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October 2012

October 27, 2012

Cannoli Cupcakes


Cannoli are the irresistible Sicilian desserts with a tube shaped pastry shell and a creamy filling inside.  Last year, I attended a wedding with a red velvet cake layered between perhaps the best cannoli filling I've ever had.  At that moment, I knew Cannoli cupcakes needed to be concocted, specifically for my old boss Chris because he likes to eat cupcakes.

The research unit was mobilized, as I am not Italian.  The bakeries who make the extra tasty varieties are in Brooklyn and on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.  The secret ingredient used by many of them is nutmeg oil.  Additionally, these bakeries use Impasata Ricotta, which is very thick and contains little water.  Ironically, after trapsing around New York City looking for it, Impasata Ricotta was procured from a market about 5 miles from my home in NJ.

The final cupcake recipe slowly manifested, starting with the Red Velvet sans the red cupcake recipe, and filled with the "Brooklyn style" Cannoli filling recipe below.  The cupcake is topped with a Grand Marnier Italian Meringue Buttercream and rimmed with crushed pistachios. 

This recipe makes about 24 cupcakes.



  • 1 pound impastata ricotta (Or use regular ricotta, and let strain overnight wrapped in cheesecloth)
  • 1/2 cup Castor sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp Grand Marnier (or vanilla extract)


  • 6oz bag shelled pistasios


  1. Frosting
    1. Follow the directions for the Jameson Italian Meringue Buttercream
      1. Substitute 3 oz Grand Marnier for the Jameson
  2. Filling
    1. Combine all ingredients listed above with a mixer on medium until well mixed and creamy.
      1. Add more spices if desired.
    2. Filling should be stored in the refridgerator at all times.
  3. Cupcakes
    1. Follow the directions for the Red Velvet sans the Red cupcakes
  4. Garnish
    1. Chop pistasios into small chunks
  5. Assembly
    1. Using an apple corer or a butter knife, cut a large cylinder in each cupcake and discard core.
    2. Overfill each cupcake with cannoli filling....just like regular cannolis are!
    3. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake, and rim with pistasio.
    4. Cupcakes should be stored in the fridge.  However, please allow cupcakes to stand for one hour prior to eating for optimal frosting softness.


  1. http://entertaining.about.com/od/recipesandmenus/r/cannoli.htm
  2. Discussion on ChowHound about Brookln Style Cannoli


October 06, 2012

Magnolia Bakery Red Velvet Cupcakes sans the Red

This recipe was modified to remove the iconic red food coloring.  Many people do not know that food coloring is a known carcinogen.  Obviously, the adverse effects only arise after excessive consumption, but most processed foods have food coloring these days.  Originally, Red Velvet cakes did not contain food coloring, but rather utilized a lighter, alkaline cocoa that appears reddish-brown in certain light.  Around the 1950's, the food industry began selling a darker, acidic cocoa, which spawned the classic Devil's Food cake recipes.  

This recipe attempts to capture the classic, non-artificial taste and texture of the original Red Velvet cakes.  Most recipes use about 3 bottles of food coloring, which is a lot.  This recipe makes about 24 cupcakes 


  • 3 1/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-Processed or Alkalized Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (Valhrona is my preference)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Line two muffin tins (12 muffins each) with paper liners
  3. To make the cake
    1. In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. 
    2. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer: 
      1. cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. 
      2. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
      3. In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
    3. In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. 
      1. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. 
      2. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. 
    4. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. 
      1. Add to the batter and mix well. 
    5. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth. 
  4. Fill each cupcake about 2/3 full with an ice cream scoop
  5. Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake the cupcakes
    1. Switch the positions of the pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  6. Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack before icing.