Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cupcakes, Part 2

Round 2 of the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World recipe-testing challenge was quite a major success! The contestants for the week were (pictured in order going clockwise from the upper left) Pistachio Rosewater, Gingerbread w/Lemony Frosting, Apple Cider, and Chai Latte!

The overwhelming favorite for that week was the Apple Cider Cupcakes. I thought they were great, but was a little underwhelmed by the lack of apple-y flavor, particularly in the frosting. Even so, it was well-loved enough to get an overwhelming pass for our holiday dinner menu! To try to correct them, we experimented in increasing the apple-ness of the cupcakes by adding applesauce to the top of the frosting to bring out the flavor. For the party, we would want to experiment with apple extract, since putting applesauce on top ruined the look of it... We would prefer adding extra apple flavor without changing how the cupcake looked.

The my personal favorite for the evening was the Gingerbread with Lemony Frosting. The dark, rich gingerbread cupcake wasn't overly sweet, and balanced nicely with the frosting. However, once again, we felt that the flavor of the frosting was slightly underwhelming, so we increased the lemon flavor by adding lemon juice to the frosting. This watered down the frosting, so for the party we would again experiment with extracts to increase the flavor. Also, we decided the color was too pale, so we added a few drops of yellow food coloring to make the lemon flavor of the frosting a bit more obvious.

The Pistachio Rosewater cupcakes were quite interesting! We found that people either loved them or hated them. They had a nice, refreshing quality to them, and found that they were very pretty if we tinted rosewater-flavored buttercream pink, piped the frosting into the shape of flowers, then dusted them with crushed pistachio meat. We also just iced them as indicated in the recipe, but we found people who liked them generally preferred the buttercream. We ended up deciding to include them for the holiday dinner, even some people didn't care for them. They were light and refreshing, which balanced out some of the richer, more decadent cupcakes.

The last cupcake recipe we tested was the Chai Latte. It was a pretty good recipe, but definitely not as good as the others. Given the choice, I would have preferred the Mexican Hot Chocolate from Round 1, rather than this one. Of course, Chai lovers, like this cupcake, but we felt that the other cupcakes shadowed this one. So even though it wasn't a bad cupcake, we decided that this one would not be in the running to be part of the holiday dinner.

And so, with only two rounds of cupcake-testing done, it seems we'd picked 4 out of our maximum of 6 cupcake flavors, with two in reserve as maybes! We were definitely impressed by this week's slew of cupcakes. Even if all the rest of the cupcakes we test fail, we would still be in good shape for the holiday dinner!

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