Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Case Study 121: "The Bourbon Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cupcake"

Are you feeling what I'm feeling? 

It's the end of November, the early frost is setting in and we've all reached the same point: pumpkin fatigue.

And from reading the title above, I know what you guys are thinking. Holy bananas,this chick isn't going to whip up another pumpkin cupcake, is she?  

Well, I am. 

But wait, here's the thing. This is the end... the very very end(until 2013). I promise. There will be no more pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, or gold-flecked caramel figs. You see, by the time we reach Friday, when we're all full from that big day where we eat all of the things, we'll have already started to be served new stuff like peppermint, Christmas carols and dreams of potato latkes with wings(personal dreams, but...as you were).

So let's think of this as "one last hurrah." One last fling before the ringing Hershey Kiss commercials hit TV and that baby polar bear slides down a glacier and somehow finds a bottle of Coca-Cola.

I think pumpkin cupcakes topped with bourbon salted caramel buttercream and spiced shortbread leaves will do the trick, don't you?

Good. So here's what we're going to do. First we'll whip up the fluffiest pumpkin cupcakes in all of the lands. I'm going to suggest you get all crazy and use "organic" pumpkin if going the canned route here because the consistency is perfect for creating said fluff. 

Then, while the cupcakes cool, get down and dirty with some caramel sauce. This isn't your mother's best friend from high school's mom's caramel sauce. No, this one has salt. And bourbon. I used this recipe. Now tread lightly here. If you put a spoon from the cooking bourbon salted caramel into your mouth, you will get burned

When the caramel has cooled COMPLETELY, make your frosting using a basic vanilla frosting recipe. But instead of using milk and vanilla, use the bourbon salted caramel. See where I'm going here? Use your eyes and watch the consistency.

We've reached the grand finale. Time to frost those cupcakes! Are you ready? Let's go. 

Pipe or schmear your bourbon salted caramel buttercream onto your cupcakes and top with something festive. It's Thanksgiving, which stands for abundance and overload and thankfulness of things, so this could be sprinkles, some form of cornucopia tchotchke or my choice, spiced shortbread leaves (recipe here).

We're done! One last hurrah of Pumpkin Cupcakes. See, that was easy. 

Now go forth and eat! 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Notes from the Field: The Classic Birthday Cupcake

It's no surprise that I love me a good birthday celebration.

I'm all about the birthday signs, the party hats and the crazy nights out. But I reserve a special kind of celebration for my nearest and dearest people. 

It seems like the older I get, the more I value my truest friends. And if the past weeks of chaos in the northeast have taught us anything, it's that these kinds of connections are to be held very dear. 

I'm talking about the kind of friends that don't play games. They are honest, true and direct. They are without expectations and are full of respect. When you meet people like this, you know that you're kindred spirits. Whether introduced by fate, friends or virtual connection. The ones that know your secrets, your passions and your values just by being in your life. And so, these are the people that you look forward to celebrating most.

I think vanilla bean cupcakes with double vanilla buttercream and rainbow sprinkles do it best.

Now, it's not typical that I share my recipes, but I do believe that every baker should have a good classic birthday cake recipe on hand for celebrations such as these. So after the jump, you can find mine.

And so, happy, happy birthday to my sweet and true friend, Silvie. Here's wishing you a new year filled with happiness, love, fortune, wild adventures and much much more. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Notes from the Field: On turning 28...

Tuesday is my twenty-eighth birthday.   


I was going to whip up a nice long post commemorating the end of my twenty-seventh year. It would have been a chronicle of love. It would have talked about going all in, seeing things through and watching hard work pay off. It would have drawn a picture of four seasons in Central Park, helicopter rides to work and getting windblown on the northern California coast. It would have thrown in jokes about crying on New York City subways, a slew of hilarious dates and a one-toothed dog named Ferdinand. It would have told the story of new life, a wild summer and one thousand champagne cocktails. 


But instead, I'll tell you about Saturday night, when we gathered around a long harvest table in a tiny uptown pub bathed in candlelight and laughter. Thanks to the storm, it was intimate. There were a few hurricane refugees and the ones who could make the trek uptown. There was flowing champagne, sparkler fires and tiny crown fascinators atop our heads. There was a bar takeover, and we played musical chairs, had a soul shakedown and convinced complete stranger friends to join us for a birthday limbo. It was perfect. 


And then there were these: pumpkin cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream, fresh figs and a gold-flecked caramel drizzle. They were shared with family, friends, random bystanders and a few of our favorite British pub boys in the world. They were divine.

When I think of what really makes a year, I am reminded that it's what we learn from the ups and downs, the experiences, the trials and those moments that we find completeness. Saturday night was a reminder that I so have what I need and more. I'm overwhelmed at what twenty-seven brought. It was everything I could have never even dreamed of, and one hell of a trip around the sun. I can't wait to see how my new year unfolds.