Tuesday, December 30, 2008

CONTEST: 1 year Blogoversary for The Cupcakery & Gift from the Riyadh Spice Souq

*UPDATE: Due to lost luggage on my return trip; new spices are coming from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia!

Hi friends! Thank you for your loyal support over the past year. I have really enjoyed coming up with new flavor combinations and trying out different recipes. Most especially I look forward to hearing from you and now I get to give you something back!

(Fresh spices in the Spice Souq, Aswan, Egypt)
I am enjoying my trip immensely and I would like to share my Middle Eastern travels with you. I will be headed to the Spice Souq where cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron and a myriad of fresh spices are plentiful. I am going to send 3 lucky readers who leave me a comment in my comments section. The winner will be chosen randomly through Random.org and will win a goody box of spices selected from the Riaydh Spice Souq. This special prize is something I hope you will enjoy, so enter my Blogoversary Contest!
Leave me a comment or send me an email to:
the[dot]cupcakery[at]yahoo[dot]com

1) Tell me your favorite flavor cupcake and frosting combination.

2) Tell me what your favorite spice is.

3) Tell me where you dream of traveling.

The deadline is midnight on Friday, January 2, 2009. Make sure I have an email address to contact you. Good luck and Happy New Year!

Best!

Season's Greetings from the Middle East

(Wendy and my little guy at the Spice Souq in Aswan, Egypt)
Hi friends! As 2008 is coming to a rapid close, I must first wish you Season's Greetings. These wishes from my little guy and I come from where we have spent the past few weeks in Egypt and are currently in Saudi Arabia.

We have had a fantastic time and our eyes have seen such wonders; in the city of Cairo down to Luxor following the Nile River to the city of Aswan! Cupcakes are extremely difficult to find! I went through many back alleys to find small bekeries to the main streets into large Patisseries. No luck! I did, however, find lovely treats and delicious desserts which are famous in this region. Alas, the elusive cupcake was nowhere to be found.

I happened upon El Falero Patisserie, a lovely bakery in the heart of Cairo where I found this wonderful cake. Not quite a cupcake but close enough to eat with a cappucino. The cake was small and round. It was described to me to be the size of a cup - does this count? The "cup sized cake" was coated in a delicious melt in your mouth chocolate, crunchy hazelnuts and drizzled with dark chocolate. Inside it had a thin crispy cookie layer over the cake so there was a slight crunch. It really was tasty.

("Cup of Cake" and cappuccino, El Falero Patisserie in Cairo, Egypt)

We have travelled on to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This city, inspite of what you might have heard or think you know, is very progressive. Riyadh has an area which I have dubbed "The Sweet Spot" because of the tenants in this location. It is an amazing and impressive section of the city where the bakeries, patisseries, chocolatiers and specialty baked goods are located. With all of the different varieties of shops, there are still many "Coming Soon!" or "Opening Soon!" papers covering the windows. Although I am not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, I find I get a much better perspective being driven around. I am able to see the gorgeous window displays of chocolate or desserts and YES I am talking about sweets! There is a distinctive French and Italian influence, but I am just as taken by the Middle Eastern confections which are available as well. These windows are dressed as well as any Parisian or Milanese boutique and with as much attention to detail given to the displays.

Yesterday, I was at the Four Seasons Hotel at the Kingdom Tower in the Tea Lounge with a very dear friend of mine. The lounge is a small but extremely luxurious area with plush couches adorned with leather pillows, glass tables with the loveliest yellow roses which are also found in the hotel lobby. There is a quiet comfort which makes you want to spend the afternoon sipping turkish coffee, reading the newspaper. My friend and I ate fantastically prepared Arabic food and visited for several hours; we drank raspberry lemonade and organic verbena mint tea, feasted on delicately prepared Greek salad and Shawarma folds, crunchy ginger cookies and date cake which would send you into a spin because of the sweet and spicy combination. I spied the dessert buffet which was lit up with green spotlights and layered with elegant chocolate cakes, French inspired eclairs and fruit tarts with brightly colored combinations, mini layered tiramisu cups, creme brulee and as I perused the dessert behind the roasted figs and almonds, what did my marveled eyes behold, tucked behind the elegantly curved chocolate straws - cupcakes! Yes, yes, yes! Lovely medium sized banana cupcakes stuffed with chocolate cream and a healthy slice of fresh banana with a drizzle of chocolate on top. I have finally arrived at my destination!

As I ponder my delectable travels, I realize my 1 year blogoversary is in a few days. Keep reading as I will be hosting a contest to celebrate! I am most grateful to you, my dear and loyal readers who have continued to give me inspiration and creativity throught out many, many challenges I have faced this year. As we move towards a new year, thank you for coming back to The Cupcakery, I welcome my new readers and look forward to sharing more tasty treats, recipes, cookbooks and travels with you. It is with great anticipation I look ahead to 2009. My wish for you; May every sweet confection you imagine eventually wind up in the palm of your hand!

Wishing you the very best!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Go Army! Beat Navy! 109th Army Navy Game

(109th Army Navy Game logo)
Hi friends! Let's hope 2008 is the year Army has it's comeback! If you do not know about the rivalry, check this out!

Regardless, of who wins today (Army!) you know what a soft spot I have for all of our service members! I read about yet another great way to give back this holiday season through Operation Gratitude. OPERATION GRATITUDE seeks to lift troops' morale, and bring a smile to their faces by sending care packages addressed to individual service members deployed overseas. OPERATION GRATITUDE care packages contain food, toiletries, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation, all wrapped with good wishes of love and support.

Afterall, isn't that what the holidays are all about? Giving back, appreciating, all wrapped up with good wishes and love?

Enjoy your day and remember Army fans - BEAT NAVY! I think cupcakes are missing from this party ~ which is why I am baking as I post this. Pictures will follow!

Best!

(Rock the Black/Gold! Chocolate cupcakes and vanilla butter cream frosting sprinkled with chocolate jimmies and gold sugar crystals)

(Don't just catch the Army spirit... you can eat it too!)

Martha Stewart's One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 2 dozen

1 3/4 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 teaspoons table salt
2 large whole eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line cupcake pans with liners; set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

4. Add the eggs, warm water, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla; mix batter until mixture is smooth and combined, for about 3 minutes.

5. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

6. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway.

7. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 18-20 minutes. Rotate the pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack.

8. VERY IMPORTANT to let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting!

Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting

8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. whole milk
3 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. plus plus 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and salt for about 30 seconds.

2. Add half of the powdered sugar and the milk to the butter and beat again until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

3. Add the remainder of the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl again.

4. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy.

5. Continue beating on high speed for 3 minutes.

6. It is preferable to use the frosting on the same day you make it, but it can keep in the refrigerator for 3 days if tightly wrapped. Make sure and stir the buttercream well before using to get the air bubbles out of the frosting and then pipe onto completely cooled cupcakes.

7. Top with chocolate jimmies and gold sugar crystals.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook by, Martha Stewart

(Take a look at Martha Stewart's new cookbook here.)

Hi friends! I told you I was behind on postings and lucky you gets to read about another fantastic cookbook which I think should be on your wish list this holiday season! My little guy and I went to a very special book signing at Williams-Sonoma in the Westchester Mall in White Plains. The queen of domesticity was signing copies of her latest book Martha Stewart's Cooking School. I really admire Martha Stewart's talent. The way cooking, gardening, homemaking, entertaining and decorating come so easily to her. Her books, radio shows, television shows and the entire Martha Stewart Crafts section at Michael's can make everyone feel as though "we can do it too!" And why should we not feel that way ~ everyone of you is filled with so much creative potential! (I just hope if you are creating these wonderful crafts - I at least get to see pictures of what you have made or I am around to taste what you have created!)

(William-Sonoma; a welcoming entrance!)

We, okay, (it was mostly me) I, was very excited to meet Martha Stewart. My little guy gently reminded me, along with a new friend I made in line, Ms. Gail, that the book signing is all I talked about during the week! We arrived somewhat early so the queue was not terribly long. The Williams-Sonoma staff made sure everyone was taken care of by coming around with trays of creamy tomato soup (a recipe in Cooking School). After my little guy and I made it through the receiving line, we met and were greeted by Martha Stewart, there was a delicious tray of sugar cookies (also a recipe in the book!)

Here is Martha laughing with her guests...

...and signing.


Martha looked so trendy and at ease; she was so lovely and graceful. There was an electric buzz in the air. Everyone was so excited! Ms. Gail had an armful of books and I admit, this blogger was tickled to talk with Martha, if only for a few moments. Even my little guy said "Hi Ms. Martha, my mom really loves you!" She smiled at him and told him how happy she was that he came. [I love how this sounds:] We talked about blogs and cupcakes, and how several of my favorite recipes come from her Baking Handbook. Then Martha did tell me (and here's a scoop) a complete Martha Stewart Cupcake Book is in the works! Fabulous! You know I will be looking forward to that one when it arrives.

And finally, after those few moments spent with Martha, I very cheerily walked away with my new cookbook. And of course Martha has wonderful penmanship. (I just knew she would have!)

As a caveat, as we were walking past the sugar cookies and taking a glimpse at the crowd, the local NBC camera crew covering the event stopped me and asked me how Martha knew about my blog, what did Martha have to say about a new cupcakes cookbook, why did I like her so much, what did I think of her? It was a short interview which aired locally. Unfortunately I never did see it, but most of my co-workers did. My little guy thought it was pretty cool ~ and do you know how hard it is to impress an 8 year old, at a cooking event? Yes! I rock!

Quickly, let me tell you why I really like this cookbook; several reasons. The book is broken down into different techniques from very basic things like what spices look like and how to use them, to how to make perfect pie crusts and on to more complex cooking techniques. The book is filled with sharp, clear photographs, checklists and tips which will help you follow the techniques flawlessly. This cookbook book is great for beginners and a wonderful refresher for anyone who knows their way around the kitchen. Think of it as having Martha or an "assistant" in your kitchen!

These is my favorite volume which I regularly use:
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
Now I have another favorite:
Martha Stewart's Cooking School

The holidays are upon us and I don't know about you, but I can use all the help I can get; this is a nice thick volume to add to your shelves! Thank you Martha! Happy baking friends!

Best!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tate's Bake Shop: Cookbook by, Kathleen King

Hi friends! Happy Holidays to everyone ~ whatever you are celebrating I just know something sweet to eat is on the menu! I am somewhat behind on posting, not only cupcake recipes and photos but a few updates for you. Why? You know I have a perfectly darned good reason!

I bought a new cookbook.

Yep. That's my reason. My hairdersser, Dawn, told me about Tate's about a year ago when she was trying to make the coconut birthday cake for her beau. How could I not be curious about such a spectacular little Bake Shop hidden in the Hamptons. Tate's is a darling bake shop in Southampton (New York). If you have never been there before... get there! If you can't get there, visit the website and buy this book! You know I like to share yummy goodies with my readers, and this is definitely one of them! (Kathleen King, owner. Photo courtesy of Tate's Bake Shop.)
I have made several of Kathleen King's recipes in the past year and they are scrumptious. Easy to make, yummy to eat and even better when you share them with a friend! I signed up on the website for The Recipe of the Month. I finally broke down and bought the cookbook since I have enjoyed each months recipes so much.

If you are curious about what is inside, let me tempt you: Muffins and Scones (orange poppy seed muffins, rhubarb crumb muffins and apricot ginger scones); Pound Cakes and Breads (lemon pound cake, date nut bread and squash rolls); Cookies and Bars that will leave you clamoring for another batch (cappuccino shortbread, white chocolate brownies, and peanut butter squares); Pies, Crisps and Cobblers (apricot cherry pie, key lime pie, and apple cranberry crisp); Cakes (coconut birthday cake [FABULOUS!], chocolate mousse cake, hummingbird cake, chocolate hazelnut fudge cake, and sticky toffee date pudding) Healthy Alternatives (energy bars, healthy pumpkin bread and oatmeal tahini cookies). Just so you know, this is only a teensy-weensy sample of the index. This cookbook is over a hundred pages of really simple to follow recipes, with a foreword by none other than Ina Garten.

I really needed another cookbook. What can I say? I love good cookbooks and this is one of them. Another thing I like about the cookbook, besides the luscious list I wrote for you already, is the way the colors on the cover match the Tate's Bake Shop building, perfectly! What a way to accessorize!(Tate's Bake Shop - Photo Courtesy of ForbesTraveler.com)

Let me know if you get this delicious book ~ I would like to know what you make and what your favorites are. Happy baking!

Best!