Tough Competition

I’ve been watching so much TV lately, that some how I have convinced myself that I do not have enough “energy” to write a blog post. I’m sorry. I am a procrastinator of all things, including fun self-imposed schedules and deadlines. What have I been watching? Junk of course! I’ve convinced myself that I have to see all the Twilight movies again before I see the new one, so that I can have the whole story fresh in my brain. So far, I have only been able to catch the first one on TBS (last night), and now I’m obsessed on finding where I can watch the rest of the movies, so that I can cram them in before this coming weekend (after all the teenagers and Twihards have had their fill). Any suggestions? Netflix doesn’t have them to watch instantly. 😦

I’ve also been distracted with grand ideas for holiday crafting.  I’ve been thinking about making my own holiday cards to send out (including envelops), and baking cookies and making candy as gifts to co-workers and friends.  I even started thinking about the packaging the gifts need in order to sustain shipping and but also look festive.  Also, thoughts about making a few new ornaments for the tree, and quilting a new tree skirt are floating around in my head. Sounds like I’ve been a busy bee huh? Well, not really. I occupy my mind with thoughts and ideas, and then occupy my time with browsing the internet for tutorials, pictures, and other people’s accomplishments (like Frugal Feeding’s Chocolate Truffles Two-Ways).

I did do a few things these few weeks, including a failed attempt at winning the department cupcake contest at work. Our department has some serious bakers and lots of sweet-tooths, and so naturally, what better way to indulge everyone than to hold a cupcake contest for best tasting and best looking (great idea, Tara)?! The rules were simple: bring in at least a dozen home-made cupcakes for judging by a panel of anonymous department / ex-department members, save 1 best looking cupcake for display and presentation judging, and may the best tasting and the best looking be the winners. We had 10 sweet and unique entries, making the competition super tough.

Zach, the brain child of our 2-person family, came up with a half-baked idea to make bacon flavored cupcakes with maple icing. After a quick Google, I found this recipe from Vanilla Garlic that for sure was going to blow people’s minds and win me that contest! I mean how fitting, right? Judging was going to be at 9am, so why not have some breakfast flavors in cupcake form.  And who can resist bacon? So, I ran home the night before the contest and whipped up a batch for the first time (mind you that I had a whole week to test out the recipe, but decided that I’d rather watch TV). I rendered the bacon fat, crushed up the bacon bits to incorporate into the batter (saved some for a garnish), and creamed the sugar, cheese, and butter for a delicious icing.

Don’t they look nice?! Well, unfortunately they tasted like crap (burnt, dry and a weird smokey salty flavor).

Ohh…my dreams shattered, hours gone by, no more butter for another attempt! I contemplated giving up. For goodness sake, it was just a silly co-worker contest, and I hadn’t even eaten dinner yet! But no, it was my pride and my reputation as an amateur baker and attempting food blogger that I had to maintain with a little dignity, right? So, after a little begging and a sad puppy-dog face by me, Zach hopped to the store while I tinkered with finding a new idea. I decided to abandon the bacon maple idea (even if they had turned out less burnt, the flavors might have been too weird for the judges) and decided on a Girl Scout Thin Mint inspiration, something everyone loves, chocolate mint cupcakes. Happy that I now had a plan and icing ingredients on the way, I whipped up a chocolate cake batter and popped cupcakes into the oven. A few minutes later, sad looking sunken cupcakes came out. 😦 My oven evidently got too hot and the poor things just collapsed into themselves (never trust your oven’s temperature reading, even if it’s digital like mine, instead get yourself a stand alone oven thermometer and use that reading inside the oven from the independent source). Totally frustrated, I dumped them into the garbage and pouted. By then Zach had returned with more ingredients and even mint leaves for a garnish, so I couldn’t give up, or his nice gesture and loving shopping trip at 11:30pm would have been for nothing. So, I mustered up some confidence and energy and made another batter, checked the oven for the right temperature this time, and voila, made a batch of super cute mini mint chocolate cupcakes with mint cream cheese icing.

To top off all the frustration, Zach’s Jeep puttered out that night, so he had to take my car to work the next day, which meant that I had to transport 24 mini cupcakes to work via train and shuttle (total 2 hrs) trying to keep at least 1 of them looking cute. I made it without an issue!!

Alas, all that effort, drama, and frustration and no win!  Competition was tough though! Check out my talented co-workers’ hard work and yummy results!

Winner: Best Tasting – Shanda’s Cafe Mocha Cupcakes with Butter cream Icing,

Winner:  Best Looking – Donna’s Toffee Crunch Cupcakes

Recipe:  Chocolate Mint Cupcakes with Mint Cream Cheese Icing

Cupcakes adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for dark chocolate cupcakes and icing adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe for Cream Cheese Icing

Cupcake Ingredients

8 Tbsp (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter (cut into chunks)

1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons mint extract

1/2 cup sour cream

Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

8 Tbps butter, room temperature (1 stick, 8 ounces)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon mint extract

3 cups powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

Fresh mint for garnish

Method

Cupcakes

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a muffin tin by lining it with cupcake liners. Use a double boiler or add an inch or two of water to a medium sized saucepan and and place a heat proof bowl over it, bringing the water to a simmer. Add butter, chocolate, and cocoa to the bowl. As the butter and chocolate melt, whisk until the ingredients are well combined and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool to touch.

2 In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.

3 In a large bowl (can use a mixer), beat the eggs. Add the salt, the sugar, the mint extract and beat until well combined. Slowly add in the chocolate butter mixture and beat until combined.

4 Add in half of the sifted flour mixture, mix to combine. Mix in the sour cream. Mix in the remaining flour mixture.

5 Spoon the batter evenly into the lined muffin cups. Place in oven in middle rack. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until tops spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

6 Let cool in muffin tin on a rack for 15 minutes. Then gently remove cupcakes from the tin and let cool completely before frosting.

Use frosting of choice, flavored with a little mint extract. Garnish with a little fresh mint. Recipes for simple butter cream or cream cheese frosting follow.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Frosting

In an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Beat in mint and vanilla extract.

Slowly add in the powdered sugar on low speed, stopping every now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until light and fluffy. Taste and add more mint extract if it isn’t minty enough for you, or powdered sugar if it isn’t sweet enough for you.

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12 thoughts on “Tough Competition

  1. Jodi says:

    Your cupcakes look amazing, Patti! I can’t wait to see what you are cooking up in a few weeks right before our girls brunch. If you need suggestions, I’d say an extra dozen mint chocolate cupcakes since you already know how to make them 🙂

  2. maryannk says:

    I am really impressed! Seriously! Not only impressed that your work had a competition, and that so many good bakers took part, but also in your fortitude!!! Wow, how many times have I re-attempted a recipe late at night, tired, grouchy, with poor Frank hiding in the living room so as not to get his head bitten off! I made pumpkin cupcakes a few weeks ago for a friend and the totally sunk as well, but as pumpkin is scarce here, I could not make up another batch, so I just pouted. Good for you to keep going! 🙂

    • Patti says:

      There have been plenty of times where I just throw everything into the sink and call it quits, and Zach knows to not say a word and leave me to steam in my own self-pity. There’s a great sense of accomplishment though when you push through! That’s why I love cooking, baking, and making stuff. Next time, make those pumpkin cupcakes into something else with whatever you have in your fridge and call them new reinvented “pumpkin” cupcakes. 🙂

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