Baking in Grandmother’s Kitchen

My grandparents built their house in 1954, and much of the original kitchen remains. I always loved the many built-ins, like the cabinet for the stand mixer. A quick pull up and out, and it’s ready to go.

Glo's 40s Mixer - Hamilton Beach Model G

During a recent trip south, I used the mixer—a Hamilton Beach Model G made in the 1940s—for the first time, to bake cupcakes for my grandmother and other lucky family members. Though we baked together often when I was a child, I was not allowed to operate the dangerous machinery. My grandmother handed it over easily this time, with only a mild warning of possible electric shock. (Wait… What?) Apparently, those pretty metal edges have been known to give a little jolt.

Mixing with 1940s Hamilton Beach Model G Mixer

Creaming butter with white and brown sugar

It was fun to use but different than using my own mixer which locks the bowl into the base and uses a single wide beater, sometimes one with a flex edge that does the scraping mostly itself. (Spoiled by modern conveniences…) This one required much more attention!

I baked chocolate cupcakes, of course. If you know her, you know my grandmother loves chocolate. I made classic vanilla frosting to balance it out.

Chocolate Cupcake By Amelie

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Sansa’s Lemon Cakes

Candied Lemon Cupcakes

In 2007, I wrote a post about Harry Potter and mentioned my current fantasy favorite as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I noted that “I won’t run into too many people reading it on the subway.” Boy, was I wrong about that! Little did I know that these books would become a hugely successful HBO series. Almost everyone is familiar with Game of Thrones now, even if they do not watch the show.

I watch with some friends, and we tend to wait to view 2-3 at a time after the premier. I haven’t seen Episode 2 of Season 6 yet, please don’t tell me the Big Things that happened! I can tell this will be a tough season to delay watching.

Last year, I baked a castle cake for the premier. This time, I decided to make a version of the go-to Game of Thrones dessert, the lemon cakes Sansa Stark adores. Sadly, she has not gotten to enjoy any lately.

There are a lot of recipes out there for this Westeros treat. (If you are a fan of the series, you should check out Inn at the Crossroads.) My interpretation of a lemon cake is a lemon cupcake with a candied lemon on top. Since I have a tried and true Lemon Cupcake recipe, I didn’t mess around trying any others.

Lemon Cupcakes with Candied Lemon

To prepare the lemons, I cut them into 1/8″-1/4″ inch slices and removed the seeds. I tried to use a mandoline, but it did not work well for me. The blade caught on the rind—possibly a problem with my technique or the mandoline itself—squeezing the fruit too much before slicing. I had better luck carefully cutting with a knife.

I cut enough to get 12 complete rings of similar size, keeping the smaller ends of the lemons for juicing. I blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, then chilled in ice water. I dissolved 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water in a large pan, brought it to a simmer, then added the lemon slices in one layer. They simmered for an hour before I took them out to cool and harden on a wire rack.

I did not let the lemon slices dry completely before I put them on top of my cupcakes, so they would stick to the cakes. They remained moist, which was fine for my purposes. For real candied lemons, let them dry overnight.

I removed the cupcake liners before serving. I don’t think they have such things in the Seven Kingdoms!

Lemon Cakes from Game of Thrones

Recipe: Lemon Cupcakes

Makes 21 cupcakes

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
4 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 extra large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar at medium speed, then reduce to low. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the lemon juice and vanilla extract.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lemon zest to the flour mixture. Incorporate the dry ingredients gradually into the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Scoop batter into lined muffin tins with an ice cream scoop or the method of your choice (about 3/4 full). Bake for a total of 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, rotating pans halfway through.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Once cupcakes are room temperature, frost or dust with powdered sugar. (Lemon, raspberry or other fruit-flavored icings are all good choices, or get fancy with a candied lemon!)

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Tasting Tour NYC: Mia’s Bakery

Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

Mia’s Bakery
139 Smith St
www.miasbrooklyn.com

Salted Caramel Cupcake - Mia's Bakery Brooklyn

I lived in Cobble Hill until recently and had noticed this bakery preparing for its opening before my move. The spot used to be Coco Roco, a Peruvian place whose roasted chicken with rice and beans is a favorite of mine (their Park Slope location is still open, go get some).

I stopped by recently and tried the Salted Caramel cupcake and a cappuccino. The cake was light, like angel food cake rather than a typical vanilla cupcake. It made me feel less guilty about the thick frosting (buttery, not too sweet) with a generous dollop of salty-sweet caramel.

Mia's Bakery - Salted Caramel Cupcake

A lopsided beauty

With ample seating both indoors and out, Mia’s is perfect for a shopping break, a leisurely afternoon, or a dessert date. The bakery offers coffee, a wide array of sweets, and a few savory breakfast options. Mia’s Brooklyn is open until 11pm on weeknights, 1am on weekends.

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Orange Cupcakes

Craving oranges like sunshine at the tail end of winter, I decided to go citrus for a karaoke birthday party. I can’t guarantee that these cupcakes will make you want to sing, but they might brighten your night!

Orange Cupcakes by Amelie

Since my grapefruit cupcakes didn’t quite hit the flavor strength I would have liked, I tried something different this time. Instead of using straight OJ, I cooked the juice, reducing it by about half before using it in the batter and frosting. 1/2 cup reduced to about 4 tablespoons will give you enough for this recipe.

When I first tasted the frosting after mixing it, I did not think it tasted great. But after just a little while, the flavors melded…and it was really good. The orange cake was especially moist, too. These were some of my favorites of recent cupcake experiments!

With the vanilla, these have a bit of that Creamsicle/Dreamsicle creamy citrus taste.

 

Recipe: Orange Mini Cupcakes

Makes about 36 mini cupcakes

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
4 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon reduced* orange juice
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line mini muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar at medium speed, then reduce to low. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the orange juice and vanilla extract.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the orange zest to the flour mixture. Incorporate the dry ingredients gradually into the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Scoop batter into lined muffin tins (I use a size 50 ice cream scoop for minis). Bake 5-6 minutes, rotate, then bake another 5-6 minutes. Baking time may vary, so keep an eye on them!

Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely before frosting.

*Start with 1/2 cup fresh orange juice and simmer until reduced by half. This will give you enough to make these cupcakes and their frosting. (You could also probably use thawed concentrate.)

Frosting Recipe

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Tasting Tour NYC: Burgers & Cupcakes

Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan

Burgers & Cupcakes
458 9th Avenue
www.burgerscupcakesnyc.com

Burgers & Cupcakes - Marble Cupcake with Chocolate Ganache and Peanut Butter

This place is conveniently located to grab a bite before an event at Hammerstein Ballroom, as we were. It’s also not too far from Madison Square Garden.

I had a salad to justify getting dessert. The salad is barely worth mentioning, a standard Caeser. The cupcake, however, was excellent. (My husband said that the burger was pretty good. I noted that it was square. Hey, I’m not a burger blogger.)

The Marble Cupcake with Chocolate Ganache and Peanut Butter looked the most interesting, and I am not among those who can resist chocolate and peanut butter. 

“You think you love them for the frosting, but it’s the cake that makes them good!” they say. Sure, the cake was good, but the frostings—the ganache on top with peanut butter spread around—were the most memorable part.

Burgers & Cupcakes - Marble Cake

This casual spot from Mitchel London has been around almost a decade now. I’m surprised I hadn’t happened across it before, though I will say I’d expect more ambience. The name would have made me curious, but it might not have caught my attention in passing if it had not been a predetermined meeting spot.

The diner vibe not withstanding, Burgers & Cupcakes is a good choice to indulge your sweet tooth before events or during shopping in the area. They are open until 10pm.

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