Lemon raspberry bars

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I don’t know what it is but every time I make any form of lemon bar, it always turns out differently. This time, I think the raspberry filling with not thick enough or something, but the bars in the middle of the pan did not firm up and ended up being a big, gooey mess in the middle of the pan, while the edges were perfect. Alas, some of this attempt at lemon raspberry bars could be salvaged.

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Pumpkin cupcakes stuffed with Rolo candy

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What could be better than stuffing things inside a cupcake? I mean, really. A cupcake is like a dream come true for a lot of people… or at least something that gives them a tiny bit of a joy when they unexpectedly get one on a Monday morning. When I stumbled on the Bake It in a Cake blog a few years ago, it was like a revelation to me, “Wow! I never thought of shoving THAT into a cupcake.” And the creativity stirred all on its own until I was doing all kinds of out-there experiments with stuffed cupcakes and cookies.

All of that has been on the backburner this year, but as Halloween came around, I remembered the recipe for pumpkin cupcakes filled with Rolo candies, frosted with spiced-apple-cider icing.

I had to made a few modifications:

  1. In the original Bake It in a Cake recipe, the pumpkin cake part is just cake with pumpkin in it, and I still wanted it to be pumpkin spice, so I used an entirely different cake recipe.
  2. Also Rolo candy is not that common here. Usually I substitute with Norwegian Smil candy, but this time I had Swedish Center candy, which is actually better than Smil, so I might make the switch entirely (except that Smil is sold in big bulk packages at the crazy border shopping centers).

    Swedish Center candy - like Rolo only better

    Swedish Center candy – like Rolo only better

  3. I don’t like (and don’t like making) normal buttercream frosting, which also seems awfully grainy to me. I made Swiss meringue buttercream (follow the same recipe as in the fauxstess cupcake recipe but instead of vanilla, add two or three packages of powdered instant apple cider mix).
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Gingersnap base of the pumpkin cupcake

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Pumpkin cake batter, Center/Rolo pressed in the middle

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Pumpkin cupcake frosted with spiced apple cider icing and topped with Halloween sprinkles

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Pumpkin cupcake cut in half! See the Rolo in there?

the fauxstess with the mostess?

fauxstess cupcakes with bad squiggles
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After moving beyond the mundane world of plain cupcakes, I was happy to come across inspiration for something different. I stumbled on the Lemon Sugar blog and its take on the Hostess cupcake. No doubt – a homemade version of the original processed feast of Frankenstein ingredients (what IS the peel-off ‘choco-not’ frosting topped with glue-like squiggles?) is superior. You would barely have to try hard to get a better-tasting finished product.

I mostly followed the Lemon Sugar recipe as posted, but when I made the creme filling, it turned out too thick (I could spackle with this stuff!), so I turned to Swiss meringue buttercream* as my filling.

I made a few mistakes. For one, I did not let all the cupcakes bake quite long enough, so they were a bit too soft and collapsed in the middle. For another, I followed the “creme” filling recipe provided in the Lemon Sugar blog BUT did not have quite enough marshmallow filling, and that probably made the difference. Third, because the filling did not work out as planned, I could not use it to make the topping-squiggles, so I turned to a tube of white “writing” glaze/icing, which worked fine except that I just don’t have the patience or dexterity for doing artistic or decorative stuff … so witness my mess.

filled fauxstess cupcakes

filled fauxstess cupcakes

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*Swiss meringue buttercream how-to
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Vanilla powder and liquid vanilla (to taste)

Mix the egg white and the sugar over a double boiler. The sugar should be completely dissolved when you remove it from heat. Pour the mixture into a large bowl (preferably the mixing bowl of a stand mixer — Swiss meringue is mixing intensive, so a stand mixer works best). Whisk on high speed until stiff but still wet peaks form. Continue to beat for about five or six minutes after these peaks form.

Switch to the paddle attachment and turn the speed to medium low. Add the butter in one or two tablespoons/pieces at a time. The mixture might start to look lumpy and curdled. Don’t worry. Keep mixing. When things start to come together, beat in the flavoring (in this case, the vanilla) and keep beating for another two minutes. It might take some time to get to the right texture. You will know when it comes together in a solid, fluffy, frosting-like consistency.