Buffalo Chicken Cup(not)cake

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The element of surprise is a key component of my personality and drives me in many of my creative endeavors. Everyone who knows me closely knows there is much more to me beneath the surface that others tend not to expect. This holds true in my kitchen, too. I like to surprise people by getting as creative as possible, by embracing the Weird and loving the Quirky. That’s what Whimsy Kitchen is all about, after all.

As a baker, my life is a whirlwind of sweets. Sugar is always on my mind, and when starting a new project I generally assume what I’m going to make will be of the confectionary persuasion. After all, one of my biggest motivators for baking is the joy I get from making people happy by sharing something that literally and figuratively sweetens their lives. It’s finding a way to turn an ordinary dessert into an extraordinary, unique creation that really gets my gears going, though. I’m talkin’ booze in cupcakes, bacon in cookies!

But there is so much room for creativity beyond the boundary of sweets, too! Savory baking is a twilight zone brimming with the potential for imagination and ingenuity. While basic breads and cheddar scones are delicious and should not be discredited in any way, the space for creativity within savory baking is infinite. I’ve decided it’s time I take advantage of this savory realm of opportunity. I can improve my skills, expand my repertoire, and more fully master my craft by baking more savory dishes.

I was sitting on the train when the idea struck me. What sorts of savory pastries could I make? There’s the quiche–classic and delicious and totally malleable. How about biscuits? I can fix ’em up, make ’em more interesting. No. No, these ideas are all good, but they just weren’t right. Then, all of a sudden it occurred to me: I was still thinking inside the box, and I needed to break out of it. So as I was reaching into the corners of my mind for ideas, it dawned on me.

Buffalo. Chicken. Cup(not)cake. Looks like dessert. Tastes like dinner.

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So what is it (besides sheer genius and magic), you ask? Cheesy, tangy, spicy shredded chicken fills a soft and crispy pizza crust “cupcake” that is baked to golden brown perfection then “frosted” with blue cheese mousse.

The Cup(not)cake is the appetizer you want in your Super Bowl spread. It’s the celebratory treat at your fun-loving, raucous friend’s birthday party. It is your ice cold beer’s new best friend. It is your new favorite (not)dessert.

Buffalo Chicken Cup(not)cake

Ingredients

  • Pizza dough (use whatever recipe or prepackaged dough you prefer)
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked (salt sparingly and pepper to taste) and shredded
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce
  • 1/4 cup extra sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 4 oz blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to firm peaks

I took the semi-homemade route with the Cup(not)cake by using store-bought pizza dough. I rolled out the dough and cut out circles with a cup, saving a little less than half for the tops. I pressed the circles of dough evenly into the cups of the cupcake tin, like little pie crusts. I seasoned the chicken breasts with a little salt and pepper and cooked them in a pan on the stove. I shredded the cooked chicken and stirred in the buffalo sauce and cheddar cheese. Then I filled each dough cup with the shredded buffalo chicken and cheddar cheese mixture (2-3 tablespoons). I topped each chicken cup with a pizza dough top. According to the pizza dough instructions, I baked the cupcakes at 400° for about 18 min, until the crust was golden brown.

While the cupcakes were baking, I blended the cream cheese and blue cheese until very smooth. I whipped the cream in a large glass bowl. Then I folded in the pureed cheese mixture into the whipped cream until well combined.

Once the cupcakes were finished baking and had cooled for a couple minutes, I used a piping bag to frost the them with the blue cheese mousse. If you don’t have a piping bag, simply transfer the mousse into a ZipLoc baggie. Cut the tip off 1 corner of the plastic bag, and squeeze the mousse through the hole.

And there you have it: the Buffalo Chicken Cup(not)cake!

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Be weird and enjoy!

Vegan Cookies ‘n’ Cream Cupcakes

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The other day I got home from a really long day of work, exhausted but in need of some groceries. This is, as everyone knows, a dreadful combination. There are unspoken rules in life. Like, “do unto others” and “keep to the right to let others pass” (a particularly important rule for NYC pedestrians!) and “never go to the grocery store hungry,” the last of which probably being the most important, amirite?

In the square-off between power of will and power of desire, my sense of reason and rationale was down for the count, as the wretched little sugar-happy id of my exhausted psyche won by a devastating knockout. I wound up bringing home a package of Double-Stuff Oreos, and I was somehow so out of sorts that, in spite of my exhaustion, I managed to concoct a truly impulsive treat: vegan cookies ‘n’ cream cupcakes. Clearly my id did some serious damage, as my super-ego was still out cold and unable to prevent further poor decision-making from occurring by the time we got home.

I decided to incorporate the Oreos in a frosting, so naturally I had to smother something ultra chocolatey with it. I opted for a vegan chocolate cupcake, and my oh my was that flavor combo grand! Melted bakers chocolate–as opposed to cocoa powder–let the richness of truly delectable chocolate come through, ground chia seeds served as a protein-poppin’ substitute for the eggs, and a homemade vegan “buttermilk” was made with almond milk and some apple cider vinegar. The cupcake comes out with a really delicate crumb, but incredible moistness, and the Oreo frosting is good enough to eat with a spoon. And so you have America’s favorite cupcake.

INGREDIENTS

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes:

  • 2 sticks Earth Balance Vegan Butter (8 ounces)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (7-3/4 ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons ground chia seed
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 cups cake flour (9-1/4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup almond milk (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Vegan Cookies ‘n’ Cream Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan butter
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup nondairy milk or creamer (I used Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla)
  • 3/4 cup finely mashed cream-filled sandwich cookies (about 8)

DIRECTIONS

Chocolate Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 1-dozen cupcake tins with cupcake papers.
  2. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwave. Set aside and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  3. While chocolate is cooling, whisk together the chia powder and water, making sure to beat out all clumps. Set aside. In another small container, mix the apple cider vinegar and almond milk. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the flour and baking soda. In another small bowl, mix the “buttermilk” and vanilla, and set both bowls aside.
  5. Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together. Add the chocolate and the chia mixture, and mix until incorporated. In three additions, add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately until just combined. Divide between the cupcake tins and bake 20 to 25 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before icing.

Cookies ‘n’ Cream Frosting:

  1. Beat the shortening and vegan butter together until well combined and fluffy.
  2. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla and almond milk, beat for another 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Stir mashed cookies into frosting.

oreo cupcakes

Old Fashioned Cupcakes

I’ve been feeling a little lush lately, and my lust for adventure seems to have focused itself around the cocktail culture of New York City. Despite the lack of income to support such habits, I love the class and the sophistication associated with a proper cocktail party. It’s the history of the Roaring Twenties from whence the contemporary speakeasy was derived, however, that really tickles me. With mobsters, liquor, sex, and scandal, the badass-ery of the era was unsurpassed. Even though it was Prohibition, and liquor couldn’t be spotted in plain sight, people went to great lengths, often erring on the side of illegality, to get their kicks. After all, it was the Golden Age, and what’s more golden than a good jazz sesh and a little libation to loosen things up?

The positive sentiment towards cocktails still reigns supreme in this gritty, glamorous city. We won’t get locked up for throwing back a few every now and then, but we can still enjoy the perks of a good Old Fashioned and an ambient lounge like it’s 1925. One day, When I was serving up an Old Fashioned at my restaurant, I flew into a fit of culinary inspiration, and I came up with the idea for a boozy cupcake. I hadn’t an appropriate event for which to try this idea out until the other week. While my friend was deciding where to celebrate his 33rd birthday, I was deciding how to celebrate it. His being a big fan of bourbon, I knew these ridiculously boozy cupcakes from Serious Eats would be the perfect treat to liven up the birthday festivities.

With the orange-vanilla bourbon-soaked cake, the bitters, and the bourbon buttercream, these cupcakes really nail the flavor of an Old Fashioned. I used a teaspoon of 101 proof Wild Turkey bourbon–that’s right, folks–to soak each cupcake, so as to achieve a proper slosh. Mission accomplished, there. And I upped the zest in the “sawdust” to intensify the orangey freshness. My friends were absolutely thrilled with these drinks–excuse me, cupcakes–and downed the lot of them in about 4.3 minutes. Next time we have an urge to party like the Golden Agers, I have a feeling I’ll be bringing these cupcakes along!

Old Fashioned CupcakesOld Fashioned Cupcakes – makes 12-16
Ingredients for the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups and 2 Tbs cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbs (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup and 2 Tbs fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 Tbs orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (use full-fat)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup whiskey or bourbon (I used Wild Turkey) for soaking the cupcakes

Ingredients for the frosting:

  • 12 Tbs (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup and 2 Tbs whiskey or bourbon
  • 7-9 dashes of Angostura bitters, to taste 
  • 3/4 tsp orange extract
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest

Ingredients for the “orange sawdust”:

  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp orange zest

To make the cake:
– Preheat oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
– In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
– In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
– Add the eggs and beat until well-combined.
– Add the orange juice, orange zest, orange extract, vanilla extract and combine on low speed.
– Add the flour mixture in intervals on low speed, until all the dry ingredients are thoroughly combined.
– Add the sour cream and beat again until combined.
– Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full.
– Bake for 24 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
– Wait until the cupcakes have cooled a bit and poke about 12 holes on the top of each cupcake with a fork.
– Pour 1 tsp of whiskey or bourbon (I used less than the original recipe suggested) on top of each cupcake to soak through.
– Make sure cupcakes are completely cooled before frosting.

To make the frosting:
– In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
– Reduce the speed to low and add half of the confectioners’ sugar, and all of the whiskey, Angostura bitters, orange extract and orange zest, beating until fully combined.
– Add the rest of the confectioners’ sugar and beat on medium-high speed for about 2-3 minutes, or until completely mixed.

To make the “orange sawdust”:
– In a small bowl, thoroughly combine the sugar and orange zest.
– Sprinkle on top of the cupcakes, immediately after frosting.