Sunday, May 6, 2007


It's been about a month since I last posted, and honestly not a whole lot has happened. I've been busy, on the road, mopey, sleepy, baking, packing, unpacking, and all sorts of other fun things.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and it also happens to be my priest's birthday, so I'm bringing simple chocolate cupcakes with a chocolate ganache frosting to church. I'll share the details of that and my trip to California later. I'll also be traveling back to San Francisco in a week, so hopefully I'll get to visit all the places I didn't get to see last time this time around.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chocolate Cupcakes: Success!

Here are pictures from yesterday's baking spree. The cupcakes turned out perfectly, and I'm really happy about the results. I was in a hurry to get to bed, though, so they spent the night with my leftover cream puff shells in a moist cake box. Everyone has chocolatey sticky feet now because they were all standing on each other's heads. It doesn't matter that much as they will be iced and eaten soon anyway.

While the cupcakes were an absolutely perfect texture and taste, I still want to improve the recipe. These were light and springy and tasted very cocoa-y and were not unlike what you would find in a good boxed mix. I aim to make them slightly more dense and have a darker, richer flavor. I want to move away from the ready-made taste and to give them the personality found only in from-scratch recipes. In the future I want to experiment with liqueurs, herbs, and fruit.

For right now, though, I have a delicious and simple cupcake, and that is all that matters to me.

My next challenge is tackling white and yellow cakes and frostings. I'm excited, as I've never ever been able to successfully bake light-colored cakes without them turning out rubbery, crumbly, and rock hard, all in the same cupcake. An experiment the other day failed miserably, as the oven was (unbeknownst to me) way too hot. With my happy little thermometer to guide me, I'm ready to take this one on.

I wasn't the problem after all!

I always just thought I sucked at baking. After reading several hints and tips on how to achieve perfect texture and consistency, I bought better flour, let my ingredients get to room temperature before mixing, and I made sure to follow all steps to the T. My cupcakes still had odd consistencies, ranging from rock hard to brownie-like, tough and chewy outside, dry and unforgiving inside with the occasional underdone goop hidden within crumbly, chalky walls. I figured that I was just bad at it and let it go. Then I got an idea today.
I bought a thermometer.
I think this was the most significant improvement to my entire baking process. I found out that the thermostat on my oven is off by almost 100 degrees in either direction. I am not joking. When I cranked the thing up to 350, it would skyrocket past 425, hovering just below 450. When I set it to a smidge below 275 it seems to be a lot happier and will register the correct 350 on my thermometer.

Tonight I tried a quick and easy chocolate cake recipe, and my first batch has been just amazing. Nice and firm on top but not crusty, soft and springy texture inside, and the wrapper peels off easily. I'm quite encouraged by this development, and I think the road ahead will be a lot less frustrating. So, at least, I hope.

And now I need to find pastry bags. Neither Wal-Mart nor HEB seemed to carry them (not in any of the obvious locations, at least), so I will have to look to Hobby Lobby next. I'm very excited to learn how to decorate.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Cream Puffs

Assembled cream puff
Originally uploaded by cupcake aspiration.
When my mother first got married, she received as a gift a cookbook full of recipes to please the new American husband. It was fairly thick as all the recipes were in both English and Japanese, and while it is about 50 years old, it's still in good shape and contains recipes my mother still uses to this day.

My mother is a somewhat reserved lady, forced to socialize from time to time at potluck dinners where she would have to bring a covered dish or dessert. Her favorite offering for these large gatherings was cream puffs, which consisted of a simple choux paste and either custard or sour cream filling. The recipe is so incredibly easy and quick to make that I had to bring it home with me. While this is not a cupcake recipe, I had to try out my mother's favorite party dessert, just so I can be reassured that I'm not a total baking failure.

I first made a simple choux paste which I spooned onto a baking sheet for about 25 minutes (until the shells were a light golden color). While they cooled, I beat about half a cup of heavy whipping cream with two tablespoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract until it became a nice cream. I sliced a little hole into the side of the cooled puff and spooned the whipped cream into it. A dusting of powdered sugar and cocoa and voila! Cream puffs good enough to feed to your American GI husband.

The story behind the blog

My name is Hana and I love to cook.

About a week ago, my friend approached me with an intriguing idea-- opening a bakery in our little Texas town. We had noticed the popularity of cupcake joints across the country, and we figured that we needed one, too. He could procure the financial backing and business plan and I could head the kitchen and the cafe design. The only problem with this whole endeavor is, although indeed I'm a great chef, I'm almost totally inept when it comes to creating my own baked goods.

This blog will document my personal journey through the world of baked confections, and possibly our business, if it pans out. I look to other bloggers, websites, books, and friends for ideas and recipes, and I will share with you what I discover along the way.

I hope you will enjoy reading it :D