Thursday, June 28, 2012

Boston Cake Experiment: Sangria!

As I mentioned on Saturday, this past Sunday I participated in a real live baking contest! The Brooklyn Breweries and Food Experiment hosted Boston Cake Experiment took place Sunday evening in the basement of a bar.

About 17 teams designed, baked and served about 200-300 little servings of cake. Entries ranged from sweet to savory and from fairly traditional to downright strange — one cake even involved Spam!

I came up with the idea to make Sangria Cupcakes by adding my own lovingly crafted sangria into the batter and frosting, and "painting" more sangria on top of each cake so they would really soak up the alcohol flavor.

Here's my roommate and I getting ready for the crowd Sunday evening:

Over the course of Saturday, I made almost all of my little cupcakes, stashing them all over my aunt's kitchen, which I hijacked for the weekend. 280 cupcakes used about nearly two full boxes of cake flour (all the King Arthur flour I was given for the contest), a full carton of eggs, nearly half a gallon of milk, and after I made the frosting too, THREE POUNDS of butter! 

I was a bit amazed at the quantity of ingredients I went through in such a short time — the Sangria originally consisted of two bottles of wine + brandy + fruit, but I ended up needed EVEN MORE WINE for the frosting!


Baked cupcakes all day Saturday. 

Sunday, I baked one final batch of cupcakes for good measure, painstakingly cleaned every surface, washed every dish and removed every trace of evidence that I was there. ...Except for one plate of cupcakes and a few business cards. 

Did I mention I made Young Idealistic Baker business cards for the event?

Transporting the cupcakes from house to house to event was the hardest part — I was quite nervous about this step despite my genius idea to prepare in advance by bringing home all of the shallow cardboard boxes that held the printing paper delivered to my office. 

I filled up about 5 boxes with cupcakes, covered them with plastic wrap and made the best of it. After frantically throwing together frosting around 4pm, I filled up piping bags to frost the cupcakes at the event which began setup at 5pm. 

Doors opened at 6, at which point I had a table filled with cupcakes ready for the taking and a plethora or reimbursements on the bench behind me. 

People came, ate, left compliments and took business cards. After a few hours, winners were announced. I won nothing but experience and a Cake Experiment t-shirt, free beer and a micropane zester (something I actually really wanted!!!). 

Overall, the entire weekend was exhausting yet incredibly rewarding. I had a great time, learned a lot, and I've had leftover cupcakes to nosh on all week! Great success in my book!

A few lessons I learned that you may be able to benefit from (or offer your own suggestions for improvement):
  1. When baking multiple batches of the same thing, keeping consistency is very difficult (especially when you're purposely tweaking the recipe as you go for the sake of improvement)
  2. 200 mini cupcakes take up WAY more space than you would think.
  3. Free beer makes any challenge worth it!
Care to recreate my latest masterpiece? I have a recipe for the cupcakes below. For now, I can't share the frosting recipe (I dumped too many ingredients in without paying attention — the things that happen at the final hour).

Sangria Cupcakes (a Young Idealistic Baker original recipe):
Makes about 45 mini cupcakes
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • citrus zest (from an orange and lemon)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Sangria 
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1//2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sangria-soaked fruit pulp (pureed until smooth)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcakes – NOTE: those cheap aluminum foil wrappers are AMAZING — just place them on a cookie sheet and you're good to go!
  • Combine zest and sugar and let sit for 5 minutes
  • On medium speed, mix butter and zesty sugar
  • Add eggs, one at a time and mix until combined
  • Add vanilla and sangria and mix until combined
  • In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together
  • Alternate adding milk and flour mixture to butter mixture
  • Stir in fruit pulp
  • Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake on middle rack for about 12 minutes
  • Let cool for a few minutes in cupcake pan (or on cookie sheet) and then let cool completely on a cooling rack
  • Optional: Coat tops of cupcakes with Sangria (as many times as you'd like — coat more for stronger flavor)
  • Optional: Top with your favorite booze-infused and/or citrus frosting 

Happy Baking and thanks for sharing this experience with me! Can't wait for my next big challenge! (Might be sooner than you think... Hint/nudge)

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