! It was exactly what he wanted!