A Sacred Cupcake From Magnolia Bakery New York City 

 All the way from New York City, say hello to cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery!!!

A partner in my firm got a kind friend to hand carry this half dozen box of babies to Raffles Place for him. As obssessed about cupcakes as me, initially he hid them from me. But a kind friend knew this was not going to happen. I walked straight into his office to look for the paper bag.

You have no idea what it took for me to get my grubby hands on one. Just one. Ten full minutes of negotiations, threats, nagging, then finally a promise. The promise to get more for him when I visit NYC at the end of year. It was tough work but I did it! A Double Chocolate in my hands. Behold my lunch…

The verdict? The chocolate cake base was bone-dry, I am not going to lie. But that chocolate buttercream frosting was as smooth as water and as rich as 70% dark chocolate. Every bite of the lucious frosting made me forgive that base. Worth the ten minutes of my life haggling for it!

Plain Vanilla Bakery Cupcakes: Overhyped

In Singapore, when one thinks of a good bakery to obtain cupcakes, one’s thoughts will be Plain Vanilla Bakery. Am I wrong? PVB offers some seriously chic packaging with the ultra-neat and uniform cupcake frostings across the myraid of interesting flavours. The linkage between good cupcakes and PVB will inevitably happen. Except just this past weekend, my experience with PVB rendered me unable to understand this linkage.

Some of you may know recently, my cupcake obssession was reignited. After consuming copious amount of another bakery, PVB seemed like the next natural step to measure up the bakery against one of Singapore’s finest. I made cupcakes from PVB happen by suggesting my family’s Sunday lunch take place in the rarely-ventured area of Tiong Bahru. We went to Big Mama Korean Restaurant. Big Mama was amazing (a post on it coming up!) and after lunch, I braved the hot weather and walked over to PVB. Excited, I purchased 24 cupcakes in one shot. While paying for the first two dozen, I decided to purchase another dozen. So in 15 minutes, I purchased 36 cupcakes. I must have made some kind of impact to their sales for that hour. Although there were hiccups with the purchase, for the sake of one of Singapore’s best ahead of me, I beared up with the service.    

But after six cupcakes (Red Velvet, S’more, Pineapple Meringue, Carrot, Cookies & Cream, and Vanilla), I was full of regret with having plonked down good money on them. I will no longer understand the linkage between good cupcakes and PVB. In fact, I am still peeved about the expenditure.

My main gripe was the quality of the bakes. After trying six including filled ones, I found all the cupcake bases to be dry and crumbly. After every bite, I reached for water. Hey, aren’t cupcakes supposed to be mini cakes, not scones? Even if I wanted a scone, I would have gone to Cedele for one. At the same time, the flavours were forgettable. I don’t remember any exceptional ones to be honest.

Another problem was the gritty frostings from underwhipping. However that flaw did not extend to the meringue-topped ones like the June specials: S’mores and Pineapple Meringue. Quite frankly, if you have gritty meringues, you shouldn’t even open a bakery. Another annoying quality of the buttercream: the crustiness that forms on the surface areas exposed to air. Forget about fluffiness, I was lucky to chew a smooth bit. 

Side note about the service: Usually I would ignore the service standards in Singapore as I have very very low expectations. However yesterday afternoon I was surprised to learn how much can happen in a span of 10-15 minutes. After purchasing the first 24 cupcakes for $88 and payment made with a credit card, I decided to get a dozen more. To save time (string-tying takes a while), I paid for the dozen before choosing the flavours. Then as I was happily picking the flavours, the girl behind the counter suddenly said the “special” cupcakes were $0.50 more. So she would also have to charge me extra including the first batch ordered. My patience was thinning at that point. But that was still fine as it was just $5.50 and I had a $10 note. As I handed over the note to her, she says THEY DON’T HAVE SMALL CHANGE in their till. And so was my $4.50 change in coins alright? I nearly fainted. My choices then and there were: 1) accept $4.50 in coins; 2) charge $5.50 to my credit card; or 3) give $10 and not expect change. Quite frankly, I was just desperate to leave so I chose option 1. After payment, I learnt THEY DONT DO PLASTIC BAGS. By then my 36 cupcakes were packed in boxes of 2x12s, 2s, 4s, and 6s, as I was bringing them to different parties and locations. The most “convenient” option for me was for the two 12s to be tied up together, and the others in one stack. It was ridiculous and punishing for those purchasing in big batches! Ask my family how terrible I looked with my hands holding two stacks of boxes, and no free hand to hold an umbrella. They will also tell you about my make-up-soaked-perspiration dribbling down my neck. I will never forget the shocked look on their faces when I arrived back in Big Mama where they were waiting. 

I am so unimpressed with PVB. But even more disappointingly, it seems these days a good cupcakes in Singapore are few and far between.

Lamb Cupcakery @ Marina Bay Link Mall: Awoke The Cupcake Monster [Updated]

 When I first bit into Lamb Cupcakery’s Dark Chocolate cupcake, my dormant obsession with cupcakes awoke. Instantly I transcended into the happiest place on earth. And I felt my 8-year old love for cupcakes rushing back. You have to understand, the incredibly fluffy yet fudgy chocolate frosting was sublime. Adorned with more chocolate shards, I was swooning and sighing with every bite. If this bakery sold frosting shots like the crazy US bakeries (they should), I would buy it in a heartbeat! It also helps that the chocolate sponge cake was a “moist-central”. AND I had it the day after purchasing! In the Singapore heat, the chocolate frosting was all soft and luscious – perfection.

I was fortunate to try many flavours from Lamb Cupcakery in a short span of time; seven. My favourites were inevitably the chocolate-based cupcakes like the Peanut Butter Fudge. Oh gosh that rich Peanut butter frosting is an absolute killer! Tasted exactly like whipped Smucker’s. With extra chocolate fudge within – first-bite magic. The Milo Dino was another heart-breaker. Consisting of a triple Milo-whammy: luscious and rich malt chocolate frosting, milo powder AND a milo nugget. If this was available when I was a kid, I’m sure my school would have sent letters of concern to my parents due to significant weight gain. On the other hand, the Sweet S’mores was a little too much. Consisting of a dark chocolate cupcake with a graham cracker base, rich Belgium chocolate ganache,  graham cracker crumbs and topped with a torched marshmallow meringue icing. I’m afraid there were simply too many strong elements competing with each other at the same time. Skip this and stick with the first three flavours mentioned. My good friend swears the Chocolate Salted Caramel tops them all. I have yet to try. Looks like another trip is absolutely necessary. I tried it, I tried it!!! Scroll below for details. 

On the non-chocolate front, the Carrot Cake topped with a vanilla cream cheese frosting was super chunky; containing more carrot-apricot-pecans than cake. I am still torn about this. While I do like to get my money’s worth with generous ingredients. On the other hand, I missed the texture of a sponge cake. Needless to say, the frosting was an absolute dream.

I wished the vanilla-based cupcakes could be more flavourful. The Strawberry topped with a slight tangy strawberry buttercream did not hit home with me. But my friends thoroughly enjoyed it. And the pink buttercream was prettyyyy. Surprisingly I did not enjoy the Red Velvet flavour. Widely lauded and the best seller (but wait, which Red Velvet product isn’t in Singapore?!), the red food colouring in the sponge cake was too strong for me. It was also a tad dry (I had two at different times so this was a consistent flaw).

Lamb Cupcakery has scored big time in my heart. Wide selection but do note they run out fast and the flavours are not always available. Baked fresh, time is needed to prepare a new batch ensuring freshness in every bite. So don’t be too disappointed if your desired flavour is not available. Another amazingness of this bakery? With the baker’s parents manning the shopfront, they provide the warmest service EVER! I can never help myself but smile and chit-chat with them on every visit. I am sure you will be equally as enamored with this little bakery as me.

[Update] 21st May 2015

This afternoon this Cupcake Monster braved the heat and walked to purchase 24 cupcakes. It’s another Associates’ Gathering evening! My colleagues need to try this place. While there, I could not resist picking up two for myself! Can you blame me after seeing this display??? 

I got a wide variety for my colleagues.

But for myself, them. One of the four Thursday specials, Chocolate Salted Caramel, and a Vanilla Hazelnut Chocolate

From left: Chocolate Salted Caramel and Vanilla Hazelnut Chocolate
From left: Chocolate Salted Caramel and Vanilla Hazelnut Chocolate

The Chocolate Salted Caramel is essentially the Double Chocolate flavour (that I adore so much!!) drizzled with Salted Caramel AND stuffed with more salted caramel. You know how irritating some places can be when the salted caramel is just sweet with no saltiness at all? Not at Lamb. Their salted caramel was equal parts sweet, equal parts salty. Biting into it, the contrasting flavours paired with the perfect textures was out-of-this-world! This cupcake kept calling out to me to “eat me!” When I reluctantly finished this piece, only sadness left in my heart. I need more. Forget TGIF. Thursday is the new Friday!

Fluffly chocolate buttercream means salted caramel. You won’t regret the calories.

The Vanilla Hazelnut Chocolate is not a Thursday special but regular customers get priority 😉 This cupcake was essentially a Ferrero Rocher on steroids. Consisting of a Madagascar bourbon vanilla cupcake with a hazelnut chocolate ganache topped with crunchy caramelised hazelnuts, those hazelnuts were the Game Changer. The crunchiness and fragrance of the sweet nuts perked up the whole cupcake. Its addictiveness only harmful to the waistline.

  I am not a fan of Ferrero Rocher chocolates but I could pop this baby in everyday.

While not a fan of the vanilla-based sponge, this piece was made so desirable thanks to the thick and rich chocolate hazelnut ganache paired with the hazelnuts. Sold.

The only way to roll with Lamb? Eat the chocolate buttercream from your fingers. Trust me on this.

  

Mao Shan Wang Durian Cupcakes

This is as tropical as an Asian cake could ever get. As mentioned in my previous post, this afternoon’s delightful in-season Mao Shan Wang Durians (MSW) were so good, I bought a small durian and got the durian seller to kindly open the thorny fruit up and put all the flesh in a box for me to take home. He was only too happy to oblige a returning customer. On the ride home, I thought about which reliable recipe would be adaptable enough to accomodate durian puree. Then it hit me, my ever reliable Scrumptious Sticky Toffee Cake from The Clandestine Cake Club cookbook! Because in the recipe, the first step is to boil the dates with water till soft then add Bicarbonate of Soda which will render the date mixture puree-like. So if I pull the MSW flesh off the seeds and mash them up with a fork till smooth, it will be exactly like the date mixture. 🙂

Let me tell you something, The Clandestine Cake Club cookbook is a gemstone for home bakers like me. I have baked so many recipes from this book and each and every time a delicious cake would result causing all who eat it to rave for hours after. And the Srumptious Sticky Toffee Cake is no exception! I made it twice and I have never been disappointed. The easy recipe can be so scary because it requires so little effort but it is reliable and I urge you all to try it.

I adapted the Sticky Cake recipe for my MSW and drizzled them with a light White Chocolate icing for that extra touch of sweetness because god only knows how fattening MSW is. Boy were they a success! My usually-sugar-adverse parents adored the rich MSW flavour and the moist tender cake. I baked it in two sizes and gave my mum the larger cupcake expecting her to share with me but no, she gave my Dad a bite and happily finished the rest on her own. My Dad then commanded me to pass him a mini cupcake which he finished in two bites.

20140713-163939-59979077.jpgSo now for the recipe which I promise will be easy and foolproof. If you haven’t got light brown sugar at home, like me, replace it with any type of brown sugar you can find in your kitchen cabinet. If you haven’t got any brown sugar at all, go get a big bag. Light brown sugar is amazing in almost all cakes. It provides a richer deeper flavored cake. If you have got a recipe that is not meant to be white or yellow, replace your caster sugar with equal amount of brown sugar and what ensues will be a moist fluffy cake. For this cake, I used 70g Muscovado sugar and 80g Gula Melaka (Asian Coconut Palm sugar). On hindsight, this was a great surprise as the Asian sugar complemented the Asian flavour so much better than normal light brown sugar would. O.k. I talk too much and have to go back to summarize judgments so here is my recipe.

Mao Shan Wang Durian Cupcakes for 12 normal-sized cupcakes or 24 minis.

  • 200g Mao Shan Wang durian puree (remove flesh from seed and mash them up till smooth)
  • 115g butter, softened
  • 70g Muscovado sugar
  • 80g Gula Melaka (if yours is the big cube, like mine, grate it finely)
  • 2 large eggs, brought to room temperature
  • 170g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 65ml liquid (this could be buttermilk, milk or almond milk. I used almond milk as it was my only liquid left and no one could tell the difference)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Using a mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugars till lighter brown and doubled in volume (minimum 5 minutes)
  3. Gradually add eggs, beat for 30 seconds in between addition. Add a little flour if mixture looks curdled.
  4. Add durian puree and beat till well-combined and smooth.
  5. Gradually add the flour and almond milk. Batter should be loose but not runny.
  6. Put into cupcake moulds and bake for 10 minutes for Minis, 20 minutes for normal sized.
  7. Top the cooled cakes with your favourite icing or frosting and enjoy!

20140713-163943-59983863.jpg I packed these little ones for my colleagues into a little box that fit 16 minis perfectly! Do see after the jump for more baking process pictures. 🙂 Read More »

Red Velvet Cupcakes for Some Special Ladies

At it again. Last Friday, three ladies in my life showed me just how amazingly loyal they were. I am not going into specifics here but it took alcohol, a club, and a douchebag to prove it. I knew I had to bake something special for them and when one of them told me she has never tasted Red Velvet Cupcakes that could triumph Hummingbird Bakery in London, I knew it was a challenge I had to accept. I was so unimpressed with Hummingbird on my last visit to London. The cupcakes were dry and the icing grainy. Nothing beats a New York City cupcake.

Using my trusty Red Velvet recipe, it once again worked wonders. Shame about the Magnolia Bakery Cream Cheese Frosting that could not set in the Singapore humidity. My girlfriends love it!

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Red Velvet Cupcakes
(Makes 12 perfect cupcakes or 1 layer cake)

1 1/8 cup all purpose flour
2½ tablespoons cornstarch or corn flour
1 tablespoons unsweetened dutch processed cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cups sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
¾ cups vegetable oil
1 large egg
3 tablespoons red food colouring (or 1 bottle Bake King’s Cochineal Red)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk OR ½ cup whole fat milk + ½ tbsp white vinegar (mix together and leave aside for 5 minutes to curdle)
¾ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 180oC. Line standard muffin tins or baking pan with paper liners.
  2. Combine red food colouring and cocoa powder to form a smooth paste and set aside.
  3. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together flour, corn flour, sugar and salt.
  4. Slowly add the oil, and beat until well combined and smooth.
  5. Add the egg and beat until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  6. Add the red cocoa paste and vanilla, and beat until well combined.
  7. Reduce speed to low. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed for 10 seconds.
  8. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes or 45 minutes in the cake pan.
  9. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

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