Tiramisu Cupcakes for K.

tiramisu cupcakes

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These cupcakes have a special place in my recipe book for so many reasons.

My friend K and I met in our first year of university – LITTLE did we know what was in store for us! I dragged him to his first hip hop class, he turned to be an amazing dancer and we danced together for four years. We literally lived in the library for a week side by side in two booths when we didn’t know any better. We took a trip to Montreal that was filled with chocolate, tea-time, jive dancing, and drag queens. Working in the same student club, we went under trial by fire keeping things together. We’ve sang our hearts out to 90s music. Amongst all the shenanigans, we’ve kept each other sane during the crazy times.

tiramisu cupcakes

I make it a point to know my friends’ favourite desserts and tiramisu happens to be K’s. In second year I attempted my first tiramisu for his birthday…and it was a disaster. I scoffed at the instruction “after adding custard, wipe bowl very well before adding egg whites”. Wipe bowl between mixes? As if! You’re talking to a lazy student who revered the dishwasher above all other appliances.

That was when I learned that egg whites do not whip when contaminated with egg yolk. No matter how long you beat them.

I panicked. What was I going to do with these hopelessly liquid egg whites? There were FIVE eggs in that recipe! I improvised and added whipped cream, but I was extremely annoyed that my first tiramisu recipe hadn’t gone as planned. I vowed I would have my revenge next year.

tiramisu cupcakes

I hate repeating recipes unless they are exceptional, so when K’s birthday rolled around I wanted to do tiramisu with a twist. I had never made cupcakes before (!) and I was determined to make something amazing. There would be no substitutions this time. These cupcakes exceeded my expectations. The icing uses real mascarpone, making it a rich, tangy, creamy dream. The cupcake itself is light and fluffy; when you bite into it you get the pleasant surprise of the middle being soaked in espresso glaze.

Everyone swooned, my friends declared them the best cupcakes they had ever had, but most importantly K loved them. After all the crazy adventures and sleepless nights I’m not sure if I properly expressed how much I care about this guy, but tiramisu cupcakes are a pretty good place to start.

tiramisu cupcakes

Heavenly Tiramisu Cupcakes (adapted from Epicurious)

The next time I make this I would cut the amount of espresso glaze by half. I always end up with a full cup leftover and haven’t found a great way to re-purpose it. Perhaps glaze a coffee cake?

Makes 24 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients

2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/2 cups white sugar
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk

Icing
500 g mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbs pure vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean finely chopped in food processor)
pinch sea salt
2 cups confectioners sugar

Tiramisu Glaze (I usually half this amount)
1 cup espresso
1/4 cup chocolate syrup OR 1 tbs of cocoa (or more, to taste)
2 oz/60 mL Kahlua
1/3 cup sugar

Garnish : Cocoa Powder (optional: 24 chocolate covered espresso beans and/or chocolate shavings)

Preparation

Cake Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line  two 12 cup muffin pans with muffin paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pans.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 24 minutes, or until tops spring back. Let cool for thirty minutes. Then remove cupcakes from pan and let cool an additional 30 minutes.

5. While cupcakes are cooking, combine heavy cream, and mascarpone cheese in a large bowl and mix on low speed. Add vanilla and salt. Then slowly add confectioners sugar, allowing each sugar addition to throughly mix with the cheese mixture until all of the confectioner’s sugar is gone. Put icing into a piping bag.

Glaze:

1. Prepare the Glaze by melting the sugar into the hot espresso in a large mixing bowl with a whisk (by hand) Then add syrup, kahlua, and rum/brandy.

2. Take a straw or kabob stick and poke a small hole in the top of each cupcake. With a spoon, ladle some of the glaze into the hole. Then I like to dip the top of each cupcake into the glaze to ensure that it is evenly covered with the glaze. It shouldn’t be soggy – just covered enough that the cupcake looks light brown. Then pipe the icing onto each cupcake. Lightly dust cupcakes with cocoa powder and top with espresso beans/ chocolate shavings.

Tres Leches Coconut Cake + MHAC


MHAC

Hello hello, I’m sheepishly returning to the blogging world after a few weeks months of travelling mixed with a bit of school and future life crisis. I’m finishing the last month of my undergraduate degree and the mixture of feelings I have at this point is explosive. I’m so ready for finals to be over, I’m so dreading saying goodbye to friends, I’m excited for a new chapter in my life, I’m terrified that I’ll never be able to recreate what I have here. It took me four years to get this point – the point where I’m confident enough to strike up conversations with strangers, throw dinner parties, travel by myself, and maybe most importantly, realize that I can make a difference.

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One of the committees I worked with this year is the Mental Health Awareness Committee. I went into it excited for a new year, new projects, but what I didn’t realize was that I would be part of a family of some of the most passionate and dedicated individuals I’ve met. I’ve been inspired countless times by the hard work each person put into our initiatives and I really think we did our part to bring mental health issues to the forefront on campus.I had the amazing opportunity to start my own project called Queen’s U Secrets – this was an idea that used to keep me up late at night. It would always start with “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and then the wheels would start spinning and an hour later I would wonder why I had so much energy even though it was 3am. And most importantly, after this happened a few times, I stopped asking “What if” and started thinking “How”. It was like someone had turned a switch that I never knew was there and I slowly realized that I could stop being a bystander. It was incredibly liberating to say “Why not?”. One year later, something that used to exist in the sketches beside my notes or in the blurry minutes before I fell asleep is now something I can share with hundreds of other people.

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This cake that I made for the MHAC year end social. I have always wanted to make a tres leches cake (in Spanish it translates to “three milks”), which is traditionally a sponge cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk. It is kind of ridiculous. I just happened to have a few cans of coconut milk leftover from making curry and I knew I wasn’t the only MHAC member who likes LOVES coconut. Before, I thought “No, this is way too decadent, two cans of condensed milk and coconut milk?”

To that I say, “Why not?”

Tres Leches de Coco (Coconut Tres Leches Cake) adapted from Serious Eats

You shouldn’t be surprised that this cake is very sweet. The cake itself is like a super-saturated sponge cake with a mellow coconut flavour. The original recipe has a toasted meringue topping but I felt that a simple whipped cream offset the sweetness of the cake nicely.

Ingredients

For the Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
4 teaspoons baking powder
6 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

For the Coconut Milk Bath:
2 (13.5-ounce) cans coconut milk
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream

For the Topping
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup toasted sweetened coconut flakes

Procedures

For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.
1. Whisk flour and baking powder together in small bowl; set aside.
2. In large bowl, beat egg whites and salt with whisk attachment on medium-low speed until whites begin to loosen and froth, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and beat whites until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Add egg yolks and beat just until combined. Decrease speed to low and add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary. Add vanilla and beat just until combined. Fold in coconut with rubber spatula.
4. Scrape batter into ungreased 13- by 9-inch baking dish and smooth out top. Bake until cake tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating cake halfway through baking. Transfer cake to cooling rack and cool in pan completely, 1 to 2 hours. Once cooled, poke cake all over with fork or skewer and run a paring knife along the edges just to separate the cake from the sides of the baking dish.

For the Coconut Milk Bath: Whisk coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, and cream together in large bowl. Pour mixture evenly all over cake. It will look like too much liquid but the cake is meant to act like a sponge – if there is too much liquid, try lifting the cake from the pan and letting the liquid soak from underneath (my cake was actually floating in the milk bath – make sure it soaks evenly along the entire bottom of the cake). Transfer to refrigerator and chill at least 2 hours.

For the Topping:

To toast the coconut for the topping, arrange it in a single layer in a large baking sheet. Bake 5 to 10 minutes on the center rack of a preheated 350°F oven, stirring the coconut halfway through baking, until crisp and golden. Transfer baking sheet to cooling rack and cool coconut completely, about 15 minutes.

Whip heavy cream on high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread evenly over cake and sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes.

Fig, Rosemary and Honey Cake

My first experience with figs was on the island of Oia, during the summer when the dry weather had given over to an epidemic of wildfires in Greece. Suffice to say, it was stinking hot. I remember ducking from one souvenir stand to the next trying to avoid being broiled by the sun, lest I evaporate on the spot. When the sun went down it became a tolerable 35 degrees celsius and you could stop applying sunscreen every half hour. One evening we walked past an old woman who was packing up her humble fruit stand for the day and she offered us a bag of fresh figs. Prior to this the only figs I’d had were in some wildly exotic Fig Newtons – how can you give a 14 year old the choice between those and Chips Ahoy? So I wasn’t expecting much at all. We watched the sun set from our hotel room and started cutting the figs – I only tried one out of politeness, but as soon as I had a slice my world changed forever. It was like eating a fruit that had been soaked in honey for hours, they were intensely sweet and flavourful with that addictive crackling that comes from the seeds. Shortly after we had a minor scuffle over how many figs each person got and decided the next day we would buy out that lady’s fruit stand so that the figs wouldn’t be wasted on anyone else.

Now I see figs as one of those gourmet foods with luxury status – if you’re eating figs in Canada you’ve definitely made it in the world. Figs in the fridge, wine in the cellar, Mercedes in the driveway. As a student I can only dream of casually eating a fig out of hand after a long day of classes. But Costco changed all that! They’ve leveled the playing field and started selling figs in bulk to prevent them from solely being the property of the bourgeoisie. Fear not, figs can now be the everyman’s fruit! And since they’re sold in bulk I had an excuse to use them to make this gorgeous cake instead of saving them for a rainy day.

I had a lot of fun making this cake with my family! We decided a cake this epic deserved to be plated, so we experimented with fancy “saucing” techniques with the yogurt to make it look like it came out of an overpriced restaurant. Hilarity ensued:

This is definitely a show-off cake. Make it for friends who appreciate surprising flavour combinations. The rosemary is subtle and it adds complexity to the cake which complements the honey and figs. It’s best the same day you pull it out of the oven because it has an amazingly crispy outer crust which disappears overnight. For the best results do NOT skip having the plain Greek yogurt on the side. The tangy thick yogurt offsets the sweetness and goes perfectly with the cake – it’s the next best thing to getting on a plane for Greece.

Fig, Rosemary, and Honey Cake (from Serious Eats)
NOTES: Pulsing the sugar with orange zest in the food processor releases its oils and makes for a more fragrant cake. If not using food processor, chop the grated zest, as well as the rosemary

Ingredients
For the Cake
•    Baking spray
•    2 1/2 cups (about 12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
•    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
•    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
•    1 teaspoon salt
•    3/4 cup (about 5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
•    2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
•    2 tablespoons grated zest from 1 orange
•    6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
•    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
•    2 large eggs, at room temperature
•    1/4 cup honey
•    1 cup milk, at room temperature
•    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Figs
•    2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
•    12 figs, stems trimmed and quartered lengthwise
•    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
•    1/2 cup honey

Serve with: Greek yogurt (natural, vanilla, or honey)

Procedures

  1. For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 9-inch round springform pan with cooking spray. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Pulse sugar, rosemary, and orange zest in food processor until no zest strands remain and rosemary is coarsely chopped (see note above).
  2. In large bowl, beat butter, oil, and rosemary-lemon sugar on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add honey and beat just until incorporated.
  3. Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Increase speed to medium and beat mixture just until combined, 20 to 30 seconds. Add vanilla and beat once more, just to combine, about 10 seconds.
  4. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until cake tester inserted in cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes (note: I had to bake mine for an extra hour – just make sure you constantly test the middle of the cake) rotating cake halfway through baking. Transfer cake to cooling rack set inside baking sheet and cool in pan 10 minutes.
  5.  Release springform and invert cake onto cooling rack; remove bottom of springform. Invert cake once again and cool completely, about 1 hour.
  6. For the Figs and Assembly: Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat and cook until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add figs and season with salt and pepper. Cook until figs soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in honey and remove from heat.
  7. With a serrated knife, slice about 1/8 inch off top of cake. Spoon figs and any released juices on top of cake. Serve with yogurt on the side.

Two kinds of Crepe Cake (Vanilla and Blueberry) and Epic Baking

This cake is one of my life achievements – you may think that’s sad, but it’s hard not to be proud once you spend three days on one dessert. During those three days there are many moments where you start questioning yourself (Am I crazy for doing this?), the recipe (Did I really just use a dozen eggs?), and cake itself (Will this be worth it??). The answer is yes! Especially to the last question. Yes this cake is definitely worth it! I found the recipe procrastinating for midterms and day dreamed about it all the way till after finals. The concept of crepe cake is genius. Fresh crepes = good. Rich vanilla pastry cream = always good. Multiple layers of each in one bite = heaven. Why three days? There’s a lot of overnight chilling that needs to happen. The first day you make the crepe batter and pastry cream, stick it in the fridge and dream about cake. The next day you enlist the help of your little sister and learn the art of crepe making. Unless you’re an expert the first few crepes will invariably look a bit disfigured, but you can hide them underneath lots of pastry cream (or use them to taste test your crepe batter). The batter is quite thin so I found instead of making “20 perfect crepes” I ended up with about 40! Which definitely isn’t a problem. The crepes were just the right thickness and were very easy to layer – you just have to make sure they are all uniform in size and shape otherwise you’ll end up with a mound of crepes instead of a cake. Since I had enough crepes to make two cakes I decided to replace the Kirsch in one cake with creme de cassis and put fresh blueberries in between the layers. You only need to chill the cake for at least two hours before serving, so technically it would only take two days to make this cake, but other plans forced me to chill the cake overnight. Talk about an exercise in patience. The next day was the fastest I’ve biked home from work. We took out the cakes, put some finishing touches (I got to use a mini blowtorch for the first time! Caramelizing sugar on top creates a nice crunchy contrast), and finally cut a slice.

Both cakes were amazing. With so much pastry cream you would think it would be quite rich, but the cake tasted almost light and airy. The addition of creme de cassis and blueberries really elevated the cake and gave an interesting twist. I think it would be interesting to experiment with different liqueurs for different flavours. Grand Marnier for an orange crepe cake? What about Frangelico for hazelnut-cream cake? So many possibilities…

The Real Crepe Cake
 (from Cream Puffs in Venice)

The day before serving the cake, make the crepe batter and the pastry cream.

Crepe Batter Recipe

6 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
Vegetable oil

Instructions
1. Cook the butter in a small pan on medium heat until brown like hazelnuts. Set aside.
2. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; allow to cool for 10 minutes.
3. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter. Pour into a container with a spout, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe
2 cups milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons butter

Instructions
1. Bring the milk to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract then set aside for 10 minutes. Fill a large bowl with ice and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and be placed in this ice bath.
2. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then place pan over high heat and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Press the pastry cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the small bowl. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

Cake Assembly

2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons Kirsch (or creme de cassis or any other liqueur)
icing sugar (optional)
fruit (optional)

Instructions
1. To make the crepes, bring the batter to room temperature. Place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crepe pan over medium heat.
2. Swab the surface with the oil, then add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crepe with your fingers. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crepes.
3. Whip the heavy cream with the tablespoon sugar and the Kirsch. It won’t hold stiff peaks but that’s okay. Fold it into the pastry cream.

4. Lay one crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup). Cover with a crepe and repeat. If using fruit, sprinkle fruit between layers. The amount of fruit you add is to your preference (try to maintain the levelness of the cake). Make a stack of 20 crepes, with the best-looking crepe on top. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set out for 30 minutes before serving.
5. If you have a blowtorch for creme brulee, sprinkle the top crepe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice like a cake.

Batter adapted from ”Joy of Cooking.” Pastry cream adapted from ”Desserts,” by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan. Serves 10.