Monday, September 15, 2008

Week 22: A little Sassafras and a lot of Fizz; Rootbeer Float Cupcakes

Hi friends! I am happy to share this cupcake with you for several reasons. As you know, I am never at a loss for words! In High School Sister Mary Christopher used to say to me "Dear child, you have to be the best extemporaneous speaker in your class." Little did I realize at the time she was mocking me a bit. I suppose our youth has a way of masking those moments from us. Or not... Sister Mary Christopher was not wrong, I have gone on to be able to hold my own ground in extemporaneous speaking, or being persuasive on short notice.

The reason I love this cupcake so much is because I love, love, love root beer floats. Oh my goodness what a treat. When I was a little girl I can remember my father making decked out root beer floats. My brother and I would sit on our back patio near the swimming pool under the large branches of a mango trees watching my father scoop enormous mounds of vanilla ice cream into frosty mugs. "You can't do this too quickly kids!" he would say to us. "Do you see how I slowly I am doing this?" Then he would begin to pour A&W Root Beer over the ice cream creating a frothy, bubbly eruption to appear! It seemed an eternity waiting for him to finish! I can remember squealing with glee as I finally got an icy mug with a foamy top spilling slightly over the edge. What I remember most about those days near the pool, was the anticipation and then the sharp bite of creamy root beer on my tongue. All that sassafras and fizz, creates a wonderful drink!

Now that I am older, I have to admit I love to create the same feeling of anticipation for my little guy with a root beer float. Yeah, I am cheesy like that! I suppose since I am "more modern gal" I like to buy IBC Root Beer in the dark amber bottles. I secretly have to laugh when he says "Hey Mom, can I have a beer?" I know I shouldn't encourage the idea of an 8 year old drinking an alcoholic beverage, but he thinks it is so bold for him to ask that question when I know he is talking about root beer! I do notice I seem to take painstakingly long to make a root beer float, but he is so excited while the ice cream is scooped, the foam is rising, the fizz is fizzing. It's all about anticipation.

Without further delay, I introduce The Cupcakery version of a root beer float in a cupcake! I was aiming for a moist cupcake with a not so subtle rootbeer flavor. I did not want it to be overwhelming either, so this was the challenge! I began looking around in cyberspace at root beer websites. They are about as varied as the cupcake world! I found a great site called The Rootbeer Brothers who had an absolutely delicious cupcake who they found from BitterSweet. After viewing many fantastic recipes, I decided to tweak this one. I was intrigued by the rootbeer soda, apple cider vinegar and extract combination. I have used canola oil in the past and for some reason I find this adds to making cupcakes exceedingly moist (plus it is heart healthy!) and I care about that!

I used a different frosting recipe, but feel free to use the ganache. I was looking for a light and airy frosting. The one I used, does not disappoint. I also think another tasty option would be Rootbeer Flavored Whipped Cream with a sprinkle of Nutmeg! Let me know if you try something different.

This cupcake was an enormous hit when I brought it into work. I heard a lot of reminiscing. My favorite was from a co-worker who said it reminded her of when her father would bring home root beer jelly beans at Easter from the Candy Barrel candy store. I guess I am not the only one hit with nostalgia!

Enjoy this tasty, creamy confection.

Rootbeer Float Cupcakes

1 Cup Root Beer Soda
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Teaspoons Rootbeer Extract
1 1/3 Cups Flour
3/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and cupcake tins with papers.

2. Combine the soda and vinegar and let stand for a few minutes.

3. Add in the sugar and oil, whisking vigorously until slightly frothy.

4. Integrate your extracts, and gently introduce the flour, along with the baking powder/soda, and salt. Be careful not to over mix.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared tins. Fill liners approximately 3/4 of the way to the top. Bake for about 18 - 22 minutes.

6. VERY IMPORTANT to let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

Root Beer Buttercream Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
3 tsp. McCormick® Root Beer Concentrate
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup milk

1. Beat butter in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.

2. Add Root Beer Concentrate; mix well. Mixture will turn a light amber color.

2. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until well blended after each addition and frequently scraping sides and bottom of bowl.

3. Add milk; beat until light and fluffy.

4. If frosting is too thick to pipe, add milk a splash at a time until you achieve the desired consistency. Rewhip before using.

* Should you not have root beer; make your own! It is so easy! Here is how:
Easy Homemade Root Beer

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Root Beer Concentrate
1 bottle (1 liter) cold soda water, seltzer or club soda

1. Bring water to boil in medium saucepan. Add sugar; stir until dissolved. Add Root Beer Concentrate; stir until well mixed.
2. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Slowly pour soda into root beer mixture until well blended and serve.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Week 21: Ultra Decadent Diva Divine Chocolate Cupcake Topped with Mascarpone Buttercream Frosting and Balsamic Syrup with Fresh Strawberries

Hi friends! I know, I know! It has been way too long since I posted a cupcake recipe. I have heard your requests and I am posting this absolutely decadent little bite of hedonism and asking mea culpa (forgiveness) for taking so long! I made several batches of these throughout the summer when the strawberries were full, ripe, luscious and sweet. Fortunately, you can get the burst of flavors any day of the week, using frozen strawberries works well. As most Cupcakery recipes, this one is so EASY! There are many aspects of this diva you will love and soon find yourself making several batches as I have!

The cupcake is so very moist and light, dare I say nearly spongy? The Godiva liqueur adds a nice rich flavor and the buttermilk really does add to the crescendo of flavors. I think the best part of this small confection is the mascarpone cheese-buttercream frosting and balsamic syrup tiara which sits on top!

A friend asked me this summer to make some of these for her tennis group who were going out to cruise the Hudson River one balmy afternoon in July. The bite of balsamic vinegar, juicy strawberries, chocolate cupcakes and mascarpone cheese-buttercream frosting was delicious and very welcome at the marina.

I am very fortunate to live along the Shawangunk Wine Trail in the Hudson Valley. There is a fabulous little secret nestled in the little village of Warwick called Demarest Hill Winery. Aside from the gorgeous view of the area, they make THE BEST balsamic vinegar. It is so sweet you can drink it. I have often used it pouring it over whipped cream and brownies, just about any kind of fruit. I used it in this recipe because it really is my favorite, but just about any balsamic vinegar will work. I find the balsamic vinegar from Modena is great.
(Balsamic vinegar from Demarest Hill Winery, Warwick, NY)

I hope you enjoy my ultra decadent diva divine chocolate cupcake! Only the best for my loyal readers! I promise more to follow.


Ultra Decadent Diva Divine Chocolate Cupcake
Makes 2 dozen

3 oz. Askinose Ecudorian Dark Chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup Godiva Liqueur, divided

1. Preheat your oven to 375° degrees. Then line baking pans with paper liners.

2. Place chocolate in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium (50% power) for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave 30 seconds more or until chocolate is softened. Stir until smooth and let cool.

3. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together.

4. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter in mixing bowl until creamy.

5. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

6. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

7. Beat in melted chocolate.

8. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk and 1/2 cup Godiva Liqueur, beating until smooth at low speed. Divide batter among baking cups.

9. Bake for 17-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of the cupcakes comes out clean.

10. VERY IMPORTANT to let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting!
(Diva Delicious Chocolate Cupcakes with Mascarpone-Buttercream Frosting, Balsamic Syrup and Strawberries: Topped with Milk Chocolate Tennis Racquets!)

*NOTE: I made the milk chocolate tennis raquets when it was over 100° outside, so unfortunately they melted very quickly. Milk chocolate is very soft so I would not recommend this for extreme heat!

Mascarpone Buttercream Frosting
Makes 2 1/2 cups

1 container of fresh Mascarpone Cheese
1 stick salted butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

1. Combine Mascarpone Cheese and butter in a mixing bowl.

2. Beat cheese and butter until light and creamy.

3. Add vanilla and then lemon juice.

4. Add powdered sugar and continue beating until smooth.

5. Once frosting is prepared, pipe onto completely cooled cupcakes.

6. Top with Balsamic Syrup and fresh, ripe strawberries.

Balsamic Vinegar Syrup
(Balsamic vinegar on the stovetop)

1 cup Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar

1. Combine ingredient in a heavy small saucepan.

2. Bring to a boil slowly until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes.

3. Once the syrup has reduced remove from heat and cool.

4. Pour small amount over frosted cupcake and top with half strawberry, or hulled strawberries.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A word from Sudi Pigott

Hi friends! I was delighted to receive an email from Sudi Pigott regarding my recent post with a review of her book. "How to be a Better Foodie; A Bulging Little Book for the Truly Epicurious" is a delight, so take a look at my review! Below is Sudi's email to me and a wonderful opportunity for those of you in London. It sounds great!!


* * * *

Hi Wendy,

What a fantastic review - thank you. It sounds like you've enjoyed the book exactly the way I hoped people would. Only problem is I included so much in it, it is almost impossible to think of a sequel. I'm intrigued to know what kind of foods you weren't familiar with? I thought you might also enjoy doing this foodie quiz I did recently for the Guardian newspaper in the UK though I realise a few of ingredients may not be found in US - I also run foodie quizzes now for restaurants and companies.

Also, I am going to be doing some foodie tours of Borough Market with Intercontinental Hotel Mayfair - I think they are offering special packages whereby I will take guests around and introduce them to producers, organise some tastings and generally offer advice on what to eat, food trends and my favourite places to dine out in London. I may also do something similar for Chelsea area with The Capital Hotel.

Best Wishes

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How to be a Better Foodie; A Bulging Little Book for the Truly Epicurious by Sudi Pigott

Hi friends! If you have not seen this latest "foodie book" to grace bookstore shelves from the US to the UK, you just might be looking for it after I share this latest review with you. Jessica at Penguin Books sent this remarkable little book to me. When I first saw it was over 300 pages, I could not imagine how much I did not know! But alas, Sudi Pigott got her title absolutely right, "How To Be a Better Foodie; A Bulging Little Book for the Truly Epicurious" is filled to the brim with facts and foodie-essentials which make anyone who is interested in culinary particulars marvel at the amount of text in this book!

I consider myself to be an amateur foodie. Meaning, I know I like "good food" and perhaps my tastes have become slightly more upscale over the years from my magazine subscriptions to Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Chocolatier and my endless accrual of cookbooks which have required additional purchases of furniture (covered on page 73). According to the "What Kind of Foodie Are You?" quiz at the beginning of this delightful book, I seem to have a fastidious dedication to culinary nirvana... or at least I must try to keep a sense of humor about that! I really do enjoy "good food" and by good food I mean satisfying, comforting food, which reminds me of happy times spent with those dearest to me. There is nothing quite as pleasurable for me than making a cocktail, an appetizer, a meal, a dessert, or something another person will consume when they come to my home; then seeing true enjoyment come from that event. Cooking has always been a way in which I express myself and to know it is well received and appreciated makes it so much more fun for me to continue doing.

When I opened the parcel from Jessica, my initial reaction was "What a darling book!" The size and shape reminded me of a little diary which might hold some super "foodie-top-secrets" I did not yet know but which Sudi was waiting to share with only me. The pages are thick chocolate brown and bubble gum pink with absolutely precious graphics in a buttercream white which reminded me of children's storybooks from the 1950's. The color combination of the pages are one of my favorites, so aesthetically it was a joy to behold. I could not wait to dive in and find out "How To Be a Better Foodie"

When I read a book, one of my favorite parts is the introduction from the author. You get a few pages of insight into why they have chosen to write on this particular subject. I have no doubt Sudi Pigott loves what she does! I could actually relate to her initial "foodietude" she developed in her childhood from licking a spoon from a maple walnut sponge cake bowl. Her enthusiastic interest in food leaps off the pages in this "Bulging Little Book for the Truly Epicurious" - there is a bit of self deprecating humor slipped in between her knowledge but she shares her joy of food with the pleasure you would have in finding your favorite childhood dish at an upscale East side restaurant.

I must warn you, as you flip through the pages, you might be tempted to tab them up with Post-it notes since there are many point of interest and so many new ways to declare yourself a better foodie! I had no idea I was so gauche! I did, however, enjoy seeing the list of condiments, oils and vinegars and proud as even an amateur foodie, my pantry contained quite a few from the list!

The book contains quirky foodie habits which hard-core foodies can relate to and amateur foodies can esteem to. There were some areas of which I could not understand, simply because I am not accustomed to some of the foods Ms. Pigott clearly has passion and expertise in. I have no doubt food is something she dives into with hedonistic abandon and if you are looking for ways to expand your palette, get this book!

I enjoyed tremendously the way Sudi took every day aspects such as pets, fashion, shopping, movies, and dining to name a few and expressed how "foodietude" encompasses and relates to each. As someone who has a cupcake website and love for all things cupcake, I am distracted by anything cake related in small proportions! I did learn what a langoustine is (a marine crustacean which looks a little like a miniature lobster and a lot like the river dwelling crayfish. It can grow up to a foot in length and is prized for its delicious tail meat. Smaller langoustines have their upper parts discarded and their tails used for scampi. Larger langoustines are sold to be cooked whole. They are a common feature in the traditional French bistro seafood platter and a very important element in Spanish cuisine.)

I said earlier I felt like I was given a diary filled with lots of secrets and a wealth of gastronomic knowledge. This book, to me, reflects many years of Ms. Pigott's culinary travels and epicurian delights. It is full of thoughtful observations, experiences and a truly epicurious point of view. At times it made me scratch my head and crinkle my nose, but trust me when I tell you, it holds up to its title. This book is bulging with information about EVERYTHING foodie related. I feel smarter and more educated because I know about La Gran Festa De La Calcotada in Catalonia (Spain) is a festival held on the last Sunday in January for a variety of exceptionally long scallions; which can be found in the Foodie Almanac. Not to be a spoiler, but there are fantastic Foodie Pilgrimages to plan on around the world and even Foodie Stocking Stuffers!

With all this foodie "stuff" I have listed, I hope you will check out this little book. It is a fun read, you can open it at any point and find something different. If you get anything out of it... just think how sharp your gastro-credentials will be and all of the Trivial Pursuit questions you will get right!