Coffee Shop Cupcake #2: Chocolate Chai Latte Cupcakes

Chocolate Chai Latte Cupcake

The Chocolate Chai Latte Cupcake is a chocolate chai cupcake, filled with a chocolate chai pudding, and topped with a cinnamon mascarpone whipped cream frosting.

Ingredients

Cupcake

  • 1/2 cup coffee
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup hot milk
  • 2 Chai tea bags
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Chocolate Chai Pudding

  • 3 cups cream
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 envelope gelatin
  • 2 Chai tea bags
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • pinch of black pepper

Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

Decorations

  • Dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tbs. cinnamon

Directions

Cupcake

  1. Warm the milk until it just starts to boil.  Remove from heat.  Steep the tea bags for ten minutes in milk and then remove.
  2. Stir the coffee and cocoa powder together until dissolved.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ground cloves, ground ginger, ground nutmeg.
  5. Using a mixer, cream together butter and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well blended.  Stir in the vanilla. Gradually mix in flour and chocolate mixture. Mix until just combined.
  6. Divide batter among cupcake liners and bake 14-18 minutes until cake tester inserted comes out clean and tops are springy when touched. Let cool completely.

Chocolate Chai Latte Cupcake

Chocolate Chai Pudding

  1. Combine 2 1/2 cups of the heavy cream, sugar, and cocoa, and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat.
  2. While the cream mixture is warming, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of cream with the gelatin. Stir together and let sit about five minutes. After the gelatin has absorbed the cream, stir together until smooth.
  3. Remove cream mixture from heat and stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved.  Steep the tea bags in mixture and add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and pepper.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  4. After 10 minutes remove tea bags and place the pan in an ice bath in a large glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool for 30 minutes.
  5. Transfer to freezer and let pan cool for additional 20 minutes.
  6. Chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frosting

  1. Using a mixer, mix together mascarpone, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon until blended.
  2. Add cream and mix until stiff peaks form.
  3. Cool whipped cream frosting in fridge.

Assembling Cupcakes

  1. Use a cupcake corer to remove the center of cupcakes.
  2. Insert pudding into a piping bag and pipe into center of cupcakes.

Chocolate Chai Latte Cupcake3. Insert whipped cream into a piping bag and frost cupcake.  (I got my frosting effect using a very large decorating tip)

Chocolate Chai Latte Cupcake

4. To decorate the top of the cupcakes melt dark chocolate chips. Insert chocolate into piping bag and pipe hearts onto parchment paper.  Let hearts cool.  Drizzle cupcakes with melted chocolate, sprinkle with cinnamon, and place a heart on top of cupcake

Chocolate Chai Latte Cupcake

Chocolate Chai Latte Cupcake

Chocolate Chai Latte Cupcake

Stay tuned for my next coffee shop cupcake: Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcake

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Coffee Shop Cupcake #1: Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Multi Picture

I’m currently on maternity leave, and, as a result, have found myself perusing Netflix for shows to watch while I nurse my new daughter.  I’ve made it through all of Friends, Z Nation, and most of Grey’s Anatomy.  In addition to the ridiculous plot lines of these shows, I have also thrown in some reality TV for good measure which is how I got sucked into Cupcake Wars.

The premise of Cupcake Wars is relatively simple.  Four bakers compete in head to head competition to bake one thousand cupcakes for some predetermined event and $10,000.  I’ve always loved cooking shows so this one quickly became my new show to binge watch.

In the midst of sleepless nights, cupcakes have somehow overtaken my life.  I find myself sitting in the baby’s room, rocking in the glider, and dreaming up cupcake concoctions. As a result, I decided to begin baking.  Now baking has always been my passion, but I’ve never been great at the presentation side of baking.  Luckily, Cupcake Wars gave me some tips on how to improve, and my sister got me some baking devices for my birthday that helped up my cupcake decorating game.

I’m now sharing with you my first cupcake in a series of cupcakes I’m creating that I’ve themed “Coffee Shop Cupcakes”.  It turned out fantastic, and I’m so excited to try my hand at creating more.  Enjoy!

Single Picture

The Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcake is a pumpkin cupcake, filled with a dark chocolate espresso ganache, and topped with a mascarpone whipped cream frosting.  

Ingredients

Pumpkin Cupcake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree

Dark Chocolate Espresso Ganache

  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. instant espresso powder

Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Decorations

  • edible gold glitter
  • chocolate covered espresso beans

Directions

Pumpkin Cupcake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brown butter: melt butter over medium heat while continuously stirring.  Cook until butter foams and begins to appear brown in color.  Butter should give off a nutty aroma. Set the butter aside to cool.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and lightly beaten eggs.
  5. Add dry ingredients and mix until smooth.  Add pumpkin puree and mix until smooth.
  6. Divide batter among cupcake liners and bake 18-25 minutes until cake tester inserted comes out clean and tops are springy when touched. Let cool completely.

pumpkin cupcake

Dark Chocolate Espresso Ganache

  1. Heat the heavy cream over medium heat until boiling.
  2. Place Chocolate chips in a bowl.  Pour boiling cream over chips and mix for approximately five minutes until smooth. (Note: I froze my chocolate chips prior to this step and, as a result, my ganache had some chocolate chunks in it.  My taste testers enjoyed this, but if you want smooth ganache make sure your dark chocolate is at room temperature prior to adding the cream).
  3. Add cinnamon, powdered sugar, and espresso powder.
  4. Cool ganache in refrigerator.

Ganache

Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frosting

  1. Using a mixer, mix together mascarpone, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract until blended.
  2. Add cream and mix until stiff peaks form.
  3. Cool whipped cream frosting in fridge.

Assembling Cupcakes

  1. Use a cupcake corer to remove the center of cupcakes.
  2. Insert ganache into a piping bag and pipe into center of cupcakes.
    Filling cupcake
  3. Insert whipped cream into a piping bag and frost cupcake.  (I got my frosting effect using a very large decorating tip)

I decorated my cupcakes with edible glitter and a chocolate covered espresso bean.

cupcake

Stay tuned for my next coffee shop cupcake: Chocolate Chai Latte Cupcake

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Charter & District Partnerships: Moving Ed Reform forward

Next year I’ve accepted a job as Dean of Instruction at Yes Prep.  It is an instructional leadership position that focuses on teacher coaching.  When I accepted this job I had to decide whether or not to stay at the campus I currently work at, which I’ve come to respect and love, or move to a different campus.  Ultimately, I decided to move to a new campus within the network due to its innovative partnership with the local school district.

When I first looked into working at Yes Prep one of the aspects that excited me about the organization was the SKY partnership. 

In 2011 Spring Branch ISD, KIPP Houston, and YES Prep formed an innovative three-way partnership called SKY to provide additional excellent educational choices for students in the Spring Branch area. With the support from the Gates Foundation, the SKY Partnership, is proving the idea that district-charter partnerships will enhance the performance of all students.

 

The purpose of the partnership is to increase student achievement. Working under a shared-campus model, Aldine and YES Prep are united behind the commitment to provide outstanding educational options for all students.   Together Aldine and YES Prep will create a cooperative environment that is focused on developing a strong culture in the building and sharing best practices between teachers, building leaders, and the organizations. The partnership reflects a distinct move from the long-standing competitive relationship between traditional public schools and public charter schools to a powerful, collaborative association.
 

http://www.yesprep.org/vision/district-partnerships

 

Coming from California where the conversation is often charter schools versus traditional public schools, the idea of real collaboration happening I found to be inspiring.  Instead of focusing on adult issues the focus here is on how everyone can work together to provide what’s best for children.  Perhaps my favorite point I read when researching these partnerships was:

YES Prep forms partnerships with its neighboring districts in order to provide a platform to share and replicate best practices. We believe that we have more common ground than battleground in regards to seeking educational equity and excellence for all students

 

As a result, when weighing employment decisions for next year, I ultimately decided to move to one of the schools involved in this partnership.  I hope to get to play an active role in helping build stronger collaborative ties with the public school we’re housed at so that our charter school can benefit from the lessons they’ve learned about their community and students, and we can share the lessons we’ve learned.  After all, isn’t it time for ed reform everywhere focus on common ground?

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Living Room Tables

I haven’t exactly been on top of my blog lately.  Moving to Texas and creating a new life here has been all consuming. As a result the blog was the first thing to go, but now I’m finally feeling like I’m in a place to be more committed to it again.

Texas is starting to feel more like home.  Work is going well, and I’m being promoted to Dean of Instruction next year. John and I are incredibly happy and loving our house.  Most exciting, my sister is moving here at the end of May to do Teach for America and for the first time as adult we’re going to get to live in the same city.

Over the last few months John, and I have been trying to become more self sufficient.  That means building our own furniture, planting our own food, composting, lots of cooking, and knitting.  I’m really enjoying the projects we’ve worked on and today I’m going to share the coffee table and TV stand we built.

When we moved here we had no furniture.  Before going to South Africa we had sold almost all of our belongings.  This meant starting over once we arrived.  We had been wanting a coffee table and a TV stand for awhile but knew the only way we could afford it at this point was to build it ourselves.  Thus, the project began:

Image

Since this was our first project we decided on a simple design.  We went to Home Depot and bought a sander, wood plants, stain, varnish, screws and brackets.  Over a weekend we sanded down the boards until they were really smooth.

photo 2

Next we stained and varnished the wood.  This took us several days as we decided to use several coats of the stain to get the color we wanted.

photo 1 (7)

After this step our project went on hold for a couple week while we tried to figure out what we wanted to do for legs.  We finally decided to order metal ones off the internet.  This was definitely the most expensive part of the project.

photo 2 (1)In the end we had two tables for our living room!

photo 1 (6)Our TV Stand also works great to block the awkward tile step in the middle of the living room.  Our house is quite old and at one point there was a fire place in this room.  Unfortunately the chimney and fire place are gone but the tile step remained so we needed to build a table that would fit over this step.

photo 3

I’ve been really happy with how it has all turned out.  The furniture is incredibly sturdy, and it’s nice to have real wood as opposed to something flimsy from Ikea.  I’m hoping that our next project will be a dining table.

 

 

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Adirondack Chairs

At our new house John and I have a patio that opens from our bedroom onto the front of the house.  It’s a somewhat awkward place for a patio since it doesn’t have any privacy, but I kind of love it. It’s a great place to grade papers with a beer in hand.

I immediately wanted chairs for this patio, and I wanted Adirondack chairs.  Unfortunately they can be quite expensive.  Luckily, Home Depot had unfinished ones on sale for about 25 dollars apiece.  Unluckily, painting and putting together unfinished chairs turns out to a labor of love. Primarily John’s love.  (Have I mentioned I have a fantastic husband).

Between sanding, priming, multiple layers or paint, and construction, this project ended up taking us several weekends.  Overall, it was worth it (at least for me), and Chewy (John’s dog) and I love to sit in them in the late afternoon.

Priming the chairs

Priming the chairs

After a couple layers of paint.

After a couple layers of paint.

P1030674

Finished Chair

Finished Chair

P1030680

View from our bedroom

View from our bedroom

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Chairs on the patio

Chairs on the patio

I learned a couple things from this project:

1. Painting outdoor items take a lot of effort.

2. Adirondack chairs get their name from a mountain range which in turn gets its name from an Indian word for “they eat trees”.  I may have done a lot of Wikipediaing after John questioned me on why the chairs were called Adirondack chairs.

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Composting

Now that I have a large yard for the first time in my life, I am determined to make the most of it.  My ultimate vision is to have a vegetable garden and a place to lounge that includes some type of fire pit.  I see myself hanging with friends, sipping wine, tossing a ball to my dog, and enjoying meals straight from the garden in the light and warmth of a fire.

I made my first step towards that goal last week.  John and I haven’t gotten our plant beds built yet, but we did take a workshop at the Houston Arboretum on how to make a compost bin.  I was really excited about this because I’ve always wanted to compost and having a garden makes having good soil a necessity.  Plus, I am always looking for ways to decrease my ecological footprint and this seemed like an easy and manageable one.

We spent a Sunday afternoon making our bin:

John building the frame

John building the frame

Previous to this my building experience primarily involved putting Ikea furniture together.  Making something from scratch felt really powerful.  I feel quite inspired to use more power tools now.

Previous to this, my building experience primarily involved putting Ikea furniture together. Making something from scratch felt really powerful. I feel quite inspired to use more power tools now.

Drilling holes in the compost bin to allow for air flow.

Drilling holes in the compost bin to allow for air flow.

Unfortunately we didn’t get any finished product shots at the Arboretum.  The workshop ran way over the specified time and both John and I (primarily me) were feeling pretty frustrated and grouchy at the end.  It didn’t help that we got the bin to the car and realized it wouldn’t fit.  Thus we had to take it apart for the drive home.  Luckily, we have a kind landlord who let us borrow his drill to put it back together.

Finished product:

P1030675 P1030677 P1030678

 

I’m pretty impressed with us as neither John or I are particularly handy.  Now we’re just working on getting our composting started.  Composting is a bit more complicated than I thought it would be.  We’re supposed to layer the whole barrel with 6 inches of “browns” followed by 3 inches of “greens” (then repeat).  Browns are constituted of things like dead grass and leaves while greens are our organic kitchen scraps.

Unfortunately our gardeners took our mowed grass with them after they came on Friday so we’re sorely lacking on “browns”.  John did steal our neighbor’s grass clippings from the curb so last week wasn’t a total loss.

I am hoping that at some point John gets to have an awkward conversation with our neighbors about why he’s stealing their dead grass.

As far as greens we’re doing okay, but collecting 3 inches of kitchen scraps is tough.  We have been filling up a large Tupperware with fruit and vegetable remnants.  When that’s full we throw it in a gallon sized Ziploc and put it in the freezer.  John thinks that once we have 3 or 4 of those then we’ll have the 3 inches we need.

Overall, hopefully this project will end up a success and in a few months we’ll have really rich soil to supplement our garden.  If it doesn’t work then we have a huge barrel that can be spun upside down.   I’m sure we can come up with other entertaining ideas for use of the barrel if composting is a bust.

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A new life

I have now been back in the United States for a month and a half and from my obvious disappearance from the blogging world you can probably infer that the reason for this is the whirlwind that has engulfed my existence:

I’m in a new state: Texas.

I’m at a new job: 6th/7th grade reading intervention teacher at Yes Prep

I’m with my husband for the first time in 7 months.

I turned 30!

All of these have contributed to making me feel like all I can do is figure which was is up and which is down and try and point my feet in the right direction.

I miss South Africa: my friends and Spark.  Yet, I’m also appreciative of the amount of vegetarian products I can get in American stores and how many fun and free activities Houston has to offer.  For example, this coming weekend John and I will be attending Dock Dogs (“This three-day national tour dog jumping competition makes a stop at Discovery Green to feature four-legged athletes across Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana in diverse jumping competitions, including a high-jump and long-jump off a 20-foot dock into a 40-foot pool of water on the Jones Lawn.”) and we’ll be building our own compost bin at the Houston Arboretum.

I’m trying to carve out a new life for myself in Houston.  Part of that has been convincing John that are weekends are best spent on DIY projects for our house.  So now for our first project (that we actually completed a month ago):

Kitchen Peg Board

Due to lack of cupboard space we wanted to find a way to store pans efficiently.  I had been researching some ideas and decided that putting up a peg board to hang pots and pans would really help us out.

Due to lack of cupboard space we wanted to find a way to store pans efficiently. I had been researching some ideas and decided that putting up a peg board to hang pots and pans would really help us out.

Off to Home Depot we went to buy a peg board and spray paint.  I'm a bit obsessed with this color right now and worried that everything in my house might end up this shade.

Off to Home Depot we went to buy a peg board and spray paint. I’m a bit obsessed with this color right now and worried that everything in my house might end up this shade.

The best part are the pans are right by the stove so I can easily grab what I need and see what I have whenever I'm cooking.  Since John and I both love cooking this has been wonderful for us.

The best part is the pans are right by the stove so I can easily grab what I need and see what I have whenever I’m cooking. Since John and I both love cooking this has been wonderful for us.

Finished product!

Finished product!

Hopefully, over the weekend, we’ll complete our next two projects: Adirondack chairs for our porch and map paintings for over our bed.  Stay tuned…

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