Archive | February, 2011

Cupcakes for Paris and in Paris: Berko Cupcake Review

14 Feb

One thing I learned on my travels while on my cupcake tour in Toronto was that the majority of bakeries in Toronto use swiss meringue buttercream to frost their cake. Unlike the basic buttercream (a combination of powdered sugar, butter and extract), this buttercream recipe melts normal granulated sugar (much like the flour based one I tried) so that the buttercream is smoother and doesn’t take on that grainy taste from powdered sugar. Afterall my vanilla cupcake trials, I revisited this swiss meringue buttercream and I really love it. Click here for the recipe.
We went away to to visit friends in Paris and I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to try out Swiss Meringue Buttercream on picky Parisian palettes. I baked two dozen chocolate cupcakes and made a vanilla swiss meringue buttercream to go on top. I packed my cupcakes on the train and headed for Paris with Mr. Cupcake. The cupcakes were received with rave reviews. Score!

Knowing my weakness for cupcakes, our friends suggested that they would take us to their local cupcake bakery on Sunday morning before we left for Frankfurt. On Sunday morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed and headed to Berko. And here is what we found.
The cupcakes at Berko were much smaller than mine, only about half the size. They only sold this one size of cupcakes for €2 each. They had a huge selection! But what we quickly realized when we ate our cupcakes, is that in fact their huge selection is only in the frosting. The base of all the cupcakes are either vanilla or chocolate and the difference in flavour you get is from the frosting rather than the cake itself. Here are the cupcakes we chose.

From the left: Raspberry-vanilla with white chocolate glaze, berry vanilla with fresh berries and berry coulis, chocolate cupcake with chocolate chip cookie chunks

It was definitely quite busy in the shop for a Sunday morning. There plenty of Parisians getting their cupcakes fix. Most of them took the cupcakes ‘to go’.

We arrived in Paris with cupcakes from Frankfurt and we settled in for a journey back to Frankfurt with some Parisian cupcakes.

The first one we tried was raspberry-vanilla with a white chocolate glaze. This one had a fresh raspberry on top and a cheeky fresh raspberry inside. The vanilla cake was very good but it did have a disappointing empty air pocket inside.
Next we tried the berry vanilla. It was the same vanilla cake base and it tasted very delicious. Not to sweet. Inside the cupcake there was also a fresh raspberry. The frosting was a whipped cream frosting (again, not too sweet) and the berry coulis in the squeezy thing was a delicious touch. Overall, a very delicious cupcake and I would go back for more.
The chocolate cupcake was disappointing. We picked the basic chocolate one with chocolate chip cookie chunks in the frosting. The frosting here was a buttercream, unlike the white chocolate glaze and whipping cream on the previous cupcakes and it was damn sweet. You could feel the sugar granules and the flavour of the chocolate wasn’t deep or chocolately at all. I couldn’t finish the cupcake.


Here you can see the shade of the chocolate. Very light. I prefer a deep dark chocolate cupcake.

2 outta 3, ain’t a bad score and I wouldn’t mind going back to sample some more of their flavours. Berko’s vanilla cupcakes were lovely afterall and that is sayin’ something as I feel that is one of the hardest flavours to perfect. Lord knows I am still working on mine!

Overall it was a fantastic time and I love experiencing cupcakes from all over and checking out the range of flavour combinations or creative ways of presenting the cupcakes. It’s always such a rush of inspiration!

Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes Put to the Test: Part II

3 Feb

Ok, you can stop your nail-biting and your sleepless nights are over. Part II of the Vegan Cupcake post is here! A promise is a promise and I do deliver even if it’s only been a month or two of delay. Tee hee. Bad blogger, bad!

So I have tallied the results of the 12 cupcake questionnaires that were returned about the 24 cupcakes I donated in the name of research. Clearly some questionnaires got lost during the testing (accidentally eaten?) but oh well, at least 12 made it back home. 10 questionnaires came back related to the chocolate cupcakes and 2 for the vanilla recipe.

The chocolate vegan results were certainly more critical as it was the first time I tried a recipe without eggs and with coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.

So here are the results broken down all mathematic style. Whew! Luckily just working with a multiple of 10 here, folks.

Here is how the chocolate frosting rated:

50% said that it was perfect, they wouldn’t change a thing
30% said it was almost perfect
20% said it was good

Here is how the cupcake cake scored:
30% said it was perfect and they wouldn’t change a thing
60% said it was almost perfect
10% said it was good

So overall the recipe was extremely well received. Other than ‘perfect’, ‘almost perfect’ and ‘good’, the remaining categories were ‘recipe needs improvement’ and ‘terrible, why am I eating this’ and none of my testers went there. 80% said that the frosting was perfect or very close to perfect and 90% said that the recipe was perfect or very close to perfect. I recently found out from a fellow baker that chocolate is a hard recipe to screw up though, but hey, I will take the rave reviews nonetheless and can be comfortable in saying that people should not be scared to try vegan cupcakes. They clearly check all the boxes. Pun intended. Here is the recipe.

Now onto the vanilla recipe. I only received a grand total of two questionnaires zuruck (back) so the feedback was short and not so sweet. Ugh. Both of the questionnaires reported that my vanilla recipe pretty much sucks. They said that they were dry and that I needed to work on the recipe. Back to the drawing board.  Vanilla seems so simple yet it’s not. It’s so basic in its flavour, that you just have to get it right. No hiding behind desiccated coconut or fresh fruit. So if you have a bad-ass vanilla recipe, send it my way! I would love one with a really tender crumb. I still need to continue experimenting with using corn flour to lighten the texture. Or do I over-bake? Lord knows! I always find that my vanilla cupcakes taste awesome straight out of the oven but they dry out quick as hell.

To finish on a happier note, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Have you bought her a card yet? You at least have to get her a card! Oh wait, no men read this blog. Have you got him a card yet? You should at least get him a card, girlfriend.

I love you too!

Here are a couple of designs I put together for your sweetheart with a sweet tooth.