Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Neapolitan-ish Christmas Tree Cupcakes

I'm so excited - I have so many new baking toys to play with this holiday season and I can't wait to try them out and see what can be created with them!
Today's new tool is the cookie scoop. It looks like an ice cream scoop, but is meant for scooping and dispensing dough to achieve evenly shaped cookies. I figured it could be used for other things as well, such as cupcake batter, so I tried it out in today's tasty recipe of the week. It worked pretty well for scooping cupcake batter, but I might want the larger size scoop (3 tablespoons per scoop) for normal sized cupcakes.

In honor of the holidays, I crafted what I am calling Neapolitan-ish Christmas Tree Cupcakes - they have chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla flavors all tucked into one cute little Christmas tree topped cupcake. I originally meant to make this cupcake, which uses an actual strawberry as the foundation of the tree. When I was shopping for baking supplies at Safeway tonight though, I couldn't find any strawberries. Since they are out of season, they don't stock too many of them and they were all sold out. 

Raspberries and blackberries were considered as alternatives, but they didn't have the nice cone shape I needed for the tree. Luckily, I remembered a conversation I had with a friend earlier that day (it seems that I talk a lot about baking with people these days) about a cupcake he had made once, where a cone shape was cut out of the cupcake itself and inverted to use as the tree. That seemed like a good backup plan, so I ran with it. 

Hollowed out cupcakes with their cones.

For the chocolate, the cupcake is actually a brownie baked in cupcake tins. After they cooled and the cone shape was dug out, I filled the cupcakes with strawberry preserves. 

Then I took the brownie cone and inverted it back onto the top of the cupcake. 

Then I made vanilla buttercream (with green food coloring) and piped it onto the cupcake. I added a yellow Reese's Pieces on top as a star and covered the tree in sprinkles for added ornaments! 

I messed up a little with the frosting - I tried making it by eyeballing the sugar, but it turns out that was a bad idea because I missed the ratio and the frosting turned out a little soft, so it couldn't hold the piping detail. Still tastes great though and they still look like little cute trees!

Tomorrow: last chance to use my new Christmas cookie cutters because they go out of season for another year. 

Neapolitan-ish Christmas Tree Cupcakes (makes 12 cupcakes)
  • Your favorite brownie recipe/mix (I used Duncan Hines Milk Chocolate Brownies)
  • Strawberry preserves
  • Your favorite vanilla frosting (recipe for mine below)
  • Decorations for tree - sprinkles, candy, etc - use your imagination! 
  1. Preheat oven to 325-350 (depends on your recipe and your type of baking tin).
  2. Make the brownie cupcakes: mix up your brownie recipe (I simply followed the instructions for cake-like brownies on the box). 
  3. Dispense the batter into cupcake liners - about 3 tablespoons per cupcake (3/4 full)
  4. Bake at preheated oven for ~20-25 minutes or until your brownies are done (again, it depends on the recipe you choose). 
  5. As the brownies cool, make the frosting (my recipe below). Dye it green with food coloring. 
  6. When the cupcakes are cooled, hollow the middle in a cone shape. Do so by inserting a small knife a centimeter or two from the edge, but angle the blade so it cuts towards the cutter of the cupcake. Once the knife is nearly at the bottom (but don't poke through), cut in a even circle (while keeping the knife tip in the middle). Pull out the cone and set aside. 
  7. Fill the hollowed out cupcakes with strawberry preserves. 
  8. Invert the cone and set back onto cupcake. 
  9. Pipe frosting to cover the cone entirely. 
  10. Cover tree with sprinkles and candy!
Vanilla buttercream frosting - makes enough for the 12 cupcakes above
  1. Cream 1/3 cup of unsalted butter with 3 cups of powdered sugar with an electric mixer. Add 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of milk. Mix until smooth. 

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