Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

It's official! I have finally ventured into the world of cupcakes. I know it took me forever, as the great cupcake craze started five years ago or so, but now that I'm on board I think I've created a pretty awesome cupcake.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

If you haven't noticed, I've been sort of obsessed with fall lately (I'm pretending it's not 113 degrees outside right now), especially all the amazing flavors of the season. I've been craving pumpkin most of all, and I've been trying my darndest to make an awesome something-or-other with it. It seemed the obvious choice for an experimental cupcake. I wanted the flavor to reflect pumpkin pie, so I included many of the spices you'd find in the dessert: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice.

When it comes to frosting, I usually go with my favorite, buttercream, but I've been so eager to try vegan cream cheese that I thought I'd take a risk and go for it. I never liked real cream cheese in my pre-vegan days, so the idea of purchasing vegan cream cheese never occurred to me. However, just as I found out that Vegenaise is far superior to its omnivorous alternative, I learned that vegan cream cheese rocks. I might just use it on a bagel or something! Call me crazy! I was even more delighted to find that it makes a ridiculously delicious and creamy frosting. I added some cinnamon and voila!  The perfect compliment to my little pumpkin spice cake.

What a cutie!

Finally, I thought this adorable dream of a cupcake could use a little something extra on top. My BFF Gwen makes a pumpkin-pecan pie every Thanksgiving, and if you ask me, it's the best thing ever. Her version combines my two favorite pies seamlessly to create a maddeningly delicious dessert. So now that she's ruined me for most other pumpkin desserts, I had to put a candied pecan on top. So you can thank Gwen for that.

I'm currently working on a plan for shipping these little nom-noms so that I can have them available on Etsy. So keep your eyes open for that. In the meantime, get out there and enjoy some fall flavors!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Vegan Cupcake Thursday

Ok, so I know it's not Thursday, but I recently found out about a really fun blog all about one of my favorite subjects, vegan cupcakes! Vegan Cupcake Thursday is a blog "all about debunking the myth and proving that VEGAN cupcakes taste good and no animals need to be harmed for your minute of pleasure." Now that's a mission statement I can get behind.

the adorable logo.
Vegan Cupcake Thursday is run by the lovely Roni Seabury, who is a fellow member of the Vegan Etsy Team. I was so pleased to find her blog, which is wonderfully witty (read her clever "about" page here) and features awesome bakers from all over the country, including mouth-watering photos of their wares. So, next time you're ready for some eye-candy (pastry?), check out Vegan Cupcake Thursday!

Guess what I'll be doing next Thursday? Baking cupcakes, you betchya!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fall is Here!

...and with it comes a busy schedule! As September sneaks its way into October, I'm finding my schedule packed and there aren't enough hours in the day to complete the things I want to do! Since I've been fumbling around the kitchen lately (and by fumbling I mean not doing my best work... at all, ever), I thought I'd take the time to talk about the things that are keeping me busy this fall.

There are pumpkins at the market! That means it's officially fall.

The Bakery

1. I absolutely love fall. With it comes some great new flavors that you can't find any other time of the year! So I'm working with pumpkin, maple, pecans, and spices to create some tasty goodies that reflect the season. So far, I've had a very hard time with pumpkin (hence the fumbling), but I'm getting there. Every failure is a learning experience, after all! What are your favorite fall flavors? Any requests?

2. As you probably have heard, one of the best things you can do for your health (and your figure) is cut down on your sugar intake. Additionally, a lot of people are worried about gluten these days, and I think we probably all have someone in our lives dealing with Celiac Disease. So I'm currently working on coming up with some sugar- and gluten-free options! Right now I'm still in the research phase for gluten-free recipes, and I'm a little farther along with sugar. I'm already using maple syrup in some recipes (though there isn't a big difference health-wise with maple, at least you know where it comes from and that it hasn't been made with bone char), and now I'm learning to work with agave nectar. If you have any insights on sugar substitutes or gluten-free flours, please send them my way!

3. Finally, I'm working on brainstorming ideas for expanding the bakery. Currently, I work full time, but am able to commit nights and weekends to baking. However, I'm still only getting a few sales a month; a figure I'd like to improve. So I'm coming up with ideas for reaching a broader audience and getting my name out there. Also, I have a secret dream of selling my baked goods at a farmer's market. So that's something to think about.

Our Wedding

Yep! The feller and I are getting married! And we're having a vegan wedding. It's going to be awesome. We are pretty far along considering the wedding is a year away, thanks to our amazing wedding coordinator, Krystel Tien of Couture Events. Here are some things that we're working on now!

1. Obviously, since I have a blog about my own bakery, I love food. So it's very important to me that the food at our wedding is not only vegan, but outrageously delicious. Right now, we're looking into catering companies that will be able to make some wildly scrumptious vegan food. My hope is that it won't even occur to our guests that the food is completely vegan, because they're thinking about how completely wonderful it is!

2. For decor, we are going with a vintage-eclectic theme with lots of do-it-yourself details! So we thought why not start early on our DIY projects? We are collecting all sorts of pretty things to eventually transform into our decor. SO much fun.

3. When the feller and I went back to my hometown for a wedding in August, I went dress shopping with my mom at an adorable shop near our house. Magically, I found several dresses that I loved, and they were all in our price range! After some thought, I chose "the one," so now I've got to put the order in. And no, I can't say which one it is. That would ruin the surprise!

Our Engagement Photoshoot

Ok, so maybe this should go under "wedding," but I'm so excited about it that it's going to get its own category! We are working with the lovely Teale Landstedt of Teale Photography for our wedding photography, as well as our engagement session. Since we're not an "in-the-box" couple, it seemed appropriate for us to do something a little different for our engagement photos. So, we decided on a full-out vintage style shoot. I'm so excited!

1. In order to look like we're in another time, we're going to need some pretty amazing vintage clothes. I'm currently working on putting together our outfits, as well as accessories and props.

2. We have some inspiration photos gathered already, but we can always use more! I'd love to have a nice collage put together of images that we like, so we don't get stuck or feel uninspired on the day.

3. Krystel had the awesome suggestion of using some vegan cupcakes or cookies as part of the shoot, too! So I'm going to have a lot of fun making some beautiful decorated cupcakes.

Burp's Christmas

If you were thinking that I don't have enough on my plate already, then get ready: I'm also producing a movie! This is a project that I've been working on for over a year now with some friends of mine from college. It's going to be a wonderful animated Christmas film titled Burp's Christmas. It's something we're all working on in our spare time, as we all have day jobs. Here's where we're at right now:

1. Currently we're in the stage that we call "Getting Our Face On." To put it simply, we're getting all of our stuff together and making everything look pretty so we can go out and raise some money! One of the final products of this stage will be a polished-looking packet full of information on the story, us, and the process we're using to make the film.

2. On my to-do list for this month is to write another blog entry. Kat, our associate producer, and I are writing a series of entries about producing specifically, and what we do. My next post will be about the differences between producing for animation and live action.

3. Mike, our director and screenwriter, probably has the most of all of us to do right now. He's in the process of creating original art for us to use both in the making of the film, and in the fundraising process. You can check out some of what he's working on at our blog.

I do have a lot on my plate, but that's the way I like it. So, if you don't see me post for longer periods of time than usual, you'll at least know what I'm doing. What is keeping you busy this fall?

Enjoy the weather, and buy yourself a pumpkin at the market! I sure did.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Great Muffin Disaster!

I like to try to keep things fresh by experimenting with my recipes every now and then. It's nice to combine new flavors or old favorites to create something new. As the weather is changing in Los Angeles (a little too early if you ask me), I'm starting to crave fall flavors and I'm even beginning to anticipate the arrival of Christmas! So even though Thanksgiving supplies are still hard to find in the grocery store, I decided to take a stab at a pumpkin muffin. What better way to celebrate the coming of fall?

Sounds like a great place to start, right? I thought so. So now that I had my idea, I moved on to the research phase. This is where I look at all kinds of relevant recipes, old and new, to figure out how to begin writing a recipe. I gathered information on pumpkin pies, pecan toppings, and basic muffins. After an hour or so, I had written a recipe that seemed sound, and had a pleasing combination of flavors. 

I was right about that last part, at least. The flavors were great! I made the batter, and it tasted delicious. It smelled and tasted like pumpkin pie, with a little kick at the end from cloves and allspice. I was really proud of it, already, and I hadn't even baked the muffins yet. As you may have guessed from the title of this entry, my pride was somewhat premature. 

So, I scooped the batter into the muffin cups and topped them with several different types of streusel topping. This was an experiment, after all, so I made a few batches with different ratios of Earth Balance to sugar to pecans to flour. I was winging it for the most part, so experimentation was a necessity. They look so innocent, don't they? Those little cups of batter with sprinkled streusel goodness all over them. Very cute. 

Innocent little muffins. Or so they seem...

I popped them in the oven until they were brown on top and done in the middle. After a few minutes of cooling, though, I noticed the first sign of disaster... The tops were starting to cave in in the middle. Not a good sign. At this point, my poor fiancĂ©'s car broke down, and I ventured out to go pick him up from where his car had been towed. I brought the poor chap a muffin to cheer him up, and he really liked it. Apparently, the texture was good and the spice level was perfect. Only lacking point was that the pumpkin flavor was not quite as prominent as it needed to be, but that's a relatively simple adjustment. I tasted a bit and concurred. 

Look at this muffin. So cute, right? No. So NOT cute.

The next morning, upon further inspection of the little devil muffins, I realized that despite last night's false hopes these were indeed a disaster. I brought them in to work, and asked a friend taste them to see what she thought. We cut the muffin in half to reveal... 

Is that bread pudding?
No, it was supposed to be a muffin.

A bizarre custard-like center! What?! I was perplexed. I still am perplexed. The only part that really held out here was the yummy streusel topping. My friend likened the texture to bread pudding, which I tend to agree with. It's certainly not muffin-texture. Also, not pleasing whatsoever. Seriously. What confuses me most is that the night before, all seemed well and there had been no signs of this custardy grossness! Anyone have insight into why I wound up with bread pudding instead of a muffin? Does anyone have a good baking disaster to share? 

All-in-all, the Great Muffin Disaster was an excellent learning experience. I was humbled, to be sure, learning that my knowledge of baking chemistry is not as solid as I had once imagined. But it is only through mistakes that we can learn and grow! Also, I learned how to make a great streusel topping. So there's that. I will revisit these muffins in a week or so, and start fresh. Until then, I'll be freshening up on my baking chemistry! 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Etsy Treasuries

To say that I'm a fan of Etsy would be an understatement. I might just be obsessed, like millions of other people like me out there. If you're unfamiliar, Etsy is an online market place where I, and thousands of other people, sell their handmade wares. Here you can find anything from a wedding gown to a vintage book, a handcrafted coffee table to a dozen vegan cookies. The selection is better than WalMart's, without the guilt of knowing you've supported big business. Each item has been thoughtfully and lovingly created just for you. You can't get much better than that if you ask me.

One of my favorite parts of the Etsy experience is visiting the very first page. Every day, they feature a select few beautiful items on the main page, and they are always so thoughtfully chosen and coordinated. This year, the Etsy team put the power in the hands of the Etsy members: allowing anyone to curate their own "treasury," then choosing the most beautiful groupings to be featured front and center. At first, I'll admit, I missed the Etsy-curated treasuries and gift-guides, but after giving the new member-curated lists a chance, I realized what a genius idea this was! Who better to pick out the best of the best than the people like me, who spend hours upon hours searching the varied pages of the site? It was a perfect plan.

So today, after a few months of perusing other people's lists, and being featured in a few treasuries myself, I decided to take a crack at it. After a visit to my parent's house, where the skies are clear and the stars come out in full at night, I had my mind on constellations. And as summer comes to an end, I've also had the bright yellows and gold of fall on my mind. So based on these ideas, I came up with a treasury of my own, called "Astral Autumn." You can click here to check it out, if you'd like.

A screenshot of the treasury I made, "Astral Autumn"

Treasuries are a great way to select and display things that inspire you or that you think are worthy of sharing. Curating a list can be a lot of fun, and it's a great way to promote the shops that you think are doing a great job. Be sure to check out some of the other treasuries available on Etsy, too, or make one yourself!