Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sweet "Buttery" Goodness

There are many, many things to love about summer vacation.  I could have an entire post dedicated to things I love about the months of summer when I don't have to grade endless amounts of papers.  However, one of the highlights of my summer (aside from my fabulous European adventure) has been spending time with my fabulous friends.  I love the luxury of being able to visit them during the week, lunch, shop, take walks, etc.  It is very fulfilling and wonderful, and reminds me of how blessed I am!

Last week, my dear friend, Monica, and I went to Santa Cruz.  Monica studied and lived in Santa Cruz and so is very familiar with the area.  We did many fun things, including a hike, a lunch, shopping, ice cream and lots of chatting.  But of course, this blog is devoted to the one, the only, the best dessert in the world for any season, any time of day: the cupcake.

Monica suggested we go to The Buttery for lunch.  It was the place where she and her husband, Daniel, had their wedding cake made and she said it was great for lunch.  When I opened the door, I knew I was in love.  Yummy pasteries and homemade bread lined the entrance.  Turn the corner to find chalkboards filled with mouth watering descriptions of fresh, organic sandwiches.  We chose our lunch and then headed back to the dessert counter.  We selected the "Favorite Chocolate" and "Carrot" cupcakes.  We were ready to dig in.

Photo Credit: Crazy biking lady outside "The Buttery"

Photo Credit: Monica Schuet
Favorite Chocolate Cake

Photo Credit: Monica Schuet
This cake was beautiful to look at.  It was chocolate cake, topped with a thin layer of ganache, whipped cream frosting, and a strawberry.  I am usually not a fan of ganache (it's a bit too rich for me), but it looked like a pretty thin layer.  This was a great chocolate cupcake!  Very moist, flavorful, and the whipped cream frosting was just right.  Because the frosting and the cake were pretty light and fluffy, the ganache wasn't overwhelming, and was actually a nice textural element to the cupcake because it was a bit crunchy.

For presentation, I would probably give this cupcake a:

Both of us agreed that for taste, this cupcake got a:

Carrot Cake

Photo Credit: Monica Schuet
This was the type of cake that Monica and Daniel had for their beautiful wedding.  I enjoy a good carrot cake.  This one had shreds of coconut in there that made it a bit crumbly (that is Monica's educated guess as to why it was falling apart!)  It was very delicious, but pretty hard to manage.  As you can see, the cupcake was HUGE!!!  I liked the nuts on the outer rim, and the cream cheese frosting was very light and not too cream cheesy (you can OD on that stuff, you know).

For presentation, I would give this cupcake a:

For taste, this cupcake would get a 4, but because it was so out of control and kind of irritating, it gets a 3.5 ( don't have 1/2 cupcake images!)

Definitely worth a repeat visit, especailly with such wonderful company!  My next cupake adventure will be taking me to L.A. with one of my fabulous and newly engaged besties, Brittney.  Check back next week!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Strawberry {Cupcakes} Forever...

My baking (and blog) have been on somewhat of a hiatus.  My husband and I took a three week adventure in Europe, and I just got back to my cupcakin' roots yesterday.  I wanted to bake something for my husband's office, Petrinovich Pugh & Co, because many of the other "wives" do that kind of thing, and I know I can bake with the best of 'em!

In thinking about which flavor to make, I thought of a few options.  My first inclination was to do carrot.  The previous night we spent at Second Harvest food bank, bagging carrots.  Hundreds, and hundreds of carrots.  I thought it would be very tongue in cheek, and, who doesn't like carrot cake?  (stay silent if you don't.  It's a rhetorical question...)  My other thought was to try something completely new like Boston Cream Pie or something like that.  Then, I read the recipe and it sounded too hard for where my brain was yesterday.  Then, I remembered something wonderful that is happening this weekend: my one year anniversary.  My husband and I have been together for seven years and married for one.  The first time Mike was with me for my birthday, he made me (from scratch) a beautiful strawberry cake with strawberry whipped cream frosting.  I have always had a thing for strawberries.  That's when I knew that strawberry cupcakes were the perfect thing for me to bake.

I went to my trusty Martha Stewart cupcake book, and wouldn't you know it - old Martha had a recipe for me.  I went with the Strawberry Cupcakes topped with Strawberry Mirengue Buttercream Frosting.  The results: a beautiful summery cupcake fit for a walk down memory lane and consumption by CPAs.

Photo Credit: Mike Fujii

Photo Credit: Mike Fujii

Photo Credit: Mike Fujii

Don't Hold the "Frost"ing!

Today was the perfect summer day - great weather, started with a walk with the best dog in the world, Taiko, and a cupcake tasting with a great companion at a fabulous new place!

If you recall, I have mentioned my ideal cupcakery.  It includes the following criterion: fun and inviting atmosphere, fun and funky furniture, good music, clean and simple cupcake presentation/display, and drinks!  I mean, who doesn't want to wash down a rich chocolate cupcake with a nice cold glass of milk (or a martini...)  And my visit today, actually came pretty close to meeting most of those!  They stole my concept! ;)

Frost Cupcake Factory JUST opened on July 1st of this year!  I was so excited when I googled "Cupcakeries in SJ" and something besides Kara's actually popped up.  I had been planning to get together with one of my fabulous (ex) students, and this was the perfect venue.  It is in downtown Campbell, right on Campbell Avenue.  Every time I visit that part of town, I always think of how I want to spend more time there.  It is so quaint, fun and cute.  It is the perfect spot for a cupcakery, in fact.

As you can see from their list of flavors - they have some awesome ones.  I was lucky enough to be able to talk to the (super friendly) owner, and she said they they have six flavors that are their kind of "base" - Tahitian Vanilla, Red Velvet, Black Velvet, Frostfetti and Cookies and Cream.  Then, they will have between 2-4 "rotating" flavors.  Her goal is to have six rotating flavors at some point.  I can't WAIT to try some of them.  Coconut mojito?  Hell yes!  Banana Caramel?  Uh, yes please!  Maui Coconut Dream?  Salivating already.  I love the creativity of the names and how they are so much more fun and enticing than "Coconut" or "Vanilla."  A+ for thinking outside the box a bit.

Of course I forgot my camera, but my wonderful taste tester, Cole, brought his, and snapped this photo - just so you can see what we are dealing with.

Photo Credits: Cole Carter

Anyway, on to the tasting...

I had Cole choose two flavors and then I chose two.  I was THRILLED to see the Frostfetti flavor.  That is my favorite flavor of boxed cupcake.  There is something quintessentially young about them - the look, the taste - just everything.  Obviously, that was one of my choices.  The owner also recommended the Lemon Meringue, and that was an easy sell for me.  I love citrus - especially in the summer time.  Cole's choices were the Tahitian Vanilla and the Black Velvet.  We parked outside, and dug in.


Firstly, I kind of appreciated the uniformity of all of the frostings.  With a name like Frost - I had to pay extra attention to that detail of the cakes.  Not a lot of fanfare, but I liked their minimalist approach.  It went with their whole vibe.

Having said that, and considering my considerable excitement over this flavor, I was a bit disappointed.  It was a bit too dense, and lacked a strong flavor.  Cole agreed with me, and we left about 95% of this cupcake on the plate.  Bummer.

So, while it was pretty, it lacked what I was looking for.  I appreciate the effort, though, and the nod to the classic.
Tahitian Vanilla

I don't know what it is about this flavor being Tahitian that made it sound exponentially more exotic that just plain old American Vanilla, but I bought into that description expecting full blown rich vanilla flavor. Again, it was a bit bland for me.  I really wanted more of a kick in the pants than this offered me.  Again, we left about 90% on the plate.

Again, loved the look and the name, but ultimately, I wasn't taken away to Tahiti with this one....
Black Velvet

Oh my chocolate God.  This was a great cupcake.  Rich.  Moist.  Mouthwatering.  Yum-O.  So amazing. I could have eaten two of these (but, I did have three other cupcakes.  I don't want to be a total pig!)  Seriously though, this was one of the better chocolate cupcakes I have tasted.  The frosting was light - like a whipped cream almost.  Just enough, and it didn't overpower the wonderful flavor of the cake.  Love at first bite, all the way.  I am glad this is a staple, because I will be getting this again.

Lemon Meringue 

Wow is this ever a summer flavor.  Visually, this was a very appealing cupcake.  I love the light toasting on the top and, you can kind of see it, but the gooey yummy lemon sauce oozing out underneath.  I knew this was going to be a good experience for everyone.  When I cut this baby open, imagine my delight to see that the inside also included that gooey lemon filling.  

Every bite of this cupcake SCREAMED lemon.  It was in the frosting, the sauce on top, in the cake itself, and in the filling.  But it wasn't overpowering.  It was bright, refreshing, moist, and sit back in your chair to rejoice in summer good.  

Overall, I was very happy with my visit, and I am so excited to have such a fun place in the neighborhood.  They have free WiFi, so I plan on bringing some papers to grade when school comes around, grabbing a cup of joe, and enjoying the fun place that is Frost.  Hope to see you there!


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