Friday, June 24, 2011

Blue Frost Cupcake

Before my last trip home to Columbus, OH, my dad had given me the heads-up that there was a new cupcakery in town called Blue Frost and I couldn't wait to check it out.  Admittedly, I was extra excited because it is in the adorably historic Old Worthington part of town and conveniently located across from my favorite coffee shop, my favorite wine store and my favorite nail salon.  Shucks. 

Scoping out their website beforehand, I was super impressed by the story of owners Melissa and Briana, who transitioned from careers in nursing to follow their passion for baking.  I'm always in awe of people who have the courage to take the plunge and follow their hearts--especially when cupcakes are involved :)  In this case, that passion translates into artisan cupcakes that use quality ingredients like Madagascar bourbon vanilla and Saigon cinnamon. 

In addition to the standard chocolate, vanilla and red velvet, I was also excited to try out their quirky signature flavor--the Blue Velvet.  I'm pretty sure if a cupcake flavor could be qualified as "hipster," Blue Velvet would be it.  While the BV doesn't taste much different than the red velvet, I'm always on the lookout for new and different cupcakes, and I really appreciated this unique twist.

Blue Frost features a menu of 10 daily cupcakes as well as two weekly specialty flavors such as Key Lime Coconut, Caramel Apple Spice and, of course, Buckeye--and spare me the Ohio State jokes ;)

If you go
Blue Frost Cupcake
657 High Street
Worthington, Ohio 43085

Monday, June 13, 2011

Martha Monday: Strawberry-Lemonade Icebox Pie

Even though summer won't officially be here for another week, it's been hotter than hot recently here in DC and that calls for chilled desserts that don't require too much prep work in a hot kitchen--plus, what could be more summery than strawberry lemonade?  I came across this recipe in last month's Martha Stewart Living and knew it would be a perfect and not-too-sweet compliment to a sticky DC summer day.      
While this pie isn't strictly "icebox" and does require a little bit of baking to set the filling, the result is still an quick and easy cool summer dessert perfect for backyard BBQs.  You can cut down even more on bake time if you substitute a pre-made graham crust, which I often find to be easier for transport and clean up when you're bringing dessert for a party anyways.   

Strawberry-Lemonade Icebox Pie
9 to 10 graham crackers, broken into pieces
1/4 cup sugar
Coarse salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice (from 4 lemons)
2 large egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue), plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Coarse salt

12 ounces strawberries, sliced (2 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 large egg whites, room temperature (2 reserved from filling)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the crust: Coat a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Pulse crackers in a food processor until finely ground; measure 1 1/3 cups, and discard excess. Pulse cracker crumbs, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in food processor to combine. Add butter, and pulse until mixture is moist and holds together when pressed between 2 fingers.

2.  Press crust evenly into bottom and up sides of pie plate using the bottom of a dry measuring cup. (Make sure the sides and rim of the crust are firmly pressed so they don't crumble when pie gets cut.) Freeze for 30 minutes.

3.  Bake crust until firm and turning darker around edges, 10 to 11 minutes. Remove from oven, and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

4.  Meanwhile, make the filling: Whisk together condensed milk, lemon juice, egg yolks and egg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

5.  Pour filling into warm piecrust. Bake until center is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

6.  Make the topping: Sprinkle berries with 2 tablespoons sugar and the lemon juice. Let stand for 30 minutes.

7.  Meanwhile, heat egg whites and remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in the heatproof bowl of a mixer set over a pan of simmering water until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm to the touch, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to mixer, and whisk on high speed until medium peaks form, 8 to 9 minutes.

8.  Spoon berries over pie. Spoon meringue over top. Place pie under broiler, with rack in lowest position, until meringue is just browned. Alternatively, use a kitchen torch to brown the top.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Just Cupcakes

Because sometimes all you need is just a cupcake.

During a recent trip down to Virginia Beach from Washington, DC I hadn't really planned on trying to scope out any local cupcake shops.  Then again, I also hadn't really planned on getting caught in a massive thunderstorm which knocked out all power to the local area for about 12 hours.  By the time I got to my hotel, I'd survived at least a 10-mile stretch of road with no working traffic lights in which people had lost all sense of decorum and were driving as if the rapture had occurred and the zombies were, in fact, on their way. 

Needless to say, after spending the night in a hotel with no power, no hot water and no food (with nothing comped) I was feeling a little zombie-like myself.  Dirty, grumpy and hungry I trudged out of the hotel towards the parking garage and may have actually stopped in my tracks, so surprised was I to come face to face with a completely unexpected cupcake shop right across the street!

*Insert Angels Singing Here*
 Obviously this was a sign from the Cupcake Gods and I couldn't wait to stop in and sample a much-needed cupcake...or four.  Just Cupcakes has a rotating daily menu and I selected the Frankly Scarlett, Key Lime, Seriously Strawberry and Triple Chocolate.  In addition to an adorably hip, two-level shop and mini art gallery, the cupcakes were awesome! I loved the vast flavor selection, and all the cakes I sampled were moist, with consistently smooth buttercreams.  I particularly loved the Frankly Scarlett (red velvet) because it had the traditional cream cheese frosting but wasn't too tangy, and also actually tasted like chocolate, which is often missing in many reds.  Surprisingly I also really loved the Key Lime--even though I'm not usually a huge citrus fan, I found myself going back for bite after bite.

So next time you're in Virginia Beach--or next time you're in a crappy mood because you'd have been better off sleeping in your car than in your blacked out hotel--keep your chin up and there might be a Just Cupcakes, just where you need it.

If you go:
Just Cupcakes
261 Town Center Drive
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23462

Just Cupcakes
616 Hilltop West
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451