March 29, 2012

i am a food blog's Earl Grey Madeleines, High-Altitude Style

When I was living in San Francisco, I used to work a few blocks away from a Daiso. The best way to describe Daiso is that it's the Japanese take on a dollar-store -- most items in the store are from Japan and cost about a dollar, and you can find a wide variety of things ranging from household supplies to hair and beauty products. In fact, afew weeks before I left for Denver, I bought two madeleine pans for $1.99 a piece from Daiso:


However, after cooking up my first batch of Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcakes, I realized that high-altitude baking was a game changer, and if I couldn't make my beloved cupcakes here, there was no way I could make madeleines. I was less familiar with the madeleine baking process and didn't dare adapt something I had never even made at sea-level. So I sighed and put my never-been-used madeleine pans away in the back of my baking cupboard.

So it was only with some sort of 'living vicariously through others' attitude that caused me to click on i am a food blog's recipe for Earl Grey Madeleines. i am a food blog is one of my favorite blogs, and I do love me some Earl Grey tea, so I figured I could pin the recipe and save it for later when I was back at sea-level. But a quick glance at the recipe's ingredients list surprised me -- the recipe contained no leavening agents!

This is an especially big deal because, if you read my blog closely, you'll know that leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda are normally the reason why sea-level recipes don't work at high-altitude. So the fact that this recipe contained no leavening agent meant that the recipe could potentially work at high-altitude without any major alteration.

And so how did the recipe fare at high-altitude?

March 27, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes Recipe (Adapted for High-Altitude)

"It's important to use pieces of fresh strawberry in this recipe -- they moisten the cake and texture of the cupcakes. The crumbled cookies sprinkled on top add the flavor of a cheesecake base. At the bakery we like to cover the frosting generously with crumbled cookies but you can add as little or as much as you like."
- The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

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March 24, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes, High-Altitude Style


I wasn't particularly nervous about adapting the Hummingbird Bakery's strawberry cheesecake cupcake recipe for high-altitude, mostly because the recipe was identical to the recipe for Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcakes. The only difference between the two was that the strawberry cheesecake cupcakes included chopped strawberries:


And since the high-altitude adjustments that I did for the vanilla cupcakes also worked on the very-similar recipe for Hummingbird Bakery lemon cupcakes, I figured those same adjustments would work for the strawberry cheesecake cupcakes due to the mother recipe theory. It would be easy, right?

Ah, see. This is where I got cocky.

March 22, 2012

Chocolate Hearts from The Pioneer Woman's Texas Sheet Cake Recipe


I've mentioned before in this blog that one of my favorite recipes I've found online is the Pioneer Woman's recipe for Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake. I hadn't dared attempt to adapt it for high-altitude, but this weekend, I had a massive craving for chocolate sheet cake that I couldn't ignore. So I rolled up my sleeves and decided to give this a go -- to great success!

March 20, 2012

The Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days iPhone App: All the Details You Didn't Know

I've been considering buying Cake Days, the Hummingbird Bakery's second cookbook, for a while now. Unfortunately, since the Hummingbird Bakery is based in England, I was unable to find any copies of the book in any US bookstores. I've considered buying Cake Days through Amazon, but I was hesitant about going through a third-party seller.

(photo from The Hummingbird Bakery's website)

I've always been aware that an iPhone app of the book existed, but I was reluctant to buy it for two reasons. The first one is that I refuse to pay for apps on principle. There are a ton of awesome, free apps out there so I think it's pretty unnecessary to shell out money for an app -- especially one that costs $4.99.



The second (and perhaps less irrational) reason is that I find it a little heartbreaking to buy an electronic/app version of a book. I've resisted the whole Kindle/e-tablet trend for a while now; since I spend the majority of my day staring at two screens at work, I really don't want to spend my free time doing so. God knows I already spend enough of it on screens anyway, especially considering this blog and my recent Pinterest addiction.

Besides, there's something really satisfying and lovely about having a tangible, physical book in my hands that I can't quite shake. What's more is that the app would essentially be substitute for the cookbook -- but aren't cookbooks supposed to be physical things, filled with mysterious stains and beautiful full-page photos? I've wasted a lot of time browsing through my small collection of cookbooks, brainstorming for ideas and oohing and aahing at pretty pictures of delicious food. And you really just can't do that with an app.



However, after quickly cracking the Hummingbird lemon cupcakes recipe last weekend, I realized that if my theory about "mother recipes" holds true, I would quickly breeze by the rest of the Hummingbird Bakery's Cookbook's cupcakes recipes. So I caved. I bought the Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days app. Only the third app I've ever paid for in my life (the first two were Angry Birds and the Savage Love podcast, in case you were interested), and the first electronic book I've ever bought.


And my thoughts?

March 17, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Lemon Cupcakes... with Hibiscus Cream Cheese Frosting!


Since starting this blog, a few people -- mostly local folks and other high-altitude bakers -- have reached out and shared their websites, tips, and high-altitude baking experiments with me. I'm loving this high-altitude baking community that I'm slowly discovering through my blog!

One such person is Megan from High Altitude Bakes. If you're a high-altitude baker and haven't checked out her blog yet, be sure to do so -- unlike me, she's actually got formal training from the French Pastry School in Chicago, and is currently the executive pastry chef of Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail, CO. Very cool.

Her blog has a ton of amazing recipes, but the one I was especially excited to try was the hibiscus cream cheese frosting from Grapefruit Mini Cakes recipe. It just so happened that when I was doing some shopping at one of Denver's many Asian supermarkets a week earlier, I had found a giant jar's worth of dried hibiscus flowers for $2.99:


And so how did her frosting turn out?

March 15, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Lemon Cupcakes Recipe (Adapted for High-Altitude)

"Hollowing out a bit of the cake and putting in a small spoonful of lemon curd makes this cupcake very moist and tangy. Lemon is always a popular alternative to chocolate or vanilla desserts. The trick is to keep the frosting slightly tart, to temper the sugar."
- The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

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March 13, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Lemon Cupcakes, High-Altitude Style


For those of you who have been following my blog closely, you might notice that this post deviates a little bit from my standard format. With the last three recipes -- that is, the vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet cupcakes -- I started out with baking the original, unaltered sea-level recipe to see how it would fare at high-altitude.

However, I've been reading Christina Tosi's Milk Bar cookbook these last few days, which gave me some new ideas on how to approach my high-altitude experimenting procedures. In the book's introduction, Tosi discusses the concept of the "mother sauce" in French cooking. According to Tosi, there are only four mother sauces in French cooking. Almost every other French sauce is a derivative of one of these four sauces -- if you master each of these sauces, you can make nearly anything in French cuisine. She structures each recipe in her cookbook to include "mother recipes"; almost every other recipe in the book is a variation of one of these recipes.

Flipping through The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, I began to notice that same mother recipe concept in play. Strawberry cheesecake cupcakes had a recipe almost identical to vanilla cupcakes, except for the addition of some strawberries. The recipe for chocolate hazelnut frosting is identical to the recipe for chocolate buttercream frosting, except with Nutella substituting for cocoa powder.

Similarly, a comparison between the Hummingbird Bakery's recipe for lemon cupcakes with its recipe for vanilla cupcakes revealed striking similarities -- that is, the recipe for lemon cupcakes was simply the recipe for vanilla cupcakes, but minus vanilla extract and instead the addition of some lemon zest:


Maybe the Hummingbird vanilla recipe was the "mother recipe" for its lemon cupcakes recipe?

With this in mind, I decided to see if my high-altitude alterations for the vanilla cupcakes (increasing the oven temperature, increasing flour content, and decreasing baking powder) would work for the lemon cupcakes recipe.

These were my results:


BOOM, baby! I was right in my theory that the Hummingbird vanilla cupcakes recipe was the "mother recipe" for lemon cupcakes. The same alterations that yielded perfect vanilla cupcakes also produced perfect lemon cupcakes!

I mean, look at these perfectly domed tops:


And yes, they even passed the Hummingbird Bakery test -- tops that bounce back when touched.

This is so exciting! This whole "mother recipe" thing is totally gonna cut down my waste and expenditure. I mean, as awesome as it was seeing how each alteration affected my cupcake, it produced an incredibly embarrassing and shameful amount of waste. Erlend and I were literally sitting around with dozens of semi-decent-but-really-not-that-great cupcakes that were rapidly getting staler by the minute. We initially made half-hearted attempts to eat them, but to be honest, we're getting a little cupcaked out. Most eventually ended up the bin.

*shifts feet guiltily*

Anyway, so yes! Stay tuned for the final, adapted recipe for Hummingbird Bakery lemon cupcakes, adapted for high-altitude.

Here's a sneak preview:


March 10, 2012

Topping Yo' Cupcakes with Chrysanthemums!

A few weeks ago, my Crossfit buddy pinned up a pin on Pinterest detailing how to decorate your cupcakes to look like chrysanthemums. The steps looked easy enough, so I decided to try it at home:

photo by kimothy from kimothyjoyeats

Looks good, right?

The steps are pretty simple:
  1. Start with some mini marshmallows, some bottles of different colored decorative sugars, and a Ziploc sandwich bag with a seal. You don't necessarily have to use Ziploc -- I used some weird ones from Ikea that have a yellow retro pattern -- just as long as the bag has a seal.


  2. Pour some sugar in the Ziploc bag. You can even go crazy and mix up different colors -- I mixed up red, pink, and blue, hoping to get some sort of purple effect.


  3. With a pair of kitchen scissors, cut the mini marshmallows diagonally and place in the bag with some decorative sugars. Give the bag a good shake -- the sugar should only stick to the cut part.


  4. Use your frosting to attach the marshmallows onto the cupcake in a chrysanthemum flower pattern. I recommend using a vanilla buttercream frosting, but you can also use cream cheese frosting like I did. The best way to do this is to frost the entire cupcake top, and then arrange the marshmallows by pressing them into the frosting immediately after before it crusts:

And voila! There you have it. Chrysanthemum cupcakes, easy as pie. You can make a huge variety of flowers -- feel free to play around with different colors and patterns and see what looks best!


For instance, here is one with multi-colored sugar:


Or here is another one by my friend Kimothy. She decided to leave some of the marshmallows unsugared, resulting in a white petaled chrysanthemum:


Very cool! This is a neat, effortless recipe that I'll definitely try again in the future.

March 8, 2012

Lessons in Food Blogging, Pt. 3: How to Get Accepted by Foodgawker

For those of you not as obsessed with food and the internet as I am, Foodgawker is a blog aggregator that publishes really amazing food photographs from a wide range of food blogs. It's a great place to discover new recipes or simply just browse and drool. Since there are a lot of food blogs floating around in the internet, I like to think of Foodgawker as a quality filter for what's out there.

I've had some recent success with getting some of my posts up on Foodgawker lately:


As you can see, I'm pretty excited about it.

To have your blog feature on Foodgawker, you simply submit a photo from your website -- anybody can submit, but not everybody gets featured on the site. Editors from the site first review your submission before it goes live, and will either approve it for publishing or (in my case, most likely) reject it. Foodgawker is pretty selective about what photographs and blogs they publish -- they only publish the pictures that they deem the most aesthetically pleasing and of the highest quality. For every photo that I've gotten accepted by Foodgawker, I've had at least two others rejected -- not even bad ones, mind you, but pictures that I'm actually proud of.

The great thing about Foodgawker is that when they reject your photos, they give you feedback on why they rejected the submission. This is great advice for budding food photographers like myself. I figured it would be helpful to share some of the feedback I received from the site, so that any aspiring food bloggers hoping to get published on Foodgawker (I know this was my personal goal for a long time) will have a better idea of what the site is looking for. So here it is -- a parade of rejection for the work that I'm proud of. And they say that you are your toughest critic. Hahah. Lies.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Crepe Cake
from 'Happy Birthday, Mom! A Cake for You'

Attempt #1



Foodgawker Feedback: Composition - awkward angle

My Feedback:
I really like this photo. Foodgawker automatically crops all submitted images to a square with 250 x 250 dimensions. The cake looked good right in the center of that 250 x 250 square, so I was surprised when they rejected it. But after carefully browsing through all the images featured on the site, I realized that they rarely post photos taken at a bird's eye view. The majority of photos featured on the site are taken at a slight angle tilting downwards (as if a person were standing at the side of a table where the food was placed looking down at it), or around eye level to the dish.

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Attempt #2


Foodgawker Feedback: Harsh lighting and/or overexposed

My Feedback: Again, I really like this photo. This photo is taken at the more traditional angle that I was talking about earlier -- the angle that most Foodgawker-accepted photos are taken at. I can see why Foodgawker favors this angle; from this point of view, you capture the texture of the cake, which you fail to do with the bird's eye angle.

Unfortunately, I was a little too generous with my exposure. I'd chosen to overexpose the shot slightly because the majority of pictures featured on Foodgawker are brightly lit. But upon further examination, I realized that the light in said photos is almost always softened -- most likely by some post-processing handiwork in Photoshop rather than actual physical tampering with the camera's exposure setting. Grumble.

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Attempt #3


Foodgawker Feedback: Accepted!

My Feedback: Of all the three photos I submitted, I actually like this one the least. I submitted this one rather half-heartedly after my previous two rejections.

But Foodgawker tends to favor photographs with a shallow depth of field; that is, the closest part of the picture will be in focus, while everything else is blurry. For this picture, I focused the camera on the top-middle part of the cake in an attempt to capture the crepe interior of the cake as well as the cake top studded with Valhrona pearls. Since that was what I wanted to focus on, I used a low aperture to blur out everything else -- I especially wanted to take focus away from the chocolate smudges of the white plate.

While the technical aspect of the photo worked well, I prefer the styling and the composition of the previous two photographs. I don't like the way you can see the bars behind my inner-city window -- but I guess Foodgawker doesn't mind that too much. It just goes to show that while Foodgawker provides a pretty good assessment of your work, it might not necessarily align with what YOU think is good. And that's okay.

So for all you budding food photographers out there, keep trying! I'm still learning myself. I'll continue to post rejections and feedback periodically as they occur. If anybody has any photos and feedback they'd like to share, please feel free to post them here! We're all in this together. Kinda.

March 6, 2012

Lessons in Food Blogging, Pt. 2: Where to Find Props for Food Photographs

I've wanted a tiered cupcake tray ever since my friend Kimothy from kimothyjoyeats came over for a cupcake photo session and brought over the most adorable two-tiered dessert tray:

photo by kimothy from kimothyjoyeats

I had been looking online for a while and, despite seeing some adorable dessert trays on Etsy, I couldn't bring myself to pay the exorbitant prices that come with unique, handmade goods. Other trays that I saw in stores were equally as expensive or white in color. Although I personally love simple, white plateware for everyday use, I quickly learned that they weren't the best for food photography. When I first started experimenting with food styling and composition, I decided to use plates I already had on hand. Since the majority of the plates in my kitchen pantry are white, most of my cupcakes (especially those with white frosting) blended in with the plates and appeared washed out in my photographs.

I also had other patterned plates in my pantry, but when I pulled these out for food photographs, I found that the patterns overwhelmed or distracted from the cupcakes. I decided that I needed to start building a collection of simple, solid-colored plates... once I saved up some money. Plateware tends to be pricey, especially the pretty, photogenic kind -- I mean, a plate sometimes sells for over $20 a pop at Anthropologie!

A few days ago, however, I saw a pin on Pinterest on how to build your very own multi-tiered dessert tray. Ecstatic but not wanting to spend too much money on the project, I recalled my early days in college where my friends and I thrifted through a large Goodwill warehouse near campus to decorate our dorm rooms. So I made it my personal mission to go to the nearest Goodwill this weekend and pick up a few solid-colored plates for the project.

It happened to be my lucky day on Saturday -- Goodwill was having a 50%-off-everything sale in the store! I got a little carried away and bought myself a huge stack of plates and a macaron baking tin:


All for $6.97!

I often get distracted by all the bright, pretty things in stores like Anthropologie, Cost Plus World Market, Etsy, and Terrain -- so much that I often forget that Goodwill is a much cheaper and perfectly viable (superior, even) alternative to all those places. Don't get me wrong -- I would love to buy most of the things I see at the stores that I listed, but it's probably best to save my pennies for a rainy day. And although you definitely have to do some digging to find the diamonds in the rough, Goodwill really is a great source for vintage, unique, and quirky food photography props. All for much cheaper prices than that "one-of-a-kind" $28 plate from Anthropologie!


I definitely foresee more trips to Goodwill in the future.


Oh! And an insider's tip for all the Denver residents out there -- apparently they have this 50%-off-everything sale every other Saturday! Crazy!

March 4, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe (Adapted for High-Altitude)


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Ingredients

For the Red Velvet Cupcakes:
(makes 12-14 cupcakes)

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

(enough for 12 cupcakes)
  • 2 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cold
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photo by kimothy from kimothyjoyeats

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The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe
(For All Altitudes)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 (F).

  2. Put the butter and sugar in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed. This creaming process should take about 5 minutes at sea-level, and around 3 minutes at high-altitude.

  3. Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg, and beat until everything is well incorporated. Do not overbeat -- this should only take about a minute.

  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa, red food coloring, and vanilla to make a thick dark, paste.

  5. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until the batter just becomes evenly combined and colored, scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Do not mix any longer than necessary.

  6. Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until just mixed, and then add half the flour (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) and continue mixing until the flour is just incorporated.

  7. Scrape down the side of the bowl and repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added.

  8. Add the salt, baking soda, and vinegar one at a time. Turn the speed up to medium-high speed, and beat for about a minute.

  9. Use a measuring spoon to dole out about 1 3/4 - 2 tablespoons of batter into cupcake cases in your muffin tin. The cases should be around two-thirds full.

  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the cupcake top bounces back when touched. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before removing them onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  11. When the cupcakes are cold, measure out approximately 1 tablespoon of cream cheese frosting on top of each cupcake and decorate accordingly.
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The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
(For All Altitudes)
  1. Beat the confectioner's sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.

  2. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated.

  3. Once the cream cheese has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy. This should take about 5 minutes. Be careful not to overbeat, as the frosting can quickly become runny.
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Tips & Addendums
  • All spoon measurements are level and unsifted, unless otherwise specified. To level the ingredients, take the back of a knife and run it across the top of the measuring cup until the excess ingredients are scraped off.

  • Liquid and dry ingredients require different measuring cups; please make sure you use the appropriate measuring cup for each ingredient.

  • After adding flour to the mixture, do not overbeat the batter as this will overwork the flour and make the cake dense. Simply beat or stir until the flour is just incorporated. In my opinion, making sure you don't overbeat the batter is one of the hardest parts about baking.

  • Do not open your oven until at least the minimum time recommended has passed. Too much cold air coming from a frequently opened oven door causes irregular oven temperatures that affect the baking process.

  • Do not substitute the buttermilk and cream cheese for reduced fat versions; if you want less fat, simply eat less of the baked good! Substituting these ingredients will affect the flavor; for instance, your cream cheese frosting will be in danger of being too runny if you use a reduced fat cream cheese.

  • I like to prep my cocoa powder and food coloring paste before I start creaming the butter and sugar together; that way, I can just go ahead and add it to the batter without having to stop my mixer. I also like to prep my flour beforehand by dividing the flour into two separate bowls each containing 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon of flour.

  • At higher altitudes, the Hummingbird Bakery's recipe for cream cheese frosting can be too stiff. I like to use an extra tablespoon of butter of butter to soften the frosting. I also throw in a couple drops of vanilla extract to give the frosting a hint of vanilla flavor.

  • I like to use a cookie scoop to measure out frosting onto my cupcakes; that way, each cupcake will receive an equal amount of frosting.

  • Add your extra decorations (e.g. sprinkles, nonpareils) immediately after frosting the cupcake; if you wait to decorate the cupcake, the frosting will harden and the decorations will not stay on the cake.
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March 3, 2012

High-Altitude Hummingbird Bakery Red Velvet Cupcakes, Pt. 6: Helping Kailin With Her Cupcakes

Before I present you guys the final, high-altitude recipe for Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cupcakes, I just wanted to backtrack for a second.

Remember my co-worker Kailin? The lovely lady who decided to omit red food coloring from her cupcakes, leading to rather interesting results:


She later asked me why her cupcakes had such flat, expanded tops. I mean, the photo above almost looks like a baking tray full of perfectly round cookies. And when the cupcakes were taken out of the pan, their tops were certainly as flat and wide as cookies!


"Hm," I said, looking at the photos closely. I noticed that her cupcake pan only had 9 of its 12 muffin spaces filled with cupcakes. "How much batter did you put in each cupcake space?"

"I followed your instructions perfectly," Kailin protested. "I filled each only about 2/3rds full!"

I told her that her pan must be larger than mine, and that next time she should fill each cupcake case with only 2 tablespoons of batter measured out by a cookie scoop.

Christine K
., a commenter on my previous post about Kailin's inadvertent experiment, also suggested an interesting substitute for red food coloring that I then relayed to Kailin:

"I don't use liquid red food color in anything because I can taste the very unpleasant bitterness of the color. When I make red velvet cake for my husband's birthday -- an absolute requirement -- I make a paste of 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa and 2 tablespoons boiling water and the vanilla, and color the cake with tasteless gel red food color. The boiling water blooms the flavor of the cocoa and none of the essential ingredients is left out."

That is, if she still had difficulty finding red food coloring, she could simply replace the 2 tablespoons of liquid with 2 tablespoons of boiling water. That way, her cupcakes wouldn't be in danger of being too dry. Not a bad idea -- pretty enterprising to bloom the cocoa powder with hot water. Certainly one that I never would have come up with. Thanks Christine!

So, with these suggestions under her belt, here Kailin's photos of her second attempt at Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cupcakes:


Not bad -- not bad at all! These cupcakes don't even suffer from the ugly, wrinkly old man cupcake tops that mine did! The tops are also perfectly domed and although a few look to be a teeny tiny bit bloated, those in the first row looked perfect.

Kailin also managed to get her hands on some food coloring; unfortunately, she still didn't have enough for 2 tablespoons worth since she'd bought the Assorted Food Colors pack from the supermarket, which only provides 1.5 teaspoons of food coloring per vial. In a way, this smaller amount of food color actually works better. Although the cupcakes aren't as vivid in color as they would have been with 2 tablespoons of food coloring, I'm kinda digging the more "natural" look these cupcakes possess:


So well done, Kailin! Not bad for a second attempt -- not bad at all.

March 1, 2012

High-Altitude Hummingbird Bakery Red Velvet Cupcakes, Pt. 5: Perfecting the Easy Path and Cracking the Recipe

Guys, I cracked the recipe for Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cupcakes.

Admittedly, there wasn't much cracking to be done. Recall that the sea-level recipe for Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cupcakes worked perfectly fine at high-altitude; the only problem was that these cupcakes had wrinkly, old-man tops instead of the smooth, good-looking cupcake tops they would have had at sea-level. I tried altering the amount of baking soda in the recipe several times, but these attempts yielded cupcakes that were inferior in flavor.

Finally, I threw down the towel and accepted that the sea-level recipe was perfectly fine for high-altitudes. I begrudgingly remade the sea-level recipe to see if the results would be consistent; to my surprise, I was awarded with smoother cupcake tops.

I decided that I may have overmixed my first batch of red velvet cupcakes; overmixing leads to too many air bubbles in baked goods, and these air bubbles expand in the heat. Too many of them causes baked goods to be bloated. So I followed the sea-level recipe again, this time creaming the butter and sugar together for 3 minutes instead of the usual 5 minute creaming process recommended by the Hummingbird Bakery.

These were the results:

The Original 5-Minute Cream


vs.

The Amended 3-Minute Cream


Wa-hey! Not bad, eh? They look as smooth as the red velvet cupcakes I made at sea-level.

If you look closely at the photo above, you'll notice that the cupcakes in the pink cupcake cases are bigger than the cupcakes in the yellow cupcake cases. This was done on purpose. My first attempt had resulted in cupcakes that had bloated tops:


I wondered if I had spooned too much batter into them. I had followed the Hummingbird Bakery recipe's recommendation, filling the cases up until 2/3rds full, but this seemed like too much.

Since I use a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop to ensure that all my cupcakes are the same size, I decided to experiment with different amounts of batter quantities in the cupcake cases. This time around, I filled the pink cases with 2 tablespoons of batter, while the yellow were only filled with 1 1/2 tablespoons.

These were the results:


Hm.

To be honest, I much prefer the cupcake to the left with 2 tablespoons of batter. It had a slightly better texture -- definitely more moist than the cupcake to the right with only 1 1/2 tablespoons of batter. Sure, although its top is slightly more bloated, the cake clears the case -- making it significantly easier to frost. Frosting cupcakes when the cake doesn't clear the case (as depicted by the cupcake to the right) is a hassle -- I usually end up accidentally taking part of the case off as I try and spread the frosting evenly.

Perhaps a good compromise would be filling the cases up with 1 3/4 tablespoons of batter, yes? Either way, phew. I'm glad this recipe is cracked! I never thought I'd say this, but I was starting to get sick of eating all those red velvet cupcakes!

Stay tuned for the final, official recipe for my next post!