Wednesday, July 6, 2011

.baking with my niece.

with my niece coming to visit me, i immediately started making lists of things to do with her and places to go in memphis. right at the top of my list was 'bake together.' ok, so just because i have a passion for baking doesn't mean my niece does or will. however, you can't blame me for wanting to show her how spectacular it can be.

we began our baking journey together at a local bookstore where we perused at least four cupcake cookbooks. as we walked into the store, i asked if she had an idea if she wanted to go cookie, cake, pie, cupcake or other and there was no hesitation- cupcake. she narrowed down her yummiest list to about 7 different cupcakes. after some deliberation, white chocolate strawberry cupcakes came out on top.

here is the recipe from the book, 500 cupcakes, that we decided to use:

white chocolate strawberry cupcakes
for the cupcakes:
1c. (2 sticks) sweet butter, softened (this means unsalted!)
1c. superfine sugar (like I said I just use granulated)
2c. self-rising flour (I just used All-Purpose)
1tsp. baking powder
4 eggs
1tsp. strawberry extract (i just used vanilla!)
1/2c. white chocolate chips

for the frosting:
1c. cream cheese softened
1 1/2c. confectioners' sugar (aka powdered sugar)
1tsp. vanilla extract
3tbsp. sweet butter, softened
3tbsp. chopped fresh strawberries (I used much more than that)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place 18 paper baking cups in the muffin pans (though I bet you can stretch the recipe to make about 20 like I did.) Combine the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs and extract in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer* until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the white chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the cups and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool while you are making the frosting.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and butter until smooth and creamy (you may have to add more or less confectioners sugar depending on how thick you like your frosting) Stir in the chopped strawberries and spread on top of the cupcakes.

before we could even begin laying out the ingredients, we had to don our aprons. and if i don't say so myself, we looked pretty baketastic. this would be my first time baking with a partner and i was excited to see how it would go. with my niece, i enjoyed it because i felt like i was showing her how gratifying baking from scratch could be.

we couldn't find strawberry extract after looking at a couple stores; so, we made our own. i poured a little vanilla extract and my niece suggested we squeeze the juice from a strawberry into it and that is what we did. it worked wonderfully.

with me reading off the steps and measurements, she actually made the cupcakes and seemed like a natural to me. maybe there will be two bakers in our family now. once everything was mixed and plopped in their spots, the unbaked cupcakes went in the oven.

as soon as they were in, she needed a break. she's a teenager, this was a lot of work you know. after a break while i washed the dishes, i called her back into the kitchen so that we could make the frosting. this was fun to see the strawberries turning the delightful pink when mixed in the frosting. i showed her how to easily add frosting to a piping bag while using a cup and any other little tricks along the way that i could.

once the frosting was made, she was granted another break while the finished cupcakes cooled. when we were ready to actually frost them, we debated on the style and finally settled on one what we thought looked the prettiest. then, we both agreed a strawberry sliver on top would add just the right finishing touch.

next came the best part of baking- eating the finished product. we loaded up both our plates with strawberry chocolate cupcakes and settled in for a full belly and a funny movie. it was a great night.

here's my niece's take on baking:
'I didn't like baking to start out with, but after the whole process, I can now see it being something I'd like doing once I get back home.'

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