Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Baking Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

"Sorry I smell like frosting, I just love to bake."
~ Drew (Jon Hamm) to Liz (Tina Fey), 30 Rock
This wonderful quote explains my state of mind on a recent Friday afternoon when I decided to test out three recipes from the cookbook Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat (2009). I just felt the urge to bake. Each recipe is accompanied by a color photo so lovely and delectable you'll want to enlarge the photos, frame them, and hang them up as art. The recipes are divided into categories: Swirled and Sprinkled, Dipped and Glazed, Simple and Sweet, Filled and Layered, Piped and Topped, Birthdays, Holidays, and Celebrations. The recipes for various occasions rely heavily on decorating techniques and ingredients, like marizpan, that are quite intricate and, in my opinion, look more like play-dough creations than cupcakes. The end of the book features tips for essential baking tools and techniques.

I decided to test three recipes: Brown Sugar Pound Cake, Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes, and Peanut Butter-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes. I also wanted to make the Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes but could not locate cake flour at the store and decided that three recipes were enough for one marathon baking session.

The Brown-Butter Icing for the Brown Sugar Pound Cake calls for brown butter, which I have never made before. The recipe does not provide detail about letting the butter get too brown; I ended up burning my first batch because I thought the brown color I was seeing in the pan was okay. I looked up brown butter online for some tips and then made a second, successful batch. I also probably could have added a couple more tablespoons of milk to the icing. The picture in the book shows the cupcake with icing running down the side, so I figured I could just spoon the icing over the top letting it run over; I soon realized that I wouldn't have enough icing, and some cupcakes were frosted more than others. VERDICT: Very tasty, moist cakes with lovely vanilla-flavored icing. I'm already thinking of when I can make them next.

I had to try out the Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes because of the alluring photo: a single Oreo cookie placed at the bottom of the muffin tin, covered with the cheesecake filling on top. Yes, please! VERDICT: A simple-to-follow recipe that yields yummy small portioned cheesecakes.

The recipe for Peanut Butter-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes was fun to make because of the chocolate batter and peanut butter filling components, which are alternately spooned into the muffin tins. By swirling a toothpick in the batter a chocolate/peanut butter marble design appears. I think I rushed this step; the finished cupcakes looked like they had layers of chocolate and peanut butter, instead of being a chocolate cupcake filled with peanut butter. VERDICT: Addicting combination of chocolate and peanut butter. 7 out of 7 cupcake testers agree that these cupcakes are awesome; this joins my collection of "go-to" recipes. Because the recipe only makes 12 cupcakes I will definitely double or triple the recipe for future baking sessions.

Lovers of sweets and baking, this is a must-read cookbook. Just remember that the photos accompanying the recipes display a perfection that is only achieved with food stylists and photographers that hang with Martha Stewart. Even though the cupcakes I made (pictured) do not look as pretty as the examples in the book they still taste delicious.

Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat:
Find it in the catalog!