Homemade King Cake Sneak Peek

Homemade King Cake

I made a king cake over the weekend in order to practice for our little Mardi Gras gathering we’ll be hosting on Fat Tuesday this year.  Shipping a king cake or two in from Louisiana gets pretty pricey, and I don’t trust the baked goods passed off as “king cakes” here in Texas.  So, I decided to try making my own this year.

Homemade king cake

I was thrilled with the results!  I won’t share how much of the king cake we consumed over the weekend, but the sad number of slices remaining with which I sent my husband to work this morning is testament to this confection’s fabulousness.  The recipe itself needs a tad bit of tweaking before sharing: I’ve got to fine-tune the baking time and temperature, determine the exact ratio for the frosting ingredients, and perfect the fine art of putting the sprinkles on once the frosting is set enough but hasn’t hardened too much.  I’ll be sharing the recipe with you very soon!

In the meantime, I hope you all, wherever you are, get to have a tiny taste of Mardi Gras this Carnival Season!

Toffee Crunch Cupcakes

I had a housewarming party to go to Saturday night, and I couldn’t decide what to bring. What does one take to a housewarming party?  Wine?  Wine is my go-to host or hostess gift, but honestly, I’m always nervous about picking out a bottle unless I’ve got a specific wine in mind that I’ve really been into lately.  Even if you know a wine is good, how do you know your host or hostess will like it?  And besides, you don’t want your wine to be one of seven bottles of lonely reds sitting on the bar that night, neglected for tangy margaritas or other liquor-filled concoctions packing much more punch.

What about flowers?  My friend had filled her beautiful new townhouse with fabulous floral arrangements, as I suspect many a housewarming party host or hostess would do to make his or her new home feel a little brighter and more welcoming.

So…what’s left to bring?

How about cupcakes?  Specifically, these toffee cupcakes.  Very chocolatey, decadent, but not too rich, with a bit of crunch.  They were a big hit Saturday night!

Check out the recipe below, and be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom for some tips for making truly pretty cupcakes!

Toffee Crunch Cupcakes
Makes 30 cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp espresso powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coffee (I used 1 tsp espresso powder dissolved in 1 cup hot water)
1 cup toffee bits

1.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Line cupcake tins with cupcake papers.  This is a large recipe, so you will need to fill up two and a half cupcake pans (that fit a dozen cupcakes each) and bake them in batches.

2.  Combine flour, cocoa power, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

3.  Cream the sugar and butter in a stand in mixer.  Beat on medium-high for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy.

4.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add vanilla.

5.  Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then one third of the coffee.  Repeat until you have added all of the dry mixture and coffee, beating just until combined after each addition.

6.  With a spatula, fold in toffee bits.  Then fill your cupcakes tins, using about ¼ cup of batter for each cupcake.

7.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.  You can test for doneness two ways.  If you insert a toothpick into the center, and it comes out clean, these babies are good to go!  OR, lightly touch the top of a cupcake, and if it springs right back up, you’re all set!

8.  Let cupcakes cool on a wire cooling rack while you start the ganache.

Ganache
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 4 oz. semi-sweet and 4 oz. extra bittersweet)
1 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
2-2 ½ cups toffee bits

1.  Place chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl.  Heat your cream in a small saucepan until it comes to a simmer.

2.  Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for 1-2 minutes.  Be patient!  Whisk cream and milk together.

3.  Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, stirring until it melts after each addition.

4.  Place bowl of ganache in bowl of ice water and whisk rapidly until it is thick enough to spread.  GANACHE TIP: I like to keep a small saucepan of simmering water on the stove and a bowl of ice water while working with ganache.  Since you will have to glaze 30 cupcakes, your ganache may get too hard while you are working with it.  If this happens, simply whisk the ganache again over the simmering water (as if you were using a double boiler).  If the ganache gets too thin, you can re-whisk it in the bowl of ice water.  Presto!

5.  To assemble cupcakes, first place toffee bits in a bowl.  Spread ganache onto cupcakes or dip cupcakes into ganache.  Dip cupcakes into toffee bits and press lightly, so they’ll stay on.

Adapted from Annie’s Eats, adapted from Bakers Royale, originally from Alice Medrich

Tips for making pretty cupcakes:

1.  Follow the directions!  Don’t do what I did and fill twenty-four cupcake tins with enough batter to make thirty cupcakes.  Your cupcakes will have muffin tops, and only muffins should have muffin tops!

2.  Fill your cupcake tins evenly using an ice cream scoop, cookie dough scoop, or measuring cup (1/4-1/3 cup).  Your cupcakes will all be close to the same size!

3.  Use two liners: a plain one for lining the cupcake tins and a pretty one to cover the plain one after baking.  If you bake your cupcakes in your pretty liners, the liners will stick to your cupcakes, and you won’t be able to see the cute designs!  Just add the second liner after cupcakes are cooled and before icing them.

What other tips to do you have for making pretty cupcakes?