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cupcake heaven

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cookies 'n' Cream

Some scream for ice cream, while others scream just give me my COOKIES 'N' CREAM!!!
Uh, that would be me. Whether it's in a candy bar or the all American favorite sandwich cookie, the combination is undeniably delicious. The ice cream flavor was my fancy. I remember when Haagen-Dazs first introduced us to their version of cookies 'n' cream. OMG!!! Did you die and go to heaven, or what? C'mon, admit it. I wasn't alone. Now, I don't know if it made the "people choice" awards, but it certainly was at the top of my list. For awhile, the parlor was the only spot that sold the perfect combo. I guess, like most things, it had to undergo a test market analysis, before phase two-- the supermarket. But it wasn't long before I was able to take my favorite treat (at that time) home with me in the brown pint size container with a glossy white top- slip it in the freezer- write my name on it, or a "for my eyes only" message. Perhaps in this case "for my mouth only", just to avoid any confusion. Admittedly, I was a bit stingy back then, but only for things I really LOVVVED!! Haagan-Dazs cookies 'n' cream was not to be shared. And, that was that!

These days, I'm all grown-up, and I still don't like to share my cookies 'n' cream. Sure, I'll buy you some. No problem. I guess I'm just a "personal size treat" kind of girl. One for me and one for you. Bon appetite!

Anyway, with the arrival of Fall, and colder weather. I tend to gravitate towards more room temperature goodies. Like- Cupcakes!!! So, last week for my Essence feature, I decided to do cookies 'n' cream. It was my way of bringing my summer favorite into the fall. And, you know what-- they were a hit!! The fluffy, crumbly devils food chocolate cake with cookie crunch frosting, topped off with half of an Oreo cookie-oooh, yummy.

This idea--a good one. Definitely, adding this one to my Cookies 'n' Cream list of favorites. Try it-- let me know how it goes.

Happy Cupcaking!

posted by Nicole Friday for the Cupcake Craze

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to bake something pink, my idea-pink velvet cupcakes. It was my way of, getting my pink on! And, recognizing an important cause. All I had to do was use my red velvet recipe, swap out the red food color for pink. Simple. Oh, but what about the Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Not so simple. I was thinking more... hot pink rather than maroon. Cocoa powder eliminated- solves that problem. But still needs the velvet touch, hence the name. I suppose "white"chocolate would be a great substitute.

So, I try it. Mise place (that's French for prepare the ingredients) No, I don't speak French, I learned that in cooking school. I'm an advocate for the "stay in school" campaign.

Anyway, back in the kitchen....

Take #1

I mix my batter, add a little pink gel food coloring- need more- add a little more- perfect! I melt the white chocolate fold it into the batter; add baking soda, and distilled vinegar. This is good-(my bubble thought blurts out). Dip the ole' finger in the batter taste test-hmm, yummy. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove. Beautiful. Let cool. Okay- ready to remove the cupcakes from the muffin pans. Let cool just a little longer. Walk away. And, when I return. YIIIIIIKKKKKKESSSS!!!! What happened to my beautiful pink velvet cupcakes. How could this happen? Quickly, I reviewed my recipe. It said: add this...did that...add that...did that...1/2 teaspoon of this...did that too! I did everything as directed. So, my question: WHAT HAPPENED???

Clearly, this was: ******* a test of the emergency baking system*****

These were not even 1/2 the cupcakes my easy bake oven produced. They were more like doughnuts. Ruined- completely sunken in. I was mortified. Obviously, I disposed of the bad product immediately. I couldn't take the chance of my kids, certainly, not my husband witnessing one of my weakest baking moments. I was taking this one to the grave. Until now, of course. I pondered, what went wrong- over and over in my head. I verbally repeated the steps. It was like a bad date- how could I? Week after week, I test, I bake, I eat...not these!!!

Needless to say, I went back to the drawing board. I studied my first recipe draft. Did some editing, rewriting, rewording etc...

This time, I sifted a little more flour, used baking powder instead of soda, omitted the distilled vinegar (I knew that was a mistake when it started to foam). I was ready. Here we go....

Take #2

Mix the batter; add pink gel food coloring, add the melted white chocolate, flour, baking POWDER, skip the vinegar. It was deja vu all over again- it looked perfect!! I baked them again for 20-25 minutes. Remove. Let cool. I decided this time I couldn't take the pain for the gain, so I asked my husband to bare witness...he looked at them, looked back at me-as I stood on edge. I say well....he says well, what?, I say what do they look like...and he says, what else....Pink Velvet Cupcakes-without the hole!!!

by Nicole Friday for the Cupcake Craze

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Yo Quiero Cupcakes!"

Remember the Taco Bell mascot and his famous expression, "yo quiero Taco Bell." Well, now the chihuahua wants cupcakes. Yeah! Amazing what a few tricks will get you. Roll over. Sit. Bark. Good doggy- now here's a cupcake. What?

Apparently Taco Bell is branching out. Reportedly, they are test marketing cupcakes--in California. Imagine that! What will they call them? Not sure, but I've taken the liberty to come up with a few names of my own.

Disclaimer: I'm not getting paid for my services. But, I am for hire. Just in case.

Taco Bell test menu:

  • Jalepeno salsa cupcake
  • Soft shell re-fried vanilla bean cupcake
  • Chocolate beef taco cupcake with cheese
  • Chocolate beef taco cupcake without cheese

Admit it, sounds disgusting! Don't get me wrong, I'm all for expansion, but Taco Bell? Now, that would take the cupcake. I'd have so many questions like: Who's going to make them? Will they be made on the premises? Or, will you outsource? I think it's McDonald's that has a partnership with Otis Spunkmeyer. The cookie company. The one's that are sold in the hard plastic box at the register. Ring a bell? They're not bad, either.

Really, I have nothing against the fast food chain, but this seems like a bit of a stretch. Okay, I'll own up, I've even hit TB's drive-thru once or twice during a late night desperate attempt to find food fuel. Not the norm!

Here's my two cents, Taco Bell should stick to the tacos and leave the cupcaking to the bakeries. Agreed.

posted by Nicole Friday for the Cupcake Craze

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Paula & Me" Season One

This past weekend I attended Food Networks Wine and Food Festival (http://www.nycwineandfoodfestival.com/). As a "foodie", I was in culinary heaven. It wasn't really that big of a deal, unless of course you are smitten by the "who's who" in the culinary world (no, I didn't ask for any autographs). Even, Ms. Stewart graced us with her everyday living flavors. Like her or not, Martha Stewart is the BOMB! Post lock down, she is larger than life. I happen to be a fan, not like a groupie, but, on a "woman to woman" level. She has the it factor. Admit it, she's fascinating.

Basically, I attended a few culinary demos and discussions. It was like the gates of "foodie" world opened up and said, "welcome." Nooooo problem. I opened my arms and slipped in. Behind my imaginary gates stood Martha Stewart, Racheal Ray, Paula Deen and Rocco DiSpirito to name a few. Amongst the demos, I attended, Paula Deen was my favorite. And, not for the cooking techniques. She is a hoot! Her demo resembled more of a stand-up comedy act than a culinary demonstration. Would somebody plee--eeezze call the promoter. She's ready! For what? A tour. Her food wasn't the only thing sizzlin'. "Y'all know" Paula Deen.

Aunt Peggy and Michael were there too. Ms. Deen encouraged the audience to grab the mic-state your name, and bring on the questions. Optimistically, I raised my hand. The microphone lady passed the mic.

First things first, microphone check 1..2..3

"Hi Paula, my name is Nicole, and I make the best creamy coconut cupcakes, and I would love to come on your show and make them for you." Her response, "you come on up here girl and give me your information." Suddenly, I found myself face to face on stage with Paula Deen in front of 500 audience members camera rolling and all, talking about "The Cupcake Craze." Shut-up! Pretty amazing-huh! Good thing, I was camera ready! Not only did I seize that moment, but I froze it. With me speaking into the handheld, and she into her wireless, we had our very own Q&A right on stage. We spoke about the company, the cupcakes, our homes, husband etc...and, I still gave her my business card. I went for it "Y'all". The outlet became mine and I plugged away. And, why not? After my "Paula & Me" season one episode, I quietly returned to my seat. The after show featured studio audience requests for my business card. Who knows what the future has to hold from that experience, but I do know the present was pretty darn- special.

posted by Nicole Friday for the Cupcake Craze

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reese's Peanut-Butter Cup-cakes

Remember the famous Reese's old adage "you put your peanut butter in my chocolate," "you put your chocolate in my peanut butter." How many of us have recited that jingle? Well, if you haven't heard "retro", "throwback", "ole' school", "back in the day", however described, it's all in style again. I like to call it the "new old." Because really, haven't we all been there before. I decided to put my own spin on, "who did what to whom and how"--well, maybe not the how part- this is a family blog. I even took the time to produce a jingle for my peanut butter and chocolate premiere. And, let's just say it goes together like perfect harmony. WARNING..PARENTAL GUIDANCE ADVISED. There may be explicit language:

Music Beat...

"She put her peanut butter in his chocolate, no he put his chocolate in her peanut butter--cupcake-that is"...Uh, yes, yes, ya'll. It's--the--Re--mix.


I know, sometimes I take things a little too seriously. But, its so much fun! Clearly, I draw inspiration from all walks of life. This one so happened to be "Hip Hop Reese's". Seriously. The idea was also inspired by Funny Bones, not the one on our body- that gives you that numbing sensation when you hit it and you grab hold for dear life- no not that one. The cake by Drakes. Remember?

I think they still make them, haven't eaten one in ages. It was two Twinkie-like shaped cakes (ya'll remember Twinkies-right?), but slightly smaller chocolate with peanut butter filling in the middle and chocolate coating on the outside. Just needed a tall glass of milk, and whew. It was on!

In this "new old" time, its all about the cupcakes, and peanut butter & chocolate are really something to sing about. If peanut butter is your strength and chocolate is your weakness, then together you'll be in perfect balance. Trust me!

posted by Nicole Friday for the Cupcake Craze

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Coconuts, Coconuts, Coconuts

Calling all coconut lovers!!! If you love coconut, you should try the coconut cupcakes of the month. No really. Coconut flavor is all over this one! Let me explain, there's the coconut cupcakes, meaning there's actual coconut flakes in the batter. Yum. The creamy coconut frosting, the secret, coconut extract- uh-ha, yup-ever seen that ingredient in your local grocery? And of course, the coconut topping- just some prepackaged flakes I came across in the organic store. Seriously, this cupcake- is COCONUT HEAVEN. If you have any desire to go there, please by all means, indulge. You'll be cupcake happy! Even my husband, who's been watching his diet lately, but still remains the cupcake sampler, couldn't resist the second time around itch. Usually, my neighbors are the lucky recipients of my leftover Sunday goodies, but this time honestly, I kept them for myself. Well not totally, I shared with a few more family members. Their response, "more". So needless to say if you care to "share and bake," you'll-be-a-star!'

Happy Cupcaking!

posted by Nicole Friday for the Cupcake Craze

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Beautiful "Eye"

Indeed, I am the "cupcake lady", so they say. I like to make, bake and create tasty bite size treats. The aroma of fresh baked cupcakes can be intoxicating. Friends even ask, what ya making this week? Recently, inquiring minds have asked, who takes those photos? They're beautiful!!!! It would simply be a story tale if I said, who else, but "I". "I'm a jack of all trades, I do it all, baby. I am both talented in front of the camera as well as behind". Not! What if I said, it was one of those famous fashion or celebrity photographers from Vogue, "O" Magazine or "In Style" like Matthew Jordan Smith, Ruven Alfanador or David Lachappelle, would you believe me? Perhaps. What if I told you, I bought them from a stock photo website, like "istock photo" or "getty images"- sound about right? Surrrrrre. I can not tell a lie, those photographers are too pricey, and photoland? Well, that would just be photo faking. Nah! This guy is on the brink, he's the next break out photographer- fresh, artistic, captivating and easy to find. That "guy" is my husband. Yup! Most of the pictures on my blog, and all of those featured on essence.com are those of my very own hubby. I know, he's quite talented! It does make life easier. Just call us Edith and Archie- cause we trying to keep it"All in the Family". Our roles are clearly defined. I am the recipe builder and baker. He is the art director, set designer, photographer, and let's not forget sampler. Yeah, we got the whole cupcake thing covered. Cupcak-ing over here!! So, my promise to you, is to keep bringing you tasty treats, and he'll keep making them look pretty!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

September cupcake of the month

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
Yield: 24 cupcakes


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons lemon zest, finely grated
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk


1. Preheat oven 350°F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. With an electric mixer cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time (tip: break eggs in separate bowl in case spoiled), scraping down sides of bowl periodically. Beat in zest and vanilla extract. Add flour mixture in three batches alternating with the buttermilk and lemon juice, ending with flour, beat until thoroughly combined.

3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups (tip: use an ice-cream scooper) filling three-quarters full. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer pans to rack or counter to cool before removing cupcakes.

4. Cut center of cupcake open, brush surface with lemon syrup and, fill with lemon curd to top. Use a small spoon to apply meringue frosting to cupcakes creating decorative peaks.

5. To finish, place meringue topped cupcakes on baking sheet under hot broiler until meringue becomes tinged with color.

Meringue Frosting:

8 large egg whites, room temperature
¼ cup sugar

Using an electric mixer whisk egg whites on high speed until egg whites are light, fluffy and stiff, adding sugar gradually once egg whites begin to peak. Use and enjoy cupcakes immediately.

Lemon Curd (available ready-made)

1 large whole egg
6 egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature

Whisk together whole egg, yolks, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add butter, few pieces at a time, whisk until smooth.

Stir constantly over medium low heat until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Transfer lemon curd to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool.

Lemon syrup: (optional)
Tip: (keeps cupcakes moist)

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Heat sugar and water until sugar dissolves. Let cool. Add lemon juice. Set aside.

posted by Nicole Friday for the Cupcake Craze
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