Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscar Party Cupcakes

I have been battling the evil virus of sore throats, phlegmmy coughs, and sinus congestion since Tuesday. This particular virus is quite strong; I'm pretty sure I picked it up from a patient, and I quickly passed it along to my roommate. Interesting thing about this virus, it seems very contagious but easily diluted or something--I am not as sick as my patient was, and my roommate is certainly not as sick as myself.

So we have been lying on the couch sucking on zinc lozenges and watching Tyra Banks all week long. On Friday I had enough of Tyra and we went to the video store.

At the store, they were doing a little contest for the Ocsars, and probably because we were feeling light headed and yet giddy to be out of the house, we decided to enter. The contest was simple; you filled out a ballot with your picks for the Oscar winners for all categories. The person with the most closely matched ballot to the actual winners, wins!

As a result of entering this contest and knowing how small of a chance of winning we had, we decided we had better sit down and watch them freaking Oscars.

So I decided to bake a batch of gluten-free cupcakes for the event.

GF cupcake

February 25, 2007
Name of cake: Gluten-free Oscar Cakes
Occasion: Oscar party!
Constituents: gluten-free chocolate cupcakes with golden cream cheese frosting

Yes, my friends, gluten free cupcakes from scratch! Woo hoo!!

I am determined to figure out how to bake gluten free cakes and stuff without having to succumb to crazy difficult super complicated recipes. It can be done, my friends, I am sure of it.

Howver, I wasn't very scientific about this baking session as I introduced too many new factors. If something went wrong, I wouldn't know why.

Too many new factors:
1. GF flour
2. GF flour mix gone wrong
3. silicone baking cups
4. different cocoa powder

Let's tackle these things one at a time.

1. I found a basic gluten-free flour mix online which I decided to use. It makes a big mess of GF flour which I am keeping on hand for further experiments on GF baking. The main ingredient is rice flour, and when my roommate and I were shopping at the Uwajimaya several weeks ago I bought some Japanese rice flour. It was a small bag and I wondered, briefly, if one bag was enough, and as I found out tonight, it wasn't.

GF Flour Mix, the original recipe:
  • 6 cups white rice flour
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 cups potato starch flour

  • GF Flour Mix, ECL's mishap recipe:
  • 2 cups white rice four
  • 3.25 cups white rice flour and cornstarch mix (ratio unknown)
  • 1.75 cups tapioca flour
  • 2 cups potato starch flour
  • Yeah well. There are always mishaps in the ECL baking experience.

    3. I found these silicone baking cups on sale at the local biosphere (Fred Meyer) and I thought they were soo cool because they came 12 to a package and in fashion colors, kind of. I realised at the price they were, I could buy 36 of them for just under $20. Which is awesome. This meant that I could get rid of my cupcake pan and use the silicone cups on a baking sheet and bake a bunch more at once!

    silicone baking cups

    What I didn't know was that even though silicone is non-stick, it is still recommended to lightly brush your silicone bakeware with a layer of oil to season the pans. 36 cupcake cups.

    4. I have been using Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder for the last year or so and have realy been enoying it. It turns out a really dark, dark, chocolately cake. But I decided I'd try Green & Black's cocoa powder, because I love Green & Black's chocolate. And, I noticed that RLB used the Green & Black's recently for this amazing wedding cake she baked. So, why not.

    It turned out a pretty good cake, but I'll have to try again to make my decision. I think the cocoa powder is nonalkalinzed, and I think if you use nonalkalinized cocoa powder you're supposed to add some baking soda...right? And if that is true, I didn't, so would that affect the flavor?

    See, too many variables.

    In making the cupcakes I used the classic RLB method of first whirling the dry ingredients for a bit then adding all the butter and 3/4 of the cocoa paste and madly mixing for a minute and a half. Then you add the eggs-vanilla-remainder cocoa paster mixture in 3 batches. This produces a wonderfully smooth, airy, high volume, thick batter that you scrape into your pans and bake away.

    With the GF flour mix, it produced a batter that wasn't as big, volume wise, not as airy, and also really sticky. I didn't really scrape the batter into the cups, I glopped it.

    sticky GF batter

    After the bake the cupcakes were all cute and puffy in their cups, and they had this funky tight crust. After 10 minutes of cooling, these GF cupcakes sank down to about 1/2 their height and looked all wrinkly!

    the amazing shrinking cupcake

    The taste and texture of these GF cupcakes is very interesting. They are really, really light in texture, airy, moist, and--hallelujah--NOT GRAINY! (Grainyness is my biggest GF cake complaint.) The chocolate taste is a little muted compared to what this recipe usually turns out--is it the flours or the cocoa powder or the lack of baking soda?? So many questions.

    I made a batch of golden cream cheese frosting to go with them, which is good enough to eat on it's own, and we set them up to frost them while watching the Oscar extravaganza.

    let the frosting begin

    I decided to Go Big on the frosting since it was for the Oscars, and I piled a good amount of cream cheese frosting on each little GF cupcake. I also discovered that sprinkles are generally GF as they are made with cornstrach and rice flour--isn't that interesting? So I sprinkled the heck out of them.

    GF cupcakes, frosted

    Pretty tasty little GF cupcakes. I will share with you a little secret, my friends: I have a secret plan to dominate the Portland bakeworld with my kick ass I-Can't-Believe-It's-Gluten-Free bakeapades (let's trademark that: bakeapades = baking + escapades). There is one GF bakery in town and she turns out a decent cake. Reportedly there will be another GF bakery opening up soon, but I think she does more bready things. I have always thought it would be great fun to bake for a coffee shop--like once a week go in and use their cool industrial kitchen and bake them up some cakes and/or cupcakes for the week and be on my way. Just think how awesome it would be if I cornered the market on GF cakes and/or cupcakes at some local coffee shop. Or the local GF fish house. Them other bakeries won't have nothing on me!


    And what the hell. Here's the recipe:

    ECL's Gluten Free Oscar Cupcakes
    based on the Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

    (You'll need a scale that can do grams. If you want to measure by volume, go buy the book.)
  • 64 grams unsweetened cocoa, dutch-processed (the best you can buy)
  • 236 grams boiling water
  • 55.8 grams egg yolks, room temperature
  • 90 grams egg whites, room temperature
  • 9 grams real vanilla extract
  • 235 grams sifted GF flour mix
  • 300 grams golden baker's sugar
  • 15 grams baking powder
  • 5 grams sea salt
  • 3 grams xanthan gum
  • 227 grams unsalted butter, room temperature (american, not european)

  • --preheat oven to 350
    --prepare your pans: line the cupcake tins with paper cups, or grease the bottoms, line with parchment, and grease and flour. if using silicone baking cups, lightly brush with oil.

    --in a medium bowl whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. cover with plastic wrap and let cool down to room temperature. (i suggest putting it in the refrigerator to speed up the process)

    --in another bowl lighty combine the egg yolks, whites, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture and vanilla.

    --in a large mixing bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. add the butter and remaining cocoa paste and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. increase to medium speed (high speed if usug a hand mixer) and beat for 1.5 minutes. this is a good time to do a little clean up; it's amazing how much you can get done in 90 seconds.

    --scrape down the sides. add the egg mixture in three parts, beating at medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. scrape down the sides

    --glop batter into your cupcake cups, filling 2/3 full. bake for about 20 minutes.

    --let the cupcakes cool in their pans on racks for about 10 minutes, then turn out and let cool completely.

    --don't be surprised when they shrink down to little wrinkly cakes.

    Kick-Ass Cream Cheese Frosting
    adapted from a pilfered internet recipe that calls for 3x as much sugar as you really need

    (you can breathe freely; the measurements are by volume)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 pound (2 8-oz boxes = 1 pound) cream cheese (not fat free) room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup fine or superfine milled cane sugar or honey or whatever

  • in a bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until soft and fluffy. add the cream cheese, vanilla, and salt and beat at low speed just until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. using a rubber spatula, clean the beaters and scrape the sides of the bowl whenever necessary during beating. start by adding half a cup of sugar or sweetener and beat well. add enough sugar to taste; not more than one cup. beat well to ensure the sugar dissolves.

    use soon after or refrigerate. let the frosting come up to room temperature if cold, and beat a bit to fluff it back up.

    enough to fill and frost a 2 layer 9 inch cake.

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