Mojito Cupcakes

I know, I know – it’s been far to long since I’ve posted, but don’t fret, I’m still alive! It’s just been a crazy few weeks…

In the last few months I’ve returned to the United States after more than 7 months abroad, I moved to a new apartment in the awesome Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn and I started my senior year of colleges. It’s been quite the adventure these last 2 months settling into a new place, a new routine, a new life. So in the spirit of this new life, I am working on a new banner with my roommate and I am planning on posting a lot more in the future!! I promise! In fact, I already have many posts a brewin’ in my head, especially as the leaves turn and my favorite ingredient – PUMPKIN! – is starting to hit the shelves!

So to start things off, here are some cupcakes that I made a few weeks ago.

It was my friends 21st birthday, and in the spirit of all things alcoholic, I made some mojito cupcakes! I think I’m going to start adding alcohol to everything I made now as the addition of rum made these super tasty. Now all my roommates and I are big fans of mojito’s. So much so that when we walk into a party, we bring everything that is needed to make them – rum, limes, mint and sugar! We are walking bar. The cupcakes and the frosting both had copious amounts of rum and lime and I added some crushed mint to the frosting to give it the classic mojito taste.

MOJITO CUPCAKES

(Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

INGREDIENTS:

Cupcakes:

  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup mint leaves, bruised
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • Zest and juice of 1½ limes
  • 2 tablespoons white rum
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting:

  • 1½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons white rum
  • Bunch of crushed mint

DIRECTIONS:

1) Combine the buttermilk and the ½ cup mint leaves in a small saucepan over medium heat. Warm until just starting to steam (do not simmer), then remove from the heat and cover. Let steep for 15 to 30 minutes. Once finished, strain the milk into a bowl using a fine mesh sieve. The milk may appear curdled or clumpy, but don’t worry, it will come back together. Press on any milk solids and mint leaves to extract all the liquid possible. Give the milk a quick stir to smooth it out and set aside.

2) While the mint is steeping in the milk, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners; set aside.

3) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

4) In an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar together until pale, light, and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

5) Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the eggs one at at time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

6)  Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the lime zest, lime juice, vanilla extract and rum. Mix until combined. (The mixture may start to look curdled at this point, but don’t worry, it will all come back together, power on!)

7) Reduce the mixer speed low. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches. Mix only until just incorporated, using a rubber spatula to give it one last mix by hand.

8) Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until just slightly golden and a skewer shows only moist crumbs attached, rotating the pan at the halfway point.

10) Allow cupcakes to cool for 5 to 10 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack. B

11) To make the frosting, whip the butter on medium-high speed of an electric mixer using the whisk attachment for 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing and scraping the sides of the bowl until all is incorporated. Give it a mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds.

12) Add the lime juice, rum and mint and mix on medium-high speed until incorporated and fluffy. If the frosting appears a bit too soft, add some additional sugar, one spoonful at a time until desired consistency is reached.

13) Frost cupcakes and garnish with a lime wedge and sprig of fresh mint.

July 4th in the Desert

Last night, we had a 4th of July cookout here at Al Ahkawayn. As I made my way over to the tennis courts where we were told to meet at 6 pm, my nose was greeted with the wonderful smell of coals burning on a grill. I was excited at the prospect of a good ol’ American style BBQ, but unfortunately, while the coals were certainly real, the food was not. Okay, it was real food of course, but not what you’d expect on 4th of July! On the grill they had some chicken kebabs, beef kebabs and some big black hunks of meat that looked rather suspicious. I was told that it was liver and having never seen grilled liver before and after having heard so many horror stories about the food here at school this past week, I decided to steer clear. 

Even without the usual hots dogs and hamburgers, we still had lots of watermelon to make up for it, a star spangled banner and some old fashioned (and new) American tunes to keep us going. Some people even started a session on the electric slide!

Moroccans are very proud of the fact that they were the first country to recognize the United States as a new nation when it was created all those many years ago. We were reminded of this fact several times throughout the day by the teachers. I was amazed to learn that this little African country would want to recognize the US so quickly. Apparently, the Moroccan–American Treaty of Friendship is the longest unbroken treaty the United States has with any country. Who knew!!

While it was no New York and we had no fireworks, although some of us pondered starting a bonfire, it was a far cry from last year when I was too sick from chemotherapy to really do anything that monumental except decorate patriotic cupcakes!

Sugarplum Cake Shop

I know what you’re saying, why on earth would I ever want to go to an American style bakery when I’m in Paris and delicious French pastries and sweets can be found at every corner shop? Well, for one, David Lebovitz said it was good, and anything he says must be true 😉 Second, while I was in Marseille, Charlotte kept telling me that having a bakery in France with all the cookies and things I like to make, such as snickerdoodles and pumpkin cake, would be something out of the ordinary in France, so I had to go check Sugarplum out.

On a side note, the street numbers in Paris are so confusing. I’m walking down the street with the numbers going up and I notice that number 63, where the bakery is supposed to be, but it is not there. Hmmm… I say to myself. I kept walking and good thing I did as for some reason, 63 was two blocks past 61 and 65 on the other side of the street. HOW CONFUSING! Anyway…

Inside is cute and similar to many bakeries back in NYC that I like so frequent, such as Cupcake Cafe and Butterlane. They have miss-matched chairs, a huge chalkboard with the extensive coffee and tea menu and a lovely counter full of all sorts of traditional American treats. They had cupcakes and scones, a huge tray of rice krispies and towering cakes that are reminiscent of the cakes from BAKED in Brooklyn. 

I was so happy to be able to sit down a write for awhile while enjoying my oreo cupcake and espresso. I still haven’t quite gotten down the whole coffee ordering thing yet. I really need to remember that I like cafe au lait here, not just straight espresso. Whoops! In my usual snooty cupcake ways, I thought the cake itself was a little dry, but the frosting was delicious. And they use mini jars for their drinks – my favorite! My bakery will absolutely have mason jars for drinks and miss-matched plates and silverware for all the cookies and other things I decide to make. I will definitely come back to try the rice krispies – one of my favorite treats.

And I found this little treasure on my way out…

Sugarplum Cake Shop
68, rue du Cardinal Lemoine (5th)
Tél: 01 46 34 07 43

Sugar Cookies II

I’ve had a crazy weekend. Worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday just about non-stop with a quick jaunt to see A Single Man with my roomie, which I highly recommend. Anyway, prior to commencing this crazy weekend, a few of us decided to watch the new season of the WIRE we had got in the mail Thursday night. Needless to say, we watched 4 episodes in a row because it is hands down one of the best TV shows ever.
Anyway, while we were watching, I had that baking itch and decided on some sugar cookies. Not just any sugar cookies mind you, sugar cookies with royal icing. I had never made royal icing before and had I been smarter about it, I probably should have waited. By the time the cookies were out of the oven and cooled, it was already 10:30 and I was just starting to ice. I did about 12 cookies with detail, but given how long it took, I just gave up with the fanciness and kind of globed it all on after that. When I was paying attention to detail, I used a variety of tips from my cake decorating kit to get some thin and thick lines. I added a but too much water to some of the purple icing that I planned to flood, so it didn’t dry so well, but I learned my mistake and only diluted the blue a teeny bit. For future, I will definitely give myself plenty of time to ice cookies with royal icing. I could see making some really awesome cookies though, because the icing dries hard, so you can stack them when you’re all done and you can make some really nifty patterns. So while not a complete success this time, I will certainly try again.


SUGAR COOKIES

(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookie Book)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1) Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar; mix until light and fluffy. With mixer running, add egg, brandy, and vanilla; mix until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add reserved flour mixture. Mix until just combined.

2) Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.

4) On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch in between. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes; do not allow to brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

royal icing:

  • 1 box confectioners’ sugar (1 pound)
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder, or 2 large egg whites (I used meringue powder)

1) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and meringue powder.

2) Mixing on low speed, add a scant 1/2 cup water. For a thinner consistency, usually used for flooding, add more water.

3) A thicker consistency is generally used for outlining and adding details.

4) Mix until icing holds a ribbonlike trail on the surface of the mixture for 5 seconds when you raise the paddle.