Monday, April 20, 2009

Rainy Day....

It was a rainy cold day today and I was feeling a little down. I saw this card at Target and it made me happy :) So I bought it for myself. I just thought it was SO cute - the little Asian girl brings out my inner Asian and the fact she's on all those cupcakes, I just had to buy it. Is that weird? Have you ever bought yourself a card?! This was a first for me... <3 Cara Lee

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Food Wanderlust...

Location: Beijing, China 2007

I did a lot of traveling though Asia during the summers of 2007 and 2008. I taught English in China and then traveled through out SE Asia (Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam). I tried to keep a travel blog but it was just too complicated and time consuming for me - I fit in many countries in a limited time. I'd be in a smokey internet cafe, filled with teenage gamers for over 2 hrs and still be working on one entry, trying to put in all the details, and pictures. So I hope to add some travel stories and pictures in this blog when ever I get a chance :)

Tonight I felt inspired to write about some of the amazing food I came across in my travels. I love food and traveling! And so does my boyfriend, who did a lot of traveling with me. I wish I took more pictures of the food we ate while traveling. It seemed no matter where we went, we were always trying the local cuisine and planning where to eat next. What better way to learn about the culture of a country than through their food. Asia is an amazing place eat. I remember going to the doctors for a physical before I left for Asia. "Don't drink the water and stay away from street food" they told me. And what did I do there? I drank bottled water and ate at the food stalls. It's where the locals eat and where some of the best and affordable food is located. Here are some of my favorite "food" pics I took while traveling. Hope you enjoy the food journey through Asia....

[Insert Travel Pics Here]

Ok so where are the pics?! I just spent 3 nights trying to upload and format the pics for the blog. Everytime it looked like crap - everything moved around when I would publish it. I tried to re-format...and it DELETED everything :( So I officially gave up. It should NEVER take this long to write a simple blog. I'll try again another time - as in upload a few at a time! Ughh.. so frustrated right now. <3 Cara Lee

Monday, April 13, 2009

Finally baked some cupcakes

So after all this cupcake talk and trying other places, I finally got around to making some! My friend Ashley and I made Cherry Almond Cupcakes. We topped them off with a cream cheese based icing with hints of cherry and amaretto :) MMMMMM!

For the cake part we followed Miss Cupcake Face's recipe.

Cherry Almond Cupcakes
Adapted from
Southern Cakes
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, slightly softened

2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 10 oz jars maraschino cherries (cut in half)
1 cups whole milk
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 12-cup cupcake pans with liners.In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, & salt.In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add flour mixture, alternating with the milk & almond extract, add cherries. Fill cupcake pans 3/4 of the way full & bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

For the icing we used Martha Stewart's Cream Cheese Butter Cream recipe and then added our own modifications.

Cream Cheese Butter Cream Frosting
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until creamy, about 30 seconds.
With the mixer on low, slowly add sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowls as necessary. Add vanilla and increase mixer speed to medium. Blend until frosting is fluffy, about 1 minute.

Our modifications: For the cake, we had bought one 16oz. jar of cherries instead of the two 10 oz jars, so we cut the cherries into 1/4ths (instead of halves). Next time, I will add more cherries and I like to keep the cherries cut into 1/4ths. Then we soaked the cherries in about 2-3 tbls of amaretto. Next time, I want to soak them longer :) We also threw in a few splashes of the extra cherry juice. We baked the cupcakes in both regular and mini sized cupcake tins. For the icing, instead of vanilla we folded in a few splashes of the extra cherry juice, some amaretto, and 1 drop of pink food coloring. We added these ingredients to taste and not sure about the exact measurements, but you can make it to your liking. Then we made our own "piping bags" for the icing by putting them in ziploc bags and then cutting off a corner - note to self: do not put too much icing in the bag! We started icing them and then icing started coming out of the top of the bag while other parts of the bag started to tare. It got pretty messy (ahem...ASH). We topped the cupcakes with pink sugar crystals.

Result: We really loved this recipe! The cake turned out firm and moist. The frosting was smooth and creamy. We could not stop licking the bowls and spatulas (good thing we both went for a run before hand lol)! This recipe is very simple to make and great for spring (or anytime really!)

Any requests for our next cupcake?? <3 Cara Lee

Friday, April 10, 2009

My little obsession with cupcakes....

Lately I cannot stop thinking about these things! I've always been a dessert person, but there is just something about a cupcake. I'm not quite sure what it is - the childhood memories, the infinite amount of varieties, it's a personal size dessert just for you, and maybe the fact they are just so damn cute! I even bought cupcake earrings the other day. Allie also bought me my first cupcake tower holder! I'm so excited to use it!! And who knows, maybe I'll open my own cupcake place sometime with a little help from my friends ;-)

Over the past few months I've tried four different cupcake bakeries and I want to try even more! Here is a little taste of the cupcakes I have tried so far.

Cake Love
Multiple Locations throughout DC/MD/VA
$3.25 per cupcake/ Buy 6 and get one free
My very first "cupcake experience". Of course I've grown up eating cupcakes my mom would bake from the box or buy some at the grocery store - you know those ones with the super sugary icing you have throw half of it away! Anyways, I kinda heard about this guy Warren Brown on the Food Network. Then I found out he was from the DC area and was opening up his own bakeries with cakes and cupcakes! I just had to try them out. I have since been three times. At first I was impressed - since this was my very first gourmet kind of cupcake. I really enjoyed the strawberry and coffee flavored icings. It light and not too sugary, but after being their 2 more times, I've realized the the icing can be a bit waxy if you don't wait long enough for the icing to come to room temperature. It like you wait in line, you're starving to eat a cupcake, and THEN you have to wait at least 15 or more minutes for it to come to the right temperature. It's like torcher! Also, the past few times I've gone the cake has been quite dry. I have not counted this bakery out just yet as I do want to try some of their actual cakes and pastries. But as for cupcakes, I've found a few other places that I enjoy.

Flying Monkey Cupcakes
Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia PA
$2.00-$2.25 each
I came across this cupcake joint while exploring around the Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philadelphia. Aaron and I had gone up for the day/night to see a Flyers game and decided to to the "touristy" things in Philly, that we had never done before. Aaron's family is from Philly and we have gone up so many times - yet he had never done all the stuff Philly is known for. So we drove around and visited Love Park, the Rocky statue, China Town, and checked out the Reading Street Terminal (RTS). If you like food (like Aaron and I) the RST is a foodie lovers dream. After we got a quick bite to eat, Aaron had to use the restroom. I wandered around and stumbled upon the Flying Monkey Cupcakes. I was just going to look, but I could not resist and picked out two cupcakes for the way home. I chose Lavender and the signature Flying Monkey Cupcake. I was very impressed! The lavender icing on chocolate cake complemented each other very well, and the little purple sugar crystals on top gave it a tiny sweet crunch. The lavender was very suttle and the icing was not too sweet at all. After I ate it I wish I got a few more. The signature cupcake was a chocolate cake, filled with banana, and topped with chocolate icing. I was impressed as well! I will go back here next time I'm in Philly.

Georgetown Cupcake
1209 Potomac St. NW Washington D.C. 20007
$2.75 per cupcake/$15 for half dozen
I learned about Georgetown Cupcakes from my friend Ashley. She told me nothing but how wonderful these cupcakes tasted and that we had to go try them together! About a week ago we decided to go for a run in the city not only for cupcakes but to checkout the Cherry Blossoms as well. We parked in Georgetown and ran to the Tidal Basin and back to Georgetown. Whew! It was quite a run, but a beautiful day for Cherry Blossoms and cupcakes! After a quick bite to eat, we headed to Gtown Cupcake and were faced with a line - bout 20 people deep I'd say. This made me even more excited to try them. You know there's good food where the people are! So after about a 15-20 min wait or so, we made it through the line to this cute little cupcake shop. I loved the simplicity and the theme colors (pink and black). While in line Ash and I decided on a half dozen cupcakes - we got two red velvet, two cherry blossom, coconut and lemon berry. They packaged them in a cute pink box with little holes that the cupcakes fit into so they wouldn't swish around, and a simple black and white sticker. There's something about walking around Georgetown with this pink box in your hand - it's like "Ohhhh THEY went to Georgetown Cupcake." When we got back to the car, I could wait no longer to try them! We broke out the cherry blossom first - and WOW! It was amazing!! By far one of the best cupcakes I've had from these kind of places. The cherry blossom was a cherry cake made with real cherries and then topped with a vanilla cream cheese butter cream icing. The flavors went together so well and the cake was so moist and the icing was good enough to eat by itself. I was in cupcake heaven. Thank you Ash!! BTW - The other cupcakes were just as good :)

Hello Cupcake
1351 Connecticut Avenue, NWWashington, DC 20036
So today we randomly decided to check out Hello Cupcake. While coming home from my grandparent's house in Ft. Washington, the traffic on 95 was horrendous. Since we were were not pressed for time, but did not want to sit in traffic, we decided to cut through DC. I was also craving a cupcake, and at first wanted to go back to Gtown Cupcake. We were driving through DuPont when I remembered Ash telling me about Hello Cupcake, so I figured it was a great time to try a new place since we were right there. Aaron typed the address into his iPhone (that thing is amazing I will admit) and it pointed us into the right direction. We had no idea what this place looked like and just kept an eye out. Pretty soon I see a brown van with pretty flowers on it and there was Hello Cupcake. I jumped out of the car and Aaron went to find some parking. Hello Cupcake definitely has more room than Gtown cupcake - a bathroom and tables to sit. When it came to ordering there were a lot that were out, but luckily it was just a few more minutes wait for a new batch. I was a bit overwhelmed with some flavors since I wasn't sure what they were and asked the lady to describe like all of them to me, but hey it was my first time - sorry lady. I ended up ordering a half dozen: chai, tiramisu, coconut, vanilla, carrot, and lemon. After I finished paying for my half dozen, the cherry blossoms came out - and of course I had to get that one too, so I can compare it to Gtown. I did notice the box was not as pretty as Gtown cupcak (but as my friends would say, only I would notice something like that!! lol) Then Aaron came in and we split the tiramisu and the cherry blossom right there in the store. They were very good! The tiramisu was a espresso flavored cake with a sort of cream cheese/mascarpone icing topped with a chocolate covered espresso bean. I was a bit let down by the cherry blossom though. It was prepared differently than Gtown's - lemon cake with cherry preserves in the middle and white chocolate icing. It was not bad at all, but I just liked Gtown's version much better. Overall, Hello Cupcake was good and I'd go back if I was in DuPont and in the mood for a cupcake.

So that has been my cupcake experience so far! There are still alot of cupcake places in the DC/MD/VA area I have to try:

Baked and Wired

Red Velvet Cupcake

Baltimore Cupcake Co.

Charm City Cupcakes

Just Cakes

Nostolgia Cupcakes

I'm excited to explore more cupcake places soon. I'm headed to Seattle for a week and I will be scoping out the cupcake scene there for sure! I did a little googling and here are a few in Seattle I hope to check out:

Cupcake Royale

The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co.

Trophy Cupcakes

That's my cupcake update for now. Stay stuned for more cupcakeness! My next obsession: frozen yogurt! <3 Cara Lee

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My 2nd attempt at a blog!

So this is my second attempt at writing a blog! It's going to be quite random until I can decide on what I want to write about. My head is just swarming with all these thoughts and ideas and I figured a blog could help me get them out there. Maybe even help others, who knows!

As some of you know I do love to travel and you can find some of my travel blog from Asia here. A blog takes a lot of time, especially when traveling overseas and all you have access to is random smokey internet cafes. Maybe I'll try to update it sometime down the road :)

For now, my new blog will be filled with random things... cupcakes, travels, funny videos and links, gift ideas, food and drinks, my bulldog ....who knows! For now, I'll leave you with Rocco as the Easter Bulldog! <3>Cara Lee