Once baked and cooled, I used a handy-dandy “cupcake holer” tool to make uniform holes, which I filled with dulce de leche/caramel (made by mixing a can of prepared dulce de leche with about a half tablespoon of milk, just to make the filling slightly less thick).
Then I made some Swiss meringue buttercream and flavored it with vanilla bean powder and two tablespoons of Kahlua.
Decorated with sprinkles I had had for too long (don’t like to keep stuff like that just sitting around).
Filling process for filled cupcakes
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder (two or three packets of Starbucks VIA instant espresso powder)
Preheat oven to 175C. Mix all ingredients together. Put into cupcake papers in a cupcake pan. Bake 16 to 19 minutes until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Turn the pan around once in the middle of baking for a more even bake.
When done, remove from oven, place on a rack and cool for a few minutes before removing the cupcakes from the pan onto their own cooling rack to cool completely.
Caramel/dulce de leche filling
Use a prepared can of dulce de leche and put it in a bowl, mix together with a half tablespoon of milk to achieve a slightly less thick consistency.
When cupcakes are fully cooled, use a knife or a cupcake holer tool to remove the middle of the cupcake and fill each hole with caramel. Reserve the very top of the cupcake when you cut the middle out. Place the tops back onto the filled cupcakes.
Kahlua Swiss meringue frosting
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3 to 4 tablespoons Kahlua
(vanilla bean powder, if desired)
Over a double boiler, whisk egg whites and sugar. When sugar is dissolved, transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer – beat with the whip attachment until soft to medium peaks form. Switch to paddle attachment, start beating and adding in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. Once you have a frosting-like texture (which can take a long while – the mixture will possibly look curdled, like it cannot possibly come together, at some point, but it will come together – just keep beating), add the vanilla powder. When nearly ready, add the Kahlua and mix until well-combined.
The funny thing is that I used too much jam this time so some of the middle bars got sticky and gooey – not the nice crispish crust these bar cookies should have. But it didn’t matter. These were still among the first cookies gone during the recent big bake to end 2013.
Definitely one of the easiest things anyone can make on their own.
Already depleted plate of raspberry-oat-bar cookies
3/4 cup raspberry jam (I am not sure I measured this. I simply bought a jar of raspberry jam, strained the seeds out and used everything that was left)
3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups oats
Preheat oven to 325F.
Cream butter and brown sugar. Add flour; mix. Add oats, and stir to combine. Spread 2/3 of this mixture in a 9×12 rectangular pan, and press it firmly down with fingers.
Spread the jam on top but do not let the jam touch the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the rest of flour-oat mix over the top.
Bake 35-40 minutes. Cut into small bars. Or big bars, if you prefer.
Sometimes I can be so forgetful. When “staging” the baked-good offerings in my office (which involves a considerable amount of labor that goes well above and beyond the mere baking of these things), the process involves packaging, packing, transporting and then somehow getting everything from the car into the office, which is on several floors with varying levels of available space and quality for “preparing”, and then hopefully feeling motivated enough to take pictures of the final products. Sometimes I do this during the baking process, but sometimes I cannot be bothered, leaving me to at least photograph things just before they are eaten, but sometimes, while I manage to take a few pics, I don’t get to the point where I cut a cake or cupcake open to get a good view of what the inside looks like. I wish I had pictures of, for example, the inside of the dulce de leche cake, in order to display the ribbon of dulce de leche that is baked into the subtly dulce de leche-flavored cake.
But, as I wrote, I can be so forgetful. Or maybe even just lazy. This week I took the baked bounty to the office the night before serving and spent most of the night carrying the baked stuff from parking garage to the various floors of the building (I distribute the baked stuff to several floors so people can more easily access it) and setting everything up on plates as well as frosting the cupcakes (which I don’t do until I get to the office, making them far easier to transport). I wanted to make sure I would get to see the entire US presidential debate. My debate viewing was a leisurely affair, alone in the office in the middle of the night spreading blobs of frosting onto cupcakes while listening to Mitt Romney go on an aggressive attack – which strikes me as both uncivilized and unbecoming behavior in a potential president, particularly when lying, bluffing and playing fast and loose with the facts. (But we already know how little facts matter.) When it was not the facts, it was just disingenuous bullshit – him stating with false concern in his voice that he is running for president to help the middle class and because people are suffering. Suffering? What would Romney understand of suffering – either in reality or conceptually? After his “47% of people are freeloaders who do not care about their own well-being (and who believe they are somehow entitled to food!?)” comments (which sounded very real and sincere, particularly since he did not know he was being watched or filmed), I do not see how anyone can trust him or regard anything else he says as honest.
While I fully understand that Obama did not roll out his best debate performance, I think most pundits and commentators, and indeed people, lose sight of the fact that these debates are merely that – performances. A 90-minute event, hitting an imaginary ball back and forth. What does the behavior of each candidate in the debate tell us about how he might govern? Maybe nothing. Maybe it will tell us that Romney will continue to flip-flop and change his mind and pander to whomever he is speaking to at any given time. (The “Etch-a-Sketch” presidency to which various media outlets are constantly referring.) Beyond which, we never heard a single specific thing Romney might do other than throw Jim Lehrer (as well as Big Bird) out on his ass by cutting funding to PBS (as if that would contribute so much to deficit reduction).
I feel that the incumbent president, despite needing to fight for his job, has an obligation to be a bit less aggressive and more sober. After all, he is the sitting president. He is still doing the job of the president. He needs to be a bit less defensive and more reflective. That said, Obama may have done well to refer to some of Romney’s gaffes, tying the extensive talk about Medicare and health care to Romney’s careless and heartless comments on the “freeloading” half of the population for whom Romney supposedly felt such compassion on debate night. (And maybe only on debate night. And even if we give Romney the benefit of the doubt and assume that he does actually care about people and their suffering, the idea that he talks about them in disparaging terms in certain company but paints a totally different picture in other company, illustrates clearly how he will say whatever he needs to say but never just stands his ground and, more broadly, lacks character and conviction.)
In another broad sense, I am constantly amazed – but somehow not remotely surprised – by how basic political conversations (like the debates, including all the debates in the last few election seasons) are surface level and not at all substantive things. Worst of all, the commentators and media idiots follow the debates with opinions that claim the debate/discussion was “heavy on policy” and “wonky” … are people so lowest common denominator that just mentioning the word “policy” or “plan” in a debate somehow makes people edgy and bored and makes them think they are hearing something complex and in-depth? It pains me, and perhaps it always has, to think that the media feed this kind of opinion to consumers, in part because American consumers ARE fast-food and surface-level in their approach and in part because they have been conditioned to be this way by a crumbling, uneven education system and a media that focuses on entertainment, sound bites and the short-term game over real analysis and long-term views (and yes, facts). The debate was disappointing to me not because Romney, in media review, “kicked Obama’s ass” but because the American media and American public actually view the debate process this way at all – a win-lose competition as opposed to an exchange and debate of ideas and differences between two candidates (and parties). What we saw was one desperate man who would have said anything he had to to “win” and another man who just did not seem to want to be there at all.
-End of rant!-
By the end of the debate, the baked goods had been redistributed (what a socialist I am!) to three floors of the building, and freely available (even to those who share the building with us but do not work in our company). One day perhaps I will identify an easier, more streamlined way to bring the baked goods to work, but for now, it remains a challenge.
Dulce de leche bundt cake
1 1/2 cups dulce de leche (for an easy dulce de leche recipe, click here)
1 cup softened butter
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (if you used unsalted butter)
3 cups flour
Preheat oven to 350F/175C.
Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt cake pan.
Whisk dry ingredients together and set aside.
Cream butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Add one cup of dulce de leche. Mix well, then add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
Turn mixer to low speed and alternately add in the dry ingredient mixture with the buttermilk.
Mix until just combined. Put about half the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Using the other 1/2 cup of dulce de leche, add the dulce de leche to the cake, making a ring of the dulce de leche in the center of the cake batter in the pan. Once this is done, carefully add the rest of the batter evenly on top of the ring of dulce de leche. Smooth it out.
Bake about 50 to 55 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the center comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes before inverting the cake onto a wire rack to remove from the pan. Allow the cake to cool completely.
You could create a caramel sauce for the cake before serving, or do as I did – simply sift vanilla sugar on top of the cake.
No, frost (as in ice crystal type frost) has not set in yet. I am thinking about how tomorrow will be filled with making frosting. All those cupcakes I made need frosting. I have to make the frosting and then transport it with me to Oslo and frost all the cupcakes when I get there. I don’t have sufficient transportation options for taking fully frosted cupcakes with me. I am not a big decorator anyway, but it is not as though I can make lovely frosting designs on the cupcakes thanks to this transport challenge. Sigh.
So… the list of everything that is coming with me to work on Thursday (I think this is everything, but can’t be sure)…
Beware of baking experiments. As I have written before, I don’t taste any of these things, so the experiments especially are… well, totally experimental. This means that no one has tasted them before they end up on offer in the workplace, making my colleagues unwitting (even if entirely willing) lab rats. People take their taste buds into their own, eh, hands, every time – although this rings true more starkly when I am making something I have never attempted before.
Behold the banoffee cupcake, which is aptly named for banana and toffee mixed together. I made a lightly toffee-flavored cupcake and will fill it with caramel and banana and frost with dulce de leche Swiss buttercream. I doubt that this will be the final word in banoffee cupcake experimentation, however.
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup neutral-flavored vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup dulce de leche (or some kind of thick caramel)
Preheat oven to 175C.
Whisk dry ingredients together and set aside. Cream butter and sugar, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and oil. Alternately add the dry ingredient mixture with the buttermilk in three additions. Add the half-cup of dulce de leche.
Put batter into cupcake liners and bake – probably about 15 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. I used larger cupcake liners and it took closer to 35 minutes for mine to bake through.
To assemble, you can decide for yourself how best to deal with it. I am going to cut the center out of the cupcake and fill with dulce de leche and banana slices and frost with dulce de leche frosting. Maybe sprinkle some graham cracker crumbs and/or crushed Daim candy on top. We shall see.
This would be infinitely easier in cake form rather than individual cupcakes.