Monday, August 31, 2009

Gigi's Cupcakes - Nashville

I was planning to pass through Nashville this past weekend and did a cupcake search before I left Lake Tahoe. There were several cupcake bakeries listed and I decided to try Gigi's Cupcakes because they offered many convenient locations that were right on my route.

I stopped at the Cool Springs location and bought 4 cupcakes: Scarlett Velvet (red velvet with cream cheese icing), Chocolate Malt (chocolate cake with buttercream icing and crushed malted milk balls around the edge), Tiger Tails (yellow cake with raspberry filling & buttercream icing topped with raspberry coconut) and Bailey's Irish Cream (Bailey's flavored cake with buttercream icing and chopped almonds around the edge).

The cupcakes were packaged beautifully in a "gift box" with a Gigi's sticker to seal it. The box had a cupcake holder inside to keep the cupcakes in place for transport.

Now for my cupcake critique! The cupcakes were not just pretty to look at...they were tasty as well. The cake was flavorful and the amount of icing on each one was very generous. The toppings complimented the cupcake flavors well. For me, the Bailey's cupcake could use more Bailey's, but that is just my personal preference. I loved the crushed malted milk balls on the chocolate cupcake...brilliant! The raspberry filling in the Tiger Tails cupcake was dee-lish. I would prefer cream cheese filling in the red velvet cake instead of the vanilla filling, but again, that is my personal preference. If I had a choice, I would put cream cheese icing on everything!

Gigi's web site is what sealed the deal for me to stop by, but the friendly staff and good cupcakes will bring me back again. They have a fantastic printed menu and an online menu that is updated to include weekly specials. Gigi produces a monthly newsletter (available online) and I have also subscribed to the RSS feed.

What else can I say...check out Gigi's Cupcakes in Nashville or any of their other locations.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Recipe of the Week - Chai Latte Cupcakes

Week 8

My niece just moved back to Mississippi from Lake Tahoe. She has been here for 18 months and we miss her already. She loves the flavor of Chai and in the small Mississippi town where we are from, there is little chance of her finding anything every now and then I am going to mail her some Chai tea.

In honor of Payton and her love of Chai, this week's recipe features Chai Tea Latte Cupcakes. As an alternative to this recipe, you can use your favorite vanilla or yellow cupcake recipe and just add the chai spice mix. If you don't have any of the spices on hand to make the chai mix, you can steep 3 chai teabags for 10 minutes in the warm whole milk. I am including a recipe for chai buttercream frosting, but if you think that will cause a chai overdose you can use a 7-minute or cream cheese frosting instead.

Chai Tea Latte Cupcakes

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. of chai spice mix (recipe below)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup whole milk

Cream butter and sugar for about 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Mix together the flour, salt and spices and add to butter/sugar mixture. Add the two milks, alternating with flour (always begin and end with flour).

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until done.
Chai Mix

2 tsp. ground cloves
1 Tablespoon cardamom
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ginger

Chai Buttercream

1 cup Crisco
1 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
2-3 tsp. Chai Mix (add spices to your taste)
1 envelope Dream Whip
1/2 cup water
8 cups powdered sugar

Cream the Crisco and butter and chai mix. Mix the water, vanilla, salt & Dream Whip together and set aside. Add the powdered sugar, alternating with liquid. When everything is combined, beat on high speed for 5 minutes.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cupcake Scarves!

The weather here at Lake Tahoe is beginning to change and fall will soon be here. I am just starting to think about what I will wear this winter and SCARVES! I love scarves. A most versatile accessory.

I am going to add these two cupcake scarves to my collection. The first one is a fleece scarf in a "cupcake" wrapper. How cute is that!

Too Sweet fleece scarf at
This second scarf is from Tiny Cravings and can be customized. You choose your cake & icing flavors, your sprinkles...and you can even add a cherry on top!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cupcake Pans

When it comes time to make a cupcake...which pan will you choose? Cupcakes do not have to be round anymore. Pans come in many shapes and materials, but the most common are aluminum, stainless steel, cast iron or silicone. Many pans come in non-stick too. I am not a fan of the silicone pan but each cupcake baker will have to decide which pan works best for him or her.

The standard muffin tin has 6, 8 or 12 depressions and each cup is 3 inches in diameter and holds 4 ounces. The mini-muffin pan cup holds 2 1/8 ounces and the jumbo pan cup holds 8 3/16 ounces. Liners are not required, but they sure do make cleaning the pans easier!

Alan Silverwood has a line of bakeware that allows the baker to batch-bake multiple individual cakes and comes in round, square, hexagon and heart shapes. I have the Silverwood round and square pans and they work great, but are a little time-consuming to wash (especially the square pan).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cupcake Disasters - Part 2

Part 2 of cupcake baking problems!

Cupcake centers are peaked

  • batter was over-mixed

  • oven temperature too high

Cupcakes shrink around the edges

  • liners are too greasy

  • too little batter

  • batter over-mixed

  • not enough liquid in the batter

  • overbaked

  • oven temperature too high

Cupcake tops are uneven

  • oven rack is not level

  • cupcake pans may be warped or bent

Cupcake crust is sticky

  • cupcakes stored while still warm

  • too much liquid

  • underbaked

  • oven temperature too low
  • too much humidity in the environment

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cupcake Disasters - Part 1

No matter how carefully we prepare, sometimes our cupcakes just don't come out as we intended. What went wrong? The next two blog posts will explain some common causes of cupcake baking issues.

Cupcake texture too coarse

  • too much baking soda/baking powder

  • not enough liquid

  • butter & sugar not creamed long enough (at least 5 minutes)

  • oven temperature too low

Cupcakes are too dry

  • overbaked

  • oven temperature too high

  • not enough sugar or shortening

  • too much flour

  • too much baking soda/baking powder

Cupcakes fell

  • underbaked

  • oven temperature too low

  • liquid over/under measured

  • batter too deep (too much per liner)

  • pan moved before cupcakes were sufficiently baked

  • leavening expired

  • pick or tester inserted before cupcakes were sufficiently baked

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cupcake Bumper Stickers

I have an old Jeep Wrangler and I am considering plastering it with cupcake bumper stickers, so I have been surfing around to see what is out there.

Cafe Press and Zazzle have quite a few - here are some samples.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cupcake Sprinkles

MillSprinkles just might be the most classic of all the cupcake decorations. It brings back memories of your mother making cupcakes for your first grade class. Back then, there weren't too many choices for cupcake decorations but now the possibilities are endless!

Mill Creek Country Store has a nice assortment of sprinkles. They come in plastic bottles with shaker tops (that I refill and reuse) and they ship really fast too. I like the Autumn Mix and the Noel Mix for the holidays. Try them sometime!

My brother is a high school football coach at the same high school we graduated from almost 30 years ago. The school colors are black and red. For homecoming last year, my nieces wanted cupcakes decorated with school color sprinkles. I ordered black & red sprinkles from Mill Creek Country Store and the cupcakes were a huge hit.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Recipe of the Week - Lemon Cupcakes

Week 7

Lemon cupcakes are one of my favorites and the more intense the lemon flavor the better. I know I have already posted a lemon cupcake recipe, but I discovered a new recipe and we all know you can't have too many lemon cupcake recipes...this one will not dissapoint!

Lemon Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup sugar (or Splenda Blend for baking)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter - room temperature
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Combine flour, sugar (or Splenda), baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a fork until crumbly.

Stir together eggs, milk, lemon juice & lemon zest in a small mixing bowl. Add 1/3 of the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Beat for 30 seconds at low speed with an electric mixer. Repeat this procedure 2 more times. Spoon batter into prepared cupcake liners.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until done.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cupcake T-Shirts

While surfing all-things-cupcake, I came across several very cute cupcake t-shirts. Cafe Press and Zazzle have almost all the cupcake clothing you will ever need - plus aprons and other cupcake merchandise! I have provided links to the designers and where the t-shirts can be found.

The Little Cupcake

Friday, August 21, 2009

Baseball Cupcakes

It's summer - baseball is in full swing and that is the inspiration for this post. I was recently asked to make cupcakes for a baseball-themed baby shower. The baby is a boy and the dad-to-be is a huge Dodger fan. I used gum paste to make the bats & balls. For the jerseys, I found a copper mini cookie cutter shaped like a t-shirt and used a Wilton icing writer pen. My bats need a little work but they were fun...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Dog Ate My Cupcake

A few weeks ago I was making cupcakes for a wedding. My dog Summit passed through the kitchen and shortly after, I noticed that a few cupcakes were missing.

Summit - the cupcake thief

This picture was posted by Rachel on Cupcakes Take the Cake and it reminded me of Summit stealing the cupcakes from the counter. Guard your cupcakes!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cupcake Cars

Lake Tahoe (and most of northern Nevada) is preparing for Burning Man, the annual festival of art, music, community and personal journey held in the Black Rock Desert. The dates for this year are August 31 - September 7.

The Cupcake Cars are very popular at Burning Man. I want one! The theme for 2009 is "Evolution" and I look forward to seeing how the cupcake cars will incorporate this theme.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

(Recipe of the Week) Woodstock 40th Anniversary

Week 6

I was only 10 years old the weekend of Woodstock (August 15-18, 1969) and I am happy to still be around to celebrate the 40th anniversary. I decided to celebrate by making some tie-dyed cupcakes. They were very easy and didn't take much extra time. I made a plain white cake batter and divided it into five bowls. I chose the rainbow colors but you can do pastels, jewel tones, or whatever colors you like. I put one tablespoon of batter of each color into the cupcake liners.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cupcake Wrappers

This is a follow-up to a post made Day 4 of this blog. I have a client that is currently shopping for wrappers for her wedding cupcakes, so I wanted to share this video.

Cupcake wrappers can add that extra "something" to the presentation of your cupcakes, especially for weddings or special celebrations. You can make your own or purchase them.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cups and Cakes Bakery - San Francisco

I came across a new cupcake bakery web site a few days ago and I just have to share it! They are opening their store in September at 415 9th St. in San Francisco and I will be making the 180 mile trip from Lake Tahoe as soon as they open. Save me a sampler pack!

I have a doctorate in online learning environments and part of my degree involves web site critique. Their web designer deserves free cupcakes for life! The Cups and Cakes Bakery web site is excellent. The site is colorful & informative and the goal of the site is simple...cupcakes. The graphics support the site's purpose and complement the information presented. The navigation is easy, and I especially like the "flavors" page. The site is not too large to get lost in, and everything you need to order cupcakes is there: phone number, email and links to access them via Twitter, Yelp, Facebook & Flickr.

Cups and Cakes Bakery has the best slogan ever!
If cupcakes are wrong, we don't wanna be right...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cupcake Flavors - It's All in the Name

Cupcake flavors can be boring or exotic, but you have to admit that the more exotic flavor names are the ones that grab your attention. Some are way over the top with too many ingredients and I probably wouldn't even try them...but the names always make me smile.

My favorite blog (Cupcakes Take the Cake) has an extensive list of cupcake bakeries from around the United States and all over the world. I have been surfing through them and have found some very interesting flavor names. Stay tuned...still making my way through the list!

24 Carrot
Bailey's Comet
Berry Me in the Sand
You Look Marble-ous
Strawberry Fields Forever
Death by Oreos
Oreo Speedwagon
Gimme 'smore
Velvet Elvis
Dolce & Banana
You Had Me at Nutella
Manolo Blondenik

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Caring for your Cupcakes

Carpe Cupcakes! Seize the Cupcakes!

In a perfect world, cupcakes should be consumed within 24 hours of coming out of the oven. The quality of a cupcake decreases as each hour passes and most cupcakes will be dry and lifeless by the second or third day. Store cupcakes at room temperature in an airtight container and serve them as soon as possible.

Refrigerating a cupcake will extend its life somewhat, but allow it to come to room temperature before eating it. The ideal room temperature is between 68 and 72 degrees. I have tried to microwave a cupcake to speed up this process, but beware. This is tricky business, especially if icing is involved. And remember that icings may be changed by refrigeration – they may not look or taste the same coming out as they did going in.

A note about freezing cupcakes…if you must freeze them, use them within a week. Wrap them in double or triple layers of plastic wrap and place them in an airtight container or freezer bag. Defrost them for 6-8 hours before applying frosting.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cupcakes Bakery - Fresno, CA

I was recently in the Fresno area and decided to drop by the Cupcakes Bakery. I read about the opening of this bakery in an article posted by Cupcakes Take the Cake and since I am always in the mood for cupcakes, I wanted to give it a try.
I bought six regular-sized cupcakes (did not try the minis), choosing coconut, lemon, chocolate, carrot, raspberry & red velvet. I liked the cake part of all of these, but I like a sweet icing and the buttercream was not very sweet. The cream cheese icing could use more cream cheese. Many of the icings had colored sugar sprinkled on top and I did not care for the "crunch" this added. I am a creamy icing fan.

The pricing was $1.95 for regular-size and $0.75 for minis. The decorations complemented the cupcakes and were simple and attractive - as decorations should be. The flavors were labeled and the cupcakes were nicely displayed. I liked that each cupcake was packaged in its own Chinese-takeout type container.

This bakery is just getting started and is in a good location. I will definitely give it another try when I am in town. Overall, I think they will do well in Fresno.