Orange Cardamom Cupcakes

Orange Cardamom Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

While in Gainesville, Florida visiting my sister with my family, she took us to Sweet Dreams Homemade Ice Cream. They had a variety of interesting flavors, including a peanut butter curry ice cream. I ordered the orange cardamom ice cream. I immediately loved the flavor combination and thought to myself that orange-cardamom would make a great cupcake. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices because it is extremely versatile. It has a spicy warmness that complements both sweet and savory dishes. You can use cardamom with meats, roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables, chili, pies (I highly recommend adding cardamom to these pies), chocolate, ice cream, and of course, cupcakes. Just use it sparingly since it is somewhat expensive and a little goes a long way. Too much cardamom can give things a slightly metallic or medicinal flavor. To make orange cardamom cupcakes, you need the following ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Cointreau
  • 1/2 cup milk
Fresh Orange Zest from Florida-Grown Oranges
Fresh Orange Zest from Florida-Grown Oranges

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper baking cups. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cardamom, orange zest, and salt) together in a mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the sugar with the room temperature butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add the Cointreau. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, slowly mix in the milk. Pour the cupcake batter into the baking cups, filling them about 3/4 full, and bake for 20 to 23 minutes, until they are a golden color and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the cupcake. This recipe makes a dozen regular-sized cupcakes. If there is any batter left over, you can to make a few mini-cupcakes; just bake the mini-cupcakes for 18 to 20 minutes.

These cupcakes can be eaten without any frosting and taste amazing. But who doesn’t like a little frosting on their cupcake? For these cupcakes, make this cream cheese frosting, but add in the zest of one orange (about a teaspoon), a pinch of cardamom (about 1/4 teaspoon), and a splash of vanilla (about 1/2 teaspoon).

Jill frosting Orange Cardamom Cupcakes
Jill frosting Orange Cardamom Cupcakes
Orange Cardamom Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Orange Cardamom Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
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Cream Cheese Frosting 101

When it comes to cupcakes, Artie and I pack a one-two punch: he makes a delicious cupcake and I make a mean frosting. To be honest, my real favorite part is the frosting. I could probably (okay, I have!) eat frosting with a spoon.

IMG_2260

There are lots of great types of frosting you can make, but cream cheese frosting is one of my favorites and also one of the easiest to prepare. And it tastes delicious.

The ingredients include:

  • 8-ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8-ounces butter, softened
  • 16-ounces powdered sugar, sifted
  • Flavorings, as desired

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar and beat slowly until incorporated. Once incorporated, increase the speed of the mixer and beat frosting until smooth and fluffy. Add any flavorings you desire and mix until fully incorporated.

For Artie’s cardamom and orange cupcakes, I used the zest of an orange, a splash of cointreau, and a splash of vanilla. For my pumpkin whoopie pies, I used a healthy shake of cinnamon. Experiment with your favorite flavors and have fun coming up with tasty new combinations.

IMG_0005Frost cupcakes with a pastry bag or a spatula. Store leftover frosting (if there is any!) in a container in the refrigerator.

This is a great go-to frosting that requires relatively few ingredients and is very versatile. Enjoy!

Summer Pulled Pork – 2 Ways

Blueberry Cornbread

There is something about the heat of summer that gets me craving barbecue, especially pulled pork.  It also gets me craving fresh corn with my pulled pork. With these cravings stirring around in my mind, I decided to try a twist on the traditional summer barbecue.

Several months ago, I brewed my first batch of homebrew. It was a straightforward, uncomplicated ale. Still having a couple of bottles laying around, I wanted to incorporate it somehow.

Bottles of Homebrewed Ale
Bottles of Homebrew

I picked up a pork tenderloin from Earth Fare, put it in a slow cooker, and dusted it with a little garlic salt, paprika, chili powder, and cumin, roughly a 1/4 teaspoon of each.

Pulled Pork Seasonings
Seasonings for the Pork

I put then poured a bottle of homebrew in with the tenderloin. I let the tenderloin cook on low heat in the slow cooker for about 6 hours. I have only tried this with my homebrew, but I bet you could impart a variety of different flavors into the pork by using different styles of beer.

Pork in the Slow Cooker
Seasoned Pork in the Slow Cooker with the Homebrew

While the pork cooked, I threw together some blueberry cornbread in my cast iron skillet. To make blueberry cornbread, heat 1/3 cup of vegetable oil in the cast iron skillet as you preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups of self-rising cornmeal, 1 1/3 cup milk, 2 eggs, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Remove the skillet from the oven and carefully pour the hot oil into the cornbread mixture, stirring well to incorporate the oil. Pour the mixture into the hot skillet. Lightly dust 1/2 cup of blueberries with all purpose flour and drop them into the cornbread mixture. Return the skillet to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cornbread is a golden brown color. I always love cornbread, but I especially love the combination of blueberries and cornbread. I’ve tried this recipe with blackberries too, but the blueberries work better.

Blueberry Cornbread
Blueberry Cornbread

I also made some blueberry-corn salad by cutting the kernels off of two fresh ears of corn and mixing them with fresh blueberries and halved grape tomatoes. I did not measure the ingredients, but just added blueberries and tomatoes to the corn until the proportions looked good to me. I also lightly seasoned the salad with salt and pepper to taste.

Blueberry Corn Salad
Blueberry Corn Salad

For my barbecue dinner, I sliced a wedge of cornbread in half and topped it with pulled pork and blueberry-corn salad. I gave the food a light drizzle of Amy’s Organic Smokey Maple BBQ Sauce. Heavenly.

Pulled Pork Dinner
Pulled Pork Dinner

I ate more blueberry cornbread for breakfast the next morning, but for lunch the following day, I was thrilled to have some pulled pork left over. I piled some pork between sandwich thins, added some leftover salad, and topped with more of the BBQ sauce and some dill pickle slices for an incredible barbecue sandwich.

Pulled Pork Sandwich
Pulled Pork Sandwich

These two pulled pork dishes helped satisfy my cravings, at least temporarily. If you get adventurous and try experimenting with different beers to make pulled pork, please let me know how it turns out. Happy barbecuing.

Horchata Cupcakes

The Friday before Cinco de Mayo this year, I stopped by a local cupcake shop to pick up a few cupcakes for dessert that evening. They did not have any of our regular favorites, but they did have a new flavor to celebrate Cinco de Mayo — Horchata cupcakes. After eating some crispy black bean tacos, we each broke into our cupcakes. Although the flavor of the cupcakes was enjoyable, we agreed that they were too sweet. Inspired by these cupcakes, I decided to venture out and make my own, less sweet version of horchata cupcakes.

I wavered between making horchata, a rice and milk based beverage flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, so I could use actual horchata in the cupcakes, or focusing on the key flavors of horchata and weaving those flavors into different elements on the cupcakes. I finally settled on the latter. I opted to use rice milk in the cupcake recipe instead of soaking rice in water with cinnamon overnight and adding milk and vanilla, as is traditionally done when making horchata. I incorporated the vanilla and cinnamon into both the cake and the frosting.

Ingredients to capture the flavors of horchata
Basic Horchata Flavors

To make the cake portion of my horchata cupcakes, you need the following ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used double-strength)
  • 1/2 cup rice milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper baking cups. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt) together in a mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the sugar and the room temperature butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add the vanilla extract. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, slowly mix in the rice milk. Pour the cupcake batter into the baking cups, filling them about 3/4 full, and bake for 20 to 23 minutes, until they are a golden color and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the cupcake. This recipe makes 12 regular-sized cupcakes, but there is usually enough batter left to make a few mini-cupcakes as well (bake the mini-cupcakes for 18 to 20 minutes).

Mixing rice milk into the cupcake batter
Using rice milk captures the flavor of horchata without having to soak rice in water overnight

For the horchata frosting, you need:

  • 1 pound confectioners sugar (1 box)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting the cupcakes
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 block), softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used double strength)

Sift the confectioners sugar and the cinnamon together into a mixing bowl. Blend in the room temperature butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla and mix until the frosting is smooth.

Cinnamon and vanilla frosting for the horchata cupcakes
Cinnamon and vanilla frosting for the horchata cupcakes

Top the cupcakes with the frosting and give the cupcakes a light dusting of ground cinnamon. Serve and enjoy. Buen provecho!

Horchata Cupcakes
Horchata Cupcakes

White Chocolate Margarita Cupcakes

The inspiration for this recipe came from a text message from my friend Joshua. He came across a bar of white chocolate flavored with key lime and Bolivian Rose sea salt and challenged me to incorporate it into a cupcake with tequila. I accepted his challenge.

White Chocolate Margarita Cupcake Challenge
The Challenge

Tequila laced cake? Yes please. I opted for white cake with a hint of lime and tequila.

To make this cake, you need the following:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I used Hawaiian red sea salt)
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used organic low fat milk)
  • 1 ounce Tequila
Lime zest for the white chocolate margarita cupcakes
Lime zest gives the cupcakes a bright, citrus flavor

Preheat an over to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper baking cups. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, lime zest, and salt.

Dry ingredients for white chocolate margarita cupcakes
The red salt and the bright green lime zest add a bit of color to the dry ingredients.

In a separate mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and the softened butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix the dry ingredients in slowly, then add the milk. Mix until the batter is a uniform consistency. The batter will be thick.

Batter for white chocolate margarita cupcakes
The lime zest is mixed throughout the batter

Fill the baking cups up about 3/4 of the way full. The recipe should make about a dozen cupcakes. Bake the cupcakes for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the cakes are a light golden color. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let them cool to about room temperature. Once cool, use a toothpick to poke small holes into the top of each cupcake. With a pastry brush, brush each cupcake with tequila. An ounce of tequila was enough for all of the cupcakes. When the tequila has soaked into the cupcakes (and the tops are no longer wet), frost the cupcakes with the white chocolate frosting (recipe below).

Brushing tequila on the cupcakes
Brush the cupcakes with tequila

We all know that the favored part of a cupcake is the frosting. The added white chocolate and tequila make this cream cheese frosting especially flavorful. For the frosting, you will need:

  • 2 ounces World Market white chocolate with key lime and Bolivian Rose salt
  • 1 teaspoon tequila
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 block), softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1 pound confectioners sugar (1 box), sifted
Lime and Salt White Chocolate
The inspiration for the cupcakes

Using a double boiler or a small glass bowl set over a small pot of gently boiling water, slowly melt the white chocolate. Stir continually to avoid scorching the white chocolate. Once the white chocolate has melted, remove from heat and stir in the tequila. Let the melted chocolate cool to room temperature.

Gently melt the white chocolate for the frosting
Gently melt the white chocolate

In a mixing bowl, beat together the softened cream cheese and the softened butter. Mix in the melted chocolate. Slowly mix in the sifted confectioners sugar. Whip until the sugar is incorporated into the frosting. Top each cupcake with the white chocolate frosting. Garnish with a little Hawaiian red salt.

White Chocolate Margarita Cupcake garnished with red salt
White Chocolate Margarita Cupcake

These cupcakes reflect my favorite elements of a margarita — the salt, the lime, and the bite from the tequila. Unlike the cheap, happy hour margaritas from many Mexican themed restaurants, these cupcakes are not syrupy sweet. The margarita flavors are subtle and the salt balances out the sweetness of the frosting. Of course, if you want the added sweetness, just add another spoonful of frosting to the cupcake. Or eat the frosting straight out of the bowl.

Apple Pie | Pear Pie

Traveling for work the entire month of October, I was beginning to miss my kitchen and home cooked meals. In an almost binge-like fashion, I jumped back into cooking by making six pies in less than a week. Not wanting to get too adventurous at first, I decided to bake a simple apple pie to take to the office and a pie to eat at home. The pie was so well received that I decided to not only make another apple pie but to also make a ginger pear variation of the pie for the office Thanksgiving lunch. While I was making pies for my office, I went ahead and made pies for Jill’s class too.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, here is the recipe I adapted from my mom to make a delicious apple pie.

For each pie, you will need:

  • 3  large Granny Smith apples
  • 1  large Braeburn apple
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 T. flour
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 tsp. apple pie spice or cinnamon
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 refrigerated roll-out pie crusts

The combination of the Granny Smith Apples, which are known for their tartness, and the Braeburn apple, which is a slightly sweeter relative of the Granny Smith apple,  provides a nice balance for a pie that is neither mouth-puckering tart nor tooth-achingly sweet.

Apples for Pie
Granny Smith and Braeburn Apples

Preheat an over to 450 degrees. Peel, core, and slice the apples into about 1/8 inch slices.

Peeled, Cored, and Sliced Apples
Peeled, Cored, and Sliced Apples

In a bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, spice, and flour. I used Penzey’s Apple Pie Spice, but plain cinnamon would be fine.

Sugar, Flour, Salt, and Spice
Sugar, Flour, Salt, and Spice

Place one of the roll-out crusts in a pie plate. Cover the bottom of the pie crust with a layer of sliced apples. Sprinkle the apples with the sugar mixture.

Pie Crust with Apples and sugar mixture
Pie Crust with Apples

Continue adding layers of apples, sprinkling each layer with the sugar mixture. It may seem like a lot of sugar, flour, salt, and spice for the pie, but use all of the mixture. The juices that cook out of the apples will mix with the sugar and flour to make a cohesive apple filling. Once the crust is full of apples, top the pie mixture with pats of butter.

Pie Crust with Apples, Sugar, and Butter
Top the Pie Mixture with Butter

Place another roll-out pie crust on top of the pie, fold the top layer under the edges of the bottom layer, and crimp to seal the crusts together. Use a sharp knife to cut a few slits in the top pie crust.

Apple Pie Ready to Go Into the Oven
Ready for the Oven

Bake the pie at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Then, lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake the pie for 30 more minutes or until the pie crust is a light golden brown. Let the pie cool slightly before serving, otherwise the filling may be too liquid.

Cooked Apple Pie
Ready for a Fork… and Maybe Some Vanilla Ice Cream

This apple pie recipe is relatively simple. You could make your own pie crust, but using the refrigerated roll-out crust saves time that you can spend making other Thanksgiving Day dishes. The mixture of Granny Smith and Braeburn apples provides a tartness that keeps the pie from being too sweet after the sugar mixture is added.

This recipe also lends itself to more adventurous variations. For examples, I replaced with apples with Forelle, Comine, and Bartlett Pears (I did not peel the pears) and replaced the cinnamon with ground ginger and kept everything else in the recipe the same to make a Ginger Pear Pie. The ground ginger really comes through in the pie and complements the sweetness of the pears well.

Forelle, Comine, and Bartlett Pears
Forelle, Comine, and Bartlett Pears

If you are invited over to share Thanksgiving with family or friends this year, volunteer to bring dessert. Don’t pick up a pre-made pie from the grocery store, use this recipe to make an apple pie, a ginger pear pie, or both. You will probably get invited back for Thanksgiving dinner next year.

Apple Pies and Pear Pies
Apple Pies and Pear Pies

Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes – Batch #1

With Autumn just around the corner and pumpkin ales starting to show up in grocery stores and at my local Coop, I decided to preview the season and experiment with making pumpkin ale cupcakes. I took notes as I made the cupcakes to keep track of the recipe. For Batch #1, I used Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale. Although these cupcakes were quite tasty, I have a few tweaks in mind for the next experimental batch.

Recipe notes
Recipe notes

For batch #1, the ingredients I used were:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 and 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 bottle Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale
  • 3 eggs
  • 7oz container 2% Fage Greek yogurt

To replicate this recipe (for anyone who can’t wait for a revised Batch #2 recipe), preheat the oven to 350 degrees and mix together the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt.

The Dry Ingredients

In a separate mixing bowl, add the melted butter and let it cool to room temperature. Pour the pumpkin ale into the butter. Mix in the three eggs, one at a time. After mixing in the eggs, add the Greek yogurt and mix until well blended.

Butter and Beer
Melted butter and Pumpkin Ale

Slowly blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix until a smooth, slightly liquid batter forms.

Pumpkin Ale Cupcake Batter #1
Pumpkin Ale Cupcake Batter

Pour the batter into lined muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 full. I had enough batter to make about 28 cupcakes.

Uncooked Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes
Uncooked Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes

Bake the cupcakes at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Test the cupcakes by inserting a toothpick into the center of one. If the cupcakes are done, the toothpick will come out clean.

Cooked Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes
Cooked Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes

Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature before topping them with frosting. For Batch #1, Jill make a frosting by mixing a softened 8 oz block of Neufchâtel cheese (reduced fat cream cheese), 1 stick of butter (softened), and a 1lb box of confectioners sugar. As the frosting mixed, she add a couple of shakes of cake spice (a combination of cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves).

Pumpkin Ale Cupcake with Spiced Frosting
Pumpkin Ale Cupcake with Spiced Frosting

Although I am posting this recipe on the blog, the recipe is not perfect. The cupcakes were good, but there are a few things I will do differently in Batch #2. To help elevate the flavor of the cupcake, I will probably add a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the batter. Jill also recommended that I add some canned pumpkin to the mix. For the frosting, I will probably go with a buttercream frosting with some added cinnamon instead of the cream cheese frosting with cake spice. The cake spice was a little too spicy for the cupcake. I opted for Neufchâtel cheese instead of cream cheese, hoping that it would not be as rich. Unfortunately, the texture of the frosting was too gluey, probably because Neufchâtel cheese has a higher moisture content than cream cheese. With some of these modifications, I hope to improve this recipe and share it on the blog soon.